Friday, May 31, 2019

2096 A Tale of Two Losers



Here’s a biz maxim: You can’t make a winner by combining two losers.  Examples: HP and Compaq. American Airlines-TWA-USAir. The Pennsylvania and New York Central Railroads. AOL-Time Warner. Wendy’s-Arby’s. Alcatel-lucent. Sears-Kmart.

Seen enough?  Well, here comes Fiat-Renault or Renault-Fiat.  In one corner, wearing Green White and Red, Italy. The great wellspring of western culture, art and science. Vivaldi. Scarlatti. Da Vinci. The Vatican. Sophia Loren. The Roman Empire. Pizza.

In the other corner wearing Blue, White and Red. France. The great wellspring of western culture, art and science. Descartes. Voltaire. Sartre. Offenbach. Debussy. Bardot. Quiche.

What do these miraculous, incomparable titans of culture, music, and food have in common?

Bad tin.

Renault is partly owned by the French government.  That means the politicians will do battle over how much control they have to give up and to whom.  It’s always great news when politicians have a say in anything.  They’re such a bunch of cuddle-bunnies with your best interests at heart.

The Agnelli family of Italy is Fiat’s largest stockholder and they’re ready-set-go to escape from their sizeable chunk and can put its money elsewhere, which is what members are said to want.

At this point, the deal would consist of this:  Renault stockholders would get 50% ownership of Fiat, while Fiat stockholders would get half of Renault.

But it’s not really that simple.  Renault owns a big piece of Nissan which owns a big piece of another Japanese automaker, Mitsubishi.  

Head ready to explode yet?  Wait, there’s more.

Some of these chunk ownerships are actually “partnerships,” but the partnerships are hard to define and so is the influence the partners have on each other.

Sergio Marchionne was the last known Real Car Guy to run a major automaker. Marchionne was a brilliant deal maker, and an eight cylinder heart. But he had the audacity to up and die at the ripe old age of 66 in the middle of a plan to raise the quality of the fumbling Fiat and the Catastrophe-prone Chrysler.  

Few if any French cars are any better.  Renault, Peugeot, Citroen.  Get out and get under.

Fiat says the combination will “cure each other's faults.”  Yeah, that’s what they all say about these mega-mergers.  How’d that turn out for the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central?  Or Chase-Chemical.

All these Ivy League MBAs are running around like they’re attending the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

Renault flopped in the US when people realized the cars got old after 40 thousand miles.  Fiat flopped in the US the same thing.  Fiat returned by buying Chrysler from the disassembly line at Cerberus Capital.  So, what do we have here?

Two top tier producers of bad tin will combine to lift themselves in rank to somewhere near the top of the list of companies disgorging vehicles.  A result:  gargantuan company with a manufacturing and management structure that would drive even Rube Goldberg nuts.

And bad tin.

SHRAPNEL:
--Speaking of bad tin, someone hand Bob Mueller an oil can because he seems to have frozen in place there in the woods of the District of Columbia. As Gail Collins noted in the New York Times the other day, his little speech about his report on trump needed an on-screen translation into standard English.  Go away, Bob… join a law firm where you can be a rainmaker and do no further harm. 

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ©
Comments? Send them here:
wesrichards@gmail.com
But be aware I know tin doesn’t really rust.
© WJR 2019

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

2095 The Cloud's Cloud



There it is, the old-time evidence warehouse brought up to date by a peculiarity, neatness with minimal dust.  Why should such a thing be talked about in the 21st Century?

Because Wikileaks can’t hack it. Because Russian spies can’t either. Because if it’s yours, the cops can’t make records disappear.

Companies like Microsoft, Google and others are making a lot of money by keeping your records “safe” in “the cloud.”  Like any cloud -- real or online -- those clouds are subject to various weather systems. And many of them are easy to hack.

You can’t realistically purloin a box of paper from a secret bunker converted from its original use, a coal mine or a fallout shelter.  

Could this be a new commercial success?  Possibly. “File clerk” used to be a noble profession. It took manual skills, a decent memory, efficiency and a complete mastery of the letter order of the English alphabet. Now, few bother.

We collectively worry about the safety of our power grid, our legal papers, our water supply.  So our new non-computerized storage concept needs an electronic gizmo as an adjunct.


Paper + telephone = speedy communication.  Maybe a cell phone.  Maybe even a party line among electric power companies and another among water companies.

It won’t be long before hackers start playing in the stratosphere.  Just think of the merry chaos could happen if NOAA and the private weather services could no longer rely on satellite data?  

They used to use paper maps and ground radar.  They still can.

Ah, but you say, electronic record keeping “saves trees.” Does it?

And there are compromise solutions for those who actually need to find stuff on the internet.  Use the internet for research, pay by the page for the sites to fax to you.

There’s a future in paper. There’s a future for well trained file clerks and the security workers who guard them.  There’s a future for HVAC.  And for the building of modern warehouses.

SHRAPNEL:
--Health note: a new federal study shows we’re still a nation of fatties but the rate of diabetes keeps falling, which is kind of counterintuitive. Could it be that Evil Big Pharma has actually come up with something to treat diabetes? Just beware of the side effects.

--Are Bolton’s days numbered -- as most of us can only hope. Here’s encouraging news. trump is dissing him on Iran and North Korea during the trip to Japan which usually is a sign that someone will soon be thanked for his “great contributions” and service to America and receive best wishes as he leaves to spend more time with his family/seeks new challenges or somesuch.

--Objectivity and neutrality aren’t the same things. So if the mainstream media were objective, they would label trump a madman and conman. But neutrality sends us chasing after Sarah Huckabee for a fair and balanced comment about the mad/con nonsense of the moment.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments? Please send to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019
­

Monday, May 27, 2019

2094 Loss Prevention






So many places with so many cameras.  It’s near impossible to filtch anything more than a grape at the grocer’s. And you can’t touch anything at the big box hardware store without setting off an air raid siren.

There’s an upside to this and a way to retaliate.

First, the upside.  Certain electronics and appliance retailers seem to think you’re a self driving car.  You can’t find sales help for love nor money.  Here’s how:  go to a display where everything is wired down and disconnect the wire.  This will set off an alarm and help will be on the way in seconds.  Just don’t break anything permanently. You don’t want to have to pay for a new wire.

Now the retaliation: Wear a body cam. If they can photograph you, you can photograph them, right?  Well, maybe not. But it’s worth a try.

Are aisles too narrow? Tripping hazards? Take a picture.  You don’t even need a full-scale body cam for this.  Your cell phone will do. Or your flip phone, the disabled one in a drawer that you just never got rid of. Go ahead and charge it up.

But the body cam is good for finding

-employees snoozing in a corner.
-employees being rude to you.
-other customers being rude to you.
-adults stealing candy bars to quiet little kids or sitting US Presidents throwing loud obnoxious tantrums.
-cashiers holding conversations with other customers instead of moving the line quickly.

It is true that with almost few actual workers, some stores are experiencing increased thieving.  Wal-mart has resumed using greeters who welcome you on the way in and check your receipt on the way out.

They don’t check every customer.  They don’t have an explanation for those they do or don’t check.  An informal and strictly anecdotal review indicates that if you’re an African American male with a large object, you’ll get checked.  If you’re a teenager of any gender, race, religion, creed or color, you’ll get checked. If you’re an old white guy in a motorized shopping cart, no check.  Hmmm.

We’ve received no answer to an inquiry about the standards they use.

In olden times, department stores would hire store detectives. They’d dress in civilian clothing and pretend to shop for eight hours in a row.  Any thief worth his or her salt could spot these folks from 50 yards away.

In at least one of the defunct discounters, detectives would dress like criminals. The men wouldn’t shave. The women wore no makeup.  Sometimes they’d hide in hollow fake pillars with one-way glass sides.  Other times they might sit on a couch or chair in the furniture department reading a book or magazine or newspaper.
No one ever shoplifted a couch or, for that matter, a refrigerator.

The cameras in the ceiling are much more efficient. But, of course, that means someone has to be watching the monitors. We don’t know for sure that the “cameras” are connected to anything.  But it’s the ones you can’t spot you have to worry about.  The ones stuck to the back of a shelf.  The one in the bathroom stall.

You don’t have to be a cop to own and use a body cam.  And fair’s fair.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments? Send ‘em here: wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Friday, May 24, 2019

2093 A Piano and a Grassy Knoll



2093 A Piano and a Grassy Knoll


Not THE grassy knoll of JFK assassination fame. Just a random grassy knoll in the neighborhood.  Three people are trying to move an upright piano from the back of a house, down the little hill and into a parking area.

The piano is resisting. It has on its side of this tug-of-war the help of a torrential downpour that passed through about an hour ago.  The ground is wet. The three men are struggling. Although sunshine followed the rain, another storm could be lurking.  If it arrives, the piano will sink.

This thing weighs something between 400 and 500 pounds.  It sits on tiny wheels, wheels that would not handle a supermarket pushcart filled with a week’s groceries.

Can you imagine the scene at the emergency room sometime in the next few hours?  “I was moving a piano and it fell on me.” Nurse Goodbody looks askance.  “Are you sure?” “Yeah, says the assault victim.  There as a guy watching and he writes blog posts and he saw it all.”

Doubt clouds her face.  She may decide to call the cops who will question the blog poster who will say “Yeah, these morons were trying to get a piano down a grassy knoll. I didn’t see the actual incident, but I saw the opening act or the undercard. The piano was winning and I was writing about it at the time it must have happened.”

No charges for the “movers.” Good thing, too, because Mrs. Mover is known to be a flinger of canned food and has lost at least one cast iron frying pan that failed to hit her target and shattered into a million pieces, 25% of which remain scattered about the kitchen.

The first step was getting the thing onto the ground.  Success.  After that, it was nip and tuck for the first 15 or 20 feet.  But at latest report, the score was tied.  The piano is not moving. Not with the wooden skids they were using.  Not with the ineffective brute strength they were using at latest view.

Best case scenario: they eventually get the thing into the parking space.  Worst case scenario: the piano plants itself where it sits, wheels below ground level and stays there until the ghost of Liberace comes along, plunks a candelabra on the top and starts playing “The Beer Barrell Polka.”  With any luck, that won’t happen at three o’clock in the morning.

Shrapnel:
--The ex and I had an ugly but beautiful full-size Baldwin upright with what I’d tell people had bullet holes in the side because it “belonged in a speakeasy raided by the cops,” which probably was untrue.  She gave it to a friend.  The professional movers played it standing sideways in the road.  The sound was like a chorus of angels that never came forth while the gargantuan thing was in our living room.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them.  ®
Comments? Address them here: wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

2092 A Life Lesson from Email




Early on, you bought something on the internet.  Your merchant was Huzzah! The Store for the New Generation.  Since that time, you have received 11,000 emails from Hazzah!

And from Wal-mart, Shopper TV, Sears, Nordstrom’s, Dollar General, Liquidation Channel, Ace Hardware, Lowes, Home Despot and half a dozen others.  Most of them are irrelevant.  But you like to keep your “archive” relatively empty and your inbox lean and without needing a GPS to work your way through it.

Yes, you can just delete or unsubscribe.  But on the teeeeny tiiiiny chance Huzzah! has something that really interests you, you keep receiving their mail.

Here’s the solution.  Each time you get one of these, send it to spam or junk or whatever your service calls things you don’t want.

Then, every few days, you can check the list, keep the one or two you want and throw out the rest in a satisfying sweep.

Your inbox is cleaner, your archive is cleaner and your spam box is filling fast, but easily zapped.  (They’ll do it for you automatically every 30 days, but recently, spam has counted in “space-used” for some services.)

Divide and ignore!

Would that there would be a way to do that in real life. Oh, wait. There is.  Give your brain some folders and use them.

That’s just a theory, of course. Like evolution and gravity. (When will the ignoramuses among us realize that “theory” and “guess” or “suspicion” are not the same things?)

If you don’t like the “folder” analogy, use some other word. Compartmentalize? Delegate? Put it in the hands of a deity? Re-channel?

In any case… practice!

SHRAPNEL:
--We could start world war III pretty easily tomorrow. The “Allies” would be the United States, the Axis would be everyone else. We’re not given to such clarity.  But we may be given to such horror, since -- as everyone knows -- there is no difference between fantasy and reality.”

--That would all make America great again.  It would be a boon to arms dealers, especially those who lose business because they’d no longer be allowed to sell to members of the Axis. Saudi Arabia, for example, would have to buy its warplanes, missiles and such from Russia or China.

--Long Island’s 123 school districts voted on school budgets yesterday.  Most passed. But voters rejected calls for armed guards in districts that proposed hiring them.

(Note: 123 is an actual figure for the number of school districts in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Each votes on budgets every year.)

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments? Send them to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Monday, May 20, 2019

2091 Bolton


Why is this man smiling?


What’s wrong with this guy, anyway?  And how fast did we forget what we learned about him all those neo-con years ago? John Bolton never met a war he didn’t love.  Vietnam? Well… he enlisted in the National Guard. That’s the slick politician’s way of dodging the draft without seeming to. (See George W. Bush for another example.)

By the time he got off the Reserve kick line, he was well into conquering Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria.  And if you asked him, he’d probably answer “yes” to “Do you think the US should go to war with … oh… China, India, Senegal, Spain, Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and New York City?”

Mister Regime Change represented our country as United Nations Ambassador.  He was Reagan’s Assistant Attorney General and advocated against making reparations to Japanese Americans rounded up and put in prison camps during WWII.  He was W’s recess appointment as UN Ambassador because even the dolt Bush knew he’d never get confirmed.

He was cheerleader for Rehnquist, for Scalia and for Saddam Hussein’s non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.”  (Colin Powell was a sucker on that issue. Bolton knew the truth and lied.)

How is this schmuck still in public life?  Easy answer: friends in high places.  He’s even too much for trump who seems genuinely opposed to a shooting war with Iran despite tweets to the contrary this morning. That makes trump “the adult in the White House,” says Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.

So, there’s a lot of space between W and trump’s administrations. What was John-boy doing while planning his next act?  Well… he was a visiting obsessor for the “think tank” American Enterprise Institute whose thinking stops at your bank account.

And he was a Fox News Contributor … the qualifications for which are … are… whomever Rupert Murdoch believes will bolster revenue ratings at a particular time point.

It didn’t work out. Bolton was too nuts even for the Fox viewers. Too intellectual. Plus that funny mustache looked comical.

Bolton is a graduate of Yale.  That deflates the value of a Yale bachelor’s degree for thousands who followed. He also is a graduate of Yale Law School.  If your attorney has a Yale JD degree, you might want to find someone from a better school.  Like University of Phoenix or Ace Technical School.

Aside: JD means juris doctor.  But it’s not a real doctorate. Lawyers with real doctorates are Ll.Ds. JDs are people with a second bachelors’ degree. And Ll. Ds are honorary in many cases. They are awarded to Very Serious Lawyers usually long past their prime and who held an endowed professorial chair which can be a no-show job.
SHRAPNEL:
--Game of Thrones.  I know nothing about it. But I don’t want to be the only poster in the known universe who hasn’t mentioned it.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments? Send them here: wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Friday, May 17, 2019

2090 Abortion in Alabama


2090 Abortion in Alabama


Pat Robertson never met an abortion prohibition he didn’t like. Until now. He says “Alabama has gone too far” in its latest anti-abortion law, which appears to believe that life begins at heartbeat.  

Pat Robertson of “700 Club” fame. Who told us that Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana because God was angry at all the gays there. Who says a man with a wife with Alzheimer's should arrange for her custodial care, then “divorce her and start over.”

Note to Adelia Elmer Robertson:  Start emptying the joint checking account and don’t stop until you have $15 million in places that $30-million-dollar Pat wouldn’t think to look for it.

Alabama’s law takes effect six months after passage.  The legislature and governor Kay Ivy, at least, are going against doctors by establishing prison sentences of up to 99 years.  All that for hearing a heartbeat. Even if a woman is impregnated by a rapist.

Robertson thinks the Supreme Court won’t let this stand and reverse Roe V. Wade, which is established law. For now, therefore, it will be less inclined to send women to back-alley clinics where sanitation is something you practice with a damp paper towel which later is used to stanch any bleeding and the most frequent instruction to the patient is “open wide, miss.”

Back to Robertson.  How’s this for a quotation:

Every time the liberals pass a bill - I don't care what it involves - they stick criminal sanctions on it. They don't feel there is any way people are going to keep a law unless they can put them in jail.

Ummm … so what does that mean, Pat? You want the doctors to go free after their “murder” trials?

How about this one:

The founding document of the United States of America acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus Christ because we are a Christian nation.

Huh? That ain’t true. The agnostics among our founders understood the nature of compromise.  You do not. Further, the Declaration of Independence is a declaration of war, not a founding document according to Aaron Sorkin and others.

THE founding document is the Constitution which makes no reference to “God” and certainly none to Jesus.

Now try this one on for size:
Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.

Pat, babes.  Lesbians don’t care about witchcraft, capitalism or your definition of “lesbian.” All women have a “lesbian” gene. There are some who admit it and others who don’t; some who listen to it, while most pay no attention.  A lesbian who wants children will find a male whom she wants to father her child. So what?

There are plenty of women who like women who want children and cannot have them if they don’t cohabit with (shudder) a male. It’s biology, not religious fantasy.  If you find something wrong with that, please go back to your shrink and focus on the issue.

Hey, guys, in the age of supposed equality of the genders, we males are confused about women's’ sexuality. If you love her and she loves you, ask her. Chances are you’ll get a sane answer.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments and death threats to wesrichards@gmail.com but omit the contributions to my coat hanger collection.

© WJR 2019


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

2089 Organize!



2089 Organize!


Another in our series, We Didn’t Get the Way We Are by Being the Way We Are.

America once had a thriving middle class.  Now it’s going… going… not quite gone. 

It all started with forming unions that demanded and got living wages in industries like car making, steel making, mining, medical, transportation, teaching, professing and even retailing.  

A funny thing happened after that.  We kind of forgot how we got the way we got.  We began to think of organizations just kind of swooping down from the heavens and appearing.  And the contrarians among us began to think of those organizations as authorities.  Americans don’t think well of authority.

The “other guys” learned to organize and now America is run by a union of banks, financial manipulators who call themselves anything but.  Private equity funds, hedge funds, etc.  They are the modern iteration of the labor union.

They’re just not as well formed as, say, the Teamsters.  But they’re just as tough and just as smart.  These organizations own congress, the supreme court, most state legislatures, most county governments, most village governments.  They own corporations (with your nominal participation if you own stocks, hold bonds or are into mutual funds. Trust me, you have no real clout if you own less than 25% of anything.)

So they do what labor unions did, believing they had to. The corporate/banking/private equitarians are pushing us around and we’re taking it.

A modest suggestion.  Since modern elections are about as corporate as you can get, with all kinds of funny money contributions and lobbying as the source of strength, beat them at their own game.

How?  Favor politicians who don’t bother with you. The ones who campaign mostly at fund raisers and rallies.  Take donors for all they’re worth.  And they’re worth plenty. Then do what the hedge funders and banks do: Abuse them. Then go out to the boonies and advocate sane stuff.

The current crop of politicos, with some major exceptions, are raising funds in nickels and dimes.  That doesn’t work. Trump didn’t win and Hillary didn’t lose because trump had a spark and Clinton is a dead fish stinking in the moonlight (to paraphrase a famous saying.)

She actually did win the popular vote.  But she failed to follow up. She forgot or never learned to show up in the states housing trump’s deplorables.  Yes… there has to be an on the ground campaign. But if you want to win an election, you have to do more than just lie, cheat, steal and make fake promises. You have to kiss the right asses.

Right now, the Financial Union is scared to death of the people touting small donations.  Get ‘em riled by candidates who are capable of raising big bucks and then ignoring those big bucks donors and doing what you know is right by the rest of us.


I’m Wes Richards. My Opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments: send to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

2100 Self Eating Doughnuts

It’s five years from now, and what’s a cop to do? All cars are self-driving.  No live drivers, so no officer-driven prowl cars on traff...