Friday, April 30, 2021

4721 Raiding Rudy

 

 

There’s something ironically delicious about the Justice Departments raiding Rudolph Giuliani’s home and office at dawn the other day.  After all, he began his public career as a US Attorney, albeit one with a mile-high pile of overturned convictions.

 

He went on to become Mayor of the City of New York, an office he could not have won again until 9/11 when his 23rd floor bunker was destroyed and he looked for the moment like a decent leader.

 

Since then, he has reverted to form, becoming a high-profile ambulance chaser and twister of words and concepts as too many others in his “profession” are.

 

The raiders on Rudy strongholds on two of the city’s snazziest streets, took out boxes of documents, computers, cell phones in various conditions including dead and who knows what-all else.

 

Will any of this draw formal charges?  We’ll find out eventually. But even if they don’t, the damage has been done.

 

He has shot himself in the foot so often and so well, it’s a wonder he can still walk… if he can.  No one has seen him taking a step recently.  And some of the steps he took when we knew he could still walk were really missteps.

 

They include but are not limited to

--Letting one of his wives know she was fired by informing her of his girlfriend during a public event.

--Trying to dig up dirt by traveling to Ukraine.

--Conducting private business on the government’s dime during his non-digging breaks while in Ukraine.

--Representing donald trump at the impeachment.

--Turning Times Square into Disneyland.

--Fighting crime by arresting window breakers and turnstile jumpers while...

--Sloppily prosecuting mobsters who later grinned their way to freedom on appeal.

 

So just what are investigators investigating?  Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello says among other things they’re looking into “alleged” failure to register as a foreign agent. 

 

That law has been around since the Nazi/World War II era.  It hasn’t been enforced a lot in recent years.  But it says clearly that if you are going to lobby for a foreign power in this country, you have to register.

 

Registration probably isn’t all that tough.  You have to fill out a form and wait.  These are things that don’t come easily to -- um -- certain people.  There are prescribed punishments for violations. They include fines that most of us would have trouble scraping up.  Those same certain people don’t have that problem. Convicts also can do serious jail time.  Rudy may think that orange is not “his color.” And we all look fatter in horizontal stripes.

 

So, in his discussions with officials in Ukraine, did Rudy violate the law?  Or was it all on the up-and-up?  The US didn’t have a bug in the table lamp.  The Ukrainian Prosecutor General may have.  If there’s tape, obtaining it will require some diplomacy -- probably something like buying tanks and short-range missiles.  Our diplomats often deny doing anything like that.  

 

Note to America’s Mayor:  If you have to do time -- unlikely as you think that may be, be thankful it’s here and not where you get borscht and Jell-O three times a day. Oh, and Rudy, thanks for the little reaction rant. Yeah, sure we’re jealous of your fame and fortune.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Mini 016 Masks

 

Pity the makers of designer masks.  Government intervention, that old conservative bedeviler, looks ready to put these poor small business owners back on the bread line.  Why?  Because mask wearing took a giant step off a cliff when the CDC listed a whole new slew of conditions in which masks were no longer needed for fully vaccinated Americans.

 

There you have it! First, they make us wear them.  Then when the great old American spirit of innovation takes over and masks are marketed with funny sayings, cute decorations and interesting patterns, they’re going to tell us to stop unless we’re in a crowded stadium or auditorium.

 

Of course, many of the so-called Sovereign Citizens shrugged off these government mandates right from the start.  So they’re left as rebels without a cause.  

 

Well, here’s a suggestion that might help replace the emptiness anti-maskers must feel right now.  Order some of those designer items… with slogans on them. There’s MAGA, “Don’t Tread on Me,” “White Rights” and “First National Bank of (wherever.)” You’ll be supporting your fellow Americans and thumbing your nose at Washington. It doesn’t get any better than that.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Monday, April 26, 2021

4720 Awards

 Clip and save. Distribute to everyone.

 The Oscars were fun to not watch.  But they ARE fun to talk about, criticize and nit-pick. The awards went to an unusually diverse group of Hollywooders. Chloe Zhao is the first woman of color to win best director. Her “Nomadland” also won best picture and best actress. The gossip mill predicted that best actor would go to Chadwick Boseman who died of cancer last year. Instead, it went to nostalgia favorite Anthony Hopkins.

 

Hopkins did not show up for the slimmed down and laboriously dull ceremony… and neither did either a host or a civilian audience.

 

All this brings to mind the value of most awards. The Nobel Prize… the Pulitzer Prize… the Prize Patrol.  All worth your attention.  The rest of them?  That endless list of certificates and statuettes showered on … everyone?  They’re like gold stars on your kindergarten class participation cards and participation trophies.  

 

They’re like bruises. Eventually, everyone gets one.  We love to pat ourselves and each other on the back.  Attaboy! Attagirl! 

 

They’re getting to be as populous as rabbits. Perfect attendance. Fourteenth place among the top three of the Moote Pointe Little League championship.  Passed Algebra-one.  Really, really, really tried hard.

 

C’mon, guys.  What’s next in this department? Don’t put it past the Census takers to give out “special person” certificates to everyone they count.  After all, you are one, aren't you? Of course you are. 

 

Naysayers be gone! What do you mean by insinuating that if everyone’s special, no one is special?

 

How about a prize for being “normal?” Or ordinary. Or not falling asleep in church?

 

Your correspondent again this year participated in a trade association journalism awards program.  Two of the nominees in my little group were for sleep inducing podcasts. If sleep induction were a factor… they’d have been big winners.  The third was for continuing coverage of a story that’s impossible to cover badly.  It’s a good thing the trophies were cheap. 

 

In the case of the Oscars, the awards usually mean bigger box office and frequent re-runs. Good for the Hollywood economy because few of us have been able to get to the movies during the pandemic. And unlike trophies, popcorn and Bon-bons, movies are not cheap.  Are they “better than ever” as the old saying insisted?  We report, you decide.  If you can get there to see them. They certainly are more intimately photographed, and their stories more intimately told. They certainly feature more minorities… formerly rare recipients either in front of or behind the camera.

 

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

Any Questions?  wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Friday, April 23, 2021

4719 What Privacy?

 

I dislike writing about myself.  But here I go again. I keep harping on internet stuff. Podcasts, surveys and other annoyances have recently shared this space.  Here’s another.  

 

Decades of playing or playing at stringed musical instruments is a big part of life here.  So are subscriptions to “updates” from the sellers of the same.  There are about 100 merchants in the “favorites” or “bookmarks” column on the browser.

 

One morning, dreaming of a new amplifier (I only have three!) I stumbled over a new one from one of the major brands and it was shown in the daily emails from an aggressive but reliable merchant in the Midwest. Nice, detailed pictures. All the right bells and whistles. Light enough in weight for a diminished senior citizen to tote to his next gig.  A pretty good price. Maybe free shipping (to be determined.) Maybe they’ll forget to collect out of state sales tax. 

 

Not an hour later comes a personalized email: “Hey, can we help you out?  We noticed you were interested in the (insert name of product.)” 

 

You noticed?  Just how did that happen?  Five hundred bucks.  Not a big deal for a category of stuff that can range well into the high four figures.

 

There are obviously some pretty sophisticated algorithms floating in the ether.  They send an email. Then they look over your shoulder while you read it.  And if you should actually explore an item available for sale, they know it and pounce like a cat on a sleeping or disabled mouse or bird or -- these days -- cicada. 

 

This raises an interesting question. What else do they know but don’t tell you they’ve spotted.  Is someone tracking everything you look at?  Are you ready to switch from “Edge” or “Chrome” and do everything online on the so-called dark web?  And how dark is the dark web now that we’re on that subject?

 

One service promises to bounce your i.p. address through a maze of others in a maze of countries a billion miles from here -- wherever here is.  Do they really?  Can you, yes you… sitting there in East Nowhere, South Carolina convince an artificial intelligence machine that you’re in Bulgaria or Rwanda?

 

And does it matter?  Can the receiver trace your breadcrumbs back to East Nowhere?

 

This merchant has spent decades building good will… and in many cases deserves it.  Or did until now.

 

So pardon this, but here’s a note to that merchant, sent only through this blog:

 

Sirs: I am an old guy who has shopped with you for a good long time and who loves to watch the stuff you promote. But as someone who hasn’t played in public in decades, I resent the kind of invasion of privacy you just demonstrated. I won’t outright tell you who I am, but it’s usually right there in the signoff.

 

Now, we’ll see if these people are really on their artificially intelligent toes.  If the emails stop, I’m on to something we all can use.

 

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

Any Questions?  wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

MINI 015 Derek and George

 

Murderer Derek Chauvin sat in court all those dreary days of his trial looking like the cop who pulls over a ditzy disconnected drunk driver, his face an arrogant combination of sneer and smirk looking for all the world like the guy who a jury just can’t wait to convict of… something; anything.  Deliberations took little more than a day in the jury room in Minneapolis.

 

The guilty verdicts he heard wiped both the sneer and the smirk from his face.  Guilty of second-degree murder. Guilty of manslaughter. Guilty of third-degree murder. Bail revoked. Remanded.  Park yourself in a cell for sentencing in two months.

 

But George Floyd is still dead, killed while cuffed, on the hard ground with Chauvin’s knee on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. The verdict was a verdict – that’s all – not a resurrection.

 

Minneapolis was tense before the verdict came in late on Tuesday afternoon. National Guard, police and other lawmen and women were ready for trouble, which surely would have come had Chauvin been declared not guilty.

 

One bad cop taken out of circulation. Others in the case awaiting their fates. These crimes are supposed to be decided on the evidence alone. They rarely are. They weren’t this time.

 

Outside Minneapolis – and maybe inside – how many similar cases are waiting to happen for the next white Chauvin and the next Black Floyd?

 

And yes… it can happen to anyone of any race.  And it will.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Monday, April 19, 2021

4718 So Many Surveys, So Little Time

 

 We are inundated with surveys online and on the phone. Sometimes door to door. If placed in a line, the pile of collected data will soon reach Pluto.  Or at least it will give space aliens an easy-to-read pathway for their flying saucers to Area 51.

 

Here’s a one-sentence Wessays survey: “Do you think anyone reads the data and if they do will do anything with it?”

 

Answer if you like.  But here’s a promise: I won’t read your answer, just put it on the path for saucer navigators.

 

Who wants to know whether you’d recommend Sonic or Dairy Queen as a venue for your next divorce celebration?  Or if you enjoyed your latest experience with Walnut Springs National Bank where you went to plead for more time to pay this month’s mortgage, along with last months and the months before?

 

What will happen to Suzie Bell or Billyjo, your friendly virtual assistants from Bloatware Customer Service?  If Suzie or Billyjo did a good job, will they be taken off probation for their usual automated nonsense to your questions?  Yes, robots and software can be put on probation just like real boys and girls.

 

“Limiting your response to your recent call to Customer Service Agent Henry in San Jose (who really isn’t Henry and really is in Bhopal), how satisfied were you with …” this is followed by several rows of areas in which “Henry” was asked to solve a problem with your new Bloatware Package of Important Programs. Check the appropriate boxes.

 

The question they never ask whether you waited for an hour before you got a live body?

 

Another question they never ask: On a scale of minus five to plus ten, how did you like our music on hold?  There never is a box you can check that says you aren’t a fan of the instrumental cover of the medley of Meatloaf’s Greatest Hit.

 

Maybe this is all wrong.  Maybe people really DO read these things and act on them. Here’s an example.

 

Scene: The Boardroom at Bloatware LLC. 

 

Cast: 

--Chairman and CEO Octavius Bloat and Director of Surveys 

--Automata Bloat-Wingtip, his adult daughter.

 

ABW: Dad, this fellow Henry in San Jose is getting a lot of positive feedback.

 

OB: Fire his ass before he asks for a raise. And make sure you do it before the end of the quarter.

 

ABW: Ok.  Do you have his address in Bhopal?

 

OB: I thought he was in San Jose.

 

ABW: You ordered me to close the San Jose office two months ago.  Everyone in customer service is in either Bhopal or Manila now.

 

OB: No, I don’t have his email. Check with Human Resources. Now, what about the reaction to our music on hold?

 

ABW: Everyone hates it.

 

OB: Good. The more hangups in disgust the fewer customers we have to deal with.

 

ABW: They hate the waiting time, too.

 

OB: Same answer as before.  Wanna grab some lunch? I hear Sonic has a new kind of bacon cheeseburger.

 

ABW: I wonder if they have Meatloaf.

 

Keep filling out those surveys.  Octavius and Automata really listen.  And they act.

 

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

Any Questions?  wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Friday, April 16, 2021

4717 A Fresh Look at Podcasts

 

NPR remains the best sleeping pill on the air. But it has a new competitor that is nipping at its heels, the podcast.  

 

Podcasts are usually long form reports on topics that deserve short-term coverage.  Sometimes, they’re done by professionals with credentials.  But like blogs, anyone can make a podcast and somehow, somewhere, someone will listen.  Your mother and probably your significant other or prospective significant other will sample your work.

 

The possibilities for serious listening or viewing are endless. What ends up being endless is the time you have to spend listening to get to the point. Most of them are too long.

 

There are several popular formats. Most podcasters follow one or more of them.

 

THE SELF-ANOINTED AUTHORITY: This is the favorite of people who believe others pay him insufficient attention.  It’s a chance for the uncredentialed pundit to explore, expound and expectorate on or about any subject. The easiest and most common topic is politics because the sun never sets on that game.  Someone’s always in play and guesswork and speculation are as good as hits and runs.

 

THE IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW: You finally met the world’s leading expert on anything.  Often it’s the Self-Anointed Authority of the previous section.  You get the chance to draw him out in a little less time than it would take to read Robert Caro’s series of books about Lyndon Johnson.  Alternative: get a bigger hard drive. You’re going to need it.

 

THE MAKE BELIEVE TALK SHOW:  Michael Savage is trying this.  It is not working. The few who listen are only there because they expect the guy to explode like an angry boil and they haven’t craned their neck at a decent fender bender in weeks.

 

THE FAILED STANDUP COMEDIAN: When the crowds fall silent at the comedy club, these guys know they have to do something about their acts.  Earth to failed standup comedians: No one cares. The crowds remain silent and short-lived as an ice cube in Phoenix in August.  But drier.

 

There are some blogs and bloggers who can be useful on an ad hoc basis.  Here are two.

 

THE CHEF: You’re Significant Other has invited your future inlaws to dinner.  You know they’re big fans of, say, ambergris.  You have no idea what it is, let alone how to make it.  You can be sure there’s a video on YouTube.  It will last 30 minutes.  The first ten will be about its history in Colonial America.  The last ten will recap the first ten.  In between will be the recipe.  Surely, your future inlaws are worth the effort.

 

THE DIY MAVEN:  This form can actually be helpful. Handy Harry will teach you in words and pictures how to fix a leaking toilet or wire a light switch or cast a fishing rod or improve your golf swing.  But these are not areas that most of us need. Still, it’s nice to know they’re there.

 

We have long been under advice ranging from suggestion to pressure to turn Wessays into a podcast.  We continue to resist, feeling it’s better to bore you or provoke thought in 500 written words than it is in 20 minutes of drivel that can either put you to sleep or make you angry enough to destroy your brand new expensive blue tooth earbuds.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Mini 014 Law & Order Organized Crime Review


Law & Order Organized Crime is the first TV series in memory to jump the shark in its debut episode.  With Christoper Meloni back on the force as Det. Elliot Stabler and a cast of unknowns, the Dick Wolf Organization paints a picture of a NY Police department in metamorphosis. Stabler doesn’t evolve.  He’s still the same rootin’ tootin’ unruly cop who may have been the height of TV fashion 20 years ago but who now is more like a potential feast for Internal Affairs when all he used to be was a snack.


The story pits Stabler against a mythic gang boss who wants to be the “Bezos of organized crime” by monopolizing the retail end of the business.  The story is complicated by the death of Stabler’s wife and the tailspin into which he and one of his children are thrown.


Since most of the series is in the can but not previewed to us privileged characters who sometimes get advance looks as the plots thicken and thin, we can’t say if Stabler calms down in the next several episodes and goes on to do what this brand always did well: give us a nice package with the case solved in the 37 minutes not reserved for commercials in a 60-minute drama. But that doesn’t look like the direction in which it is heading.


The producers appear to be using the soap opera model in which you will catch the storyline even if you tune out for a few episodes.  This does not work with prime time drama.


Monday, April 12, 2021

4716 Prince Philip

I always felt a little sorry for Prince Philip even though he had the second best job in the world, Consort to the Queen. I mean, what’s the guy really gotta do?  Stand around while the photographers photographed Liz?  Say some really awkward stuff and get away with it? Attend a few thousand events.  Look royal. Stately.

 

Queen Elizabeth is said to have told her father King George VI that Philip was “the only man I could ever love.”  That’s Liz all over. The right words in the right order.  “I could ever love” is not the same as “The man I love.”  But she’s the queen and who would dare diagram her sentences?

 

The whole idea was that Liz had to get married and make a baby or two so the gazillion-year reign of the Windsors would not halt with her.  Unthinkable!  So they found the right guy.  Philip. Descendent of Greek royalty following a historical precedent that royals from various countries should marry for the preservation of national alliances. Related to Lord Mountbatten. Swings a mean polo stick whether atop either a horse or a bicycle. All the right credentials.

 

But once Prince Charles was born, the stud-service aspect was fulfilled. There was an heir to the throne.  The crown would continue. 

 

Okay, maybe churn out another prince or princess in case Chuckie was a total jerk or died or abdicated once crowned. Cover the bases. That box got checked off.

 

What to do with this guy once his biological mission was fulfilled?  Give him a desk, some stationery, a telephone. Trot him out at public events.  Name him to the boards of some charities.  But basically, leave him alone.

 

That leaving alone part?  That didn’t work out all that well. For all his royal look, he had both a mean streak and embarrassing things fell out of his mouth and onto Fleet Street at an unexpected rate.  

 

Her Majesty might have warned him about his bad driving and his bad-mouthing.  But divorce? Out of the question, even if she might have considered it. 

 

Appearances are important in this context.  And how would it look if Elizabeth started throwing his clothing and his stationery and his telephone out an upper floor window of one of their castles?

 

If there’s anyone whose picture should be next to Stiff Upper Lip in the Oxford Unabridged, it’s QE II. And it’s a good thing, too.  Scandals are part of royal DNA. But we’ve come to times when social media can spread word of them everywhere and instantly.  She’s the one with the tough job. In our view, she’s handling it pretty well.

 

I mentioned that Philip had the second-best job in the world. What’s the first?  Easy answer: Ex-president of the United States. Say and do what you want, when and where you want. The pay and benefits are decent. There’s no heavy lifting (except for Carter who built houses.) The hours are short, and the Secret Service still watches your back.

 

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

Any Questions?  wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

  

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

4715 The New Office

 

Time to re-think the office, especially if you have a decorating budget and are planning in post-pandemic terms. Recent trends go in two different directions.  There’s the IKEA look with its stark lines and emphasis on the thin and flimsy.  And there’s the Dragnet look which was modeled after a police precinct interrogation room. 

 

The Ikea look is modern and functional but tends toward the wobbly and is hard to assemble.  The instructions come from the same countries of origin as the pieces.  So you can choose between Swedish and Vietnamese.  Translations not included.  Of course, you may want no assembly required.  In which case the Dragnet look may be more your taste.

 

Don’t be fooled by those battered precinct desks.  If major musical instrument makers can sell new guitars and pianos that are intentionally made to look like they’ve been through shooting wars and bus crashes, so can desk makers. In one case, you can even get a reclaimed mahogany desk with names carved into the top and drawers full of new-old-stock lint and dust.

 

But before you go furniture shopping it’s wise to think a bit about what your office is supposed to accomplish. If it’s efficiency, we suggest a third look, the phone booth.

 

The phone booth is ideal for small spaces or large numbers of employees and anticipates further pandemics by being sealable.  Phone booths have doors, unlike cubicles and battered desks. They keep gossip to a minimum. They’re tall, so plenty of room for shelves, but not too much room.  They’re portable if you’ve found it’s cheaper to move than pay rent. They’re easy to clean.  And they’re cozy.

 

Your CFO has a hoarding problem? No problem. There isn’t room for much storage so she’s going to have to decide what to keep and what to throw.  In most financial offices, keeping too much stuff leaves you open for criminal charges with police get warrants to search the place.

 

Here’s something many offices can eliminate: the conference room.  Have your in-house meetings via booth-to-booth Zoom or closed-circuit TV.  They start on time, run shorter and end faster.  Plus you can always turn on the cameras to see who’s sleeping on the job.

 

Use the typical conference area to put up a garden shed with a refrigerator, a coffeemaker and a microwave.  They make ideal breakrooms.  And they, too, are portable.


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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


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...