Friday, September 28, 2012

1076 Life Imitates Art

1076  Life Imitates Art

Okay... so in case you’re too young to remember, Willard, the human star in  a horror film, “Ben,”  that came out in the early 1970s.  It’s about a mansion-dwelling misfit with a “thing” for rats.


Remind you of anyone?  Anyway, Willard cultivates his rats and eventually realizes the population has grown to the point he can’t afford to feed them all.  So he ends up killing most of them.

NOW does it remind you of anyone?

Life imitates art.

Fast forward to the present and Bain Capital, the company allegedly formerly run by another Willard.

And let’s look at one of Bain’s “rats,” the office supply store Staples.  It and others like it are in trouble.  Too many stores, too many employees, too many nickel and dime items that don’t move off the shelves in too timely a fashion.

Staples isn’t in mortal danger.  But the population has grown to the point where food is becoming scarce, and the stock price is hovering in the eleven dollar range.

So they’re closing some stores, downsizing some others and playing musical chairs in the executive suite.  

Office supply discounters were a pretty good idea when they first started.  But they also did a Wal-Mart on locally owned competitors, pricing stuff low enough to dominate the markets.

They put up medium-box stores in low rent locations and bad neighborhoods, paid low wages, house-branded everything in sight and prospered.  Now, the shoe is on the other foot.  The small competitors are mostly gone.  But there are too many mouths to feed.

Among the mistakes that led to this:  moving into more upscale neighborhoods.  Expanding too fast and in too many directions.

Buy a computer from their dusty shelves?  Nah.  Most high ticket items don’t sell well there, especially when there’s a Best Buy or a real Wal-Mart around the corner. Those Staples copy centers are pretty much idle.  They’re set up to do big jobs.  Most of the big jobs go to what used to be Kinkos.  Faster, easier, cleaner.

The small jobs?  Almost every business has its own copier today.  Those that don’t go to the UPS Store.  Faster, easier, cleaner.

Office supplies?  Competition from Office Max, Office Depot, Office World and Staples’ own Quill.com, all of which have problems of their own are diluting the franchise.  Amazon sells most of that stuff and you can order with one click, even without Staple’s big red “easy” button.

Willard and his “job creators” can’t do much about this.  So they drown the rats.

Shrapnel:

--Speaking of Vulture capitalists, “Time Out Chicago” reports the megabucks vultures at, GTCR, has done what these guys always do, only faster.  After about 18 months of owning Merlin Media it announced it’s selling the radio stations in New York, Chicago and elsewhere.  And this time, they didn’t have to lift a finger, since Merlin was self destructing from day one, luring big talent and no listeners, then firing big talent and hiring machinery that also attracted no listeners.

--The ever so believable Randy Michaels, apparently inactive CEO of Merlin, denies the story.  But according to the Chicago report, Randy ain’t running things anymore and someone else in charge.  Can you spell dismantle?

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, September 26, 2012

1076 Aunt Rant's New Testament

1075 Aunt Rant’s New Testament

America’s One True Faith, Randianity, is out with either a New Testament or a New English Revision of the old.  The Movie Atlas Shrugged II is to open in theaters in a couple of weeks.

It follows some of the storyline of the original, and attempts to extend its reach as the New Testament does of the Old.  But it’s set in modern times, not in the 1940s-1950s as the original.  You’d think they’d turn the railroad that plays a major part in the novel into an airline.  But that would be too radical.  So they just modernized the rail cars so they look like something commuters use in Tokyo and Taipei, but with better seats and fewer passengers.

Aunt Rant didn’t like people screwing with her copy, let alone with her ideas.  But the plastic speechifying animatrons of the novel’s endless pages have been humanized in the movie almost as nicely as was Pinocchio when he turned into a real boy at the end of his story.

The movie isn’t out yet, so criticism here is based on the publicity releases and trailers along with the endless internet ads that have been everywhere for about three months.

Maybe, just maybe, the movie will do some good.  People don’t really understand Auntie very well.  It’s not that she was opaque about what she believed and advocated... but she rattled endlessly to the point that her followers’ consciousness glazed over by the time she made her point.  Full understanding would drive many of her newer followers away.

She
--was an atheist.
--opposed  “modern” conservatives.
--thought Reagan was a phony.
--called Libertarians “hippies of the right.”  
--was pro choice (“a blob of protoplasm has no rights!”)
--believed in ad hoc organizations like in-house unions at big companies.
--refused to join any of those ad hoc organizations with the possible exception of the Writers Guild when she worked at the film studios.
--believed cancer was caused by “bad premises” at least until her lungs blew up.
--wrote to present an ideal, not a blueprint for action.

A lot of these little bits of Auntie- Shrapnel have eluded many of her followers and scholars of her work.

But make no mistake about this atheist Jewish chick from Russia:  What she created was a religion, and a particularly intolerant one.

So maybe the movie -- which eventually will be reviewed here -- will help the legions she influenced understand just what that influence amounts to.


Shrapnel:

--Cops need better eye exams.  If they could see better, they wouldn’t be shooting a double amputee who was holding them at penpoint in Houston, or the guy in New York who was holding them at wallet-point.  Other than bad eyesight, what else could excuse incidents like these?

--The inbox has been bulging since Monday’s semi tongue in cheek post on lowering smoking costs for the poor... none of it favorable.  Advocates for poverty programs, environmentalists, health “experts,” reformed smokers, have all piled on.  It’s nice to have a consistent readership, but you’d think that at least one of the monster tobacco companies would have offered me a trip to Disneyland or maybe a carton of Kools.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own.  ®
Please address comments, allegations of quoting out of context and subpoenas to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

1074 Smoke and Soak the Poor

1074 Smoke and Soak the Poor

Now we have figures for the other side.  For years we’ve been bombarded with statistics that “prove” smoking causes everything from lung cancer to heart attacks to ingrown toenails.  Second hand smoke causes its own list of diseases, causes global warming and turns infants into little drug addicts.

And everyone -- everyone -- who doesn’t smoke is (often suddenly) allergic to it. (Do they even have a scratch test for this at the allergist’s?)

We’ve all heard that American workers who smoke cost as much in medical bills, lost work time and productivity as the GDP of Bulgaria.

So the smoking cessation business has grown into a big bucks “save the people, save the planet” industry.  Take a look at big pharma stocks if you don’t believe this.  And look at the ads for non-pharmaceutical smoke stopping products.  Patches, gum, lozenges, homeopathic potions, electronic cigarettes where you puff heated air, herbal cigarettes, electroshock therapy, plaster casts for your hands, hypnosis and handcuffs.

But the government had a better idea:  “let’s tax them out of smoking.”  How well this works is in doubt.  About how much income comes in is not.

In New York City where the local tax is $1.50 a pack and the combined city, state and federal taxes can raise the cost of a pack to $12, revenue is down, but still a nice chunk of change according to the New York Post.

Who is hit hardest by this?  Here’s a hint.  If Mayor Bloomberg still puffed, twelve bucks a pack wouldn’t be much of a dent in his personal budget.  And Sam Newhouse can probably pick that much out from under his couch cushions on a Sunday morning.

But what about Big Donnie from Melrose, the South Bronx, whose income was about $9,000 last year?  That’s about $173.00 a week, also available in couch cushions each Sunday morning not too many miles away.  The Donnies of the world spend 25 percent of their income on cigarettes.  This from a study conducted by what used to be called the Research Triangle Institute of North Carolina, but now goes by "RTI."

The term “social smoker” is a lie.  You’re either hard core or you don’t smoke at all.  Next time someone tells you “Gawsh, I just have one every once in awhile.  But the other day I was having a drink with friends at an outdoor bar and I went through half a pack in a few hours.  That’s gotta stop.”  Sure.

Minimum wage smokers will buy cigarettes before food, before beer, before baby formula and before paying the rent.

A modest proposal.  Since we are requiring picture i.d. for just about everything, let’s go one step further:  Bring your W-2 to the 7-11 and be charged on a sliding scale.  Twelve bucks a pack for people who are paid, say,  $100,000 a year and up.  Less and less income sinks the price lower and lower.

But we have to be careful.  You never know when someone will start selling forged W-2s.

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, September 21, 2012

1073 The Dance

1073 The Dance

Passed the Senior Citizen center with the big storefront window.  Behind it were maybe half a dozen people doing some kind of low impact aerobic exercise.  This is a combination of fitness and ritual dancing designed to ward off death.  It doesn't work.

An otherwise normal and apparently healthy woman barely one third as old as the seniors-under-glass wrote on a social networking site that she was sore of bone and muscle of leg after a session with her trainer.  Trainer?  

Someone wrote back to her saying what she experienced was practice and for 45, 50 years from now when the same symptoms would present without the fuss, bother and expense of a trainer.  She replied that was the very thing she was trying to prevent.

The following day she reported her thighs were “feeling fine now.”
Probably an understatement and probably they also no longer hurt.  You can bet the seniors in the terrarium will have a longer wait for feeling fine.


Who was it said “we weren’t all meant to last forever?”

You can eat all the organic spinach you want and take all the vitamins, work out two hours a day, take your blood pressure every morning and evening and floss your teeth every two hours, but who knows what the net result will be?

Remember Jim Fixx?  He’s the guy who put jogging on the map of national consciousness.   The author of “The Complete Book of Running” died of a heart attack right after his morning run. Fixx was 52 years old.

Remember Adelle Davis?  She was the one who put “whole foods” on the map of national consciousness.  Told us how to use nutrition to prevent disease.  All that good stuff.  She lived to 70.  Not a bad age, but not ripe-old, either. Blood cancer.

What do you think would happen if Jim Fixx or Adelle Davis lived on a diet of McDoubles and Miller Lite?  Chances are they would have grown heavier than they did.  But what would it have done to the length of their lives?

When they told Jackie Kennedy Onassis, then 64, that her chances of survival from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma were pretty slim, she was quoted as asking herself out loud “Why did I do all those push-ups?”   It’s on tape somewhere.

You may be the Energizer Bunny.  But when you’re out of juice, you’re out of juice.  And no ritual dance in a glass cage, no work with a trainer, no jogging, no raw foods, and no push-ups are going to help you.  Deal with it.


Shrapnel:

--Third and Fourth World Muslims are outraged at cartoon drawings of Muhammad, and are showing their anger with more anti-American and anti-French demonstrations, some of them -- as you know -- death dealing.  What would happen if the sandal were on the other foot?  Would Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Shintoists or just about anyone else riot and pillage?  Someone’s wrong here, ya’ think?

--Apologists for the “demonstrators” are saying they represent but a sliver of the general population.  That makes it easy to infer that the rest of the population is against the actions of the few.  So where are the efforts to control -- not discourage, but control -- the sliver?

--And our old friends at Chick-Fil-A have announced they intend to stop donating to anti-gay groups.  The Los Angeles Times reports the Chicken’s charity arm is “taking a closer look” at whose coffers Chick Fils.  Now, if the food department could only make that stuff edible.


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, September 19, 2012

1072 The Innocence of Willard

1072  The Innocence of Willard

“47% of Americans are (freeloaders...) I’d have a better shot at winning if I were Mexican.” -- Willard Romney, presidential candidate of the Republican Party.

Well, now, at last the guy gives us some straight talk.  And he’s probably speaking from the heart.  Kind of like the Tin Man he always has been.  Good.  Now we know where we stand.

The 47% quote comes from the amateur video shot at a fundraiser last May.  Generally, this Willard guy switches position faster and more often than a porn queen in a three minute clip.  But that’s what you get from the political branch of the adult entertainment industry.

Amateur videos seem to pop up with alarming frequency these days and sometimes -- maybe always -- with bad results.  “Innocence of Muslims” was the excuse for Fourth World anti-American forces to kill, maim, destroy, burn and riot.

The Innocence of Willard is another story.

What does what he said mean?  Well, that 47% doesn’t make enough money to have to pay income tax.  (Who wrote the tax code, again?) That 47 percent wants affordable health insurance, maybe even government run health insurance, but in any case, health insurance that actually works.

The video shows that Willard is nothing if not consistent in one series of thoughts.  

He says his job is to ignore that 47 percent and concentrate on the middle few who can join in his core of supporters -- whoever they are -- and win a majority.
So, Romney made Obama’s job a whole lot easier.

We of the 47 percent of freeloaders are in the President’s pocket (aren’t we?) so all Barry has to do is convince four per cent of the voters that they, too, should waddle up to the trough with the rest of the squealing pigs and join in the free-fest.

Now, about that Mexican thing.  Just another racist crack from amateur pornstar politics.  And to make sure his numbed out followers got the point, he followed the first line with one that ended  “It would be helpful if I were a Latino.”

Okay, that was back in May.  The video has been around for awhile now.  The magazine (commie rag) “Mother Jones” re-posted it recently and the newspapers all picked it up, so now it’s “viral.”

What does Willy say about it today?  He says what he said was “not elegantly stated,” but he meant what he said.  Brilliant.  There’s no way to weasel out of this “inelegance” without bringing up that position switching image yet again.

What alternative universe America does this guy live in?

But you have to give credit where due:  “The Innocence of Willard” didn’t provoke violent uprisings at various Republican consulates and embassies across the United States.  With half the country maligned, you’d think the 47% would have learned something from our Muslim counterparts in the Fourth World and at least torn down a political clubhouse somewhere.

We are too civilized to kill anyone over this.  But we could at least have burned pictures of elephants or the Republican flag outside the headquarters of some company that moved its manufacturing to China or Pakistan.

Okay, white guys and anyone else who is not a member of the victim culture, put on those wigs to cover your skin heads, take off your sheets, write a fan letter to Bank of America or Chase and get behind your guy.

Shrapnel:

--News about news:  Emory University is closing its Journalism program because it “doesn’t fit” with the school’s mission.  Great idea because J-schools have replaced on the job training in the trade and if other schools follow Emory’s lead, no one has no way to learn nuthin about riting and stoonts could report in any ways them wants to.  And whom needs news, anyways?

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, September 17, 2012

1071 The Doctor is In

1071 The Doctor is In.

How is it dentists have figured out to keep appointments on time, but doctors haven’t?  Maybe it’s the fluoride in the water at dental schools that irritates incoming freshmen in ways that makes them more likely to look at their watches.  Maybe it’s because most dentistry doesn’t have to be done all at once.  Maybe they’ve discovered that you don’t have to fill all five cavities today... that three of them can wait a week and you get a second appointment.

The sign in the doc’s waiting room says “If you’re more than ten minutes late for your appointment, we may ask you to reschedule.”  That’s not a real quote.  It’s much too clear for Medical Officespeak.  And it doesn’t work both ways.

Doctor: “Sorry, kid, I’m running late, but you’re free to reschedule.  We have a few openings at around this time next week.  And don’t worry, that bleeding will stop on its own, eventually.”

We’ve seen amazing medical strides since the days of leeches and cocaine-laced snake oil.  Well, from the days of leeches, anyway.

Medical office practice has strode in the opposite direction, ignoring the one-way signs and the patients.

Kindly Old Doc kept his patient records on 3x5 cards in that infamous “doctor handwriting.”  He never missed a trick, never failed to set up appointments with specialists and never forgot about following up on his patients’ progress.

Of course in those pre-computer, pre-insurance company days, the whole of the medical conversation and action was doctor and patient, maybe augmented by an office manager who knew everything that was supposed to happen and knew most of the people who walked through the door of the waiting room.

Only a few years ago, medical records were kept in huge files on office walls.  Sloppy, slow and with occasional mis-filing, mostly accurate.  Today, it’s all computerized.  And it doesn’t work.  There are virtual cracks for the virtual records to fall into.  Sometimes it’s lemmings heading into the cracks.

Here’s a perfect example.  Recently a patient was prescribed a complicated test which was to be performed at a hospital and required “authorization” from the health insurance company.  Weeks pass and the patient calls the medical office and is told “the insurance company hasn’t approved it yet.”  More weeks.  Then a call to the insurer: “we don’t have any requests on file for you.”

Oh.

Another call to the medical office:  “The insurance company won’t authorize this without a date from the hospital.  The hospital can’t schedule the appointment without approval from the insurance company.

This sounds made up.  It isn’t.  It sounds atypical.  It isn’t.  It happens every day.  And you can’t make this stuff up.  Or do much about it.

Shrapnel:

--Happy 25th anniversary, “Weekend Today,” a staple of NBC’s Saturday and Sunday morning lineups (or is it lines-up?)  In the early years, we worried that it wouldn’t live to see the following weekend.  That worry is long gone.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com unless they’re an invitation to a vocabulary wrestling match over “strode” vs. “stridden.”
© WJR 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

1070 Too Much News, Not Enough News

1070 Too Much News, Not Enough News

Here’s to Perceptive Paula Poindexter, journalism professor at the University of Texas, Austin, out with a new book that says young people don’t like watching/reading/hearing news.

She says in “Millennials, News and Social Media” that kids today don’t see why they need to be informed, that they consider most news junk and propaganda.

In reporting this, the media website jimromanesko.com does the newsroom unthinkable: it reprints the school’s publicity release verbatim after excerpting parts of it and posting a picture of the book’s cover.

Okay, better than rewriting it without citation, especially these days.

While we’re in a quoting mood, let’s go for someone with the wisdom of the ages under his furry belt, Pogo:  “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

We the newsies have made information unpalatable to an entire generation, even though it was predisposed to being uninformed to begin with.

And how have we done this?  By trivializing the important and aggrandizing the trivial.

The 24/7 news cycle of today takes the specialness away from news... the kind of thing you got from the morning (and then the afternoon) paper, the nightly news on television, the radio newscast on the hour and the wake up programs on TV.

An informed population is necessary to the success of a democratic republic?  Nah.

Everything goes on forever these days.  Repeat and repeat and trumpet and do it over and over and over.  Some of the all-news radio and television outlets don’t even bother rewriting.  See a story on, say, HLN at 11:11 am, you can bet you’re going to see it again exactly the same way -- maybe with another anchor -- at 12:11 pm.  Defenders of this will say they expect their audience to turn over every seven or eight or 15 minutes.  But they’re wrong.

The mind numbing parade of car crashes, missing children, hotel implosions, high speed chases, cats rescued from trees combined with the meaningless and endless political charges, countercharges, he saids, she saids along with the Drew Petersons and uninformed experts, conspiracy theorists, celebrity gushers would drive any sane person away.

All this and the football injury of the week, traffic is heavy on (the Cross Bronx Expressway,) (the 101,) (the Holland Tunnel) (I-395 South) (where it’s heavy all the time and everyone knows it.) And here’s the weather for Anchorage.

What will who wear on the red carpet at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the Emmys, the Tonys, the MTV Awards, the BET Awards.  How many red carpets are there, after all?

Oh, and by the way, there’s a civil war in Syria.  With lots of people hurt or killed.  And North Korea exploded an a-bomb. The American Ambassador to Libya was assassinated. And an angry mob stormed the US Embassy in Yemen and another is demonstrating in Egypt. Now back to the speculation about who will be the judges on next season’s American Idol, now that J-Lo and her boy toy have run off to … that traffic jam on the 101... or the one on route 1 in Miami.

Wish I’d said that (with apologies to Jimmy Cannon):  “Big soda drinks banned in NYC. Good. People can kill themselves if they want to, but they have no right to kill me with their second-hand sugar. Next they should ban double burgers, large fries, and extra cheese pepperoni pizza, so I won't have to worry about second-hand fat.  -- Dan Thomas.”

(Dan Thomas is a journalist who knows the difference between Chris Stevens and Fashion week.)

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, September 12, 2012

1069 Too Many Choices

1069 Too Many Choices

Shopper 1 is holding two boxes of blueberries and asks “which one looks better?”
Shopper 2:  “weigh each of them and buy the heavier one.”
S1:  But they’re each six ounces.
S2: That’s a minimum.  It’s never exact.

Viewer 1: Do you want to watch “Sins and Secrets” or “NCIS”?
Viewer 2: Whichever has the shorter commercial breaks.

Diner 1: In which plastic chain restaurant do you want to have dinner?
Diner 2: The one with the shortest wait for a table.

There are too many choices.  Some people like choices, for example whether to have an abortion, or who should run Social Security and Medicare.  Often people who like one kind of choice, recoil in horror over another.

Chooser 1:  Do you want to choose?
Chooser 2:  You choose.

Life as a display of nail polish colors or bakery cookies.

So, you want more of a say in what happens to “your” Social Security money?
And to do that you want to put your bucks in the hands of the Wall Street nincompoops who have done such an outstanding job?  You want Bernie Madoff’s “cell” phone number, maybe?

But there are some things about which you have no choice.  Example:  buying a car and you want a radio, heater, air conditioner, MP3 player, cloth seats, and a rear-vision camera.  “Oh, well, you can’t order all that stuff separately anymore, sir,” says Spike Jones (or is it Sid Stone) with the checkered sport coat and the pasted on smile acquired at Whiteners R Us.  “Most of what you want is standard equipment.   But if you want the rear vision camera, it only comes with the Grand Deluxe Accessory Package which also includes 20 inch wheels, a rear spoiler and an ‘upgraded’ front grille, and rubber door bumpers, heated and cooled driver seats and our Sirius/XM and GPS view screen.”


Automotive bloatware.

You often can’t choose your own doctor.  How long before you can’t choose your own lawyer?  

But mostly, it’s too many choices and you know about as much about them as you do about the Persian invasion of Phoenicia.   Like when you picked the items for your 401 K.  Or your spouse.  And when you just couldn’t decide whether you needed 20 inch wheels and a rear spoiler.


Shrapnel:

--The latest soon-to-be-overused-word is “texture.”  All of a sudden, everything has “texture,” even if it doesn’t.  Move over, “premium,” “solution,” “literally,” “impact,” “global,” “motivated,” “ ” and “cool;” there’s a new sheriff in town.

--Katie Couric’s new show, “Katie,” is the perfect program for her.  It’s a good mix of the kind of stuff that made Oprah a success.  Both she and executive producer Jeff Zucker are back in the comfort zones that made “Today” the most watchable show on television when this duo was at its core.


(Please note that Both Financial Balderdash and High Heels Hot Flashes have important things to say about 9/11.  Links are -- as always -- on the right side of this page.)


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, September 10, 2012

1068 9-11-01

1068 9-11- 01

(Note to readers:  With some small changes and expansions, this is a repeat of last year’s post on this subject which, ironically and only accidentally, was the 911th post-Bloomberg Wessay.)


(NEW YORK) -- Veterans of the Vietnam War have a saying: If you weren't there, you don't get it. The same can be said of September eleventh, 2001.  Now, years later, it’s truer than ever.  

There were three "grounds zero," not one. The main one was the World Trade Center in New York. There also was the Pentagon and a lonely field in Pennsylvania.

As your distance increases from these points, the impact on you tends to decrease. "It wasn't such a big deal" is heard throughout the land, especially with the intervening death of Osama Bin Laden.

The pint size intellectual then in the White House didn't get it when it happened and didn't get it for the rest of his presidency and doesn't get it now. And if you weren't there, neither do you, even if you think you do.

Time blurs the day and the days that followed. We look at the events and the circumstances with gauze over the lens. Or not. It's like when Kennedy was shot. Everyone remembers clearly where they were that day, that hour. And everyone in greater New York lost someone when the Trade Center came down. Everyone knew someone who was trapped in that hell. If not that, then a cop or a firefighter who plunged into the wreckage and died or who lives on with godawful afflictions acquired in the line of duty and sometimes without compensation.

And now, here we are, more than a decade past, and the World Trade Center is growing back on the land.  Slowly.  But faster than if it had been a re-planted tree.

The mind, gauze on the lens or none, doesn't grasp three thousand deaths in an attack on American soil. The number is overwhelming. But we grasp the death of a loved one or a neighbor or a friend or a guy who worked at the next desk and went to his reward without you because you were running late that morning.

And the mind, gauze on the lens or none, doesn't totally cloud the unity we all felt in the aftermath, a unity that lives in our minds and hearts but eventually evaporated, like the poisoned smoke the EPA told us it wasn't.

Friend and former-colleague Don Mathisen went on the air with me a few years ago, and talked about the lessons of the day. Don said he had hoped that the event taught us that the military is needed to protect New York, and that local police and intelligence should be expanded. Don is right, of course. But what would have happened if a flight of Navy F-14s had brought down a civilian airliner? You know the answer.  And of course, since then, we have learned about the New York Police Department’s ham-handed, jurisdiction-invading investigations of dangerous Muslims in coffee shops, mosques and car washes... investigations that might have been illegal, even if they had resulted in anything but a lot of overtime for the lucky infiltrators.

II.

The stink of this thing took about a week to float its way to the Upper East Side, and it's the kind of stink that stays with you, both in your nose and in your heart. By Tuesday the 18th, we had pretty much the same picture we have now, eleven years later. We didn't have an exact death count, but we knew the round number was 3,000. We didn't know the extent of the maladies that would later strike survivors, but that stink in the air told us SOMETHING was coming, eventually.

The feds and the city did air tests. The Environmental Protection Agency's Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey Governor, Horsewoman, elegant, poised in a Miss Manners sort of way, assured us that everything was clean. The party line.

The subways and the commuter railroads got back to normal on the "day of..." though late, after they'd figured out that they weren't targets. In the hours before that, they stopped. Sometimes in darkened tunnels and without explanation. For hours.

There are shocks to the system -- the personal system -- that take time to sink in. This one sunk in immediately. Something like this could not be happening. Back in the newsroom on 59th, we went about our business. But what WAS our business? Reporting the truth. But what WAS the truth? The TV, our transmissions and everyone else’s had pictures of the planes hitting the towers and the fires that followed. There we were in our individual private hells and in the collective hells shared by everyone. The towers, the Pentagon, and later, the Pennsylvania field, all there for the viewing, over and over.

Noses to the grindstone. Get out the facts. Find the mayor. Find the Secretary of Defense, find the President, find the Vice President.

The first wasn't easy. There were no facts. The second WAS easy. The Mayor was on site, downtown, where he belonged. The secretary was scratching his head. The President was airborne -- somewhere. The vice president was encamped at his now-famed "undisclosed location," presumably pulling strings in his sinister way, insuring there were no more hijackings that day by grounding every civilian aircraft in America.  Dick Cheney says in his recent book that one of the undisclosed locations was the Vice President’s Residence in Washington and another was his home in Wyoming.  Took ten years to find that out.

On the street, New Yorkers were doing something they always do, but in a new way. We were schmoozing. With total strangers. We were walking... no subways quite yet. We were working our way to Grand Central or to Penn Station or to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, trying to get home. Or hoofing it across the 59th Street Bridge. Or the Brooklyn Bridge. Throngs of us. Talking among ourselves quietly. We were, for the moment, a people unified in horror and brotherhood. We passed the southern entrances to Central Park and smelled horses. The Trade Center stink wouldn't block that out for a week.

We were one people determined to seek safety and to avenge. And now, here it is, all these years later. And where is that unity? It has been splintered by partisan bickering, by the fighting of useless wars, an economic near-depression and we have, in a decade, been lulled into complacency by the death of the enemy’s figurehead and remain only slightly closer to bringing the rest of villains to justice.

This is shameful and unacceptable.

Further, over the intervening decade we have become a nation sunk a Balkanizing quicksand with unprecedented and paralyzing in-fighting and factionalization, mired in depression and inability to compromise on anything.

That, too, is shameful and unacceptable.

III.
It has become a battle of ownership.  “Who is the proprietor of this tragedy?” has become a more important question than any other, it seems.  

The White House had issued “guidelines” on how to observe the anniversary, what we should be thinking about, and who.  The White House does not own 9/11.  The strutting Rudolph Giuliani, whose flagging popularity was raised above the drowning line when the planes hit the buildings does not own 9/11.  The intellectually impotent, double-talking political hack  Rumsfeld doesn’t own 9/11.  Nor do the cable networks, the real networks, the tabloids, Life Magazine or the guy next door who’s been to ground zero and the Pentagon just to gawk.  And neither do the reporters who covered though some of them who gave tenth anniversary interviews last year seemed to think so.

Everyone wants a piece of the action after the fact.

And that is the most shameful and unacceptable of all.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
©WJR 2012, 2011, 2009

Friday, September 07, 2012

1067 Coffee Break

1067 Coffee Break

Sandy has hung a giant poster of a Keurig machine in the window of his coffee shop on 59th St on the east side.

But when you go in for a cup, there’s no evidence of an actual machine.

On the wall, however, is another large poster, kind of like a menu.

It lists such exotic varieties as Kenyan Highlands, Sumatran Lake Tawar and Tully’s Breakfast Blend.  There must be 200 different kinds of coffee on the poster.  Gourmet stuff.

A customer asks Sandy for a cup of Kenyan AA Extra Bold.   Sandy goes the urn which has been sitting against the east wall of this place since the invention of boiled water and draws a cup.  “Let me know how you like it.”

Down the end of the counter, a woman:  “Hey, Sandy, I want to try the Newman’s Own Fair Trade Vanilla Caramel.”  Sandy ambles over to the same urn, draws a cup, puts it down before the customer and says “let me know how you like it.

So ask the obvious question:  How do you get two radically different kinds of coffee out of the same urn less than a minute apart.

Sandy says he doesn’t.  He gets the same stuff from the wholesaler Gillies in Brooklyn which has been doing bulk coffee for restaurants since two years after the wall urn was installed.  That’s what he serves, and that’s all he serves.

False advertising?

“Notice any prices on all those exotic things?  No.  There are none.  We don’t have any of them.  We just have our usual 59th St. Blend which is exactly the same as my brother Juan’s 86th St. Blend, but with a different label.  Gillies does that for you, if you want.  Same stuff. Different bag.”

“What about the Keurig machine poster in the window?”
“Oh, my guys know we can’t use those here.  They’re no good for the kind of volume we do.  In fact, they’re no good for anything over 30, 40 cups a day.  I’d be replacing the machine every ten minutes.”

“So all of this is just decoration and comeon?”

“Yeah.  So what?”

This is a pretty nose-in-the-air neighborhood.  It’s right off Park.  Sandy says “people here like the atmosphere.  It’s classy.  But this ain’t Starbucks.  Around here, ‘special reserve’ means the bag was torn when we got it.”

Air cured coffee.

Shrapnel:

--Do New York Taxi fares confuse you with all those add ons and special fees and geographic restrictions.  Get ready for more.  The fares and some of the fees went up the other day, but the drivers don’t have to start charging them until the 30th, which means some cabs will cost the old fares until then, but others won’t.

--What would Reagan say about Mark Wolf whom he appointed to the federal bench in Boston?  Judge Wolf has ruled that the government must pay for a sex change operation he says is needed by M. Koselik, born a man, living as a woman in an all male prison and serving a life sentence for murdering his wife in 1990.  Talk about your welfare queen!

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