Wednesday, October 30, 2013

1246 What's in YOUR Wallet?

1246 What’s in YOUR Wallet

One of the least noted sore points in the ongoing war between the sexes centers on the wallet.

Women are forever asking men to get new ones.  Men are forever holding on to theirs with the ferocity of a dog guarding a bone or a toddler who drags his favorite blanket everywhere.

This is a conflict that transcends all the usual barriers.  Race, religion, country of origin, age, sexual orientation, income level, political preference, education level, literacy and on and on.

People can disagree on many issues.  But none is more consistent than this one.

Okay, men, show of hands now.  How many of you have had your wallet  called “that rag” by your significant other… or even an insignificant other?

Thought so.

Now, women, let’s see some hands … how many of you have used that term?

Uh huh.

The average American woman has enough handbags and wallets for a regiment and shoes to match each.  Even women who don’t care manage to accumulate plenty over the course of a lifetime and rarely discard any of them.  You never know…

Okay, fine.
Guys tend to keep their wallets.  They become mobile offices.  Credit cards, notes, receipts, etc.  They get dog eared.  But most of us don’t care about matching a wallet with an outfit.

We don’t have different wallets for special occasions, casual Fridays, travel, business, and visits to the gym or the swimming pool or the pool hall.

Any wallet, even a really good one, will eventually fray. It’s material will take on a battered and/or saggy look.  So what?  We know what’s in it and where it is.  It’s not a decoration for us, it’s a body part.

A close friend long used one that was repaired with so much duct tape you couldn’t tell what color it was.  After considerable nagging he reluctantly switched to a new one.  But you can bet good money that he stashed the old one away in a drawer or a box and still has it, just in case.

While you may think of that as extreme, it really isn’t.  Many of us would go that route willingly.

So, ladies, do as you please about your wallets and handbags and shoes.  But understand that guys aren’t wired that way.

Shrapnel (Sweet Lullaby edition):

--At long last, something positive to say about Britney Spears, the noise making font of gossip and what passes these days for music.  The British Navy is playing her recordings through high powered sea-going public address systems in an effort to scare off Somali pirates.  And it’s working.

--This is not a new tactic. When Panama’s dictator Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy, US Marines surrounded the building and started playing Van Halen’s hit “Panama” at top volume, interspersing bits from the Howard Stern radio show.  It worked, too.

--The UN says the tactic is torture.  This country and others use it anyway.  And the Pentagon has declined the opportunity to replace the noise with recordings of General Assembly and Security Council debates.  That really WOULD be torture.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
You’d think by now MS Word or Google Docs would have a macro function so I wouldn’t have to type this three times a week.
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© WJR 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

1245 Calcium

1245 Calcium

There’s so much calcium in the ground around here, the FDA is thinking of declaring the tap water a nutritional supplement.  The upside: no one here gets osteoporosis.  Few here have sub gum bone loss.

The downside?  There’s so much of the stuff in the pipes that eventually, the water pressure goes low enough to wonder if you have a leak somewhere.  You don’t.  It’s just that nutritional supplement taking up room.  

Oh.  And putting spots on your dishes, pots, pans and silverware.  

If you have a vaporizer, you’ll be forever rubbing that coating of white powder off your furniture, your appliances, your bed cover, and possibly your dog or cat.

No dog or cat around here gets osteoporosis.  And no bedroom furniture does, either.

You break an arm or a leg, the hospital has you soak the limb in tapwater.  Ten minutes later, the break has healed.  They charge you $500 a gallon plus fees for turning on the faucet.  Plus fees for turning off the faucet.  Plus bucket sterilization fees.

The revenue from $50 aspirin tablets has shrunk considerably since they instituted a voluntary BYOB policy, so they have to make up for it somehow.

BYOB not only means “bring your own bottle” of aspirin, it’s also “Bring Your Own Band-Aids.”

The price of a Band-Aid at Wal-nut’s is three cents.  The same band aid at the hospital was $11.39.  They’re always looking out for your budget, bless their hearts.

It will come to the point that competing bottled water companies will be filling their tank trucks from our fire hydrants and selling eight ounce bottles for two bucks each ($3.50 at athletic events, $6.00 at outdoor flea markets and art festivals.)

Can you see that picture of a fire hydrant on the bottle?  And a yellow band that says “packed with calcium”?

The drug stores better worry.  There’s going to be a coating of dust on their supplements.  Unless they wash the bottles.  Then, there’ll be a coating of … calcium residue.

Oh.  The tap water tastes terrible.  And many people -- especially women worried about bone loss -- drink spring water and buy and take calcium supplements.


--Say it isn’t so, Ronald.  McDonalds is dropping Heinz ketchup in favor of other brands at its 34-thousand burger joints worldwide. It’s because the new head of Heinz is the former head of #1 competitor, Burger King.

--The Dolans of Cablevision and Newsday; the Knicks and Rangers fame just dropped a billion dollars to fix up Madison Square Garden, which now looks like … Madison Square Garden only with more bathrooms and higher prices.  Now they have to figure out what to do next about moving out in ten years when their operations permit expires.  Probably they’ll get another extension because by then, the plans to expand Penn Station… in the basement(s) will have been revised for the hundredth time even though at the moment, Mayor-Presumptive DeBlasio wants them out of there.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

1244 Frankie and Johnnie

1244 Frankie and Johnnie

These guys aren’t exactly household names, though you’re more likely to know about John.

For Frank, you have to have a long memory and some mileage on your personal odometer.

Frank was Frank Wills the rent-a-cop who discovered the Watergate break-in that brought down President Nixon and brought a lifetime of fame or infamy to countless “personalities” of the era.

What happened to Wills thereafter was less American Dream than American nightmare.

Wills died in 2009 with barely a nickel to his name.  No job. No nuthin’.  He died as he was born, poor and wanting.   A shame, really.

Now there’s John Pike.  John was the rent-a-cop who pepper sprayed a bunch of sitting students during an “occupy” demonstration at the University of California-Davis in 2011.

And Pike is no Frank.  After video of his behavior went viral, he was fired.  And now, he’s been awarded $38,000 for his trouble, the kind of thing that would land a civilian in jail -- and rightfully so.

The victims of his shower of blindness each got about 30-grand.  That’s part of a big suit and settlement that pitted UC against a bunch of kids with the sight of sore eyes.

Why not give John the Frank-treatment?  Well, gentle readers, it’s because he’s depressed.  Awww.  Who isn’t these days?
No, really.  He got death threats.  He felt terribly guilty, or so his lawyers intimate.  He’s just a big bowl of the shakes.

This is exactly the kind of thing that happens when you put untrained and inexperienced people in jobs that demand restraint.  Not to say that experienced and trained people in New York’s Occupy behaved any better.  But none that we know of got a decent payday for pushing, shoving, clubbing, intimidating or otherwise making life miserable for a bunch of idealistic if not misguided and confused kids in lower Manhattan.

Occupy was a movement without a cause.  Or at least it was a movement with only a vague sense of a cause and of the way causes are fought for.  They had some good points when you could squeeze a straight answer out of them.  But that’s not what this is about.

If John were a civilian, it would have been illegal for him to have pepper spray -- at least in most places.  It would have been illegal-er for him to use it.  Not a huge crime. But a crime nonetheless.

But the uniform?  It changes things.  That blue suit means something.  What it means is defend when attacked, not attack at random.

So life ended badly for Frank Wills.  And we don’t yet know how things will work out for John Pike.  

That 38-thousand dollar check won’t go very far after taxes.  He’s not going to get endorsements from weapons makers.  The NRA won’t make him a hero because pepper spray is not lethal.

His next act may have to be an endorsement contract with some maker of antidepressants.


--Time Magazine (yes, it’s still around, believe it or not) has started on the kind of campaign that founder Henry Luce would use to boost his friends and slay his enemies.  It has started making Prince Charles of England into a world leader, since he is first in line to succeed Queen Elizabeth, who -- contrary to popular perspective is not immortal.  So they’re pointing out his every little good deed in hopes of distracting the world’s attention from a stiff with a wife who is the dream queen of the supermarket tabloid scandal mongers.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

1243 Voter Fraud

We have customized cars, customized kitchens, customized computer programs.  We have custom made suits and formal gowns.  We have customized furniture, customized cookies, customized blends of coffee or tea.   So what’s all this fuss about customized election districts?

You hate congress, right?  Everyone does.  But you like your own Representative, right?  Almost everyone does.

So why surprise and anger at customizing the voting district to reward that likable fellow with what amounts to a lifetime job?

Look at John Dingell (D-Michigan) who has served for just under 58 years.  Or Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) with almost 42 years in the House and Senate.

Dingell is #1 and turns 87 this year.  Cochran is #37 and will be 76 before year’s end.

These two are each the longest “serving” members of their parties at the moment.

In between, there are some household names, names you know because all, though they’re dead, retired or lost their most recent election, have had their names in print and on the air forever.

Robert Byrd.  Strom Thurmond.

Those figures in the 30-40-50- years?  They’re just too long.

Of course, you have to forget the senate because senators don’t have districts. But representatives serve in two year clips.  And many if not most of the districts are customized just as carefully as a hand made suit from a Savile Row tailor.

The suit wears out in a couple of dozen wearings.  The district lives on for at least ten years… until the next census, maybe longer.

If all this isn’t voter fraud enough for you, consider what the Republicans in states like Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere are trying to pull.  

State issued photo voter ID cards are just a way from keeping Democrats from voting.  The state governments say they’re only trying to prevent fraud.

Voter fraud in this country --scarcer than Polio -- is minimal to infinitesimal.  And there is no recorded instance in which it changed an election result since the invention of the photograph.

So between the ID card thing and the custom tailored districts, who is perpetrating the fraud?

Shrapnel (High Tech Robbery edition):

--Oh boy, new versions of the iPad, just in time for holiday shopping and Apple’s bottom line.  Faster, sleeker, more HD than if Johnny Depp made his next movie in your living room, and still pretty much chained to Apple products and services.  Incremental changes no one needed, and not for the first time.

--Oh boy, new version of Amazon’s “free” shipping, just in time for holiday shopping and Amazon’s bottom line.  Instead of a $25 minimum purchase, the fee jumps to $35. Object: get people to pay for their “Prime service,” which brings in money upfront but gives you both a cheaper “free shipping” and a leaf-bag full of emails that you don’t need.

--The NSA says it has data from 70 million French phone calls and emails.  France is in a total twist about that.  But folks in the agency’s secret hideout have dozens of new recipes to try -- deep fried snails and frogs’ legs for example -- and a blueprint for the sewers of Paris, even those below ground.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

1242 The Body Exchange or IPO for a Running Back

1242 The Body Exchange or IPO For a Running Back

Hey, Wanna Buy a Black Man?

Wait.  Wanna WHAT?  

You heard right.  

But the Constitution…

Yeah, yeah, the constitution bans all that kind of thing. Slavery went out with… well, slavery.

Not so fast.

A startup company which pictures itself as something like a stock exchange says it will try to sell shares in athletes.  Starting price, ten bucks a pop.  Minimum purchase $50.  In return, investors receive a sliver of his or her earnings.

First man on the auction block is running back Arian Foster of the NFL expansion Houston Texans.  By all accounts he’s a good guy and a fairly good player with a modestly good future.

And of course if he puts himself on the block... no one’s forcing him.  But it's much easier to climb up than climb down.

The spirit of American entrepreneurship is alive and well.  And so is the spirit of the Confederacy.  It’s been a long time since we divided individual human beings into fractions and considered them worth so and so much of a person.

Of course, this being the age of nominal equality, your purchase does not have to be black or even male.  Feel free to buy shares in one of those Hispanic or Japanese or white baseball players.  Maybe one of those Russian tennis ladies.

And why limit it to athletes?  What’s a share of the Kardashians worth.  “Hey, did you check out Miley Cyrus? Her stock is up 3% since the twerking incident and the wrecking ball video.”

“My stock in Ted Cruz is up a couple of points because he raised all that money during the government shutdown.”

“Oh, did I take a bath on my shares of Joanna Chmielewska.  Not only hasn’t she written a bestseller in years, but she upped and died.”

Stock in human beings?  They’re serious.  They’re not kidding.

(Stock tip: Don’t buy into Wessays™ if it’s offered.  The guy has never earned a nickel from the blog and is unlikely to get endorsement offers from Nike, Gold Bond, Buick or Velveeta.)

Back to Arian Foster.  He IS likely to have a decent career and he’s the caliber of athlete the people who buy endorsements sometimes go for.  So the stock may go up.

Unless, of course, Foster is injured.  Or he continues this season’s less than stellar performance on the field.  Or decides to give up football to take a job with the State Department.

What do you suppose happens if someone tries to corner the market in Foster? What if the potential corner-er is the owner of a rival team?

Will there be an annual shareholder meeting?  If so, it’ll probably be the only one in history to have a full house.  Of course, like most corporations they’ll probably hold it in some convenient, accessible place.  Like Greenland.  Or Laos.

Can someone build a Berkshire-Hathaway type investment company or a mutual fund that holds stock in Foster and whoever else comes along?  What about a futures market?  Or a commodity trading desk.  Can you see these big name people mentioned in the same breath as London Gold, Light Sweet Crude or coffee, corn, wheat and hog bellies?

You have to think that Foster himself hasn’t thought much about the pre civil war aspects of this project.  Or maybe he has and just doesn’t care.

Attempts to reach principals in the startup have so far failed.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

1241 Artifax

1241 Artifax

One of the dumbest inventions of all time has lost its usefulness. The fax is the carrier pigeon of the electronic age and deserves nothing more than cameo appearances on the shelves of museums specializing in outdated artifax.

Yes, there was a brief spurt of reason to have one when the telephone company priced the Telex out of the marketplace.  It was wonderful… you could send pictures and text over the telephone.

Now, who needs it?

Email and email attachments are fast and free.  Just scan in a document, attach it to an email and send it … wherever.  No special receiver needed on the other end.  No worries summarized by the plaintive cry  “it SAYS it went through.  But can I be sure?”

Fax use is declining, even though billions of faxes still are sent worldwide each year.  Japan is the leader though it has six million fewer machines than number two user, the US.

Why are people still using them?  

Because they can.  Because the cost of the machine and the extra phone line haven’t yet been amortized.  Because it’s a bad habit.

There are programs to help you quit.  Cold turkey, slow withdrawal, 12-step, pills, tree hugger propaganda.

It’s time we took this campaign to the streets.  Demonstrate outside Best Buy and Staples.  Post posters. Write letters to the editor.  Demand an end to this telecom plot to force business to buy extra phone lines they don’t need.  Demand an end to the killing of trees just so you can get three coversheets for a two word fax.

Occupy Fax.  Force it to its outmoded useless knees.  

Okay, enough parody.  The fax was a nice interim step between the even more outmoded Western Union and the Telex and today’s e-mail attachments.

Somehow, a fax seems -- or seemed -- to carry undeserved weight.  It’s environmentally costly.  Its fan base is shrinking either by attrition (they die) or coming to their senses.  And its verification system is iffy.

There’s no serious suggestion here that the thing be outlawed.  There’s probably some Constitutional commandment against that anyway.   And who wants to deal with the National Fax Association, the NFA in its crazy notion that the only defense against a bad guy with a fax is a good guy with a fax.  (Forget the line about enough parody.)

But seriously… who needs these bulky, space gluttonous machines?

Wait.  The fax machine in the corner is receiving something.


--Congress has to stop acting like your cable company. The brinkmanship will continue until someone with some clout unbundles irrelevant and unrelated proposed legislation and lets each item stand on its own. Even the senate proposal to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling contained major pork for at least one state, Kentucky, home of Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell… a dam his state wants and says it needs.

--Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford NY) says his party has pretty much gone nuts.  Unlike McCain in the senate, King has been consistently right wing over the years which gives him a bit of weight in making his analysis.  If it’s crazy conservative by King’s standard, you better believe it’s really really insane.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2013

4744 The Running of the Bull

  Newsday Photo   A bull escaped from a farm in Moriches on New York’s Long Island and has been playing hide and seek ever since.  It’s not ...