Friday, January 29, 2016

1597 The Quandary of the Nuns

The old timer sisters would have known how to handle this.  They would have torched thy neighbor.  Or picketed. Or both.

Now, everything’s a federal case.  Well, not necessarily an actual federal case, but at least a court case.

So it was when the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo took the owners of neighboring Club Allure to Cook County Court.  A strip club.

Cook County is Chicago and lots of small adjacent places.  These neighbors are in neighboring Stone Park. They are next door to each other.

The nuns filed suit.  In it, they allege, there is lewd behavior and “paid sexual contact for arousal purposes.”  There’s a phrase for you.

But okay, it’s a strip club and it’s next to a convent and chances are pretty good the convent was there first, since the club was erected in 2012.

Cook County is home to about two million members of the Roman Catholic Church. That’s down a bit from past years.  Yet it’s still hard to imagine a judge named Peter Flynn ruling against the nuns.

But that’s what he did. Sort of.  He says if there’s prostitution and violations of the liquor law they must be documented.  And so he told the ladies to get some evidence and bring it on.

Thus, a quandary.  How are they going to do that?  Doff their habits dress provocatively then apply for work?  Sister Mary Elizabeth does a mean pole dance? Guys stuff currency into her g-string? Father Paul snaps proof with his iPhone?

C’mon.

Meantime, the club is trying to take the high road… about as easy to do as a nun on a stripper pole.  “We’re legal.”  That’s what their lawyers say. “We run a clean establishment” say they.

Joey from Chicago goes regularly.  You’d have to capture Joey on some pretext and ask him under oath “Joey, one of those girls take you into a back room for a little this and that?”  “No your honor. No such thing ever happened” he likely would say.

Perjury.

They could get Trixi on the witness stand and she’d say the same thing if asked if she took Joey to a back room.  

Perjury again.

Father Paul with the iPhone won’t go in as a decoy.  And neither will an aging altar boy with a fake ID who tries to buy a drink.

It’s awkward.

But the nuns are nothing if not persistent, so they’re going to figure something out. The deadline is April Fourth.



Shrapnel:

--Winner of last night’s Republican debate was Megyn Kelly because they coiffed and dressed her up as Debutante Barbie instead of TV Reporter Barbie. In second place: Trump who made the best showing of the night by simply not showing up. If you’re thinking of voting for any of these candidates, first have your psychiatrist reevaluate your meds.

Quote of the day “...we may have been given a gift from the lord…” Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE) assessing the Republicans seeking their party’s presidential nomination.

Grapeshot:

-Right on, Joe… now stand up and take a bow.

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

© WJR 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

1596 They Call it a Sales Force for a Reason

1596 They Call it a Sales Force for a Reason


A friend has moved to a far off state and gone into the real estate business.  She is a small woman supporting her daughter. She is a single mom.  And when we first met her she was selling costume jewelry.


Small, yes. But aggressive in a quiet borderline submissive kind of way. A quiet pest.  We bought some earrings or a necklace or a ring from her, and soon after, she vanished.


But now she’s back and selling houses the same way she sold dimestore gemstones.  Only she’s pulled back from the border of poor waif land.


From time to time, we hint we’re ready to move back to a coast, either coast.  And that was the opening she was looking for.


We exchanged emails.  We explained what we owned and what we expected to own or rent in the future.  And she immediately went to overwork.


We received a series of emails and phonecalls and forms to fill out. “Please, Cathy (not her real name) we’re just starting to look at your area.  We need to visit.  Not until spring at the earliest.”


Oh, okay.  But sign up for our newsletter.


How often does your newsletter come out?


Every time we get a new listing.


We’ve removed our name from the mailing list.  Or tried to. So far when we check the “unsubscribe” box, the computer plays canned laughter less convincing than what you used to hear on “I Love Lucy.” Then a Siri-like voice intones:  “You have been unsubscribed” followed by a sound effect that you could interpret as Siri saying “sucker” in an electronic stage whisper.

And then we get yet another “new listing.”  This time, it’s a 6,000 square foot “Spanish Colonial” with eight bedrooms, seven baths set in a palm-treed five acre plot on a quiet residential street. Priced to sell. At 8.2 million dollars, recently reduced from $8,705,242.


A steal.


Maybe we’ll pass it along to folks at Passages at Malibu which will get the neighbors in an uproar because a drug addict with a lot of money is still a drug addict.


These days it may be necessary to high pressure sell high priced items like houses, cars, boats, furs, 300 year old violins and original Jack Pumphrey paintings of post war automobiles.


But when a known customer was hesitant to buy a silver plated Moissanite bracelet for 35 bucks, maybe it’s time to slow the pace of multimillion dollar mansion emails.


Shrapnel:


--We’ve threatened to move from Cutsie Condos for all of the ten years we’ve been there.  The desire fades because moving is a pain.  But when the pain moves to the knee or the back and becomes real, it’s revival time every time we look at the staircase.


Quote of the day:


It was “A legitimate attempt… to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.” -- Governor Jack Dalrymple (R-ND) describing a state law now rejected by the US Supreme Court and which would have banned most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy when many women don’t yet know they’re pregnant.


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

© WJR 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

1595 Low Snow Guilt

1595 Low Snow Guilt

We got less snow than you did. Much less. That should be a cause for happiness, but it isn’t.  Guilt arrives laughing when practically everyone you know has been buried under the storm that ground through the northeast this past weekend.

The roads are clear.  The driveways and sidewalks are clear. We received two inches compared with the two feet most of the rest got in this part of the country.

Sunday dawned bright and nearly cloudless here in the Valley of the Dulls.  The temperature is a relatively balmy 22 degrees.  And not even Sunday school was cancelled because of the weather.

This is a mini version of the guilt one feels as the survivor of a fatal car crash or fire.  But it comes from the same root: “Why was I spared, and not the others?”

It almost makes one want to go out and shovel snow onto the driveway just so you can shovel it off in a public display of solidarity with friends in Nutley or Philadelphia or New York or Boston.
“We should be grateful,” say the transcripts of the preachers.  “We are so lucky” says the poor excuse of a newspaper that arrives soggy but still readable.

One guy, right across the street, took matters into his own hands.  He shoveled even though he didn’t need to. Even though Cutsie Condos has a crew of guys with plows and shovels who would later arrive.  But he’s new.  Probably he won’t repeat his guilt trip.

We could gripe about driving or walking snow blind. Our local chiropractors could whine about having no new bad backs to unsubluxate. The hospital (on par with the local newspaper) could complain that not a single snow-related heart attack took place.

But these don’t rise to the standards set elsewhere.  There wasn’t even a decent car pileup on the highways (also on par with the newspaper.)  So this morning, we’ll hear from the out of work collision shop workers and no one’s auto insurance will double.

Economic slowdown here, while the storm brought overtime pay to thousands of public works workers elsewhere.

We knew it was going to be this way. But we emptied the grocers’ shelves of bread, milk, eggs, water, batteries and shovels nonetheless.  (Also the state-owned liquor stores which are on par with the newspaper, the hospital and the highways.)

The airport (on par with the newspaper and the hospital, the hospital and the liquor stores) closed, but didn’t have to, though there was no place to fly.  And besides, airports’ mission in life is to make travelers miserable, even if only to prepare them for the additional misery they’ll experience on their flights.

Does all this lessen our guilt?

Not a bit.  

The only beneficiaries will be the psychiatrists’ couches and the confessionals.

Snow guilt.  It’s debilitating.  It’s ugly.

Shrapnel:

--During the snowstorm, NY Mayor de Blastoff banned driving and threatened to arrest violators. Earlier, he also wanted to ban Central Park horse carriages.  What’s with this guy and private transportation?

Quote of the day: “We try to limit that.” -- Los Angeles Sheriff Sandra Hutchens commenting on the escape of three inmates from a high-security jail on Sunday, January 24, 2015.

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

© WJR 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016

1594 S'no Panic Like the Present

1594 S’no Panic Like the Present

As a public service to those of you in the crosshairs of an upcoming snow disaster, some questions and reminders.

Word of this latest storm, for many the first of this winter, began circulating about a week ago.  This immediately set in motion a series of related events.

First, the TV crews went out to interview people at the warehouse or yard where your municipality stores its salt and sand and maintains its spreaders.  They came away with the splendid news that all’s well, that “we’re ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us.”

Mother has had plenty of spare time to warm up her pitching arm this winter. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers has been coaching her in the off season. And she’ looks regal in that LA hat.

For good measure, local websites published maps of local “snow emergency routes,” and implored you to make sure you’re not parked on any of them.

Then, there was the massive stock panic.  No, not Wall Street. Wal-MART or Publix or wherever you buy the things you buy for storms of the century.  

By Tuesday, those same TV crews scouted the aisles of the nearest Safeway showing viewers a lot of empty space.  Thursday, there were lines at the gas station. Lines! With the lowest prices in recent memory. Lines! With zero possibility of a shortage.

In Flint, Michigan where they have to hire temporary water bearers because off-orange colored liquid lead comes out of the taps, the city received an emergency grant from the LL Bean Foundation to supply down coats for the bearers because as any student of mythology and history knows, these people work naked.  Sometimes in winter, it often gets cold in Flint.

Now, it’s time to check your pantry.  (Does anyone still have a pantry?) Is there enough whole grain whole wheat gluten free bread- like substance? Or do you have to hightail it to Healthy Living Superstore before they run out. (The TV crews skipped the Healthy Living Superstore because it pulled its advertising after an investigative report by one of the channels indicated that white bread doesn’t kill you and pectin doesn’t destroy grape jelly.)

Now the only question for people from the Appalachians to the Atlantic is when the storm turns out to be completely manageable, when the schools remain open, when the mail is delivered on schedule, when the power fails to fail what are you going to do with those three cases of condensed soup you just bought at Costco?  

Maybe the water bearers will help out because they have nothing else to do. And they want to show off those nice new coats.

Quote without comment: "Trump's candidacy has exposed, not just that tragic -- that ramifications of the betrayal of a transformation of our country, but, two, he has exposed the complicity on both sides of the aisle that has enabled it, OK?" -- Sarah Palin endorsing a presidential hopeful.

Grapeshot:

-Huh?

-So sue me, I lied about the “without comment” part.

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

© WJR 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

1593 Nutrition Labels

1593 Nutrition Labels


Nutrition laws have been around in some form since the 1200s.  Back then, an English ordered bakers to stop using some vegetables in their dough.


In this country, we’ve had labels since 1990, a key but unheralded accomplishment of the 101st Congress and the administration of George HW Bush.


Some new revisions are in the pipeline, projected to let us know with even more clarity what we’re eating. And in principle, that’s a good thing.  After all, we really don’t want plaster of paris in our white bread, now do we?


The food industry is no fool. It wants us to eat what we like.  So it long ago hired a costumer to satisfy its customers. Oh, and regulators.


If there’s MSG in your food, it has to be labeled.  But if MSG is a “processing agent” it doesn’t.  What, they flush out the MSG and the “process” is over?  Yeah, right.


Here are some of the names which this headache chemical extracted from seaweed goes by these days:
Hydrolyzed or textured vegetable protein and yeast extract.


But that’s not the worst of the label shell game.  The worst thing is portion size.


Let’s look at a bag of chips.  Total fat: 10g per serving.  How big is a “serving?” Lays tells us “about 15 chips.”  This from the company that used to advertise “bet you can’t eat just one.”


Ten grams is not terrible.  But what does “about” mean?  Is it ten? Is it 20?  Chips are different sizes, so there’s some justification for that vagueness.


What about the cottage cheese label that says a “serving” is “about four tablespoons?”


But wait.  It gets worse.  After they finish about- ing, they get even fuzzier.  How many servings per container?  


In the case of some snack foods, you’ll see figures like “2.5.”


So, X number of fat calories in one serving.  But you just ate the whole bag.  You didn’t? C’mon. Of COURSE you did. So ten grams in a serving is fine, but you just ate 25. And you’ll do it again and again.


Knowing the industry, always with our health and wellbeing its first priority, they will make it even tougher to figure things out.


Eventually you’ll find a can of soup that has 2 ⅝ servings.  Now there’s a project for you.  Figure out just how much soup you put in the bowl for the label to be accurate.


They have people who stay up all night thinking up stuff like this.  And they are brilliant people.  And clever.  And there’s a reason they do their work in darkness.


Notes:
-No potato chips were hurt in the creation of this post.
-Contains no MSG. (We flushed it out after processing.)
-Contains peanuts.
-Contains wheat.
-Made in North America (But we won’t tell you which country.)
-External use only.
-Caution, contents may be hot.
-Do not read if allergic to Wessays™ or any of its ingredients.  Side effects include nausea, anger and drowsiness.
-Member FDIC


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

1592 Interview with a Conductor

1592 Interview with a Conductor (Transcript)

WR: Good morning and welcome to the Wessays™ Interview.  Our guest today is Baron von Schussel the Second, associate music director and principal cymbalist with the Gladden Honkenburg Philharmonic of Gladden Honkenburg, Pennsylvania.  Happy to have you with us today, Baron von Schussel.

Boron von Schussel:  Thank you for inviting me. Before we go any further, may I please let you know that my first name is Boron, I am not a “baron” or any other royalty.  Boron, like the chemical element. (chuckles)

WR: Oh, so sorry. I misread the notes here. May I call you Boron?

BvS: Of course.  

WR: Thank you. Please tell us about your orchestra. It’s not often that a town as small as Gladden Honkenburg has its own symphony.

BvS:  Sure.  My grandfather, the first Boron von Schussel arrived here in 1903.  He shortened his name from the original Schussel in der Man Erbricht  and realized there was a crying need for entertainment where he worked, the sausage factory.  So he found a few other men who felt as he did and that formed the nucleus of the orchestra.

WR: It’s only proper that a man with the name of a chemical element have something to do with a nucleus.

BvS: Hahhah. Yes.  So the band started giving free concerts in Bratwurst Park and became very popular. And we continue the tradition today.

WR: I notice that even though you’re the grandson of the founder, you are only the associate musical director.  Do you go outside the “family” for your actual music director?

BvS:  Yes, we do.  My grandfather died in 1927 and we promptly formed a national search committee.

WR:  And?

BvS: We’re still searching. Meantime my father took on the responsibilities temporarily and now, they’re mine.

WR: You’ve been searching for a music director for 89 years?

BvS: Yah. I mean “yes.” If you know of anyone who’d like to audition, please put him in touch with me.

WR: So, you pick the music, you conduct the music. All that? Why not just take the title itself?

BvS: That would be unseemly.  Plus, there’s a “no nepotism” clause in the orchestra’s charter.

WR: Of course. Now, most classical orchestras don’t have a “principle cymbalist,” or any cymbalist for that matter.  Usually, another percussionist plays the cymbals when they’re called for.

BvS:  That’s true. But my great grandfather was the principle triangleist with an orchestra in the old country.  One day he was called upon to play the cymbals and he did such a good job, they promoted him.  So the cymbals have kind of become a family tradition.  And besides, we play a lot of Tchaikovsky and a little Wagner, some Bizet … oh, and lots of Dvorak.

WR: Who picks the pieces?

BvS:  I do.

Shrapnel (New York Values Edition):

--Does Trump represent New York values as Cruz charged?  Possibly. But remember there are two New Yorks… the one where Trump and his ilk live and the one where the rest of us try to.

--About the only thing the two New Yorks share is the pace/energy axis. Those from elsewhere see that and translate it into cold/uncaring/arrogant/nasty/unfeeling. They are wrong… it’s just pace and energy.

--Friend and colleague Dave Browde puts it this way:   “...we don't care about race, creed, color, national origin, or what's in your underwear. When people need help, we help.”   Always have.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2016

Friday, January 15, 2016

1591 Jazeera- Bel

1591 Jazeera- Bel

The news company Al Jazeera America announced it would close up shop later this year.  Or to put it another way, Qatar’s failed attack on American news viewers is ending and so is the con game they played with the staff.

The Doha- based parent company which is a kingdom of two million people, dazzling beaches and garish nouveau riche tinfoil skyscrapers built on sand makes its money from oil.  Oil prices are crashing, and even in this Hollywood-like fairy land, money has become tight.

So they’re closing their biggest loser which is in a close race with PBS in seeking the Emmy for boring.  And in the process, they’re firing an army sized staff of American journalists who got suckered into believing that they could do real news and be paid well for doing it.

Al has been wrongheaded from the getgo.  

They:

--Spent half a billion dollars to buy Al Gore’s failed “Current TV” which almost no one watched, especially after Keith Olbermann threw his eighth consecutive tantrum and quit or was fired and then built a channel that absolutely no one watched.

--Opened themselves to suits charging antisemitism and sexism.  (Could there be an element of truth in those? Heavens!)

--Hired a lawyer who evidently is not licensed to practice law.

--Ran an iffy story about the family of a major sports figure in which human growth hormone sales were prominently mentioned.

--Picked the wrong CEO at the start and replaced him with the right one but too late.

--Couldn’t raise clearances, the number of homes in which the channel was carried.

--Couldn’t sell advertising that came even close to paying the bills.

--Gave what little of the viewing public they reached nothing close to anything worth watching.

AJA is a clunky, amateurish presenter of news that no one wants to watch.  Even though it originates in New York, it has the same creepy, oily plastic look and 1950s feel of a foreign news service or a televangelist channel, something Russia’s and China’s American channels are starting to climb away from.

They promised us news with sobriety. They gave us news with Sominex.  They promised fact based reporting and gave us propaganda.  They promised their staff -- mostly excellent journalists -- the tools and atmosphere to “do the job right” and gave them sledgehammers, rocks to break and corrections officers to watch over them.

Before long, the staff will have a Facebook Page “AJA Vets,” if they don’t already.  And they’ll hold reunions and reminisce about the good old days … all 700 or so of them.   They’ll break confidentiality agreements by disclosing their severance pay.  They’ll drink a lot.

And some day in the distant future, when oil prices rebound and the skyscrapers of Doha pass inspection, maybe Jazeera-Bel will try again. For the sake of the fired staff… a fond hope.  For the rest of us, we won’t watch then, either.

Meantime, Al Gore is laughing all the way to the bank, assuming the Emir’s payment checks don’t bounce.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2016

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

1590 The PIC and the PAC

1590 The PIC and the PAC

It’s time to form a Political Inaction Committee.  This would be a group to pay candidates to not run or to drop out.

The Supreme Court cleared the way for us when it ruled in the Citizens United case.  Unlimited money. Technically, a political action committee must have a firewall between itself and a candidate’s campaign.  But we all know it’s a firewall made of Saran Wrap… clear and easily burned, melted or ignored.

In its most pristine form, the PIC could simply place ads and hold rallies supporting a would be candidate's decision not to run.

PICs could commission polls that would show members of congress in such bad standing that it would be in their interest to take early retirement and disappear.

PICs could slime incompetent and corrupt politicians who use their office for personal gain. (Are you listening Shelly and Dean?)  They could spread rumors.  They could hire hitmen.

In reality, the PIC could just collect and distribute bribes.  By the time a case against these organizations reached the Supreme Court there would be so much chaos -- financial and ideological -- that it could take decades to resolve.  Nothing like a little chaos to perpetuate our resolve.

While it’s unlikely that many -- or even any -- of the current justices will still be serving decades from now, if the court carries on the Rehnquist/Roberts tradition, the final ruling could favor us.

The only people who can take care of bad guys with too much money are good guys with too much money.

PACs are like shooting sprees.  You don’t have a chance once they start.  So if the Klock Brothers’ Political Action Committee invades, say, the Republican Party, we need equally funded law abiding citizens to counter spend the PACs.

But always remember, dirty money doesn’t elect people, people elect people.  And until all of us are sufficiently rich, it’s necessary for ordinary citizens to pack greenbacks.

While at home, please be sure you keep them locked up in a greenback safe. And for heaven’s sake, keep them away from children.

And remember… if a rich guy invades your house, the only thing that will stop him is outspending him.

Shrapnel:

--We recently missed mentioning the recently observed the 95th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Congratulations.  And be thankful that the 19th Amendment came before some cliche writer thought up “another all male bastion has fallen” a phrase worked to death but refuses to die.

--We are dispatching Uncle Ralphie of the Rego Park Social Club to interview actor Sean Penn who hasn’t been seen since his escape from a high security soundstage in Burbank.  Come to think of it, no one’s seen Uncle Ralphie lately either.  But we’ve sent him the only kind of message guys like Ralph understand, and we’re sure he’ll get the job done… or else.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2016