Friday, August 31, 2012

1064 Romney and Minorities

1064 Romney and Minorities

Plenty of support out there.  

African Americans For Romney:
They’ll be meeting in Condi’s SUV.  If everyone shows up, Herman Cain will offer use of one of his pizza delivery minivans.  If, as expected, they don’t need the minivan, they can lend it to the...

Mexican-Americans For Romney:
Which will be stopped on the Jersey Turnpike and the cop will turn them over to the INS which will find that they’re all citizens, just misguided.

Muslims For Romney:
They are hiding, probably in Montana.  No worries.  The NYPD will dispatch half a dozen red haired, freckle-faced Irishmen to infiltrate and report back.

Jews For Romney:
They’ll meet in Joe T’s Miata two-seater.  Joe at the wheel and that casino guy who used throw money at Newt will be in the passenger seat.

Native Americans For Romney:
Meeting scheduled for the 3rd floor men’s room at Foxwoods.

Gays and Lesbians For Romney:  They are meeting outdoors on Temple Square in Salt Lake City just because they can.

Deposed Heads of State For Romney:
Even though they can’t vote, they’re going to use some of their Swiss bank accounts to help out.  Gorbachev, Mubarak, Baby Doc, Robert Mugabe and Darth Vader are all on board.

Non White Children For Romney:  The majority of newborns in this country are minorities of one kind or another.  The children, of course, cannot vote.  But they can be displayed wearing badges and buttons and ribbons and baseball caps that say “Romney/Ryan in 2012.”  A survey of badge, button, ribbon and baseball cap makers shows a total of about four of each has been ordered.

So, let’s see what we have here.  Five deposed heads of state, eight Native Americans, two Jews, an unknown number of Muslims and gays, 18 Mexicans in a minivan stopped on the Jersey Turnpike with a newly broken taillight, and 18 African Americans (19 if Clarence Thomas wakes up this year.)

Pretty good.

You have to feel sorry for this guy, Willard.  He’s not overtly malicious.  He’s not overtly racist.  He isn’t even as out of touch and robotic as everyone says he is.  But he was raised in a double walled cocoon.   Wall one is privilege, wall two is absolutism.  And you never fully leave the ghetto, whether it’s a walled city in Poland, a housing project in Los Angeles or a mansion on the hill where “the trees are the right height” and a long trip with a dog strapped to the roof of the car is acceptable.    He, like the rest of us, is a product of his genes and his upbringing.  He doesn’t have to “be one of us,” but he does have to show something of a visceral understanding of people he just doesn’t get.

Shrapnel:

--No Bush attended the GOP convention except Jeb.  That’s the same as having to go to Sunday dinner at creepy Aunt Sophie’s if you’re the next candidate up when the present one loses. Still, it’s a large scale boycott, as more  Bushes are for Romney than are Mexicans and Jews.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

1063 Dr. Cupcake

1063 Dr. Cupcake

(CHARLOTTE, NC) -- The Democratic national convention is coming to this fake city and people who still believe their votes count are getting busy.

Charlotte was built on the backs of slaves, run by King Cotton and Prince Tobacco.  The plantations and farms and auction barns of yore have given way to the puny wannabe skyline. And the plantation owners and farmers now have suits and run gluttonous banks that --like cotton and tobacco and slavery-- are too big to fail but do, anyway.

Their buildings are overlooked by the Lord Highest Bank of America Building, all 871 feet of it.  For perspective that's about 100 feet shorter than the Eiffel Tower and around the same height as the undistinguished and easy-to-miss CitySpyer Center on 56th Street in New York.

Onto this movie set will come thousands of supporters of President Obama who will cram into the TimeWarner Cable Arena, a basketball venue that looks like a huge clock that was knocked off a huge mantle and landed on its face. It is home to the hapless and hopeless Bobcats of the NBA, M. Jordan, prop.

In the midst of all of this, there is at least one bright spot, Dr. Cupcake, aka Michelle Wilson, aka Chelly.

What do you do with a PhD in an ... um ... fast moving field like anthropology?  The answer is either teach or find a real job.  And Dr. Wilson has, for the moment chosen the latter.

She bakes and sells retail and wholesale vegan relatively healthy cupcakes. A thing of beauty that won't hurt you if you don't overdo it.  And she's taking her show on the road to the convention, joining other pro-Obama merchants of health outside Mr. Jordan's Fallen Clock Arena.  It’s a short road. Chelly’s is based nearby.

She calls herself a "southern hippie." Hence everything in her baked goods is local.  Very 1960s.  Very American Dreamy.  Food with a mission.  

Attending the convention is a waste of time.  But come to Charlotte for the cupcakes.  They're worth the trip.

Want to hone your sugar craving skills?  Click here.

(Additional reporting by Dianne Thompson Stanciel in Charlotte)

Shrapnel:

--Where's Pat Robertson when you need him?  God is using "Isaac" to disrupt and visiting fear and shortness on the Teajadist Party Convention, as Katrina did to New Orleans.  Not a peep from the guy who keeps getting messages from the throne.

--Why some of the smart money is shorting the already bloated Apple stock even after Samsung was forced to drop major bucks for patent infringements:  If you think the engineers at Google, Verizon, T-Mobil, ATT and Sprint are going to sit still and pay the "apple tax," think again.  It won't be long until they come up with workarounds and find other sweet revenge.

--New info on why Generation Goofy is Generation Goofy.  A new study from a Duke University team operating in Australia says prolonged marijuana use leads to lower IQ test results.  The study compared scores from the same people at ages 13 and 38.


I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them. (R)
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
(C) WJR 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

1062 Bad Shot? So What?

1062 Bad Shot? So What?

Police officers Craig Matthews and Robert Sinishtaj are not going to win any marksmanship awards any time soon.  They're the officers who shot and killed a gunman in front of the Empire State Building.

But what they'll probably win for putting Jeffrey Johnson out of his and our misery is trial by public opinion and probably desk duty until the NYPD's glacial and assume-guilt internal affairs bureau finishes second guessing their decision to open fire in rush hour in front of one of the world's busiest and best known tourist attractions.

Johnson had killed his former supervisor Steven Ercolito on 33rd Street, rounded the corner of Fifth Avenue with his gun in a bag, pulled the gun and took aim.  Apparently he was felled before he got to pull the trigger. There were two bullets in the weapon.

Officers Matthews and Sinishtaj fired a lot of rounds.  Sixteen between them.  Five or seven or ten hit Johnson, depending who's telling the story and when.  Nine bystanders were wounded, three by actual bullets and six by flying debris. Unfortunate.  Sometimes unavoidable.  

Victim Ercolito has been elevated to the instant sainthood that often is visited upon the newly and violently dead by friends and relatives.

So, say you're a cop on a crowded and famous street and a guy pulls a gun, but not the trigger.  Not some newbie cop two days out of the academy and who doesn't need to shave... but a 15 year veteran of the force.  You're going to fire.  It's training.  It's reflex.  It's adrenaline.  Later, you will say you had to make an instantaneous judgment and wanted to save lives.  You'll remind people that you had no way of knowing how many bullets were in Johnson's handgun.

And many people will believe you.  But the number of people doesn't matter.  It only matters what IAB thinks and rules. 

What IAB will ultimately declare is that this is a good shooting by some bad shots.  A "good" shooting is police-speak for one that was proper and timed right.  But there will be some hoof-scraping and snorting about the injured.

Better to be wounded by a stray shot from a cop than killed by an aimed bullet by a killer with a .45 semi automatic in his hand.  Neither is a good result.  But one is better than the other.


Shrapnel:

--Neither cop had fired his weapon on duty before.  Many if not most cops never do.  No calls yet for "they should have used a Taser" or a tranquilizer dart, but someone's to make that kind of second guess.

--The two officers, one aged 39 and the other aged 40, will be eligible to retire after 20 years in, which will mean at ages 44 and 45.  That seems pretty young.  But a lot of cops do it because guys like Johnson can make you older than your years, and fast.



I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them. (R)
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
(C) WJR 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

1061 The UnConventions

1061 The UnConventions

The television networks got it right for a change.  Their coverage of the Democratic and Republican national conventions will be minimalist.  If you blink, you miss... nothing.

The conventions are bound to be dismal affairs for anyone who is not (a) a political junkie, (b) content-free show biz extravaganzas but without the leggy dancing girls, (c) rubber stamps for the candidates and above all, (d) boring and filled with lies.

When TV started covering these freak shows, it was gavel to gavel.  The main point back then was for ABC, CBS and NBC to say "Hey, look what we can do!"

Now it's time to say something else:  "Even in a time when prime time network viewing is waaaay down, we don't need you as much as you need us."

A story on this subject has been running on the internet and in the newspapers.  And one comment writer said "Bill Paley would never have permitted..." this short coverage.

Wrong.

Bill Paley wanted viewers, advertisers and money.  Reruns attract more of each than any convention in the last 374 years except '08, and that's just because Obama and Hillary were doing their pro-wrestling act.

My friend and colleague Brian Williams of NBC told the New York Times to increase viewer interest they might "sprinkle in some Olympic events. Floor vault is a personal favorite. Badminton, but that takes a lot of floor space."

Williams turned serious and said people are fed up with political news.  Indeed.

All three networks and Fix News will stream TV-like coverage on the internet.  And that should be enough.  More than enough.

I will miss Ann Romney's Stepford Speech on Monday night.  But I'd rather watch the Hawaii Five-O rerun more, even though I know how it turns out.

We'll miss the fake enthusiasm, the choreography more elaborate than anything Alvin Ailey or George Balanchine could have cooked up.

But at least this time, the networks won't have to post choking hazard warnings.

Shrapnel:
--The major party candidates agree on at least one general idea: we're in Afghanistan for awhile yet and we don't have a reason even though the American death toll has reached 2,000. And since we've unseated the Taliban and chased al Qaeda into our other great ally, Pakistan the job of killing US soldiers has fallen to a new terrorist organization.  The regular army of Afghanistan, trained, armed and financed by... us. 

--It's always nice to hear from friends on Facebook.  So thanks to Robert B. Parker.  Didn't have time to answer fan mail while you were alive but now that you're dead, you have more time because you don't need to eat or sleep?

--Things are getting busy at the WestraDamus secret mountain laboratory.  We are putting the finishing touches on "Sandusky, The Board Game."  We're hoping to have it on store shelves before the holiday gift-buying season.


I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them. (R)
Please send comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
(C) WJR 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

1060 Finally, an Answer


1060 Finally, an Answer
Finally figured out what was offputting about living in the country.  And the answer came when studying the difference between the brakes on a car and the brakes on a train.
Car brakes always are off unless you “turn” them on.  Train brakes are always on unless you “turn” them off.  You drive.  You come to a stop sign.  You push the brake pedal.  The car stops. 
On a train (or a truck with air brakes) you come to a stop signal and take your hand off the control lever.  The brakes return to their default position, which is clamped around the axles. 
Let’s backpedal.  The usual complaint about this country town is there’s no energy.  Responses range from “make your own energy,” to “but there’s plenty to do here.”  The first answer is irrelevant because community energy comes from communities.
The second statement is true but is not an answer.
Cities are cars.  Momentum, forward motion, is the default situation.  Small towns and rurals are trains.  Nothing-happening is the default situation.  Every event is a reinvention of the wheel.  In the cities, it’s like a wave.  There’s always plenty of something happening.
How someone relates to these differing pictures matters much more than the situations themselves.  Neither is good or bad.  It’s just the presence or absence of what you’re used to.
The “plenties to do” requiring gearing up, getting ready, getting into action.  The urban momentum is a thing-itself.  When something happens, you have to gear
down to meet it. 
Momentum.  Inertness.
Brakes off.  Brakes on.
It’s not “something to do” or even “lot’s to do” that makes a city vibrant.  It’s the gas pedal.

Shrapnel:
--Arkansas is circling the wagons around the death of Chavis Carter, the left handed black guy who supposedly shot himself in the right temple while sitting in the back of a patrol car while his hands were cuffed behind his back and after the cops had searched him twice and found a small bag of pot but no gun.  The latest:  Carter had meth in his system.   Even so, he still was left handed, shot in the right temple and had his hands cuffed behind his back both before and after he died.

--Followup to an earlier post:  Home Despot greeted customers the other day with a huge display of cheap, name brand 100 watt incandescent lightbulbs. Contraband. Where are those two beer bellied bulb cops when you needed them? A citizen’s arrest was warranted but for the paperwork involved.

--Someday, the ghosts of Jerry Sandusky and Todd Aken will meet in Hell.  And at that point, maybe Jerry can teach Todd what rape is all about.  But you have to think that Todd said what most people of his political ilk think and his Big Mistake was nothing more than putting it into plain English where we can all see what’s under the cesspool cover.

Friend and colleague Dianne Thompson Stanciel has a lot to say about the Missouri Moron and his rape nonsense.  See it here:

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com 
© WJR 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

1059 Footnote to the Greatest Generation

1059 Footnote to the Greatest Generation

(BELLEFONTE PA) --  Brokaw got it right.  Those WWII guys ARE the greatest generation.  They get it.

It’s a sweltering Saturday afternoon.  There’s a crafts fair.  You know... 67 guys with rock jewelry, a couple of authors, Maryland crabcake sandwiches, a bluegrass band, a face painter.  The temperature in Smoke-Free Talleyrand Park, Bellefonte, PA is about 87 degrees and the sun is beating down.  And 87 also is the estimated age of the old guy sitting on one end of the only park bench in the shade, the guy with a better walking cane than mine.

I sit down at the other end, planning to answer some e-mails on the smartphone when the guy turns to me and stares with fading but still sparkling blue eyes and says “that’ll be two dollars for the seat, kid.”  “Kid” is a mere 70 and says “You take American Express?”  

“Nah, but we’ll work something out.”  I go back to the smartphone.  The guy keeps talking.

“Where you from?”

“State College at the moment but originally New York.”

“Me, I’m from State College too.”

“And before that”

“Well, that takes some thinking.  Born in Virginia.  School in Alabama where I met my wife.  I wonder where she is.  She’s wandering around and I hope she can find me.”

“That’s why God made cellphones.”

“Well, mine I left in the car and hers is at home.”

Brilliant.  The guy must be a retired Penn State professor.

“Nope.  I worked for Penn State but I did research...  underwater acoustics.”

“So, what, you play the Saxophone in a swimming pool?”

“Nah.  Trumpet.  The horn.  Isn’t easy.  You only get to inhale once, then you have to go the whole 940 bars on one breath.”

“Seriously?”

“No.  But I should be home practicing instead of jawing here with you.  Got a gig tomorrow.  Senior Citizens’ Dance Band.  And I’m going to eat too late.”

(It was 3:20 in the afternoon.)

“So, what about the underwater acoustics?
“Submarines.  We figured out what each one sounded like.  American, Russian, German.  Then we figured out how far away they were, how deep they were sailing and how fast.”

“This was at Penn State?”

“Yup.”

“And you were a college boy?”

“College boy for two years.  Two years in the air corps, officer in charge of the motor pool.  Then back to college in Alabama.  I met my wife on the sign-up line.  I hope she can find me.”

“So you were Sgt. Bilko?”

“Not exactly.  But I did get the best Jeeps for my personal business.”

They don’t make guys like this anymore.  Guys who could say about going to war “I had no choice, but if I had, this is the choice I would have made.”

My spouse arrives, shoves me down from the end to the middle so I can continue talking with the guy.  She says to him  “This cheapskate wouldn’t give you two bucks for the seat?”  I say “I was trying to get him down to $1.50.”  He says “I was trying to get him up to $4.”

The guy, Larry Pharo: “I’m a retarded Egyptian King.  Retarded, not retired.”  Larry gets it.  So did the rest of his generation.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Friday, August 17, 2012

1058 Checkbook Roundup

1058 Checkbook Roundup

Yippie-yi-o-ki-yay, podners.  We’ve found a way to solve one of humankind’s Great Problems, balancing your checkbook!

It’s simple, but you have to give it time.

Instead of paying your bills and filling out the check register, round up to the next full dollar and write the check for that.  Then reconcile.

Now wait... it’s not as stupid as it sounds.  It’s even patriotic, because it encourages saving.   Those pennies add up.

Say your electric bill is $157.85.  No one but hermits pay that little. But it’s just an example.   So you write a check for $158.00.   You overpay the electric company by 15 cents.  Probably, if you can afford electricity at all, you can afford the 15 cents.

This is going to annoy the electric company.  But that’s just a side benefit.  You write $158 in the register.  Next bill, they will tell you that you used electricty for which they want $189.05.  But since you’ve already overpaid by 15 cents, they can only bill you for $188.90.  You pay $189.  At some point you might earn a free month.  But in the intervening time, you get to deduct round figures from your check register and get make the electric company unhappy... not as unhappy as they make you.  But unhappy, nevertheless.

Oh... if your income check is in dollars and cents, round DOWN to the next dollar when you enter it into your checkbook.  Everything becomes round numbers.

Credit cards, telephone, cell phone cable TV, the doctor, the lawyer, the Indian Chief, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.  (Most candlestick makers today charge round numbers.  So pay the bill as it’s written.)

After awhile, all your transactions will be simple to add and subtract and while your balance will be a bit inaccurate, you will be accumulating credit with the people who bill you for stuff.

So your checkbook will balance.  And you’ll get the added bonus of aggravating all of the billers.  It will cost you only nickels and dimes and your monthly battle with the bank statement will take you ten minutes instead of ten hours as you chase down that errant three cents that make no sense.

You’re overpaying for everything already.  Why not pay a little more, irritate your suppliers and reduce your monthly frustration, and your blood pressure, podner.

Shrapnel (Nickels and Dimes edition):

--Poor beleaguered JC Penney is trying something like this.  No prices ending in cents.  Everything is $Something.00.  It’s not working all that well for them, at least not yet.  But it will work well for you.

--Even the IRS wants round figures in many cases.  No one’s ever been audited for sending them a check for $2,300 when you owe $2,299.17.  And sometimes, they even return the change.

--But even we campaigners for round number are only 99 44/100ths behind the policy.  Eliminating the penny would be unforgiveable. Except at the gas pump.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

1057 The Real Housewives of New Jersey

1057 The Real Housewives of New Jersey

Mitt Romney, the most boring presidential candidate since Walter Mondale, now stands to benefit from the sale of the most boring major radio station of all time, WOR, nominally licensed to New York but actually serving only the real housewives of New Jersey, and not the ones on the TV show, the ones who are over 80.

Women over 80 who want radio that’s older than they are certainly entitled to have a station all their own and they do.  With its origins in Newark, WOR has never really left New Jersey.  Women from New Jersey who want a radio station that’s Jersier than they are likewise entitled.

WOR, est. 1922, has been sold to Clear Channel, a company that owns about 1200 other stations, most of which it has gutted and run on the cheap -- even in unionized major markets like New York.  The major investor in this outfit is Romney’s Bain.

Of course, we all know that even though he was CEO until very recently, he had “nothing to do with” the company.  And the checks?  It’s said they’re still arriving pretty regularly and in fairly decent amounts in Mitt’s mailbox.

When the sale goes through, as it will, Clear Channel will be only the fourth owner of this station, started by Bamberger’s department store as a gimmick to sell radio receivers, a fairly new idea in 1922.  When Macy’s bought Bamberger’s WOR came along with the deal.  So that counts as one.  

Owner two, General Tire and Rubber, a company whose ownership was on the right side of Ronald Reagan but often on the wrong side of the law, was forced to sell.  The buyer was Buckley Radio, whose top guy, Rick Buckley bet the family farm on the purchase and maybe broke even, eventually.

Rick was a good fellow and great fun at a party. When he passed away earlier this year the family decided to sell.   At this point in the deterioration of AM radio, there aren’t many willing buyers.  So, here comes Clear to save the day!

WOR positioned itself as a “news” station and to prove it, they had a pretty big and decent news department.  There were reporters and editors and writers and all kinds of good instincts.  And they had these endlessly long newscasts which were a pleasure to listen to because there were virtually no gratuitous and meaningless sound bites, and painful to listen to because most of the readers had these huge, old fashioned voices of the kind you hear on the tape recordings insomniacs buy to avoid medicinal sleeping pills.  Another break-even.

RKO General wrecked all that, and then Buckley’s company disposed of the editors, reporters and other riffraff.

The rest of the programming was equally sleep- inducing until recently, when they went full bore (excuse the pun) by putting on such head spinning luminaries as Glenn Beck and Michael Savage to go along with an eclectic mix of cooking shows, consumer shows, storytellers, vitamin salesmen, preachers and financial advice, much of it legal.

The morning show started with an exercise maven who was followed by three generations of men named John Gambling... father, son and grandson.  Only one of the three managed a consistent ratings win because he was (1) very good, (2) had far less competition than he would today and (3) cornered the market on weather related school closing announcements with the help of a bluff and funny Irishman, Bill M, who never got much credit.

For reasons like that, I have for years called WOR the longest running B-movie in radio.

Those women in New Jersey keep listening.  It may be because the radio is on a shelf too high for them to reach and turn off.

(Disclaimer in the era of self-plagiarism : I have used the B- movie reference previously in other forums.)

(Other Disclaimer:  I am a disgruntled former employee and my experiences at WOR were mostly negative.  But that was largely the fault of a few small men.  There were many good people there.  You know who you are and you know who you aren’t.)


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

1056 Creeping Scholarism

1056 Creeping Scholarism

Consider the case of Fareed Zakaria.   Zakaria was and still may be an editor at large for Time Magazine and a program host and contributor for CNN.  He wrote a column about gun control.  In it, he more or less lifted a quote from an article in the New Yorker Magazine.  As of this writing, he has been suspended.

The point he was trying to make in the column was simple:  The United States has a long history of gun regulation.  A statement like that can easily stand on its own without attribution. Anyone interested can look it up -- fact check, if you will.

What Zak did was lift a quote within a quote from the New Yorker, removed a few words and left the impression that it was his own research and his own words.

He had two other choices.  He could simply have said “we have a long history of gun regulation.”  Or he could have used the words he used, but attributed them to the New Yorker author.

There’s hardly anything that someone hasn’t already said in some form.  It’s unlikely that any politician will start a speech today with the words “Four score and seven years ago.”  But it’s also unlikely that anyone would fail to know the source of the quote if it weren’t used.

So, what is plagiarism? The definitions vary.  There are legal definitions.  There are scholarly definitions.  There is intentional stealing.  There is accidental stealing.

Academic writing is a bumpy road.  It’s hard to read.  It’s filled with references.  The only people who read it are other academics.  But we’re getting to the point that we who write for regular people will have to start writing like professors.  And that raises a barrier to understanding.

The American Psychological Association, one of two standard setters for academic writing, offers a complex computer program that automatically scans the internet for plagiarism.  You can upload a document and it’ll hunt down similarities for you.  Are we going to have to start putting everything through StealCheck?

Baby, get me rewrite, as Gable would say.  Or was it Bogart?


Shrapnel:

--Fact check:  a score is 20 years.  Therefore four score and seven years = 87 years.  Just thought you should know in case you didn’t.

--The London Summer Freak Show is over at last.  The real winner is NBC, which managed to do something it hasn’t done in years:  attract large numbers of viewers in prime time and doing it the old fashioned way, with brilliant pictures and brilliant production and direction.  As for charges they spoiled the “thrill” for some viewers by delaying some broadcasts until after everyone knew the results:  so what.

--Fun to watch how the religious right will handle this.  Their vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan keeps extolling the virtues of Ayn Rand and even making his staff read her books.  But she was a very public atheist.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

1055 R. Peter Straus

1055 R. Peter Straus (1923-2012)

Quick... what’s this?

If you’re a New Yorker of a certain age, you will know instantly.  If you aren’t, all you need to know is that you could win one of these by listening to WMCA Radio when it was a real station run by a real man, R. Peter Straus.

They don’t make station owners like this guy any more.  And they don’t make families like his, either.

But radio is only the tip of the Straus family history.  R. Peter died this week at 89.  And those of us in the broadcasting business owe him plenty of gratitude.

In his WMCA days, you had the “Good Guys.”  Joe O’Brian, Harry Harrison, B. Mitchell Reed, Murray Kaufman (before he became Murray the K) and others.

How’s this for family ties:  Married at one time to a Sulzberger (of the New York Times Sulzbergers.)  Years after she passed away, he married Marcia Lewis, mother of Monica Lewinsky.  His father was FDR’s Director of Housing.  His grandfather was co-owner of Macy’s and was the “Straus” in the Abraham & Straus stores.  A great uncle, Isador, also a big time retailer died on the Titanic.  Another one was U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

But it’s WMCA that we radio geeks have to thank him for.  No one did editorials.  Then Straus did editorials.  And he put his money and his lawyers where his mouth was.  You have this guy to thank in part for “one person one vote” Supreme Court decision.

WMCA had a real news department that ownership created and took seriously.  It covered New York and the rest of the world when other music stations went only lightly in that direction.  

They stopped the music each weeknight for two hours so Barry Gray could hold forth.  Barry was the grandfather of talk radio and at the time a (shudder) liberal whom Walter Winchell called “Barry Pink.”  (Gray, a friend, got more conservative over time, but never was a right winger.)

When they no longer could hold their own against WABC, Straus converted to a talk format.  What kind of talk?  Uh oh! Liberal.  

WMCA no longer is “first on your dial,” because the dial has expanded both upward and downward.  But it’s still there at 570.  These days it’s owned by Salem, the religious and conservative talk broadcaster.

If Straus had any opinion about the present state of the station his family owned starting in the 1940s, we can’t find it.  But we can imagine.

And even though his family name was a household word for millions, he probably had to spend a good deal of time telling people that the letter “s” appears in his name twice, not three times.

Shrapnel:

--For the astrology followers among you... R. Peter Straus’ birthday was February 15th (1923) and Mike Bloomberg’s is February 14 (1942.)  So maybe there’s a connection between rich Aquarians and radio.  Or not.

--Only two days until the end of the Freak Show in London.  It was so exciting to watch the Irish girl beat the Russian girl in lightweight boxing, and the American girl dancing rings around the other Russian girl in the middleweight division, I almost woke up.  Next up:  the eagerly awaited Bowling With Marbles, with top seeded China expected to roll over former world champion Peru.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com.
© WJR 2012

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

1054 This Little Light of Mine

1054 This Little Light of Mine

It’s around noon and the doorbell rings.  Two guys in cheap checked polyester sport coats.  Out of date ties made short because they don’t fully fit over their beer bellies.

Not the Romney campaign or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I gather.

“Mr. Richards?”  asks Sport Belly #1.

Yep.

Sport Belly #2 glowers.  Gotta be cops.

Number 1 flashes a badge a little too quickly and asks if they can come in and talk.

Sure, have a seat.  Number 1 sits.  Number 2 stands there and glowers some more.

Get you guys something to drink?  Number one says “no thank you.”  Number 2 continues practicing his bad cop look.  I tell him he can’t be the official bad cop if he doesn’t add a dead eye look to the glower.  He replies by adding a dead eye look.

So, I’m wondering what this is all about and I ask #1 “what is this all about?”

Finally, #2 speaks.  “We have you on video.”

Oh?  Okay.

Number 1:  “Yes, I’m afraid while you were quizzing the clerk at Lowe’s yesterday, you were on camera.”

Yes, I was asking him where I could get a 100 watt incandescent light bulb.

Number 2:  “Yeah, right, bud. You know they’re illegal.  And here you are soliciting for an illegal substance.   The Lowe’s guy already has confessed.  You’re in big trouble, bud.  He’s going to testify against you.”

Illegal?

Number 1: “Would you mind if we took a look around for your stash?”

I don’t have a stash.

Number 2:  “Forget the sweet talk. We have a warrant.  Let’s tear this place apart.  We’re gonna add possession with intent to distribute to that soliciting charge.  You’re gonna do time, bud.”

Number 1 pulls out the warrant and passes it over.  The local court has authorized the Energy Police to search the premises.

“We don’t really want to disturb the whole house,” says #1.  “If you have a stash, you can show it to us and we’ll just confiscate it and book it into evidence.”

I lead them to the basement, to a storage box that is labeled “lightbulbs.”

Number 2 digs in.  “60s.  40s.  25s, a few corkscrew bulbs.”  And then “AHAH!  I got ‘em!”

He pulls three 100 watt bulbs from the box.  “Just as I thought,” he says, “a stash.”

I ask him to consider that I bought those since long before they were criminalized.  He is unmoved.  He scowls.  Looks at me with a dead eye.

Number 1:  “It’s only three bulbs.  Maybe he DID buy them before the law changed.”

Number 2:  “Yeah, right.  You got receipts?”

For a few lightbulbs that have been sitting here for years?
Number 1:  “I’m not sure how many constitute a stash.  I seem to remember it was 160.  Too few here for ‘intent to distribute.’”

Number 2:  “Maybe yes, maybe no.  Let’s just take his computer.”

Why the computer?

Number 2:  “There are overseas sources for 100 watters, d*ckhead.  Just like there used to be for cigarettes.”

About a week later, I was allowed to retrieve the computer.  No charges have been filed.

Now I’m going to log into “Cheapbulbsinternational.ru.co.  Get me some of those overseas 100 watters.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments -- and orders -- to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012



Monday, August 06, 2012

1053 The Dark Knight Falls

1053 The Dark Knight Falls

No worries.  It’s not about the latest Batman movie.  This Dark Knight isn’t rising any time soon.

Knight Capital Group.  Rebels without an off switch.  The company that single handedly threw the markets into chaos and put itself in peril, and maybe a lot of investors -- job creators, if you will -- in danger.  Not the kind of danger you get by going to a midnight movie in Aurora, Colorado, or a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee.  But danger, nonetheless.

Here’s what happened:  Knight made a new computer program to speed trading.  They put it on line as of the opening of the markets on Wednesday, August first.  The software went bananas and resulted in what the company website calls “numerous” erroneous trades.

There’s no firm figure on “numerous.”  But selling back the numerouses their software erroneously bought for them has cost them in the neighborhood of US$400 million in losses.  And Knight is no pipsqueak.  They account for 17% of all the trading on the NYSE and almost as big a percentage on NASDAQ.  That’s more than 85 million shares a day!  They are -- or were -- the biggest of the bigs, even though we peasants may never have heard of them.

So, let’s say you go to the supermarket and buy a week’s worth of stuff.  When you get home, you notice that everything -- EVERYTHING -- is spoiled or beyond the sell-by date.

You could return it all and scream for your money back, which you might or might not get.  Or you could simply find another grocery store.

Well, that’s exactly what lots of Knight’s customers have done.

The software malfunction, which lasted all of half an hour, cost them a lifetime of good will.  Amazing how much damage you can do in just a few minutes.

Knight immediately set out to find a “White Knight” to bail them out of this mess and by the time you read this, the Blackstone Group will have extended a 400 million dollar helping hand.  But the brand is tainted.  So, Blackstone and its partners (TD Ameritrade, Getco and Stifel Nicolaus) get to buy in cheap.  For you stockies, Knight (NYSE: KCG) had been trading at about 15 most of the year.  It closed at about 4 on Friday.  The paper securing the bailout will let these buyers in at $1.50 a share.

In a completely unrelated news item on fashion and software, Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo, quoted in the New York Times, says “Designing software... isn’t all that different from designing clothes.”   Yeah it is.  And even at today’s high prices, no dress ever caused the loss of 400 million dollars (and counting.)


Shrapnel:

--While on this topic, there are a lot of folks out there who still confuse the Dow Jones “Industrial” Average with the general health of the market.  That never was true, and it’s less true now than ever.   Especially in an era where 30 minutes of stupid trades can skew the whole thing and in an era where “long term” is measured in minutes, hours and days and not years or decades.

--Industrial is in quotes because only 13 out of the 30 components are actually industrials and to reach that number, you have to count oil and chemicals.  There are five companies in food or retail, four banks or other financials, three in pharmaceuticals,  two in software, two in telephone service, and one in entertainment/broadcasting.

--The Romney Robots Remind:  “you lib-rulz don’t mind voting for a rich guy if his name is Kennedy.”  Right.  But old Joe and his sons knew you had to give back, something lost on Bain.  So when you vote for a Kennedy you’re voting for a good fifth of Scotch and people whose decades of legislation and public service actually DID create American jobs without sending them overseas, and for a family that pays its taxes instead of hiding its money in the Caymans.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012