Friday, September 28, 2007

The Ultimate Office Tools

#300 The Ultimate Office Tools

The search has been on for years. We so-called white-collar types have to carry so much stuff these days that we really need new ways of organizing and transporting it all.

We’ve long advanced the belief that the guy with the bigger briefcase is lower on the corporate ladder than the guy with the small one or none at all.

Jack Welch, when he was chairman of GE didn’t carry papers he couldn’t fit in his coat pocket. Seems like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates do the same. And the President of These United States never ever carries anything heavier than the burden of being himself.

Joe Schlep has a briefcase so big it needs its own ZIP code. Some Joe Schleps have taken to using those rolling-cart style airport-certified mini-trunks. What they need is a case with a helium filled bladder which would allow them to schlep without throwing their backs out.

Of course, if we’re to believe the latest study from scientists, there may soon be a helium shortage, and that would mean a big expense for Joe. He might try hydrogen, which can be made at home, but comes with it’s own problems. It explodes easily. So if Joe Schlep is a smoker, he’d best not smoke too close to his hydrogen briefcase, lest it turn into a hydrogen bomb.

Then, there’s the problem of organizing notes and appointments. The Palm Pilot was supposed to solve that, and to an extent, it did. But almost no one backs up their stuff every day, so when you leave the thing in the Larry Craig Memorial Bathroom at the Minneapolis Airport, or it falls out of your pocket and into a sink full of water, you’re screwed.

And they have been known to get lost. That’s almost always a crisis.

So maybe little scraps of paper. Yes. Three by five cards are a good thing, except you have to differentiate among social engagements, business appointments, to-do lists, honey-do lists, contacts, memos and whatever else you keep track of.

You can color code the cards. Say, green for money appointments, pink for dating, and so on.

But all this presents another problem: you have to keep them in some kind of organized way and you have to read them once you’ve written them.

You could put it all in a notebook, but a decent size notebook won’t fit in your pocket.

You can use the backs of business cards – especially your own, since you never give them out, anyway.

Or you can write on the back of your hand, although that’s unsightly if you’re going to one of those appointments that should be written on a green 3x5 card (not to be confused with a Green Card, which these days are brown, anyway.)

Or you can rely on your memory.

Nah. Not a good idea. It may be perfect today, but tomorrow—who knows.

And there’s the matter of pens and pencils. You should have one or two with you all the time. But again, there are space and weight considerations.

If you have one of those Joe Schlep briefcases, minus the pricy helium bladder, you don’t think about stuff like this and eventually you accumulate a dozen pens, half of which have run out of ink, plus a few highlighters and maybe a pencil or two, a marker and one of those gizmos that writes on whiteboards (you never know when you’re going to come across an empty white board just longing for your latest statistics on the price and production figures about latex-based paint pigments. And don’t forget the Scotch Tape and the paper clips and the stapler and the staple remover. And the Wite-Out. (you never know when you’ll run into an antique typewriter!)

Wait.

Maybe it’s not a bad idea to accumulate all that backbreaking stuff. After all, when the next depression comes, you can scout up a cast-off aluminum can in a dumpster and put the pen and pencil collection up for sale.

And you can use the green card to make a sign. And the pens to write it and the tape, staples and clips to attach it to the can.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Don't Do It

#299 Don’t Do It!

Leave the yard alone. Don’t put one iota of effort into cleaning up that junk pile. You’re only inviting trouble and more work. Much more work.

The other day they were out there in front of the office, couple of nice, well behaved fellas from the neighborhood. They were cleaning up a tangle of trees and bushes and branches. They had these loud super-size weed whacker gadgets to take down some bigger branches. And they had rakes and shovels and all those things that you have when you get serious about getting rid of an unsightly pile of vegetation.

But once the unsightly vegetation was removed, you could see the underlying unsightly pile of electrical wires.

Fella one: “This thing’s all rotted out. You’d better fix it.”

Fella two: “yeah, could be a fire hazard. Better turn off whatever’s on that circuit.”

What’s on that circuit is a couple of spotlights that are supposed to shine on a highly decorative sign that was starting to get obscured by the unsightly vegetation.

One good rain and the whole electrical works will probably get zapped. Better turn it off like the fellas say.

It took about half an hour to find the correct switch. In the meantime, flipping switches, every one we came upon, we managed to turn off the photocopier in the middle of a 2,000 page print job, the fax machine in the middle of a long transmission and the computer system. Oh, and it was 85 degrees out and now we know where the switch for the air conditioner is located. (It’s in the broom closet, right under the maintenance sink. And in back of a metal container containing trace amounts of an unknown substance the rest of which is either on the floor or evaporating into the closet’s cozy atmosphere.

So they never should have touched the unsightly vegetation. Look what happened afterward.

The close probably violates every hazmat law you can think of, so now we’re going to have to go out and get some face masks and start cleaning up the broom closet. And once that’s done, we’ll probably find problems with the floor. It’s possible – no, it’s likely that whatever has been leaking out of that metal container has rotted through to the floor to the ceiling below.

And that means we’re going to have to start fiddling with (read “fixing”) the ceiling.

See how this stuff all leads to more stuff?

If we hadn’t cut the branches, we wouldn’t have to fix the lights, the closet, reset the copier, the fax machine and all the computer terminals. We wouldn’t have to fix the floor or the ceiling of the floor below.

The operating premise should be: don’t do it.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, September 24, 2007

SECKS

#298 S.E.X.

Got your attention? Good. The letters stand for Society for the Elimination of “X.”

Twenty five letters instead of 26. A lot easier to handle. And we haven’t needed “x” since the beginning of time.

Think about it. You can spell every word in the English language without it.

Zerox. Zylophone . Zavier. Zylem. Secks. Ecks marks the spot. Ecksclamation, to site only a few eggzamples.

It’s time we stopped putting all our x in one basket.

But this is not an easy fight. And that’s why we need to form S.E.X. And we need to do this pretty fast, before someone legislates a 26 letter alphabet and its components.

Probably, there’ll be a huge uproar from the ecks-rated film industry, and maybe the music industry (after all, “All My Ecks-es Live In Texas” IS a country classic.)

And it’s important to remember that SEC, the Society for the Elimination of “C,” failed. But there were reasons for that which don’t apply here. First, without “c” you can’t make the “ch” sound. The hard “c,” of course, can be written with a “k.”

But C is also the single most widely used scholastic grade and its elimination would mean an end to the standard A, B, C, D, F rotation common to most secondary schools. There are far too many “c” students to eliminate all use of the letter.

“X” doesn’t have that problem. It hs no unique pronunciation. It’s confusing. And there’s no “X” grade possible on a report card (though there are times it seems there should be.)

It might be handy to keep around as an historical artifact at, say, railroad crossings or on treasure maps. Maybe even on Ecks-ray machines. But other than that, there’s no use for this letter. It’s been outdated since the time of the Ecksodus.

And we might have to adjust the spelling of the number sicks. Maybe make it siks so it isn’t confused with people who have illnesses.

So, yes, there are some little problems, but nothing we can’t work out.

In olden times such a change would be a waste of natural resources. After all, more moveable type would have been necessary if we were to replace every “x” with “ecks.” But since we don’t use all that much moveable type anymore, that’s a poor eckscuse.

Then there are the “X” abusers. Look at Ecks-On. So many eckstra eckses. And the telephone makers. Each has an “X.” How many times have you dialed an “x” since you’ve had that telephone? All those poor abused or neglected eckses.

You can join our new society by simply saying you have.

No salesman will call.

I'm el Ecksahente, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Friday, September 21, 2007

NASDAQ RIP

#297 NASDAQ, RIP

As of now, no one’s making much of a fuss over this, which is surprising.

NASDAQ used to stand for the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations. Now it stands for National Asset Sold to Dubai And Qatar.

When Dubai, Inc. tried to take over the running of American shipping ports, the cry went out and got so loud the White House had to kill the deal. A meaningless exercise because the Dubies or whatever you call them, wouldn’t have been able to touch security, which was the fear.

Now, these two sandbox countries have acquired 20 percent of NASDAQ. No biggie, right?

Suppose you controlled 20 percent of the vote in Congress, or 20 percent of the Exxon stock. You’d be a force to be reckoned with.

Twenty percent is what they’re telling us, anyway. That twenty could easily grow.

Let’s assume the Dubies and the Qatar-master corps are people of good will and just like the idea of playing with American securities. Let’s forget the notion that a clever outlander with a wad of stock and a wad of cash can do all kinds of things with the numbers, the flow of capital and the timing of trades. Let’s just assume they wouldn’t try.

So then, maybe, Iran decides it wants to expand its own sandbox and conquers these two little feudal states. THEN who controls NASDAQ?

Or maybe it’s not Iran. Maybe it’s China or Russia. Or India or Pakistan.

Not a pretty picture.

But where’s all the righteous indignation and protest?

You’d think the Wall Street types would be staging huge public demonstrations. There’d be a vast and broad-based torrent of telegrams (do they still have telegrams?) and e-mails to everyone who has any interest in keeping our institutions and the internal review processes in-house?

Where are the big shots from the big companies that trade on this exchange? Where’s Microsoft? Where’s Liberty Media? Where’s American Railcar? No one’s complaining.

Where are the right wing, God-fearing Anti-Arab pundits?

Where are the economists? The computer geniuses? The Grand Protectors of the American Dream? The crusading journalists? The FINANCIAL journalists?

We didn’t squawk to loud when Daimler took over Chrysler, but cheered when they made a mess of it and ended their occupation. We didn’t even squawk when Dubai Inc bought Barney’s New York. If they want Armani suits and Versace ties, fine.

But we ought to be squawking now. Before they set their sights on something REALLY important. Like Lockheed or Citicorp. Or MIT or Brooklyn.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Pawn Shop

#296 The Pawn Shop

No one knows the value of anything anymore except Hershel. Hershel runs this pawn shop down on Third on the lower east side. It’s an old school kind of place. No re-insurance here. No phony loan-y business. Just Herschel and his pawn shop, dust and dirt at no extra charge.

You bring him what you think is a Rolex, he’ll tell you in a heartbeat that it’s worth ten bucks, bought on the street from a guy with an attaché case on a little stand made for instant collapsing when a patrol car is spotted a block away.

Or, yeah, it’s a Rolex, alright. “I’ll give you 200 bucks cash or lend you 250.” “But it’s worth $2,000! See? Here’s the receipt.” “Nah, two grand’s what you paid for it, not what it’s worth.”

Hershel, chubby, unshaven Hershel, with the rolled up sleeve and the vest that won’t close and the beefy hands and the big lower lip knows stuff that the big mortgage companies didn’t. He knows what stuff is worth. And he knows you if can’t pay him back.”

And his customers know, too.

Hershel’s got the cash in his safe, or he doesn’t. He won’t lend you what he doesn’t have. He won’t pass his risk on to some other sucker. And he won’t let you borrow what you can’t pay back.

Hershel should be running Citi or Chase or one of those. Straighten this whole financial mess out in a heartbeat.

“Guys make a loan,” he says. “They don’t check the guy out. They got Harvard MBAs. They got State CPA licenses. Then they get worried so they sell the loan to some other guy and walk away with their cash. The other guy knows even less than they do.”

Hersh, you got a point.

“You come in here, you give me a pair of diamond earrings, I lend you a few hundred,” he says, “you can’t pay it back? So- long, earrings. They’re mine. I keep it simple.”

“Fella comes in here one morning last week,” he says, “wants to hock his condo – one of those pre-war jobs on the upper east side. I say gimme the deed. He gives me the deed. I look it over and tell him it’s pretty and I’ll lend him thirty bucks for it. He’s hopping mad. Says the condo’s worth two million at least. I say I don’t care about the condo, I’m talking about the pre-war deed, the piece of paper. He storms out.”

Hershel knows what stuff is worth. The rest of us, maybe not.

And that’s the first step into the financial vortex we’re in now. Hershel doesn’t try to hedge his losses. The buck starts and stops in his little safe.

Hershel can size you up in two seconds flat – knows if you’re coming back to get the Mont Blanc pen you just hocked for 50 bucks. Knows he can sell it for 75 if you don’t. Knows he won’t have to force you out on the street even if you DON’T come back for the thing.

Wall Street needs more Hershels.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, September 17, 2007

Take In Laundry

#295 Take In Laundry

Headline: Struggling Hospitals Seek New Revenue Sources.

Analysis: they aren’t squeezing us hard enough yet. So, rather than cutting back on paperwork and finding other ways to reduce expenses, they have to find new ways to charge us.

So, let’s us business geniuses help them out with a few small suggestions.

The first thing that comes to mind is auto repair. They could put up a few mechanics’ bays on spare land, which many have. Maybe even a body shop. You could get those dents pulled and those bumpers replaced at the same time you get that face lift or your hip replaced. Makes perfect sense. But, of course, that could lead to a telephone call like this one.

Hospital Accounting Clerk: “Good morning, this is the George and Martha Washington Medical and Automotive Center Billing Department, how may I help you?”

Blue Cross Vice President In Charge of “No!”: “Thank you for taking my call. This is about case number 1234567890987654321, a Ms. Alice Beach. She seems to have had knee surgery, but you also filed a claim for replacing the brake master cylinder on a 2005 Honda Prelude. Can you explain that, please?”

HAC: “Wait a moment, my computer’s kind of slow this morning. Ah, there it is. Yes, Ms. Beach had her Prelude in our auto service bay for brake trouble at the same time we took some extra cartilage out of her left knee.

VP NO: “And you expect us to pay for that?”

HAC: “Well, yes. She uses the car to get the work, making it an occupational necessity and since she had the work done at our hospital – um – medical center, we thought you’d pick up 80% of the usual costs in this region”

Not a likely candidate for a “yes,” given the title of the Blue Cross Vice President and the “special circumstances” at George and Martha Washington Medical Center (which used, merely” to be George Washington Hospital.)

Maybe that’s not such a good idea. And it’s a good thing Ms. Beach isn’t a Medicare patient, else they wouldn’t even have covered the four dollar aspirin tablets they gave her 20 minutes after giving her the $14,000 anesthetic.

Perhaps there’s another source of money. Yes. Laundry. Hospitals have big in-house laundries to do the bed sheets and sometimes the uniforms and lab coats. Why not buy a few extra machines and set up a Laundromat.

Also: turn the snack bar into a full service all-night restaurant and staff it with volunteers—“Candy Stripers -- thus allowing the DWI accident patients a place to sober up while waiting endlessly in the emergency room.

Speaking of which: charge them for body storage while they wait. There are countless people without places to sleep who bruise themselves and then spend the night (or the day) in the emergency room waiting area, thus using hundreds of square feet of space that doesn’t directly produce revenue.

Some hospitals charge for parking. Those that don’t, should.

Put a fuel surcharge on ambulance rides.

All it takes is a little imagination. Problem solved.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Friday, September 14, 2007

Probably, It Was Rocky Road

#294 Probably, It was Rocky Road

Birnbaum said this: when women give men the once-over, they start at the feet and work up. When men give women the once over they start at the top and work down. He didn’t mention that both stopped briefly at points of interest whither the direction of the journey. He said this as he was eyeing this woman carrying her tray toward the big northern wall at Dubrow’s on Seventh, finishing his knish and his tea and stopping at points of interest as she walked and he spoke.

What Birnbaum probably didn’t know at the time is that this doesn’t apply to every woman who gives a man a once over, or to every man. After awhile, these trips can have construction delays, some of which are permanent.

And when you realize you’re in a traffic jam that simply won’t dissolve, you worry.

Here we are the other day, behind the wheel and stopped at a red light. This is a college town, filled with interesting human anatomies. And swinging along the sidewalk was a woman worthy of watching, as is often the case in these parts.

She’s dressed for a hot summer day, which it is. She’s carrying one of those environmentally hostile plastic supermarket bags – which they have started making less opaque these days.

The eyes start at the top and work down…. Normal so far. They stop at the bag in which there is a half-pint box of ice cream. The bag is not so diminished in opaqueness that you can make out the brand, let alone the flavor. But there’s obviously ice cream in that grocery bag.

Instead of continuing the visual journey, the driver is fixated on the miracle of modern ice cream and absurdly curious about which flavor she is carrying.

This is a sign of dementia. The outline of the ice cream container is more alluring than the certifiably alluring woman carrying it.

She’s dressed, as noted, for summer. Shorts, t-shirt, flip-flops. This does not give any hint of the kind of flavor the ice cream might be. If it were fall and she were dressed a little more formally, you might figure vanilla or chocolate or maybe coffee.

If it were winter, chances are you could guess butter pecan or rum raisin.

There’s an intense desire to stop her and ask. But that’s somewhere on the scale that runs from rudeness to perversion. And who wants to be smacked on the head by an ice cream box-wielding, frightened college woman?

No, asking is just too risky.

How could you put it, anyway? “Excuse me, Ms. would you mind telling me what flavor ice cream you bought?”

Slam! “Pervert!”

“Excuse me, Ms. I’m lost can you tell me how to get to… oh… I see you have ice cream in your grocery bag. Mmmm. What flavor you buy?”

Slam! “Get lost.”

“But I am lost.”

“No you aren’t. You just want to peek at my ice cream.”

Birnbaum was right about where the journey starts. But not where it ends. Not these days.

So, another question unasked and unanswered.

Probably, it was rocky road.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Reading Table

#292 The Reading Table

We’re now told you can read and eat and that’s okay because it’s good for your digestion. Depends on what you’re reading, of course.

It does beat a lot of the conversations (arguments) you have over dinner. Okay, kiddies, here are your Dr. Seuss books. Okay Mrs. America, here’s your Shakespeare or your Joy of Cooking (or Joy of Sex.) Okay Mr. America, here’s your “Outdoor Life” or “Motor Trend.”

Sure beats having to talk.

Also, you can turn on the music player or the TV music channel or (heaven forbid!) the radio.

Keep us together with a good, old-fashioned family meal every night. Keep us together while keeping us apart with the New York Times.

You get the sports section, you get the business section, you get the part about how America is ready to bomb some middle eastern emirate, you get the part about finding a job.

Sounds like a great plan. Use the old media to finish the job that the new media hasn’t been quite able to accomplish.

Like it said in the latest study: it’s good for your digestion. Kind of slows you down a bit so you don’t wolf your food. (Do wolves that eat fast “people” their food?)

Eat first, THEN argue.

And instead of arguing about unimportant stuff (“you spend too much! “you haven’t painted the living room in six years,” “someone at school said I was gross looking.”) you can argue about really important stuff. Like was 911 a government conspiracy, did NASA really land on the moon, what’s happening with the rebels in Chechnya. You know. The stuff that really matters.

Actually, reading at the table might be the only reading some people ever do, so maybe we should give the readers a little slack.

Of course, this doesn’t take into account the terroristic acts of reading extremists. These people would have you reading all the time. Even Einstein didn’t think that was a good idea. Said it stopped you from thinking.

But this IS an age of extremism. And reading activists, as they like to call themselves, would have you do this anywhere and everywhere. On the bus. At work. Behind the wheel.

(There IS something to be said for having a decent book or magazine with you while behind the wheel. Traffic jams are great places to learn new things, while you’re waiting for some idiot to worm his way from the left lane, across traffic and into the exit he was about to miss.)

The reading activists, however, are in the pay of the publishers. They’re the ones funding the movement to read, read, read. And they have to be reigned in. We need new laws to prevent these people from running amok. (which is nothing like running a race, but similar to running a scam.)

We need publishers to testify before congressional committees. Let them get up there under oath and deny their products poison your mind! It worked for tobacco companies. Why not for Simon & Schuster?

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Ugliest Day

#292 The Ugliest Day

The question is getting a little tired: “Did you leave New York because of 9/11?”

The answer was “no” and the answer is STILL “no.”

But, still, it was the Ugliest Day. And the scariest. Until now.

Where’s the monument? It’s been more than half a decade since the buildings came down? And where’s the unity that flared for a mere moment afterward?

The buildings had a total of more than 200 floors. If they had been spread out on the ground, they would be bigger than many cities. When you add in the part of the pentagon that was attacked and the hijacked plane the passengers crashed in that field in Pennsylvania – the one that might have been on its way to the White House, you get square footage about the size of Atlanta that was wiped out.

The Viet vets are fond of saying “if you weren’t there, you don’t know. You can’t know.” And that’s true of those of us in Manhattan that day, too. They stopped the trains. People walked. They talked among themselves.

Getting cross town about eight hours after the attack, Central Park never looked so beautiful. And the ugly stranger walking next to you was, suddenly, a pal, and a handsome one, at that.

While our friends and neighbors and co-workers were dead or dieing a couple of miles to the south, we had escaped and now we had to fight back. And we were joined by – well, it seemed like everyone. Countries that didn’t speak to America became allies. Countries that already were allies became close friends. And inside the country, briefly – but only briefly, we seemed to forget about our differences.

Stuff that kept us apart – politics, religion, geography, economic status, didn’t seem to matter.

This didn’t last long. The strutting mayor had been bombed out of his 23rd floor bunker in a building near the World Trade Center. A bunker 23 floors in the air? Yes. Only in New York. The first thing he did was look for a new home for the bunker. And then he went on television and stayed there forever. It was reassuring in a way. It got real old, real fast.

Almost as fast as the resolve and the unity and the alliances faded.

One thing you don’t hear about much: the WTC in its collapse began to stink. And the stink took its time working its way uptown. It was almost a week before the stink reached the upper east side. And people were wondering “what’s that stink?”

The answer: a couple of dead skyscrapers the size of Atlanta, and the remains of 3,000 or so dead people.

Now, it’s six years later. Our politicians and our allegiances and our religions and geographies and our economic status have resumed their rightful places.

The guy walking next to you is stupid and ugly again.

And somewhere in a cave, an absurd, tall man in robes and a wearing a scraggly beard and sitting on a pile of money that’s the size of lower Manhattan is still laughing at us and still threatening us.

And half of us are worried about being unkind to stereotypical middle easterners, while half of us are itching to start WWIII. Or is it WWIV, but without a clue of how to go about it.

And THIS is the ugliest day. And the scariest.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Mad Hater

#291a The Mad Hater

Teen boys used to use this trick to get a girl to have sex with them. They'd say "if you really love me, then prove it." Sometimes that worked, most often, not.

The technique has lost its appeal to teenage boys, but their adolescent decedents haven't forgotten it, only now they use it in a slightly different way.

The trend among talk show people these days is to tell you that members of the Democratic Party hate America, and that if you love America, you have to show it . And the way you do that -- and the ONLY way you can do it is to join the Right. Everything else is hatred. There's nothing in between. Nothing. You either put out for the right or you hate your country.

Ridiculous.

It's the fake patriots (fakeriots?) that are the haters. They are a religion. They have a priesthood (Rush Limbaugh as the Pope? Michael Savage as Archbishop of San Francisco? Sean Hannity as Cardinal of New York?)

Their proselytizing is second only to that of the Thousand Year Reich and stems from the same root. Government is bad (unless we run it.) It’s the premise behind all evil (unless “we” have a majority in both houses of Congress and occupy the White House.) It only gets in your way and tries to control your existence, your way of life, you actual life.

What they mean is they don’t want you to have a life. They want you pulling plows for 16 hours a day so you’re so tired thereafter you can’t object to whatever else it is you’re doing.

In the meantime, they’re busy re-defining all kinds of things we take for granted. And like the farm animals they want us to be, we buy it.

Patriotism? What’s that mean? Supporting your country. How do you do it? By slavishly following all the orders that issue from that Great Satan, the Government.

Goebbels would be green with envy.

Universal health care? Why what that means is that you have to pay for some welfare creep to get medical services while your poor family suffers on line at the HMO.

Social Security? A failed program instituted by that known Commie Franklin Roosevelt.

It IS a religion. And they don’t brook any Cafeteria Conservatives. Pure or contaminated. There’s no inbetween.

But don’t look too closely. Because in this case, pure and contaminated are the same thing.

The Contras and the IRA think of themselves as freedom fighters. So do the present-day brownshirts. And fighting freedom (but not FOR freedom) is what they do.

Dr. Freud would have a picnic with these projectors of the first magnitude. And so would Lewis Carroll.


All this is proof that the world belongs to Alice and her crew of merry crazies, hiders of rose colors, cats that vanish from tree branches and hookah-smoking caterpillars.

Except that Alice was fiction. Or close to it.

And, oh as they used to say in the back seats of mid-1950s Chevrolets, – if you love America, prove it.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Send In the Clowns

#290 Send In the Clowns

The genius Libertarians have one thing right, at least. The government has become useless. They’re wrong about most everything else: anarchy is better than government. Liberty (or license?) Freedom (from what?) But they’re right about the government, though they don’t understand what that means.

The dolts who are running things don’t seem to realize that they’re running for office or running in place or running backward because they don’t understand what government is for.

The legislature figures its job is making laws, and that’s what it does, the devil may care what the effects are. The executive branch figures its job is to run everything and it tries. At the moment, it’s running everything into the ground. The judicial branch is busy rubber stamping whichever of the previous two are in power. And the fourth branch, capital, doesn’t know what it’s doing or even what it’s supposed to do.

The sum of this ugly equation is this: we’re being turned into – or back into – a nation of farm animals.

To which the only proper response is “moo you!”

The government used to be the brakes on the rest of us. Front disc, rear drum. No more. The pedal swings down to the floor without you even having to push it.

The government used to be infrastructure – a unifying force. Something that held us all together, or maybe mostly together. No more. It’s a separate world.

Here in 21st Century America, you have an attorney general who doesn’t know about the law, a Supreme Court Justice who regularly and literally falls down on his face. You have a political Master Technician who aw shuks-es about how small he really is – just part of a team. You have a Secretary of State who has zero qualifications, but was a professor. You have a deputy who can’t deputy his way out of a casting couch accusation.

You have Senators who get snagged in men’s room rendezvous, and a President who degrades the degrees offered by two of the nation’s three most prestigious university’s, Harvard and Yale by dancing on the table at a beanie party at which the main “drink” is coke and coke.

You have a country with hardly a smokestack that works, that thinks it’s the world’s brain and is really the world’s paralyzed frontal lobe.

America, land of poisoned Barbie Dolls and poisoned dogfood. (Good thing they caught that before most of us pensioners started having to eat it, else there would have been an elderly population implosion instead of a few dead poodles.)

To the current crop, the antedote to these poisons is more poison.

And look who’s coming to dinner! The car arrives. It’s a Mini Cooper. How many clowns can you fit in it? Well, all the presidential candidates have been seen getting out in the same ring of the circus.

You have to hope that during the ride from the back of Barnum’s tent to the center of the center ring no one got smooshed or groped, and no one had garlic before the main event.

The ringmaster has no clothes.

Steven Sondheim was right about sending in the clowns: “Don’t bother. They’re here.”

So why aren’t we laughing?

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Fox and the Hounds

#289 The Fox and the Hounds

People are forgetting what kinds of cars they bought. There was an Audi just up ahead the other day and its license plate said “Fox,” which is the name of the model. Makes it easy for the hounds with the flashing red lights on top of their car to remember. Always a good idea because the Fox is foxier than a fox.

Another guy had “Camry” on his license plate. The car was … yes… a Toyota Camry. Good thing he had that license plate to remind him. The manufacturer puts the name on the body in only seven different places. The eighth time’s the charm.

Fortunately, most car model names are short. You can only put so many numbers and spaces on a license plate. And you pay plenty extra for the right.

There probably is no Oldsmobile with “88” on the plate. There are several good reasons for that. One is that they don’t make Oldsmobiles any more. Second is because some state official probably has that number and third, it’s what the Neo-Nazis use instead of “HH,” eight being the eighth letter of the alphabet. And only an idiot would advertise that on a license plate.

“Studebaker” has two too many letters for a license plate. But given the cult status of that brand, there’s likely to be any number of plates that say “STUDE” followed by a digit or two. Or, even better, “STUD” followed by a digit or two.

And be on the lookout for a white Fiat Uno with the license plate “BENTLEY.”

How forgetful we’ve become.

Pontiac fits on a plate. But Deusenberg doesn’t. (Do they still make Pontiacs? Yes, apparently, but not many.)

“FORD” works. So does “LINCOLN.”

All this is helpful when you’re in the box store parking lot and can’t find your “’VETTE-21,” or your “MIATA 345.”

Some people like to put their company names on the plates. There has to be one somewhere that says “WAL MART.” Too bad Nordstrom’s doesn’t fit. Eight letters or letters or numbers and spaces in most states. That’s it.

Even cutesier than car or corporate names are the “lovebird” plates. Something like “BK AK.” Of course, this could be a Burger King freak with who owns an AK-47. But more likely it’s Bonnie Klein and Alan Klein.” Lovebirds.

And the hobby plates. “SKIBUM.” “COIN GUY.” “DEADHEAD.” “TREKKIE.”

In olden times, we had a Chevy, “703 NYP.” Means “New York Press.” Pretty tough to get in those days. Lots of paper work. Most people thought it meant “New York Police.” Scared daylights out of some miscreants. Special parking zones in Manhattan where you weren’t supposed to get tickets when you parked, but did anyway – especially around the end of any given fiscal quarter.

Silly stuff. The present plate is the letters “GLK” followed by four numbers that happen to comprise a year. Not any special year. Just a year. Chosen by the state at random, as are those of most of us who don’t want to pay the outrageous fee for the “special” plates or who can remember the brand of car they drive.

But various people have tried to make words out of those letters. In one instance, they are said to stand for Good Luck King. Nonsense. In another, the letters are a compression of “GLOCK.”

You better watch out.

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

(c) 2007 WJR