Monday, August 31, 2020

4634 Today's News

It’s Saturday night on Broadway. We’re waiting for Fats at the newsstand to count and stack copies of the Sunday Times the truck just dumped on the curb.  Fats is fatter than ever. The Times is fat, too.

“Two stacks this week,” he says, no longer able to reach high enough to make one neat pile.  “All the edges have to line up just right or the whole damn thing falls over.”

Then some guy comes along and tries to take the copy underneath the top.  “Nobody wants the top copy,” Fats says, “It’s like someone has already read half of the front page and that makes it ‘used.’” Eyeworn?

Fats, the Times and the times were all pretty fat in those days.  Is he still curbside on a Saturday?  Probably could call a friend from the old days and ask.  Nah. If it’s “yes,” so what? If it’s “no,” we’d have to investigate.

The paper was fat because every fat cat with a roll of bills in his pocket was eager to find new places to spend it.  And every fat advertiser went to sleep Saturday night with dreams of those bill rolls dancing in his head.

Nice arrangement, then. Not so nice these days. The rolls are smaller and they’re mostly singles and fives. And there are fewer places to spend them. Fewer dancing dreams. The bills jammed lower in the pocket.

The price of reading news has been sinking for years. It starts with zero and works its way up to a few dollars a month.  The price of covering news has changed inversely.  This arrangement may work for A-list papers in A-list places.  But it can’t work for the Sorta-Daily News of North Merrill’s Crossing, Nebraska.

So, you say… well, nothing ever happens in North Merrill’s Crossing, Nebraska, so who cares?  They asked that about other tiny or otherwise insignificant places… like Kenosha, WI or Lynchburg, VA. Nothing ever happened.  Until it did.

As is well known to regulars at this site, the official position here is that all politicians are self serving megalomaniacs who will say or do anything to keep their smutty little jobs -- most of which require no actual work.

Radio news is dead. Local TV news is all-bodies and all fires and ham pot pie dinners for retired postal workers and returning vets all the time. The politicians have been charged with guarding the Greater Good.  Not good.  Local papers and (a few) local websites are the only ones left to do what may be the most important job in journalism today.

--Why bother with the letter “w” when there are so many words with “u u” in them and the W is silent in so many others?
--When does a fringe idea become mainstream?
--Do you think your LED lightbulb will outlive you?
--Is your cellphone contract longer than your life expectancy?
--How do companies make money on 0% interest loans?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ® 
Any Questions:
© WJR 2020

Friday, August 28, 2020

4633 Chaos Theory

Let’s go to math class. The curl of smoke from a cigarette illustrates Chaos Theory. It says, stuff that looks random often shows underlying patterns.  Thing is, when the smoke clears it doesn’t. It’s still there, only you can’t see it.  Parts spread out and become too small for the naked eye.  It’s a reorganization of components.

Then there’s real chaos.  

Like when you get a pandemic, an economy that maps out like a gerrymandered congressional district that looks like the onset of malignant melanoma. Add to that the mad cult formerly known as the Republican Party and throw in melting ice at both of earth’s polls and the dropping of all but the tribal from the thinking of the population.

Then there are Rogue cops. They are the violence-prone officers who get caught.  Before that everyone in the stationhouse may have known about them.  And so did their victims.  Now we all do. 

There’s reasonable evidence that mask-wearing has reduced the rate of Covid-19 new cases. Try to tell that to the freedom-loving solipsists who embrace your right to die (unless you’re a fetus, of course.)

There’s reason to believe an end to the burning of coal can contribute to a lessening of damaging air pollution, holes in the atmosphere and maybe a partial respite from climate change.  Oh, but what about the coal company greedheads who can’t or won’t clean up or close down their acts.  And what of the workers?

Are these just the components of a smoke stream reorganizing into … something?  Or can we still catch the parts and put Humpty together again?


(SAN JOSE CA) -- The video conferencing service Zoom is no startup but is a relative newcomer. So it’s not too surprising that since everyone’s now holding virtual meetings their magic gets overloaded and conks out.

(ANYWHERE, EVERYWHERE) -- If you attend school via zoom, today, August 28, 2020 may be a “snow day.”  So, don your masks and go out and shovel heat.

(NEW ORLEANS) -- If you live in the underwater city, shovel water.  Wear heavy shoes or you might be blown right into the gulf.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “To turn donald trump into a president worthy of a second term speakers are conjuring an entirely different person in his place.” --NY Times columnist Frank Bruni on the Republican nominating convention,

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ® 
Any Questions?
© WJR 2020

Monday, August 24, 2020

4632 Thoughts on Healthcare

A friend asked why when so many countries can afford universal healthcare but it seemingly would bankrupt us.  Chew on that for a moment. While you’re chewing, allow me to suggest some answers.

First, let’s consider why other countries have universal health care and we don’t.

That one's pretty easy to answer:  because it never occurred to those countries not to have it.
The price and distribution of healthcare in this country are complicated.  And there are too many hands taking a cut.  But that's a fairly recent development.
 Our combination of drug companies, insurance companies, mega-hospital systems, supposedly non-profit, and/or teaching hospitals vacuum a lot of money out of their customers. 
 This creature wasn't born full-grown. No one seemed to be watching it until it blossomed into Godzilla. And now, there are so many interdependent moving parts that changing it means killing the monster.  We're not good at that. Probably for good reasons.
 Let's look at England.  Until Thatcher, most medical people worked for a single employer/payer. Now, their system is almost as complicated as ours.  But until then, the costs were built into the national budget.  People were used to that.  They knew their tax money was divided among various government departments. It was a working system that included medical care, armed forces, highway construction and the various other things most governments do.

We have had a fine role model in this country: the public school system.  Yes, there always have been private schools.  But even those who attend have to pay into the public system, which is now under siege by private and for-profit schools, a federal secretary of education who opposes public education, and by charter schools that sap money from districts while failing to fulfill the part of their mission that is to take the pressure off the district structure.

So... missed opportunity.

The so-called American Dream has a dark side which I summarize in four words: You're on your own.  We have a national obsession with The Lone Ranger, the Captain of Industry, the family farmer, the mass producer, etc.  That works against universal health care because no one gets rich with that system.

We have taken the worst elements from our history and the histories of countries from where most Americans have history and we have discarded the parts that truly benefit the average Joe and Jane.  Or Jamal and Kalifa, Jose and Maria, etc.

When you have to build something from the ground up, and the only space available is occupied, everything on site has to stop.  In some cases that just can't be done.

So while we have a bunch of money and history invested in a system, we can't change that overnight because almost everyone becomes collateral damage. The cost of becoming a doctor has become as overpriced and over demanding as the cost of being treated.  Pharmaceuticals cost too much and discounts, such as they are, are too complicated puny and temporary.
Yes, we spend too much and too unwisely on defense, on the cost of government on all kinds of things.  We have thus made it impractical if not impossible to tear things down and start over.
Impractical? Or too tough? Or too complicated? Or messy? 
--Washington postal workers who defied orders from the Postmaster General and are restoring decommissioned high-speed sorting machines.
--The “president’s” older sister, Maryanne trump Barry for her scathing evaluation of him.
--The “president’s” niece Mary for secretly but legally recording that evaluation.
--The Washington Post’s decision to print the story.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Any Questions?
© WJR 2020

Friday, August 21, 2020

#4631 Good Cop, Bad Cop, Worse Cop

4631 Good Cop, Bad Cop, Worse Cop
A lineup of 1980s NY Police cars. Car #1, please roll forward.

The “good cop” tries to befriend his suspect.  The bad cop loses his temper, then rants and raves threateningly.  It’s a tactic as old as policing.  The worse cop is an inventive entrepreneur.  He or she finds new and marketable uses for common household items.  Like phone books, broomsticks and handguns that suddenly materialize out of thin air at crime scenes.  Other worsies are absent minded. They lose track of evidence.  Or they stumble over seized drugs to sell back to their source.

When this happens, the public complains.  And until now, their complaints often got lost along with some paperwork.  Yes, until now.  The New York State Legislature recently repealed the law that kept the complaints secret.  And the NYPD, essentially a law abiding group of men and women, complied with the change by releasing nearly 400,000 records going back to 1985.

You want to read ‘em? Click here and wait patiently. It takes forever to load and your internet connection may time out.

The gross total is misleading.  There weren’t 400,000 officers about whom people complained.  There was a group of a mere 80-thousand recipients.  That’s a lot of bad apples in a lot of barrels.

Assume that a good percentage of complaints were unfounded.  Say half.  That’s still 200,000 complaints against more than 40-thousand officers. And not every complaint led to punishment, fines or the loss of a job.

Still a lot of bad apples in a lot of barrels.

Although it may not seem so at this point, this site is not anti-cop. It’s a life-on-the-line-every-day existence.  And the overwhelming majority of officers follow procedure and worry.  As do their spouses, their children, their parents, their friends and every other cop.

Police deserve endless credit.  Except for the bad apples. The real ones. The ones with broom handles and phone books and traces of meth on their hands, or who keep shiny new Corvettes carefully covered at their houses upstate.

It’s time to clean up this rot. But it also is time for complaint filers to think twice before they wrongly and falsely accuse an officer of an imaginary crime.

(Long Island Sound) -- Steve Bannon and three other men, one a triple amputee who served in a war zone, were arrested and charged with siphoning big money from a “build the wall” fundraising effort.  Bannon was aboard a yacht at the time of his arrest. Did he really say “What yacht?”

(NEW YORK) -- All four of the men denied they conned the money from supporters of the con man-in-chief. The “president” first said he didn’t know about the scam but later added he hadn’t dealt with Bannon for a long time and (always?) thought the fundraising effort was “showboating.”

(WASHINGTON) -- More than one million people newly signed up for unemployment comp in the week ended Thursday, August 20th. 

(TOMSK, RUSSIA) -- Putin’s main foe, Aleksei Navalny grabbed a morning tea at the airport, downed it, boarded the plane. Halfway through the flight to Moscow, he passed out.  At latest report he was hospitalized and unconscious in a hospital.  Poisoned? Impossible.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ® 
Any Questions?
© WJR 2020\

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

4630 Conventions Then and Now

Zoom CEO: Coronavirus outbreak will 'change the landscape' of work ...

I invited Michelle Obama up to my room the other night and she accepted.  While there, she explained to me why she thinks I should vote for Joe Biden and/or against trump. She looked me right in the eye and calmly examined the state of the union.  Afterward, we drank a toast to each other and to the future of America.

Well, that’s not exactly right.  I did the drinking. She was busy making other house calls and the video of the virtual Democratic National Convention switched to someone else.

Television is a more intimate medium than the chaotic nonsense that marks a more traditional political nominating condition.

After the visit, I attended the monthly seance of the Famous Dead Newstypes.  Huntley and Brinkley were more or less satisfied with the results.  (Brinkley’s comment was “less (expletive deleted) nonsense.”

Cronkite didn’t attend.  He always spends his Augusts on his Ghost Ship off Cape Cod.

Jimmy Breslin: “Beautiful. They’re putting the cheap hoodlums in their place.  Now let me out of this dog show.”

Helen Thomas: “About time someone made sense of [all this.]”

Paul Sann: “When the New York Post was a real newspaper, we would have had six guys at the Zoom locations.  I was unhappy it was Biden, not Bernie.  But these days you have to take what you get.”

Margurite Higgins: “I was gripped by the insanity of [all this.]”

Earl Wilson: [“Biden is so honest] you could shoot craps with him over the phone.”

In what may be unprecedented, the first night of the convention ended on schedule. Everyone expected Bill Clinton, the mouth of the south to fix that last night. But he didn’t. He spoke (pre-recorded) for five minutes.  In an earlier time, Bill Clinton couldn’t say “hello, how are you?” in five minutes.  You never longed for his speeches to last longer.  Last night, you might have.

The pull quote: “There’s only chaos. [trump’s determination] to deny responsibility and shift the blame.  The buck never stops there.” 

That’s symbolic. One of the hallmarks of a political convention is the endless blah blah that comes from the mouths of politicians you never heard of and never will hear from again.  Except if it’s Mario Cuomo talking. And maybe Barack Obama.

--Jill Biden inspires confidence.
--So far, Hillary’s should remain invisible. But she’s scheduled to speak tonight.
--Virtual enthusiasm is tough in a political convention. The participants did a pretty good job of it.
--AOC’s appearance made that a little easier. She only spoke for a minute and a half.  She could have made the same impact just standing there.
--It seemed like a mere afterthought, but the conventioneers endorsed Biden as the Democratic Party’s candidate for President.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Any Questions?
© WJR 2020

Monday, August 17, 2020

4629 How to Cut Online Classes

WestraDamus the Non-Prophet has temporarily emerged from his retirement to help school children carry on a rite of passage: cutting class and missing homework.
 High tech schooling requires high tech countermeasures.  Here are some excuses for absence or failure to complete assignments.
 The dog ate my iPad.
 If your dog is a Yorkie a Dachshund or Chihuahua, substitute "The dog got trapped under the lid of my Chromebook and I couldn't get him out.
 I depend on Sprint.  This excuse evaporates as soon as T-Mobile fully absorbs Sprint, which it recently acquired.
I depend on ConEd (or PE&G or Duke Energy or whoever supplies your electricity.) Chances are your teacher lives in the same town you do and had the same problem.  If the average income in your community is more than $35,000, chances are the teacher does not live in your town.
 Alexa, Siri and Cortana got into a fight and the only way to break it up was to shut down the computer.
 When I was trying to zoom with you, I was zooming 70 in a 45 zone and the cop pulled me over.  This is only good if you are old enough to have a license to drive.
 Someone set the house on fire. The cops think it was me.  There are no computers in the county jail. But I’m out on bail now.
 I got into a food fight in the cafeteria (AKA my kitchen) and I was serving detention in the basement. (Helps if you're not home alone during school hours.)
A grandparent died (only useful on four different occasions.)
 I was helping my younger brother or sister with homework and lost track of the time. (Helps if you have a younger sibling.)
Forge a Doctor’s note saying you had a high temperature.
Forge a parent note that said you had a high temperature and had to go to the doctor.
Write a self-excuse note that starts “I am writing from my hospital bed…”
 If you know what a radio is, see if there’s one in your house. Before resuming class, place it near your computer but out of view of your video cam. Turn it on. It will screw up your connection but not to the point of total incoherence. 
Volunteer to clean up the cafeteria (remember, that’s your kitchen.)

Sometimes this works: I did that assignment, but my computer was hacked so I had to take it to the repair shop. (Iffy, this one. If your computer is out for repair how are you able to tell the teacher you can compute?
Suggested defense of the above: Log in from an internet cafe or maybe one at the funeral home where your dead grandparent(s) lives will be celebrated.

Can I use FedEx or UPS to deliver my mail-in vote?
Where is the Postmaster General stashing the decommissioned mail sorting machines?
Can we break in, steal them and return them to the big post offices?
Will trump wear a mask when he votes at the polling place nearest his office building on 5th Avenue?
Will he stay six feet from the person in front and the person in back?
If he doesn’t, how will the Secret Service protect him?
Will the Moote Pointe Teachers Union picket WestraDamuses’s house?
Or members of the American Kennel Club?
Or Petco? 

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Any Questions?
© WJR 2020

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...