Monday, February 29, 2016

1609 There's No Tenure in Television

Not even if you’re Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite or Bryant Gumbel or David Brinkley or Keith Olbermann. But especially not if you’re a yappy little college professor with a 50 pound chip on your shoulder, subzero ratings on a near- zero rated channel in the middle of an election cycle and with the mistaken notion that you matter.

No lifetime jobs.  No guarantees.  This is business, not school.

If the networks want you out, you’re out.  And as long as they comply with the terms of your contract, that’s that.

All of which brings us to the case of Melissa Harris-Perry one of MSNBC’s hires made before it remembered it’s a news channel and started to winnow down the talk shows to those that work.

Apart from MSNBC, Perry has been bouncing from job to job as a professor of variousness, hopping from university to university and always leaving on iffy terms or worse.  

Perry has one black parent and one white, which makes her qualified to identify black if she wishes, which she does.

But does it qualify her as an expert on the black experience or black white relations, which she also wishes and wants you to wish?  

And she has the wrong idea about what it means to be a news anchor.  Part of what it means is that you have to make way for news. And during an election cycle -- especially the current one -- election coverage is news.

To hear her tell it, a temporary halt of her two hours on Saturdays and two more on Sundays makes her feel “worthless” in the eyes of NBC executives who are trying to return MSNBC to it’s not-all-that-glorious glory days.

Aw! Poor baby!

There’s worthless and then there’s worthless. She wasn’t worthless.  She was just less worth-ful than election coverage, which is a viewer magnet and generally lucrative.

Storming off like a great but temperamental operatic soprano is reserved for great temperamental operatic sopranos.  In this particular opera, Perry was not a soprano but a supporting cast contralto.

Great or not, there’s no room in grand opera -- or TV news -- for a temperamental contralto.  

For many decades now, TV news has had to meet its budget and that means finding advertising revenue and that means attracting viewers.

They wanted her to return to her time slots and present the news of the day.  They even offered to buy her a 50 pound chip for her other shoulder.

She wants tenure? She can continue her long walk from college to college, last refuge of the overeducated and otherwise unemployable. Surely one will recognize her brilliance, her enormous contribution to American culture… even if it’s the College of Hard Knocks.

But if she chooses to continue her TV career, she has to forget about tenure.

And if she wants to sing the role of  Aida, Salome or Brunnhilde,  she has to remember she ain’t Jessye Norman.

Things you won’t find here this week:

--Hillary’s win in South Carolina.
--The Academy Awards.
--The KKK rally in California.
--Crubioz’ tax returns.
--Anyone else’s tax returns.
--Zika.
--Warren Buffett’s letter to shareholders.
--The Michigan shooter.
--The Kansas shooter.
--The two TV shows about OJ Simpson.
--Gluten free gluten.
--Yugoslavia.
--FIFA.


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, February 26, 2016

1608 Just Cause Firing and Other Relics

Back in ancient times, maybe 25 or 30 years ago, our employment contracts often had “just cause” firing provisions.

That meant the boss couldn’t fire you just because he felt like it… or because someone else would do the job cheaper.  He had to have a reason and the reason had to be spelled out.

--Incompetence.
--Drunk on the job.
--Theft.

These were the big three.

They worked in favor of both the worker and the boss.  For the worker it meant he or she couldn’t be fired because a supervisor didn’t like the hairdo.   For the employer, it didn’t have to tolerate incompetence, drunkenness, stealing or anything else both sides agreed to put on the list.

Maybe our public officials don’t realize it, but they have contracts.

For many, it’s the constitution.  You agree to its terms by default or you make an effort to change it.  Usually those amendment efforts fail, for good or for bad reasons.

Some recently suggested changes:

--The Equal Rights Amendment.
--The Anti-Abortion Amendment.
--The Balanced Budget Amendment.

Each either died aborning or has become trapped in the molasses the original document foisted on us, intentionally and with good reason.

A lot of what’s in the constitution is either vague or has been made to seem vague.

A fine example:  the second amendment … the one about gun rights.  Constructionist justices seem to think there’s something vague about the “well regulated militia” part of the right to bear arms.

Okay.  That’s wrong headed, but it’s become a common point of view.  So be it.

But there’s nothing vague about the part where a President has to nominate someone for a vacancy on the Supreme Court.  And the Senate gets to consent.

Here’s the sentence from Article II, section II  

The President “...shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint... judges of the Supreme Court…”

What part of that is unclear?  It doesn’t say “...wait ‘til next year…” or “...wait ‘til the next President is elected…” or “...wait ‘til the sun shines, Nellie.”

And note that it says “shall appoint” not “may appoint.”

The good news is that it’s possible to expel a Senator who doesn’t do his job. The bad news is that it’s a long and complex process -- as it should be -- and requires a ⅔ majority vote which these days is pretty close to impossible.  Just cause firing.

So the next best thing for the President may be a recess appointment. It’s hard to tell, but the Senate is currently in recess (2/16.) So the president is free to plunk someone into Scalia’s chair at least for awhile.

There haven’t been a lot of those appointments recently. One that comes to mind was Associate Justice William Brennan.  Republican Eisenhower appointed him in 1956.  An election year.  A Republican. An Election year.

If he wanted to, the President could appoint Charles Manson.  But a better choice might be someone of enormous standing, preferably a Republican,  someone who wouldn’t hold the job all that long.  Someone who has already been thoroughly tested.

Anyone have a phone number for Sandra Day O’Connor or David Souter?

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, February 24, 2016

1607 Covering China

It just got harder to find out what’s going on in China. The country’s top leader, Xi Jinping, visited the big newspaper in Beijing the other day and announced that henceforth, state owned media must toe the Communist Party line.

That surprised some of us in the west who thought all along that that’s been policy since Mao was a boy. Really, it has been. All you have to do is turn on the Chinese TV channel, CCTV, and you can hear 24 hours of daily fawning.

The national wire service, Xinhua, was kind of different.  Or so we believed.  Yes, it’s government run, and it wasn’t critical of Ji. It read as if it were “semi official,” rather than the Chinese version of the Edleman Agency, minimizing crises, promoting the compliant and airbrushing potted palms over newly created non- persons -- a trick we all learned from the Soviets.

Attention Photo Editors: Place this over the image of disgraced Grain Minister Qiao Jianjun in group pic #23,678.

Nope. Xinhua just got a new photoshop setup that cuts non-persons out of pictures with graceful invisibility.

Back in our AP days, a million years ago, the agency hooked up with Xinhua and we traded stories.  This was an offshoot of Nixon’s pandering to his hated commies as China came kicking and screaming into the family of nations.

We had a skeptical view of the agency’s output… more skeptical, even, than the output of our own.  Looks like the skeptics were right.

The new news order extends to foreign companies that provide online information in China.  Xinhua and the People’s Daily are looking for things that will help in covering up errant websites.  Most of them will look like this:

XXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXCENSOREDXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Many US news outlets have already gotten into trouble for telling the truth there.  The New York Times for one.  Bloomberg News averted a crisis in rentals of its expensive finance terminals by spiking a report on corruption and then denying it was spiked.

The Onion and the Borowitz Report don’t stand a chance of being read there.

Google and the other search engine companies will have to come up with ways to emulate the cartoon character Pogo. Pogo and his co-characters would disguise their anti government sentiment by holding rallies at which they displayed signs saying “Hooray for the gummint.”

Meantime, if you want to know what’s going on in China, you’ll have to find it by reading the newspapers from Japan and Taiwan.


Shrapnel:

--The pattern continues with the Nevada caucuses, Trump wins and Cruiboz battles for second place. Likely that pattern will continue all the way to the convention, where numbers two and three will be meaningless.  What’s hard to understand is why anyone votes for any of these guys.

--Cruz’s top mouthpiece said something nasty and inaccurate about rival Rubio’s religious leanings.  Cruz promptly fired him. Was the guy canned because of the nasties or was his crime getting caught at it?

Quote of the day:

“Nobody was ugly to us, but they insisted they wouldn’t give me an I.D.” -- 90 year old former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Jim Wright (D-TX) at a state Public Safety Office in Fort Worth.

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, February 22, 2016

1606 So Long Jeb

You turn on the kitchen light; the cockroaches scuttle into the woodwork. Under the sink. Under the stove.  At warp speed.

A roach is probably the most durable life form the earth has ever seen.  And the supply is endless. So it’s not likely that every Bush is back behind the wall.  But at least we’re rid of Jeb, that poor lumbering frat boy with the radio announcer voice, the relatively handsome face and the empty head.

Empty and thick. The message has been there all along: America is through with the Republican Party’s first family.  The only people who seemed not to get that was… uh… the Republican Party’s first family.

Here’s poor ancient Mama Barbara.  She’s not a genetic Bush, she’s a Bush by marriage and the only instantly recognizable member of this sorry clan to show some smarts.

First she said America has had enough Bushes.  Then that maternal instinct kicked in and the poor 90 year old lady went campaigning for Jeb.

First brother, Dubya, the guy who destabilized the Middle East and probably much of the rest of the world, also hits the campaign trail.  Now Jeb has withdrawn. Mission accomplished.

Daddy, HW is too infirm to campaign but in his waning days discovered that W was an imbecile and wrote scathingly about it.

As his mind circles the drain, HW feels new freedom to say what he really thinks.

And maybe even the room temperature IQ state of South Carolina saw the scuttle when the lights went on and rejected Jeb, finally.

Jeb always seemed to look puzzled.  “Why is this happening to me? I’m a Bush. It is my right to be president. Why don’t you see that?”

Sorry, pal. We don’t. What we see is yet another Blunder-Bush with a sense of entitlement who seems to think he can unite the country club.

He’s the kind of guy who shows pictures of his high tech gun inscribed “Governor Jeb…” and captioned “America.”

What was your reaction to that?  If it wasn’t it should have been “Jeb with a gun?  I better make sure I’m nowhere near him when he’s holding it.”

What’s the poor fellow to do, now that his dreams of glory have faded?  Probably, President Trump will name him ambassador to Suriname.  After all, he does speak Spanish.  

Their top guy is an elected president, who previously was an unelected dictator and a convicted drug dealer. The weather is Florida-in-August. Perfect Bush country.

Shrapnel:

--Your Wessays™ Pocket guide to Suriname.  It’s the smallest country in South America, population a little over half a million.  They drive on the left like the Brits, not on the right like the Dutch who once colonized them, so practice if you’re going there either as tourist or Ambassador… oh, and brush up on your Dutch language skills.

Quote of the day:  “He would go a month without mowing his lawn, but he was meticulous about his cars.”
-- A neighbor describing Uber driver Jason Dalton who toured Kalamazoo and, the police say, along the way shot and killed six people.

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, February 19, 2016

1606 Judge with a Dunce Cap

1606 Judge with a Dunce Cap


Scalia was right.  About what? About there not being enough diversity on the Supreme Court.  Of course, when a guy like this talks about diversity, he is talking about white men different from the other white men.

Specifically, he had said there are no evangelical Christians.  And yes, all the male justices are white except Clarence Thomas.  


All the members are either Roman Catholic or Jewish. Most went to Ivy League colleges.  Scalia was a New Yorker.  So are Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor.  Roberts is from Buffalo which is almost New York and Alito is from New Jersey which also is almost New York.


So six out of nine and now five out of eight come from the same geography.


Like them or not, most of the justices have relatively high IQs, though some use that better than others.


So if you want real diversity, let’s hear it for someone -- anyone -- with a low IQ.  The ideal candidate would be a midwestern dummy with firmly held wrong ideas about the way America really works-- or should.  Someone who could fit right in with all those professors but not be one of them.  Someone the Senate would be comfortable confirming if President Obama defies The Will of The People by actually nominating someone.


(Reagan was near the end of his second term when he nominated Anthony Kennedy.  Democrats controlled both houses of congress then. How quickly we forget.)


Intelligence doesn’t always result in right decisions, now does it?  So let’s hear it for the nomination of a high-functioning moron, but one with a little common sense and no law degree. (You knew being a lawyer is not a prerequisite to sitting on the Supreme Court, right?)


But wait.  Here’s another thought.  In the traffic jam system of government now in wide national and local use, maybe the president ought not to name someone. This would reduce the number of cases approved or rejected.


A 4-4 tie would mean the court hasn’t ruled and the law under scrutiny remains unchanged.  Given the way this court has rolled, there’s a great chance that good laws could not be struck down or bad ones upheld.


It’s not a perfect system.  But democracy is messy anyway.


Quote of the day: “He’s a liar.” -- every candidate for the Republican presidential nomination about every other candidate.

Shrapnel:


--The GOP is destroying itself by pitting a bunch of rabid pit bulls against one another. Pit bull jaws lock when they bite. So once the actual candidate is picked, there’s no way short of killing the rest to unclench the jaws.


--Smell test failure.  NBC’s New York outlet, WNBC has hired Lester Holt’s 29 year old son Stefan to anchor a new 4PM newscast and “family ties” had “nothing to do with it.”  Much as Lester is liked and respected by the people he works with, NBC, Stefan’s going to be eaten alive.

Grapeshot:


-Olivia Munn’s supporting role in “X-Men Apocalypse” makes what surely will be one of the stupidest films of all time worth seeing.


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

© WJR

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

1605 Our Thoughts and Prayers

1605 Our Thoughts and Prayers Are with...

--The Scalia family.
--The wounded of war.
--The un-wounded at war.
--The bunnies in the cages of testing laboratories.
--Our Team.
--Those hospitalized after an auto wreck we saw.
--Those hospitalized after an auto wreck we didn’t see.
--Black lives.
--All lives.
--The unemployed.
--The underemployed.
--Aunt Margaret’s chance of winning the lottery.
--The poor starving children of ________ (insert locale of choice.)

Wow, that’s some spreading of thoughts and prayers.  And that’s a good thing.  Takes the pressure off thinking about your favorite subject, yourself.  Makes you feel better.  Sometimes much better.  Sometimes some of these prayers and thoughts actually appear to work.  

Mostly not.

--Scalia is still dead and his family still grieving.
--The wounded remain wounded.  Some are getting better, others not.
--The unwounded are still at war.  And they will be for the foreseeable future.
--The lab bunnies are still going blind so you can have better mascara.
--The lives that appear to matter but don’t still don’t.

You get the idea.

Jack Blatz of Sioux Falls, diagnosed with terminal cancer, doesn’t need your prayers or thoughts.  He needs hospice care.

Bonita Suarez, legal immigrant with green card,  four kids and no husband needs a job.

We interrupt this post to bring you the quote of the day:

“You can’t solve a problem just by throwing money at it.” -- Anon.

Well, guess what?  Sometimes you can.  And time. And effort.  And sustainability.

This is a powered, tilting wheelchair a quadriplegic might use to ambulate:
These are expensive, even to rent. Fortyish grand.  Lot of bucks for a piece of ugly furniture.

But if you need one, you need one. And money, not prayer is the answer.  Money, but not “positive thoughts” or “positive energy”

We have an old friend who needs one.  And other old friends have started a crowdfunding effort hoping to come up with 40 grand to buy one.

A perfect example of how throwing money at a problem will solve it.

Notice, you are not being asked to kick in.  That would be gauche.  It also might boost the amount collected above the 10% or so that has come in so far.

The problem belongs to a woman in Washington DC who took a nasty fall at home about a year ago and has now gone through enough rehab to be faintly optimistic about some kind of recovery, though certainly not full use of her arms and legs.

No fault here.  Just a bad happenstance followed by a fundraiser for the benefit of the kind of person who’d be appalled to know it’s going on. And the kind of person who would be the first to contribute, probably overcontribute if the patient were someone else.

But that’s not the point here.  

Shrapnel:

--Prosecutor Juan Martinez’ book about his role in the case against murderer Jodi Arias is out today. Let’s hope his talk show tour appearances improve. In her interview the other night, Nancy Grace managed to turn one of the most interesting public figures into someone pointless and boring, which in reality he is far from.

--Okay, conspiracy theorists, here’s real red meat. No autopsy for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. So we’ll never know for sure whether he died of natural causes or was the victim of a murder plot hatched by the socialist Muslim destroyer of America from his headquarters in the White House.

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, February 15, 2016

1604 Where's the Clinic?

Today, we take another overused saw from the Wessays™ Unabridged Dictionary of Empty Phrases and try to fill it with meaning.

The phrase is “clinically tested.”  Nowadays, everything is “clinically tested.”   Some things are not only clinically tested, but they’re clinically proven.   Proven is even oilier than tested.  But it’s not used as often.  Yet.

Ten years ago, almost no one had heard of something called a probiotic.  We knew what antibiotics were.  But probiotic was something new.  Something to improve your body chemistry.  Now there are a zillion probiotics and they’re all clinically tested.

There are two kinds of clinical tests: the traditional kind where there’s an actual clinic and actual clinicians who follow strict procedures and document the results and where neither the clinician nor the patient knows which of several treatments they’re getting.

Then, there are the back alley clinics.  That’s when some defrocked doc or maybe a hospital candy striper volunteer slaps a patch of calamine lotion on the acne of six patients and records positive results for four of them.

The marketing folks run with the results: “Two thirds of the patients saw improvement in as little as six weeks.”  If only three patients improve, the advertising line becomes “a majority of patients showed improvement.”

There’s some doubt that 50% is a majority. But the case can be made.  Also, there’s no mention of the sixth patient whose forehead fell off during the clinical trial and who now must wear a head bandage to avoid exposing her skull to infection until the skin grows back.

We all know of famous clinics.  The Mayo, the Cleveland.  Each is hospital based.  And we all know famous hospitals that don’t call themselves clinics but which are: Sloan Kettering, Columbia Presbyterian/Cornell, Kaiser Permanente, Johns Hopkins, Boston Children’s, and on and on.

You can bet these places are not where many of the perpetually advertised clinical trials are conducted.

Then, there are temporary clinics.  Like Sergeant Major Charles Garrett’s trombone clinic at Ft. Meade, Maryland.  Is this where they tested Culturelle?  Probably not.

Maybe Jim’s Auto Clinic in Cincinnati?

Hmmm.  Wonder if Jim’s is dermatologist recommended.   

Probably not.  Dermatologists usually recommend skin products that are clinically tested but they don’t recommend car repair places.

In fact, if your dermatologist isn’t an auto buff or a trombonist, ignore her recommendation for anything but that acne lotion.  Even if it’s the one that made the sixth participant expose her skull.


Shrapnel:

--Liberals and centrists have a tough time with Scalia, the supreme court justice who died this weekend at 79.  While Scalia was the nemesis of anything even faintly progressive, he was both brilliant as a scholar-lawyer and likable as a person. And he was true to his beliefs, however erroneous they may have been.

--Scalia and other Reaganauts reset the left-right pendulum swing.  The crazy right came to be seen as  “conservative,” real conservatives became centrists and real centrists became left wing extremists.

Quote of the day:

“The board acts in the best interest of both students and staff.” -- President Joshua Foster of the Center Moriches, New York school board in justifying its removal of a long-serving art teacher from her classroom because she took a grieving student to a convenience store and bought her a hot chocolate.

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, February 12, 2016

1603 The End of an Era

How many times have you seen that tired old phrase?  It’s usually reserved for things that matter at least to some people.

GM stops making Pontiacs.  Traditional TV channels are swapped for digital frequencies.  Legal segregation is abolished.  Unity among Republicans is abolished.  A black man is elected President and a woman may soon be.

But this one is one for the ages.  Literally.  Britain’s House of Lords, the only legislative body stuffier than the US Senate, is going to stop keeping its records on vellum.

Vellum is calfskin.  Most of us gave up killing young bovines for their skin ages ago.  You rarely see a banjo or drum head made from a dead animal.

But when musicians opted out of vellum, it was because various man-made substitutes sound better, last longer and aren’t subject to variations in temperature and humidity.

So while the animal rights folks may be happy with the Lords, it’s not animal rights they had in mind when they decided to go high tech, it was money.

Let’s not delude ourselves.  This choice is not exactly a leap into the 21st century where everything is preserved in flash memory and hard drive.

The Brits are going to use paper.  And you can bet it’s going to be fancy paper, not just some recycled junk from Staples.

The Lords have been keeping their records on vellum since the 1400s.  The skin is said to last 5,000 years, compared with maybe a couple of hundred for paper.

And therein lies another era and its probable end.  Does anyone think anyone will still be here 5,000 years from now?  And if they are will they have ever even heard of the House of Lords?  And if they have, will they care what it did in 1066 or 1966 or 2066?

Sometimes the English confuse history with self importance.

Since the Lords keep records of the House of Commons, the commoners who really run Britain have chimed in. They are what we now call “stakeholders.” And they think a lot is at stake.

So a debate is likely before the actual change.  Anyone ask Liz what she thinks?  Anyone have her email address?

Quote of the day:

“If early civilizations hadn’t used vellum, our understanding of history would be diddly squat.”
-- Paul Wright, general manager of the only British company that still sells vellum, quoted in the New York Times.


Shrapnel:

--California is considering letting 16 year olds vote in school board and community policy elections.  Probably the best idea in public education since the invention of the chalkboard. But fraud- preventing voter ID would be a must because you never know when a mature looking 15 year old will try to pull a fast one.

--The self-styled “sane” and “compassionate” Republican in pursuit of the presidency, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, says he will sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood in his state.  Is Kasich moving to the right?  Or has he just been lying to us all along?

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