Wednesday, September 29, 2010

763 The Trench Coat

763 The Trench Coat

It's the mid 80s and your correspondent wanders into Brooks Bros. at Madison and 44th looking for a raincoat. Peter, "his" sales representative has learned not to question the ragged blue jeans, the ragged beard and the pre-fashionable messenger bag, knowing that there's a "store charge" card behind the hideous outfit.

He shows the coat and it's perfect in fit and look. The price? $300. "Three hundred dollars?" whines the customer? "That's a lotta bucks for a raincoat, Peter." Peter says the thing will last ten or 15 years. He lied. Twenty five years later, it was still going strong, if you ignored the belt buckle with the leather cover that had worn down to bare metal. No sign of fraying. No broken or missing buttons and the epaulets, unadorned, but unscathed and ready to accept the number of bars or stars should the customer suddenly gain rank above "citizen," requiring military decoration.

We're often told that every man looks great in a tuxedo. Maybe. But there's no doubt that every man (or woman) looks swashbuckling in a trench coat. Even cartoons. (Think Dick Tracy.) Even slobs. Think (Columbo.) What most of us moderns can't figure out is how these things were useful in trenches. Sure made Murrow look handsome, which many thought he wasn't. Even crooked politico Jack Abramoff looked less ugly in one, though his choice was black and he should have gone for the tan and a size that didn't make him look fat.

And Peter Finch as Howard Beale proved to millions of moviegoers that even a battered, mud-splattered, rain soaked trench coat could look good.

But like almost everything else, they don't make 'em like they used to. Brooks Bros. seems to have forgotten that "trench coat" is not interchangeable with "rain coat." Apparently, so has Lands' End. Burberry has not. But for more than two grand, who'd buy one?

So, the "original" from the mid 1980s is long gone but well remembered. And in its place is a simple, epaulet-less, unbelted, rain coat. It, too, will last a zillion years. But that's only because it's never worn.


Shrapnel:

--Speaking of trench coats, globe trotting Nancy B. reports from Cambodia that the famed Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom Penh now specializes in pizza and mojitos. She says she arrived too late for lunch hour and too early for happy hour. She may look great in Burberry Tan, but we gotta get this lady a better watch!

--Heaven forbid the money's not there when you've arranged for an electronic auto-pay from your checking account. There often is no way to change the date or even reach the people at the account. The local electric company doesn't cut you off on these occasions, it soups up the voltage and blows up your computers, TV sets and heating and cooling system.

--Segway, hell -- it's fast fade to black. Jimi Heselden, 62, liked Segway transporters so much, he bought the company (like the electric shaver guy,) and then drove one off a cliff and died. Should have stuck to owning rather than using, alas.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010



Monday, September 27, 2010

762 Beancounter Bob and L'Enfant Terrible

762 Beancounter Bob and L'Enfant Terrible

Bob Wright was working in the fields of General Electric's Financial Services division. This was about the time that Jack Welch was turning GE from a stodgy industrial conglomerate into a Wall Street darling and bought RCA and with it, NBC. Wright was no broadcaster, though once he headed Cox Cable. So Jack probably thought "Ahah! Here's a guy who knows television," and named Wright president of the new acquisition. Wright did not know television. And he made some totally dunderheaded decisions that you, too, might make if you were a lawyer in a big financial services division. But to his credit, he learned the business. And he learned damned fast and built a monolith of a network and a ratings leader out of then-ailing NBC.

Twenty one years later, he got kicked upstairs. They named him "Vice Chairman" of GE. What's that? No one is sure. Welch was long gone, his replacement at the top, Jeff Immelt is a walking, talking, stock-sinking character out of "The Peter Principle," and so is Wright's replacement as CEO of NBC, Jeff Zucker (Rhymes with looker, not that other word.)

Zucker, named executive producer of the Today Show at the age of 26 rode that success right up to what Laurence Peter called his "level of incompetence." And now at the ripe old age of 45 is basically on the street. Probably not necessary to worry about the guy. Those GE settlements can be pretty decent. But with new owners coming, it was time for a change.

Jeff is Harvard educated, a native of south Florida and could easily have been cast in the role of "The Terrible Tempered Mr. Bang" of Toonerville Trolley fame. He also is the smartest guy in the room. And with the possible exceptions of Fred Friendly and Max Liebman may have been the best TV executive producer of all time. He knew instinctively what would work and what wouldn't and had the grit to take chances. And while he sometimes acted like a maniac, boy, did we give good television on his watch.

Then came the promotions, first to Hollywood and then back to New York as the Grand Macher of the network. He had his share of harebrained schemes ... shows that exceeded the long established standard time constraints, making Conan O'Brien star of "The Tonight Show," and putting Leno on at 10 PM. But by the time Jeff got to the top, NBC's ratings steamroller, lasting longer than the law of averages would have predicted, was heading downhill. The hits were wearing out or were gone. Seinfeld, Friends, Cheers, etc. were long over. The replacements were cheap and awful: Fear Factor, the Apprentice, and other so-called reality shows.

But at the same time, the stable of NBC cable networks started to flourish with original programming like "Monk," "Psych" and "Burn Notice," and even one of the Law & Order spin offs as a first run on USA. SyFy became a force in TV and so did Bravo. CNBC is considered the reliable source for financial news. MSNBC has carved out a middle-left leaning predominance. All this on the watch of the Terrible Tempered Mr. Bang.

Many of those of us who worked for him or beside him, used to be grateful for when he stayed downstairs in the Studio 1A control room while we were on the floor above. We were happy to have an equally smart, influential, fearless and authoritative Morning News Director, Jim Dick, to run interference between Jeff and the news staff. But what Zucker did with morning television was nothing short of brilliant.

Say what you will about JZ, point out all the flaws you want. But the guy did plenty to keep the company profitable and firmly entrenched in the 21st Century. He has nothing to be ashamed of for 15 of the 24 years he spent with the company. Except the Leno fiasco and not renewing the original Law & Order.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010





Friday, September 24, 2010

761 Newsday

761 Newsday

Those of us who lived long on Long Island would love to read the local paper there, Newsday, now and then. But the new owners have made it close to impossible. They're either pioneers or they are putting a once-great paper into the ground. Yes, it once was a great paper. Major columnists, major reporting, major investigating. Huge pageloads of ads, sports, a first rate Washington bureau. And circulation? Until some crooks on the business side started fudging the figures and dumping copies into the landfill they were going great guns, serving a region of more than five million people and among the largest papers in the country.

We all know that times have changed in the newspaper business. They have to get their bucks when and where and as they can. But this is ridiculous: If you want to read Newsday on the internet, you have to be a subscriber to the company's cable service, Cablevision or a subscriber to the print paper itself. Otherwise, it costs five bucks a week. $260 a year.

Cablevision serves a lot of locations all over the country. But not all of them. No kid on a bicycle is going to make a 12 hour round trip to plunk a Newsday on your porch in Harrisburg or Rochester or even Union County, NJ. (Heaven forbid you should be a Long Islander living in Florida or Arizona.)

So they give you headlines and the first paragraph of a story. And this paper has never been known for the tell-all headline or gisting in the lead paragraph.

Five bucks a week for the full paper on line? Nuts!

But here's the real rub. If once you were a subscriber, they send you headlines via e-mail, and ads. You don't need to pay to read the ads. Shocker, eh? So the campaign is on. Every time they send an ad, we write a standard letter to the advertiser (not the paper itself) saying "please tell your Newsday ad rep that we ex-patriots who neither get the paper delivered nor are able to subscribe to their ever-more-costly cable service will actively tell our remaining LI friends and relatives to boycott you -- and when we come back for a visit, count on us not using whatever it is you're selling." If enough people do this, Newsday might lower the internet price to something reasonable.

Shrapnel:

--The local mail is getting more screwed up every day. In the latest, we didn't receive yet another bill, and a month later when a later one arrived, we got slapped with about 40 bucks in interest and late fees. The merchant (GAP) immediately and without fanfare removed the extra charges, which is the exception, rather than the rule.

--When the wireless companies pitch you for "new improved" service they don't disclose all the terms. So you have to call them and interrogate. And after a call of that length (and the accompanying wait of that length before someone comes on the line) you end up doing nothing because you're more confused than you were in the first place.

--Looking around for vacation air fares. No planes go from any "A" to any "B" that means anything at all directly from anywhere. Thanks for this "hub and spoke" "system" probably should go to Bob Crandall, former AMR chief and the "Chainsaw Al" of the airline industry.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

760 The Civil Wrongs Movement

760 The Civil Wrongs Movement

The civil rights movement borrowed successful strategies from the labor movement -- what, 30, 40 or so years its senior. So, now the civil wrongs movement is borrowing successful strategies from the civil rights movement, 40 or so years ITS senior. There is, of course, a major difference today. The first and second of these movements wanted inclusion through organizing. The latest iteration wants, essentially to undo almost 100 years of progress.

The cwm wants to stop paying its bills so that it can have more money to ... what? Buy toys? "Create" jobs? "Protect our children from the slings and arrows of what they think of as outrageous government? The ultraconservative yeehahs, stuck in their word of fantasy and free market mythology, want to turn you into plow mules, keep you so scared and so busy you never ask for a raise or expect a promotion or have any future financial security. They want to enslave you to "unearned rewards and unrewarded duties," as that great liberal, Ayn Rand, often said and wrote.

So maybe it's time to borrow strategies from the borrowers of strategies. In extreme, that would mean burning a cross on Glenn Beck's lawn or "disappearing" some civil wrongs workers in a Mississippi swamp. Too extreme. But some of the tactics of the anti labor and segregationists might work. Start small. Surround and intimidate the mobs that are trying to surround and intimidate you at an abortion clinic. Start spreading the word that what the so-called tea bags are trying to pull off is sedition and leads to anarchy. Get in there and make sure everyone knows that people who bus into Washington or wherever are "outside agitators," a marvelous phrase coined by some southerner decades ago.

Most of us can't afford Henry Ford's "solution" to the "union problem," which was hiring thugs to beat up workers. And that, too, is too extreme. But what's happening today is lethargy and ultimately, lethargy kills.

These anti-American protesters are going to win if someone doesn't do something about them. Make Pogo wrong when he said "We have met the enemy and he is us." If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.


Shrapnel:

--Which to you prefer: (a) Doctor with a great bedside manner but limited expertise... (b) Doctor with a lousy bedside manner but who's a medical wizard. Wrong. No doctors come to your bedside anymore, not even in the hospital, so there's no longer any such thing as a bedside manner.

--Real everyday manners, now that's another story. They, too, seem to be among the missing. How "me" can you be... before someone cleans your clock for cutting you off on line?

--Printer panic time. Yours will tell you when you put in an "unauthorized" ink jet cartridge and forbid you from using it. The cure: forget your manners, push "print" and the thing'll back down and do what you want.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

759 Give Us a Hint

759 Give Us a Hint

Hey, drivers! You know that little lever just beyond the steering wheel? Check it out. It's there in easy reach. You know where the wheel is, of course. And the various gauges, and the shift lever, the radio/cd/mp3 player, the GPS receiver, the heat, the air conditioning, the fan, the phone. You know where the brake is, and the accelerator. The rear view camera, maybe even the windshield wiper control. But what about the directional signal?

Until Ford or someone comes up with a mind reading transceiver to go along with that GPS thingy and all the other electronics on modern cars, you still have to tell the folks in back of you that you intend to make a turn or a lane change. For that, you have two primitive devices, your left arm and your directional signal. Anyone remember hand signals? Straight out the window for left, up for right and down for stopping. Or, so you don't have to trouble yourself to open the window, you can flip that little lever on the steering column to signal either direction. It doesn't take much energy. Less than pushing "scan" on the radio or twisting the temperature knob for up or down. WAY simpler than texting at 65 mph.

Signaling a lane change on the highway is the law. When was the last time anyone was busted for not doing that? The cops don't need speed traps, all they have to do is ride around with their eyes open and fill those coffers with signal fines.

This no signal trend started in (naturally) California. But most Californians are of, shall we say, limited consciousness. The trend has spread in all directions. Bus drivers still signal. Taxi drivers may. The drivers of 18 wheelers usually do it. Everyone else? It's iffy, leaning to non-existent.

So what's the big deal? Wait until some guy in a Porsche cuts you off at speed or some guy in a "Smart-for-Two" makes a New York taxi turn, left from the right lane or right from the left lane.

Maybe it's too much to remember. After all, you have the phone, the Blackberry, the heater, the air conditioner, the mp3 player, the accelerator, the steering wheel and the brake peddle to worry about. They used to tell us "use the signal even when there are no other cars around." Why? Habit, and "just in case" there's someone out there you DON'T see but who sees you.

How tough is that?


Shrapnel:

--Well, glory be! Chase has gotten around to sending letters of apology to the nearly 2 million people affected by the internet outage last week. But the e-mail starts off by saying "if you have recently cancelled your... account, please disregard this message."

--WABC, the New York radio station, plans an on the air tribute to right wing talk pioneer Bob Grant, 81. This is the station that fired him twice and hired him three times, most recently for a brief weekend program. Grant's been at the radio game for more than 60 years and even if you disagree with his virulent, strident miserable opinions, he deserves a steady paycheck (which, apparently he'd still like to have) more than an audio version of a gold watch.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

758 Political Short Takes

758 Political Short Takes

Some thoughts on the primary of 9/14/10:

CHARLIE RANGEL: wins. No big surprise. But it's a resounding confirmation of what he's done for (not to) the district all these decades. Adam Powell-the-umpteenth was a distant second. The people of Harlem have spoken and Charlie'll be back for another term, but his percentage this time was only about 51%, lower than usual. What they do to him in the house is anybody's guess, but they're not going to make his life easy. Is there an actual election here? Yes, of course. But c'mon, man, it's the 15th district.

RICK "Loser" LAZIO: This guy keeps coming up like an acid reflux stomach ache after pepperoni eating contest. The guy hasn't won anything on his own since 1998. If Steve Levy/Leave-Stevie had stayed in it might have been a horse race, but still with lousy odds and a small handle.

CARL "I Am Not A Racist" PALADINO: wins the Republican nomination for NY Governor. He'll probably win majorities in the boonies, but with any luck he'll lose overall to Andy Cuomo. Nothing like a tea bagger with a big mouth to unite the Democrats. Kind of like Joe Biden, except not funny. New York has had more than its share of great governors. A few of them have even been Republicans. Nelson Rockefeller and Theodore Roosevelt come to mind. If somehow elected, Pally is not going to be one of them.

KARL "Rasputin" ROVE: got his comeuppance even though he wasn't running for anything. But he didn't get it in a way that'll wreck his career or his fame-for-being-well-known. The comeuppance was from...

CHRISTINE "Don't Jerk Off" O'Donnell who won the Republican nod to run for governor of Delaware and who called Rove's efforts to elect MIKE CASTLE "Republican cannibalism." Isn't putting Mommy on the campaign payroll also cannibalizing? O'Donnell is a tea bagger. Maybe she and PALADINO will run away together after loosing their general elections, get a motel room and not have sex.

CAROLYN MALONEY: waltzed to victory over Wall Street tool and good looking babe Reshma Saujani 80% to 20.

CAROLYN MCCARTHY: No longer an amateur or beginner, she was unopposed for the Democratic nomination to succeed herself.

PETER KING: Long Island Republican congressman with a big mouth and who has been described by people in the know as "bigger than the party," won 91% of the vote over a nobody. Only an imbecile would challenge King in a primary. Probably true in the general election, also.

BARACK OBAMA: Come out, come out wherever you are!

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY: Is gleefully committing suicide. Their Dr. Kevorkians are people like Newt and Sarah and the radio and television talk hosts, and it's all completely legal. JEFFREY FIEGER ... they don't need you. Kinda like the voters of Michigan.

THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Looks like Marilyn Monroe compared with the Republicans' Ugly Betty. But beneath the surface, they have troubles of their own. Reid, Pelosi, and similar blunderers.

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: How did we sink this low?


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

757 Clean up the Kitchen

757 Clean Up The Kitchen

Aside from the Fox and faux Fox right wing hate-fests, the essentially useless other cable news "services" and the shopping channels, the most obnoxious thing on TV today is the cooking show. And it doesn't matter who's cooking show it is, they all share one central flaw that anyone who's ever flipped a burger, overheated an oven, or tried to cram leftovers into a refrigerator knows well. No one shows you the after-cooking cleanup.

Granted, these are "cooking" shows, not clean up shows. But still. Rachael Ray, former babe and present chubboid will show you how to cook a meal in 30 minutes, hence the title of her show "30 Minute Meals." Of course that time does not include gathering all the ingredients, and certainly doesn't count the time it takes to put the kitchen back into usable shape once the meal is done ... or doing the dishes, for that matter. Don't mean to be picking on Rachel, here. But do you think she scrubs out the frying pan after doing the Yummy Garlic Bread act? Someone does. But you can bet it's not Rachel. Or Paula Drone or Emeril LaGassbag.

Some poor slob is there to do the dirty work, you can bet. Since Food Network is a non-union shop, you can figure the clean up crew does not pay dues to IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians and Allied Crafts. So, who does the work? TV-eager interns? Minimum wage broom pushers? Doesn't really matter, it's who DOESN'T do it that counts.

Just once, show us Bobby Flay rinsing plates. Just once, show us Kylie Kwong scrape out the rice cooking machine.

Or maybe they should just forget all that and have a separate channel, or at least a separate set of programs for kitchen cleanup.

"Greetings, friends, I'm Gloria Abruasa and I'm here in the Martha Stewart Kitchens in Connecticut to show you how to remove salmon skin from an improperly greased cast iron frying pan. First, rinse off what you can..." Maybe Emeril has a dumber but equally funny brother or cousin or in law who could do a program following his own. "Welcome to Emeril's dumber but equally funny brother. Today we're going to scrape up the mess he made whipping up that 'easy' Parmigianino Reggiano. You should see all the failed experiments on the floor behind this counter..."

Shrapnel:

--It's September and the political phone calls have started. Two on one recent day, both of them "surveys" without identifying their client. Next, expect the candidates themselves, followed by M. Obama and S. Palin.

--Here in the Great Commonwealth of PA., the state attorney general is the Republican candidate for governor. In our little town hall, his picture is on a poster from his day job, advocating not beating up grandma, a noble sentiment and perfectly appropriate for a sitting attorney general, but it's still a campaign poster and the town hall lady took a citizen complaint and promised the poster would come down. It hasn't.

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

©WJR 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

756 College Town Life & Book Look

756 College Town Life and a Book Look

News item: MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin police say a street musician apparently upset by criticism of his music bashed a man over the head with his guitar, slammed another person into a wall and wrestled with an officer before being arrested. Ah, life in a college town. The street musician, known as "Bongo Jesus" is 31 years old. A bit old for this kind of thing. But recently shenanigans like this have become age-indifferent.

The other day, pushing a cart out the right-most of two sliding doors, each wide enough for three or four pedestrians at a time, and this ancient guy blocks the way. "This is an entrance, not an exit," he snarls and refuses to move. The automatic door has opened from the inside. The "Entrance" sign is visible only from the outside. It is on Groucho's left. By this time, he's inside and his adversary says "Well, you entered, so what's the problem?" "I guess you can't read," he says. "Yeah," replies his adversary "that's because you were my English professor," which he wasn't. Thought for sure this guy was going to either stroke out or call the cops to report the brash young adversary (age 68, for the record.) Good thing neither of us had our guitars with us!


Book Look: The Grand Design, Stephan Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow

Hawking is the premier cosmologist to tread the earth since Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman and Murray Gel-Man wrote and theorized. He is known for his "Brief History of Time," his continued and worsening paralysis and the similarity of his appearance to Alfred E. Newman. Mlodinow is a physicist at Cal-Tech. They are being maligned and brutalized by the religious right for "trying to exile God from Physics" and "banning God from physics," and embracing atheism. None of that is true. Their primary thesis is: God may or may not exist but is not necessary to explain the creation or evolution of the Universe as we know it. You don't need to read Hawking's dense prose to understand what he's getting at. But it's highly recommended, especially for those who are ready to throw God Grenades. What's more important about this work than the work itself is the storm it's raising on the religious right, a great many of whose adherents never have read a physics book -- or at least one that goes beyond Newton, and who can't conceptualize beyond their fairy tale concept of creation.


Richards Readometer Rating: 1. No question.

===Readometer Key:
1 - Buy it.
2 - Wait for the paperback.
3 - Take it out of the Library.
4. Flip through it at the book store.
5. Forget it.


New occasional department, with apologies to the late Earl Wilson for snitching the title:

Wish I'd said that:

"(T)his eve of 9/11... light a Yahrzeit candle, a votive candle, a

taper.. light something to remember those who died so innocently, yet brutally, at the

hands of barbarians." From friend and colleague Ted David, writing on Facebook on 9/10/2010.


Friday, September 10, 2010

755 Part Time New York City Hillbilly

755 Part Time New York City Hillbilly

You don't have to be from the blue grass of Kentucky or the back woods of Tennessee or the ranches of Texas to know and understand what they used to call Hillbilly music. That's no longer politically correct, so now it's "country" or "Americana." Whatever.

Some of us appreciators don't like the twangy nasal singing, but you can still love the melodies and arrangements. As someone said "Four chords and the truth." Probably was Boudleaux Bryant, who wrote almost as many hits as Lennon-MCartney, though we can't locate a legit attribution. But if you think the melody lines are simple or primitive, listen to Mozart for awhile and then see what you think of Hank Williams or Waylon Jennings.

Simple stuff. Clear messages. Tall stories. Mid-sized stories. Outright lies. Put aside trucks and trains for the moment and what you find here is a warm hearted but coldly rational look at the human condition. Cheating spouses, alcohol, lost love, found love, poverty. It's all part of all of our lives in some form and to some degree.

Country radio has never really been a hit in New York, and probably never will be. There just aren't enough appreciation. And too much twang. At WYNY, we once scored a 3.5 in the ratings. That's not great. But for Country 103.5, that was a break-out-the-bubbly occasion. Good thing we did, because it never happened again. And today's country is kind of ruralized rock. Not the Buddy Holly or Everly Brothers kind of rock which might be more appealing if we didn't have a built in wall against "old stuff."

So the city-billies that want real country listen to Pandora or their iPods or their CDs or even the old 45s. On a good night, the Mother Church, WSM, Nashville comes in like a local. That's good enough. The dance music crowd, the pop standards crowd, the serious jazz-o-philes had to learn to make do. It's not that tough.

Shrapnel:

--Remember Stewie Parnell, who hid behind the Fifth Amendment after his killer Peanut Corp. of America came down in a shower of filth, salmonella, nine deaths and hundreds of stomach aches? You'll be happy to know he has found a new job despite the recession -- consulting for other peanut companies, while the case against him remains unresolved. No doubt he can teach his former competitors plenty -- the guy knows how to dish the dirt, alright.

--Breakfast at a restaurant on a recent morning and we brought along a ping pong net, ball and two paddles and left them in plain sight. "Why?" asked the waitress? Answer: "so when you come back and ask us if you can 'take the plates out of your way,' they'll really BE in the way -- and we'll set up this net and start playing."

--Okay, okay, purists. It's table tennis not ping pong. Well maybe when YOU play it is -- just not so for most of the rest of us.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

754 Burger King Flip Flop

754 Burger King Flip Flop

It's not just flipping burgers at Burger King. Since the fast food burger joint was founded in the early 1950s, it has gone through more ownership changes than we can count, and despite all the headquarters hullabaloo it has managed to keep putting out pretty consistent -- and in some opinions -- the best of the breed in its fare. BK started as a private company. Somewhere in there it went public, got bought, got sold, went private again, went public again and now is going private again.

The first private equity outfit that took control didn't do what private equity companies often do, which is break the acquisition into pieces and sell each off separately. Kind of unusual. Now, there's a second group of private investors, and who knows what they're planning to do. Maybe separate the restaurants into Burger King, Fry King, Salad King, and then sell them off? Close up restaurants (can they really call those places restaurants?) Open new ones?

Whatever they do with expanding and contracting, there are a couple of things they should also do. First is make the places look clean. They aren't dirty, but there's a kind of grunge atmosphere, whether in Texas City, Taipei or Timbuktu. It's uninviting. Thing two, get a decent advertising agency. The latest series of ads, featuring a plastic-looking "king" stealing McDonald's breakfast recipes just doesn't make it. Back to something funny, like "It takes two hands to handle a whopper." Or "have it your way." Or even the almost classical America Loves Burgers one of the best institutional ads ever, sung by Florence Warner, the finest singer you never heard of.

Argue the health deficits of this kind of place all you want. You're right. The stuff's going to shorten your lifespan, raise your cholesterol, raise your blood pressure and your weight. But that's not going to stop many people from eating there. Something's going to kill you, and you might as well die happily full of the flesh of dead animals, served up in a sauce of cheese and mayo. Let's hope the owners of the moment know what they're doing.

But there's this question: how much flipping can a burger joint do before it flops?


Shrapnel:

--A Jewish gay guy from New Jersey who can't be President but should be has been serving in Congress since The Flood and is under primary challenge from a Lyndon LaRouche nutcase, so this is an appeal for contributions. The Jewish gay guy's name is Representative Barney Frank (D-MA.) The Massachusetts morons got rid of Ted Kennedy's heir apparent. Don't let them do it again.

--Speaking of which, the Associated Press has declared politics a "recession proof industry." The agency reports that house and senate candidates have amassed record cash for the current campaign season. No hard times in that business, apparently.

--The Homer Simpson picture on the desk has been covered up by the picture of another chubby bald guy. It's Buddha holding a guitar. The interloper(s) are giving your correspondent a complex.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010


Monday, September 06, 2010

753 September Eleventh

753 September Eleventh

Years ago, it could be said with authority that the farther from ground zero or the pentagon or Shanksville PA you were the less the attacks of 9/11/01 affected you. This no longer is quite as true as it was. Even to many of us who were there, 9/11 has been reduced to a cliche, a bunch of stupid slogans and platitudes. The forces of entropy have engulfed the events and their implications and have squeezed the life out of them, turned them into mindless fodder for talk shows and parasite politicians and parasite publicists for this cause and that.

Meantime, cops and firefighters and EMS workers who were at Ground Zero or the other points of attack are dying before their time. So, with people fighting about the so-called war on terror and its meaning and fighting about building or not building mosques nearby and about what the replacement structures should look like and who should own them and who should pay for them and how much. But there isn't enough said about why, cops and firefighters and EMS workers are adding to the statistical death toll of that Tuesday. We do this. And we do it with many a major event and many a catastrophe, plasticize it. The judge looking at the city's paltry settlement with the living victims found it wanting and added to it. But this is not about some judge's view of who should be paid what. This is about lives. Men and women and children and their dogs and cats and goldfish, and who did right by all of us, only to be told "your lung disease is worth "x dollars," and we'll be happy to let you have it or give it to your spouse or kids or dogs or cats or goldfish some year when we get around to it and you're dead.

We will build that mosque -- somewhere, and we will build that replacement building. And the residents and the tourists will pass by it or through it and feel sad. But what about NYFD fire captain Ed Placencio or police academy recruit Jerry O'Rourke, who are roommates at Mt. Sinai's lung ward, now, nine years after the fact? Anyone going to drop by like tourists at that ugly hole in the ground? Not likely.



Shrapnel:

--Someone has scotch taped a picture of Homer Simpson to the telephone on this desk. It's a comment about the increasing size of my forehead and midsection. There are no suspects, but we are looking at a "person of interest."

--Facebook is using its ad space on your home page to sell social networking ads. Is this the new Craig's List, which has just "self censored" its "adult" content? Or is it just a pitch for money?

--Since last may, we've been using electronic bill paying for most of our accounts. Some web systems work smoothly, others not so much and some don't work at all. First on the "not at all" list is the electric company, which suddenly doesn't know who we are, but will remember us quickly if the money doesn't appear.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Friday, September 03, 2010

752 Labor Day 2010

752 Labor Day 2010

Here's what happens when you screw around with holidays. Historically, Labor Day is the first Monday in September. It's been an official holiday since 1884, but the first Labor Day parade was held in New York City two years earlier. New York goes its own way. Always. Somewhere along the line we got all those Monday holidays, but Labor Day weekend always has been Saturday-Sunday-Monday. Pioneers! The parade itself doesn't always land on the holiday itself, though it should. Recently, it's taken place on the Saturday FOLLOWING the holiday.

In 2010, the Saturday following the holiday is September 11th. So this year, there will be no parade by fiat of whomever is the current New York City Commissioner of Whacky Edicts. Granted, 9/11 is a bad day for a celebration. So what about doing something like re-positioning the parade on the Saturday of the holiday weekend, 9/4? Or, to be really radical, how about holding it on the actual holiday, 9/6?

The holiday is a salute to the American worker, to the men and women who built this country, to the men and women who fought for their rights as human beings in an era when they were considered farm animals or machines, who organized and then told capital "you can't do this to us. We're doing the work. We want our share, no more, but no less."

Rudy Giuliani was the public face of the trade center aftermath. But Rudy Giuliani was not the guy who raced into a soon-to-collapse building in hopes of saving lives. That was the job of first responders -- cops and firefighters and EMS people. Rudy Giuliani does not know what to do with a burn victim or someone who's been knocked unconscious by an office desk that has just fallen through a ceiling and landed on the guy's head. And he doesn't have to. But let's not forget who did the work. Around the clock work for how long? And let's not forget who's building whatever it is they're building down there. It's not Mike Bloomberg. It's people named Joe and Jose and Jamal and Ellen and Maria and Kaneesha.

At the height of union membership, it took forever for the parade to pass by. Lately, not so much. Publicity glutton politicians remained the warts on the line of march. But not so many electrical workers, carpenters, boiler operators, steel workers, retail clerks, truck drivers, subway motormen, railroad engineers, pilots, performing artists, teachers and nurses, postal workers, toll collectors, as once.

Maybe for 2011, they can get some disbarred lawyers, banned stock brokers, defrocked clergy sentenced to community service to march as ringers.

Shrapnel:

--Now he tells us! Bank bailout king and fed chairman Bernanke says "too big to fail" has to be -- as Don Rumsfeld would say -- recalibrated and bad banks closed down before they drag the whole system down with it. Ben, babes, also is the king of near-zero percent financing -- for everyone except us laboring peasants who need it most.

--Here's a list of the members of the Big Ten Football Conference: Illinois-Urbana, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin-Madison. No math majors in the big ten, or is it that no one in college football can count to 12?


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

751 Cafeteria Capitalists

751 Cafeteria Capitalists

Today's righties seem not to get what a government does and how it does it. Their first mistake is to lump every agency, every function, every program, every bureaucrat into on amorphous blob or boulder that acts monolithically. Not so. "The Government" may be a monolith to some ideologues, but it's more like a bank of elevators on a bad mix of Quaalude and the kind of diet pills you take just before pulling an all-nighter before a final exam.

It's people and it's infrastructure. It is not a business. It's a self-designed mechanism for keeping us from breaking each others' heads or bank accounts. Yes, sure. Police, courts, armed forces, national policies all rolled into some relatively simple documents that imply humanity, compromise, sanity and rationality. Imperfect, yes. A cafeteria? No.

So while Congressman "X" thinks that truck load of money going to his district to build a road is an important civic project, Congressman "Y" across the hall thinks it's pork. It evens out. X is on line in the cafeteria, picks a road project. Rejects a similar road project for Y.

Senator "Z" goes up to the counter and chooses to "protect your future and those of your children" by privatizing Social Security.

One day he may want to have the Fed for dessert, the next day he rejects the Fed and instead has no dessert at all, saying "the government has no business in the dessert business."

Bureaucrat "A" processes your drivers license or passport in a matter of minutes. Bureaucrat "B" takes forever. Conclusion: either get rid of the passport or drivers license bureaucrats entirely or make them all behave like A. But they're people. Just like you. And they do things differently.

On the cafeteria line, one official chooses "freedom," except for your freedom to have an abortion in peace. Another chooses "Invade Iraq." A tasty dish, but inconsistent with American isolationism that he also chooses.

Pick privatized health care. Oh, except for the VA and senior citizens.

It's not a business. It's not a cafeteria. And it's neither an amorphous blob nor a monolith. It only seems that way when you want to use it for your whim of the moment, but no one else's.


Shrapnel:

--Not worth a book look or reading, let along buying: "Inventing Great Neck (Jewish Identity and the American Dream)" By Judith Goldstein, which reads like a Hadassah tour brochure. Here's the whole book in one sentence: Times were tough but got better; people of varying ethnic and religious backgrounds sometimes didn't get on all that well, but in this case managed to overcome most of their differences most of the time.

--The U.S. open day one is over. Can we contain our excitement? Memo to both pro tennis and pro golf: go away.

--Iraq: Mission Accomplished? Again? The President sent out e-mails to his list of 40-million fans and subscribers reminding us that we're finished with out combat role over there just in case we fellow foreign born Muslim socialists missed the story on Al Jazeera or in Pravda.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010