Friday, March 30, 2018

1925 Self Cleaning Cars


© Colorbox

Self driving cars?  Forgeddaboudit. What America doesn’t need is a car that drives itself.  It needs a self cleaning car.

Oh, we’re almost there.  You drive to the car wash. You run through the little tunnel and the car comes out more or less clean.  Like everything else these days, you have a choice. You can have a plain ole soap and water wash. Or you can add waxes and protectors and anti-bug-on-the-windshield spray.

But that does nothing about the interior. That time you sneezed on the inside of the windshield 1200 miles ago? It’s still there.  So are the little snowflakes of what you’d think were dandruff but are really stuff that caught in the air filter and now cover the top of the dashboard where no head dares go these days even in a crash.

And let’s not forget about the floor mats.  Even if you have those high tech mystery plastic, custom fit (and not cheap) floor mats, they’ve collected a winter full of gunk.  So the first step toward a self cleaning car is the installation of an undercarriage retractable door mat. 

Click “open” on the key remote and the door mat lowers and extends. You wipe your feet just as you would entering the house or apartment.

Then that windshield problem. You have a washer for the outside, why not a washer for the inside.  And let’s talk about a teeny tiny windshield wiper for the lens of the backup camera, you know the thing that shows you pictures of what you’re about to back into and gives you a funny looking grid where none of the lines tells you anything.  The car makers strategically locate those camera lenses in the trunk lid where they’re sure to be covered in mud every time you drive through a puddle.

A hat tip to Honda which once offered a built in vacuum cleaner for one of its minivan models and may still, though you don’t hear about that much anymore.  But think about this:  A minivan is really a little truck whose cargo is generally mid-sized groups of squirmy little kids with open bags of chips or Doritos or one of the eight trillion variations.  Kids spill stuff. Usually that stuff is (1) solid (2) small (3) impossible to pick up by hand.  So the built in vacuum cleaner was pretty clever.

But stuff those chips and Doritos are coated with comes off on little fingers and then little fingers find their way to seats and windows and door handles.  So the vac was only a first step.

Rolls Royce had a similar idea.  One of the optional accessory packs included a live in elderly English couple who would emerge from the trunk and wash, vacuum and dry the car immediately upon its arrival at your destination.   There were some issues.  The couples would sometimes complain about having to live in close quarters in the trunk.  The wages were low.  And sometimes their visas expired and they’d crab about that, too. What ever happened to the British stiff upper lip?

Plus Rolls Royces are kind of expensive and most of us don’t own one.

So Dear GM, Ford, Fiat, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Jaguar, Audi, Benz, Porsche, Google, Uber, Kaiser, Fraser, VW, Volvo, Mitsubishi, and Mazda, you can keep your self driving cars, but the first one of you that launches a self-cleaner will clean up in the marketplace.

Now. Anyone got some Cheetos?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them.  Please address comments to
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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

1924 Don't Stop

Retired US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is reframing the debate on guns.  His article recommending the elimination of the second amendment will, of course, go nowhere.  But it has already started redefining the borders of the conversation.

So let’s talk.

Okay, Second Amenders, no one is trying to take your guns away.  We want you to have them if you’re qualified to use them. But let’s talk a little about that amendment you so cherish, you know, the one you think means any doofus can own a tommygun and use it as he or she sees fit against any random evil doer like that Florida girl with the Sinead O’Connor hair-do.

That’s not what this is about.  This is about the bad guys with guns, a decent phrase devised by your fraternity, the National Rifle Association, which at one time served a useful purpose but has left it behind as hysteria overtakes it and it dives into an open cesspool.

The kids who live in fear of the next Nikolas Cruz took to the streets this weekend just passed.  They marched by the thousands in Washington and hundreds of other locales asking only that they be safe in their schools.

Gun laws and the frozen in amber legislators with no range of motion in their brains are the centerpiece of their campaign.  Those legislators are petrified in both senses of the word.  And if the kids (and their parents) keep pounding on the cube of amber, they might just replace Congress and some state legislators in this fall’s election.

Justice Stevens rightly points out that there is no constitutional bar against controlling who gets what gun.  And like many other critics of the way things have become, he’s not looking to stop you from owning reasonable weaponry.  But he points out that the second amendment states some requirements that the court later decided weren’t really there… you know, the part about the “well regulated militia.”

Even the anarchist verbal bomb-thrower Antonin “Tony Ducks” Scalia had no problem with the well regulated idea.  It looks like Tony was too liberal for the NRA. 

We also note with faint amusement that the company that now owns Remington has put it into bankruptcy. We’d like to believe that it’s because Remington isn’t selling enough guns to be profitable, that people have come to their senses about stockpiling personal weaponry.  But that’s not the case. 

A wrecking ball -- AKA private equity outfit -- has saddled them with almost a $1 billion in debt it can’t repay.  It’s what private equity firms do.  But worry not.  They’ll restructure that debt, which is another way of saying they’ll kick the can down the road for the moment.  And if they run true-to-form they’ll start squeezing money and benefits from their remaining workers.

The PE firm is Cerberus Capital, the same folks who turned Chrysler into a hot mess, using the same time tested recipe.

So, cheers to Justice Stevens. And to Emma Gonzalez the brilliant brush cut kid from Parkland, Florida and all the other Emmas out there.  And their parents.  And their teachers.  And everyone else with the wherewithal to maintain the present momentum.

Keep on keeping on.  Don’t stop.

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

1923 Madame La Zonga's Workaround

Note: R- rated content follows. Some readers and listeners may find it unsuitable.

Craig Newmark

So Craigslist has eliminated it’s “personals” section.  Well, isn’t that righteous.  No more ads for “casual encounters” some of which may have facilitated sex trafficking.

Oh, wait a minute.  There’s a new law that makes it possible for municipalities and individuals to sue companies that help making trafficking possible.  It is a good law.  A long time missing piece of the war on this crime.

But more likely it’s the lawsuit part that troubled the owners of the internet classified page than a sudden reawakening of its vestigial conscience.

The Wessays (™) Department of Social Research would occasionally scan the site in anticipation of the shutdown. Here is what we found:

--ads written in third grade level English that promised bliss but first you had to “verify” that you were real by signing up for a web service and giving your credit card number.

--ads written by computer robots that promised bliss but first you had to verify that you were real by signing up for a web service and giving your credit card number.

--telephone numbers in non-existent area codes.

In other words, they’re  come-ons that sought your personal information and maybe steal your good name as someone writing as William Shakespeare once said.

The sex for hire ads were little different from other ads on Craigslist that sought your personal information.  But there was one major difference:  if you were scammed by “Women Seeking Men” or “Casual Encounters,” you were unlikely to make a big fuss about it.  After all, who wants to admit to being a man seeking a woman? Especially the married “pillar of the community” types.

Perfectly OK if you were scammed by someone selling a dining room set or who offered discount diet advice or cheap fake tickets to hot ticket events.  But sex? Perish forbid.  What would you neighbors think if you took Madame LaZonga to court?

Madame is a madam. She runs a beauty shop where you can get your nails and other body parts polished. She’s been in business for years.  “Everyone” knows what goes on there.  But so far she has evaded capture. 

There could be reasons the cops look the other way.  Can’t think of what they might be right now, but …

Nevertheless, Madame L is no dummy.  She’s already found other sections of Craigslist in which she can legally drop hints about her business.  The Wessays Research Department may have to mine some data on the subject but it’s a one person department and he disappeared right after issuing that report we mentioned up top.

--Our old pal Sick Rantorum is at it again.  This harebrained scheme of the moment: Teach kiddies CPR so that when the next Nicolas Cruz comes calling the children can revive the dead and injured.  If there’s such a thing as Braineo Resuscitation, someone find Rantorum and if there’s no do-not-resuscitate tattooed, then do not resuscitate.

--Our old pal WestraDamus ® is at it again. He broke his retirement silence to announce that Bolton would not last long in the trump administration because he’s insufficiently hawkish. That said, please remember the ‘Damus’s unfailing failure to predict anything, even the past.

I can't say that my disability has helped my work, but it has allowed me to concentrate on research without having to lecture or sit on boring committees” --Stephen Hawking

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

1922 Clipping Coupons

Okay, all you investment bankers, the stock market may be boomletting, but it’s a bubble, although recent days may indicate it has sprung a leak. So here’s something you can relate to for when you lose your impossible-to-define jobs: clipping coupons. Not the kind you're used to, granted. But coupons to clip, nevertheless.

Maybe you used to hang out at the country club or the yacht club or the gentleman's club. Now, you're going to hang out at Sam’s Club, the supermarket and the pizza joint. So here are some tips from the peasantry on how to save money - another concept that may be foreign to you, but won't be for long.

A coupon is something a store or a manufacturer gives out to get you to buy their stuff. There's a difference between their stuff and your stuff. Primarily, their stuff actually exists. It's not some fiction, created to haul in the suckers who up until the latest crash bought hot air that you peddled.

Green Giant corn exists. Mortgage backed securities do not.

Get a coupon for 25 cents off a can of Popeye Spinach, you buy a can of spinach and the cashier deducts 25 cents (or maybe even 50 cents, if you hit them on the right day,) from the price and you walk out with a can of actual canned spinach. No "futures contracts," no "hedges," no nothing -- except a can of spinach.

But you have to be careful. While manufacturers of canned corn or floor polish or toothpaste are different from you in that they make and try to sell actual stuff, they can be pretty sneaky.

Coupons have expiration dates. They're written on the coupon, usually at the top or bottom and almost always in really really tiny print, kind you use in the last 55 or 60 pages of the contracts you make your soon-to-be former customers sign.

When you present a coupon after it's expired, it's no longer any good. And while those expiration dates are usually a few weeks off from the time you actually acquire the coupon, the time frames are getting smaller. It's not unusual to find a coupon today that expires at the end of the week. Use it or lose it.

The main source for coupons is the Sunday newspaper. That means you have to forgo a few minutes of the televised ball game to actually go through all the stuff in the paper. Who knows, you might stumble across an article that catches your attention. Maybe one about some other former investment bank putting guys like you on the street.

If you don’t get a Sunday paper, maybe you go to the website where they have a section called “This Week’s Flyers.” Print and clip.

Searching for the coupons to save a few cents here and a few cents there possibly is something you've never bothered with. But now's the time to start learning the tricks that normal people have known for ages.

And that idea that you're trading in actual values instead of imaginary concepts is foreign to you. Don't worry. There are lots of people who can help you understand the concept. Start with the minimum wage checker-outer. She may not be as smart or as snazzy as you. But at least she's earning a living, which you are not.  And she has the eyes and scanners to spot those tiny expiration dates.

Some coupons come in the mail. There's one here on the desk that you can hide from your spouse. It says you can save thousands of dollars on divorce "for you or a loved one." And the DVD these guys are selling will be sent "discreetly... via priority mail." Discreetly. You know that word. It comes from "discretion," like what you practiced when you withhold the shakiness of the investments you peddle. But, again, don't let your spouse see the part that says "Divorce Smart. Live Happy." After all, she didn't marry you for love.

Clip those coupons, guy. You'll save a bit of money. Maybe with the savings, you can rejoin the country club or start a whole new kind of phony investment.

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

1920 The New Voice of Radio News

We all know radio is dead. Just ask any pundit. But don’t lose hope.  There’s a semi-happy ending.

After the autopsy, it was determined that, among other things, radio died from cancer of the news department.  

There were other factors, too. For example, overdosing on stupid, misleading and criminally negligent commercials.  Playing vocal music by rejects from American Idol auditions and other random screaming, squealing, mumbling and bad rhymes, and radiation interference from cell towers and power lines.

But be of good cheer! Radio news lives in the world of the internet.  And in some ways it is superior and easier to digest. 

Newspapers and websites have discovered “the briefing.”  Every morning you get a summary of Big Things in your email.  They’re written in conversational style and even have links to “full stories” if you want to read 5,000 words about how cops perjure themselves in court or how Putin disposed of his reelection opponents or the best cruises to nowhere and a dandy recipe for hot and spicy mac and cheese.

These briefings keep you at least semi informed.  And when you quote them at the watercooler, you look smart to your coworkers.

Radio networks -- real ones -- have either gone away or are wearing audio costumes that make them sound like news.  NBC Radio: gone. CBS Radio: Murrow is whirling in his grave. ABC Radio: a tree with many branches and no trunk.  Fox Radio? C’mon! And NPR? Zzzzzzz.

Radio news was long past its prime when it served as a major source of information. But it still served a function: Turn on the morning news (all three minutes and 30 seconds of it) and you know that WWIII hadn’t broken out. Or that it had.

The new voice of radio news is on the internet but you can’t hear it, you have to read it.

All the big papers have “briefings.” Some have many. The New York Times, for example has six or seven of them with different emphases. You can pick your field of interest and ignore the rest.

The Boston Globe’s are fewer and more locally focused, but they’re generally faster than anyone else’s.  USA Today has a zillion different newsletters, each nice and succinct. And the Associated Press mobile app is a rolling wire service updated every two seconds and easy to read. Much easier than its new general news website which is a dog.

All of them share one characteristic:  They’re conversational and give you the gist of what you might want to know, even if you don’t know that you want to know it.

It’s unlikely any newspaper has hired radio types to write and produce these gabby little features.  And few have figured out how to make a buck with these things, though some… like Axios and Vice sell advertorials (clearly marked) as does Business Insider (champion product pusher and none too careful about how it labels paid content.)

“trump is Nixon on Steroids and stilts.” -- John Dean to CNN’s Anderson Cooper on comparing the past and present coverups.

“The rocks in their heads fit the holes in his.” -- NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman on trump’s economic advisers.”

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

1919 Return of the Dustbowl

In Oklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, there’s a new dustbowl that came sweeping in with it.

Some say it’s Kansas sneezing. And there’s plenty of evidence that’s true.  But no direct proof.  Except they each have adopted trickle down economics, spending cuts, service cuts and the burning of certain law books.

For those born tomorrow, the dustbowl of the 1930s was the work of foul weather.  The corn might once have gotten as high as an elephant’s eye, but the sand in the air made it impossible to see.

It took years and the best of the new deal to normalize Oklahoma.  And these days it’s a different kind of dust.  Yes, you can drive your surrey with the fringe on top and you won’t go dust blind.  But if you live there, you might go dirt poor.

This is the dust of the Republicans’ Great Experiment.  Make a utopia that Larry Kudlow could live in happily. Low taxes, light or absent regulations. And the architects of this paradise began to have their way with the rest of the gullible citizenry almost 18 years ago.  A slow moving dust storm.

Cut funding for everything and raise a population of “gals” and guys who “cain’t say no” lest they starve.

The water, the air, the median income: all on the low end. Trickle down nirvana?  Well, not exactly.  Even recent grads of the worst teachers’ colleges are saying “I’ll work temp in Chicago pizza joint before I take a full time job in Oklahoma City.”

It looks like that legislative-executive-judicial coalition is starting to fall apart. Some legislators are so treasonous to The Cause that they’re ready to (shudder) raise taxes to improve the schools, health care and other things we expect responsible government to oversee and sometimes pay for.

And the thing is… Oklahoma may be one of the ten poorest states, but it’s not at the absolute bottom. Yet. Mississippi retains that honor. But the gap is closing as median income falls in every state.

“Some men rob you with a six gun. Others rob you with a fountain pen.” -- Woody Guthrie, Oklahoma native and balladeer-journalist of the dustbowl years.

--There is absolutely no evidence that the US meddled in Putin’s reelection to a six year term.  If he serves the full six years, he’ll have been in office or otherwise in charge for almost 25 years. Counting from the formation of the Soviet Union, no one has served longer… except Stalin.

--Former Deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, fired by Great Weasels in the Justice Department 26 hours before he became eligible to collect his full pension has been offered a job by several members of congress to make up the hours.   Even if he doesn’t accept, he’ll likely get the last laugh.  There’ll be paid-for speeches, “consultancies,” and talking head money from any of several cable networks.

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

1918 The Issue is Character

Being a lousy human being is not an impeachable offense. But they’ll find a twist of law or something… uh… trumped up charge against trump like they did with Clinton. Whether some obscure quirk they throw against the wall during the Senate trial sticks depends on who wins the majority vote in November.

What might they consider?  Well, chaos. Running the White House like the casting cattle call for a reality TV show.  Then there’s the grabbing of women's private parts.  Or talking about it.  Or having an affair while your wife is just out of the delivery room.  How about tariffs that shouldn’t be?  Or understaffing?  Or golf outings at seven figure public expense? Or profiting from the hotels where supplicants and sycophants are expected to await their audience with his Holy trumpedness?

Then there’s the nepotism tango that goes on in the administration’s inner sanctum.  The failed realtor son-in-law and the dress and jewelry saleswoman daughter.  How about the cabinet bashing?

How about the lies upon lies, those easily verified and those not?

And the tweets.

And finding virtue in skinheads and other racists.

And the slump in national morale.

And the thinly veiled laughter of our allies who now make fun of us in private and will soon go public.

And Russia.
Draining the swamp?  The mosquitos are feasting.

Biggest brains in the cabinet in our lifetime?  You mean like Betsy DiVorce and Ben Carson and Rick Perry and Tom Price? McMahon? Shulken?

These guys make Sessions look like Clarence Darrow or William Brennan or Perry Mason or Jack McCoy.

Firing Preet Bharara. And Jim Comey.  

Hiring Gorsuch.  And heaven help us if Ginsburg or Kennedy retires. Hiring non economist Larry Kudlow because he’s a radio and TV star.  Hiring convicted pedophile George Nader to do who-knows-what in the Middle East.

Had enough?  No? Okay. How about climate change denial, cheating his workers, stiffing his creditors. Employing undocumented workers. Denying rentals to African Americans. How about reneging on promises.  The president’s word is his bond?  Not in this lifetime.

No dignity either. “Little Marco,” “Rocket Man,” “Al Frankenstein,” “Crooked Hillary” “Pocahontas.” Former president “W” at least had the dignity to call Karl Rove “turd blossom” only in private.

And boasting, boasting, boasting.

Now will come the attacks on Mueller.  That will only strengthen Mueller’s prodigious stubborn streak. It will do no good.  President trump is history one way or another. 

Because the issue is character.

--Declaration: I am a mathematician though I have never gotten a degree in the subject. But I once balanced my checkbook and I hang out with others who can do that. If that kind of credential allows Larry “Cokey” Kudlow to call himself an economist, that why not this?

--Kuddles Kudlow the new econo-maven says he’s an economist but isn’t, even if he hangs out with Charles Laffer.  He is the carnival barker propagandist for a failed economic theory that has proven itself wrong in almost every case and has credentials that are irrelevant to the job description.  Even the Reagan supply siders don’t believe in it anymore, but no one’s listening to them.

--The bankruptcies of iHeart Radio and Toys R Us isn’t Amazon’s fault. It’s the fault of Bain Capital and other private equity funds that buy businesses and then garrotte them with debt. With the debt load of these two companies, you could provide health insurance for ten million people.

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

1917 No School Today

Across the country, the children play hooky. They’ll probably get dinged for leaving to demonstrate for freedom from being shot. But they’ll raise a stink that can only smother their enemies.

You know who you are.

And in many ways this country was built on the backs of people in the streets.

If it weren’t for public demonstrations, we’d still be living under British rule.  Well, you might say, at least we’d have universal health care and likely no “big beautiful wall.” And we’d be driving on the left.

But it was the call to the streets that started and won the American Revolution.  And the formation of the America we love and are tearing apart today.

Demonstrations in major cities brought about safety for workers.  They brought about the labor movement which was what gave employees’ rights that now are law.

They brought about a civil rights movement which at the very least raised awareness of civil wrongs and gave us some legal tools to fix this. Some of those tools have been left out in the rain too long and have rusted. But still…

Demonstrations ended the Vietnam war. (No, it wasn’t Paul Harvey and Walter Cronkite.  But they helped bring on board the lame, the halt and the chicken.)

Now we have school children leaving the building and demonstrate against gun violence.  And once again, the cowards of the right are distorting their purpose and chiding them for “leaving school instead of staying inside and ‘learning.’”


Let’s stop here and throw in ...

“If I think back to all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” --Paul Simon (“Kodachrome.”)

Okay, we’re back.  Simon’s view is extreme.  But it’s not completely wrong, either.  Hands-on experience sometimes is a greater educator than school.

This demonstration is different from some other protests. These kids don’t have a solution.  They look to their family values parents for some guidance.  The fact is the only way to stop gun violence is to stop guns.  And that’s not going to happen.

But note that the people who are bowing to the power of the second amendment don’t have the same lust for the 8th (excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishment,) or the 16th (income tax.)

And there are people who aren’t crazy about the 13th, 14th or 15th, the civil rights and discrimination amendments, either.

And when members of the Second Amendment Marching Society also embrace the first amendment, it’s not with the same enthusiasm.  Their own free speech is okay, they say.  They’re not wild about the part that bars establishment of a state religion or group of religions.

But, then, hypocrisy and selective embrace are as American as amber waves of GMOs.

--Another reason to love Equifax known far and wide as the outfit that papers-over its massive data breach by offering an all-knowing search for your name on the dark web. The company that knows which side of your behind itches and when finally got a change of address. It was sent 12 years ago.

--That’s even better than the New York City Parking Violations Bureau. After paying a parking ticket I shouldn’t have received, they sent a refund… nine years later.  I am NOT making this up.

--Those old fuddy duddy scientists at Consumer Reports Magazine have swung a heavy bat at the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies. They cite some dangerous ingredients, deceptive packaging and study after study that shows homeopathics are no better than sugar pills for what ails ya.  But since we no longer accept science -- or any facts, for that matter, don’t bother spending eight bucks for a newsstand copy of this tool of Big Pharma and the makers of cars, refrigerators, TV sets and other stuff that is unnecessary knowledge in the era of anti-science.

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 ...