Wednesday, October 31, 2012

1090 Freedom of News

What’s all this generosity on the part of the paywall newspapers?  Some news has always been free.  At least it was if you were in the right place at the right time.  You picked up the News or the Post on the train or subway when someone left it behind.

So the great public servants at the Times and the Wall Street Journal have taken down their pay-per-view toll booth and in a stunning show of home town spirit are giving away their storm coverage.   

This could start a trend.  Two trends, actually.

Trend one:  a big story is free.  Trend two:  People stop reading the details of stories and just look at the headlines.

There’s something to be said for that second one.   We are overwhelmed with data.  (This space makes an old fashioned distinction between data and information.)

Could cable and satellite TV be far behind?  CNN could give you the first five minutes of each hour for free and then put up a screen with other stories from its website.  Then for the rest of the hour, it could run ads for sleazy accident lawyers, the companies that buy your long term settlements, class action drug lawsuits and the occasional medicine that will cure your moderate to heavy plaque psoriasis but leave you bald, impotent and with bad kidneys.  Unless, of course, you pay.

There is, of course, something to be said for just looking at the headlines and first paragraphs.  To discourage this freeloading, many websites have taken drastic steps.  They make sure the headlines are sufficiently misleading and then write the first paragraph to say nothing of newsworthiness.

There’s just enough in print or on air to make you want a little bit more, for which, of course, you have to pay.  Free news homepages are a gateway drug for news junkies.

What the websites need is a better class of advertiser.


Shrapnel:

--The forecasters apparently got Sandy’s number right.  Predictions by meteorologists often fall apart because while you can’t fool mother nature, mother nature can fool you.  The storm was horrific on the immediate coast and nothing to shrug off inland.  But it looks like early warnings and sane preparedness lessened the damage.

--Do you really want a guy for President who is ready to close FEMA and give its functions to a bunch of doofuses in the states?  The states can’t seem to get much of anything right.  So why would this be any different?

--Post #1089, an imaginary letter from a corporate CEO to employees about why they should vote for Romney (or you’ll lose your health insurance, your retirement and probably your job,) was a parody.  At the time of writing, pointing that out that would seem to have been unnecessary.  But response from at least one reader indicates it would have been wise and so the post has been slightly revised.

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, October 29, 2012

1089 A Letter from the Boss

1089  A Letter from the Boss

PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A PARODY.

Dear Associates,

I want to take this opportunity to speak to all 230,000 of you about the importance of the election coming up in a few days.  And thanks to the Supreme Court and its Citizens United decision, I am able to communicate with you all at the same time.

As you know, there is a lot at stake for those of us in banking business, especially among those of us who are considered too big to fail, a terrible misnomer.  

While we were happy to have a little hand up from the Obama and Bush administrations in the recent past, we feel that the President is preparing to take away some of our personal and corporate freedoms.

For example, there’s legislation prepared, that if passed would force us to choose between investment banking and securities sales and retail banking.  If we were to choose retail, we would be cut off from one of our most lucrative product groups and have to reduce payroll by as many as 100,000 associates.

If we chose investment banking, our ability to contribute to life in the communities we serve in 28 states would be eliminated overnight and we would have to reduce our workforce by about 130,000.

You have a right to job security, and we job creators think you should continue to have that right.  But we can’t support it if we have to close half of our business.

As it is, we are forced to prepare alternatives to our group medical coverage that will be too costly to continue should the incumbent win another term. Do you really want those death panels making your decisions for you?

Further, we believe that the Obama administration is preparing to raise our corporate tax rate in order to pay for its ever-growing welfare state.

Please don’t take this as pressure.  I cannot control your vote and wouldn’t wish to.  But let me remind you that another four years of a black Kenyan Muslim socialist who supports homosexual “marriage,” and the murder of unborn babies can’t benefit anyone but the lazy moochers and panhandlers who sit around in their trailers and on the steps of their public housing projects, smoking dope, drinking booze and increasing the population so their handouts will grow while thousands of you work to support them at your own expense.

So please think carefully when you step into the voting booth next month.  And please remember, you have a friend in the chairman’s office.  And we know where you live.

Sincerely,

Whitcolm Blain Vanderviscose III
Chairman and CEO
Stately Bank and Trust

Shrapnel:

--Looks like Craig’s List has paced even Wikipedia in the unreliability department.  More scams than legit ads, at least in the help wanted section.  That wouldn’t be so bad if jobs weren’t as scarce as they are these days.

And from the Facebook page of friend and colleague Dan Thomas:

No mass transit in New York past 7pm. So all the hospital staff, electrical workers, building custodians, journalists, pharmacists, 911 operators, food delivery personnel, hotel staff, and thousands of others on whom we depend in an emergency have no way to get to work. Well ... they can drive in. Yes that's it... thousands of additional cars on the flooded roads. Of course the parking garage attendants can't get to work either, so where you gonna park? On the plus side... at least we won't get fat drinking large soft drinks.

Posted Sunday afternoon 10/28/12

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, October 26, 2012

1088 Go Islanders!

1088 Go Islanders!

Nassau County, New York has always been the poster child for inept.  And multimillionaire Charles Wang is more Boris Badinov than Dudley Do-Right.  Put these things together in a room and what do you get?  Nothing.

Wang has owned the hapless New York Islanders of the National Hockey League since 2000.  And for most of that time, he has been trying to (a) restore the team to its serial Stanley Cup glory days and (b) fix or replace its home, the shabby and deteriorating Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.  Nothing.

Wang proposed a mammoth building project on the former Mitchel Air Force Base, now home to part of Hofstra University, Nassau Community College and said Coliseum.  This got knocked down by officials of the county and its dominant internal Town of Hempstead.  Next came a proposed bond issue for an updated Coliseum.   The voters rightly handed what passes for leadership a strong message: “we’re already pedal to the metal on the highway to bankruptcy -- forget about it.”  

As the brilliant minds of Nassau and Hempstead rested to get ready for their next screwup, Wang took his puck and went to Brooklyn.  So the Isles will play in the new Barclay’s Center starting with the 2015-16 season, joining the New York-then-New Jersey-now Brooklyn Nets of the NBA in a small but snazzy venue.

How much revenue is this going to cost cash-strapped Nassau?  Estimates run as high as $250 million a year.  Plus a loss of jobs.  Plenty of jobs.

And assuming that the NHL doesn’t go out of business, which is not impossible, the Islanders may be getting the shot in the arm they need to remember the long-forgotten first rule of hockey:  Get that funny-looking, round black thing on the ice into that great big net.  It’s not that complicated, boys.

Shrapnel:

--Chinese lesson:  The “a” in “Wang” is pronounced like the “a” in “what,” but sounds like “Wong” to most American ears.  The “o” in “Wong” is pronounced like the “o” in “Wong,” but the sound comes from farther back on the hard palate, giving it a slightly different tone for which there is no English notation.

--The original Islanders were formed from a core of players from the Long Island Ducks of the Eastern Hockey League, which played in the corrugated sheet metal ice box called the Long Island Arena in Commack.  Guys like Brophy and Actimachuck used to hang out at Kelly’s Saloon on Vets Highway.  The Ducks were fun.  And generous.

--The Brooklyn Nets of the NBA had been the New Jersey Nets and before that the New York Nets of the ABA and played in a quonset hut in West Hempstead. They were no fancier than the Ducks but for the presence of one Julius Erving.  And no one froze at a Nets game, then or ever after.


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, October 24, 2012

1087 Another Magazine Bites the Dust

1087  Another Magazine Bites the Dust


Tina Brown is a wrecking ball and her aim is excellent. Now that she’s had at it at Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and Talk Magazine, she’s taken a swing at Newsweek which will end print publication as of 12/31/12.  

The death of Newsweek is not entirely her fault.   But she’s the one tethered to a crane smacking the thing at high speed and making sure the lights were turned out first.

The weekly news magazines have become irrelevant.  US News & World Report went digital-only a long time ago.   And a long time after its then- president John Sweet made the commercial in which he said US News “...spares our readers unimportant news and spares our advertisers unimportant readers.”

US News, all digital now except occasionally, has found its niche, reporting on the best colleges, and other best these and thats.

Time Magazine still limps along, straw thin and with an emphysematous cough.

But Newsweek, as part of the Daily Beast website is soon to be but a memory and the left over slick paper doesn’t even make for good fish wrapping.

Tina’s Big Contribution to the New Yorker was to shed everything about it that made it the New Yorker.  Talk magazine served no purpose.  Her Big Contribution to Newsweek was odd covers that didn’t “sell the book” to use magazine industry jargon.

Blame it on the internet?  Blame it on the impending death of ink and paper?  No.  Sorry.  Not this time.  Other magazines (“The Week,” “The Economist” and some others are flourishing.)  Content.  That’s what readers want.  Not weird covers and stupidly screaming headlines.

Newsweek has become a magazine with nothing to say and an unattractive way of not saying it.

Where are the Jonathan Alters and Alan Sloans and Peter Boyers?  And who replaced them?  No one, really.  But some of the abandoned slots they occupied have been filled with... who? (Alter went to Bloomberg View, Sloan has been with Fortune for a long time, Boyer is at Fox News.)

Riveting articles like “How Many Facebook Friends Do You Need?” and “Full Figured Models” isn’t exactly stuff that sells magazines.

Sure, the media world is changing.  And fast.  Magazines are expensive to produce and often out of date by the time they leave the printing plant.  But there’s still room for the printed word as recent startups and some old favorites are proving.

So here’s a question:  If Newsweek continued to print and nobody read it, would it still exist?  

Tina would do us all a favor if she would assume responsibility for the preposterous direction in which she’s taken Newsweek.  And she should go back to writing books.  There’s still an audience for stuff like “Life as a Party” and the “Diana Chronicles,” especially for those who reflexively consider anything British as “reading up.”  

Meantime, if you need something demolished... you know who to call.

Shrapnel:

--The third debate: Romney reminded me of my 1959 Rambler, built by his father’s company, AMC.  It lurched and sputtered and coughed and parts fell off, including the drive shaft and the trunk lid.  Note to the picky... I posted this on facebook before posting it here.

--RIP Jerome Karpf, Jr., aka Jerry Carr, former program director of WHLI radio,   Hempstead, who passed away recently at the age of 93.  A second generation newspaperman turned broadcaster, a herder of cats and a man who oozed competence, stability and natural culture and who commanded respect without trying.  Only a  few months ago, Jerry’s lights were as bright as ever, and he was engaged, aware and sharp in 2012 as he was in 1960.


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

Monday, October 22, 2012

1086 E-Prayers

1086 E-Prayers


We all know how busy God is, especially in the age of phone texts and the internet.  Chat rooms abound.   Instant messages.  Tablets (not the kind Moses had.)  

So, technically, while God is off on Mondays and Tuesdays, except for early Mass, Jewish morning prayers where he’s often the tenth guy in the minyan, and the five-a-day Muslim rites, he still puts in some time.   Wednesdays are occupied with after-dinner hour Bible classes.  These run into Thursday because of time zones.  Friday, Muslims and Jews.  Saturday Jews and 7th Day Adventists.  Sunday, a gazillion Christian churches.

Busy, busy.

So, Monday and Tuesday, he’d play 18 holes in the morning and then start answering -- or not answering -- prayers.

At some point, the volume got so, well, voluminous, that he had to put on extra help.  Changed his email address, gave the old one to the heavenly filter-ers and addressed only the issues that they thought he would want to and passed along.

That didn’t work out because even his most experienced assistants sometimes put through wrong ones or failed to put through right ones.  Plus a lot of them started to confuse themselves with him and started playing God.

But with volume at its present level and everyone agitating for face time, he has to spend at least a couple of hours between gigs on the computer.

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobil and Sprint are all busy erecting cell towers in heaven.  Good idea because there’s an awful lot of phone traffic with earth now.  The new 4-G system  (that’s “For God”) is due to be ready for use by the spring 2014... barring failure to win regulatory approval and if the installers don’t strike when their contract is up next year.

And that’s going to make things even tougher, what with texting exploding into the next world instead of dribbling in as now.  

There’s not too much you can do about God’s personal clutter.  But if your e-prayers aren’t being answered now, there are steps you can take to raise your profile.

If God doesn’t have you in his e-mail address book, your prayers go straight to his spam folder, where they have but a 30 day lifespan.  So add him to your contacts.  That’ll improve your chances of being heard.

Shrapnel:

--Michael Savage returns to the air tomorrow, 10/23/12, re-starting the program he ended abruptly by suing his former syndicator and -- at least temporarily -- with far fewer stations.  Savage is the craziest of the crazy right wing talkers, but always entertaining if only to see whether there will be a “Dan Rather Moment,” where he really goes off the deep end and implodes.  A reminder of the times when we sat around grandma’s huge dining table in the Bronx and listened to the uncles try to kill and outshout one another with the same regional accent that Savage has never been able to lose or wanted to.

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, October 19, 2012

1085 A Tale of Three Brothels

1085  A Tale of Three Brothels

First, fellas and gals, let’s get something straight between us.  There is no such thing as a free roll in the hay, any more than there is a free lunch.

Got that?

No?

Okay, there’s always a price even though it’s not always in money.

So there’s a long tradition of trading favors.

In Kennebunk, which could be called KenneBush, they’ve arrested 29 year old Zumba instructor Alexis Wright for running a house of ill repute in her studio.  She denies it.  But if you put her name in a search block, you’ll find videos, pictures and news items that kind of wilt that denial.

Her clients are said to have been a bunch of prominent citizens in the region.  Police have released the names of the johns, and the local media have printed or broadcast them, showering some bigwigs with shame and probably leading to some high profile divorces.

Problem is, Maine being a pretty close-knit place, there are lots of guys with the same or similar first and last names and the cops and the papers didn’t think of that when they rolled the presses.

So, some men are wrongly thought of as accused.  And that’s causing some red faces in police precincts and newsrooms.


Now, to the other brothels.  These are in Greece, where a top amateur soccer team -- the Voukefalas --  is strapped for cash.  Working girls to the rescue.  In return for wearing jerseys marked “Villa Erotica” and “Soula’s House of History,” the madams are filling in the void left by the Greek financial crisis.

Patriotic prostitution.

Madam Soula, 67, told the Associated Press that she’s doing it only because she loves the game.  Probably, she meant soccer.

But she offered players a “special bonus” at her … um … headquarters if they won while wearing her House of History shirts.  Unfortunately, the V-falas team has lost four in a row.

Brothels are legal and regulated in Greece.  And they should be here, too.  Of course, if they were, we’d never have heard of Heidi Fleiss and Alexis Wright, and Eliot Spitzer would still be governor.



Shrapnel:

--Musical toys:  a Canadian company has begun selling a device that allows your acoustic guitar to sound like it’s in an echo chamber, an effect that many musicians will like.  The gizmo attaches and detaches almost instantly, requires no batteries and has no settings.  In this era, does anything this low tech have a future?

--Windows 8 is upon us.  Microsoft’s new operating system comes with the usual dazzling array of unnecessary new features and gives us ten ways to perform every task, where one or two simple good ones would suffice.  But there’s an upside, too as “8” makes it even easier for everyone to make sure you have to buy new stuff.

--If one more commentator uses the word “crisp” to describe anything but a potato chip, many of us are going to scream.  Crisp comebacks, crisp suits, crisp weather, crisp reminders, crisp performances, crisp reminders.  What’s next, Snap Crackle and Pop?

(A prize of little value is offered to the first reader who supplies the correct number of double entendres in this post.)

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, October 17, 2012

1084 More Fakery

1084 More Fakery

So, while we’re on the topic of fake stuff, here’s a little something you can do to build up your sense of accomplishment.

This is not as much fun than painting lines for fake bike zones, posting fake street signs and placing fake fire hydrants and parking meters.  But it will make you feel good.

These days everyone has a to-do list.  Well, almost everyone.  Some are kept on phone or tablet “apps,” but most of us stick to the old and original little scraps of paper.

At day’s end you look at the scrap and realize you haven’t done half of what you set out to do, right?  You look at that, you say to yourself, “boy, I’m a mental slob and lazy.”  That’s no good for your already damaged self esteem. So here’s how to make things more satisfying.

When you first prepare your list, leave spaces between the items.  Then, as you go through your day, use those spaces to insert items that you’ve already done.  You know something always comes up, something unplanned.  So put it on the list and immediately cross it out.

At day’s end, you can look with approval and maybe even end with more crossouts than still-undones.

Sense of accomplishment.  Satisfaction.  You have spent your day productively and you’re proud of yourself.  And you should be.  A little self deception never hurt anyone.  Life’s big guys do it all the time.  Why should the 99% be deprived of the same luxury?

If you want to take this to an extreme, get yourself a scrap book.  Each night, Scotch Tape the day’s list in the book.  Scratch the “fake” items out in red.  Soon, you’ll have a scrapbook full of little scraps with lots of red lines.  And then, you’ll feel even prouder of yourself and more accomplished.

But don’t go overboard.  Do not put things on your list like:

✪ Win the Presidential election.
✪ Sign Afghanistan peace treaty.
✪ Win Powerball.
✪ Co-star in a movie with Jennifer LoClass.
✪ Untie the Gordian Knot without a knife.

You can fool some of yourself all of the time, but you can’t fool all of yourself all of the time.

Shrapnel:

--Attention, Kitchen Cabinet!  Production has begun on WestraDamus 2013, scheduled for posting here and on the website in December.  Suggestions for material are welcome at westradamus@gmail.com and this is your chance to be your own nonprophet.

--RIP Arlen Specter (R-PA) who died this week at the age of 82.  Sen. Specter was afflicted with a dread disease, but those in the know are wise to his underlying illness. He had a severe case of The Javits.

--Did you watch the debate?  Both candidates were back on their game.  Obama played the part of President.  And the method-acting Romney played a cross between 14 year old girl with PMS and the president of a used car lot.

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, October 15, 2012

1083 Vigilante Bike Lanes

1083 Vigilante Bike Lanes

This is in Dallas, not known as the Berkeley of the south.  That said, the city is painting bike lanes for the three known eco-friendly Texans and some others who neither drive cars or trucks nor ride horses.  And it’s not doing it fast enough for some.

So someone among that “some” is painting his own.  That’s right... taking the law into his own hands.  Carrying a concealed weapon is okay in Dallas.  But what about carrying a concealed paint can and brush.  (That probably gets a bit messy after the first 100 yards or so.)

It’s a cute protest against the slowness and maybe it will put some bike lanes in places where none were planned.  And it’s a great idea for all of us.  Even if you don’t have a bike, there are things you can do as a vigilante to make your life easier.

How about a “No Parking” sign for the curb in front of your house?   Or a “Stop” sign at the corner where the town won’t install one without three years of hearings, a budget addendum and well directed political contributions?

You don’t even have to paint the signs yourself.  You can purchase real ones -- or realish ones on an internet auction site the name of which we will not disclose, but it starts with the letter “e” and ends with the letter “y.”

And unlike those primitives in Texas, your handiwork won’t be sloppy and uneven.   It’ll look downright official because chances are it was uprooted from corner somewhere by some kid who stored it in his garage ten years ago, has fled the nest and what are mom and dad going to do with the thing.

They did something like this in New York some years ago.  People would go out to their cars and before pulling out of the parking space, place a fake fire hydrant on the sidewalk.   That space was usually still vacant when the motorist returned.  So he’d re-park, put the fake hydrant in the trunk and repeat as needed.

One problem:  when there’s an actual fire, and the hydrant is fake and the firemen try to use it and it doesn’t work, that can annoy them.  And it can cost lives and cause property damage.  No biggie.  And fire hydrants are available on that same website, though most of the real ones are too heavy to ship and you have to go to backwaters in places like New Jersey and Massachusetts or back dustbowls in places like Oklahoma to get one.  

Need a little extra money?  You can put your own coin telephone up on your outside wall.  Collect the quarters people put in and don’t get back when the phone doesn’t work.  Of course, pay phones are pretty close to obsolete.  But under the right circumstances, this can at least generate enough quarters for the parking meters in town.

Hey!  How about fake parking meters?  Oldies are also available at the auction site.

You could install them on your whole block.  Cash in, bigtime.

Meantime, the bike lanes of Dallas are growing every day, making the city safe for those three people who use them.

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, October 12, 2012

1082 Gassed

1082 Gassed

Five years ago, this space saluted the gas company for its forthright billing practices.  And they’re still doing that and doing it well.  But something has changed.

The sneaky, snarky gas bags are looking for a megabucks rate increase.  And they have adopted the standard method of all utilities in announcing it.  Said method:  First, never call a rate increase a rate increase.  It’s a rate “change.”  Second, never just come out and say the amount you’re asking for.  Instead, fill a page with fine print that’s so confusing no one will actually read it -- even with a magnifying glass.

Third:  start with the total revenue you’re requesting, in this case $77.3 million a year.  Granny down the street will have a coronary.  “I don’t have $77.3 million.  What am I going to do!?”  Out goes the 5x8 card on which this stuff is squeezed.

Most of the rest of us will realize this is a proposed figure and that the Public Utility Commission will never approve it as is, and that the 77 million is spread over a jillion individual and business customers.  

Fourth: prominently display irrelevant truths as in “Rates for an industrial customer using 5365 therms of gas per month would increase from $3,206.43 to $3,540 per month or 10.43 percent.”

What’s a therm?  How many do we use now?  

Don’t be fooled by that 10 and a half percent.  That’s for bulk users.  The rate for a “commercial” customer is going up almost 14%.  The proposed rate increase for a residential customer is almost 24 percent.  We residents, if we use 73 therms a month will be asked to paid 83 bucks instead of 67.  

Wait a minute!  Aren’t prices for natural gas at a historic low?  Isn’t this area frac city where they have gas to burn?  Couldn’t we sink our own well in the back yard and not pay anything?

The company’s stock has been trading at a fairly steady rate all year.  It’s stopping meter reading in favor of radio signals, so there’s a smaller payroll at least in that department.

What’s with a 23 or 24% rate increase?  Well, winter’s coming.  But don’t worry, if you’re a hardship case, you can call the company’s toll free beg line at which time they’ll probably offer you some kind of bogus “budget plan,”  

You can also complain to the Public Utility Commission, those fine public servants who are paid under $50,000 a year but have villas in Spain and on the French Riviera.  They’ll be glad to listen to you, too.

Gas companies are used to dealing in thin air.  So what do you expect?

Oh... by the way, here’s the post from June of 2007.   It’s funnier than this one.

Shrapnel:

--The vice presidential debate was more informative than the first presidential debate, but less telling.  Neither Biden nor Ryan was (a) asleep or (b) acting like a 14 year old hormonal teenager, which summarized Obama/Romney.  From which we can conclude that Biden has lovely teeth and Ryan has a nice shade of blue eyes -- which kind of looked like they were about to spin.

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, October 10, 2012

1081 Dr. George

1081 Dr. George

There are too many obituaries in this space these days, but here’s another one.  George R. Caso, Jr., 87, of Merrick, New York.

This is a bit late because word of his death last April was as low key as he was as a man and as a healer.

Talk about your old-time, small town doctor!  Talk about a life dedicated to the wellness of patients.  Talk about a man you couldn’t rattle when you came into that tiny, dark, crowded waiting room in his home office with a case of  “dread... this” or the “bleeding... that.”  

He was the son of Italian immigrants, owners of a grocery store when Merrick and the next hamlet east, Bellmore, really WERE small towns, not crowded, bustling and well-to-do suburbs.  From that small beginning came children who were big in politics and medicine.  And the current generations have carried on that tradition.  A dentist, a doctor, a social worker, a lawyer.

Dr. George was not a big man, but to his patients and to his community he was a giant.  Fatherly, gentle, available... but bring a book.  For awhile, he tried to see patients by appointment.  But his desire to serve overcame that flaw.  So you brought a book for the wait or you committed the outdated and dog-eared magazines to memory.  And magazines were much bigger in those days.

This guy worked more hours than there are hours.  When the office closed for the day, or before it opened, he made house calls and hospital rounds.  When you called in the middle of the night and got the answering service, you could hear him pick up the phone and listen in.

When there was a fire and need for a doctor, he was the guy.

Once, a patient was sitting on the examining table with blood pressure in the stratosphere.  “Hmmm,” said the doc  “that’s a bit high, probably should take something for that.”  “A bit high?”  It was so near stroke city you could smell the flames of Hell.

Patient: So how’s your pressure, doc?
Doc: Oh, I don’t ever take my own pressure.  Wouldn’t dare.

It’s not easy being calm.

His office desk was piled high with medical journals older than the magazines in the waiting room.

Patient:  That pile grows higher every time I see it.  I’ll bet the ones on the bottom have the latest developments on the use of medicinal leeches.

Doc:  No, I finally got to that one last month.  Next, I’m going for the diathermy machine catalog.

Don’t get the idea this guy wasn’t up on the latest.  It was a standing joke between us as were wisecracks about the treatment room refrigerator, one of those relics with the motor on top.  “It works just fine,” he said, “but I’m thinking about getting one that defrosts automatically.”

All of Dr. George’s patients were saddened when he retired, even though his successor was his daughter, Gina.  And what an education she had!  Not just med school.  Every doctor has to have that.   What she learned from her dad, you can’t get in a classroom or a hospital.

And what we all lost this past April was a link to an era of care and caring once common and expected, replaced by voracious insurance companies, statistics and strangleholds on patient and doctor alike.


Shrapnel:

--So Sandusky drew a sentence of 30-to-60 years which under Pennsylvania law means he won't be eligible for parole until he's 98 years old.  The guy continues to remorselessly profess his innocence and pledges an appeal.  But regardless of the results, the damage is done... to his victims, his charity, his community and to his deer in the headlights former employer, Penn State University.

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

Monday, October 08, 2012

1080 The Case that Will Not Die

1080 The Case that Will Not Die

You gotta give this guy some credit for persistence.  

In the winter of 1970, someone or someones sneaked into an officer’s house at Ft. Bragg, NC and stabbed dead Collette McDonald and her two daughters, Kimberly, age 5 and Kristen, age two.  The husband and father, Jeffrey McDonald, a Green Beret and medical doctor was wounded, though not terribly.

Even though this happened in North Carolina, this was big news on Long Island and in the New York metropolitan area because Dr. McDonald was a native of Queens and a resident of Patchogue.  This ongoing story now is longer than any of us in the reporting trade were old when it started.

A lot of people thought he did it and that his wounds were self inflicted.  He said he didn’t do it.  His father-in-law, Alfred Kassab, said he didn’t do it.  The military court system says he didn’t do it.  The local prosecutor said he did.

It’s nearly impossible to count the number of trials and subsidiary court actions through which this case has gone.  Kassab later joined the “he did it” side of things.  Joe McGinniss started to write a book expecting to clear McDonald, but instead it put the author and his book and the film made from it, “Fatal Vision” into the “he did it” column.

Now, here comes inmate McDonald again.  This time, with supposedly newly discovered evidence -- DNA -- evidence that a stretch of the imagination could mean that the band of hippies and the woman in the funny hat whom McDonald blames for the attacks, actually exist... something a lot of people find hard to believe so far.

Author McGinniss, writing in the New York Times, figures the current re-boot will go on through 2018 at which time, Young Doctor McD will be in his mid 70s.

Everyone is prison was wrongly convicted.  Just ask them.  Few, though, have taken their cases on a journey this long.

Shrapnel:

--The infamous abuser of small boys, Jerry Sandusky is scheduled for sentencing tomorrow (10/9/12,) and everyone with an opinion seems to think whatever the number of years handed down, it’ll be long enough so he never gets out alive.  Like Jeffrey McDonald whose murder case has been active for over 40 years, you can count on as many appeals as Sandusky can muster, and probably with the same result.  None.

--Received a nice letter from the term life insurance company that says “thanks for being our customer for ages and ages, but since you’re now the age you are, the policy has expired so thanks for all those premium payments.”   It’s nice to be on their list of good guys.  “Hey... we’re in luck... this policy holder outlived the term and 50 years of payments go directly to our bottom line.”

--Another letter recently arrived in the mailbox of one Laverne Dobbinson of Canarsie, Brooklyn, demanding payment of $710 for damages her son Tamon, 27, caused to a police car.  The damage, a busted fender, took place when the car struck the young man and put him in the hospital, in a coma, and where he later died.  Lawyers for the city called it a mistake, but only after Ms. Dobbinson hired lawyers of her own and the story hit the papers.

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, October 05, 2012

1079 Growing and Shrinking

1079 Growing and Shrinking

This is confusing, our apparently contradictory obsessions with growing and shrinking. Crops should grow.  Children should grow.  Since we all now know that corporations are people -- children of the rich -- corporations should grow.

But then, there’s shrinking.  Work forces should shrink, say the parents of the corporate children.  And growing a corporation, the kind that really means “beer belly?” well, that’s certainly something that should shrink.

Really confusing.

Probably in the real world, growth to a point makes sense, maybe even is required for survival.  But where does that stop?  A ten pound pumpkin is a thing of beauty.  Tasty innards great for pie filling.  Lovely shell for making jack-o-lanterns.  Fine mulch later on.  A 150 pound pumpkin is too big to lift, too big to carve and the innards are stringy and bitter often enough.

We sweat our way through the stair steppers and Zumba dancing to shrink.  We keep Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig and Dr. Atkins’ food mill in business all to cause shrinkage.

You see those Buick commercials with Shaquille O’Neal?  He’s 7’1”.  In the ad he says he has retired from pro basketball, but he hasn’t retired from being big.  Good thing the guy has money.  Think of the clothing bills, the extra long beds, the heavy duty furniture that has to support a seven footer who weighs more than 300 pounds.  And they probably gave him a Buick, or at least permanent-lent him one because... he can fold himself in and out of it relatively easily.

He grew, alright.  Now what?

You may be thinking this bigness obsession is a guy thing.  Look at the ads in your spam folder:  pseudo steroids for your torso, pseudo enlargers for your... um... organs of reproduction.  

Do women get the same kind of spam for breast augmentation?  Probably.  

What about women-run corporations?  Meg Whitman, now CEO at Hewlett Packard is being gently criticized for spending a year on the job and not turning HP back into the industry-leading monster it once was.

And in Arizona,  vulture capitalists who own a big chunk of Fender Guitars are making atonal noises about lack of growth in the recession even though the company already is the largest of its type.  Fender’s been pretty smart about product lines and acquisitions lately.  But this is the kind of pressure that leads long established companies --adult children, if you will-- into fatal mistakes.  Pushes them into areas where they have no expertise... drains energy.

It’s like if your kid -- your REAL child -- is a math whiz and can’t spell to save his or her life, you’re inclined to try to improve the spelling rather than exploiting the natural math talent.

Among corporate children, it’s become growth for growth’s sake.  “Growing” has become a pseudo axiom.  You get too tall for anything but the NBA and the circus and what happens?  It’s not an axiom.  There are limits.

Apple and Google and Verizon are approaching theirs.  So are Toyota and maybe Kelloggs.  Then what?

It’s really REALLY confusing.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments, diets and non-steroidal dietary supplement recipes to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012