Wednesday, April 23, 2014

1321 Dancing with the Star

When a school district has a zero tolerance policy about weapons and a kid brings a gun to school, he’s punished and should be.


When a school district has a zero tolerance policy about weapons and a kindergartener brings a rubber knife to school… what?


Well, is a rubber knife a weapon?  No, of course not. It’s a novelty toy.  But it LOOKS like a weapon. So the kid should be talked to about not bringing stuff like that to school.


But in many districts, that kid will do time in the attendance office or be sent home with a frightening warning.  Maybe even with a suspension.


And administrators will huff and puff and say things like “it’s out of our control.” Or “it’s policy. It has to be enforced in every case.” Or “We didn’t really do that,” when they did.


But zero tolerance is not limited to weapons and drugs and smoking and sexual harassment.


Here’s a case you may have heard about:


Patrick Farves is a geeky looking 18 year old high school senior in York, Pennsylvania, where so little happens that when a celebrity comes to visit, even a minor celebrity, it’s big news.


The celebrity in this case is Nina Davuluri, the current Miss America.  Ms. Davuluri is a certifiable babe, not the kind likely to give Patrick a second look, even if he weren’t five years her junior.


But Patrick has more guts than his nerdy appearance might lead you to think.  And during an assembly, he rose from his seat, a plastic rose in his hand, and to the cheers of his classmates, asked Miss America to accompany him to the senior prom.


Davuluri politely did not accept the invitation.


School officials -- not so politely -- handed Patrick a three day in-school suspension because he had been told not to do what he did and did it anyway.


Davuluri is of Indian-American heritage.  She was there to give her stump speech on the virtues of diversity.


But diversity is more than just about ethnicity.  It’s about thoughts and deeds and ideas and art.


And high school is not just about history and science and math and languages, driver ed, booze, pot and football, it’s about life.


What’s the lesson Patrick got from this incident?  Be sneaker than your nature dictates.  Learn to deal with rejection, but still shoot for the moon.


MissAm has asked the school to not go through with the suspension.


Someone saying she is an administrator in Patrick’s district, writing on facebook, attempts to “clarify” the situation by first denying anyone told the kid not to make his public invitation and then saying there have to be firm rules and if there weren’t, the district would be accused of lawlessness and failure to teach respect.


That paradox kind of sums up what goes on in schools these days.


Too bad the kid’s a senior and his college applications probably submitted.  If this were a year ago, it would be an attractive add to his extracurricular activities list.


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, April 21, 2014

1320 Earth Day

Anyone here remember Hugh Scott?  Scott was a congressman and then a senator then a high ranking senator from Pennsylvania.  He was a Republican in an era when there still was a Republican Party.

And on Earth Day in 1970 -- the first of them -- Senator Scott was a leader of the ceremonies.

Find someone like that now and you’ll be Diogenes with his lantern.

But despite the anti-environment climate change denying crowd today, Earth Day persists.  It’s tomorrow in case it’s not on your calendar.

We are to honor our planet or at least give lip service to honoring our planet.

Without getting into the details and petty disagreements, you can safely say that climate change exists even if you’re not sure how much of it people really cause.

You can recycle.  You can drive a hybrid.  You can question fracking.  You can install solar panels and windmills and you will do no harm.  But who knows if you will do any good.  Maybe you’ll make a little dent in the problem, maybe not.

Forty four years of Earth Day has helped shape awareness of our fragile existence.  But can we actually DO anything?

Acid rain is a thing of the past.  Rachel Carson’s book the Silent Spring may have been partly off the mark, but it made us aware. It made us think.  It made us act.  Or maybe overact.  Malaria is up since DDT has been down and out.  Is there no compromise?

Whether that action will ultimately do any good is an open question. Maybe we can live here without destroying the environment.  Maybe we have no control even over the small part we play in that game.

Maybe it pays to remember Hugh Scott.  Imperfect.  Sometimes wrong headed. But someone who took seriously our status as residents of Earth.

We have, of course, made progress.  Those bags made of recycled plastic are so easily broken they’ve become useless for suicide and murder.

And those reusable grocery bags are such an excellent breeding ground for bacteria, you have an excuse for continuing to use the almost equally dangerous antibacterial liquids.

But we’re still waiting for hybrid cars that run on double-a batteries.  GM is working on that.  Those cars will have no ignition switches.  And since it’ll have about 500 batteries, you’d better be careful about which face up and which face down.  Only one of them in the wrong direction will make the car useless.  And which one of the 500 did you insert wrong?

Shrapnel:

--Taxi driver Rodolfo Sanchez, 69 of Long Island City, Queens is the kind of crook we all like the cheer for.  Sanchez found a way to avoid paying tolls at New York City bridges and tunnels and did it 4,000 times and skipped paying 28-thousand dollars before getting caught  according to the district attorney.  We won’t tell you how he did it.

Grapeshot:
-Said with a straight face by an on-line retailer of compression hosiery used to reduce leg swelling: “(Merchandise) returned after 30 days will be subject to a 20% re-stocking fee.”

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, April 18, 2014

1319 American Values

We're always hearing about "American Values." I once thought I knew what at least some of them were, although I admit that my porthole view is based pretty much entirely on the era in which I grew up, and in the places.

We take care of our own with safety nets and don't rely on the whims of the charitable to do that for us. We offer opportunity for those willing and able to see it and use it.  We don't mind rich people, but we'll throw bricks when their greed gets so overwhelming that we can feel their heels on our throats.

We mine, we make things, we think things up, we farm and we try to do it in ways that don't hurt us or others. Mostly.

We take care of our friends around the world when they need us and ask for our help.  And we don't expect our generosity to be repaid at high interest, if at all.

We don't care where you go to church or if you don't. We're learning not to hate you because of your skin color though some of us do better than others.

We value intelligence.  We don't lionize ignorance and stupidity.

We aren't perfect and we know it. We believe that "no man is an island," even if we never heard of John Donne.

And we know that lifting yourself by your own bootstraps violates the laws of physics, even if we don't know the laws of physics.

We've always had our hucksters and con men and crooked financial types.  We've always had bum politicians (is that redundant?)  and bad teachers and medical phonies and sellers of snake oil.  We’ve had hysterical preachers thinking in tongues and raking in millions.

But it's only recently that we have ceded control of our lives to them. We hear them yelping about keeping the government out of our lives -- except our bedrooms.

We hear that our push to reduce remote-control violence is born not of a respect for life but of a fear of firearms.

And they use our terms to beat us senseless.  Freedom of choice (except for abortions.) Freedom of action (but let’s build even more prisons.) Freedom of speech (as long as you have the money to buy it.) Freedom of belief (except some of you.) Freedom of religion (but not FROM it.)

What has happened here?

Obsession with celebrity. Obsession with sports.

And worst of all, obsession with making ends meet, born of necessity. So much of our limited attention needs to be focused on survival there’s little left for anything else, and no energy.

The unnecessary unemployment crisis.  Stealth inflation at the supermarket, the gas station and the heating fuel supplier.  No matching increase in wages.  Stealth inflation in taxes (except for corporations and high figure “earners.”)

Are we heading down the highway toward making things worse?  Yes, not only heading down the highway, but heading down the Autobahn where there is no speed limit.

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, April 16, 2014

1318 The Jew Test

Three Kansas Nazis walk into a bar and order up.  One says to the others “I’m in the mood to kill some Jews.”  The second one says “sounds like a good idea, but this is Kansas… where you gonna find any?”  Third one says “hey, isn’t there some kind of Jew church down the road near that old folks home?”


Well, yes there is. So Adolf gets into his truck, heads for the synagogue, takes the rifle off the gun rack, gets out of the F-150 and starts firing at people outside.


He wounds a few and he kills three; heads back to the bar where his friends remained.


“Got me a bunch of them,” he says.  Addy has left a pretty easy trail to follow.  A couple of Jim Beams can get even the most dedicated Fuhrer careless.


The cops come in, they haul him off.  And when #2 and #3 visit him in the slammer, they have bad news:


“No one you killed was a Jew.”


“Y’all gotta be kidding, right?”


“Wrong, mein Herr.”


“Then why are they charging me with a hate crime?”


Well, it’s because of what you meant to do on top of what you did.


Unfortunately, there is no Jew Test.  And most of us look like any other white guy. Helps a lot while we work quietly and in covens to take over that small sliver of the world we don’t yet control.


You know what I mean.  The banks.  The media.  The legal profession, the medical profession the teaching profession, the courts the federal government.  All those things on which you True Patriotic Americans count on and/or revile.


Time was, there was a test.  You just take a guy into the woods and drop his pants.  But most people today get circumcised so the test has become unreliable.


Time was, some of us dressed funny.  Some still do.  But you can’t tell the Hasidim from the Amish until you’re close enough to see the whites of their eyes.


And those name changes… we use them to throw you off, sneaks that we are. When Shlomo Katzenburg, born in Kansas, changes his name to Steve Carson, man… how underhanded is THAT?


So you and Mr. Beam take your chances.  Afterall, who would hang out at a “Jew church” but Jews, right?  Wrong.


Oh, almost forgot to mention:  Y’all get charged with murder, as well.  You may not have taken Jewish American lives.  But -- good Christian that you claim to be -- you took lives.


The other day, they decked you out in an anti-suicide smock, and rolled you into court on a wheel chair.  But you’re no suicide “risk,” though many -- Christians and Jews alike -- would like you to have the chance if you want it.


The big bulky smock keeps you toasty-warm but it’s not a straight jacket… heavy as it may be, you can still move around.  


Achtung, sweety, your goose stepping days are over.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments, threats, hate mail and anti semitic diatribes to Wes Richards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

1317 Murder Mystery Cranks

Just once, can they make one of those cheap TV murder mysteries about a nasty victim?

Think about it.  Every time you turn on one of the nosebleed level channels, there’s a true crime story on.

Wives with Knives, Dark Minds, Evil Twins.  All of those on Investigation Discovery.  Over on WEtv, there’s Law & Order and CSI Miami which are fictional according to various disclaimers.  Of course, if you look hard, you often can find matching real crimes.

On USA Network, there’s Burn Notice, Psych, an assortment of CSI originals and spinoffs (spins-off?)  and a few repeats of Law & Order Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit.

Also “not” based on real events (wink, wink.)

But whether real or fictional, there’s an obligatory scene or two or ten in which a victim is described as:

--always friendly and helpful.
--having a smile for everyone.
--lighting up the room.
--a good neighbor.
--a pillar of the community.
--a devout churchgoer.
--generous.
--a devoted parent.
--the devoted caregiver for an elderly parent.
--the (man) (woman) you always went to for advice.
--a great listener.
--an honest, hard working (business owner, worker,) who always (showed up on time,) (could always be relied on for good [merchandise] [service.])

Who are these people?  Ever meet any of them?  

In death, they all become magical figures.

Once.  Just once, let them make a murder mystery about someone who

--always looked shifty-eyed.
--had strange visitors.
--acted like a (druggy) (drunk) (hotrodder) (hoodlum.)

Or who

--chased dogs off his lawn.
--abandoned his or her (spouse) (children) (cat.)
--owed everyone money.
--never returned the snowshovel.
--never had a good word for anyone.
--played loud music in the middle of the night.
--held parties on school nights.
--was a (left wing) (right wing) extremist.

All the victims are saintly?  C’mon!

Real crime happens to anyone.  But those who have their stories televised even posthumously -- especially posthumously -- are all Goodie Two Shoes or Twinkle Toes or the person you hope to meet on a dating site.

Maybe this is too extreme a wish.  Okay, here’s a compromise:

How about a story about a murder that happens to a completely ordinary human being.  Someone who is

--boring.
--quiet.
--waves hello but doesn’t bother much with you.
--returns your lawnmower.
--never has parties.
--has a humdrum job.
--pays his child support.
--goes to church or synagogue or mosque on important holidays but doesn’t speak Latin or Hebrew or Arabic.
--owes a little money which he or she pays off regularly, but has no outrageous outstanding payables.
--drives an eight year old Chevrolet sedan and fixes the muffler when it breaks.

Death in the boring lane!  It’s a winner.

Shrapnel:

--Turns out the guy they say shot and killed those people at the Kansas Jewish center and old folks home was a member of the Klan and a white supremacist. When they do HIS life story on Lifetime or I.D. they’ll at least have a nasty waste of flesh to talk about.  But you can be sure that the victims will all be painted as described above.

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, April 11, 2014

1316 A Comfortable War

Cold War II!


Maybe you haven’t noticed.  But the cold war is back.  Just like in the good old days between the end of World War II and the day Ronald Reagan personally removed every brick in the Berlin wall and Boris Yeltzin rode his open air tank into Red Square.


That current cute little guy riding bare chested on a bicycle into the same square, Vladimir, has set off events that have brought the US back into that cozy orbit that once so dominated our lives.


He had help of course.  Barack Obama and John Kerry imposed sanctions when Russia retook part of Ukraine and positioned troops to retake more.


This country has fought three major wars since WWII.  Korea, Vietnam and the middle east.


Korea was a “traditional” war.  Bang, bang. You’re dead.


Vietnam was a sneaky war.  Can’t tell friend from foe until it’s too late.


The middle east?  We don’t know who we’re fighting and guns play only a minor role, making way for airplanes that fly into buildings and suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices.


Now, once again, we know who the enemy is.  The Reds.  Although we can’t call them that anymore because American Republicans have painted themselves red.


Cold War II will have touches of modernity.  Russian spies will be wearing Armani suits, not the Robert Hall rejects of the old days.  They will have iPads.  But we know what a Russian spy looks like -- it’s not Boris Badenov -- and won’t confuse him with the innocent Emir in some sand mine or the wise old Imam down the street.


We don’t need those clunky old U-2 spy planes anymore.  We have satellites and the internet.  And so do they.


Putin and Obama have each other on speed dial.  And not just at the office.  They exchanged home and cell numbers long ago.


All of a sudden, it feels like home.  Mutually assured destruction.  Bribing mini-countries to be on one side or another.  Propaganda machinery on each side geared up and pumping.  Military exercises within sight of one another.


NASA depends on Russian rockets to get our people on and off the International Space Station.  You can bet we’ll get back into the rocket science business in a Moscow minute.


Meantime, we can invite Vlad to Disneyland or send vice president Biden to debate with him.


Ah, the good old days.  Happy days are here again!


Anyone have blueprints for a fallout shelter?


Shrapnel:


--Not that it’s necessary, but you’ll find that Stephen Colbert has more depth than the character he plays on his current late night television show.  Colbert’s taking over the CBS Late Show when Letterman retires may be the fastest replacement announcement in TV history. It took NBC forever to replace Carson.


--Fortunately, the senate doesn’t have to approve Colbert before he can take over.  But it does have to vote on the replacement of Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services secretary.  The President can expect a fight no matter who he nominates even if he nominates a computer whiz.


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

© WJR 2014