Friday, June 30, 2006

How to Save Detroit

104 How to Save Detroit

Reissues.

The musical instrument manufacturers figured this out decades ago and it’s part of the reason they’ve survived the onslaught of equal or superior quality from the Far East.

Want a Martin Flat Top guitar made to 1937 specifications? No problem. A Gibson Super 400 just like the one Scotty Moore used on the early Elvis records? No problem.

They don’t do this with just one or two models. The major manufacturers are making dozens if not hundreds of instruments that supposedly either “evoke” some alleged golden age or duplicate it.

If you can buy a “Muddy Waters” Fender Telecaster guitar, why not an “Elvis Presley Pink Coupe DeVille?”

Chrysler is making a nice knockoff of its own “300” car from the 1950s and a little wagon that looks something like what they made in the 1940s. Both are selling well.

But they could make a REAL 300, one of those 20-foot long canal boats with the big front teeth and the taillights that auto writer Tom McCahill once described as “sparrow strainers.”

They’re using Walter P. Chrysler’s name and faux signature on some cars (see our signature rant on misusing the concept “signature” on everything.)

Ford’s current nostalgiamobile is a Thunderbird that suggests the 1950s or 60s. Not bad. But not yet on target. They could re-make a real one from 1955 or 56 and it would sell like mad.

Volkswagen has sort of reissued the Beetle.

How hard would it be for GM to bat out a few ’57s in those two horrid signature color combos, turquoise and white and salmon and cream?

Auto purists will argue that times have changed so radically that you can’t reproduce those earlier cars. That’s true. We now have those pesky federal air pollution standards, can’t (or shouldn’t) build engines that run on unleaded gas. You can’t GET unleaded gas and would have to add the stuff yourself.

But the repro crowd today doesn’t really know about that stuff. Oh sure, you’d hear a lot of braying and moaning from people who actually DROVE those 1940s or 1950s cars. But there aren’t that many of us.

And don’t worry about pricing. A “Lead Belly” style 12 string Stella guitar cost 50 bucks in 1935. In modern money that’s about $800. The “real” instrument today fetches about $12,000. And a good reproduction, about four grand once you finish the necessary modifications.

So a Pontiac that cost three thousand dollars new in 1958? Now, what would you pay?

You don’t have to have a true mass production run. You can crank out just a handful, stir up demand and there’s your market.

And maybe you can get some concessions from those unions you believe are putting you out of business. For example: 1958 repro? 1958 wages while you work on that model. Today’s UAW lapdogs probably would agree to that. Now, what about the executives, the guys whose retirement costs are the REAL villain? Nah. They have a much stronger union than the UAW.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

103 Toxic Schlock Awards - Radio

Time for our first annual Toxic Schlock Awards.

Frank Warner, the folk music collector always used to rail about “first annual” this and that’s because, he said, there was no basis for calling something “annual” until more than one had taken place.

Nuts. It’s going to happen every year, so think big.

This is the Wessays tribute to the greats of talk radio.

And because it’s a first, we have to recognize the most toxic of the past, hence the category

Posthumous Lifetime Achievement:

And this year, we have a tie. First, Joe Pyne who made nasty fashionable. Joe never met a guy he liked. (“…gargle with razor blades.”)

Second, Barry Gray, who really really started the whole thing. He also turned the Crown Heights, Brooklyn disturbances into a national issue, which it never really was. And over his long career, he was able to take every side of every issue.

Now, to the “regular” Lifetime Achievement Award. Here again, a tie. First, to Bob Grant who added blatant racism to the Pyne legacy which was, by comparison, subtle. (“David Dinkins… washroom attendant.”)

And the currently credited King of the Hill, Rush Limbaugh: Never let the facts get in the way… etc.

A tie for second place: Gene Burns one time Libertarian Party candidate for President. (lock up your sons.)

And Garrulous Keelover. (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.)

For Worst of the Recovering Addicts:

Sorry… another tie.

Don Imus and Rush. Maybe we shouldn’t be so fast about “recovered,” since “El Rushbo,” as he sometimes calls himself was caught blue-handed with prescription Viagra – but not in his own name.

For Worst of the Pluggers: Imus. We’ve heard enough about his ranch and his brother’s salsa sauce business.

For Worst In An Obscure Niche: Tom Keene of Bloomberg Radio, whom no one understands.

And now (drumroll) for Overall Worst of Breed:

The nominees are Rush Limbaugh, Bob Edwards and Michael Savage.

And the winner (fanfare) is Michael Savage who feigns intelligence and rationality but is actually Joe Pyne incarnate.

This program needs that woman with all the facelifts and the voice of nails-upon-glass to be standing on a red carpet in Hollywood introducing all the celebrities as they exit their limos and walk to the Kodak Theater.

We were trying to figure out how to honor the President, who doesn’t do a talk show but who is the source for so much of what happens during them.

He doesn’t do a talk show because he doesn’t actually TALK. If you listen carefully you’ll notice that the sounds he makes are more like heavy breathing than speech. The kind you hear during late night annoyance calls and horror movies.

It’s not hard to imagine him panting into a telephone at three in the morning “… Condi, I love the way you handled the press over Iraq today. What are you wearing?”

But, alas, the Awards Committee couldn’t figure out a way to honor The Great Man.

Another time, maybe.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Weapons of Mouse Destruction

102 Weapons of Mouse Destruction

How many of us have waited for how long to start one of these off thusly: It was a dark and stormy night.

Well, it was. Golf-ball size hail, drenching downpours, high winds. Thunder. Lightning. Power failures. All that. A certifiable dark and stormy night.

So it’s easy to understand how a dumb young field mouse sought refuge inside. He picked the wrong house.

And now, he’s in Mouse Heaven, the victim of the business end of a “Swifter Max” floor sweeper, a ceramic knife that once made it by air from Canada undetected in a carry-on bag, a spray can of Lysol and a rubber flipflop.

This was a truly international force. A coalition, if you will.

The flipflop was made in China and operated by a soldier who also was from China, who also had charge of the “Linen Fresh” Lysol disinfectant. The “Swifter Max” has components from China, Viet Nam, and the US and the knife was made in Germany. These last two were operated by the American-led part of the coalition and its only member.

First, intel- recon, then search and destroy. The enemy showed himself, but only briefly as he skittled across the bedroom floor, first into one corner then another, the allied forces close on his heels (do mice have heels?)

“Mouse sneaky,” said a representative of the Chinese division, “but I more sneaky!”

But in the end, it took brute force and illegal weaponry to end this reign of terror.

First, the mouse is cornered in the closet. Then the chemical weapon, Linen Fresh Scent Lysol Spray, which slowed The Aggressor down. (Does the Pentagon still refer to “the other side” as “The Aggressor” in its training movies? The Aggressor always wore something we viewers thought of as a Russian uniform. Come to think of it, does the Pentagon still use training movies?)

Then the Swifter Max shoves the bleary eyed mouse into a corner and the coup de grace is administered with the knife.

All the while, the UN has condemned the action of this coalition while at the same time providing troops and weapons.

Mice are picketing the front of the building and threatening suicide bombings. Something about the mice wanting to return to land they have occupied for many generations.

We point out politely that mice are not indigenous to the region, that they were brought here by the construction boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s. But this doesn’t change anyone’s mind. Meantime, the mouse population is burgeoning.

Consulting the rules of the condo association, we find that the mice have a vote, if they are “heritage mice” – mice whose ancestors were here before the building. The rest are illegals.

We need a wall.

And some unarmed helicopters with GPS units.

Or maybe a cat or two.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Pass The Gas: Iraq WMDs & Dan Rather

101 Pass The Gas: Of Iraq and Dan Rather

I.

Fan-TASTIC! Senator Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania has discovered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Oh, wait. He was wrong.

Who says? Two pretty good sources. Source one: Focks News, the fair and balanced folk didn’t swallow the party line. Breaking from it’s Aussie Knee Jerk Conservatism (which is not to be confused with “Tough Love Conservatism,” or – heaven forbid – “Compassionate Conservatism,”) Focks debunked Senator Kendoll’s gushing announcement.

This was quickly followed by the Department of Defense, which politely told the Senator that the stuff he’s talking about is old stuff, not very effective, and added that even if there WAS anything to this, it wouldn’t be much of a threat – hardly enough to go to war about.

Mustard gas. Comes out of the Senator’s um… well, you get the picture.

The talk show hosts can’t well diss this dispatch from Focks, because it’s one of their four most quoted sources. (The other three are Drudge, Newsmax and the Moonies’ fabled “Washington Times.”

So, they accept it, but then tell us that the war is on and we have to stay the course and it doesn’t much matter that the weapons amounted to zilch, because Saddam is a bad guy.

Plus, reason White House insiders, the war keeps the population under control, both here and there. Can’t just gun down the young men in the streets of New York, California or Massachusetts, now can we?

Blue states, mostly.

Fact is, we don’t have a basis in fact to tell what’s fact and what’s fiction. It’s becoming apparent that it’s ALL fiction, that when it comes to Iraq, Katrina, the economy and American politics in general, nothing can be trusted.

II.

Speaking of gas-passing, we’ve seen the last of Dan Rather for awhile, it looks like. America’s Reporter has been unceremoniously dumped from his 44 year perch high atop the former dairy barn that serves as the headquarters of CBS News.

There is an inverse proportion between the ass kissing a network does in it’s “he’s gone” press release and the amount of value the departed represented. So with all the praise in the CBS statement, we can assume Dan was basically worthless, an opinion held in some quarters for all 44 of his years on the job.

Dan, on the other hand, was All-Dan in HIS goodbye statement. They didn’t keep their word, Murrow’s ghost, blah blah blah.

Rather’s a cheap carbon copy of what went on at CBS in its glory days. He’s also the back stabbing SOB who managed to sandbag both Walter Cronkite and Connie Chung. And while his underlings were fired over the bad story about Bush’s war service, Dan continued raking in the kind of bucks that would have made guys like Murrow and Fred Friendly vomit.

Those who’ve heard and seen all these guys first hand and even worked with some of them know Rather was no Murrow.

And even more fortunately, Murrow was no Rather.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Exchange Rates

100 Exchange Rates

This is the 100th of these diatribes since retirement. Big deal. It’s about time and money.


The aphorism: Time is Money.

If so, then money may also be time.

In any case, we should have an exchange rate.

An acquaintance recently returned from what she described as a “…three week vacation in Canada.”

The Department Of Important Statistics, (fondly known as “DOIS,” which is pronounced “DOIZ, except in Quebec, where it is pronounced “DOI.”) has determined that based on recent currency exchange rates the three weeks in Canada amounts to nine days and 14 hours US.

The rate for Japan is 100 seconds for each US minute. In most of Europe, the US minute is worth 50 seconds. (This is an approximation, for the voltage that drives electric clocks in Europe is higher than it is here.)

In the UK, a US minute is worth only 30 seconds.

This can get a bit confusing.

And it’s kind of anti-intuitive. For example, we think of the British as slower moving than we are. But since the minute is worth only 30 seconds, the British move much faster than we do.

It’s equally confusing in Japan where we think of the Japanese as fast-moving. But if it takes them 100 seconds to accomplish what we accomplish in 60 US, it’s much slower over there.

The Italian Lira was even more confusing. Thank goodness the Italians had the good sense to adopt the EU standard. Makes it much easier to deal with them.

Now, we get to serious complications. For example, speeding on the road. If the speed limit is, say, 90 KPH or 60 MPH, in Britain, you are actually traveling 180 KPH or 120 MPH. This makes speedometers unreliable and makes you prone to getting pulled over.

Parking is also a problem. Two hour parking limit in the US would be only an hour in London.

There are no more 60 second radio or TV commercials anymore, so there’s no sense evaluating THAT situation.

Total nonsense, right? Wrong. There are going to be experts peddling this stuff in your lifetime. Well, maybe not experts. But guys who bill themselves as experts and who will have “invented” a new “science,” something along the lines of Economics or Sociology and equally …. Um… useful.

Tempology.

It’s a natural.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Too Many Rights

99 Too Many Rights

This could have been Abbott and Costello. Or Olsen and Johnson. Or Laurel and Hardy.

But it wasn’t. It was just “A” and “B” trying to put together a four-drawer plastic cabinet.

The first hint that all wouldn’t be well was the label on the box: one part of it said “easy to assemble.” There is no such thing as easy to assemble. And it’s especially difficult when it says on the box “easy to assemble.”

Also on the box: product descriptions in three languages, one of which was Spanish. One of the things it said in Spanish was “quatro cajones.” You have to assume the world has at least two meanings and the meaning Black & Decker had in mind was drawers. The kind that slide in and out, not the kind that slide up and down.

So Einstein and Kepler unpack the thing, all the while admiring its sturdy all-vinyl construction and its attractive two tone grey finish. There are 4,000 parts. There are no instructions. Not even instruciones. Just pictures. Smeared, vague, poorly drawn pictures.

Step by step, though. Now, here’s Kepler trying to put the sides into the bottom, while Einstein studies the drawings. Then, Kepler studies the drawings and Einstein gets the second side into the bottom.

Building this thing goes on and on and on. It’s 90 degrees. The vaudeville duo is out in the garage disputing whether it would be cooler with the door open or closed.

What happens when you get a great scientific vaudeville duo performing in a garage on a hot summer-like weekend and looking for distractions and an excuse to return the thing without losing face.

Here’s a handy hint when doing this yourself: you can’t un-do some of those plastic things without wrecking them, so get it right the first time.

Next, metal sliders with wheels, on pair for each of the four drawers and one for each of the sides of the cabinet.

Laurel and Costello look for markings on the metal. Right. Left. Whatever. Some are marked some are not. No problem. Two great minds can figure out which unmarked metal goes where. This is why we win Academy Awards and Nobel Prizes.

Nothing lines up. There is no way to get the drawers into the cabinet without them either sticking in there or falling out under load – load being the weight of the drawer itself.

Reverse things. Unscrew things. Screw things back. Double check the blurry instruction pictures.

Off to the store to inspect the floor model. No floor model. They don’t have these anymore. Small wonder. But a helpful guy shows the two great scientists and vaudeville and movie performers how these kinds of things typically work. Easy. No problem. No problemo.

All it takes is a little patience and quatro cajones.

Finally, there’s a case conference. Should this thing go back? The scent of defeat is in the air. Find an excuse.

Carefully going over ground covered and re-covered for hours, the two superheros find the face-saving excuse they need: the drawer sliders were counted wrong at the factory.

There are nine right sides and seven lefts. That’s too many rights.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, June 16, 2006

Closing the Gates

98 Closing the Gates

So Bill Gates, the Ultimate Nerd, is retiring at the age of 50 from a company he made, at our peril, the center of everyone’s lives. The Microsoft he co-founded can thank him for making it one of the most necessary companies on the planet. He, in turn, can thank it for making him the richest guy on the planet.

Microsoft is a success for three reasons: (1) Gates’ drive and willingness to “cut off (the competitions’) air supply, (2) Gates willingness to allow incomplete or malfunctioning stuff into the retail stream and making us accept this, if not like it. And (3) one of the most colossal corporate blunders of all time.

The first and second are common knowledge. Come to think of it, the third is, too – but no one seems to remember it. Even worse, no one seems to have learned anything from it.

Here:

IBM figured the future of computers was in mainfraims. So it outsourced creation of an operating system to what amounts to a garage band of two kids with a small company. Thing is, Gates’ daddy, a sharp Washington State lawyer helped ‘em put together a contract that gave them a piece of every PC sold. Not too shabby. Not nearly as shabby as the original DOS operating system.

IBM just couldn’t believe those little desktop things would overtake their Mighty Mainframes. So accepting that contract didn’t bother ‘em a whit. It might now.

(Aside: MS didn’t invent DOS, it bought the thing and renamed it MSDOS. The price, $50,000, was later adjusted upward in a court proceeding brought by the original owners.)

Some people give Gates credit for the business model that put Microsoft on top. He didn’t invent THAT either. Gates said he wanted a PC on every desk in America. And he pretty much achieved that.

David Sarnoff at RCA wanted to put a “music box” in every home in America. That was in the 1930s. He did it first with radio and then with record players and then with television. Sarnoff also was an expert at removing the air supply from competitors. That’s how we got the 45 RPM record, the current system of color television transmission and the transmission of FM radio signals.

Synthesizing ideas from other ideas can be a good thing. Or not.

Microsoft is “The Beatles” of software. Everyone knows about them. Everyone hears about them. They haven’t had a hit in 200 years but the royalty checks keep coming in. The music’s often lousy but no one dares say so.

Gates came late to the charity business that supposedly now will have his full energies and attention. To his credit, he’s now involved up to his ears. Took him long enough to move from the company to the foundation. Henry Ford did it faster. Ah, but Henry wasn’t using “Windows” to get there.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Washington Ravenite

97 Ravenite Goes To Washington

“Goombata” is a book co-authored by a long time friend and former cousin by marriage, Ernest Volkman. It is about the people surrounding the then-dapper/then-don John Gotti.

Volkman and co-author John Cummings explain that the word “goombata” is Italian for something like close pals or associates. It is plural.

Somehow, hearing about Karl Rove brings this book and these guys to mind. Cannot explain why, since there are such significant differences between Godfather Gotti and Godfather Rove.

Rove isn’t Italian. He’s not from Brooklyn or even Ozone Park. He’s probably never killed anyone. He probably doesn’t sell drugs, run prostitution or loan sharking rings, run numbers or set off illegal fireworks on July fourth. And his idea of an Italian dinner probably is what they serve at Pizza Hut.

It can be argued, though, that today’s White House is the DC equivalent of the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, Gotti’s hangout in Queens, or the Ravenite Social Club, where he hung out in Manhattan.

While the bugs in the White House are self-planted and the bugs in the Ravenite were the work of the FBI, both places are bugged.

Both places are fronts for racketeering.

Both are places where nefarious plots are hatched.

It took a long time to convict Gotti of everything. Hence, not only was he the dapper don, he also was the Teflon don. But eventually, they got him.

Underboss Rove probably will face his day, too. But for now, he’s as Teflon as “Johnny Boy” was in the early years.

It hasn’t gotten to the point yet where the guys in the Washington Ravenite have to take “walk-and-talks,” where the principal felons step outside to discuss business that can’t be picked up by the eavesdropping equipment.

It’s like everyone knew Gotti was a crook, but he was such and engaging crook that there was little public outcry for his head. In fact, it appeared that no one outside organized crime cared a white beside a bunch of publicity hound prosecutors and some law enforcement hot dogs.

When Gotti went to jail, finally, nothing much changed. The corporation, after all, is bigger than the city it cheats.

In the “Godfather” movie, Michael Corleone is always talking about when his “Family” will be 100% legit. So far, through a main picture and two sequels, that hasn’t happened. In the real world, there IS no Michael Corleone, and no one wants to be more legit than it takes to launder money without being spotted.

But now we have Teflon Karl. Wonderful! It’s nice to know we’re in good hands. He’s just a flak for the GOP. Like Gotti was a salesman of plumbing fixtures.

The Washington doesn’t have to launder money – it has the only license to print it.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Last Siberian Frontier

96 The Last Siberian Frontier

The cold war is still on here in central Pennsylvania.

This is the only possible explanation for an astonishing fact: you cannot buy Russian dressing in this town.

The place, Moote Pointe, is a sophisticated international center, dominated by a world-famous university. Students come here from every corner of the globe (can a globe really have corners?) to study.

But nowhere can you find Russian dressing.

There are four big league supermarkets within near-walking distance from the Secret Mountain Laboratory serving as Wessays headquarters. They are the kind of supermarkets New Yorkers would kill for. Huge, well lighted, open 24/7, well stocked, clean, friendly. And they have everything.

You want organic produce? How about obscure vegetables grown only in Tibet? Do you need gourmet mustard? They have 100 variations. Soul food. German food. British food. Irish food. Indian food. South American food. Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai. Irish, Scottish, Lithuanian, Estonian. Even stuff from Liechtenstein, Alsace-Lorraine, Luxumbourg and Monaco.

But no Russian dressing.

Every other kind. EVERY other kind.

Sixteen variations of Italian (not including the low fat and no fat versions.)

Fourteen variations of French. Ranch, Bleu and Blue cheese. Honey Mustards galore. One hundred twenty variations of oil and vinegar.

Got the picture?

It’s not that the place is behind the times. In fact, it’s right up there with the latest on Homeland Security. The college football stadium’s to receive extra funding from Washington, which recognizes this one, but not Yankee Stadium or Shea.

Plenty of modern tech here. Wireless zones almost everywhere you go, even Petland. (If your dog gets bored while you shop for him, he can look up the latest on letter carriers or bones on the internet.

The latest fashions. The latest news. The latest everything anyone else has.

But no Russian dressing.

One restaurant’s table attendant (can’t call them “waitress” or “waiter” anymore and “server” is so gauche) hadn’t even heard of the stuff.

Other Russian delicacies are readily available, even if not identified as such. Salt. Potatoes, even beets.

You can make your own, of course. One part ketchup, one part mayo. Mix together and – if you’re a fish head – add a little flesh from one of your fellow fishies.

But it’s not the same. It’s not like slathering the stuff on your salad, watching it ooze out of the jar and onto the lettuce leaf.

Maybe it’s the Russians themselves. Maybe they have something against Central PA. Maybe they just don’t want stuff with their name on it sold here.

We can think of but one way to solve the problem. And that’s by paraphrasing Ronald (perestroika) Reagan: Mr. Putin, tear this wall down.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Made In Chian

95 Made In Chian

Wanbatan. This an unpleasant expression in Madarin. Literally, it means turtle eggs. But it’s the equivalent of “son of a bitch” or even worse.

Maybe it’s not spelled right. After all, Chinese doesn’t use the English alphabet. It could be Wan-Ba Tan. Or even waMbatan.

In any case, the average Mandarin speaker will get the idea on hearing it.

And to the average speaker of English it’s meaningless.

We don’t care about Chinese literacy because a huge chunk of the population of China is seen as our plantation workers. Ultimately, the workers will own their own plantation and ours. But that’s a story for another time.

Right now, these guys are making everything we use.

Including the living room clock.

It’s a lovely clock. A Roman numeral face in a fancy twisty metal vine. A thing of beauty.

No name on the face. But the proud statement of the manufacturer: MADE IN CHIAN.

So what if they don’t write English over there. This is an instant collectible.

Showing this to people and asking them to say what it says proves we don’t need English as an Official Language. We need attention as a first language.

Everyone who’s seen this thing has failed to see the dyslexic spelling.

Guess they don’t have spell check over there yet. Bill Gates, are you listening?

On the other hand, this is not the only time something like this has happened.

This is a mass production misspelling.

Here’s a customized one, and it happened a long time ago.

Mark was a reporter. He had a Pontiac Firebird and someone rear-ended it.

The trunk lid got smooshed.

They had to straighten it out and replace the letters, which they did.

For the rest of its life, the trunk lid told the world the car was a P O N I T A C.

Mark thought long and hard about having the “I” and the “T” swapped, then finally decided not to because it made the car a collectible.

Like the Chian-ese clock.

Except all the guys at the body shop were born here and spoke English.

A yellow Firebird with a black roof. Quite snazzy in its day.

We have pictures of all this. But no one believes pictures anymore, either.

It’s not just “Forest Gump” photographed with all those important people. It’s that everything is subject to computer manipulation these days.

And we no longer can say “the camera doesn’t lie.” Of course it does. Often and well.

Like everything else.

And almost everyone.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Solving the Health Care Crisis

94 Solving the Health Care Crisis

The problem with health care in this country is there are too many people who think they’re sick and aren’t.

They take up time, space and cost that should rightly go to sick people.

These unthinking, inconsiderate Americans sit in the waiting rooms, keep the pharmacists busy, fill their heads and the heads of those around them with talk about imagined illness.

They rattle on endlessly about drug prices and doctor prices and uncaring care-givers.

And they drive up the costs of medical care.

How many times have you heard “you’re fine. Go home, rest for a day, walk a little more carefully and get your eyes checked…” from the doctor? Most of the time. Maybe ALL the time.

But you, you robotic creature, go for that physical every year, because somewhere in your dark past someone told you (and you believed and obeyed) that you need a physical exam once a year.

Maybe. Maybe, not. But how are you to know this?

You can’t. And that’s why you go so often, even when they tell you everything’s fine.

Here’s the fix: You need a “Check Engine” light, just like the one on the dashboard of your car.

When Detroit, Tokyo and Stuttgart first started putting this feature in cars, no one seemed to know what they did, including the people who were supposed to fix those cars.

When the “Check Engine” light went on, you opened the hood, looked in and saw the engine. You said “yeah, that’s an engine, alright,” and got back behind the wheel. This of course did not cause the light to go off. So if you were really diligent, you went back out under the hood, looked in, said “yep, it’s still there, I checked” and THEN drove off.

We have since come to learn that this light means that the car’s computer has found something wrong and that you have to go to the “technician.” (They don’t call ‘em mechanics anymore and that burns the hides of some mechanics who AREN’T “technicians” and don’t WANT to be technicians and who think of themselves as “MECHANICS,” and are proud of it.)

The technician then connects his computer to your car’s, finds out what’s wrong and fixes it.

People also should have “check engine” lights. They’d save countless needless trips to the doc.

Some people would need to go frequently. Other people could wait for years before their lights came on.

Surely we must have this kind of technology available.

The light goes on. You make an appointment and go to keep it.

The waiting room is mysteriously empty. That’s because the doc now sees only people who have lit “check engine” lights.

They hook you up, read you and in a few moments, in walks the Medicine Man who tells you

“Your cholesterol is a bit high. Your blood pressure is normal, your vision is 20/60, you’re allergic to eel grass and you have a benign 2 cm lesion just above your left elbow. Roll up your sleeve please.”

It’s how to cure having things that don’t need curing.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, June 05, 2006

Dueling Dualists

93 The Long And Winding Road Or Dueling Dualism

Some people go in a straight line. Fine. Start at “A” and go to “B” and be done with it.

Others take a more serpentine route. They start at “A” or somewhere near it, and go to “B” but find a thousand distractions on the way, looping here and there first. Perhaps that’s where we get the term “loopy.”

This, too is fine.

The distinction is easy enough to figure out. And after that, you can pretty well figure out how someone will get from one place or thing to another.

People of the straight and narrow will seem rushed to people of the snake.

People of the snake will seem confused, confusing and inefficient to the straight shooters.

They can drive each other nuts or they can make accommodation for one another. Not always easy, but rarely impossible.

But there’s a third way.

Some people are straight sometimes and snaky at others.

And there seems no way to tell when one side or the other of this personality split will rule the body in which it lives.

Dualism.

It can take a Dualist 90 minutes between the proclamation “I’m going to take a shower now,” until you hear the water run. Sometimes more.

There are all those lovely things to do along the way.

But sometimes, the Dualist climbs on the monorail and the shower is on before you hear the last syllable of the proclamation.

Then, the snaky side kicks in and the hair doesn’t get dried for half an hour or longer.

The mere asking “when shall we have dinner?” can strike terror into the hearts of those who don’t know which “ism” is operating at the moment.

Impossible to impose one’s will on these guys, either.

In courtships or at work, the possibilities are endless.

A Dualist can take half an hour to decide whether to put sugar in the coffee this morning. And then he or she can switch sides and take ten seconds to decide “yes” on a purchase that costs a month’s salary. Or a year’s.

Buying a car? Okay, we’ll take it.

Now, off to the bakery to choose a pound of cookies, which can take all day.

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The real problem is that the Dualists believe “my way or the highway,” and you never quite know what “my way” is.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, June 02, 2006

Reverse Commissions

92 Reverse Commissions

This could start a whole new series of reports. Everything’s backward these days. Maybe not everything. But close.

Here are some examples.

Ronald Reagan’s “Peacekeeper Missile.” Yessir, here’s the way we keep the world peaceful: at gunpoint. Hands in the air, boys and girls. No one make a war-like move or we’ll knee-cap you from 10-thousand miles away.

They couldn’t call it the “Warmonger Missile,” because who wants to be a warmonger. Or, more accurately, who wants to admit it?

Now, in mid-2006, we have the “Homeland Security” budget. New York City gets cut about in half because it doesn’t have much worth protecting? Well, with the Trade Center demolished, you could say we have two fewer than before. But that’s not the point.

Omaha, on the other hand, has all kinds of assets that need protection against terrorist attacks.

And they have the nerve to stand up and tell us that it all comes from a computerized statistical model that’s supposed to prove…. What? Garbage in, garbage out. Everything’s backward.

Here’s one theory about the money: Distract the nominally Republican mayor so he doesn’t pose a threat to whomever the Washington establishment wants to succeed the present Frat-Boy-In-Chief. The mayor will be so busy looking for the bucks to shore up the city’s unimportant “icons,” he will not have the energy or the time to run for President.

IF that’s the theory, they don’t know the mayor too well. Everything’s backward.

Here’s one of the best examples of back-assedness:

Look at the chief executives of companies who are paid based on the performance of their stock, who get bonuses when the stock tanks, and super bonuses when its flat and superDUPER bonuses when it rises a tick.

They’re getting commissions on returned goods. Peacekeeper Commissions.

Everything’s backward.

Except you can’t call someone “backward” anymore because it’s offensive.

(c) 2006 WJR .them to welcome you’re but ,own my are opinions my , Richards Wes I’m