Friday, June 28, 2013

1193 The Pig Problem

1193 The Pig Problem

What’s worse than being a racist pig with an unstoppable mouth?  Being a racist pig with an unstoppable mouth and genuine ignorance or self unawareness.

Cast aside all the baloney about people from Confederate States claiming their “heritage” by flying the confederate flag and distancing themselves from anyone who doesn’t look like “us.”

There really are people who don’t “get” their own evil.  They do not understand.  They don’t do it out of anger or jealousy or spite or tradition.  What do we do in those cases?  Ignorance of the law is no excuse?  I didn’t know the gun was loaded?  

The simple answer is to let go of our own anger.  Simple, but not easy and maybe wrong.

So the question today is:  Did America’s Butter Queen, Paula Deen know that using slurs and creating hostile work environments -- even in private -- were wrong or did she just not think it through or see it for what it was?

In the Deen case, there’s no way to know for sure.  So “the” question becomes “a” question, “does it matter?”

If you crush your foot by dropping a truck engine on it, your foot is crushed, even if you somehow didn’t realize that dropping a heavy object on fragile bones might result in such an end.

In this case, you are both the aggressor and the agressed.

When you use a slur, you’re only half the equation.  The foot still hurts, even though it’s not YOUR foot.

Ignorance matters … especially in times like these when everyone has access to every kind of information.  Making oneself aware of how your beliefs interact with the culture in general has become detached from its former moorings:  school, neighborhood and family.  The whole thing is up to you now. You and your internet connection.



Are people like Deen forgivable just because their surroundings and culture prevents them from seeing the harm they’re doing?  Of course not.

A prominent public figure like Deen, age 66, has lived long enough and through enough to have learned something.  And yet, she hasn’t.  

She should think about things like that as she goes door to door peddling surplus bakeware, frying pans, recipe books and other gear that Wal-mart and Target now refuse to sell and videos of her former TV show.

Shrapnel (SCOTUS edition):

--The Supreme Court’s decision on the voting rights act... was it a sign of increasing re-segregation?  Or does it mean the civil rights movement worked and now regardless of race or economic status you get to be oppressed like everyone else.  We vote for the latter.

--We welcome the new day for gay marriage.  Why should we hetero  couples have to suffer alone?  Also, please remember there’s saltpeter in those wedding cakes and it works.

--The U.S. Supreme Court sees its mission as filtering things through the Constitution and deciding what does and what doesn’t pass through.  But it has turned itself into a closet legislature.  And it doesn’t matter which political outlook dominates the court, activist judges are activist judges.



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

© WJR 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

1192 The Up Side of the Spy Drama

1192 The Up Side of the Spy Drama

Never underestimate the American spirit of innovation!  The NSA is now test marketing a new service.  If it succeeds as expected, you’ll be able to simplify your life, streamline your bookkeeping and throw away your calendars.

The service is Citizens Intelligence Alerts. Call it CIA for short.  Just a little inter-agency joshing.

You can join for free and receive the “basic package.”  This funnels much of the information the NSA has spent years and billions collecting and making good use of it. They have all your data: name, address, telephone numbers, internet carrier, height, weight, age, medical conditions, environmental and atmospheric conditions and local weather.

Each morning, you will be issued a “daily report,” based on the information you supplied.  Here’s an example:

Good morning, Al.  It’s Wednesday, June 26, 2013 and 58 degrees, going up to 82 under partly sunny skies.  You weigh 208 pounds, or 13 pounds heavier than you were last year at this time.  We suggest a modest diet starting today: Try a bowl of Cheerios.  Use skim or 1% milk.  Fresh strawberries will add flavor.  You have 8 of them on the upper left shelf of your refrigerator.  Six of the eight are growing soft.  Use them all this morning to avoid waste.

Your Social Security payment has been deposited into your Wells Fargo checking account.  Your assistant, Brenda, will call in sick today.  Please extend our best wishes for a speedy recovery.  

Imagine getting a nice greeting like that in your e-mail each morning.  And it’s all free!

But for just pennies a day, you can upgrade to a Silver Membership.  If you do, you’ll get a memo just like the one above.  But with Silver, there will be more:

Silver members enjoy all the benefits of the free standard membership plus daily appointment reminders (you don’t have to keep track; we do that for you already.)  Plus we’ll remind you to renew your medicines, keep track of expenses you may be able to deduct from your income tax return and remind you when your car is due for an oil change.

And if you’re really into convenience, try our GOLD membership.

Gold members receive all the benefits of Silver membership plus:  we’ll include a second vehicle in the oil change notification, alert you to the upcoming expiration of your driver’s license, your registration and inspection and your dog’s license and vaccination schedule.  (Cats too!)  Plus we’ll enter you in the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes and in our own drawings for valuable prizes each month.

So call us today at 1 887 4-ALERTS or log in to NSAlerts.gov.



Shrapnel:

--Why is it when someone says “all major credit cards accepted” and you present your ExxonMobil plastic they reject it?  Is there anything more major than Exxon?  Certainly not Diners Club... but THAT they’ll take.

--Bet you didn’t know Diners was still around, but it is... sort of.  It’s kind of a credit card association, rather than an actual credit card and its US operations are part of BMO Harris Bank based in Chicago but owned by a company in Montreal.  The bills are written in French.

--Update on ousted Men’s Wearhouse founder George Zimmer.  The company says Zimmer wanted to take the company private and run the whole shebang himself just like in the good old days.  So it comes down to his job or the board members’ and the board members had the votes.

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

© WJR 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

1191 Sol and Moxey and George

1191 Sol and Moxey and George


Uncle Sol sold men’s suits in the Bronx.  Worked for Crawford which was a regional chain with about 20 stores in the four of the boroughs.  


He was a jolly man from an earlier time.  A walking ad for good looking cheap suits and the Borscht Belt.  Taught his friends and his nephew and his siblings that selling men’s suits was a respectable occupation, though not a terribly lucrative one.


It was show biz.


Remembering growing up around Sol, some things stick with you.  Like when you find a real salesman working in a suit store.  Such was the case a million years ago when Moxey worked the floor at the Men’s Wearhouse in Westbury.


Big man. Jolly.  Uncle Sol but without the Borscht.  Hands his customer a business card along with the suit and shirt and tie and socks and who-knows what else got bought that day because... of Moxey.


Card says Moxey A. Rigby.  Wait a minute.  Isn’t that a housing project in Freeport, Long Island?


Yes, says Moxey.  It’s named for my grandfather.  He was the first black judge in Nassau County, back in 1959.


Wow.  A walking piece of history!  Selling suits.  At Men’s Wearhouse.  (There’s a difference between “selling” and letting the customer buy.  Moxey sold.  But you never felt like you were being sold. )


“You ever meet that guy in the TV ads?” the customer asks.


“Oh sure.  George Zimmer. Owns the company. This is a good place to work. He doesn’t like to come to New York that much... says it reminds him of the bad old days in Brooklyn where he grew up.”


Guy builds a thousand-store empire headquartered in Houston and then, even when things like the balance sheet and traffic counts are sunny  gets the boot.  At this writing, we’re not sure why.  The conventional (Wall Street) wisdom is that the man Zimmer brought in to take over took more than over.  The conventional wisdom (Madison Avenue) is they need a “younger fresher face” in the ads.


You watch: Wearhouse has 500 hours of Zimmer video and they’re going to use it until the next century.  You watch:  the younger former customers are piling on to the company’s Facebook page, mostly using Zimmer-isms to bash the firing.


Zimmer’s famous tagline “You’re going to like the way you look.  I guarantee it” turns into “you’re going to hate the way I shop.  I guarantee it.”


For those of you with no background in corporate folklore:  You don’t fire the founder and face of a company unless he’s done something really REALLY bad.  Maybe Zimmer fits that template, maybe not.  We don’t know the whole story yet.


But look at what happened to Apple between when they fired Steve Jobs and brought him back.  Look at what happened to CBS when Bill Paley pushed Frank Stanton out the door, only to be pushed out the door himself some years later.


And look at what’s still happening to the possibly fatally wounded JCPenney when they fired the plain vanilla CEO, brought in a hot shot marketing genius, then fired him and turned his predecessor into his successor.


Uncle Sol would disapprove of this firing.  Moxey A. Rigby would disapprove.  And it looks like a lot of customers are going to disapprove.


Houston, you’ve got a problem.  Check out your Facebook page.



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, June 21, 2013

1190 Would You Buy a New Car From This Man?

1190 Would You Buy a New Car From This Man?

(Andrea Baldo/Getty Images)

Meet Sergio Marchionne, chairman of Italy’s Fiat.

He’s the latest automotive genius in the never ending battle to save Chrysler which has been on life support almost from birth and has been passed around and ignored like a collection plate on a Sunday morning.

Everyone seems to think Sergio walks on water.  And he did manage to turn ailing Fiat around when “everyone” “knew” it “couldn’t be done.” Now they’re making sexy cars and promoting them with sexy ads and in fact memories are fading of the time when Fiat meant “Fix it again, Tony.”

But Chrysler is not Fiat.  And Washington is not Rome.  So when Sergio’s boys in Auburn Hills, MI decided to defy a recall, they hit a wall called the American Public.

The government auto mavens asked Chrysler to recall 2.7 million older (pre-Fiat) Jeep SUVs because they could catch fire if hit from behind.   Chrysler said “nah.”  Pollsters asked you “would you buy a new Jeep from this man?”  And you answered.  And the answer was a resounding “no.”  Actually, the problem has been solved on the current models -- or so we’re told.  But people worry that there are nearly three million rolling fire traps on the road.

Chrysler’s well earned reputation for exciting macho design and anemic reliability can’t make a marketing blunder like that, even if the fixes will cost them tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions.  Not much per car.  But multiply that times three million and that’s a lot of Lira or Euros or dollars.

Oh.  And besides marketing there’s always that fear of fire thing.  People just hate it when their cars blow up.  Especially if there’s a “baby on board.”

So Auburn Hills or Turin had a change of heart.  They’re not fond of fried babies either.  But they’re even less fond of a sales chart that looks like the “down” arrow in an elevator.

(Note to the Statistics Police:  Various figures have been given for the recall, ranging from about 1.5 million up to 3.)



Shrapnel (Pro Sports Edition):

--The Miami Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 and captured its second consecutive NBA championship.  The heat goes on to play the winner of the NHL Stanley Cup which will be either Boston or Chicago now tied at 2 games apiece.  And the winner of the basketball vs. hockey game gets to play the winner of baseball’s World Series.

--But wait, there’s more!  The winner of the THAT game goes on to play the winner of the NHL Super Bowl, which will be held in the NJ Meadowlands on February, 2014.  Proof positive we don’t need more than one professional sport.

--Actually, we don’t need any professional sports. We have them only because without them, the television networks, beer brewers, hot dog vendors and ¾ of Canada would have nothing to do.  Not to mention the ticket scalpers and bookies who can’t make a living on horses and colleges alone.

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

© WJR 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

1189 You Have Been Pre Approved

1189 You Have Been Pre Approved

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Av NW
Washington DC 20500

Mr. Martin Willis
Or Current Resident
2 Brooklyn Av
Moote Pointe NY 11566

Dear Mr. Willis,

Greetings from the White House.  We are pleased to inform you that you have been pre-approved as a nominee for Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

We’re excited to announce that we are pre-approving a small select group of extraordinary Americans for consideration by the United States Senate to fill the next vacancy which is likely to arise after the 2014 mid-term elections.

While we can’t guarantee that you will be nominated, we urge you to complete the enclosed forms and return them in the post-paid envelope.

Senator Harry Reid has assured us that even if there is no spot available, nominees will be vetted and voted upon before the end of December, 2014, after which this administration is highly likely to lose control of the upper chamber.

We need your help to make this administration’s lasting mark on the United States Government.  Please help us at this historic moment.

Sincerely,



Barbara Eggland-Tyson
Director of Pre-hatched Chickens

Wow, imagine that.  Pre approved for a job on the Supreme Court.  Just like pre approved for a credit card or a mortgage loan or even a reverse mortgage.

We tried to contact Ms. Eggland-Tyson who was unavailable.  However, her spokesman (everyone has a spokesman except those who have spokeswomen or spokes persons) said she was unavailable.

But he did answer some questions:  

For example, he told us that just because we received one of these letters didn’t mean we were going get the nomination.  That, he said, would have to wait until after a background check was performed.

Curiously, the return form does not ask for a social security number. Spokes told us the government doesn’t need that information from us because it already has it.

It didn’t ask for our position on... well... anything.  He said it didn’t matter because the NSA already has all that stuff.

When we asked how many of those letters were sent he said that was confidential information.  But with further incisive questioning we got him to disclose that the range was between 232 and 50 million.

Seems like a pretty good job.  Maybe returning the form is a good idea.  Or not.

The White House
PO Box 4
Garden Grove IA 50103

Dear Candidate:

Thank you for your interest in my Supreme Court initiative.  It’s people like you who help make America Great.  Unfortunately, your entry reached us only after we had already chosen our nine candidates and four alternates.  I regret that you were not one of them.

Sincerely,

Always nice to hear from the President, though.

Shrapnel:

--The American Medical Association has voted to recognize obesity as a disease, even though it can’t find consensus about what “disease” means.  Is this a great step in pushing doctors to more rigorously treat the condition?  Or is it another way to get fancy pharmaceuticals on the approved list of drugs covered by insurance companies?

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

© WJR 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

1188 Under the Persian Rug

1188 Under the Persian Rug

They’re dancing in the streets of Tehran.  Why?  Did Israel fall into the sea?   Did the western world lift its crippling sanctions?  Did some girl manage to put on a bikini and not fall victim to an honor killing?

None of the above.

What happened was the voters chose a new president, Hassan Rowhani, a moderate, so-called.  

He won with almost three times the number of votes than his opponents.

Don’t pick up that rug, lest you fill the air with the dirt that languishes there.

The Mullahs still run Iran.  They still won’t move on any significant economic or nuclear issue.  They’ll still rattle sabers at the west.  And they will control the secular and nearly useless civilian arm of the country’s government.

Rowhani is a moderate like you’re the pilot of a flying … um … carpet.  But he wrote the book -- literally -- on nuclear arms negotiations when he was Iran’s man at the table during the first few years of this century.  It’s called “National Security and Nuclear Policy.”

The crowded field of candidates to replace ultra orthodox fundamentalist hate monger Ahmadinejad was whittled down to three, all of whom are Ahmadinejad-Lite.  The real reformers never made the cut.

So the man “in charge” still reports to the Imam behind the curtain.  And that means no substantial change in the nuke program.  It means no reversal of the country’s terrible economy.  It doesn’t even mean cousin ZohReh will be able to show more forehead in public, let alone put on a bikini.

Persia, once a capital of intellect and diversity, has long forgotten its heritage and its history and turned into a cesspool of anger, hatred and fear.

So don’t look under the carpet.  You won’t like what you see.

But there are a few interesting side notes to this election:

→The voter turnout was over 70%.  Do they know something about elections we don’t?

→The winning candidate got an actual majority, not just a plurality.  It was only a fractional, 50.7%, but that’s enough to avoid a runoff.

A huge chunk of the population was born after the Islamic revolution and a lot of those people aren’t happy with the way things are run.  Could this be a first step in the re-civilization of one of the world’s great civilizations?

Shrapnel:

--Did Putin really steal New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s $25,000 Super Bowl ring?  Vlad says it was a gift. Kraft says he was showing it to Putin who then, surrounded by three KGB bodyguards walked out of the room with the ring in his pocket.

--Revenge of the Nerd... no -- not the movie, the Miss USA contest.  The winner, Erin Brady of Connecticut is a math geek with a job at an accounting firm and who will spend a year touring and campaigning to end drug abuse and breast cancer.  She’d do more good if she also campaigned against arithmophobia.

--Genie in a bottle has nothing on a bear in a jar.  In Bloomsburg, PA. a young bruin got his head stuck in a plastic bottle and it took eleven days to hunt him down, corner him and get his head out of the thing.  The bear was described as “uncooperative.”



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

© WJR 2013