Wednesday, November 29, 2017

309 Best of Wessays: Rollover Minutes

309 Rollover Minutes

We’re taking some midweek time off to celebrate the holiday and the weekend we were forced by a disagreeable management to work. Here’s one of the most requested blasts from the past:

It works for cell phones, why not for life? Some of the major phone companies give you rollover minutes. If you don’t use up your monthly allotment, you get to add what’s left to next month’s, or use at any time within a year.

We each have 1440 minutes a day. But look what we do with them. Sleeping, eating, watching TV, writing blogs, doing radio shows fighting with kids and spouses. This really isn’t USING these minutes. It’s just kind of HAVING them.

We should be able to roll our life minutes over into tomorrow, or any other time during the coming 12 months. If it’s good enough for AT&T or at&t as it now prefers to be known, it should be good enough for the rest of us.

Sound unreasonable? Nah. The phone companies – all of them – play fast and loose with the minutes, anyway. As they carefully note in teeeeeny tiiiiiny type in the bottom of your contract, you have to pay for incoming calls as well as outgoing calls and you have to pay for “toll-free” calls because you’re not really paying for calls, you’re paying for air time. So it doesn’t matter whether you call Timbuktu or next door – as soon as you push “send,” or “receive,” you’re on the air and the meter is running.

If your call lasts for 56 minutes and 12 seconds, you’re billed for 57 minutes. That’s called rounding. You’d think they’d round both ways, so a call of 56:29 would be charged at 56 minutes, and a call of 56:31 would be billed as 57.

But, no. When the call lasts 1:01, you’re billed for two minutes. So, the idea of a “minute” and the idea of a “call” and the idea of “rounding” all get very flexible. If it’s good for them, why not for us?

Then, there’s when you use your minutes. Many calling plans give you “free” nights and weekends. Great. That was a move to reduce business hour phone traffic, reduce dropped calls and shifting social calling to the evening and overnight hours.

And, of course, that’s what most of us do. At some point, it will no longer be to the telcoms’ advantage to do that and they’ll (a) start charging and (b) try to make you think they’re improving your calling plan. (Notice, they can change the terms whenever it suits them, but if you cancel early, they hit you with a $multi hundred “early cancellation fee.”)

It’s no wonder the cell phone carriers are at the bottom of every customer satisfaction survey conducted by anyone, for anyone and at any time since the dawn of the cell age.

So if they can play with minutes that way, we should, too.

If you’re waiting on the phone for customer “service,” you’re not using your personal, in-life minutes. If you’re waiting in traffic, at the supermarket, for the woman of your dreams to finish “putting her face on….” or the man of your dreams to get back from killing innocent animals, you’re not using your personal, in-life minutes. You should have the right and the ability to roll them over into tomorrow.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, November 27, 2017

1875 Gee, Officer Krumpter

You read that right.  Not officer Krupke from West Side Story.  This is officer Krumpter, chief-in-waiting of the mighty eleven member police department of Lloyd Harbor, New York which is on Long Island.

So what did this guy do?  Well, this isn’t your ordinary retired cop. He is the former commissioner of the 2200 member Nassau County police department.  As such he receives a retirement income of about $138,000 a year. A cop for 25 years.  Rising to commissioner which in some cases could mean he was a pretty good cop.

Sure beats a couple of grand a month in Social Security.

But wait. There’s more.  Newsday reports Krumpter walked away from his job with a payout of more than half a million in unused sick and vacation time.

Are you counting?  Okay, don’t push the “=” button just yet because -- as they say on TV -- There’s still more.

If he lands that job at Lloyd Harbor, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t, he will receive an additional $183,000 a year for the two years say he would be allowed to serve.

And it’s all legal.  Even though there’s a New York law that prevents retired municipal employees from what’s called “double dipping.”

This isn’t exactly dipping. It’s double gorging.

Lloyd Harbor had to get special permission from the state.  It did.

Chances are Officer Krumpter is up to the new job.  And chances are whoever was named chief would be paid about the same.  So that’s not at issue.

People once went into civil service jobs because it was stable work.  Hard to get canned. So-so pay, but the tradeoff for stability was worth it.

Postal workers, firefighters, cops, congress members, sanitation workers, paper shufflers of every description all make that choice.  Perfectly legit. Even if in some places and at some eras, it was necessary for said employes to … um … show their party loyalty beyond the pages of a civil service exam by providing envelopes stuffed with cash or buying tickets to political fundraising dinners. And these days, that stability isn’t so stable.

This kind of a payday is better than taking it under the table.  But it seems a little excessive.

--You should know that Wessays™ spares no expense in researching these stories.  In this case, we had to pay for a cyber subscription to the once-almost-great Newsday newspaper.  We’ll see whether that continues when the 99-cents a week deal expires.

--Here’s a media deal that’s hard to understand. The publisher of Family Circle and similar magazines, Meredith corporation, has bought Time Inc. for 3 (b) billion dollars cash $650 million of which comes from the Koch brothers. Since Time Magazine is at the bottom of its influence and Sports Illustrated is something you read in the orthopedist’s office during your endless wait, what is the benefit to the Brothers K?

--“The Brothers K” is how snootier than thou English majors refer to Dostoevsky’s novel “The Brothers Karamazov.”  We refer to the Koch brothers as such. Competition is good for the verbal economy.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, November 24, 2017

1874 Black Friday Doorbusters

Here’s hoping you had a fine Thanksgiving, filled with the warmth of friends and family and are now as stuffed as your turkey.

We did no such thing here at the Secret Mountain Laboratory nestled in the foothills of the northern Alleghenies, for we are steadfast ignorers of all holidays, large and small.  But today we will venture out for a newer ritual, one that does not lionize the giving of smallpox to indigenous Americans and trying to impose one’s religion in the name of religious freedom.

It is Black Friday.  It is the day America’s merchants confuse cash flow with profit and offer or pretend to offer the lowest prices of the year on all the stuff we crave but don’t need.

It also is one of two days that make the mavens of MasterCard and the vixens of Visa salivate because between now and the end of “Cyber Monday” there’s a really good chance that you will do something to knock your credit score down a few points or at least roll up plenty of loan shark grade debt.

The good news is it will be easier than ever to park at the malls.  In fact, at many, they recommend you bring along your ping pong table and set it up between the empty and shut down former Penney’s and the empty and shut down former Sears.

A call to a local Best Buy indicates no one camped out overnight waiting for the doors to open. A call to a regional Toys R Us indicates there is no shortage of Tickle Me Elmo 2.0.  A call to a Barnes & Noble went unanswered.  And no one busted the doors at Wal-mart, possibly because they were open all night as they are 364 days a year.

As for Cyber Monday, there will be no waiting in line on line.  Amazon, eBay, Uber, Hudson’s Bay and Ulta have computer systems that make the NSA’s look like something you might have bought from Radio Shack in 1980.  So no worries there or at the TV shopping channels.

Shopping in your bathrobe has become as fashionable as performing investigative journalism in your bathrobe, only slightly easier.  But only slightly.

Anyone know where one can buy a nice bathrobe on line?  The one I swiped from the Essex House in 1995 is getting a little threadbare.  

-“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” - Yogi Berra with a maxim he meant for a nightclub but which works for many shopping malls too… even on Black Friday.

--There are certain things that you can’t reliably buy online. Musical instruments, automobiles, houses, major appliances, farm tractors and weapons of mass destruction.  Yes, most of that stuff is available, but most of that stuff is worth seeing in person before you proffer plastic.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

1873 As One With Your Turkey

In nature, turkeys wander around gossiping among themselves, pecking for organic, gluten free Purina Turkey Chow and in general wondering why they’re even here. Then they find out.

Happy Thanksgiving Day.  Now, please put your head on this tree stump so we can remove everything above your neck and you can run around like a turkey with your head cut off.  We’ll come back later for your remains.

There are two ways you can be as one with your Thanksgiving turkey. Way One: stuff yourself on Thanksgiving Day. Way two: put your head on this tree stump so we can remove everything above your neck and you can run around like a turkey with your head cut off.  We’ll leave your remains in place.  After all, we’re not cannibals!

Well, at least not technically.

You may not realize it but we’re all Thanksgiving turkeys.

Think you have a vote?  You don’t. The system has been rigged.  But since the politicians can’t cut your head off in the real world, they give you an illusion that your vote counts.

A choice of news sources?  Remember that Forbes has become the Huffpost or Mother Jones for Libertarians.  The New York Times is fast becoming Lifestyles of the Rich and Wannabes.  CNN is a college bull session.

How about a choice of telephone companies.  Is there really any difference among the top three majors (alas, poor Sprint no longer counts.)

You have too few or too many choices.  If your head is headed for the butcher block, you’ll run around pretending you’re still able to think and take your pick of what’s offered rather than what should be offered.

The discount airlines treat you like sardines because the seats are too small and the fees are too high for actual turkeys.

The malls are empty while you busily shop on line for stuff you can’t feel or smell before you make a buying decision.

So when you sit down at Thanksgiving Day dinner tomorrow, be thankful that some DNA makes you better than the turkey you’re going to eat.  But the gap is getting smaller every day.

-Anyone notice that Al Franken was cut from the PBS special on David Letterman's winning the Mark Twain prize?

-- CBS, PBS and Bloomberg have severed all ties with Charlie Rose. He and Al Franken took guilty pleas rather than going to trial.  We’re waiting for Saturday Night Live to cut the Franken appearances out of their box sets and hoping Bloomberg Television has a demolition party for Charlie’s “special, trademarked, signature, iconic, traditional, aged-in-the-barrel one of a kind” round table.

--trump has backhandedly endorsed Moore for Alabama senator.  If Moore wins, it’s just one southern republican dolt replacing another. If he loses, the senate gets one more Democrat which won’t make much difference in what gets voted up or down but would be a symbolic victory against a serial child molester.

Today’s Quote:
“Better to make an old girl happy than a young one miserable.” -- Benjamin Franklin.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, November 20, 2017

1872 A Letter from Cornelius

From the collection of Jean De Brunhoff 1937

We recently received this email from Cornelius, counselor to Babar, King of the Elephants:

Dear Wessays,
I’m sure you’ll be happy to learn that at least for now, it will remain illegal to import what your president trump and others call “elephant souvenirs.”  As you know, here in elephant country, we don’t consider them “souvenirs,” but rather as body parts.

Steinway and other piano makers have found synthetics to make the white keys. CF Martin and others have found a way to make synthetics for their guitar bridges.  We were all greatly relieved when Mr. Obama slowed our population decline by making our corpses less valuable.  But we’re still in trouble.

There aren’t enough grazing lands left in those countries where we live and we have had to resort to GMO grains grown overseas as staples of our diet. While we don’t know that there’s any downside to that, neither are we sure that there isn’t.  

So we have commissioned a study of the effects of a GMO diet on some 1250 elephants ranging in age from two years to 65, near the end of our probable lifespan.

(I was born in 1937, which makes me well over the typical age of demise and frankly, at age 80, I have little to lose if this diet is detrimental.)

But to return to the “souvenir” issue, we have recently conducted a study with the cooperation of the Rhinoceros Government to test the effects of powdered rhino horns.  Of course, we used only rhinos who had passed away and carried organ donor cards.

Our study showed conclusively that horn powder is neither an aphrodisiac nor does it help eliminate ED.  So we have dispatched a small delegation to Beijing and other cities in Asia to present our papers at scientific meetings.  Our members are walking to the target cities and we expect them to reach them by the second quarter of 2018.

Of course, we invited some rhinos to join us.  But apparently the man-on-rhinoceros crime rate is so high, all declined.

In any event, allow me through your column to thank the American people and the president for delaying the change in policy.

With fond hope that the ban will remain in place forever, I am sincerely yours,
Counselor to His Royal Majesty

PS. Please forgive any typographical errors in the above. Arthritis prevents me from typing so I must dictate my correspondence.
Sent from my ePhone

--Please remember this: Guns don’t kill elephants… wait. That’s not right.  They sure do… else why call them elephant guns.

--Maybe we could reduce the rate of gun deaths among people thus: Instead of calling them “AR-something or other,” call them “People guns.” Then we could have formal seasons. If that’s good enough for elephants, why not for elementary schools, nightclubs, military posts, colleges, movie houses and public streets?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2017

Friday, November 17, 2017

1871 There's Always Somebody Out There

1871 There’s Always Somebody Out There

We all know radio is dead.  It’s a given. It’s in the Guinness Book.  You can look it up.

We all know there are only a handful of companies that own all 15,330 licensed stations and that they all sound alike and that no one is listening.  In the Age of Pandora Premium, YouTube Red, Sirius/XM and smartphones, everyone is a program director and no one is listening to the free stuff.

This gives today’s local disc jockeys and talk show hosts (all 14 of them) the freedom each wanted to say whatever they wanted.  Careful, boys and girls.  There’s always someone out there.  And each has a chip on his shoulder.  Each is ready to argue and each is at the ready, cassette recorder in hand, to send what you say to the Federal Communications Commission, the League of Decency, the Prissy Posse or Steve Banana, the boy genius former trump strategist.

Some closet listeners remain but are accidental.  Crazy Lem lives in a hospital bed in his home in East Armadillo, New Mexico.  His radio is on 24/7.  It’s sitting on a shelf in his bedroom.  It’s too far away for him to walk over and turn it off.  So, he’s listening. And he’s taking notes and making calls.  The first is to the KJFN News department, also known as Frank. He can’t get hold of Frank easily because when the news is over, Frank goes to his day job which is behind the counter at Wendy’s.

When Crazy Lem finally does get through, he yells at Frank for “not covering “that Uranium deal between Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin” or “not investigating why Obama’s Grandma wasn’t responding after telling us ‘the truth,’ that the former president was born in Uganda and was the love child of Idi Amin and a white hooker from Kampala.”

All 15,330 of those radio stations are programmed by a garden gnome sitting in a control room somewhere inside Cheyenne Mountain.  Even Frank’s KJFN needs permission to say stuff between commercials for Diabetes cures and testosterone replacement pills.

The station owner, who also works at Wendy’s but only part time, listens on a private listen line and doesn’t hesitate to call when he hears something he doesn’t like.  And he doesn’t like much.

This is serious stuff. One day, the garden gnome was distracted and forgot to push the buttons that put Rush Limbaugh or The Grateful Dead or Pat Robertson or Motown Magic on about 2,000 stations each.  By sunset, the folks from NORAD -- the other occupants of the mountain -- had to be called upon to fend off a throng of protesters from the ranks of the Ditto Heads,  heavily armed Stepford Wives, the entire stoner population of San Francisco and a bus carrying 250 of Al Sharpton’s closest friends.

You may think you’re able to say whatever you want on the air.  But beware.  There’s always somebody out there.

--Get well wishes to heart attack patient John Warner.  Warner, 52, is a cardiologist and is president of the American Heart Association. The “mild”attack came as he was participating in the group’s annual scientific conference.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

1871 The Pill Police

It’s about 10 a.m. on a weekday.  A patrol car two wheel screeches around the corner, lights a-flashing, siren a-blaring and pulls up in front of the house of a man we’ll call Crazy Henry.

Two cops walk to the front door and give it the cop-knock, the one that sounds like beating a bass drum with a nightstick.  Loud enough to wake the dead.

Henry’s napping on the couch. He staggers up, opens the door and one of the cops -- the big one with the officer Potsy beer belly says “Hankis, you haven’t taken your 9:30 Abilify.  Get moving or you’re going downtown with us.”

Henry takes his pill as Potsy takes a picture with his smartphone.  “Don’t do that again, Hanky or you’ll regret it.”

The cops leave and Henry goes back to finish his nap.

What has just happened?  Nothing.  And that’s the problem. If Henry had taken his pill, it would have sent an electronic message to his doctor.  Yes, they have a pill now that does that.  But he didn’t take it. So Dr. Modern’s office manager dials 1-800-PILLCOP, taps in a patient number and presto! The Pill Police arrive at Henry’s door with a friendly nightstick reminder.

The Food and Drug Administration approved that drug recently, and the results are amazing.  Abilify is a pill that fights a wide swath of mental problems.  People who fail to take it often cause trouble for themselves and others.  The transmitter and the Pill Police have solved that widespread memory lapse.

Henry drifts off to sleep trying to figure out how to separate the pill from the chip so he can game the system by swallowing the little chip but not the actual medicine.

Meanwhile, across town, the Part D directors of five major health insurance plans are meeting.  They want to decide among themselves how to classify this new pill so they can wring the most money out of patients. In ordinary times, we would call that a conspiracy in restraint of trade.

Let’s see. It’s too new for there to be a generic, so we’re safe on that.  The pill costs eight cents to manufacture, so the drug company has decided the retail price should be something like $364.72 each. The pharmacies will take their usual cut, bringing the customer price to $437.66 each. So the insurance companies make it a level 10 drug which means users will pay the first $430 dollars and insurance will pick up the remaining $7.66.

Is there some kind of privacy right violated here? No. People with mental health conditions have no privacy rights. It’s in the Constitution. You can look it up.

While you’re in a research frame of mind, take a look at the side effects for this stuff.  One of the main ones is warning about “suicidal thoughts or behaviors.”

What, exactly, is a “suicidal behavior?”  You know the answer.  Swallowing the microchip counts if you swallow them but not the pills.

And let’s hope the microchip melts after sending out its signal.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, November 13, 2017

1870 Welcome to the University of Buzzard

1870 Welcome to the University of Buzzard

For-profit colleges will take almost anyone. That means almost anyone can earn a college degree. Maybe “get a college degree” is a better way to put it.  And that means that college degrees don’t mean what they’re “supposed” to.

It’s not that you can’t get an education at the various mail order schools.  And many respectable real colleges offer distance learning courses and degrees.

But the secretary of education, Betsy DeVoid has stopped allowing attempted voiding of loans.  So an enterprising lawyer has figured out a workaround.

A loan for a “college” that makes promises of help finding work, that makes promises its credits are transferable, that its credentials will be recognized as legitimate is selling a defective product and should pony up for the remaining money or forgive the loans.

Well, why not. If it’s good enough for PayLess Shoes and Skippy peanut butter, it should be good enough for the University of George. Except the federal government is one of the loan makers or arrangers and so are some private finance companies. So it’s complicated.

Eventually, there will be a class action suit.  And the schools (you know the names, so they won’t be named here) will be forced to pay some humongous amount of a settlement. They lawyers will get one third of the payout. And each affected student will get 29 cents and a coupon for a free taco. (Regular size only. Some restrictions may apply. Photocopies not accepted.)

As for the schools themselves, it’s tough to separate the legitimate ones from the phonies.  But the community of employers (how vague is that?!) is unlikely to accept your credential.

Unless your veterinarian (the one who amputated the wrong leg) is a graduate of the University of George, she is unlikely to accept your mail order sheepskin.

So… fraud, defective product, false advertising? What’s not to love. It’ll keep flagging employment in the legal “profession” flying with new opportunities abounding.  It’ll keep rinkydink advertising companies healthy. It may fix a broken school system.  

And you’re going to love that free taco.

Sponsored content:
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Our faculty, led by President Bertha Brunkhaussen, CNA, includes some of the leading practitioners in the USA, India, Uzbekistan and Uganda.  Sign up today and get a free Skype account.

Why play doctor when you can BE a doctor and learn from the comfort of your own home.  Send for a free booklet today. Write to us at PO Box 5, Buzzard Roost Mississippi 39452.  For faster service call us toll free at 1800- CARRION.

--Sadly, there will be no WestraDamus year ender this year and we have abandoned the website. There is no way to make fun of 2017 at least in a ‘Damus kind of way.  Maybe notes from the Non-Prophet will pop up here or here .

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, November 10, 2017

1869 The Revolt of the (Suburban) Masses

1869 The Revolt of the (Suburban) Masses

(With apologies to Jose Ortega y Gasset who wrote the original in 1929.)
Let’s not get carried away by the results of this week’s election. It is not necessarily a foreshadow of things to come though many hope it will be.  But it proves one thing:  The American Suburbs have discovered their clout at long last.

Why hadn’t this happened earlier? Well, it’s hard to stay focused on today’s plug ugly politics when you have a lawn to mow, an SUV to wash and a barbecue to clean up post-season.

And the kids! Gotta get the kids to soccer practice, gymnastics, scouts, Little League, tutoring for the SAT exams even though they’re in third and fifth grade and won’t be taking them for years.

Someone awakened the suburbanites this year.  Reminded them they had brains.  Remind them they were about to lose their health care, that their taxes were going to rise, that their incomes were going to fall and that their investments were a bubble that in the best of conditions will develop a slow leak if they haven’t popped first.

Suburbanites elected the new governors of Virginia and New Jersey.  Democratic party members won in a walk in places that had never or rarely had a Democrat in office.

Here’s a common internal American population shift. It starts in rural areas as farm kids move to the cities. City people move to suburbs. Suburban kids move back to the cities. (And few, if any, return to the farm.)

Right now there are enough suburbanites to swing the mid term elections… But the democrats are going to have to find a way to stitch their own wounds.  They can’t rely on trump and the Congress of Stunted Growth and Self Delusion to keep being so bad no sane person could vote for them or what they stand for.

Their own Mister Purity, Bernie Sanders, will have to come to terms with the “establishment” democrats who continue to sit out the revolution because others have already taken a step or two they think of as radical enough.

For the most part, “you people” are educated, middle to upper middle class and just now learning to walk on your hind legs.  A radical agenda will overwhelm you.

From Westchester to Washington State a fed up population expressed its fed-uppedness.  It’s a good start. But it’s only a start.

“Among college educated suburbanites (trump) is a pariah.” -- Former Washington State Republican leader Chris Vance quoted in the NYTimes.

“[T]here appears to be… a type of man who does not want to give reasons or to be right, but simply shows himself to impose his opinions.” -- Jose Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955)

--There’s something untoward about the Veterans Day sales pitches that have come over the transom. A favorite thus far is from a company that sells socks. The perfect way to observe and honor the men and women who gave their lives in defense of covered feet.

--In olden days we at the Associated Press published an hourly newscast to be read by our broadcast clients.  With the advent of the internet, the AP simply updated top stories as they developed.  The latest iteration of their website is… is…  I don’t know what to call it, but it sure looks like a committee project.

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