Wednesday, February 28, 2018

1911 Details!

At the restaurant, a buffet joint at dinner time, there's a show card on the table. It tells you about the breakfast buffet. It has pictures of all the stuff they offer. And it has a list of all the stuff they offer. And it has the hours the meal is served. And it has the price. Got that? Pictures, list, hours, cost. Pretty clear. Then, in the fine print (there's always fine print, it's a national compulsion invented by lawyers,) it says "ask your server for details. (I hate the word "server," it's so.... servile sounding. What's the matter with "waiter" for men and "waiter" or, perish forbid the political incorrectness of it, "waitress"?)

Anyway, I ask my "server," who is a young college woman obviously majoring in Cheerful, "what details can you give me about the breakfast buffet?"

"Oh," she says, "happy to!" Every sentence she speaks ends in an exclamation point. That act gets old in a hurry.

"We have...." and then she goes on to recite the list of stuff that's on the show card that's sitting on the table, plus the hours and the cost.

"Great, thanks. Why does it say "see your server for details? Is there some detail they've left off the card, some secret little thing that I can only find out by asking you? The nutrition content of each item, for example, or the maximum number of trips to the buffet table we can make and still get the stated price?"

She looks confused, which is hard to do when you're smiling, and says "oh, no sir, none of that! The nutrition content is posted on the wall menu near the register, and there's no limit of trips!"

Okay, no details for which to see my server.

"Would you like to speak with a manager? I can get him for you!"

"No thank you, I was just wondering, since the show card says ask you for details and the presentation seemed pretty detailed to begin with, that you might know something a customer'd consider important when evaluating such things as whether to have the scrambled eggs or the oat meal or both."

She walks away, a smiling exclamation point. I'm sitting there wondering.

Everything has details, and every piece of printed stuff that invites you to buy or try something mentions that they exist but doesn't tell you what they are.

Telephone service has details. Oh, boy does it have details. There, you don't have to ask. They give them to you in writing. And to understand them, you must be well educated in federal law, state law, economics, electronics and maybe clinical psychology. So, no one reads these details.

How many times have you seen or heard "see store for details..." in the last day or two or five?

Probably none. That's not because it hasn't been written at you or spoken at you. It's because you hear it so often, you don't hear it at all anymore.

But it isn't as meaningless as it seems.

It means "Not everything we're telling you about the car or phone or computer we want you to buy or the contest we want you to enter or the membership we want you to apply for, is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." It means "there's at least a potential, if not an actual weasel deal going on here and if you don't ask about it we won't tell you. And then when you finally find out about it, we can say 'we asked you to ask for the details and you didn't.'"

I'm Wes Richards. (See store for details, member FDIC, an equal housing lender. No one under 17 admitted without parent or guardian. Title and taxes extra. Wessays is an equal opportunity employer. Union Made. Not Kosher for Passover. Contains peanuts. Take only as directed. While supplies last.)
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Monday, February 26, 2018

1910 Ms. Gimbel’s Carry Bag

Swattin’ Tommy who is not a coward and isn’t afraid to enter a school with only a LadySmith pistol to face a crazed kid firing non stop with a gun that belongs in the 64th St. Armory not in the hands of a civilian. You know, maybe like the guy in Parkland, Florida.

And at first, S.T. as he’s known to his fellow cops, thought trump had a grand idea when he said teachers should be armed.  But when he thought about it for awhile, he realized there was a flaw and changed his mind.

Here is the flaw he found.  You’re a cop. There’s a maniac on the loose and he has one of those guns that holds 4,000 rounds and when you hold the trigger it keeps firing until the barrel melts and the stock catches fire.  Okay.  You can spot one those pretty fast.  He’s the young looking one with a twisted smirk and big vacant eyes. And he has that gun and is firing it.

But if the teachers were armed and shooting back -- and by mistake shooting at each other, how would S.T. know who was who?  He could shoot a young looking teacher thinking that was the invading kid.

Over at Hunter College on Lexington Avenue they have a history of preparing people to teach school. Once they admitted only girls. Once they did not charge tuition. It’s where a lot of teachers who have since retired got their first glimpses of the real world in the profession of teaching. No one at Hunter College of the City University of New York would respond to the question “are you adding firing range time to your required courses?”  Probably they haven’t. Probably they won’t.

Ms. Gimbel the math teacher may think otherwise.  She carries that giant carry bag.  Surely some weapon of some weight could fit in it without making a public show.  Oh, but then she’d have to leave the thing out in the open where some kid could grab it while she was writing an equation on the chalkboard. In mid-height heels, Ms. Gimbel stands 4’11.5” above ground level.  She admits to weighing 102 pounds.  Not a good match for Moose and Hunk, the 3rd period twins who each weigh twice what she does and stand a head and a half taller.

Ms. Gimbel will not, therefore, put a gun in her carry bag. Taking care of --aiming at -- Moose and Hunk.  That’s Swatin’ Tommy’s job.


Today’s post is sponsored in part by  

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Be the Good Guy with a Gun when the next puppy- beheading, turtle stomping, bird wing breaking retard takes aim at your kids.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, February 23, 2018

1909 Bring Back the Blue Pencil

1909 Bring Back the Blue Pencil

See that thing?  That’s a blue pencil, the major trade tool for most news editors from the start of mass production in the 1600s until the dawn of the all computer newsroom. They were and are cheap, plentiful and neutral in color.

And we need to start using them again.  

A common complaint among journalists of almost every medium these days is the death of copy editing.  When they say this they mean editor positions are going unfilled or people have to self edit or upper level management has taken over what little copy editing is done.

But part of the problem is not the human, it’s the machine.

Spell check usually takes care of spelling errors.  Computer grammar checkers are getting almost as persnickety as Miss Edholm, your tenth grade English teacher.  Errors are easier to fix on computers. And faster.

Much faster.

Too much faster.

Ted with the green eyeshade would grab the blue pencil and turn on the light with the green lamp shade and slog through copy at what seemed a snail’s pace, fixing punctuation, questioning word usage, questioning facts he was reading.

His handwriting was no work of art.  Same with most of his ilk. But the next person down the line … a teletype operator or a typesetter or a teleprompter set up technician or a newscaster could read the “work product” of the blue pencil.

No one in a busy newsroom has that kind of time today.  The machinery doesn’t lend itself to contemplation. The corrections column or department or segment has ballooned -- or should have. And the problem can be solved with 14 cents worth of wood and graphite.

--The real “crisis actors” going from town to town are the legislative puppets who collect fame, glory and money from the gun lobby, not a bunch of teenieboppers going from town to town on George Soros’ dime and stirring up trouble.  But the conspiracy theorists who espouse that baloney are right when they say new laws may not solve America’s gun problem. And in doing so, at last, they admit there is a crisis.

--Is it over yet?  The Olympics. Sunday is the last day if we last that long.

--America could easily interfere with the elections in the Neo Soviet Empire, but it would be useless because the final results have already been decided and the news stories prepared for delivery. The real figures don’t matter. The results and 108% voter turnout figures already are set in stone.

“It seems that the only way to get attention today is to organize a march.” --Billy Graham on why his organization had grown so big.

-Paul Krugman’s column today ties gun woes into more general problems in today’s America and is worthy of your attention.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

1908 Band-Aids* Won't Do

Look at those kids.  They’re taking a movement away from the timid and into the streets.  There has been a coup among the leaders of the anti-gun violence effort.  And it was nonviolent, but it was not silent.

Teenagers with signs like “Am I Next?” and “Slaughtered in School” take to their feet and sometimes in buses and try to drive the message home, often with far more insight and intelligence than their parents -- us.

This is how the anti-war movement started and it is how it succeeded. Loud and blunt. In your face.  On your TV set; your computer screen. It was the young who won the right for 18-year-olds to vote. It was the young who made the early progress in the early years of the civil rights campaign and it was the young who stopped the Vietnam war, not Walter Cronkite and Paul Harvey, though they helped.  Certainly not Richard Nixon.  It was the tidal wave of fresh faces and loud voices.

They asked for the impossible and it became possible.  Now, they’re asking again and in ways that more resemble those early successful demonstrations because beside from energy they have a secret weapon.  Well, not so secret.

It’s called universality.

A bullet doesn’t care whether you’re black or white, gay or straight, transgender, liberal, conservative, atheist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Shinto or Hindu.  A bullet doesn’t care if you’re tall or short, fat or thin, disabled or a cancer patient.  Whether you had a rough childhood or an easy one.

It doesn’t care whether you’re rich or poor.

Truly an object of equal opportunity.

So, Tuesday of this week, some of the garden slugs and nappers who make up our government began to stir on gun control.

Even trump signaled possible opposition to “bump stocks,” an easy on/easy off gizmo that makes a fast firearm fire even faster.  

It’s a Band-aid*.  And a Band-aid won’t do.

The various federal and state officials with the power to act are either living in fear of the gun lobby or on its largesse. The occasional billionaire will emerge from his own slumber to announce he’s writing no more checks to people who support unrestricted or minimally restrictive gun laws. Then for the most part he (or she) will take a nap.

Another Band-aid.

The New York Times ran a story that said, in effect, the financial institutions can limit gun sales by refusing to allow their payment systems to be used to buy firearms or ammunition.  Also a Band-aid.

You know what the answer is.  

The NRA wasn’t always a tool of the guns-and-ammo industry.  And it didn’t need the kind of help it does today to keep itself afloat.  At some point in the not too distant past, it was a group that advocated training, safety and following the rules.  It still can claim some cred in that department.  But it now is simply the trade representative to the US Council of Arms Makers and Merchants.

So we have all these Band-aids.  And they cannot change much even when piled willy-nilly atop one another as they have been.

It takes a well organized militia of middle and high school kids.  They have the energy and the will, the motive and opportunity.  Now all they need is for the rest of us to get out of the way.

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

1907 Send Me No Roses

The survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting have a message they’d like delivered.  It is simple: Stop yacking and DO something.

Here’s how one student put it on CNN: “Thoughts and prayers… we need more than that. We need action. We are children. YOU guys are the adults.” That’s from David Hogg, student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 died last week.

President trump offered prayers. Speaker Ryan offered prayers. Senator Rubio offered prayers.

Fat load of good that’s done.

There are articles all over the map saying that. Vicenews headline: “I don’t want your condolences.” Or how about USA Today: “Prayers are not enough.” And on and on.  Except for the firing pinheads.  Here’s what The Federalist asks: “What kind of society condemns prayers at a time like this?”

The answer is none that we know of.  What it condemns is inaction.  What it condemns is stubborn misrepresentation by the highest court in the land of the second amendment that grants militia members to bear arms but doesn’t specify firearms.

It condemns the legislators who’ve been bought and paid for by the gun makers, the ammo makers and the NRA.  

You want to pray?  Go ahead if it makes you feel better. It won’t hurt anyone.  But if that’s all you do, it makes you inadequate.  Chew on that for awhile.

What ever happened to “God helps those who help themselves.”

Everything else is God as Santa Claus. And most of us know there IS no Santa Claus and if there is a God, his prayer-line iPad is on overload.

But maybe, just maybe the tide is turning.

Maybe there are more out there like one guy, overheard in a convenience store.  He’s the kind of man you wouldn’t give a second look.  Baseball hat and beard with a little gray. Pot belly. Jeans.  The kind of guy who probably owns some guns and probably has taken his kids hunting since they could walk.

No, you wouldn’t give him a second look, but hearing him, you might give him a second listen.  “We have to do something about the number and kinds of guns that are out there.  We have to protect our children from these people. And if the only way to do it is to restrict guns and gun use, then let’s do it.”

This does not hold up as anything more than an anecdote.  When “regular people” start talking like this, maybe other regular people will listen.

But like prayer, hope doesn’t do much by itself either.  So as young Mr. Hogg said “ are the adults” and another student tweeted to trump’s call for prayers “I don’t want your condolences… my classmates are dead… prayers won’t fix this…”

--As if we needed a report… the Long Island Railroad says its on-time performance fell to a ten year low in January, to 89.3 per cent, which is grade inflation because rail “on time” is defined as reaching its destination within six minutes of schedule.  The LIRR carries 89 million fares a year, the largest volume of any commuter railroad in the country. Maybe things would change if they understood that “fares” and “people” are not the same thing.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, February 16, 2018

1906 The Silence of the Knowing

Try on some of these afterthoughts for size:
“He was a quiet kid, a loner. Kept to himself. Never said much.”
“He was always angry. Threatening. Crazy.”
“He was preoccupied with guns and knives.”
“He bought the gun legally.”
“He lied on his gun application.”
“There’s nothing we can do to stop him until he actually pulls the trigger.”

These are among the top bromides that follow mass shootings like the one we’re dealing with now, the one just north of Ft. Lauderdale.

True, in a nation founded on laws -- many of them more flexible than a rubber band -- we can’t stop something that hasn’t yet happened.  But there always are signs.

The “suspect,” Nikolas Cruz showed plenty of them. Social media posts. Gun talk.  Troubled student. Teachers knew this. Probably school administrators too. Parents? Neighbors?  Fellow students?

Someone knew.  No one did anything. This is not to blame anyone but Cruz. He did it. It’s his fault.  Not his tough childhood or his misery or his mean auntie or the teachers would wouldn’t pass him when he hadn’t earned passing grades.  But others helped.  Like the manufacturers, the sellers and the moral climate that condemns these acts only in the aftermath.

When Kirby Crewcut, 16, comes to school in camos for six or seven months, when he doodles pictures of AK47s in his notebook while he should be paying attention to the lesson… when his Facebook motto is “Seven Verified Kills” with a picture of a cat or a bird or a turtle… You know there’s something wrong.

There’s nothing law enforcement can do about Camo Kirby or Nikola Cruz.  But others may be able to, at least some of the time. If they overcome their disbelief or denial and pay attention to what’s going on at home, in school or in the neighborhood.

Typical response: “Oh, I could see something was wrong with him, but what could I do?”  Stock answer:  “Get him help.”  Too many “helpers” are helpless.  Too many kids in therapy think therapy is something that cures them or at least slows them.  No.  Therapy is not something that happens to them.  It’s something they have to do.

But therapy isn’t always the answer.  Sometimes, the answer is taking the kid aside and telling him you “know where this is going.  I’m wise to you.”  Sometimes that’s enough. Not often enough, but sometimes.

Here are some things that never work:
--He’ll outgrow it.
--I’m too busy.
--He won’t talk to me.

There’s no universal instruction book for parents and kids.  Every parent improvises.  Some play that fiddle better than others. But it starts early.  And the signs are there early:
--Never outgrew the terrible twos.
--The terrible twos were really terrible, not just a burst of energy and exploration.

We overtalk these situations and under-do them. But as a nation we have a collective problem. We’re trying to balance rights -- real or imagined -- that are in our basic law, the Constitution. And that’s not going to work.

The Second Amendment is specific about who should have guns, who should use them and when, and what people who have them have them for. The Constitution does not prohibit gun regulation.

And we have a Supreme Court that can’t read and votes illiterately.

One of the big arguments gun rights people make against any kind of law restricting them is a false comparison. They’ll tell you cars kill more people than guns.  And that may be statistically true, if only because more people drive than shoot. But you can count on one hand the number of people who intend to do damage with a moving vehicle even in the age of sidewalk truck terrorists and “honor killings.”

Every state, even the dumbest of them has driving laws: Training, testing, licensing, insuring and policing.  Yes, a dangerous projectile is at least somewhat curbed by sensible laws and rigorous enforcement.

So why not do the same for guns?  Train, test, license, insure and police.  Home schooling may work for driving, but it doesn’t work for firearms. And there’s no test for a license.  There’s no grumpy guy with a clipboard sitting there marking you right or wrong for what you do.

Driving tests are not just for skill. They’re a step toward protecting others against your possible onslaught.

Okay, let the firing pinheads loose on this one.

Further reading: We addressed the value of prayer in cases like this two years ago. Summary: Useless, maybe less than useless.  Find the full report here .  (Addendum for those who read the link:  the patient who needed the motorized wheelchair never received it. The crowdfunding effort failed to raise the funds and the inured woman has since passed away.)

--The people who have kidnapped the second amendment did so in plain sight, aided by elected gangsters who lie and get rich for their trouble.  But they’ve also kidnapped the standard cure for such twisting, the vote. It may no longer be possible for your vote to matter.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

1905 Machine Mergers

1905 Machine Mergers
The new computer and the new-ish huge screen TV are not on speaking terms. That’s good.  Google wants to “teach” about “casting.” Microsoft wants a subscription to some version of Office that stores stuff on off site servers called “the cloud” and maybe keeps a closer eye on you than you’d like.

And they keep pushing this stuff like carnival barkers.  Except you can walk away from a carnival barker and he won’t follow you to the ends of the tents with his harangue.

These guys have mastered a new form of the hard sell.  Get in the customer’s face so often, so loud and so overbearing that they’ll drive you to live in fear of logging in.  Written stuff stores just fine on the hard drive and there’s always a backup somewhere in case a hit and run lightning bolt destroys it or the cops get a warrant and take it downtown for interrogation. (Why are police precincts always “Down Town?)

As for “casting”... that’s something you do with a fishing rod or a couch. (oops.)

Can you imagine a circumstance where something on your computer is so visually appealing you want to see it on a TV set with a screen bigger than those at the multiplex theater?  Well, those unasked for pictures that Windows 10 puts in your face on startup are cute.  Rocks that look like animals. Animals that look like rocks.  Animals that look like animals.  Along with these really nice pictures, they give you a “choice.”  You can click “I like it” and it will find 19- thousand more images to send you.  Or you can click “No thanks” and they will continue to send pictures until you “like” one or more of them.

There is a third choice. Do nothing.  That way they’ll keep sending you the same pictures over and over and you’ll get used to them and not even notice they’re there.  Kind of like car alarms and leaf blowers only quieter.

And put them on the big screen?  Nah.  That’s for not watching the Olympics.

Note to people with compromised vision:  None of this applies to people who need large scale reading screens, large print books, magazines, newspapers and websites.  This post is aimed only at people who take eyesight as a given.

--The home shopping channel QVC is buying its biggest rival, the home shopping channel HSN for about $2 billion. That kind of acquisition didn’t work all that well for Macy’s. And it’s not going to fend off the onslaught from on-line retailers, in particular.

--We New Yorkers have been saying “on line” rather than “in line” since there were lines to be on, which in the case of New York started when Columbus discovered Staten Island. But newer editions of spell check redline “on line” and want to change it to in line.  You’ll have to wait on line for us to do that online.

--Not that anyone believed him, but what happened to trump’s promise to balance the budget.  His proposal further bloats the Pentagon, and slices social services like a Sunday morning Rye bread. Fortunately, congress -- even this bowl of fools -- never goes along with the plans of a president.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, February 12, 2018

1904 Olympics

Hurling and curling and twirling, oh my.  Watching the Olympics is like being forced to watch the Oscars red carpet show on E! And then the Oscar ceremony on regular TV and then the After Parties on half a dozen other channels.  Times two weeks.

At Biff’s Sports Bar Olympics are on 58 different big screen TVs.  It’s a good thing they have 100 others so we can get our fill of not only the Olympics, but every college basketball game, wrestling match, every NHL and NBA game, Bowling for Dollars, the World Series Nostalgia Channel and of course ESPN 1 through 27, Fox Sports from four time zones, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, CBS Sports, the Golf Channel, the Fishing Channel, the Poker Channel, the Ice Follies Channel (shared time with Disney on Ice but excluding the security camera of Walt in the Cryogenic Morgue.) The Hunters Hunting Hunters Channel. The Boxing Channel.  The Solitaire Channel.

But even without that stuff, there’s the Olympics.  Every sport you ever heard of (except wrestling) on display. Constantly. Endlessly.

Why don’t we turn it off?  Because we might see a budding 21st Century version of Tonya Harding v. Nancy Kerrigan.  Or two star-crossed lovers getting married on a stalled ski lift.  Or the Russian Women Weightlifter bathing beauty show.  Or the next Richard Jewell not blowing up a conning tower.  You never know.

And then, there are the Big Questions.  Like “Can the US Goosestepping Team finally beat Germany?  Can the Republic of China finally top the People’s Republic of China at Mahjong? And keep your eyes on the Long Island women’s Mahjong team.  They haven’t won anything better than Bronze since the bronze age. And will the US Barfight team finally win over the Singapore Parliament?

Maybe some year, they’ll widen the scope to include non-sports types who love ridiculous and meaningless ceremony.

Cold Case Homicide investigators from the US, Costa Rica, Japan and Alsace Lorraine.  Philly Cheesesteak teams from America, Portugal and Senegal. And NASCAR.

The possibilities are endless.

But the best possible thing to train for is the turn-off-the-set team. Anyone can play. And although it’s only a participation trophy everyone who joins is a winner.

--One of our endless slogans at the Associated Press was “Best of the latest first.”  Someone should remind them by taking that out of storage and dusting it off.  Their new website takes forever to load and is larded with old junk no one needs to know about anymore.

--This space never advocates criminal acts.  But if some low level congressional drone should happen to drop a copy of the Democratic version of the memo about the FBI, trump and Russia and some sneaky journalist should happen to see it and pick it up and read it… who would notice? Where is Ben Bradlee when you need him?

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