Friday, September 23, 2016

1698 No Laughing Matter

Here’s the quandary:  The old pressure cooker no longer works.  It’s one of those snazzy electrical things, with a 1990-ish Star Trekky control panel on a brushed chrome body.  It’s taking a lot of valuable cupboard real estate and we have to get rid of it.

Sounds like a simple problem. Isn’t. You can’t put something like that out on the curb for collection without attracting a visit from the bomb squad.

Thoughts wander in this direction:  A cop with a bullhorn at 3 am on a weekday announces for all the neighborhood to hear

“This is the police.  Your house is surrounded. Come outside with your hands up.”

Thoughts of eager officers with one of those break-down-the-entrance ramrods eager to swing it at the front door, turning it to splinters and rolling a flash-bang grenade into the living room followed by a canister of rifle-launched teargas.

The bomb robot rolls to the curbside pressure cooker, picks it up, rolls it into a truck with steel walls three feet thick and slams the door shut.  Then we’re all cuffed and herded into patrol cars or a paddy wagon and taken “downtown” for interrogation.

Meantime, as the teargas clears, still more officers, these in hazmat suits, are scouring the house for traces of ammonium nitrate or dispatching bomb dogs to sniff every corner.

Guys!  It’s just a pressure cooker.  No bomb. Just a broken 1990s Star Trekky kitchen appliance.

Okay, curbside disposal is out.  Maybe we can bag the thing and after dark slip it into someone’s dumpster.  That’s a crime called theft of services.  But it sure beats a visit from the bomb squad and its ramrods, flashbang grenades, tear gas canisters, hazmat suits and handsome German Shepherds with sensitive noses.

Except when Homer and Gomer take their trash to the dumpster and spot the chrome thing and call the police, the scene will take place as described and cause a fuss out in back of the big box store.

The place and surrounding buildings will be evacuated and closed for the duration.  They’ll find fingerprints on the cooker -- our fingerprints -- and the whole break-down-the-door scene will spread to our house.

It’s just a pressure cooker, officers.  No bomb. Nothing but the fumes left by years of cooking the yummy kind of mush that pressure cookers make.  One pot dinners. Can’t you see the little picture of Wolfgang Puck or Emeril or Paula Deen on the side there?

Who would want to blow up Wolfgang or Emeril or Paula?  (Well, maybe Paula… but really!)

Maybe we should rent a steam roller and flatten the thing in a road somewhere. No one would be bothered by the sight of a former pressure cooker that’s been reduced to two dimensions by a 44-thousand pound steamroller.  

Plus where do you rent a steamroller?

Maybe just leave the pot in the cupboard.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

1697 Larry Kingski

What are Larry King and Ed Schultz doing on the Russian government owned TV channel RT America?
Talking, what else?  
American broadcaster Larry King holding microphone

Americans don’t take kindly to offshore owners of media unless it’s Rupert Murdoch (who became an American citizen so his company could own actual TV stations in this country.)  Or maybe the BBC, because they’re so… so English.  But Russia?  The Red Slave Empire reimagined for the 21st century?

RT wants to be known as a legitimate news outfit.  At least that’s what their publicists say.  What they say in Russia is Demigod Putin started this “service” to sneak into the US with Russia’s point of view.

It’s kind of the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty in reverse.  Remember Radio Moscow? And if you watch it, which an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t, it’s perfectly clear which side they’re on.

King’s program is sold by a syndicator called Ora Media.  One of its head guys is a man named John Dickey.  

Asked about putting All-American Larry King on PutinVision, he said every network has a particular viewpoint and Ora is only a seller of programs.  

Does Larry King need the money?  Does Schultz? CNN busted King and MSNBC busted Schultz.  Ed did nothing for awhile. Larry did and does infomercials for questionable health-inducing potions.

King is 82.  Time to slow down, fella. He does a fairly decent interview under the right circumstances… like when someone hands him a sheaf of research and he actually reads it… or he reads at least the dust jacket of an author’s latest book

Schultz is only 62.  And while he’s a lefty, he carries on with the bluster of Rush Limbaugh and the charm of Tales from the Crypt.

No one has taken either of these guys seriously for ten years.

To both we say отвяжись which is pronounced ot-vy-az-HIS'.  And it doesn’t mean “have a nice day.”


--This Ahmed Rahami fellow will soon be in court where he can tell us his little bombing spree in New York and New Jersey was because he had a tough childhood and be assured, he’s “not a bad person.” Further we will learn about his lifelong devotion to his religious beliefs and all the other claptrap these guys always spew.  Good thing he’s more inept than inspired.

--How long before Governor Doublewide (R-NJ) is subject to a recall movement?  The prosecutor in the George Washington Bridge intentional traffic jam nonsense says Chris Christie knew about the problems as they happened, something he’s denied. There goes that appointment as Secretary of Morals and Morale in the Trump cabinet.

--We always wanted to live in a pre-war triplex and we do.  Unfortunately it’s not in Manhattan.  And the war it was built before was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Monday, September 19, 2016

1696 Subtitles

Oh what a fuss they made when some of the big opera companies installed this machinery.  It lets you know in English what’s going on.

Dialogue; words to the arias. It’s all right there for the Great Unwashed to see. The code is broken. No longer do you have to be a scholar to know the story or the words.

“There goes the neighborhood” sniffed the Opera Cossacks.

Televised opera soon followed suit. Subtitles. The same Cossacks were even more outraged!
“Caruso would be apoplectic” they sniffed. (Actually, Caruso would probably would say “passi prego lo scozzese,” which means “please pass the scotch.”)
They have the right idea. But they haven’t taken it far enough.

Let’s expand it. Start with rap. Anybody know what these guys are saying? Put up subtitles in English and you can find out.
“Emsa so great can’ gettaday t buttum notgunna hesitate. gonnamate.” Thus becomes “I’m so great, though I can’t get a date but I won’t hesitate. I’m going to mate (anyway.”)

Loses nothing in the translation, except the cowardly hiding behind the mumbles.

You can do heavy metal the same way.
Thus “eeeeyu waaa baaaaa SCREEEEEEEEM” becomes “my life sucks and it’s your fault.”

But why limit this to music. Or to what passes for music these days?

Medical appointments, political statements, laws and the like also deserve subtitles.

DR. SKIN to patient: That is a suspected malignant melanoma. Let’s take a piece and do a biopsy.

SUBTITLE: That is a malignant melanoma. We need a biopsy to confirm, but I’d bet if you leave it alone for six months you’ll be dead.

DR. OBGYN to patient: This will feel a little cool and you may feel some pressure.

SUBTITLE: I’m going to freeze your private parts off and it’s going to feel like there’s an elephant in there.

HOLISTIC “DOCTOR” to patient: The medical establishment is trying to keep it quiet, but our double-blind scientific tests show this stuff will definitely cure your cancer, heart condition and muscle pain. Just take six tablets three times a day.

SUBTITLE: we don’t know what this junk does, but it’s our major profit center and we’d not only like you to try it, but we’d like you to become a “distributor” and you’ll rake a little off the top of every bottle sold by anyone you recruit.

DENTIST to patient: We’re almost done.

SUBTITLE: maybe another hour or two and we’ll be at the point where we can think about getting you out of the chair.

AUTO TECHNICIAN to customer: You’re next.
SUBTITLE: your car is a mess. Come back next week, we’ll probably be finished by then.

GASOLINE PRICE SIGN: Unleaded Regular 2.48 (9.)
SUBTITLE: $2.49.

JUDGE JUDY to courtroom: Ruling in favor of the Plaintiff for $250.

SUBTITLE: Pay the guy 250 dollars for the hole you knocked into his trailer.

STOCK ANALYST to customer: We don’t think United Widget will meet our expectation for fourth quarter earnings this year.

SUBTITLE: Sell this mutt.

KEN LAY to Enron stockholders: Buy.

TOBACCO EXECUTIVE to Congress: There’s no scientific proof that nicotine is addictive or that smoking causes lung cancer.
SUBTITLE: Your mother had cancer because of tree pollution and she CHOSE to smoke four packs a day. All we did was make the stuff available.

RUM COMPANY EXECUTIVE to news media: We find that at a certain level, the consumption of 151 proof beverages has a fast acting and moderately long-duration effect on the autonomic response times of a particular class of individuals.

SUBTITLE: Drink a shot glass of this stuff and you’ll be drunk for a week, and a menace on the roads. If you’re 14 and under, it’ll kill you in 20 minutes or less.

GENERAL to Congress: We call it a peace keeper missile system because The Aggressor will not want to engage us in any meaningful way.

SUBTITLE: we can blast those clowns back to the stone age by pushing two buttons in a missile silo in the middle of the desert. I hope they’re stupid enough to try something.

ROAD SIGNS: Route 495 East, Route 87 North, Traffic Moving Well To Cross Island Parkway.
SUBTITLES: Long Island Expressway AWAY from the city, New York State Thru-way to Albany, Traffic not too bad until you get there. Then, it’ll “well” into a total screwup.

MAGAZINE to subscribers: Published bi-monthly .

SUBTITLE: published every other month except combined issues in March and August and a triple issue in December-January-February, and no issue in May on alternate leap years. All of which means you never know when the thing’ll show up.

IRS to taxpayers: Combine the totals on lines 12a and 14b, then subtract the total on line 23f.

SUBTITLE: we haven’t figured this one out yet.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2006 Which means this is a slightly edited re-run.

Friday, September 16, 2016

1695 Doctors As Seen on TV

Image result for medical symbol
One of our favorite heavy bags is Mehmet Oz. This bird has a rep as a master thoracic surgeon and has parlayed it into a professorship at an Ivy League college and a popular television show.

You can’t blame him, really.  Medicine, even thoracic surgery doesn’t pay as well as it used to, what with the harsh realities of Obamacare. So Oz spends a few days a week (probably three) taping his five day a week television show.

He’s handsome.  He’s warm and friendly. He’s the kind of guy you wish your daughter would marry.  He’s also a first magnitude huckster and the other day, he switched from miracle weight loss herbal supplements to political candidates.

Make that one political candidate, another world class huckster, Donald Trump. The two men laughed and joked their way through Trumps until- now secret medical report.

Hey, Ozzie… did you actually examine the patient? No? So how do you know whether any of the claptrap you were fed and then turned around and fed to your audience of hypochondriacs contained a molecule of truth?

You can prance and dance. You can offer theatrical- grade empathy, but you can’t know.  

At least CNN’s medical reporter, Sanjay Gupta, will admit he can’t perform diagnosis by television or telepathy.

Gupta is to neurosurgery as Oz is to thoracic.  Famous, professorial, accomplished, skilled with a scalpel and a pitch.

Then there’s Dr. Ian Smith.  He’s less well known but also skilled and personable. NBC and VH1 are his areas of expertise. But he too walks a fine line in the recommendation department.

(Aside: Dr. Smith, amiable and knowledgeable, is African American.  What kind of African American mother gives her son the name of one of the most vicious late-era white supremacists on the African continent?)

Doctor Drew is in a class by himself. He not only diagnoses through the ether albeit in the most cautious of terms, he does not restrict himself to his stated field of expertise, addiction.

And then there’s Doctor Phil.  He’s not an MD and therefore not restricted to stogy and restrictive medical ethics when he gives those picture in a minute psychological evaluations to his guests.

And he insists that his show is “only” entertainment.

Ask your own doctor a question like this:  Doc, my brother in law has been complaining of headaches. I should I give him Tylenol, Advil or an aspirin… or just put an ice pack on his head?

The only legitimate answer would be “I’d have to see the patient and his chart. I can’t diagnose or recommend anything without first putting him on the table, listening to his complaint, questioning him and examining him.”

Trolling for patients and a paycheck, you think?  Absolutely not.

So the next time you hear or see one of the tele-docs prescribing or almost prescribing for Donald Trump or anyone else, turn off the set or go back to watching “Fear Factor” or “The O’Reilly Factor” or something else you know in advance is fiction.

Paraphrase of the day:
-“He’s a disgrace.” -- Former soldier Colin Powell, (R- Banana Kelly) when asked about Donald Trump.

--Let’s hear it for people who know what they don’t know.  They are the least likely to tell you what to do and in what order.  And they’re the least likely to issue “shoulds,” “ought-as” and “have tos.”

--They’re building a bridge to nowhere in this neighborhood.  Wait… that’s not right, they’re building a bridge to a golf course.  Wait... that IS right.

--All those head injuries may mean an eventual end to football, a pretty dangerous “sport.” But soon they’ll connect golf and skin cancer.  Then maybe they’ll end that misuse of open land and exclusivity.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

1694 The Bank Robs You

So, 55-hundred people walk into a bank, guns drawn and get away with millions.  Um… well, that’s not exactly the way it happened.  But Wells Fargo just paid $185 million in fines and is working to restore the actual amount its workers stole.

How does something like this happen?  Easy.

Say you’re the bank. First you spend all kinds of effort and money on market position. Hey! We’re the cuddly bank, just like in the old west where we’re headquartered.  Just mosey in and a friendly guy in a cowboy hat and a ‘49ers jersey will take care of you.

Except that’s just teller’s window dressing.  What’s the reality? Here are some of the bank’s autobiographical stats: Two trillion dollars in assets, profits $22.9 billion in 2015.  Employees: 265 thousand including the 5500 robbers who’ve been fired.  That’s close to General Electric’s head count and higher than GM’s.  

So it’s a big place.  And like many big places, most of the work gets done in boiler rooms and computer massifs.  And that’s where the real robbery took place.

Five thousand- plus people opening fake bank accounts for real existing customers, sending them valid credit cards and other accounts they didn’t apply for.  Letting them run up fees.

Apparently the boiler room and massif crowd received a dollop of cash for opening each new account.  So at least 55-hundred were getting extra money they worked for but didn’t earn.

Snoozing regulators awoke long enough to fine the bank. And Wells Fargo’s front office woke up long enough to fire the holdup men and women (surely there were women in on this unless there’s a glass ceiling in this kind of organized crime.)

This had been going on for awhile.  A customer sued them over it last year.  Now, all of a sudden this is big news.

Wall Street likes this stock.  Consistent profits, big name major stockholders like Berkshire Hathaway and Vanguard and State Street.  The three together own about 20% of the stock. “Tight ship” is a description one often hears.  And although it doesn’t look that way to the naked eye, it may be so.  

Part of the tightness may be the whipmasters whipping the people rowing until they go over the legal line to meet targets.  Could this be?  Here? In the capitalist paradise?

How about a committee of the 20%-ers to find out and fix this.

Note to CEO John Stumpf:  If you see Warren Buffett wandering around in the executive suite, worry.  And don’t stand near any windows on high floors.

--It’s no secret that Wells Fargo grew to elephantine size by buying competitors.  What many don’t know is that the trend started in its very first years. The founders owned American Express and formed WF in 1852, then bought out other stagecoach companies. Along the way, they gobbled up Crocker National Bank, First Interstate and Wachovia among others.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

1693 There's Something About Hillary

Hillary Clinton has pneumonia. Add that to the list of things we hate her for.

Lucky break for the Clinton bashers. After all, the gas tank of other fake scandals is down to fumes.  When was the last time you even heard the word “Benghazi” in a hit piece?  How quickly we forget!

Whitewater, the Clinton Foundation, the emails, Vince Foster’s death, Hillarycare, the White House Travel Office… each has lost its luster.

But because it’s wrapped in medical speak, this opens a whole new kind of attack.  Instead of the nefarious doings of a money hungry former federal employee, the right wing can trot out torment wrapped in sympathy.

By the time you read this, some doctor in the pay of some PAC will have pontificated from your TV set that “Pneumonia is a dangerous affliction” and that for her own good, Mrs. Clinton should withdraw from the presidential campaign.

It isn’t. She shouldn’t.

Some tenured professor of “political science” will come next to say “It’s impossible for someone with this condition to maintain the pace required by a modern US president.”

Some right wing talking head will follow with “liberalism causes physical illness because of tension over stealing money from job creators and knowing ‘in her heart’ that she is wrong about… about everything.”

(Why is it that right wingers “know” with their hearts instead of their rational thoughts?) (That’s a rhetorical question.)

FDR served while his body was ravaged by the aftereffects of a crippling disease.

Eisenhower served with a heart that in today’s world would have put him on a transplant list. And he probably had IBD, inflammatory bowel disease.

Kennedy also had IBD and served with a back bad enough to put most of us in a wheelchair.

Nixon served while being treated for phlebitis.

Reagan served with the symptoms of early stage Alzheimer’s and the shock of a bullet wound.

George H.W. Bush served with Graves disease.

We worried.  But there was no thought of turning these men out of office -- at least not for health reasons.

But there’s something about Hillary that makes her illness further fodder for the tornado- like pounding she’s been subjected to throughout her public life.

Only in America do we elevate major felons into legends and heroes.  Capone, Gotti, Billy the Kid, Bernie Goetz each gets a pass while a slightly shady political character is maligned by the hour.

But there’s something about Hillary.

-If elected, Clinton will probably be a so-so president, of which we have had many… but the world won’t end.

-If she’s not elected, fasten your seatbelts and turn your assets into tangibles.

-If Clinton loses the popular vote but wins the election how will Republicans spin that while ignoring Bush v. Gore?

-This post is thinking about endorsing Rockford the Pitbull for president because he’s cuter than Clinton and smarter than Trump.

-Alternatively, does anyone have Pogo’s phone number or email address?

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

Friday, September 09, 2016

1692 Naeem Aptera and 9/11

1692 Naeem Aptera and 9/11

On a cloudless late summer morning before dawn, Naeem Aptera arrived at work, set up shop for the day and then -- as always -- unrolled a small carpet on a Manhattan sidewalk, got down on her knees, put her forehead to the ground and prayed.

“Work” was running one of those street corner food carts that spring whole from the ground like mushrooms each weekday.  Coffee. Really good coffee and passable pastries, rolls and bagels.

That was the last day anyone saw her on that corner for about a year.  It was the eleventh of September, 2001 and three hours after she got back on her feet, rolled up the rug and made small talk in her Cairo-tinged English with customer after customer. Then, everything changed.

Of course she didn’t know that. She was too far uptown to know that people with names like hers had flown a pair of jetliners into the World Trade Center towers one and two.

The only act of war on American soil since Pearl Harbor had taken place about 20 minutes down the road at two of the ugliest structures ever erected by man, the twin towers of the World Trade Center.  Word of what happened that murderous and toxic Tuesday morning took awhile to make that 20 minute trip.

Naeem and her cart evaporated before noon.  But contrary to recent reports, she and dozens of other Arab Americans with jobs like hers were there.  There was no secret advanced notice as has sometimes been reported.  There was no Muslim underground that knew ahead of time about the attacks and warned away anyone.

We had a chance meeting on 55th in front of a mosque as 2001 turned into 2002 and there was fear in her eyes.  She didn’t want to be recognized.  She had added a face cover to her head scarf.

But it was unmistakably Naeem.  She was hesitant to talk. Was the bond between sidewalk chef and sidewalk customer broken?  No it wasn’t.  We scurried around the corner and when she was sure no one from the Islamic Center was watching, we hugged and cried.

She said her brother, Ahmed, “founder” of that corner wagon, had come with his battered Chevy truck and towed the cart back to home port in Astoria, Naeem riding shotgun.  The truck’s radio was broken.  They made the ride in ignorance and before the city closed the 59th St. Bridge to any but foot traffic.

“Once we found out what happened,” she said, “we were frightened.  We worried that everyone would look at us and blame us.”

Why, Naeem?  You have a solid alibi. So does Ahmed. “Don’t make joke! You know what I mean. Always the joke.”

“We prayed for the dead, she said.”  The look was not fear now, it was anguish.  How do you comfort someone who lives that, who carries that unnecessary burden?  If Allah won’t ease her pain, what can a mere mortal do?

Fifteen years now have passed.  The pain remains.  The deadly loss remains. The memories of the heroes -- the real heroes, cops, firefighters who died in their fruitless hunt for survivors remain.

But the pain is generous, unstinting.  It gives itself to Muslims like Naeem and Ahmed too.

So in the rush to honor or remember 9/11/01, in the hail of words and pictures we’ll soon see on the 15th anniversary, in the storm of tears and “where were you when’s” we can remember that it was a tragedy that affected all of us.  

Wes Richards
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© WJR 2016