Friday, October 09, 2015

1539 Sign Right Here Mrs. Clinton

1539 Sign Right Here Mrs. Clinton

Time for Hillary to sign the pledge.  If Trump can do it, so can she.  Here it is:

I, Hillary Rodham Clinton, seeking the Democratic Party nomination for president, pledge not to run as a third party candidate in the (unlikely) event you (fools) should (idiotically) fail to nominate me (even though it’s my turn.)  I further pledge to support the (obviously inferior) candidate of my party until (s)he’s elected.

Crazy, right?  Never happen that she’d run as an independent or form her own party in the first place.  So no need to sign such a pledge, right? Wrong.

She’s got the money to run “privately,” thus breaking the two party system. And what else is she going to do, go home to Armonk or wherever and actually become the grandma she plays on TV?

About that “two party system.”  It’s really not two parties, it’s one party and two half-parties with the same name, Republican.  One half is totally nuts. The other only mostly nuts.  It’s rare to see the dems as more unified and disciplined than the republicans.  But it’s happening before our very eyes.

So she gets shoved out of the limelight by, say, Bernie or Joe or the other two guys no one can remember (it’s on the tip of my tongue.  Governor… um… governor somebody and… and… that other guy.)  What’s to stop her herd of stupor PACs from channeling all that money into the Rodhamite Party and just continuing her brilliant campaign?

And there’s her personal fortune:  all those advances from publishers for books that no one even claims to have read. And those famously expensive speeches she gives.  Oh, and the foundation.  What’s it doing with all the cash it collected from those suddenly enlightened people and companies with absolutely no need for favors from the Secretary of State?

You’ve gone from coronation and inevitability to likely, to “I’m going to hold my nose and vote for you” in a big hurry.  But that hasn’t dampened your ambition, though it should have.

Both Republican parties hate you.  That’s reason to fight back. But your own party finds you barely tolerable.  And that could mean the next step is an independent candidacy.  If you do it, you’ll help elect some schlub like Fiorina or -- heaven have mercy -- Bush.

Of course, there are those who say Bush has already dropped out, he just doesn’t know it.

So please, Madam Secretary, Madam Senator, Madam First Lady, please sign the pledge and mean it.


--RIP Paul Prudhomme who made Creole food into a national treasure and who died yesterday at age 75 of a brief but unspecified illness.  With all his fame and fortune, he never lost his bayou country charm and earthy enthusiasm.  And although he never made a penny from it, he was probably also the man who made electric mobility scooters popular.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

1538 Stirring Occassionally

1538 Stirring Occasionally

It’s on every box of dry pasta, no matter the brand, country of origin, shape or ingredients.  

Boil the water. Put in the pasta.  Cook for X minutes (al dente) or longer (not al dente,) stirring occasionally.

What is occasionally?

It’s not like they mean keep it boiling until, say, Lincoln’s birthday.  Or Christmas. Or the wedding reception for your cousin Daisy with that guy Henry.  (Or in certain locales your cousin Daisy with your cousin Henry.)

So they probably don’t mean a special occasion.  Maybe they mean a “normal” occasion.  Like Tuesday. Or an un-special occasion. Like when you ran that red light last month and got caught and ticketed.

In the case of pasta, some people think every minute  is an occasion. So they stir every minute the pot is on the stove.

Others think stirring occasionally is when it’s about half done cooking.  

Don’t you wish they’d be more specific?

“Stir once every three minutes, give or take” or anything like it would be a welcome change in the directions. If you can actually find the directions in fine print buried among yummy recipes for things you’re never going to cook and a history of the manufacturer which started in a little storefront in Punto Orgolioso, Italy or some other town you never heard of.

The pasta in this house generally comes from Harrisburg, PA.  That’s because the company that bought the company that bought the company that bought the Ronzoni factory in Queens moved it to Harrisburg.  Without changing the wheat. But not without changing the water.

So the little storefront over in Punto Orgolioso doesn’t mean a whole lot.  We’re not gourmets. And we’re not historians, particularly ethnic food historians.

Sometimes we slip in a box of the supermarket store brand along with the Ronzoni.  Who’s going to find out or taste the difference?

And note that not all one pound boxes of pasta still contain a full pound.  The new standard is 13-point-something ounces and shrinking.  But I digress.

When income is good some months, and we’re feeling flush, we do switch from Ronzoni and the occasionally stirring inferior “house brand” to Barrilla. But that’s only occasionally.

Like for Lincoln’s birthday.  Or the cousins’ marriage.  


--Congrats to the National Football League.  September, 2015 marked the first month since 2009 that no active NFL player was arrested for anything.  Now THAT’s an… occasion!

--People who investigate shipwrecks are still wondering what happened to the freighter lost at sea during hurricane Joaquin. It was a ship caught in a category four hurricane. Ya think that might have had something to do with it?

--Fifty-seven degrees of separation? Cosby has been given that many honorary degrees.  Now the colleges who were so free with their sheepskins are debating whether to rescind them.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Monday, October 05, 2015

1537 Droning On About Drones

1537 Droning On about Drones

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a drone… and it’s heading right for one of the props on that Bell Ranger helicopter the police department is using in a search for a missing kid.

If the drone hits right, they’ll widen the search for cops missing in a helicopter crash.  You wouldn’t want that, would you?

Oh, wait. Sure you would.  You’re waiting for your same day delivery of Wolfgang Flaymeril’s “50 Prize Winning Turnip Recipe’s.”  Can’t let a police helicopter stand in your way.  After all, you have dinner guests coming over soon and you wouldn’t want to disappoint them with, say, an ordinary turnip recipe.

Given what the instruments are, drone pipes and strings are fine on bagpipes and banjos.  In the sky, they’re menaces.

Pilots of commercial and private aircraft get distracted.  There’s always a chance one will be sucked into the business end of a jet.

Sometimes, the drones stall in midair and crash.

Governor Brown (D-CA) recently vetoed bills that would have prohibited drones in certain air spaces. He did so for good reason.  There already are laws like that in California.  Not that they’re followed or their violators prosecuted.

We’re not talking here about unmanned military planes that can do what military planes do without putting crew lives at risk. We’re talking about the little toy-like ones that everyone and his great grandmother are buying instead of radio controlled aircraft which are much cruder.

We’re not even talking about drones that work sky- high construction sites.

By one estimate, sales of the toys and other small drones will reach ten billion dollars a year soon.  We’re talking about stuff that costs from about $50 to maybe a grand or two each.

If the sales projection is accurate, our sky will soon look like a bat blackout.

Except the bats eventually go away. On their own.  And they have radar. And they don’t crash to earth.

Meantime, you could have ordered the Wolfgang book a few days early, saved a bundle on shipping cost and saved those poor rescuers from sudden and horrible deaths.

You feel you must be in control of something? And the kids won’t listen. The dog won’t listen, the parrot talks back, the computer has a mind of its own then get yourself a radio controlled toy car.  Or even better, exercise your fingers with the TV remote. It will listen and obey.


--San Francisco’s last remaining gun nuts are in mourning because San Francisco’s last remaining gun store is closing.  It isn’t for lack of sales, though. It’s because a new law would require them to video record every transaction and report ammo sales to the cops every week.

--They record us everywhere else.  In the supermarket, on the highway, in the bank, probably in the bedroom for all we know. So why not the gun store?

--The murder rate in Ireland and Northern Ireland appears to be rising.  Could that signal an end to the end of “the troubles?” These things never really go away.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Friday, October 02, 2015

1536 Y2K 2.0

1536 Y2K 2.0

Remember all the fuss about how the world of computing was going to end in 2000?

The prophets of doom were out in force, although WestraDamus the non- prophet was right for a change. Nothing of the sort happened.

The world didn’t come to the kind of stop you get with ABS brakes.  The markets didn’t crash. Your medical records, such as were computerized back in ancient days were not destroyed.  Your credit cards worked. So did the toe-in-water on line banking you did.

Recently, the doomsayers were back in force.  Yesterday was the day everyone who accepted credit and debit cards had to be prepared to use the new “RFID” chips.  RFID means radio frequency identification.

If you shop at a place that’s not in compliance, they, not you, bear the burden of any fraud costs.

The new chips will make using a card simpler or more complex, depending.  Sometimes you’ll simply have to stick the card in a hard- to- notice slot near the bottom of a store’s reader.  But in some cases, you’ll then have to do that and then swipe the card as you normally do.

Shopping tip: If you have a choice of lines, don’t pick the ones where us tech- fumbling seniors dominate. The ones with young, computer savvy young customers and young computer savvy young cashiers are going to move faster

All this is someone’s brilliant idea about improving security.


Except for the really computer savvy geeks who sometimes read the chip by remote control.  Yes, there have been stories about card readers that in effect pick your pocket without actually touching you.

A whole industry has grown up over this fear.  It makes little envelopes with wire laced fabric that blocks the remote readers, thus protecting your information.  Supposedly.

How serious is the threat?  That’s hard to say.  But we haven’t had a tech scare with the heft and reach of Y2K since Y2K.  So let’s panic.


--Speaking of radio chips, did you know that your smartphone has a built in FM receiver but in most cases you can’t use it.  Carriers don’t activate them… because they don’t have to.  But some are starting to and that means you’ll be able plug in your headset and use it as an antenna… and that goes for all ten of you who still listen to traditional radio.

--Chick fil-a is opening its first full service store at 37th and 6th and most New Yorkers have heard of the franchise fast food shop only because of a years- ago flap about its anti- gay rights stand.  Success or failure will not depend on its in-your-face religion, but on the taste and price of the food.  It tastes just like chicken with a hint of steel belted radials.

--Is Syria’s Assad the new Saddam? Or Ho Chi Minh? Or any other head of state we’ve tried oh so successfully to replace?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Or not.
© WJR 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

1535 The Martian Chronicles (with apologies to Ray Bradbury)

1535 The Martian Chronicles (with apologies to Ray Bradbury.)

True or false: Mars is

--populated by Little Green Men who disappear when spotted by the NASA machinery.
--Has sent some of the LGMs to earth in flying saucers and now they live among us.
--Is planning to invade earth using global warming as a weapon of mass destruction.
--Is planning to invade earth by taking over the minds and bodies of whichever minority you most hate and/or fear this week.
--Has salt water streams.

Can they all be true? No.  Too many contradictions.  

Can they all be false? Yes. But we don’t know enough to say.

Can some of them be true-ish?  Sure.

The recently discovered hydrated salts on Mars give rise to academically sound theorizing that the planet is less dry than believed, at least in spots.

So, what should we do?  First thought is to send up a gift.  Maybe pond scum.  Be good for their rivers as it is for ours.

“We are making the solar system safe for American Democracy.  Or environmental protection. Or something.”  

Similar programs have worked well for us in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and countless other places.  And since the US is the World’s Brain, the Martians will listen to us and adopt our ways, bringing peace to the solar system.

Oh, wait.  There IS peace in the solar system except for small pockets here on earth.

Seriously, though, NASA’s take on discovery of hydrated salts is a little more enthusiastic than that of the scientists who analyzed the images.

After studying the information from the Mars Orbiter, the lead investigator, Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, told the New York Times “There pretty much has to have been liquid water recently present to produce the hydrated salt.”

“Pretty much has to have been...” is not the same as “Has to have been.”

Aside: we’re not talking about lake- size bodies of water, here.  We’re talking about damp ground.  Or maybe “pretty much” damp-looking ground.

What’s the big deal about water, anyway?  Well, where there’s water, often there’s life.  Often.  Pretty much. Not always.

But life on Mars is one of earthlings’ favorite speculations.  And it’s well founded. Think about it. Look at the night sky and ask yourself “how with all that’s up there can “we” be the only “intelligent life form?”

It doesn’t seem possible.

But just because some Little Green Man spat on the ground and then disappeared, keep your eye out for those invading flying saucers and the stolen minds of the minority you most hate or fear.


--Here’s a way to help ease our balance of trade deficit. Start including stolen military weapons stolen from those to whom we gave them.  Start with Syria.

--They use antiseptic swabs before administering lethal injections. Why? To move the veins closer to the skin.  Wouldn’t want to hurt them, now would we?

--Twitter is again considering ways to expand users’ 140 character limit. If that happens, it will have shed its main asset, forcing people to say what they have to say in a small space. This Shrapnel has 221 characters.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

1534 Car-ma

1534 Car-ma

What goes around, etc.  Volkswagen, “the people’s car,” was the brainchild of well known and vicious dictator and now has been hit with a time- release curse of its own making.

Automakers in general would rather live with their flaws than admit them even when people die.  But Ford recovered from the famous exploding Pinto. And it looks like GM is recovering from its death- dealing self- deactivating ignition switches.

Can VW do the same now that we’ve found out about its toxic diesels?  Exploding Pintos and faulty switches are mistakes.  Corrected badly and way too late, yet still mistakes.

But rigging a car that follows orders about when and how to behave and when to belch out hazardous fumes and not to -- like when it’s being tested -- is something else.

While the class action lawyers circle like buzzards, and the dealers looking to cover their eventual losses  circle like vultures, we have to ask “what is the right thing to do now.”

The obvious answers are:
The factory buys back the faulty cars.
The various affected countries fine VW.
The guy who caused creation of the shyster software goes to jail, along with the rest of the executives who knew what was happening and failed to stop it.

No one will die as a direct result of these belching fumes, at least not right away.  No trees will fall over tomorrow.  No species will be wiped out instantly.  And the creep of the east coast toward its new home in Cincinnati won’t happen any faster.

The long term damage to air, water, plants and animals?  Too early to say and anyone who tells you otherwise is either ignorant or lying.  Half a million cars -- the estimated number of emissions lawbreakers -- will not make a whole lot of difference.  We need to send a message.

You’ve read this here before: In this country, at least, vehicle making is the single most important of our remaining few industries and the largest buyer of metals, plastics, electronics, upholstery, glass and rubber.

The country can’t afford to allow this kind of damage. Even Adolf might agree.


--Headline: Iraq to share intelligence on ISIS with Iran, Syria and Russia.  That means the NSA will have to concentrate its hacking efforts on those countries, rather than its more important target, terrorists like you.  But intelligence -- by either popular definition -- is not what we need over there, and you know it.

--Outgoing House Speaker Boehner is taking a page from the playbook of his alleged arch rival, President Obama. John-boy is showing some spine by slamming the tea bags he’s been unable to herd, calling them “false prophets.”  Where were you, John, when you could have done something about this?

--The thumb-on-the-scale geniuses at Whole Foods have decided to open one of their new “bargain” mini stores in Los Angeles instead of the “full service” version they had announced.  This is getting all the neighborhood yuppies in a twist.  Don’t worry, kids, it’s not a slam against the up-scale-itude of your neighborhood.  Besides, there already are all kinds of places already open where you can pay more than you should for worse than you expect.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Friday, September 25, 2015

1533 But Back to the Speech

1533 But Back to the Speech

If you saw the pope’s speech to congress, no doubt you noticed he spoke to us in English.  He’s from Argentina, so you’d think that being an inclusive kind of guy, he would have said at least a few words in Spanish.

Maybe he’ll fix that obvious, insensitive omission during the New York leg of his US visit.  And since he was raised in a family of Italians, maybe he’ll even say a few words to New York’s still- enormous Italian rooted population.

But back to the speech.  

Oh. Just a moment. Was Ruth Bader Ginsburg nodding off?  Or was her head bowed in prayer?  Or both?

Along with Ginsburg sat Chief Justice John Roberts and associate justices Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor.  Another 5-4 decision, as Scalia, Thomas, Kagan, Bryer and Alito had better things to do.

But back to the speech.  

Oh. Just a moment. Biden and Boehner sat behind the Pope and while Biden clapped appropriately, Boehner had to think about it a bit and looked like he was working one of those gizmos that turns on the lights when you clap your hands.

But back to the speech.

Oh.  Just a moment. Wonder if the conservatives were anticipating the colonoscopy Francis gave them.

But back to the speech.

The talk started typically papal, alright. “Life at all stages… is sacred.”  Brace yourself for another anti- abortion diatribe.  But that didn’t happen. Sneaky Francis.

The he put the camera further inside the patients as he talked poverty and arms sales and wars and such.  And he singled out four Americans for having the right stuff:

Of Abraham Lincoln he said:  “Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.”

Martin Luther King:  “I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of "dreams". Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.”

Dorothy Day: “...who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.”

Thomas Merton: “ is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue -- a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons -- new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility.”

Note that for much of her life, the church didn’t exactly embrace Dorothy Day.  It was near the end of her life that they finally decided she wasn’t a communist, wasn’t an anarchist and was trying to make practical use of the church’s stated missions.  Still, you don’t hear her quoted a lot in Vatican circles and certainly not from a pope.

Pope fever will last a few more days. He has things to do in New York and in Philadelphia.  Then we can all go back to doing what we do best here: Marginalize the poor, put boots on the ground in places we’re not wanted in the name of a democracy we don’t ourselves practice and put a satisfied life out of the reach of anyone not on or near the Forbes 400.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015