Wednesday, June 29, 2016

1662 Death Ray Lite

Charles Addams was ahead of his time.  The New Yorker Magazine cartoonist was on the cutting edge of new age weaponry.

Let me explain.  In 1953 Addams drew a cartoon which we can’t reproduce here for copyright reasons.  In it a patent attorney is pointing a rifle out a window as the inventor looks on.

The caption:  “Death ray fiddlesticks. It doesn’t even slow them up.”

Can you imagine the gentlemanly full and frank brawl at the magazine as they debated whether in the caption should use “slows them down” rather than “slows them up?”

Anyway… a death ray that doesn’t kill is exactly what’s needed in today’s violent era, a ray gun that doesn’t kill -- or stun like Star Trek’s Phaser or even the real world Taser -- it just slows them up.  Or down.

Just a little jolt to put someone’s metabolism in slowmo. That would eliminate a good chunk of police inspired deaths of accused felons.  Maybe they could design one of those guns to work on machinery, too.  Things like, say, getaway cars.

That would mean that a pair of bank robbers trying to flee with a bag of cash in a Chrysler 300 could stomp on the gas pedal but the car would take five minutes to go from zero to 60.  Wait.  We’re not sure whether that’s normal for a 300.  Make the car a Chevy Camero.

People fleeing from cops would slow the runners from the speed of Chariots of Fire to the speed of “The Sun is Shining, Oh Happy Day."  That way even Frank Cannon or Gunther Toody could catch the perp on foot.

And all you hunters?  A slow-ray would be paradise during deer season.  Billybob could fire away (ray guns are silent, right?) slow down that eight pointer, catch up with him and put a 9mm right between his sad and pleading deep brown eyes.

Also, slow flying duck for dinner, Bobby-Sue!

--Okay Brexit Clubbers, here’s actual fallout from the UK’s vote to leave the common market.  Standard & Poor’s  has removed Britain from its list of most credit worthy, which means borrowing will become harder and more expensive.  But the good news is the change makes it less likely that some fraudster will steal the Queen’s credit card numbers.

--RIP Scotty Moore, the guitar player who backed Elvis’ early hits.  More than that, Moore helped create the rockabilly style that remains popular today. Moore was 84.

--The bad news:  Three children were killed by Ikea dressers that fell over on them. The furniture has been recalled. The good news: At least three people successfully assembled Ikea dressers, possibly a record high.

-For a small upcharge, Ikea is offering owners of unassembled furniture lessons translating Swedish instruction sheets.

-Can Bernie campaign against Trump without campaigning for Hillary?
-Can Hillary beat Trump now that the Republicans have found no smoking Benghazi gun but continue their smoke detector mission against her emails?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

1661 Get Off My Lawn

1661 Get Off My Lawn

Or to be less politically correct about it, get your dog off my lawn.  Who is violating whose space?

Omar Mateen.

You remember him, right? The madman who killed all those people in Orlando.  The gay- hating Islamic terrorist who wounded all those others?  The guy who saved the state of Florida millions of dollars and thousands of hours by being shot dead at the Pulse nightclub.

Well, they buried him the other day in the ground of a cemetery in Miami about 200 miles from the scene of the crimes.  And this is causing outrage among his dead neighbors, or at least the people who speak for the adjacent dead and pay for the graveside upkeep.

There’s no headstone, at least not yet.  So does that make it a secret unmarked grave or are they just waiting while the stonecutter they finally got to say “yes,” finishes his work.  

Relatives of nearby corpses are outraged.  They don’t think someone like Mateen should be buried in sacred ground and some of them have threatened to exhume their long gone loved ones and have them moved to another cemetery.

They’re worried the slime that passed for Omar’s brain will seep sideways through the earth and desecrate what’s left of Granny.

It’s a Muslim cemetery and some of Omar’s co-religionists with remains there are up in arms. One says his religion doesn’t permit murder. If that’s true, he’ll have trouble making his case under present conditions. But like the Bible, the Koran is full of contradictory teachings, so maybe he can.

The people who run the burial ground say they don’t approve of what Mateen did, but don’t believe they are in position to judge him or exclude him on some technicality… like he’s a mass murder.

In case you’ve stopped following the rats nest of coverage of this story, there are some new developments:

--The FBI says there’s no evidence Mateen had gay lovers.  The FBI also is the agency that decided that Mateen was no threat and dropped the ball. Evaluate and discuss.

--Mateen bought a plane ticket to the west coast for the day after the murders.  So maybe he didn’t expect to die in Orlando after all.

--Experts say Mateen was an expert marksman. Well, there’s something to brag about as in “only the best gunman is good enough to kill my kid.”

Kicking a live dog off your lawn is common practice. Kicking a dead dog off your lawn is not something we’re likely to do.  Instead, we call Animal Control or the dog catcher.

So what are they waiting for?

--Perdue wants happy chickens.  America’s fourth largest chicken producer is on the warpath against animal cruelty, or so it says.  If they demonstrate that they can make a buck that way, maybe humane treatment will catch on.

Today’s Quote: “Republicans buy sneakers too.” -- Michael Jordan on why he doesn’t make public political statements.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016

1660 Organizational Life Cycles

1660 Organizational Life Cycles

Here’s some ammo to predict the future.  The life cycle of a typical organization.

People come together for a reason.  They want something created or something stopped.  If they catch on, their population grows and if it grows vigorously and quickly, that’s when the trouble begins.

At some point, anything organized by us two-legged critters demotes its founding purpose, usually before fulfilling its mission.  The Big Idea is replaced by two smaller Big Ideas, self preservation and growth.

It doesn’t matter whether the group is a summer stock company or a manufacturing company, a medical center, union, house of worship… whatever.  

Eventually -- and usually sooner than later -- preservation and growth.  Either that or it falls apart.

Look at “Occupy.”  Here today, gone tomorrow.  They collected a large following, had no real defined goals or means to reach them, and today?  Nowhere.

You can expect the same from the Teabags and the Bernie Bros., the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, and even ISIS.

Occupy fell from a high floor and fast. Other groups don’t always.  Sometimes they have parachutes and sometimes the parachutes open, so the ride down is slower and more controlled.

Eventually the core dilutes with the expansion. Internal conflicts develop and form factions.  People get bored and drift away.

Sometimes, the founding leaders leave and those who remain take two steps: (1) Inscribe the founding idea on the doorpost and (2) forget it’s there and go about the businesses of preservation of expansion.

This usually is a bad idea, but not always.

Once polio was conquered, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, now the March of Dimes, turned its focus and its money on other afflictions. Well done.

Try to think of another one or two outfits on any scale that flipped that switch.  They’re there. But not in big numbers.

Sometimes, the founders remain but fossilize.  Take a look at the evolution of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality.  It formed in 1942 in part because the NAACP was busy dithering about civil rights in an era when dithering was ineffective.

CORE’s president, Roy Innis, among the best of the good guys, a graduate of CCNY when that meant something and Stuyvesant High School which still does, is 82 and hasn’t had an original thought since the 1990s.

Marlo Thomas is 78 and still active in her father’s worthy group, St. Jude’s Children's’ Hospital is in similar straits.  A fine lady, of course.

But these two deserve their own wing in the American Museum of Natural History or maybe the Smithsonian.

So, organizations are like butterflies.  A long time in the cocoon, followed by a grand display, and then -- often almost immediately -- begin the process of self hobbling.

-For an explanation of Brexit, see the above Wessay.

--Birds will grow teeth before all the dust over Brexit settles. But while everyone has an opinion on how it will affect Britain, few are speaking out on the probable effect on the EU.  Here it is in one word: Weakened.

--Britain has long succeeded in convincing much of the world that it is The Moral Authority.  No one has that in writing.  But Brexit will undermine others’ confidence in the EU.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

1659 Paying for News

There’s no reason to complain about paying for an online newspaper.  As long as there’s actual news in it.

The so-called business model isn’t going to work without some little tweaks.  Newspapers gave away their stuff for a long time. They’ve trained us to expect something for nothing.  Mostly now we get nothing for something.

So when the Mirror-Leader of Mudpack, California starts offering actual news, maybe people will pay for it.

Some big papers have caught on and are doing relatively well. The New York Times has a lot of stuff. So does the world’s greatest trade paper, the Wall Street Journal. (Yes, there’s real news in the WSJ, yes, it is better now under the Evil Murdoch than it was under the dysfunctional Bancroft family.  Yes it wins Pulitzer Prizes.  But it’s still a trade paper.)

Of course there will be exceptions.  USA Today has real news.  And huge circulation.  But since almost no one pays for the print version, why would anyone pay for the internet posting?

Notice, if you will, that some major papers -- some on the edge of failure -- now are owned by billionaires.  The Washington Post.  The Boston Globe. Prime examples.

This is said to make their viewpoints and coverage subject to the whims of their owners.  Not that that wasn’t always the case.  Freedom of the press kind of depends on whether you own a press in the first place. But the current crop of billionaire owners seems hands off.  At least so far.

Newspapers never really relied on subscribers to pay the freight.  The money was in advertising.  Now, not so much.  So they turn to their customers, readers who previously faced newsstand price increases only when the cost of newsprint rose.

For example, if you buy the Miami Herald on screen and don’t use an ad blocker, you’re inundated with constant interruptions. There are pop ups that are pop-up-blocker-proof.  There are banners.  Annoying little animations that float across a page to distract you.

If you do use an ad blocker, you’re costing the paper the little crumb of revenue it would receive if you saw and -- perish forbid -- clicked on an ad.  Not a great way to make enough to pay the rent.

So the papers sell their buildings and move to cheaper digs.  Those that are chain owned reduce staff by not filling vacancies, firing workers and centralizing operations like graphics and photos.

And they make devil’s bargains with the wire services which then are forced to cut back on coverage.  The Associated Press is a cooperative.  It also is the country’s spinal column of news, without which everyone would be less informed.  The spinal column has a serious slipped disk problem.

And if this continues, so will you.

Today’s Quote: If concentrating on what people want to know means succumbing to direct democratic rule of the sort you can find on the internet, it is a retreat too far. It abandons the social mission in order to serve it.” -- Jack Fuller, former reporter, editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune who died Tuesday at age 69. (Quoted in his New York Times obituary.)

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

1658 An Ex-CIA Agent Speaks Out

Operator: Good morning. Central Intelligence Agency, how may I direct your call?

Caller: Good morning, I’d like to speak to Fuzzy Wuzzy, please.

O: One moment, sir.

Music on hold. Sounds like “Flight of the Bumble Bee” played on a plastic ukulele.

O: I’m sorry, sir, but I find no listing for a Fuzzy Wuzzy. Let me connect you with personnel.

The conversation is pretty much the same.

Fuzzy Wuzzy is sitting across the table from you in a booth at a luncheonette in Astoria.

Caller says to Wuzzy: they never heard of you.

FW: Of course they never heard of me.  They never heard of anyone.  

So… does that mean anyone can claim a CIA background and have no way to prove it?  Which means you have no way to disprove it.

It’s even more fun when you say you were a “contractor.”  That one they can deny from here to Mars and credibly.

All this by way of a recently posted video in which an attractive young woman showing a lot of flesh and claiming to have been a CIA covert operative makes a case for peace by holding committee meetings between warring parties.

Ok, there’s certainly something to that.  But look a little closer.  The video is posted on a YouTube channel called AJ+.  AJ+ is a new service of Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera means “the peninsula” in Arabic.  It is the property of the government of Qatar, which is a small country -- a peninsula -- that looks like it might be Saudi Arabia’s appendix on the coast of the Persian Gulf.

Qatar is also a family business and has been since its independence from Britain in 1971.

So, let’s first consider the source.  Yes, Al Jazeera sometimes does serious news seriously. But it also is a huge news agency with a point of view.  And its point of view is both obvious and well known.

As for the woman in the video? Soft spoken, well spoken and to put it into the American vernacular, “hot.”

She’s a “former CIA-ling,” says the video.  She makes some good points about forming committees to hash out differences.  A real Kumbaya moment.

Since she doesn’t give her name and neither does the video’s caption, we don’t know who she is. And if you call the CIA as we did about “agent” Wuzzy, your chances of finding out who she is are less than zero.

Well, what other videos does AJ+ offer?  They’re pretty much all from the Kumbaya school of life. And they pretty much feature attractive American women showing lots of skin.

This is what news types the world over excuse by saying “We have to get the (user) into the tent. Then we can tell him anything we want including what they need to know.”

Once in the tent, we see smatterings of people who live on the borderline between plain and ugly. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Joe Biden and guys studying computer coding in Germany.

The rest of the featured speakers are all Qatari soft core porn.

Whisper in my ear, baby.  I’ll do anything you say.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

1657 Counter Clockwise in the Digital Age

Ok, show of hands please. Who can tell what time it is?

You, yes you in the back row?

Yes.  3:52 is correct.  Any other way to say it?

Third row third seat?

Yes, 15-hundred-52 also is right.

Anyone else?

No hands?

Anyone think of eight minutes to four? Or even “about ten minutes to four?”

Few young people think in those terms.  Many never have seen an “analog” clock or watch, at least in person.

To their detriment for two reasons:  1. An analog face tells you not only what time it is but how much time you have left as you approach the coming hour and 2.  A digital watch or clock has no counterclockwise.

How else do you say that with meaning.

How about “counterclockwise is when you grab something with your thumb at the top of it and your fingers beneath and then turn it so your thumb moves left.

Counterclockwise is 16 characters.  Seventeen if you make it two words.

“Grab something with your thumb at the top of it and your fingers beneath and then turn it so your thumb moves left” is 112 characters if you count the spaces, around 90 if you don’t.

In an age of “LOL” and “OMG” and “LMAO” and similar commonplace non-words in text messaging you’d think today’s thumb typists would opt for a condensation rather than expansion.

But they don’t know the direction the clock moves and therefore don’t know the direction in which a clock would move backward.

Here’s hoping someone invents a word that means the same, that is short, and that you can use even if you don’t know which way the clock moves.

But there’s a problem with artificial words… or hothouse words, words that don’t develop and grow organically.  Many are awkward and difficult on the tongue.

You don’t hear a lot of people using “kimplomer” a made up word for love.  Anyone yet know what “ethosian” means?  Look it up. (You can’t.)

But if someone starts using any of these, eventually, they’ll become the jargon of some obscure occupation or even fall in general use.

There are agencies that make up names for products.  The Oldsmobile Toronado was a good one. Rolled out like honey; easy to read. It had no meaning.  But it sounded good. Most of them either mean nothing or sound stupid. Or both.

The disgraced former soldier of fortune company Blackwater now calls itself Acadami.  The company that owns the Chicago Tribune changed its name to tronc.  Small “t.”  Tronc, with a capital “T” used to stand for Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.  But now it means “Tribune Online Content.”  Wonder who got a tronc load of money to invent that stupidness. Then, the pharmaceutical names.  Lunesta, Xarelto, Paxil, Zantac.

And “Verizon” speaks volumes.  You’ll find them in the “blank book” aisle at Barnes and Noble.  Also available as an e-book from Amazon.

Which brings us to
Today’s Quote: “CBS used to stand for Columbia Broadcasting system. Now it stands for nothing.”    --Andy Rooney asked about the company’s name change to CBS Inc.

To most of us counterclockwise isn’t counterintuitive.

I’m Wes Richards.  My Hopplers are my yoffa but you’re jeren to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

1656 A New Way to Soak the Ailing

A whole new healthcare industry is about to blossom in Canada. Doctors have been given permission to help terminally ill patients end their lives.

And unlike pioneer US doctor Jack Kevorkian, these docs will not have to prowl the streets in deathmobile minivans hunting for a secluded roadside lovers’ lanes. They can do it in the public square for all a physician needs to fear.

In fact, they can do it in the clinic at the nation’s capital offices in Ottawa.

But here’s the whole new industry:  Assisted Dying Facilities. They’d be just like assisted living facilities,  only the stays would be shorter.  And probably the insurance costs lower, but not much. Gotta get paid while you can.  Of course in Canada which sensibly adopted universal-ish health care in 1961, they worry a bit less than we do about the costs of procedures.

Here in the States, of course, such facilities would be strictly private.  And that’s a whole new ballgame.  Assisted living and nursing homes are under fire here. Owners are hated at a level second only to politicians, bankers and reporters.

And some of them should be.  A bad banker makes no bones about where his interests lie: with himself.  A bad nursing home operator can pretend he’s doing a great service for his residents all the while charging $5,000 a month for three square a day and an attended bath or shower.

An assisted dying facility would have all those perks but shorter leases.  And they could get away without the meals in many cases.

There would be little to no need for physicians other than the neo-Kevorks. There would be little need for nurses.  You wouldn’t even need more than maybe three or four rooms.  And those rooms could be more like Motel 6 than the Waldorf. Kind of a roach motel for humans, or a short term room of the kind often rented by drug dealers and prostitutes. A place where you check in vertical and check out horizontal.

People in the US probably would be more vocal than Canadians about the horrors of euthanizing human beings even if they came in on their deathbeds or death wheelchairs and walkers.  Canadians are less vocal than we are about pretty much anything but hockey. So, here there would be protests and picketing a la anti abortion activists.  But that shouldn’t matter much to the doctors, the roach motel operators or the “guests.”  After all, there are occasionally obeyed laws in place to keep the protesters away from these facilities.

So… advantages:  The place can be small.  Operators wouldn’t need a medical staff of any great size.  There’d be no need for kitchens or dining areas, cooks, cleaner uppers and dieticians.

There’d be no need for a recreation room or a director of physical therapy.  No need for a big elaborate parking lot.  Maybe a telephone operator/receptionist.

And think of the franchise opportunites!

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Gee maybe some day Google Docs will allow macros so I don’t have to type this so often.
© WJR 2016

Monday, June 13, 2016

1665 Did ISIS Just Elect Donald Trump?

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the largest mass shooting in American history.  It apparently dispatched -- or at least “inspired” -- an American born sympathizer armed to the teeth into a nightclub that catered to LGBT Hispanic residents and visitors in Orlando, Florida.

The club is a big place called Pulse.  After awhile at least 50 people had no pulse and at least as many were on the floor in agony.

As the SWAT team gathered and the gunman claimed hostages… as the news crews scrambled in the small hours of Sunday morning… the speculators wondered aloud for all who listened or watched whether this was “simply” a matter of gay bashing or something more.

After the shooter, Omar Mateen, called 9-1-1, it turned out to be something more.  What was his emergency, as the dispatchers ask? Nothing much, operator. Just want you to know I’m loyal to ISIS.  Click.

Guess that’s settled.

Late morning or early afternoon, the governor showed up.  One of the state’s US Senators landed in the command center.  The mayor had been there for some time.  Talking heads all blabbering the same thing.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you… we’ll get to the bottom of this… blah blah blah.

Someone found Mateen’s parents who said they were as shocked as anyone else, knew nothing of the situation.  Well, not exactly nothing.  They assured us “religion had nothing to do with this…”

No, of course not.  Just a madman with a gun or two and what was thought to be a bomb, though no bomb was found.

The SWAT team went in.  Mateen went down.  And as soon as he awoke from his Saturday night snooze, there was Donald Trump on Twitter, evidently his second favorite way of getting free publicity:

  1. Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!
  2. Horrific incident in FL. Praying for all the victims & their families. When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?

Yep.  While normal human beings were shocked and saddened and normal politicians were issuing statements of sympathy and normal law enforcement people were promising results, Don Don was campaigning, stoking as he does the fires of hate.

Even if you’re not a Trumpeter, surely it occurred to you, if only briefly to think “there they go again. The religion of peace is on the march.”  This may have been followed by “Oh, well. It wasn’t in my city.  And it’s only gay Hispanics who died, after all.”

Those are the kinds of thoughts we have,  but push out of our heads because we don’t want people to think we even think that way. And we don’t want ourselves to think that we think that way.

But when Don Don has a thought flash through his head and thinks he can make political hay of it, it comes right out of his mouth and/or fingers.

And it goes right into what passes for the minds of people who are open to this mad hatter’s madness.

Oh, there will be backlash because there’s always backlash to his nonsense.  But only with the people, the legion that already fears and dislikes this creature.

We have a right to be angry.  We have a right to be scared.  We also have a right to not be shot dead by a crazy person of any religion who bought guns, however legally.

And since the start of the presidential campaign we have the right to confuse the names of two reality TV shows, “Celebrity Apprentice” and “The Biggest Loser.”

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

4745 An Ounce of Cure

  Forget the ounce of prevention and the pound of cure.  With everything getting odder, let’s make it a Troy Ounce of prevention.   While “n...