Monday, July 21, 2014

1359 A Tale of Two Restaurants

We wrote the other day about the great humanitarians at the Sarasota, Florida Cracker Barrel restaurant who fired a 70- something Viet vet for giving away a few packets of tartar sauce to an apparently homeless man who wanted a little something to dress up the fish he planned to cook over a fire.


Here’s a story about another restaurant -- also a chain outlet -- that handled things in a completely different way.


Mr. and Mrs. X of Columbia, Missouri were regulars at the local Red Lobster.  They loved the place.  It was their favorite.  They celebrated their first wedding anniversary there. And then their second.  And their third.  And their fourth.  In fact every anniversary up to 30.


Some time after their 30th, Mr. X passed away.  And when the anniversary date rolled around, their daughter thought she’d take mom to Red Lobster just to keep up the tradition.


And so they went.


Everyone at the place knew Mr. and Mrs. X.  And when their waitress suggested to the manager that they give Mrs. and daughter a dessert on the house he said “No.  Give them the whole meal, soup to nuts.”


Waitress sneaks into the back room, takes out one of those little plastic folders used to put the check on the table and instead of a check, writes a note.


The note says Red Lobster and your friends who work here and know and love you want to make you a gift of this meal.


This story was first told on the website of NBC’s Today Show. It did not identify the couple by name.  Privacy in a world without privacy.


It doesn’t much matter that you don’t know the names as long as you know the idea.


The corporation that owns Lobster chain is selling it.  They figure it’s worth a couple of billion. They’re in a bit of a financial jam -- aren’t we all? -- and Lobster is their crown jewel.


We don’t know if they have a policy about giving away food.  And we don’t know for sure whether the staff paid the bill out of their own pockets.


But as of now, no four legged lobsters have been boiled alive.  And it’s highly unlikely that anyone’s going to get anything but praise for this act.


The contrast between Barrel and Lobster is indirect.  But for one, it comes down to “let no good deed go unpunished.”  For the other, it shows there remains in this world people with heart.


Shrapnel:


--Of course there’s also plenty of room for the opposite, too.  For example, Vladimir. How is he going to explain shooting down that Malaysian plane?


--How long before Obama drops the charade and starts openly siding with Hamas?  The inhumanity of the moment inflicted by Israel is little compared to the decades of inhumanity inflicted on it.  We have a short attention span.


Grapeshot:


-Nice tribute to James Garner on YouTube.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

1358 Rupert? Call Him Lola

Why?  Because as we learned in the 1955 Broadway musical Damn Yankees “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.”  Adler and Ross knew a little about Rupert Murdoch, even if they’d probably never heard of him… likely because he was only 24 when “Yankees” opened at the 46th Street Theater.

Murdoch is the last Great Media Baron Standing.  Oh, yeah, there are other big tycoons of media: Barry Diller, Sumner Redstone, the current Hearst, the current Newhouse, Mike Bloomberg.

But there’s none who can swashbuckle like Rupert.  It’s hard to think of an absurd major deal he’s made in the last 30 years that has failed to turn to gold… if you discount a few websites for which he overpaid.

The Times of London, Dow Jones, Fox, and on and on.  And now the king of fake conservative sleaze, Page 6 gossip and Page Three nakedness has his little heart set on Time Warner.

Time Warner has separated itself from one of its two biggest losers, Time Inc.  It’s trying to separate itself from the other one, Time Warner Cable.

That leaves it with nothing but the cream of its media properties. Like CNN and Warner Bros. Pictures. And that sets Murdoch- the- cat’s whiskers twitching.  

Here’s the Murdoch acquisition technique:

--Make the bid which is usually rejected.
--Divide the owners or stockholders and buy in.
--Remake the offer, while promising he’ll keep his hands off of the acquisition.
--Stir up the waters until enough stockholders and stakeholders agree to his terms.
--Shed some conflicting divisions.
--Renege on all the other promises.

It worked with the London Times.  It worked with the Wall Street Journal.  And it’ll work this time.

In many ways, Murdoch improves what he buys.  The Journal, America’s greatest trade paper, was in the doldrums and is better as a part of NewsCorp.

The New York Post, always a make believe newspaper, is at least fun to read even if it does look like they made it up a week in advance.

Fox’s non- news, non- commentary channels have become a major contender in TV land because they’ve made bold moves:  “The Simpsons,” “House,” “American Idol,” “Cops,” “Family Guy.”

Murdoch may be a bad guy.  He’s a pirate.  He’s an ideologue. His media properties have a better CIA than the CIA.  He’s a terrible influence. He’s a right wing whacko.  You wouldn’t allow your daughter to date him, even if he is a doddering octogenarian and she wears a chastity belt.

But don’t count him out.  Don’t EVER count him out.  This may be his last hurrah.  But if he continues knocking on the door, someone’s going to open it at let him in.

Whatever Lola wants.

Shrapnel:

--Comic book shockers: Archie Andrews -- no longer a high schooler -- is killed defending his best friend who is gay.  The new Captain America of Marvel Comics is black. About time for both.

Grapeshot:

-Is any veteran LIRR rider surprised the “inevitable” strike won’t happen after last minute down to the wire breathless negotiations starring the lovely and talented Andrew Cuomo?

-Flying Malaysia Air is risky business these days no matter where you’re headed, no?

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

1357 The Sporting News

Okay, everyone, you can go back to your seats and relax now.  Germany has won the World Cup and LeBron has returned to the Cavs.


A world at last at rest.


Soccer fans -- known everywhere in the world but here in the US as football fans -- are nuttier and more volatile than American football fans.


There hasn’t been a knock-down-the-stands riot at an NFL game in this country since Columbus.


Unlike baseball’s World Series, the World Cup really is an international affair.  It’s also a big bucks operation.


The host country this time, Brazil, proved that it could hide reality long enough for most of us to forget how terrible conditions are for some there.  High crime.  Street urchins. Poverty. Disease.


No, the Brazil we all saw was pretty women, intense athletes, nice, sparkling playing venues (don’t lean against those walls, please. They’re scenery, not structure.)


So after nine-thousand rounds, there’s a winner… this time, Germany. Makes college basketball’s March Madness seem like a cameo instead of the endless betting parlor it really is.


Speaking of Basketball: LeBron James is a really really good basketball player.  And he’s a native of Ohio.  And he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers for a long time.  He was a first draft pick back in the day.  And they picked him.


After seven seasons, he went to the Miami Heat.  Now, after weeks of intense guessing about his future, he shocked the world by going home.


The Cavs can use his help.


The Heat was getting cold.


And this is no knuckle dragging dummy.  His new 19 million dollar contract has an escape clause after a year.  And lots of other bells and whistles.


Plus at the age of 29, James has to think about his future.


Many a burned out or retired professional athlete has found himself adrift after the games are over.


Some stay in the public eye.  Shaq has commercials for Gold Bond, Icy Hot and Buick.


Michael Jordan is everywhere.  So is Magic Johnson.


So James has to keep an eye on the ball -- where it is and where he thinks it will be.


And based on the Hamlet-like public pondering about where to go after the Heat, we see James has a good eye for the public eye.


More power to him.  And more money.


Shrapnel:


--While we’re on the sports page, a question.  Why does the American League “always” win the all-star game, as it did last night?  As they used to say in Brooklyn, “wait ‘til next year…” when there’s no more Jeeter.


--Newspaper columnist Maureen Dowd recently wrote a piece skewering Chelsea Clinton for receiving 75-thousand dollars per speaking appearance. In it, Dowd didn’t mention that she charges only 30-thousand a pop, according to the watchdog group Media Matters. Maybe the Texas red head is just green with envy.


--New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is heading to Italy and a vacation later this week.  Hardly the time to blast off, Mr. DeBlastoff.  With a commuter rail strike looming the only place you should be is City Hall.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

1356 Bottom of the Cracker Barrel

If this doesn’t make your blood boil, there’s something wrong with you.

Cracker Barrel is in trouble again.  This time it’s because it fired a Viet vet in his 70s who gave a homeless guy in Sarasota a muffin and some packets of tartar sauce.

The old fashioned southern themed restaurant chain has a worthy rap sheet.

Back in the early 1990s it circulated a staff memo which said in not so many words “if you appear to be gay, you go away.”  People lost jobs.

Founder Dan Evins said that was a mistake.

Really, now?

Fast forward to 2004 when the Justice Department said the chain segregated customers by race, providing worse and slower service to non- white customers and seating them last.

In 2008 Cracker Barrel distinguished itself yet anew by coming in with the lowest score in the Human Rights Campaign’s measure of LGBT treatment in chain restaurants.

And now, it’s after Joe Koblenzer.  He’s white and as far as we know straight.  So what was his sin?

A homeless guy with a fish walked in, said he was going to cook it over an outdoor fire and asked Joe for some condiments so he could dress up his “dinner.”  Joe knuckled under to this highly unreasonable request and gave him not only the tartar sauce but one of those small stomach-sinker muffins the restaurant sells.

Not only that, but Joe once took a coke and didn’t pay for it. And he stands accused of giving another customer down on her luck a free cup of coffee… although he denies that.

Grand larceny fish sauce.  Get this guy off the streets.  Book him, Danno.

A cup of coffee there costs … what, a buck? Two? Condiment packets go for about $50 a ton, even less when you use auto-delivery.

And muffins?  Doesn’t matter what they cost.  After sitting in the tray for an hour, they sell them to concrete companies at a good profit.

And then the corporation puts out this memo with a straight face:


“Mr. Koblenzer has worked as a host at Cracker Barrel’s Sarasota store since April 2011. During the time he was employed, he violated the Company’s policies regarding consuming food without paying or giving away free food, on five separate occasions. Mr. Koblenzer received multiple counselings and written warnings reminding him about the company’s policies and the consequences associated with violating them. On the fifth occasion, again per Company policy, Mr. Koblenzer was terminated.
Cracker Barrel is grateful for and honors Mr. Koblenzer’s service to our country as we honor all service men and women and their families.”
We’re especially impressed with the punchline about honoring his military service.

Counseling?  Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall when that was going on.

Joe told the local ABC TV affiliate that they certainly had the right to fire him, and of the negative publicity “I wouldn’t wish that...” on them.

And he’s looking for a new job to help bolster his meager Social Security check.  But probably not in a restaurant.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014



Friday, July 11, 2014

1355 Joan Rivers

1355 Joan Rivers


What’s not to love. She’s raw.  She’s funny.  She’s crazy like a fox.  She makes people laugh.  But there are limits… and what you’re about to read has nothing directly to do with her.


To bring you up to speed if you’ve been so focused on the World Cup that you aren’t aware of Rivers’ interview on CNN.


She’s flogging her new book.  She goes on with Fredricka Whitfield who asks a lot of vapid questions, evidently thinking that she’ll get a rise out of the old star and it will be funny.


Instead, Rivers gets insulted… sits still for another few questions… then takes out her earpiece and walks off the set.


The tabloids say it was a publicity stunt.


A few days later, Joan’s on Letterman and he asks her about the interview.  As she’s trying to answer, he rises from the anchor chair… takes off his coat… drops it on the desk and walks off the set.
Sends the audience into a laughter attack.  She continues interviewing herself and then breaks for commercial.


If this wasn’t pre-planned, these two are funnier than you first thought.


Well, those of us who don’t stay up for late night TV missed it.  But thanks to facebook, it was there for all to see.


And see… and see and see.


There were 50 different postings of the two minute clip.  Fifty.  An actual count.  So much so that it squeezed all the regular friends so far down the page they disappeared.


Once would have been enough.  Two maybe.


Does Facebook give you a way to blank out unwanted posts?  Usually, yes. But not in this case.


The only way to get rid of the 49 duplicates was to block her.  Unfair to her.  Unfair to those of us who would have done with once or twice.


Guess the “service” is too busy changing its format, gathering information about you and forcing unwanted megaposts on its users that it didn’t have time to put that “hide” button on posts two through 50.


How to turn something fun into something useless, annoying and obnoxious.  They could write a book.  Or fifty.


If you like Rivers, Youtube has a million different clips.  You can watch for hours and without commercials. Or you can tune into her two TV shows.  Or watch her hawking her namesake clothing on QVC.


Even that’s funny.  And it doesn’t crowd you unless you want it to.


Shrapnel:


--Note to HLN:  do news, even though that would mean canning your big three evening “stars.” Nancy Grace is wrong even when she’s right.  She and Jane and Drew need to be put on a boat or plane headed for the alternative universes in which they apparently live.

--Congress shut down and no one noticed.  This time, it supposedly wasn’t a Republican plot, it was an asbestos emergency in the wee small hours of the morning. Or maybe they learned how to make a time bomb that spews asbestos.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

1354 Bubbles in the Air

Private business and the government each work in their own bubble.

The motto on the government bubble: "We Are The GOVERNMENT and we don’t care."

The motto on the business bubble:  "We Are Capital.  We can exist without you, but you can't exist without us."

Often, it's when the interests of each coincide that we here in the economy class seats get the turbulence.  We're easier targets and we have no legitimate voice... and those who pretend to speak for us are full of banana oil.

But often these two supposed enemies work closely together.

The battle between the defense dept and the big contractors is like Wrestlemania.  Anyone can make any noise or moves as long as the match ends according to script.

Meantime, Apple and a flock of other corporate patriots become offshore companies who pay little or no US taxes.  And since the government can't go offshore, it finds ways to get even.

Usually, that means a slap on the wrist for an Enron-level crook or the “sudden” discovery, prosecution and jailing of a Bernie Madoff.  But they don’t touch Apple or the others who are too big to prosecute.

Yes, the government tends to look forward and the business looks to profit and protect itself.  This is tribal.

And we tend to think of both the government and private industry as competing monoliths.  But they aren't.

To those of us in the cheap seats, Siva Rangarajan who runs the Exxon station down the block IS Exxon.  And there's no difference between the Secretary of Labor and the social worker who removes kids from a bad home and into a bad foster home.

And we're wrong.  

The people who think the federal government should run like a household think the same as the people who think the government should run everything.

And they’re both wrong.

You can bet that any time the government wants to deregulate or privatize anything there are dollar signs in their eyes.

Same with private industry.  Those who want to rent the highways or the lottery system or the penal system.

No one has yet advanced privatizing the district attorney or attorney general’s offices.  But can the day be far when that happens?

Sometimes the business bubble and the government bubble collide.  But there’s usually no damage.  They are, after all, bubbles.

Sometimes, though, there are spikes attached to one bubble and not the other.  And that’s when the real trouble starts.

Shrapnel:

--So this big bulky guy falls asleep at a major league baseball game and his gut is hanging out and his posture is that of a dead man and the camera’s all focus on him and the sportscasters make fun of him.  Now, he’s filed suit against MLB, claiming his reputation is ruined.  Reputation for what… alertness at a game that put practically everyone to sleep?

--Because the game was at Yankee stadium, the suit was filed in the courts of the New York City borough of the Bronx.  So don’t hold your breath for a decision or a settlement.  Everyone knows the Bronx court system is where cases go to die.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014

Monday, July 07, 2014

1353 Speaking Ill of the Dead

Richard Mellon Scaife wasn’t all bad.  It just seemed that way.

First, let’s get the billionaire thing out of the way. It’s not like this guy was hurting for money.  The Forbes 400 list puts his fortune at $1.4 billion.

By no means is that chump change.  But to put the number in perspective, he was tied with nine other men for slot #371. Still on the list, but close to bringing up the rear with Gates and Buffett and the Waltons and Kochs at or near the front and at or close to the pole position.

Scaife is universally described as the “heir to the Mellon banking and steel fortune.”  And that he was when he died the other day, a day after turning 82 years old.

He also was the owner and publisher of the Tribune Review newspaper of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  And Scaife’s right wing politics notwithstanding, it is a decent sheet, especially by today’s standards.

And he was the chief benefactor of the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, which is where the story gets interesting.

The head shyster at the Pepperdine law school is a fellow named Kenneth Starr.  If you are older than your early 20s, that name means something to you.

Starr was the chief overprosecutor in the Clinton scandals.  A pit bull of a guy who tried to twist everything Bill Clinton did, was alleged to have done, and didn’t do into misplaced moral outrage.

Scaife was hard on Starr’s side until one day he accused the lawyer of being a Democratic Party plant.  Huh?  So it’s pretty safe to assume that Scaife could have kept Starr out of Pepperdine, but didn’t.

He obviously hated Hillary who called him a ringleader of the “vast right wing conspiracy,” which he was.  But days before the ‘08 presidential primary, the Tribune-Review endorsed her bid against Barack Obama.  And the Tribune-Review did no such thing without the consent of its owner.

So, when as first lady, Mrs. Clinton invited him to a black tie shindig at the White House and treated him warmly, he was quoted in the New York Post as saying he was honored and “Lord knows it’s more than I got from George (HW) Bush.”


Scaife was the heart, soul and bankroll of the extreme right wing in this country well before the Kochs arrived on the scene.  But he also was a major donor to abortion rights and public broadcasting.

Since he identified “libertarian,” the abortion rights thing passes muster.  So does his favoring same sex marriage.  But PBS?  The government owned broadcasting monolith?

Goldwater was his boy.  Nixon.  All the old pre-tea party right wingnuts.  Note, that they weren’t nearly as foolish, stubborn, impractical as today’s versions.  And not nearly as nuts.

Scaife wielded a good pen or typewriter or computer terminal if the stuff he published in the Tribune under his name was “all his own work” as your middle school history teacher liked to say.

So we say goodbye to this pioneer of the trouble he helped get us into today and note that while in his time, much of the country thought he was all bad. They were wrong.  Just mostly.

(Notes:  The quote attributed to the NY Post was attributed first to the Washington Times and reprinted by Wikipedia.  The other billionaires said to be worth 1.4 billion each on the Forbes List:

David Einhorn, Chase Coleman III and Lou Bacon -- hedge funders.
Gary Burrell -- navigation equipment. John Clark -- Netscape. Chris Cline -- coal. William Ford Sr. -- cars. Patrick Ryan -- insurance and Richard Yuengling, Jr. -- Beer.)

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Petty disagreements and other comments welcome at wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014