Wednesday, January 31, 2018

1899 The US Ambassador to the United States

Okay, big government lovers, here’s a suggestion for a new addition.  We need to establish diplomatic relations with the United States of America.  It’s not enough to live here.  Or to be a citizen here.  We need full diplomatic relations.

So let’s build a nice embassy on a quiet, dignified street in, say, Georgetown and appoint someone with some gravitas to represent our interests to this budding third world nation.

We could call the building something truly stately, oh… like the trump Tower South. Make it bigger than those of lesser countries like Britain and Germany.  And we could do what US embassies all around the world have done since the dawn of electrification:  spy on everyone else. Including ourselves.

Think of the parties we could throw. Think of the enormous influence a US Ambassador to the US could have in our capital, Cairo on the Potomac.

If nothing more, we could serve as an example to the witches and warlocks in the White House.  Nah. Forget that part.  The White House witches and warlocks have shown they can’t learn new tricks. Like diplomacy.  Or rolling over. Or playing dead. Or saying much beyond “Polly Wanna Cracker.”

Since prior experience is a foreign concept to the newly installed ambassadors from here to -- wherever, let’s find a nice sensible person with no known credentials in international relations but who meets the trump administration standard of being a stable genius with an excellent memory and presidential grade sartorial elegance.

Someone like Mark Zuckerberg.  Or Cee Lo Green. The US ambassador to the US should look humble as befits our emerging status as The New Bangladesh. Or flashy as befits our status as the Next Duchy of Fenwick.

There’s a problem here.  What happens if this country feels the need to recall its ambassador to itself?

--The State of the Union speech is over. But who was that guy who delivered it, someone who sounded almost human?  It certainly wasn’t the fella we sort of elected, and it probably will go down in history as one of the longest series of lies and tall tales ever told.

--There are two kinds of State of the Union speeches, the long detailed lecture ala Clinton and the attempted heart tugging, ala Reagan and Kennedy. Last night’s was an attempt at the latter.  With a little war monging and racism thrown in.

--Amazon, JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway are going into the health insurance business.  That’ll mean a change in the way you’re billed.  Pay with your Chase check, then stick it in the Amazon drone that comes to your door, collects and then sends it to the nearest Burlington Northern station where it’ll be rail-delivered to an accounting center in South Dakota.

-This year’s big Grammy winner, Bruno Mars, isn’t a real person… he’s a computer animation based on a combination of Michael Jackson, Gerald McBoingboing and Jennifer Hudson.

-Google AdSense has rejected this URL as an advertising venue which means that any ads you see here still are parody.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

1898 Battle of the Browsers

It’s the war between Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge.  And no one fights clean because both warring nations can grab hold of your computer and do things to it that mere customers can’t control.

The Windows 10 operating system comes with Edge.  The latest version of Google Chrome is easy to download, and when you do, it imports all the stuff you’ve used for years on all kinds of other devices.

When you turn on the Win10 Computer, the first thing you see is a full screen ad for Edge. “X” it out and it’ll be back before you can say “Intel Inside.” “Hey, we’re here for you. We’re fast. We don’t have the shortcomings of Windows Explorer. We’re really cool.  We have “Bing,” which is the Sprint Network of search engines in that it puts on a great show but the call drops.

Chrome takes the high road. “Hey, we’re here for you like we always have been.  And you get a whole lot of free services with us that you don’t get from… from… you-know-who which charges you for the same functions.”

Ah for the good old days, where Bill Gates would sit around at college-style bull sessions at Microsoft and tell his frat brothers to “cut off the air supply” of competitors. At least he was honest about it.

It’s tough to think of Gates as anything but the one man charity he’s become, after fellow bazillionaire Warren Buffett shamed him into unlocking the vault.  But history is history.

The Google guys are much sneakier.  They hide behind that northern California Flowers in Your Hair persona while secretly working behind the scenes to build what they doubtless think of as a stealth monopoly.

In truth, no home or business tech outfit can do anything widespread without Google, Microsoft or Apple.  So why, then, are they fighting over crummy little-guy solo practitioners?  No answer to be found here. But think about some of the hobbled former giants. Anyone remember Netscape? Don’t you miss those little discs that AOL used to give away by the millions?  When was the last time you used Alta Vista to conduct a search for anything?

If you want office software you have three basic choices: MS Office, Google Drive and Open Office.  As of now, there’s no Open Office (which is free) for use on a Google Chromebook. And if you want MS Word for Chrome, it’ll cost you $100 a year in subscription fees.  These things are no accidents.

When was the last time you used WordPerfect or WordStar? These older programs either are gone or shrunken to the point they’ve become family farms.

But there’s a history lesson worth recalling.  There was a time long ago that General Motors sold 60% of the new cars manufactured in this country.  Technically, that violated the spirit if not the letter of the antitrust law.  But no one balked because General Motors was forever. Until it wasn’t.

So while these big three companies have something of an oligopoly and continue waging war on small almost microscopic battlefields, somewhere out there, there’s a kid in a dorm room who is likely to be working on something that will make her the next Japan Inc.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, January 26, 2018

1897 I Don't Know

1897 I Don’t Know

We have lost the ability to say “I don’t know.”  In an era when there’s the entire world’s accumulated knowledge, wisdom, history and foolishness is available in an electronic device that weighs less than a deck of cards, we are assumed able to look up anything and therefore to be able to answer any and every question.

“I don’t know” has become an admission of guilt. Or ignorance or ineptness or laziness.  Quick, now: what is the cubic root of 17? You don’t know, right?  The answer is a little over 2.57.  It took eight seconds to look that up.  It’s not the kind of question you’re apt to be asked unless you’re a table waiter at a restaurant and asks me “Do you have any questions?”

Even here in a college town with math majors abounding, people don’t know this and there’s really no reason to.  But to say “I don’t know” is a mark of inferiority -- at least in the minds of many of us.’’

The questions get dodgier. “Why doesn’t the guy across the street take in his garbage cans after the trash is collected?”  I don’t know the guy. If I did, I probably never would think to ask him.  But somehow, I’m expected to know. And so are you.

Put that question into a search engine and you will not get a direct answer. If Google doesn’t know, no one does, right?

Of course, you can look most stuff up.  When were the Peloponnesian Wars? Who fought? Who won?  To this you can whip out your iPhone and say “I’m not sure, but I’ll look it up.”  That’s usually the start of an actual answer.

But when you ask cousin Bert why he hasn’t called after you sent him that nice birthday present, he’ll hem and haw and make excuses.  But the honest answer probably is “I don’t know.”

There is no shame in not knowing.  At least not that I know of.

--Radio Story: I was doing the business news on “Rambling with Gambling,” the forever-running morning show on WOR in 1990 or 91. Off air, John A. Gambling (the one of three Johns Gambling with actual talent) said he was going to ask me such and such a question during the segment and if I didn’t know the answer I should say “I don’t know.”  I was shocked.

--trump ordered Mueller’s firing last summer but didn’t follow through when White House Counsel Donald McGahn threatened to quit, reports the New York Times. McGahn said it would have had a “disastrous effect on the presidency. He was right and trump backed down, at least temporarily.

--Give it a rest, John Kerry.  The former senator and secretary of state says he’s thinking about another run at the presidency. Nah, John, give someone younger and less haughty a chance.

--A new computer brings new tsuris to the Wessays (™) Secret Mountain Laboratory. Switching over never is as easy as it should be. But the real sticking point at this time required a birth date and it wouldn’t go backward from 4/28/2018, which it also helpfully pointed out hasn’t yet happened.

“I have just signed your death warrant.” -- Judge Josephine Aquilina in Lansing, Michigan, sentencing child molesting team doctor Larry Nassar to as long as 175 years in jail for molesting around 150 young gymnasts.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

1896 Back to Business

After about 70 hours of the congressional strike, the United States Government is back in gear.  But it’s a low gear. And it’s a gear coated with molasses or maple syrup or that Great American Do-All, 10W40 motor oil.

Back to business doesn’t mean back to work.  It just means the casino reopened and it’s back to games.  Yes, congress has arranged a few more days to work out the details of a plan on immigration. But soon enough, we’ll likely be back in the same situation. That 40 weight oil is mighty thick.  Apply it to a roulette wheel in a casino, which congress is always eager to do, and the wheel turns in slow mo.

Here’s a quiz.

Chuck Schumer is
a.           A weasel who knuckled under to the Republicans in an effort to boost the presidential candidacy of Kirsten Gillibrand and other members of the Left of Lenin crowd.
b.           A practical Dem who has the best interests of the American people in mind and wants to get things moving again.
c.           Neither.
d.           Both.
Mitch McConnell is:
a.           A weasel who sweet talked the Democrats and convinced them he’d allow a real debate and action on the Dreamer Bill.
b.           A practical Republican who has the best interests of the American people in mind and wants to get things moving again.
c.           Neither.
d.           Both.
Mike Pence is:
a.           A Friend of the military who wants the troops he addressed to get paid.
b.           A political hack who is trying to push blame for the shutdown on Schumer.
c.           Neither.
d.           Both.
Paul Ryan is
a.           A Spineless weasel who can’t control the crazy caucus in his own party.
b.           A policy expert who has the best interests of the American moneybags at heart.
c.           Neither.
d.           Both.
Donald trump is:
a.           Who knows what?
You can make up your own answer key because the correct answers depend on
a.           Suspension of reality.
b.           Blindness
c.           Neither.
d.           Both.
This is not to say that the parties are equally responsible for that 10W40. They aren’t. The Republicans started all this in their helter skelter, pell mell-lemmings -running-off-a-cliff attempt to put that Kenyan Muslim socialist black man in his place.

But the dems have their own problems.  When you start a political party that includes both religious nuts and atheists, representatives of every stripe of social and legal thinking, ivory tower professors and the homeless, you get chaos.  And when you get chaos, you don’t get stuff done.

That cuts both ways.  Not getting stuff done is sometimes better than doing stuff that’s dangerous.  But the shutdown was inexcusable.

-If Mueller gets fired, what happens to all that he has collected?

--Cosby is out and about in his hometown, Philadelphia, socializing with those he hasn’t been accused of conducting a drug and bang.  We don’t know he really did that, but a trial in a couple of months is going to confirm it. Meantime, the image spinners are trying to resurrect his good guy image… to which we can only say yeah, sure.

--When someplace you never heard of makes news like Benton KY where an armed student killed two people and wounded 17, reporters used to locate it for you.  Not anymore. So we will. Benton is 60 miles northeast of Clarksville in central Tennessee.

TV Review: Ann Curry’s first episode of “We’ll Meet Again” was a heartrendingly beautiful lesson in the strength of the human character and the tribulations of wartime Japanese Americans and German Jews. She wove the elements together into a narration and pictures that left me tearful and breathless. (PBS Tues 8PM Eastern.)

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, January 22, 2018

1895 Wish Comes True

Wow, we got what we want. A country with no government.  Anarchy, at last. 

No government?  

No laws. It’s a do-your-own-thing paradise.  And historians can now authoritatively write the final chapter because there’s no more United States left to chronicle.  

The crimewave that swept Washington is now the (unwritten) law of the land. Schumer, McConnell, Ryan, Pelosi, trump, all those Great Americans? They gave you what you want.  

No government? No constitution.  Second amendment yahoos no longer need to hide behind their misinterpretations.  They can simply have entire arsenals without having to rely on anything but their whims.

But, of course, that sword cuts both ways. You can’t ban abortion because you can’t ban anything.
Now get out there and be a real American: spill drums full of oil into a lake.  Pick an ethnicity or race or sexual orientation and ban it from your bakery. Who’s going to stop you?

Okay, enough of that. The government really isn’t shut down. Not entirely. The people who shut it down in the executive and legislative branches still will be paid.  The post office, a semi-public constitutionally mandated agency -- make that the only constitutionally mandated agency -- will continue to operate. 

The “bigger” and “more powerful” button on the oval office still works.  That’s the one that auto orders the cherry Cokes trump drinks by the oil drum full each day.  So will the other bigger and more powerful button that will nuke Little Rocket Man. (Is he related to Little Marco?)

The IRS and Social Security Administrations are working. So is the FBI and the CIA.  And don’t even think of carrying a handgun onto an airplane. Or a giant economy size tube of toothpaste.

We’ve had this kind of shutdown before. Thank you, Newt. We’ll get over this one too. Probably.  After billions of dollars wash down the drain.

Look at the bright side.  There are 4,000 job vacancies in the executive branch and its agencies and departments.  Think of the money we’re saving.

With any luck the sides will agree on something and start up the shut down parts by the time you see this. Of course, that would mean trump and the men and women of the house and senate would have to do actual work over the weekend.  And when was the most recent time that happened?

--There’s no real reason we still have states. But in cases like a federal government shutdown, maybe that position is a little extreme. The roads still will get plowed and since it’s near the end of the month, the traffic tickets still will be issued.

--The Huffington-less Post has ended its practice of accepting free columns from wannabes who wanna be famous. Now called Huffpost, it’s owned by a company that’s owned by another company that’s owned by Verizon. Verizon worrying about the onslaught of fake news would be better off worrying about what to do with it’s gazillion miles of unused copper landlines.

--The year-round population of the Wessays (™) Secret Mountain Laboratory is three. Sixty Six percent of that population has the flu. The one who doesn’t doesn’t usually get a flu shot because it almost always ends with the disease full blown… which thus far it hasn’t.

-“You ask professors to study things, but you never put them in charge of anything.” --Dwight Eisenhower on learning Nixon named Henry Kissinger national security adviser.  Quoted by Niall Ferguson in Politico Magazine.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, January 19, 2018

1894 Welcome Home, Ann Curry

Where is home?  Why, it’s in your living room.  And it’s about time. Television’s most battered anchorwoman will be on PBS with a new program, “We’ll meet again” starting this coming Tuesday 1/23/18.  It’s about people who met, were separated by critical events -- wars, terrorist attacks -- those little things, and then who later re-met.

This template is right up her alley and plays to her biggest strength: melodrama with a goal and/or a happy ending.  You put this woman in a room with a camera and a bunch of homeless kids and they’ll all find parents by nightfall.

The camera believes her.  And it should. And when a story is Humanitarian Update, you will, too.

Curry is a news reporter. Her roles on NBC News at Sunrise and then the Today Show news desk was where she belonged.  As Today co-anchor, the chemistry with Matt Lauer was iffy at best.  A lot of learned opinion says she wasn’t right for the part.  So they executed her. The death penalty may be used sparingly except in Texas and Florida.  On television, it’s common.

The conventional wisdom is that Lauer pushed her out of the chair.  NBC’s rinse and spin cycle says it was ratings.  Maybe.  True, she’s better at asking a third world dictator if he tortures small animals than she is at demonstrating how to barbecue the perfect rack of ribs.  But as someone who worked her way through college as a hotel housekeeper, she could probably teach you a thing or two about using that $500 Dyson you just bought on a whim from Kohl’s.  Too bad that never came up.

 Now about that new TV show… Curry is the child of an American soldier and a Japanese war bride. They were separated and then reunited.  Pretty good background for reporting on similar events.  WWII wasn’t the only time that happened.  It happened in the Vietnam war. It happened during the terrorist attacks on America.  But it also happens in coal mining accidents and high school romances and in the house down the block from you. And it’s probably happening now.

So welcome home, Ann.  I’ll leave a bowl of Hershey Kisses in the living room for Tuesday.  I just don’t remember whether you like the ones with or without the nuts.  Probably will go for plain. My teeth ain’t what they were back in the day.

-“I am the future.” -- Ann Curry discussing her biracial heritage.

--Baseball has long been replaced by gossip and celebrity worship as “America’s Passtime.”  And people often complain about how long it takes to play an MLB game.  To speed things up, the leagues proposed a pitch clock and time limits on the mound which the players have rejected.

--In other sports news, NCAA President Mark "nuclear option" Emmert says he wants to see college basketball “cleaned up before the start of the next season.” How about a more realistic goal like “before the start of the next century?”  Oh, and Emmy, baby, what about college football?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

1893 The 21st Century Edsel

1893  The 21st Century Edsel
Driving right off the page
The biggest blunder in automotive history is about to be superseded. When Ford Motor planned the Edsel in the 1950s, the plan made sense. They needed more brands to compete with GM and Chrysler.  But by the time the car was produced, it was little more than a laughing stock and a mighty expensive one.

When production shut down the company had lost what would be billions in today’s money.

Why did it fail?  Well, it wasn’t a bad car. Oh, sure, it was ugly.  Tom McCahill, a leading auto journalist of the era said it most succinctly.  He wrote that it “...looks like an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon.”

Ford put on a first magnitude marketing circus in an era when magnitude 3 would have sufficed and maybe even saved face.  The car was a sales disaster.  To its credit, the company manned up and quickly euthanized the poor thing.

But the melody lingers on, though not for long.

The next big Disaster in a Tin Dress is the self driving car.  The technology is progressing nicely.  So far, the tests are ho-hum, but that’s to be expected. Oh, there are stalls and crashes and such, but that’s why they do tests -- to see what works and what doesn’t.

Every manufacturer is on this bandwagon.  They’re all saying self-driving cars will

--reduce accidents and save lives.
--keep traffic moving in predictable and steady flows, thus speeding trips.
--allow the people formerly known as “drivers” free to text, telephone, watch movies or read the paper, have actual conversations with fellow passengers and nap.

Paradise on four wheels.

But the fact is that once this idea is perfected (if that day ever comes) it will mean 15 or 20 cars will be left on the lot for every two that are sold.  It’s not going to work.  No machine maker in Detroit or Tokyo or Juarez or Ontario is going to convince American drivers to take their hands off the wheel or their foot off the gas pedal.

Special tip for potential buyers of the Tesla, which is a brilliant and beautiful tribute to the art of auto design.  There’s no question all-electric and hybrid and hydrogen-fueled cars are here to stay.  But Tesla is a soap bubble blown up by a boy genius with his heart and his money in the right place.

If you have the money, buy one of these and put it up on blocks.  They’re going to be more valuable when production stops, which eventually it will, than they are today.  It’s a win-win situation.  You get bragging rights now and a good return on your investment later.

-Cheers for the shopping channels QVC, HSN and JTV which have at last started using some plus size models and show hosts and even some with gray hair.
-I love wandering around Altoona PA because next to most of the fellas I meet or see there, I look thin.
-And speaking of plus size women and men, let’s hear it for Oprah, the kind of take-no-prisoners but otherwise relatively normal president we need to undo the current damage.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, January 15, 2018

1892 MLK and DJt

1892 MLK & DJt
Mugshot to remind us tat Martin Luther King Jr and many others did more than just talk,

It is Martin Luther King Jr day, and we’ll get to that. But first about the president.  He said something awful the other day and it got widespread publicity because it had a four letter word in it.  Actually, the word he used had eight letters. But since everything with trump is exaggerated, we’ll let that pass.

First he called Haiti and other places “shithole countries.” Then he denied saying it.  In front of witnesses.  But not just any witnesses.  In front of witnesses who also are United States Senators who until January 3, 1981 were cut from dignified cloth and behaved properly even when they didn’t really mean it.

And one of those senators went on television after the denial and denied the denial.  “He said it,” says Sen. Dick Durban (D-IL.)  Other senators also in the room are suffering from amnesia.  They did it using the mobster dodge “I don’t recall… him saying that.” 

We may be fools.  But, sens.,Tom Cotten (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA), we’re not that big of fools.

But what the president said is true.  

Say what?

Yes, Haiti and those other places are living, breathing, throbbing infected lands of horror.  And many of the people there agree.  And they come here to try to realize the American Dream.  And many do.

Call it smart or call it cowardly, these men and women know their surroundings and strive to climb out of those holes.  Meantime, the US supports corrupt regimes around the world because we see the suffering and can’t stand it.  

Haiti lost its stability with the demise of Papa and Baby Docs.  But what they got was the same kind of squalor and growing crookedness that they left behind.

South Africa’s government has been captured by a trio of brothers from India who seem to make all the important decisions in that country.  The difference is that South Africa has saleable natural resources coming out of its ears, so there’s no need to worry about a bunch of fat, greedy boys who control who sits in the president’s chair, the national treasury, the advertising media, etc.

But what about Sudan?  Ethiopia?  Places like that.

When trump said we need more immigrants from countries like Norway, the instant retort that comes to mind is “what self respecting ambitious and happy Norwegian would want to emigrate here these days?

America could flush the overflowing toilets of Haiti and the African continent.  And it would be cheaper than just opening food banks and washing mud off the streets of Port-au-Prince.

"I am not a racist." -Donald trump
"I am not a crook." - Richard Nixon

SHRAPNEL (Martin Luther King edition:)
--For many years on this holiday, this space has derided the notion that anyone could speak for Dr. King all these years after his death. But that’s never stopped anyone from members of his family to poverty pimps to Reagan and trump. As conditions in this country deteriorate and the workings here fall into the hands of the weak-but-loud, the hypocrites, the ignorant and the illiterate, we’re less steadfast in our denial that anyone could speak for Martin.

--King delivered thousands of sermons and lectures.  He wrote dozens of position papers and worked tirelessly for jobs, freedom and equal opportunity.  But we remember him for four words, “I have a dream.” And that’s both inadequate and unfair.

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 ...