Friday, September 28, 2018

2000 Cosby

Inmate #NN7687

I never “got” this guy.  He did some funny standup ages and ages ago. The TV show was popular possibly only because it was the first major family comedy with black stars.

Other than that… what was there?  He was a fake all along?  What’s new about that?  It’s Hollywood (or in this case, Queens where some of us lower on the show biz ladder worked at Lifetime Television which was in the same building, Kaufman Astoria Studios.)

Hollywood and Astoria. Close neighbors divided by three thousand miles.  And Astoria has better restaurants.

Why did Cosby play the game he played with women?  A guy with that star power could walk into a room filled with fans, step up to the mic and ask “Anyone who wants me to have sex with them meet me in back in half an hour.”

There’d have been a line of willing participants. You may disapprove of that approach, but it can work and it has far fewer complications. Forget morality for a while.  Many of us would consider such a presentation as immoral.  That’s your right.  But this is known to have happened between and among consenting adults.

Complications? A Cosby “seduction” requires elaborate planning, faking concern where there is none and then using drugs and booze.  

Now Dr. Hux is confined to a “special” prison in the Pennsylvania corrections system.  

It’s called “Phoenix.” It cost almost half a billion dollars to build.  It holds about 35-hundred people, mostly men, per which is the website of a respectable newspaper, the Patriot-News of Harrisburg.

There was thought of putting him in the State Correctional Facility at Laurel Highlands near Pittsburgh.  That’s a pretty serene name for a lockup converted from an unused state loony bin and it’s designed to house the old, the lame and the mental case criminals of which Cosby is at least two.

There, he could have roomed with fellow sex offender Jerry Sandusky, locked up after a football scandal at Penn State University and a subsequent coverup which all concerned deny ever happened.

But no.  No padded cell for Bill.  He gets to live in high tech surroundings and splendid isolation from anyone he might try to harm.  Except Bubba.

--Cosby’s lockup was built to replace what was seen as an outmoded predecessor where violence had ruled, deaths were common and corruption was alleged. The problem was more the staff than the building itself.  And all of the old guard moved into the new facility, raising the question “What did the state really get for its almost-half billion dollars?”

--One of Cosby’s best standup routines was about the virtues of chocolate cake. After the sentencing, Camille stopped off at the supermarket to pick up a box of cake mix.  Now the question is will she bake a saw into it… or some chemical?
-Would you let your daughter join a basketball team with frat brat Brett Kavanauseous as coach?

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

1999 The Well Baby Visit

That’s what they call it when you bring your infant to the pediatrician for a checkup. Usually, it happens once a year.

Seniors get the equivalent. It’s called the wellness visit or the wellness exam.  Call it what you will, it’s still the well baby visit.

It gives you a chance to talk with the doctor for maybe 15 minutes, which is six minutes longer than a “regular” visit.  And it has all kinds of fun stuff, some of which may actually spot a budding affliction in its early stages.

If you’re on Medicare, there’s no co-payment.

The co-payment with a Medicare Advantage Plan would have been ten or 15 bucks.  Enough saved to head over to Cracker Barrel or Wendy’s to boost your cholesterol or triglycerides if your labs look OK.  After all, you won’t have to have your blood tested for another year, maybe longer.

And it’s pretty easy to cheat on a lab test. All you have to do is eat healthy for 30 days before you take one, and fast the night before.

It’s 7:58 on a weekday morning.  The parking lot is pretty full.  But -- surprise -- the waiting room is empty. You check in and the desk clerk, Lorna Loud, beckons you to her cubicle where she conducts an interview at top volume.  Medical privacy? Only because there’s no one within 100 feet to hear Lorna.

Lorna: “Do you have your insurance card and photo ID?”

You have known Lorna since she was in grade school. She calls you by your first name.  She still needs to see your credentials.

Patient: “Yes.”

This is followed by a long silence which she breaks by saying “May I see them?”

Eventually, Nurse Fidget beckons you to the back room.  Lot of beckoning goes on in this place.

You have to weigh in.  You find that you’re even fatter than you thought.  And shorter.  But you’re not really sure because the digital scale measures your weight in kilograms and your height in centimeters.

Next stop, the exam room.  The trip is too short to mentally convert the figures so you don’t even try.

Next in the well baby visit:  Questions.  Lots of questions.  Nurse Fidget is filling in forms.

Patient: Don’t you want to know my birthday?

Nurse: Oh, yeah.

Patient: gives date of birth, complete with the day of the week, the time of day and the time zone.

They ask that because they want to make sure you’re the same person who gave the same information to Lorna Loud, that that checks with what’s in their records and that you didn’t slip in an imposter somewhere along the 20-foot trip from the otherwise empty waiting room to the alcove where the scale sits.

Endless questions:  Can you stand on one foot for 12 seconds? (Who knows?  Standing on one foot is not part of the patient’s exercise routine.)  Do you have accidents before you can get to the bathroom? (Accidents? Like what? A head on collision with a semi-truck? Dropping a bottle? Missing the ash tray or the spittoon?)

Nurse: Come on, you know what I mean.
Patient: No, I don’t have accidents.

Blood pressure: 117 over 68.

Patient: You don’t scare me.  I don’t have white coat syndrome.
Nurse: I’m not wearing a white coat.

Eventually, the doctor shows up.  She is a woman small of stature and big of brain. We exchange pleasantries, ask about each other’s families, chit chat about fruit flies (she has a PhD in genetics in addition to her MD.)

Finally, she lands in the chair and turns away to log into the computer.

Patient: “Cabbage, Apple, Watch.” (It’s the answer to last year’s memory test.)

Doctor: I really have to think up a new short-term memory test.

Patient: At a certain point in life, one year IS a short term.

She hands the patient a pad and pen. He draws a clock with the hands at 3:40 and hands it back. No words necessary.

She reports the lab results which are fine. Listens to breathing, and asks the stand-on-one-foot question. And the one about accidents on the way to the bathroom.


Doctor: There’s a new Shingles vaccine. You should have that.  I’ll write a prescription. You’ll go to the drug store for the shot.  Maybe January.

Patient: The drug store is right across the street. Why can’t I just stop by after this exam?

Doctor: Because there’s a national shortage and no one has any. The exam takes only a little longer than the discussion about fruit flies.  Good for another year, barring a collision with an 18 wheeler en route to the bathroom.

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

1998 Artificial Stupidity

1998 Artificial Stupidity

We have artificial intelligence. So why not artificial stupidity?

Organic or native intelligence and organic or native stupidity have been more or less in balance in influence if not numerically forever.

Artificial intelligence presumes that intelligence is a non-renewable resource and we must make machines that can both out think and out remember anything now available including ourselves.

But what about that natural balance which has been keeping us moving forward and expanding but more or less not so fast as to destroy people and the planet?

It's obvious that we need machinery that will keep that balance in… balance. Hence, we need machinery to put the brakes on artificial intelligence and keep moving ahead at the right speed.

What would such Machinery do? It would start by forgetting things that artificial intelligence remembers. Another important feature: it would slow thinking down. And finally, it would allow the machinery to do as we all do now naturally and that is not learn from our mistakes or history.

It sounds like a hard project but it really isn't. All you have to do is take your run-of-the-mill artificial intelligence machine and loosen some screws or spill coffee on some of its circuit boards.

Maybe it would spawn 3 new Industries instead of just one: making AI devices, SI devices and retrofitting both.

Think of the benefits. Think of how this would improve the employment picture. Oh yes, there are those who think there is enough stupidity in the world without adding to it with or without new technology. And granted an argument can be made for that but we have to be prepared for the future.

Natural or organic stupidity could not possibly keep up with artificial stupidity. We need to do the job equally fast on both sides of the equation.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of people working on artificial stupidity. All our institutions of higher education are way behind the curve on this one. And there are people who will say, institutions of higher education are pretty much way behind the curve on everything. This is not true. Well… one can hope.

But the way to get colleges and universities onto a new trend is to give them what they most love, grants and donations.  Think of it. You could have your name enshrined forever on a building!  Example: The WestraDamus School of Artificial Stupidity.  Or at least endow a chair:  The Quantum McParticle Chair of Applied Artificial Stupidity at the WestraDamus School at Pepperdine University, or PU as it and some other schools are nicknamed.

There’s a big future here. The next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or Ira Intel is lurking in a laboratory near you!

-There’s a coven of people who believe the artificial stupidity machine already has been invented and they call it a game console.

-One of the early precursors of the artificial stupidity machine was the player piano, but at least that had a purpose and didn’t dominate one’s entire life, just the living room --- and the people next door.

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

1997 It's About Time

Billionaires buying media. It’s the latest thing.  Bezos in Washington, Henry in Boston, Soon-Shiong in Los Angeles, the Koch brothers in Des Moines, Adelson in Vegas, Bloomberg at Business Week, and now, Benioff at Time Magazine.

Some of these purchases may be playthings. When you’re a billionaire and have outgrown everything else, what better to fiddle with than the news?

Some are dead serious about saving dead serious properties and do so.

Time Magazine now has been passed around a bit.  First Meredith Corp. bought the lot of its publications and now is starting to spin off the titles they know they can’t handle: Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and anything else that doesn’t appeal to the crowd that read Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post when those mags meant something, or others who get their magazines on the supermarket checkout line.

How did it get the bucks to buy them?  With a big infusion of Koch money.  And you can bet that things are going to acquire a libertarian overtone at Better Homes and Gardens.  Gardens? Political? Sure. Survival of the fittest. Bad tomato season? Make puree and then rip out the plants.

Time is too hot for them to handle.  But evidently it’s not too hot for Marc and Lynne Benioff.


Marc heads Salesforce which modestly calls itself the world’s largest CRM platform.

The what?

CRM is customer relations management.  That means they take your data and fiddle around with it. The goal: you getting new ways to make nice to your customers and grow the bunch bigger.

There’s a lot of money in that kind of thing. And the Benioffs are said to have about six billion dollars of it in house.  So a mere $190 million isn’t going to make that big a dent in their nest egg if Time … uh… runs out.

In the meantime, they’ve made a few promises.  One is that they’re not going to screw with the editorial content.  Two is they’re going to keep Time where it belongs, which is New York and three: they’re preservationists whose personal politics run to center left, which is where Time has marched on in recent decades. Oh, and Benioff said in effect, but not in these words that Time is a magazine with a website, not a website with a magazine.

The Time of Henry Luce was a conservative sheet that didn’t much mind mixing fact and opinion.  That’s long gone as it should be.

Some of these moneybag guys have made huge improvements in their papers and magazines, largely by doing what many buyers of big corporations say they’ll do, but don’t.  Hire and/or keep good people and leave them alone.

And (you’re not going to like this) Rupert Murdoch, the Last Great Press Baron has done more good than harm in buying the Times of London, the Wall Street Journal and a major interest in National Geographic Magazine.  We’ll never forgive him for the New York Post or Fox News.  But still…

And going farther back in time, Jock Whitney did a great public service by keeping the New York Herald Tribune on life support as long and as well as he did.

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

1996 Hitman for Hire?

FBI Studios Foto

A funny thing happened on the way to the mailroom last week. Well, more like the email room.  There on the screens were a near-record number of responses. They were directed at #s 1989 about Leonard Bernstein and 1993 about Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear,” and many called them “hit jobs.”  

The votes were about even on Bernstein: Half said this was a hit job, which it most certainly was. The other half said things like “well, I liked _____…”(fill in the blank,) but other things not-so much.

The latter was not as much a hit job as a promotion for what’s turned out to be the book we all need to read, though I probably could have been less needlesome about Woodward’s use of quotations.

But among these souvenirs was a recurring theme: Do you write hit jobs to order?  I’d thought about it.  Some of those came with deadlines and down payment checks and I don’t (yet) have a rate card.

So, against the advice of counsel, here we go into the hitman business.  No one will die, of course.  Sticks and stones can break your bones… but we use only words and never advocate violence.

Three levels of service:
1.  The Friendly Visit.  You know, like the insurance guys who visit small businesses from time to time with a smile on their faces and baseball bats in their hands and urge you to buy insurance because, well, you never know these days.
2.   The No More Nice Guys Alert.  You know, like a month later when the small business either fails to buy or misses a payment.  In real life, this is done in the dead of night.  That’s so that when he comes to work in the morning, the dry cleaner or convenience store owner has a busted front window and maybe a small, not-too-bad fire to remind him he should have paid that bill.
3.  The Full Court Press.  See the Bernstein post for an example.

Again, nothing violent. Just the simple truth to let whoever it is you want to know you’re unhappy that you’re unhappy.

And there are some categories I won’t touch.
1.  Dogs.
2.  Cats.
3.  Other small animals.
4.  Kids.
5.  Ethnic, racial or gender groups.
6.  Criminals (convicted.)
7.  Criminals (accused but un-tried.)
8.  Sexual predators, imagined or unconvicted.

But there are occasional jobs that come pro bono.

1.  Politicians with whom we share your dislike.
2.  People who run private equity funds.
3.  Real insurance companies.
4.  Owners of budding but foundering or floundering automakers.
5.  A wide variety of crazy people.

I don’t have to agree with you.  It’s just business. A little extra to boost the pension.

-Sticker in the shape of a dog’s paw print on the back of a small pickup truck: “Who Rescued Who?”

-Is it possible the car loan companies haven’t yet figured out a way yet to sublease?

--Our hearts go out to the victims of Hurricane Florence.  But what’s more important is that our bucks go out and to the right places.  Abner and Daisy Mae need a decent meal, a change of clothing and a shower more than your prayers.

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

1995 Whodunit Solved


Mystery solved.  The Wessays (™) Investigations Unit has solved the greatest political puzzle of the trump era. Who wrote the Op-Ed column about chaos in the White House for the New York Times?

The answer came fast and furious once we asked the right questions:  Who has access to all this stuff? Who is on scene every day?  Who would be able to gather this information, not be noticed doing it, maybe not be noticed at all?

Which political operative or staff member or secretary-of-something would dare do this at the risk of having his or her career ended and his or her life ruined?  Answer: None.  They all serve at the pleasure of the president.

Spoiler Alert:
The sweep up guy. Janitor.  Civil servant who can’t be fired or who has already put in his or her retirement papers after emptying wastebaskets for every president since Lyndon Johnson.

We don’t have a name, yet.  But our reporters were able to follow her (yes, it’s a her!) through her daily routine.  She starts her work day when all the “important” people are ending theirs.  When the president is doing thumb calisthenics to keep his twitter digits supple and ready for the coming morning’s outpourings.

Nobody sees the woman who empties the wastebaskets and sweeps or vacuums the floors. She is invisible to the Very Important People running the country from the West Wing.  

But she sees them.  She hears them.  She notices what goes on. She is wearing a federally approved body cam so that the Secret Service makes sure she doesn’t steal John Quincy Adams’ insulated silver cola mug trump keeps on the Oval Office desk.

But she has a photographic memory.  And that includes what’s heard, not just what she fishes out of the trash and dumps in her rolly- cart which then goes to a Secret Service Incinerator Technician and is shredded, pulped and recycled. (They haven’t used incinerators in the White house since Barbara Bush raised hell about air pollution, but the job title has not changed. I’m sure they’d welcome your suggestions but have already rejected “pulp artist,” “Vice director of the Deep Six Dept.,” and “Circular File Expert.”  So go for something more official sounding.)

In the meantime, we are sworn to secrecy.  But eventually the less effective White House Office of Hiding Truth will find the information and, of course, we will have been correct.

“Your lack of respect is appalling.” -- Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz of San Juan, Puerto Rico, repudiating charges from president trump who had said Democrats padded the death figures after Hurricane Maria killed 3,000 people in the US territory.

-As of de-press time, we don’t know enough to say anything about the current hurricane except that it looks like a lousy storm.

-To answer what seems a common question: some people don’t get out of dodge when so- ordered because they physically can’t.

-Is it time to worry about flood zone looters in wetsuits, goggles and swim fins?

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 ...