Monday, August 31, 2009

592 No Recession for Dogs

592 No Recession for Dogs

You may be eating out less often. You may have swapped your clunker for a more fuel efficient mini-car. You may have taken your summer vacation at a nearby park instead of that trip you wanted to make to Costa Rica. But the poochification of America continues in high gear and there's no recession for dogs.

It's not just the rhinestone collars and winter booties we're talking about. It's the "lifestyle." A dog's life? Bring it on. The latest example comes from our old friends at Mars Candy, the folks who make Milky Way and Snickers bars and M&Ms. Did you know they also make dog food? They do. And they have a new brand called "Cesar Bistro."

Here are some of the flavors: "Steak Tips Sonoma Style..." "Grilled Chicken Primavera," "Steak Florentine... in sauce." and "Tuscan Style Stew with Beef." There's one more, but the label in the ad is obscured. Something with "roasted beef burgundy."

What? How did dogs survive in the wild without this stuff. Can you imagine a cave puppy coming upon a chunk of mammoth meat and turning up his nose, demanding steak tips Sonoma style? Can you imagine that today? We live for our dogs!

Gourmet dog food for the dog who has everything?

It's easy to understand people wanting dog foods that are balanced or fight worms or fleas or whatever. It's perfectly normal to adjust a dog's diet between puppy-hood and old age. But steak tips?

Maybe the Mars folk are preparing us for an extension of the downturn. Pictures of this stuff are more appetizing than most of the dishes they make on the TV cooking shows. Thing is, it can't be cheap.

They are, of course, producing this stuff for us. It makes us feel like we're doing something nice for the dogs. Earth to Mars: The dogs don't care.

Shrapnel:

--Let's hear it for WEAF, the radio station that eventually became WNBC, also long gone, which aired the first radio commercial this month in 1922, a ten minute ad for an apartment house called Hawthorne Court in Jackson Heights, Queens. The realtor spent $100 for the ten minute infomercial. Hawthorne Court was the client, and among the first of a great New York City real estate tradition, the co-op apartment, tenant owned and operated.

--Beware of computer companies bearing gifts. Someone has sent the governors of several states laptop computers that hadn't been ordered -- and no bills came with them. Are these attempts to eventually collect the money or attempts to collect information, or both?

--They're having a "Grange Fair" near here, the 135th annual, oldest and largest of its kind in the country, we're told over and over again. Meantime, in Scotland, a farmer has paid a record $347,000 for an eight month old ram expected to sire millions of dollars worth of pedigreed sheep. Ah, farmers and their sheep -- no expense is too great for some.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

591 Two Deaths

591 Two Deaths
I.

We all have our memories of Sen. Kennedy. How could we not, he's been in public life for, what, 50, 55 years? Most of those memories are from afar. The man who could (and should) have been President. A champion of the poor and disadvantaged. A fighter for universal health care, better insurance, fewer wars, immigration, labor, civil rights, the big stuff, the important stuff. Too much stuff to enumerate here.

From afar, the brother of a murdered president, the brother of a murdered US Senator, the head of one of the country's most prominent families. A hard drinker. Overweight. Father, grandfather. The pluses and the minuses all flash in recollection.

But some of us, reporters, even reporters off the Boston or Washington beat, have close up memories as well, small and unimportant as they may be.

It was late in 1971, maybe early in 1972, when Senator Kennedy kept an appointment at the New York headquarters of the Associated Press, in the fourth floor newsroom at 50 Rockefeller Plaza. Maybe five or six in the evening, just around dinner time. Can't remember the reason. Some project or other he was working on.

So in strides this tall, thin, handsome young man, filled as his brother Jack might say with "viggah." Smiles for everyone. Handshakes all around. He had his fans then and there. Those of us there thought there was a glow around him. Maybe it was just the lousy lighting at 50 Rock. But it looked like a vertical halo.

He was in and out pretty quickly. Must have had a dinner, though he wasn't in formal wear -- so, maybe a working dinner. Maybe catching a Broadway show. No one thought to ask. We didn't ask questions like that in those days, though, surely, he would have given us an answer, as he gave us his full and undivided attention.

In anticipating the visit, we were feeling heavy. "Look what the guy's been through, and at such a young age." That's the kind of comments went floating around.

When he left, we all felt taller. And lighter.

He should be remembered not as the "brother," but a true believer and a true accomplish-er, an idealist and pragmatist at once and a great man in his own right, which he would likely have been even if his name hadn't been Kennedy.

II.
Then, there's Ellie Greenwich, who died a day or so ago of a heart attack at the age of 68. Ellie was a classmate. She was a beautiful young woman and became a star. She wrote "Leader of the Pack." She put together "girl bands." She helped discover Neil Diamond. She worked with Lieber and Stoller and Sinatra and Ella. She was author of such memorable musical ...uh... masterpieces as "De Do Ron Ron," and the center of a Tony-nominated Broadway musical, "Leader of the Pack," that featured her long list of inane but popular songs and "girl bands."

Ellie "got" what women of the era wanted or were about. She was no Ted Kennedy. But her life and death were important. She knew her era and explained it to itself.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009.




Wednesday, August 26, 2009

590 Why Nothing Gets Done

590 Why Nothing Gets Done

First you have to accept that nothing gets done, or at least not much gets done. If you're hearing this while waiting in a supermarket line, or if you're reading it while on hold for a "customer" "service" rep., you know the story. If you've ever tried a building project (see Wessays #589) in a house full of people, you know the story. Nothing gets done.

Here's why: Zigzags have taken over the world. Oh, they don't know they're that... and they don't know to call it that. But that's what they are. You want to make lunch? Great. Start to make lunch and see if something doesn't happen to stop you well before you're finished, to end your momentum, your inertia. "Honey, please water the plants..." is one good interruption. Or "I have to sweep the kitchen floor right now and right where you're standing." There's another.

Zigzags. You can't go directly from point "a," in this case the "crafting" of a peanut butter sandwich or two (nothing gets "made" anymore. It gets "crafted." Even beer. How the hell do you "craft" a beer?) You get zigzagged at every turn, sometimes literally.

You're on the road. All of a sudden there's a road crew that sends you on a detour. You're in the doctor's office, in the exam room, and he or she pops in and says "I'm sorry. I'll be a few minutes. Something's come up. That "something" may be a patient in dire need of help. But more likely, it's time to set up an appointment for a haircut or a home repair. The doc is not exempt from zigzagging.

So, it seems you can't get from A to B in a straight line anymore. Some people call this multitasking. It ain't. THIS: is multitasking: Bill Clinton at his desk. He's doing the Sunday Times crossword puzzle, having a phone conversation with the Prime Minister of Russia and Monica's under the desk.

Needing to "throw in the laundry" in between spreading the peanut butter on the slices of bread, that's zigzagging.

And there is no cure. You can't, for example, say "Honey, I'll do the laundry as soon as I'm finished making lunch" -- heaven forbid you sit down and eat before heading for the Maytag.

Polite explanations don't work. Intentional deafness doesn't work. Snapping angrily CERTAINLY doesn't work.

Those of us not inclined to zigzag are conquered. Face it. Accept it. Live with it. Learn -- if possible -- to love it.

Shrapnel:

--Congrats to my former colleagues at Bloomberg News for filing a freedom of information act suit to find out who the Fed actually bailed out, and winning it. We now know who got the largess. And we now know why Obama re-nominated Bernanke as fed head. A brazen political move from an administration that claims to eschew brazen political moves.

--Is McCain in trouble? All of a sudden he's talking like an arch-conservative while campaigning for re-election. He's railing against the kind of health care reform that makes normal people think of him as an independent and real independents think he's a hard right Republican which he never used to be.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

589 Part Q

589 Part "Q."

This simple device is popular in the far east and among women from that region here in the States.
A simple container for shoes. Protects 'em from dust and dirt and low flying objects. It's made in Taiwan and not easily available in this country -- at least in places without a Chinatown. Swing-down doors, plastic hinges, nice fake cherry veneer. Holds lots o' shoes.

There is one known source for these things here in America, a furniture store in Ridgewood, Queens. But they ship nationwide. So when an older one finally broke beyond repair, a new one was ordered. Cheap. One hundred thirty five bucks. Shipping wt. 55 pounds. Assembly required. Words that strike terror into the hearts of some of the bravest.

It comes wrapped such that an atomic explosion would not damage it. It takes a wrecking crew working with box cutters, crowbars and blowtorches to get it out in the open. It comes in 114 parts. The instructions carefully identify each part. But the parts themselves are unlabeled. One hundred fourteen parts, some of which no one in America ever has seen before. Hardware that you'd call exotic if you were a collector. Wooden dowels, plastic grommets, metal clamps. Enough stuff to make Bob Vila shudder and run.

Easy assembly, says the obviously translated instruction sheet. Always a lie. It takes about an hour and a half to get the bare bones done. That's the back, the sides and a few cross pieces for stability. Then comes the really bad news: One of the 114 pieces is missing. One teeny, tiny piece of metal is going to hold up the works for how long?

A call to the store and a pleasant woman says "send us e-mail and we'll send you the part tomorrow."

It's called "Part 'Q'." It's worth less than a dime, maybe less than a nickel. It can be sent in a business size envelope for 44 cents. Do they have an extra, one they can just send out? It's not worth asking. Let's just take her at her word. But there's a distinct feeling here that Part Q will never arrive. And it's not something you can get at Home Depot or Lowe's.

Part Q, where are you? And will the shoe box ever be finished? Stay tuned.

Shrapnel:

-- Will Bill kill? Apparently not. But Long Island is way WAY overdue for a major hurricane.

--Here's a Bill who DID kill, former Lt. William Calley, who finally apologized for the My Lai massacre during a talk he gave at the Columbus, Georgia Kiwanis Club. If we can "forgive" the Lockerbie bomber, can we forgive this guy? Over my dead body.

--A former employee scored the winning bid on Ebay and now is the proud owner of one of the few known examples of an NBC chime set. The originals are all mini xylophones with the notes G-E-C. But some later ones were mechanical.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Socialist in The Produce Aisle

588 A Socialist In The Produce Aisle

Call him Tom, which isn't his name. He works the produce aisle. We're talking in a parking lot far from either of our work places. He asks "So what do you think about all these people bringing guns to the town hall meetings?"

"Oh, I'm one of those socialists they're all worried about," is the reply.

"Me, too," he says. "I'm a socialist." He glances up at the rooftop of a building and adds "any cameras around? I sure hope not, though they're everywhere."

"Long as there aren't snipers on the roof."

Tom's a greyhead, going to be 70 soon, he says. Had republican parents. Changed horses awhile back. He says "The Republicans fought Medicare, now all those Republicans are on Medicare and glad to have it. Our soldiers, God bless 'em, got VA care. Now these guys are working for the insurance companies and in January, their rates are going to go up -- again -- and they don't get that they're campaigning against their own interests."

Overhears a lot in the produce department. He says "I don't really listen to the conversations, but you hear things. The customers? They seem pretty equally divided between fronting for Blue Cross and making sense."

You have to wonder if the conversations are balanced differently in the "organic" and "regular" departments. The temptation is to ask whether the opposite of "organic" peaches shouldn't be "inorganic peaches," but Tom's on a roll here, getting a little worked up about the way people get worked up about all this.

"I hear someone had a gun at one of those town hall meetings." He heard right. An Obama town hall meeting in Arizona. Guy had an assault rifle over one shoulder and a handgun on his hip. Neither violated the law because they weren't concealed.

The Secret Service declined to answer a question, that being: why wasn't that guy sprawled on the sidewalk the moment you saw him? Guess the answer is, well, secret.

Tom says if that had been at a Bush event the guy would be in the slammer.

The Private Insurance Army, the PIA..

Tom looks at his watch and he's asked whether he's late for an appointment.

"Nope, I got six minutes. But I do need time to (go to the men's room) first."

If the parking lot was bugged, you'll never see this posting.

Shrapnel:

--There are some upsides to oral surgery for radio guys. For example, you can watch your boss gawk helplessly when you pretend not to be able to talk, then show them that you can. Kinda makes up for dental insurance not covering much of anything.

--One New York area Porsche dealer thinks cash for clunkers discriminates against his clientele, which wouldn't be seen dead in anything clunkeresque. So he's started a trade-in program of his own. It's called Cash for Cream Puffs.

--Changing fashions: The first uniforms for airline flight attendants made them look like nurses. Today, many nurses' uniforms make them look like flight attendants.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

587 The Liberal Media

587 The Liberal Media

The liberal media, the REAL liberal media, is getting kind of inbred. Who are we talking about? Mostly, the Huffington Post and two shows on MSNBC, "Countdown" and "The Rachel Madow Show." There's so much cross pollination among these three.

Arianna Huffington is on one or another of these shows a lot. Her Huffington Post quotes both shows, um, liberally. Madow and Countdown's Keith Olbermann do cross talk on each other's programs all the time. And syndicated progressive talker Ed Schultz spends a great deal of his radio time promoting HIS MSNBC show, leaving us with the impression that the radio isn't where he wants to be and that he saves his "best" material for TV.

The audience for these various outlets is pretty much the same people.

Time was, you could get a bunch of different stories and a bunch of different takes on them by watching or reading all of this. No more.

The bookers appear to share their Rolodexes, and all of this has become a traveling sideshow similar to the early morning talk programs and the Sunday Washington shows on the three major networks.

You see one, you've seen 'em all. And it's all the same stuff.

So if you want a little variety with your progressive politics, what do you do?

Maybe you pick up "The Nation," dry as a bone, dull as watching paint dry. Or you pick up "Mother Jones." (is that still around? Yes. Anyone notice?)

We end up talking to ourselves. Not a bad way to make a buck. But not a good way toward any political end, other than converting the converted.

You get dribs and drabs of something different from Alan Colmes on Fox or Ellis Henican in Newsday. But it's not enough.

We can talk to and with and among ourselves all day, every day and that's not going to make Chuck Grassley go away.

There are a million blogs like this one, mostly read by other people who write blogs like this one. But the bottom line is we're not getting the word out.

The blogger-in-chief/talk show host-in-chief, of course, is President Obama. And these days, he's not only not getting the word out either, but he's not even converting some of the converted.

Anyone got a better idea?

Shrapnel:

--Another health insurance proposal. Given the tax situation, most of us are working for the government beside whatever else we do. So why not give us the same benefits you give other employees?

--The furor over the town hall meetings should be tripping our entrepreneurial switches. There soon will be a shortage of bus exterior decorators. And modern technology makes the job pretty easy.

--Everyone in the northeast complained there was no summer. We got it now. And it feels like the temperature is twice normal to make up for the missing warm days last month and the month before.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

586 States' Rights

586 States' Rights

We're heading back to the era of the civil war. Texas is threatening to secede. No one much takes that seriously. But it's a grating noise on the blackboard of who we are as a country.

About five years ago, a little state's rights battle started in Europe, and got almost no attention here.

This is what happened: A guy in Germany, separated or divorced, wanted the right to visit his pre-teen kid. There was a dispute between the mother and father about which language was to be spoken at the visits. As many a couple in a kid battle, this ended up in a German court, which ruled against the father.

He then appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, which reversed the German court's decision. Then comes the German Constitutional Court which says "hey, wait a minute, Germany is a sovereign nation and thee Euro Human Rights Courts decisions are guidelines and not binding."

Well... that sure sounds like battles that have been going on here in the states for the last 150 years or so.

It's a battle that may soon heat up over here.... with conflicts about who sets abortion rights... marriage rights.... and educational rights.

Over there, it's different.

OUR states existed as affiliated but largely separate mini countries for about an eye blink.

The countries of Europe have a far longer tradition... one that's not going to break down anytime soon.
Yes... the map of Europe has been redrawn dozens of times in that same 150 years. And the unifications of Germany and Italy, for example, do not go back all that far.

But shared traditions among various sections in Europe go back to tribal roots.

And while the European court was formed in 1959... the overarching European union is new.

So, yeah, member countries of the EU are -- for the most part -- sharing currency and dropping a lot of border restrictions.... but the EU is NOT the United States of Europe.

Many of our states are bigger than countries.

Many of Europe's countries are smaller than American states.

But it's too soon for the Europeans to start acting like, say, Alabama or Texas.

We know what Europe is. It's a bunch of countries that share a continent.

We SHOULD be now know what the USA is -- here's a hint: it's a country, NOT a bunch of countries that share a continent.

And sure, states have rights. and sure there are restrictions on Washington.

But it may be time for some of OUR states to stop acting as if the federal government here were some kind of voluntary association.

That was settled by 1870... and many people thought it had been settled by 1776.

Shrapnel:

-Ignorant of world affairs that aren't crises or natural disasters? You are not alone. Who here knew about the Shanghai Expo-2010, which is expecting exhibits from 200 countries and figures on 70 million visitors between May first and October 31st?

--Time to give a little spanking to the GEICO gecko. He's so busy with TV appearances that he's getting late in sending out the auto insurance bills. Or he's mimicking MasterCard.

--Does any driver remember how to signal a turn by hand? Probably not. No one bothers with them, anymore. And way too many don't bother with the automatic ones, either.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

585 We Want Our America Back?

585 We Want Our America Back?

This is the catcall we hear from the people who travel around from town to town like tinkers and highway robbers and snake oil salesmen and circuit riding preachers who think they're still living or ought to be living in the mid to late 1700s.

Just what America do they want back? The America with only 13 states and endless land and unlimited resources? The America where women couldn't vote? African slaves? A life expectancy 30% lower than it is now? Is this the America they want back? If so, let them have it -- just not here.

These cockroaches who infest the town hall meetings, trying to infect us with their disease of shrieking, their, shrill shilling for insurance companies and for what remains of the Republican Party and who get off their brightly painted luxury tour buses depositing larvae or eggs or whatever it is this kind of insect deposits are the real air pollution. It is their hot air and the germs they carry that are killing the country, if not the planet.

When the damage is done -- and it's always done -- they get back on the buses and head for the next town. They're the same people who opposed busing for desegregation, but they're perfectly happy to bus themselves, especially when they're not paying for the ride.

Some of them are home grown. How many? How dedicated? Hard to tell.

"We want America back!"

What America? The one where the President is a drunk? Or a crook? These insects and circuit preachers will trade a drunk or a crook for (shudder!) a black man any day.

Do these people really believe the dreamworld America they say they lust for actually existed?

Do they really believe the president is a Kenyan Communist out to destroy the country (the white part of the country, really.)

Do they really believe an ivy educated legal scholar, judge and now a Supreme Court Justice who happens to be a Latina will bend the law any more than the others in that job have done and will continue to do?

Do they really believe unions, now a shadow of their prime time selves can "rule" the workforce?

Or are they just having fun as luxury bus riding cockroaches.



Shrapnel:
- Saucer-y update after reading a seemingly scholarly book about pilots who've spotted UFOs. The space pilots must be pretty smart, rarely if ever going nearLaGuardia or LAX and confining their antics to mostly rural locales. You'd stay away from New York, Chicago, Washington, Miami and Southern California, too.

--Let's hear it for Larry Langford, mayor of Birmingham, Alabama who pardoned thousands of civil rights demonstrators for acts committed in the 1960s, even though those still living likely will reject his largess. Badges of honor, those convictions. Maybe he should pardon the wielders of fire hoses and the dogs, too.

--Kennedys in the news: RIP, Eunice Shriver, dead at 88. Unfortunately we also will soon be saying that about brother Ted, now with a Presidential Medal of Freedom in hand.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

584 I Am A Union Thug

584 I Am A Union Thug.

The right wing wingnuts are telling us that "union thugs" are silencing their grass roots out-speakers against President Obama's "...plan for socialized medicine." Absolutely correct.

We are only there, of course, because the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers and the WWE Wrestlemania types were busy elsewhere. They'll all be aboard soon enough, but while we're waiting, we do what we can.

As a fully accredited Union Thug, I'm a guy who depends on all my years of thuggishness for my present, rare and inadequate Union Thug defined benefit pension, money I would never have seen were it not for my life in the militancy of the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (AFL-CIO) The Writers Guild of America, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, the Wire Service Guild, the Workman's Circle.

Man Am I a Union Thug. Hulking. Snarling. Intimidating. Fat! Better watch out you capitalist wimps.

So was my mom. Early member of the United Federation of Teachers of New York City. And my uncle Sol, a shop steward in the Retail Employees Union. Goons, all of them. Barely able to walk on their hind legs.

Just wait until the Panthers, the NOI and the WWE get on board. You ain't seen nuthin' yet.

The AFL-CIO has not yet contacted me and asked me to attend a meeting on health care reform. But I'm ready when they do. I'm sure the invitation was lost in the mail. My buddy, G the cop, a loyal member of the NYPD Patrolman's Benevolent Association, even has volunteered to lend me her lead pellet sap, purely defensive, of course.

"Don't you need that, G?" "Nah, I have the lead gloves and the brass knuckles, plus we don't get a lot of action in Midtown South." Another PBA member, Tony V, has volunteered his services. Tony is 6'9" and as wide as a boxcar. No one has asked him to meetings yet, either. Maybe if Hulk Hogan can't make it.

Meantime, we thugs will trail around the country, making sure those Great Patriots who want to discriminate against the sick and the elderly don't get out of hand.

Shrapnel:

--The major broadcast news outfits all prohibit use of the title of "Dr." for anyone whose doctorate is not an MD. They say it's to avoid confusion. But it also neatly sticks pins in pompous academics and others with doctorates in non-subjects.

--Other titles flow like water over Niagara. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal unfailingly use "Mr." or "Ms." before anyone's name. Used to be they dropped the courtesy title when someone was convicted of a crime, though today it's still "Mr. Madoff."

--What's in your wallet, as Capital One likes to ask? Not a Capital One credit card after decades. Triple my interest rate, will ya, after never missing a payment or late with one?


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

583 Number Pads

583 Number Pads

Would it help if the numbers on the telephone and the numbers on the calculator were in the same order? The phone starts with "1" and goes to "0" and the calculator starts goes "7-8-9-4-5-6-1-2-3-0." This is confusing. Especially if you regularly use both implements.

If you add the first two numbers on the calculator, the sum is 15. If you add the first two numbers on the telephone, the sum is three. Math isn't tough enough without this contortion?

There's no preference here for either system. Either will do. But both?

The original Personal Digital Assistants had the letters in alphabetical order. That was a pain in the brain for those of us who touch type. Now, they're standardized "qwerty" just like the typewriter was and the computer keyboard is. But there's restlessness in this department. The Pentagon has come up with a further "simplified" keyboard that is neither alphabetical nor qwerty. It says this is more intuitive, faster and more efficient. When the Pentagon calls something "efficient," forget about it.

What's non-intuitive about qwerty, anyway? Fortunately, the Pentagon keyboard has gained about the same level of acceptance as the metric system. Maybe even less.

But the phone and the computer are in wide use all over the world. And switching back and forth between them is often like when you first drive in the UK. It takes getting used to. A LOT of getting used to, especially if you don't look at the keypads.

There's really one solution. Pick your oppressor. The phone company or Texas Instruments. Someone has to win this war, eventually.

The problem is how do decide.

Probably the safest, slowest way is to leave it up to the US Senate. they can debate, filibuster and wrangle and eventually will come up with a solution. Unfortunately, the solution probably will take decades to "hammer out," as they say in the news business. Or they'll come up with a "third way." Something like having the numbers go in no particular order. say "2-5-8-0-1-4-7-9-6-3."

This will have us all learning new skills and it will give the accountants yet another new excuse for cooked books: "My fingers slipped on the new calculator format."


Shrapnel:

--Historic first Hispanic Justice, Historic first Hispanic Justice, Historic first Hispanic Justice, Historic first Hispanic Justice, Historic first Hispanic Justice, Historic first Hispanic Justice. Got it out your system now -- heard it enough? Great, now let theHfHJ get to work without that encumbrance.

--The HfHJ was sworn in over the weekend. They treat her like she's some kind of combination of the Virgin Mary and Godzilla. She is neither.

--The right wingers who decry "activist judges" (except their own,) are worried sick. Behind their "worries" are two things, (1) a need to think of the US as if it were the original 13 colonies and (2) racism. Thesecond's pretty funny since Hispanic ain't a race.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Friday, August 07, 2009

582 Meeting Madness

582 Meeting Madness

Would it surprise you to learn that someone has started a George Sodini marksmanship scholarship fund? George is the guy who waltzed into a Pittsburgh area aerobics class and shot the place up. He killed several women and wounded several others before killing himself.

Way to go, Georgie. Save us a lot of time, effort and energy and showed us how to disrupt a meeting.

The only difference between Sodini and the roving bands of drunk-on-conspiracy theory nut jobs who are preventing others' free expression at meetings on health care and other topics is they don't carry guns.

Yet.

But if they continue on their present path, the next thing we're going to see is someone from the Sodini school of meeting disruption whip out a 9mm and start firing. The difference today is only one of degree. The difference tomorrow? These people get fired up enough and they'll start firing.

You don't like proposed changes in health care? You've read the various bills (those of you who can actually read?) You disagree with what's in it? You stand at public comment time and you say your piece. Peacefully.

Are these demonstrators paid workers? Probably not. that's the shame of it. You could understand in today's economic climate that they need to make a buck, like their soul mates in Iraq and Afghanistan who go around killing people for the "cause," while actually just trying to make a living.

Their intellectual leadership, of course, IS paid. You get people stirring up the crowds in behalf of the people who stand to lose most when "Obamacare" becomes law. But the foot soldiers are true believers, and that's more dangerous than mercenaries. They're on a crusade as mindless as there has ever been.

So Sodini brought actual and instant mayhem to a gym class full of women, representing to him all the women (including, probably, his own mother,) who rejected him. The meeting disruptors are like a time release aspirin. Their mayhem takes time. But so far it's working.

And we can't let that continue.

The only way to get rid of this kind of demonstration is to outnumber the demonstrators. And until and unless that happens, they will continue and probably will continue to grow in number and in force.

And who benefits? The insurance companies, for one. With no government competition, they're primed to continue romping all over us and looting the collective treasury.

If you look at these disruptions you see people who are mostly of Medicare age or Medicaid disposition. They seem not to realize they're already on the dole they don't want you on.

Maybe we need our own Sodinis.

Anyone have an application form for that scholarship?

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

581 Grand Theft, Dairy

581 Grand Theft, Dairy


It wasn't intentional. It really really was an accident. But shoplifting is shoplifting.

In the supermarket parking lot, lifting the bags of groceries into the trunk of the car, there it was.

A package of cheese.

And while not the exotically and sometimes criminally expensive gourmet stuff, the stealing of which might be considered grand theft dairy, not one of the cheapies, either.

How did this happen? How did a scrupulously honest long time resident of the neighborhood whose lawyer surely would ask for no bail because of deep ties to the community, manage to sneak out an item priced at something between seven and eight dollars?

Well... how about blaming those deep ties to the community, which in this case meant chatting with the cashier who is a near neighbor, with neither of us paying close enough attention to the checkout to notice the small, flat package sitting in the cart.

What to do.

There were alternatives.

Return the thing.

Take a chance and just make off with it? That's not right.

Go back and stand on line again for half an hour to pay for it? That's unbearable.

Buy a postal money order and send it to the store's headquarters anonymously?

Ah, but where IS the main office? It could be in East Islip, New York, or Montvale, New Jersey... or Melheim, Germany... in which case we'd have to buy the money order in euros.

How about donating the package to a food kitchen. A noble thought, relative to the other thoughts that you are hearing. But that doesn't answer the ethical dilemma which, by the time you read or hear this, is more than a week old.

The guilt is overwhelming.

How can a thief like this show his face back at the store?

Who or what to blame!

The lateness of the hour... the laxity of the staff?

Sure the cashier should have eyed the cart.

But it was near closing time and very busy.

No, really. It was just carelessness.

The nightmares begin: guilty with an explanation, your honor.

Wait, how about this for a solution. After all, what they don't know won't hurt them.

Next time before heading for the market, slip the loot from the heist into a shopping bag.... sneak it into the store... and when checking out, pay for it.

Unless, of course, store security discovers the theft and views the checkout videotape first.

In which case you shall hear the next broadcast version of these reports over a cell phone...
meaning a pay phone in a real cell.



Shrapnel:

--Semi reformed smokers unite! Slam your window shut, making it loud as possible. Maybe that'll teach the yutz next door when he smokes his two packs a day, others dislike the stink.

--There's going to be a federal summit on distracted driving. So, attendees, get behind the wheel, start the trip, put on your makeup, turn on the radio, and if you can't make a phone call, at least text someone. And please do it in that order.

--You gotta love the Iranian National Travel Agency. So welcoming are they that when you visit, they'll provide you with free accommodations. Tehran has more five star prisons than anywhere else in the middle east.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Monday, August 03, 2009

580 Workplace Bullies

580 Workplace Bullies

Is there a school where they teach bosses to bully workers and co-workers to bully others? Or does it just come naturally?

An item in the Sunday paper detailed the case of a woman of late middle age who was all but forced out of her job, as a health professional and who tried to sue her employer. The story goes on to describe the toll it took on her, on her family and on her surroundings. And it gave some statistics that while hard to verify show a troubling trend.

It said 37 percent of Americans believe they are being or have been bullied at work. The figure seems low. The question should not be "have you been bullied at work," but "have you managed to avoid it?"

It's not that every workplace is a lower east side sweatshop. But almost every place has the potential for it.

There are companies famous for this kind of behavior. And non-profits can be even worse: churches, hospitals, schools. The non-profits hide behind a "good works" excuse to justify brutalizing the people on their payrolls. Governments, too.

Sometimes, the bully is one person -- someone whose life is fear driven. Sometimes it's an institutional mindset.

So what do you do? Roar back? Shrink down? Walk out?

That depends on the case -- and on you. But no matter the solution you choose, this advice might come in handy. It comes not from an expert on labor relations, a gravely pontificating scholar, a pipe smoking psychologist or a union organizer. It comes from a reformed streetwalker named Mikki.

Mikki says you get bullied because you identify with the bully. You give him enough rope to hang you. You want to make peace and to make peace, you start thinking like he does.

If there's anyone who should know about bullies it's women with pimps.

Shrapnel:

--The administration says taxes may go up to pay for health care. Oops. George H.W. Bush must be smiling about this one.

--Ford, the only solvent American car company is a little less solvent now, and it has nothing to do with today's automotive climate. They've settled an old suit charging one of their SUVS was more prone to rollovers than they admitted at the time. Some said they were so unstable, they sometimes turned over while standing still and empty, but that's not true... right?

--We're learning more and more each day about the habits of our neighbors, now that the AC is busted and the windows remain open. It's not stuff we want to know or in which we have any interest. But it also proves that the windows, when closed, block a lot of extraneous sound.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009