Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Wessays will resume Monday, 1/5/15.  A safe and happy New Year everyone.

Monday, December 29, 2014

1428 WestraDamus for 2015


With 2015 upon us, we offer the 26th anniversary edition of the WestraDamus antidictions, those for the year 2014 presented each December or January for the year gone by and generally wrong. 'Damus started as a parody of the forward looking astrological year-enders appearing in the supermarket tabloids, almost always wrong but never acknowledged. The Non-Prophet has grown into an American institution, like the Tea Party, the Heritage Foundation, Ted Cruz, the Public Television begathon, global warming, the Kardashians, Reality TV and the war in Afghanistan.  So, we continue...
Top of the Year:
President Romney will score a health care hit.  Better than the Romneycare he brought to Massachusetts as governor, the presidential version is a single payer system similar to those of every other first world nation.  


At first there will be some doubt about approval in Congress.  But the President will offer his fellow Republicans the tax cuts they seek thus winning them to his side on health care.


Also surprising will be the smoothness, simplicity and efficiency of the sign up process.


On the warfront, the US will achieve success in several areas.
--Ukraine: we will help our good friends the Russians in their takeover of all territory except the city of Kiev.


--Iraq: At last, a democratic government, freely elected and supervised by the Carter Center.  Former President Jimmy Carter, speaking from his cell will say he's being well treated by his “hosts” and expects to be home by June, 2023.


--Iran: The newly elected moderate president will agree to end his country's nuclear weapons program provided the US supplies long range ground-to-ground missiles for the pre-existing atomic warheads.
--Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu will say all those settlements were really just a joke, then push a button and cause the entire project to implode like an abandoned and bankrupt Las Vegas hotel casino.


--palestinians will continue to honor their faith by sacrificing themselves with Improvised Explosive Devices, but will apologize for collateral deaths because "the Jews won't sell us the technology to be more efficient and therefore less deadly when we set off a suicide bomb in a bus station or shopping mall."


--The stock market will completely eliminate human beings from the buying and selling processes, finally reaching a decades-long goal of freezing out individual investors.


--There will be a sudden and unexplained epidemic of tonsillitis that breaks out in St. Helena, a small island off the west coast of Africa. It will affect the entire population of 5,000 people, and all eight of the American medical workers.  Republicans will demand a travel ban to the US to avoid spreading the dread disease here.


--And the website "Snopes.com" will finally expose climate change and global warming as urban legends and announce they've received a donation of $3.4 billion from "a couple of rich brothers from the lower Midwest."


So, quite a year coming into our rearview mirror.
Now, the month by month anti-dictions:
JANUARY:   
It'll be a big month for the Russians.  The Olympic Games in Sochi are but a month away and so far, the facilities look like a movie set with nothing behind them.  President Putin says they will have at least ten flush toilets available by the time the flame reaches the end of its journey.


Cartographers are eager to route the flame runner through Ukraine. That would slow him down because the country is in the midst of a three way fight for its heart and assets. If the delay is long enough, Putin's promise can be kept. Meantime the fighting between Ukraine and Russia will continue as completely independent "rebels" side with Moscow, not Kiev.


At home... conservatives will continue their decades- long attempts to co-opt Martin Luther King's "Dream" speech by gathering on Washington's National Mall to stage a group recitation by 10,563 invited guests.
FEBRUARY:
CBS News will announce that since Walter Cronkite is still dead, it remains okay not to mispronounce the name of the month.


Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman will fake his death and hide in Michigan which has been hospitable to allegedly dead celebrities Tupac Shakur, Elvis Presley and Ronald Reagan.


The Scottish Parliament will legalize same sex marriage but will fail to mention that it remains illegal to look under the kilts.


Jay Leno, scheduled to leave the Tonight Show this month, will surround NBC's Los Angeles area studios with his car collection and refuse to leave the building.


January's plans to delay the arrival of the Olympic torch by routing its journey through Ukraine will fail and the games will begin on schedule despite the delayed installation of the tenth toilet.
MARCH:
Wedding bells for Fyffes and Chiquita creating a banana cartel the likes of which have not been seen since United Fruit owned two thirds of Latin America. No one outside of Ireland ever heard of Fyffe's or knows how to say it.


President Romney will announce sanctions against Russia for its bad behavior in Crimea.  Romney says he will double the tax on beets, thus depriving Moscow of borscht, its second- most important plant product after the grain used in making Vodka.


Somali pirates will seize a beet-carrier, believing it can extort ransom from three countries: the exporter (USA), the importer (Russia) and the country under whose flag the ship operates (Panama.)


Turkey un-bans Twitter and can't figure out why it can't post its 142 character announcement.


Kim Kardashian will be reported resting comfortably at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angele, recovering from a broken finger nail. Doctors say she'll be released sometime in early April.


APRIL:
Scientists will discover a lake on a moon of Saturn, but later realize it was only raindrops on the lens of their telescope.


Secretary of Health and Human Services and former US Senator John Barrasso, MD (R-WY) will say he has no plans to step down following the overwhelming success of the healthcare.gov website.


With election fraud rampant across America, the US Supreme Court will approve voter ID laws, but restrict their issue to Democrats. Twenty million Democrats, mostly of minority heritage switch registration to Republican.
MAY:
Monica Lewinsky's new book on her dalliance with Bill Clinton will be remaindered before its debut.


Oscar Pistorious will throw himself on the mercy of the court in South Africa where he is charged with pumping his girlfriend full of lead.  He'll say "You have to let me go. I have no feet to run away with, and no ankle on which to place a locator bracelet.”


Climatologists will declare this is the hottest May on record. In response, climate change deniers will propose eliminating the month and extending April and June by two weeks each.
JUNE:
In another stunning decision, the US Supreme Court will rule cops need a warranty and receipt to search a cell phone. So if you're stopped on the street for, say, selling loose cigarettes or being black, the police cannot search your phone unless you are carrying the proof of purchase.


Somewhere, a tour bus carrying senior citizens or college kids will overturn or receive the sheet metal accordion treatment by trying to fit under a low hanging underpass.


Or maybe that'll be a ferry operating at 230% of capacity sinking in a mud puddle in a country you never heard of and can't pronounce.


Mexico will announce reduced penalties for kidnapping, saying "we never catch any of these guys anyway, so why bother with harsh sentences?"
JULY:
Historians will discover that due to a quirk in the calendars of the day, the United States was actually born on July 7th.  The Texas board of education will reject high school textbooks that are revised to show this error.
In a related development, climatologists will declare July, 2014 as the hottest month since they started collecting statistics in 1887.  Or maybe the coolest.  Or the wettest?


The CIA will admit it hacked the email accounts of United States Senators.  But a spokesman for the agency will say "we weren't snooping. We just wanted to find a home phone number for Kirsten Gillibrand without paying Intellicheck."
AUGUST:
The United States this month will begin attacking Iceland.  Unsurprisingly, Icelanders will find this offensive.  Its president will cable American authorities suggesting the B-52s took a wrong turn and might mean to attack ISIS.


Comedian Robin Williams will sign a new multi-year contract with Sony Pictures.  Concerns for his health and mental well being will be shown to be unfounded.  Fans will express relief.


An outbreak of the deadly West African Toe Fungus will be reported and US hospitals and foot clinics, unprepared for the influx of patients will rush to put on extra staff.  Meantime, Republicans in Congress will agitate for a ban on travel from the fungus-torn countries.


Megamart will start decorating for its Christmas sale.


SEPTEMBER:
A man in a chicken costume will breach the White House fence and run toward the building.  Secret Service agents will open fire and kill the intruder, thus passing a pop quiz. The Secret Service training bureau will withhold the name of the chicken for reasons of national security.


Television personality Betty White, 92, will lodge a formal complaint with the hackers who posted nude celebrity pictures on the internet because hers were excluded.  Asked for reaction, Nancy Reagan, 93, said "those young girls like Betty White and Debbie Reynolds are just feeling their oats.


Tennis star Victoria Azarenka of Belarus will miss the rest of the season because of an undisclosed injury. Doctors in Minsk will later disclose Azarenka has contracted the much-feared West African Toenail Fungus.  Republicans in the US will renew their call for a travel ban.


OCTOBER:
How about those Mets! Third consecutive world series win for the Forceful Fluishingistas.  And here you thought they were nothing but an expansion team struggling to make up for the loss of the Dodgers and Giants.


The Japanese industrial giant Takata will sign a consent agreement to stop using recycled ShopRite grocery bags and bubble gum in its airbags.  Takata will state "We did nothing wrong and we'll never do it again."


Megamart will start decorating for its January White Sale.


The director of the US Secret Service will be admitted into the witness protection program and issued her own chicken costume.
NOVEMBER:
Megamart will start decorating for its Presidents Day sale.


Democrats will retain control of the Senate and regain control of the House in a shocking repudiation of conventional wisdom.


China and the US will reach a landmark decision on climate change.  Both will agree there will be little land left to mark if global warming trends continue.  At the same time, both countries will agree to trade coal mining technology.


New York's One World Trade Center will reopen, reclaiming its spot at #2 on the list of the world's ugliest man-made structures and presenting a new target to the next hijacker of an aircraft.
DECEMBER:
Attorney General Holder will announce new plans to hide racial profiling, believing police, the Border Patrol and the TSA have been too open about picking on Middle East freedom fighters, religious and minorities, Mexicans and other innocents.


A New York Grand Jury will indict a police officer for the choke-hold death of a seller of illegal individual cigarettes on a street corner, leaving Al Cardinal Sharpton with nothing to rabble-rouse about for the rest of the year.


Benyamin Netanyahu will declare himself the messiah.


And Yahoo! will announce it's buying Russia for two billion rubles ($32 million USD,) spinning off its search engine, its news division, and Crimea in hopes recouping about half its investment.


Happy 2015, everyone.  See you next year.


This post can be viewed year-round at http://westradamus.com/


Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2015

Friday, December 26, 2014

1427 The Crisis

What crisis?  Which crisis.  Oh, dear. There are so many to choose from.  Here’s an experiment:  go to Google News.  Put the word crisis in the search block.


One recent attempt brought almost 60-million results in under four seconds.


Russia’s currency crisis.  Russia’s vodka price crisis. Ukraine electricity crisis. Ebola crisis.  New York Mayor’s crisis over relations with the police. Global financial crisis.  Crisis center.  Sony’s movie crisis.  Marriage in America crisis.  Crisis management.


We’re having a crisis crisis.  Or to put it another way, if everything’s a crisis, nothing’s a crisis.


But, of course, there are real ones.  Katrina was a crisis.  The Sony hack is not.  Afghanistan is a crisis. A highway closed for an hour after a wreck is not.


The Cosby crisis. The Takata crisis.  The court backlog crisis. Midlife crisis.


And if a simple crisis no longer is enough for you, the Huffington Post will tell you that the “doctor shortage is a crisis within a crisis.”


It’s like those Russian/Ukrainian nesting dolls.


Open one crisis and find another.  That little one on the far right? That’s not really the end.  Open that one and you’ll find a crisis on a cellular level, then a molecular level, then an atomic level.


This is not to say times aren’t tough.  But labeling everything a crisis is beyond useless.
It’s yet another devaluation of the language.  


But when we devalue words we’re also devaluing concepts.  And THAT’s a crisis.


Get a grip.  We can fix the airbags.  And the bad ignition switches.  And the 40-year old stockbroker who trades in his Honda Civic for a Corvette, his wingtips for cowboy boots and his wife for his just-post-adolescent secretary.

We can fix the Ruble.  We can fix the shortage of Oranges.  These are problems or -- if you must -- challenges. But Crises? Nah.


Shrapnel:
-- “The Interview” debuted on Christmas day.  There were no 9/11-class attacks.  So the hype and counterhype worked.


Grapeshot:
-Question for Radio Shack, Penney’s and Sears/K-Mart: when are you going to solve your crises by closing?


-Question for the zillion radio stations that spent the last month playing only Christmas music: Okay, you got your ratings bump, now how are you going to keep all those new listeners?


-Question for those with fruitcakes under the tree:  What are you going to build with them?  A fort? A dog house?  An ant trap?


-Another question for the fruitcake crowd, the two of you who actually eat that stuff: Do you have your dentist on speed dial?


-Question for the Tea Party: What’s the Mad Hatter really like?


-Question for the ladies:  Will you please try to remember to close the hood on the copy machine when you’re finished using it?


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

1426 Christmas and Xmas

It’s Christmas eve and time for another fun filled holiday grouchiness that overtakes some of us at every year.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and already the jolly soldiers in the annual holiday war are falling into jolly ranks and files, their jolly muskets and computers cleaned and ready to fire this year's first jolly shot, both those of lead and those of electrons.

Christmastime brings out the warrior in all of us.

On one side (probably wearing red trunks) are the religious.

On the other side, (probably wearing green trunks) are the rest of us. And we, the "rest" are violating one of the main rules of military engagement. We are fighting a war on two fronts.

Front One: the normal holiday hustle. Traffic. INTENSE traffic. Mall crowds. Busy shopping websites. Bills. Clamoring kids or grandkids.

Front Two: atop this, the red trunks are pounding us.
The reds have it easier. And in true holiday spirit, they're giving us hell for our stray ways.

We're just ordinary schlubs trying to bring a little material holiday cheer to others.

How heathen!

It's not for nothing that our trunks are the color of money.

And, of course, the reds have their right to try to beat us up for our materialistic ways.

The early history of the holiday is buried in pagan rites and date-keeping. THAT seems not to bother anyone.

But no one is keeping a gun at their heads and demanding that they refrain from celebrating the neo overlay they've put on December 25th.

So how about a compromise. Two holidays. Christmas for Them, xmas (you don't even have to capitalize the word) for us.

They can sing carols, erect manger scenes, go to church and worship. We can sing "Rudolph," erect gift stacks, go to Macy's and shop.

We don't have to talk to each other. We don't even have to SEE each other. Well... Maybe that's extreme. Sometimes we'll probably have to ride the same subways or buses.

In which case, there may be typical mass transit battles of the boom boxes. "O, Come All Ye Faithful" vs. "Rockin' Around The xmas (notice, still no capital 'x') Tree." Or maybe battles of the iPods, during which all you will hear is "tshh TSHH, tshh TSHH, tshh TSHH," Which may be even MORE annoying.

Other than that, we can pretty well ignore each other. In fact, we can celebrate on two separate days, if that’ll make the reddies happy.

They like 12/25… and because they are so giving, a big chunk of 12/24 as well. So how about either 12/23 or 12/26. Are you fussy?

Okay, so you’re fussy. But are you THAT fussy?

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
©WJR 2005, 2010, 2014 and yeah, this is a third run for this posting, with minor modifications in each repeat.

Monday, December 22, 2014

1425 Walk Up to the Kind Policemen

Unruly minds make odd connections.

News item: Two cops are sitting in their prowl car in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.  It’s a chilly December day, but the window is open.

Guy ambles up, leans down a bit. Pulls out a gun.  Shoots the men dead.

And this brings to mind… what?

Irving Caesar, the songwriter whose Broadway credits include “No, No Nanette.”  

Huh?
Caesar wrote songs for children, too.  One of them was about remembering their names and addresses.

And a line went:

“... if some day, you lose your way
You know just what to do.
Walk up to the kind police man
The very first one you meet…
And simply say
You’ve lost your way
I cannot find my street…”

Walk up to the kind policeman, the very first one you meet.  And pull out your silver colored Taurus pistol with the nice caramel colored grips and get off a couple of rounds.

“Giving pigs wings,” is what vigilante Ismaaiyl Brinsley called it on Instagram, some days or hours before he pulled the trigger, bolted for the subway and once on the platform killed himself, saving the citizens of New York the fuss, muss and expense of a trial.

Revenge, he’d said, for the killing by police of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island.

Two dead cops.  Wenjian Liu, 32, a newlywed and Rafael Ramos, 40, a husband and father.

You want to try to explain this stuff to the widows and Ramos’ 13 year old son?  There is no way.

You want to try to explain this to the other 50 thousand cops and their support workers in the city?

They need no explanation.  They know what happened.

Fifty thousand men and women, equal to the entire population of Binghamton.  And every one of them thought and still is thinking the same thing: “That could have been me.” And all 50-thousand of them were right, it could have been.

Walk up to the kind policemen, the very first ones you meet and “avenge” the deaths of two other people you never heard of until the other day, didn’t know, wouldn’t have cared about if you did.

There’s a certain energy that happens after a crime that stuns.  Usually, it’s directed toward finding the stunner, arresting him and putting him on trial.

That usually is followed by rivers of speculation about how it could have happened and what to do to prevent repetition.

But this time, we know the shooter and he’s taken care of that first problem by eliminating it and himself.

The speculation is there, but not so much as it might be.  We know plenty about Brinsley’s background, his history, his test firing into the abdomen of his girlfriend a day before.

So where does the bottled up public energy go?  To finger pointing.

The head of the police union is out there on the streets blaming the people who demonstrated against cops after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. And he’s out there blaming the mayor.

The demonstrators caused a fracture behind the cozy relations between civilians and the kind policeman?

Wrong.  Bad blood between cop and civilian has been there for all time.  Everywhere.  Every. Where.

It’s going to be a long, cold winter.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

1424 Sharpton

Once upon a time, there was a very good newspaper called Newsday, now a shadow of its former shadow.  It had the snap and shape of a tabloid but the solidity of an old line broadsheet.  Even though it was published on Long Island, it was right up there with the print stars of the day.  Nationally,  it was the fifth largest in circulation and third in frequency of being quoted.


One of the people who made it so was a reporter-then-editor-then columnist called Les Payne. Mr. Payne is black.  That’s important to this story.


Then in the 1980s, there came a young girl named Tawana Brawley who also is black.  And that’s important to this story.


She charged that she was raped, bound, thrown in a garbage bag by racist whites.


She is the pilot light that lit the gas bag that is Al Sharpton. But while Sharpton was flogging the story, some of us were convinced the allegations were nonsense.  We took the facts of the case and divined that Miss Brawley was a scared teen, out after curfew and scared that her stepfather would punish -- maybe beat -- her and made up the story.


Evidently, Payne was one of those, investigated and found out it was so, then published the story which was then in effect lifted by the New York Times which got all but one element of the case steamrolled into a pancake and thrown away.


The element that survived?  Sharpton.  He insisted Brawley was telling the truth and like Goebbels, kept repeating the lie and today, he’s welcome at the White House.


There is only one thing you need to know about Al Sharpton; it should tell you everything.  Before he was a self-anointed member of the clergy, before he was an “activist,” before he was anything, he was a record promoter. Ethics on a scale of 1-10?  Minus five.


So first we had the giants of the modern era civil rights movement. MLK, James Farmer, Whitney Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Ella Baker, and on and on.


Gradually and sometimes not so gradually, they were replaced by people like Jesse Jackson and Ralph David Abernathy.


And now, THEY are replaced by Reverend Hoodwink and Farrakhan.


Wonder what Les Payne thinks about all this.


Grapeshot:


-Question for Robin Meade: Why don’t you take more time off and give us a rest?


-Question for the New York Times: will lopping off 100 heads in the newsroom really help your bottom line or are you just flailing and rearranging deck chairs?


-Question for Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky: Are you happy you could now re-invade Cuba if you were alive?


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

1423 Data that Crunches You (or Crunch You)

Face it.  You really are only a number.  And you’re so insignificant a number that you don’t even appear in the galaxy of numbers unless you’re in a group of other insignificant numbers.

Harsh words.  Especially in an age where everyone is studying those little molecules we’ve become, but not as actual molecules.  We are stuffed into an entire fictitious organism, devoid of any specialized characteristics.  Odd template for an age in which “individuality” is so revered.

Used to be you were a real number or many real numbers.  Street address, ZIP code, area code, telephone, Social Security, credit cards, library cards, drivers license, license plate, VIN, draft, rank, membership, health insurance, checkbook, savings account, turn at the deli or bakery, birthday.

All of these numbers had one thing in common:  they all applied to you in some specific way and there were reasons to have them.

Now, you’ve been thrown into a group.  And the data don’t apply to you.  They just describe you and supposedly similar people for marketing purposes.

When you first bought things, you were a customer. Then you became a consumer.  But you were still you.  Now you’re just part of a herd, and it’s the herd to which people pay attention.

It’s not really you whom they attend.  It’s a kind of fake you.  A recent broadcast on CBS’ "60 Minutes" showed what can happen when health insurance works with numbers instead of people.  You can save a lot of time by not clicking on the link... here’s a summary: Doctors at health insurers look at numbers and make payment decisions, often bad ones, by looking at statistics instead of patients.

So does everyone else.

This is leading or has led to a niche-ification of pretty much everything.  Statistics abound.  And in our math- weary, math-phobic society, everyone seems to believe anything that’s wrapped in arithmetic.  After all, numbers can’t lie, can they?

Well, yes. They can.

They can pseudo-prove that all old people are hard to part from their money. (Sometimes true, sometimes not.)

They can pseudo-prove that a certain age group is or isn’t enthralled with a music of a certain era.

They can pseudo-prove that camel riding is efficient transportation.  Or isn’t.

Haven’t you wondered why there’s so much data collection these days?  It’s because people are trying to justify or cover up stupid decisions.

Or maybe the collectors are just nosy.


Grapeshot:

-Question for CBS’ Scott Pelley: You have been elected president of the Slow Talkers of America, founded by Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding... should we send the certificate to your home or to your office?

-Question for Bloomberg’s Matt Winkler: Since your new title, Editor-in-Chief-Emeritus is an acronym, EICE, would you rather be called “Ice” or “Eeky?”

-Question for New York Magazine: Can you really state with a straight face that you believed the evidence Muhammad Islam, 17, gave you to “prove” he made $72 million in the stock market, which he didn’t?

-Question for Tim Cook: are you shocked that no Apple product made Google’s top ten list of searches for 2014, and what are you going to do about it?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2014