Monday, April 30, 2018

1938 Committing Attempted Podcast

1938 Committing Attempted Podcast

You want to edit audio tape? No problem. Just get out the grease pencil, the splicing tape, the little aluminum block, the single-edge razor blade, some band-aids and go to town.  Sound cumbersome?  Sure. But it worked pretty well if you got it right, which didn’t always happen.

And you got a pile of audio tape on the floor and half the time a shaving nick on your fingers.  

Then came digital audio and digital editing.  No bleeding. Fast. Accurate.  Easy. Effortless perfection.  Everyone became an editing deity. 

Turning these blog posts into podcasts should be a breeze.  Just open a recording program, read a script into a microphone, cut out the screwups and restarts and all those things that happen between mouth and machinery and presto! A podcast.

Not so fast, old timer.

Editing programs have been “improved” the way so much technology is “improved” by making it much more complicated than it was or than it has to be.

What you saw on the screen was a wave form that looked something like a cardiogram or a polygraph. If it was stereo, you saw two of them.   But today’s modern apps are meant for musicians.

So there are a zillion tracks.  And a zillion controls to click or unclick on.  And like any self-respecting computer programs, there are seven ways to do the same task where one or two would do and one or two ways when you really want a zillion.

Okay, well, it’s the same thing we were using in 1999, but it has grown.  The good news: there are on-line “how-to” videos.

By the time you view some of them, you assume that code writers hate code users and “how-to” gurus want to bore you to death with two minutes of actual instruction and ten minutes worth of blabbing and trying to sell you stuff.

Digression:  To record on a tape recorder, you push the record button. When you finish, you push “stop.” When you want to play it back, you rewind the tape and push play.

When you record on a digital program meant for musicians and choral directors, you have to take a multiple choice test.

What do you want to do? Followed by three or four choices.
How many tracks do you want? Followed by eight or nine choices.
What color do you want these tracks? Followed by a palette with 75 choices.

Then, because we’re talking computers, here, you have to make sure everything that needs to be connected it connected.  It’s not just plugging one thing into another thing anymore. There are 18 steps to make the connections work.  And some of the steps are hidden. You need clairvoyance to detect them.  Maybe call the local seance center. Does Amazon sell divining rods?

For those anticipating a Wessays ® podcast, patience, please. We’ve only gotten as far as choosing which method to use to turn the thing on.

--Michelle Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner blasted trump, Sarah Huckabee, Kellyanne Conway and others was a disgrace.  Making fun of presidents is standard operating procedure at these events.  But nothing Wolf said was funny, just demeaning, nasty and mean.

--This space can’t defend trump and the trumpettes. But sinking to trump level discourse has no place in anyplace but a comedy club desperate to sell tickets. You want to make fun of these people, all you have to do is listen, watch them and report what they say.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, April 27, 2018

1937 Admiral Dropout

1937 Admiral Dropout

This time it’s not all trump’s fault. Well, not completely. Obama had a hand in the 80-knot race to Admiral of Dr. Ronny Jackson.  He was and still maybe trump’s official physician.  He was and may still be the head of the white house medical unit.  But what he isn’t and won’t be is head of the Veterans Administration.

Handsome and dashing, Dr. Rum and Coke ran into series of terrible headwinds trying to make it to office, and so rough were the seas he was forced to return to port and withdraw his nomination.

Why drag Obama into these high seas? Well, Dr. Ronny was his official doc too.  And no one heard a word about missing opiate prescriptions or the order of the day: mandatory Diet Coke and Rum on his nightstand during travels.

Was this part of the Democratic Party Conspiracy to bring trump down?  Well, kind of.  But it’s also the presidential vetting process, which is kind of like the president’s policy on anything.  In this case, pick a handy guy or a guy whose lip prints remain clear on his butt, and choose him.

So, it was that Dr. Percocet was nominated between pronouncing his patient-in-chief “not obese” and downing another Sailor Jerry’s and cola fell into the job.

Let’s be clear.  Dr. Magic Disappearing Opium did not crash a government car.  Just ask him.  Really. He (says he) didn’t.

Gee, ya think this lovely drunken sailor really did all that bad stuff. Maybe they could get Dr. Carson to give him a checkup in between his tripling rents for welfare queens.  Aren’t these nominees subject to the same random drug/alcohol tests as, say, your average factory worker or department store clerk?  Yeah, sure they are.  But there are so many tump-ets and they change so fast no one gets around to it.

Poor Admiral Seasick.  He had to get up there and withdraw his nomination because, as he said, it was becoming a distraction.  Yeah. It took the spotlight off the president for a sliver of time, and that’s a no no.

Now that the storm has passed, it should be smooth sailing for the next port of call, wherever that may be.  But before you ship out, doc, can you prescribe something for this pain in my elbow?  How much?  Nah. Forget about it.

--Not a good day for doctors… not Ronny Jackson and not for another work of fiction, Cliff Huxtable.  That would be Bill Cosby, 80, who could face thirty years on ice if he lives that long.  Such can be the sentence for his three-strikes conviction on sex abuse charges Thursday.

--Finally got to see the film about college football coach Joe Paterno. It evoked the same feeling of revolting creepiness that the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky boy bopping scandal brought to throat as it unfolded in 2011.  Paterno didn’t have the good sense to retire as soon as he could and neither has Al Pacino who plays him on TV.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

1936 What's Going On Here?

How should you know?  You’re not here. But have you noticed a seismic shift in headlines?  You haven’t?  Well, take another look at the title of this post. It, and they ask, but don’t tell.

“Who Had Face Time with Kim Jong-un?”
“How Much Snow will we Get?”
“Who Will Replace Raul Castro?”

Headlines used to tell us stuff. Now they ask.

Whatever happened to

“CIA Chief Meets North Korean Dictator”
“Forecasters: Four Inches of Snow Possible Tomorrow.”
“Communist Official to Replace Castro in Cuba.”

The ultimate Variety headline:
“Hicks Nix Stix Pix” becomes “Who’s boycotting Rural Movies?”

And to carry this to an even sillier level:
“Who Quit the War in the Pacific?” instead of
“Japan Surrenders.”

This is part of the self immolation of print and some electronic media. It may be clickbait now but a year from now it’s going to be soooo 2018.

If we knew whether there was going to be a hearing for an accused murderer why would we need the Dogpatch Daily Dispatch?  Here’s a case of the paper trying to edit its readers.  Earth to Perry White: It doesn’t work that way.

And this is not only the work of papers like the Dogpatch Dispatch.  Here’s the mighty New York Times:

“When Superheros Battle Evil, Why does Washington Always Lose?”

How about this from the near-mighty Washington Post:
“What Would Prince Want?”  It’s about the estate of the late entertainer formerly known as Prince and then, later, again, known as Prince.

And the ever-staid Associated Press:
“Is Executing Elderly or Infirm Inmates Cruel?”

The world’s greatest trade press, the Wall Street Journal:
“Is the U.S. Shale Boom Hitting a Bottleneck?”

And it’s not just in the US.  How’s this from the Toronto Star”
“Did Randy Hiller Not See the Wire for the Trees?” (It’s about an accident.)

So the daily paper has become a quiz show. But with no prizes.  No Johnny Olson or Don Pardo to tell us what we’ve won.

This is lazy.  It’s a way for us dummies who still are interested in the news to stay hooked.  Oh, boy. I don’t know the answer to that.  Let me guess.  Yes, I’ll bet it was some Korean guy met with the CIA chief.

Bingo. You win… nothing.  And you paid a buck to participate… if you actually bought the paper instead of picking it up where someone left it on the train in violation of the conductors’ demand to take it with you.

Or maybe your CableVermin trial subscription just ended and you are paying $112.85 for the privilege of clicking the sports page of the Dogpatch Dispatch, plus the porn sites -- such as there are left of them -- that you check daily via “private browsing” or “Incognito Window.”

Advertorials have permeated even the loftiest of print and internet sites.  They’re supposed to be clearly marked as sponsored content and often are.  But there’s another way to tell:  The headlines don’t ask you anything.  They TELL you.  Yes, as the so-called wall between editorial and ads crumbles faster than Gorby tore his wall down and faster than trump can put his up, the true headline writing talent now resides with the advertising copywriters.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018. Now what do you think of that?

Monday, April 23, 2018

1935 Lewis Carroll and George Orwell on Campus

The head-spinning babble out of so many school authorities translated for the toiling, translator-challenged masses:

Let’s start here: The School Board wants students to have a voice but did not condone this demonstration.

That should be in quotation marks but then we’d have to name names and the superintendent of that district would probably die of embarrassment if he heard his own words. And we don’t advocate death by embarrassment.

He was speaking about the kids who on the 19th Anniversary of the the Columbine High School mass murders in Colorado high schoolers across the country skipped part of the school day to demonstrate for sane gun regulation.

“We want the students to have a voice.”  (Oh, but let’s not carried away. They’ll miss an important lecture on Bernoulli’s Principle or the number of Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock and killed Native Americans (but not by embarrassment.)

“We want the students to express their beliefs and feelings.”  (Yeah, just not on school time and/or school grounds.)

Both Orwell and Carroll would be proud.

This blather is exactly the kind of thing the students protested.  They focused on gun laws.  But behind that is exactly the blivit of double talk that enrages people and undermines this country.

We don’t get it straight from anyone these days.  You listen carefully to these so-called educators praising then punishing the participants and you hear… what? Fear? Lies? Both.

Face it, the demonstrators -- whatever their cause -- are temporarily stopping the machine that education has become.  That breaks the prime directive of high school, “Don’t stop the machine.” Someone may notice and (shudder) maybe even excoriate us administrators.  Someone will send a memo explaining that even people who aren’t in high school know what “excoriate” means and so that can no longer be part of the secret edu-code.  Make up a new word.

So, let’s hope those law breaking high schoolers continue getting out on the soccer field or the front lawn or the public park and keep pounding heads about gun laws.  They’re right and you know it. 

And as they come of age, they’re going to stop another perpetual motion machine:  the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government.  It soon will be their machine. And with any luck, they’ll run it without guaranteed elections, dirty presidents, dirty money and firearms.

Their message: Stop screwing with lingo and start correcting decades -- maybe centuries -- of wrong.  Build that machine so that it’s a rental, not an ownership.

“Am I Next?” -- sign with slogan carried by many of the anti-gun high school demonstrators.

--Earth Day 2018 has come and gone and surprisingly we still have an earth to celebrate… or at least recognize.  This space has long suggested readers and listeners consider buying open land in the area of Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Kentucky.  That’s almost sure to be the new Atlantic seacoast.

--Memo to Barbara Bush:  Now that you’re dead there are all kinds of things you can do that you couldn’t do during life on earth. Here’s hoping one of the first will be seek out Nancy Reagan and punch her in the nose for the way she treated you.  If she’s actually up there with you, which may not be the case.

--A check with confirms a suspicion long held in some circles.  Kim and trump are related. They are forever bound together by their ability to lie and brag, and that’s genetic.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, April 20, 2018

1934 Rudy

Attention squeegee men of Washington and Florida.  It’s time to run and hide.  Because here comes RUUUUDY. The man who put you out of work and until now had plenty of time on his hands.

America’s Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani is coming to town to help get trump off Mueller’s hook.  At least that’s what the news people say. We haven’t had a philandering story about Rudy in years.  But the leopard can’t change and this White House doesn’t mind a little close order drill, though trump gets firsties.

You may remember the former mayor’s “valiant” faking following the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Just remember this: on 9/10/01, Rudolph W. Giuliani couldn’t have won an election for dog catcher.  And remember that the late social philosopher Jimmy Breslin called him “A small man in search of a balcony,” which as you students of mid-century history know was a reference to Benito Mussolini.

So after faking competence in 01 and trying to muscle Mike Bloomberg to delay the start of his mayoralty of New York, establishing a private security company of dubious distinction, running a failed presidential campaign and performing his pain in the butt clown act in various venues, Rudy’s found a home.

Let’s hope he’s as successful in ridding America of Robert “Bobby Three Sticks” Mueller as he was in prosecuting as a US Attorney with a splendid record of having his convictions overturned.

He has all the characteristics of a mini-trump.  He cheats on his wives. He hires incompetents and/or crooks for big jobs and he changes major viewpoints more often than you change shirts. (But not more often than Dinkins changed shirts.)

A contest between Mayor Combover and Bobby three sticks is like a batting contest between Joltin’ Joe and the Tin Man.  

The BS has already started.  Giuliani says he “has great respect for Robert Mueller…” which is Rudy-speak for I’m going clobber the SOB.

And trump long ago revived “Lock (Hillary) up” and other diversions and false equivalencies.  

Nope. Theatrics and courtroom and interrogation room showmanship is not going to win this case.

But that’s Rudy’s one identifiable talent. A show biz president needs a telegenic lawyer who is on the speed dials of every guest booker at CNN, MSNBC, Fox, the Fishing Channel and all the shopping channels.

trump’s lawyer’s lawyer’s lawyer says Giuliani won’t have anything to do with the New York cases -- Stormy Daniels and her roommates in the brothel.  Good thing, too.  Because once trump fires three sticks and his Justice Department handlers and then pardon’s his entire staff, there’ll still be the New York stuff. And since those aren’t federal crimes, there is no presidential pardon.

What can this schmeckle add to the team of losers already in trump’s bullpen? Name recognition and… and… well, nothing.  But you can bet DC will have more dirty windshields than usual. And fewer turnstile jumpers.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

1933 Everyone Needs a Fixer

Mike “Tom Hagen” Cohen may be trump and Hannity’s fixer.  But he’s certainly not the first and he won’t be the last.

Not exactly a job you can find on LinkedIn or Monster-dot-com. And no one posts these job openings in a public space -- at least not yet.  But there are plenty of them in the woodwork and while helpful, you don’t need to be a termite to find them.

Most of us don’t remember Eddie Mannix. He was Hollywood’s go to guy to make sure the public images of stars were, shall we say, normalish. And there’s famous fixer Anthony Pellicano, of Michael Jackson and John DeLorean fame.  He’ll soon be out of jail.

It’s not restricted to Hollywood as we’re finding out.  Take a look at New York’s Ben Brafman and Washington’s Bob Strauss.  And the ever reliable “crisis manager” Judy Smith, also of Washington.

The popular definition of a 21st century fixer is the same as the popular definition of a 1970s street pimp: He or she does nothing, but does it with great style.

The definition is good as far as it goes. But fixers really don’t do actual nothing.  They pick up phones or connect their clients with payments.  Most of them, like the pimps of yesteryear, work on commission.

There are so many around these days, they might have to advertise much like personal injury lawyers.  One I knew personally but whose name won’t be disclosed in order to protect my remaining good knee, got paid a couple of grand just to pick up the phone and advise a scandalmonger to stand down, even if he shouldn’t have.

Of course, everyone today is a star, if nowhere else but in their minds. And therefore, everyone needs a fixer.  

But especially guys like trump. Man, wouldn’t you like to have been a fly on Mikey’s wall? Think of the dirt you could dish. The presidency brought no change in this president’s modus operandi. He’s been the same for … well, forever.

Of course, after one “fixes” for a while, a problem can develop. Like Cohen, they may do things that lead to the need for fixer fixers.  And that can spark a chain reaction.  Cohen needs a fixer.  Then Cohen’s fixer needs a fixer and then the fixer of the fixer of the fixer needs a fixer.  

And there’s risk.  Sometimes, fixer’s fixer’s fixers stop in their tracks and don’t know where they are or what they’re doing.

This is a condition known as Fixer’s Block. It’s like writer’s block. Except that when you have writer's block you can simply keep working.  Fixing, on the other hand, is like a game of musical chairs. And when the fixing stops, someone gets hurt.

Of course, there’s always a major alternative: don’t break anything.  Like your vows or promises or contracts. It’s easier than you think.

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

1932 trump's War of Diversion

1932 trump’s War of Diversion

Someone ring the bell for the next round.  With all his troubles in the legal area of New York and the legal and legislative arenas of Washington what does trump do?  What so many other scandal scarred presidents have done before him.  He starts a war.

America didn’t not learn its lesson on nation building by getting rid of the evilest of evil terrible horrendous miserable dictators of the moment, Saddam Hussein.  And the foibles of other presidents were small compared to what trump faces.

Both Bushes had outs they failed to take in Iraq.  Reagan had an out and failed to take it in Nicaragua. And Nixon?  Yes, even Nixon had a legitimate exit strategy.  It’s obvious trump has none.  And the only thing he knows to do is lie. 

What about this time?  In his announcement of strikes against Syria Friday he described in gruesome detail the effects of chemical weapons on the people who died when -- as we’re told -- Syria’s government used them against innocent civilians.  

Do you think he really cares about those people?  Only if the military attacks keep his real worries off the front page, the cable panel “news” shows and the lead to the nightly news.

trump cares about glorious pieces of chocolate cake.  And women who willingly oblige him but who wouldn’t give him the time of day let alone access to their bodies if he weren’t a multi thousandaire.[i]

The military strikes against the Assad regime are not going force Assad into a Saddam Hussein style hidey hole in the middle of a traveling tent city in the middle of the desert.   And they’re not going to divert attention from Mueller vs. trump or the woes of his Tom Hagen-like consigliere Mike “the fixer” Cohen (a Long Island boy, by the way.)

Envision:  trump, like HW Bush before him, rings up a couple of other world leaders -- in this case England and France and asks them to send a couple of army grunts to participate in the invasion. They agree.

Then he calls Assad and says “Look Haf-azz, we’re going to hit some of your poison gas stations and you’d best move all that evil crap somewhere else so you’ll still have it on hand when you need gas a few more A-rabs.”

Assad answers: “Haf-azz was my father, I’m Bashar al Assad. But you can call me Al.  Listen up, bud: you’re going to have to telegraph your intentions in a tweet otherwise the world will know we’re phone buddies and Facebook friends.”

trump: “Yeah, you got a point.  I’ll tweet something out while I’m on the toilet after dinner.”  

Which is what happened.

Looks like he managed to knock the legal troubles off the front page, at least for the Sunday papers.  Not a mention of that at the top of the websites of the New York Times or Daily News.  And the Post led with a story about Mrs. t, Melanoma, who thinks she’s not getting enough attention from the media these days.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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[i] Thanks to Gail Collins for “thousandaire.”

Friday, April 13, 2018

1931 A Taxing Time of Year

It’ll soon be over.  Tax deadline is Tuesday, April 17th. Usually it’s the 15th of April. If that happens on a Saturday or Sunday, it’s on the following Monday. This year it’s on Tuesday because this Monday is a holiday in Washington DC, Emancipation Day.

There’s an irony in there somewhere.

But that’s for another time.

The fact is you have a little more time to get the return done.  And if you have problems, the good men and women of the Internal Revenue Service are here to help.  Devote a full day to attempted connection.

Ask your question. Write down the answer.  Re-place the call. Ask your question again.  Re-place the call. Ask your question a third time. If two of the answers match, go with that one. If none of the answers match, flip a coin. (Okay, okay, you don’t have a three sided coin.  So draw straws.)

And please remember that while it’s nearly impossible to connect by phone with the IRS, the IRS does not connect with you, at least by phone. If they have something to say, they’ll say it in a snail mail.  So any calls you get from someone who says he or she is from the tax office and that you owe a bunch of money, tell them to come and arrest you.  They won’t. Or tell them that you gave that money to a Nigerian Prince who asked for it in an email.

Here are some things we’ve learned as a long time tax payer.  

--Remember that BS they gave you when you signed up for your IRA? You know. Where they told you they won’t take taxes out on payday but when you start withdrawing, you pay a lower tax because you’re in a lower bracket.  Guess what.  You probably aren’t in a lower bracket and you’re going to pay through the nose.

--The Shoe Box System of filing paper doesn’t work. You have to separate out the income statements and the deductions. If you don’t and you’re going to file on or near deadline, you’ll go nuts with those shoe boxes full of receipts and miscellaneous junk you’ve thrown in because you don’t know what else to do with it.

--When you finish sorting paper, look on the floor for stuff you dropped.  You’re going to drop something. It’s a law of nature.

--Sort out the stuff you don’t need but don’t throw it out or shred it. Put it in one of those plastic grocery bags if you’ve kept at least one that doesn’t have a hole in it. (Recyclable plastic bags are so fragile, you can cut them with a sharp look.)  Stash the bag somewhere and hold on to it for a while because chances are you’re going to need something you thought you could discard.

--If you have room, keep the trash for a few years.  Put a label on the bag.  Use a piece of paper and a piece of Scotch Tape.  Post it notes have a way of wandering off.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Spy vs. Spy 2.0

Cuban expatriate Antonio Prohias created these guys and they’ve been published in MAD Magazine ever since 1961.  They’re essentially two versions of the same spy. The only difference is one has a white suit and the other’s is black.  Prohias had them chasing each other and trying to put one another out of business.

Fast forward to today.  Both of these cartoon fellas are still at it.  But they have new competition.  We call it Spy vs. Spy 2.0 to give a modern and high tech twist to an old story.

The 2.0 crowd has no physical features. No black suit. No white suit. No beak-like faces.  We don’t yet know about the bombs behind their backs. But they are far more dangerous.

No bodies, but they do have names.  

Siri is the spy who lives in your Apple devices.
Alexa is the spy who lives in your devices.
Cortana is the spy who lives in Windows 10.
Hey is not really a name.  But to summon her, all you have to say is “Hey, Google!”  Kind of magic words.

Spies live secret lives.  Unless they get caught, we never know who among us is one of flesh and blood.  But the techno spies make no secret of who they are or even where they are.

You summon them by name or magic words and they appear in your ears to do their day jobs.  These include looking up stuff on the internet, finding things you want to read, ordering merchandise, making phone calls… that kind of thing.

But no matter what you say, they’re listening.

Let’s say you have a Poodle named Ralph.  Ralph is asleep over in the corner on his rug.  His paws are extended forward and he rests his head on them.  He’s having doggy dreams. 

But if you suddenly say “Hey, Ralph,” Ralph wakes up -- usually instantly -- and looks at you as if to say “What’s up, boss?”

It’s what dogs do.  But the spies don’t have feet or eyes.  And they never sleep.  In order to respond to the commands, they have to listen to everything.

When you tell Alexa to find the nearest Pizza joint, she doesn’t stand up groggily shake or stretch to get the kinks of sleep out.  She’s there right away and she’s ready for action.

In order to do that, the spy has to be listening to everything that goes on in the room.  Everything. That argument you’re having with your spouse.  Your side of the phone conversation you’re having with the collection agent, the customer service agent, the landlord or your Aunt Tilly in the nursing home.

Always listening. Always alert.

And these gizmos are getting smarter all the time.

“Siri, open ‘’”
“Sorry. The government seized the page because there were hooker ads and maybe sex traffickers and other nefarious characters. It no longer can be opened.”

“Hey, Cortana,” where is the best place to buy a pizza around here?”

“There are 15 places that serve Pizza within three miles of here.” (Reads list.)

But if you think about it, the spies are taking in all kinds of other information about you.  Maybe they know about your checking account balance from the most recent time you checked your bank’s web app.  Maybe they know you’re planning a surprise party for your spouse. Will they spill the beans ahead of time?  Unknown.

Warrantless searches by private parties are not illegal.  If you break into the house down the block and snoop, maybe find some suspicious activity, the court won’t throw out the evidence.  Warrants are for cops and prosecutors.  Other than that, you may be charged with breaking-and-entering or even burglary. But what you discover can’t be excluded if you find 400 unpaid traffic tickets in the house you burgled.

So as we have discovered from Facebook v. Everyone else, all this stuff is sitting in computers in someone’s data farm.
And they’ll sell you to the highest bidder.

Advice for the victims? Unplug.

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 ...