Friday, June 29, 2007

Perez Prado

#261 Perez Prado

He was a bandleader and they called him the King of Mambo. And he was. At the height of his popularity (he jumped on stage a lot because he wasn’t nearly as high as his popularity,) the writer and small time media mogul Roger Price wondered in public what would happen of all the Mambo dancers in the world grunted “uh!!” and flipped their hips in the same direction at the same time.

Price thought it might throw the earth of its axis and send us hurtling into the sun. It might have. But if it were a hip “rave wave ” instead of a hip flip, what, then?

Apparently, while the rest of us were sleeping, that something like that must have happened.

According to a recent report, many of America’s big cities are loosing population at a furious rate while traditionally smaller cities in the south and southwest are gaining same at an equally furious rate.

What that says is that we’re mamboing on down to places like the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Phoenix.

There’s all manor of speculation about why all of this is happening in places like Chicago and Detroit and Philadelphia (but not in New York.)

Fascist talk show hosts are using semi-sugar-coated language to blame it on minorities. The sugar coating comes in the form of postulating a “welfare state” within a larger “welfare state” in which the cities now support the poor and chase out the middle class.

But what they’re really saying is the average skin tone in the big urban areas has turned from white to varying shades of brown, that the main means of communication has turned from English to Spanish and various African and Asian languages.

They make the point (albeit awkwardly) that English is the tie that binds the American culture together. But that’s not the real issue, since most of their ancestors spoke something else first.

They blame race. They just don’t have the nerve to say it.

So while they border on correct about the concepts expressed in a common language for cultural glue, they don’t get the real reason the cities of the north are in decline.

Manufacturing is the other component in that glue bottle. And the jobs have gone back to where the new languages came from.

In the meantime, those Americans who transplant south and west will find their own skins turning brown. The Tucson sun will do that.

Perez Prado was Cuban and Mexican. And he’d delight his audiences by jumping and whirling while he led his band.

Today, he’d probably be in a shape up outside a Home Despot store.

And his band would be playing in Japan.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dead Wrestler

#260 Dead Wrestler

Vincent K. McMahon has to be the best showman since Barnum. And the best marketing guy in history. Now, here comes the show of his lifetime.

Vince once owned something called the “World Wrestling Federation,” or WWF. After years in court, the World Wildlife Federation (also WWF,) won the right to the initials, and Vince, never missing a beat, changed the name of his (now public) company to World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE.

At the same time, Vince offered his fans and friends and enemies a “Shocking Revelation!” The “sport” is fixed. They know the outcome before the match begins.

Everyone knew that, of course. But it took decades for WWE to admit it.

The old WWF had some steroid problems. Vince disposed of that. Did anyone do time? Don’t remember, but not much if any.

The new WWE, still filled with muscle-bound acrobats, is, of course, steroid free. At least that’s what they keep saying.

If there’s any doubt about Vince’s showmanship, consider this:

On one of his live TV programs, Vince is seen walking into a limo. Seconds later, the thing blows up. Vince’s body has vanished, but he’s presumed dead. All this is part of a story line, of course. The guy was videotaped walking into the limo on a Sunday night. The broadcast was Monday, and they blew up an empty car.

Soon, also on live TV, there was to be a three hour tribute to Vince’s life and work, a “memorial service.” The service went on alright. But it wasn’t for Vince. It was for Chris Benoit, who really did die.

The Monday of the McMahon memorial, Benoit (pronounced ben-WAH,) “the Canadian Crippler,” was found hanging by the neck from an exercise machine in his home gym. He apparently had killed himself after choking his wife and smothering his seven year old son, both to death.

Remember, all this is on a Monday morning. The three hour memorial is set for live television later that day, 9PM eastern. The thing is to be held in a huge arena in Texas, which is sold out.

Now three things happen:

1. The three hour match and memorial is cancelled and ticket prices refunded.

2. The WWE TV machinery is set in motion to prepare a three hour Benoit retrospective in under twelve hours – and it gets done. Probably they were still working on the ending when the first footage rolled on the air.

3. The “dead” McMahon climbs into the ring in that same Texas arena, He stands there, surprisingly live as live can be. The seats are empty. There are none of the usual light and fireworks show accessories that mark five or six WWE events each week. Vince looks at the camera, announces the death of Benoit to the television audience. Roll tape.

Viewers who tune in late don’t know what’s going on. But there’s Chris Benoit wrestling on TV, maybe from WrestleMania XX, from a few years back, so they stay with it.

Now, the cops in Georgia where Benoit lived, are all over his place. There’s no note. But there have been some strange happenings over the previous few days. Mysterious text messages, missed appointments, a missed WWE performance.

The cops find steroids in the house. Tox test results still to come.

They figure he offed the wife on Friday or Saturday, the kid on Saturday or Sunday and himself probably in the early hours of Monday morning. He’s in the house with the bodies for a day or two before he hangs himself.

Here comes the REAL show: the spokesmen and women of the WWE, and the lawyers, saying it can’t be steroids. ‘Roid rage, they say doesn’t last for days on end. The paranoia subsides quickly, as does the temper tantrum. “He had a drug test in April, and passed.”

Oh, really?

Steroids in this case would pinfall the WWE for a three count.

And Vince may wish that he really WAS in the limo when it exploded.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, June 25, 2007

Gas Bill

#259 Gas Bill

It says so right on the top and in big letters.

Something must be wrong. It doesn’t say “statement” or have a full page of incomprehensible nonsense before it gets to the punch line, which always is “you owe us money.”

It doesn’t start off by saying “manage your account.” Just Gas Bill.

No fake politeness. No effort to hide. No telling us how convenient it is to have “clean, modern” gas heat. Nothing but the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

What is the matter with these people? Didn’t they hire enough MBAs? Didn’t they go to “Famous Corporate Flimflamers’ School?”

This could end a century-old trend of distraction-as-introduction.

The only thing that can match “GAS BILL” as a regularly used opener these days is “SUMMONS” in red, on a traffic ticket. And even THAT is a bit of disinformation.

Things used to be guaranteed. Then they were warrantied. Now, they have limited warranties. The tag screams “LIMITED WARRANTY.” And then it goes on to tell you why the headline’s a lie.

The GAS BILL version of “limited warranty” is “WATCH OUT, BUDDY.”

Quiet, everyone, quiet, please. American Express is about to make a STATEMENT:

“Ahem. Thank you for inviting us here tonight. We want you to know we’re different from the other cards, and…. Blah blah blah.

“And in conclusion, let me thank you once again for inviting us here tonight, and you owe us $456.78 which you can pay by the 15th of the month without incurring interest or finance charges.”

“Okay, class, I’m Professor Verizon, and I’m about to teach you how to MANAGE YOUR ACCOUNT….”

Followed by: “And, that, class, is how to manage your account. Now, if you’ll simply write a check for $123.45 and get it to us by, oh, say, the first of the month, you’ll incur no additional interest charges.”

Does anyone at American Express or Verizon really think we think we’re going to hear a “statement” or learn to “manage our account?”

How about something a little more telling. Like “CREDIT CARD BILL” or “PHONE BILL”

But it’s not just bills and warranties. It’s pretty much everything. Have you ever voted for a “reform” candidate? Have you ever wondered what they were going to re-form and in what form it would be when they were finished?


Guess that wouldn’t garner many votes.

When you get that can of Quickie Water-seal home, you realize, on reading the fine print, that there are 30,000 things you have to do before you can seal the wood on your deck, and you have to accurately forecast the weather for the next four days, and that no one can do that?

Quickie, indeed.

So, sometimes you’re being sold a bill of goods. And sometimes – but not always – you even know it.

The MBAs can’t help themselves. You have to help yourself.

But first, pay the GAS BILL. The company deserves it for being more up-front than anyone else.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Friday, June 22, 2007

Men of the Cloth

#258 Men of the Cloth

No, no. Not THAT cloth. REAL cloth.

Uncle Phil used to be able to feel a piece of material and tell you its composition. This was before they had to label what everything was made of.

“Let me feel the goods,” he’d say. “Let me feel the goods.”

He’d then pinch the fabric, look thoughtfully skyward, take a puff on his cigar and say something like “that’s 60 percent cotton, 40 percent rayon.”

Wow. What a talent.

“Let me feel the goods.”

“Hmmm… a little silk and the rest is linen.”


Now, decades later, there’s ever so slightly the creeping belief that Uncle Phil was making this stuff up.

After all, there was no way to prove or disprove what he said. But we kids were eager to believe, to be mystified, to be bamboozled if that’s what it was.

Now, of course, everyone can be Uncle Phil. Not that you’d want to be. But you COULD.

All you have to do is sneak a look at the content label and you can say “let me feel the goods,” take a puff on your cigar, roll your eyes skyward and say “that’s 50 percent cotton, 23 percent Orlon, ten percent Lycra and the rest is rayon.”

And, if you have the memory for this kind of thing, you will be right.

The rag trade has become far more complicated than it was in Uncle Phil’s day. They make cloth out of all kinds of strange stuff these days. And they give you washing instructions.

“Machine wash, delicate cycle, use only non-chlorine bleach, tumble dry medium. Use warm iron if necessary.”

Okay. You can throw a bunch of stuff in the washing machine and follow those directions pretty easily. But sometimes it gets way more complicated.

And the most complicated of the newly complicated are the no-iron pants. No one quite knows that those are made of. But if you follow the washing instructions and the drying instructions, you get a pair of pants out of the dryer that looks like the Worlds Greatest Ironer ironed them.

Thing is, the instructions are pretty complicated. Thing is if you don’t follow them to the letter, you get a mess.

And they’re not money savers, either.

First off, they cost more than regular pants. Secondly, you almost HAVE to wash them separately, which means using more water and more electricity or gas or both.

Then, you have to break habits. DON’T GO FOR THAT FABRIC SOFTENER!!!! Make sure you set the controls on the computerized, high tech washing machine and dryer properly. And most important of all: REMOVE PROMPTLY.

And they MEAN promptly. In fact, they mean INSTANTLY. In fact, you’d better be there before the machine stops or you’ll get…. Wrinkle city.

To the credit of the rag trade, they have the wrinkle free pants thing down pretty well. And some of them even have the wrinkle-free shirt thing down well, too. Some not.

Technology can make us all dress like Ken dolls.

Now if they could only do something about this certifiably non-wrinkle-free face.

Let me feel the goods.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Big Question

#257 The Big Question

The big question is not “will Mike Bloomberg run for President?” The big question is can you trust a guy who drinks weak coffee?

Can you trust a guy who wears a tie to work on “dress down Friday?”

Can you trust a guy who is less boring in person than he is while making a speech?

Can you trust a guy who swapped his chauffeur driven Cadillac for a Chevy Blazer when he remade himself from capitalist to candidate?

Probably, yes on most of those counts, except the coffee one.

So, then we get the Ed Koch Political Question (not “how’m I doin’?) It’s this: “Do you agree with me on, say, 50 or 60 percent of what I say? If so, you have to vote for me.”

To Koch, it was (and is) an equation: 100%-50% = Yes.

So, where does Mayor Mike stand on the issues? Pro gay, pro choice, pro workfare, pro business. So, the guy’s a pro.

The mayor was always a Democrat. Then, to avoid the idiotic New York City Democratic primary, always as confused and chaotic as a fire drill, he registered Republican. It’s okay for a billionaire to be a Republican. That’s pretty much what the old, original Republican Party was about.

But he doesn’t much act like a Republican.

Now, with the election of 2008 looming, Mayor Mike has bolted the Republican Party and joined…. And joined… nothing. A registered independent. (Ain’t to many of us around.)

Further positioning for a presidential run.

Last guy who did that flamed out. Ross Perot. Probably had no chance even if he were sane. Or projected an image of sanity. (Perception is reality!)

Mike is also a little nutty about some stuff (coffee, for one.) But he’s so dull, everyone listening to him thinks he’s both smart and sane. Smart, for sure. Sanity is a matter of degree. You have to be a little crazy to build the kind and size business he built. You have to be at least somewhat crazy to run for public office.

People who knew him in his middle class days say he hasn’t changed a bit. Except now he admits he’s short. Kind of like professional wrestling when it “admitted” it was fake. Everyone knew. No one was shocked.

What would a Bloomberg candidacy do? It might turn into a Bloomberg Presidency. On the other hand, it might also turn into a Mitt Romney or Fred Thompson Presidency.

(You can forget Giuliani. And you can forget a “subway series” election in which Bloomberg, Giuliani and Clinton are their parties’ or their non-parties “official” candidates. Ain’t gonna happen.)

You Mike credit, though. The city works better than it has in decades. And it was put in order without the hash that Giuliani created, the fighting, the factionalizing.

And America can use that kind of healing.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mike and Bill And Denis and Mike

#256 Mike and Bill and Denis and Mike

So, poor old Mike Nifong, former district attorney in North Carolina, resigns himself from the job while on the stand in a trial where they are proving he never should have had the job in the first place. And then he gets disbarred.

Mike’s taking the fall for his whole profession. Not justice. A scapegoat.

What he did was pretty simple: he assumed that a bunch of white northern boys would be the liars instead of the black stripper woman who danced at their party. And because they were Lacrosse players, and at a pretty big university, Duke, he figured he could make his prosecutorial and racial and political bones and get out of the small time, college town job he had and on to big stuff.

It’s pretty fashionable for a white southern guy to side black in a black-white case, these days. It’s a great political ploy. But he was out foxed. By truth. And by stupidity.

He never interviewed the “victim.” He never gave exonerating DNA evidence to the defense.

Mike’s a lousy lawyer. And he’s a lousy politician. So, if he’s a truly-loyal Good Old Boy, the machine, whichever machine put him into office, will find a little something for him to do until the air clears.

But he’s not alone.

Sensation seeking prosecutors (to borrow part of a phrase from David Brinkley,) abound. Always have. And they are dangerous.

William Cahn, once the towering DA in Nassau County, Long Island, New York got himself into a big mess over some missing money. He’d been on a roll. Dopers, gamblers, hookers, all fell before his prosecutorial prowess. Then he lost his license and his job. Shocking!

Another guy in the same job, Denis Dillon, Democrat turned Republican spent more time grandstanding at anti abortion rallies than he did in his office. And when he tried for an umpteenth term, the voters turned him out.

His successor, Kathleen Rice, Democrat, showed every sign of taking the Nifong Service Road, if not the Nifong Highway, by appointing a person to whom she’s close to what amounts to an almost- no show job at an inflated salary.

So where is the line between enthusiasm and zeal? There appears to be none.

But there is yet another side to this.

Here in Stonewall County we have our own little DA guy, Mike Merlot. He’s up there in court one day and he’s prosecuting this mostly-blind guy who doesn’t let that little thing get in the way of his driving a car, and who hit and killed another guy on a bicycle.

But Merlot is friends with a friend of the defendant. So, he prosecutes on one foot and the guy, instead of going to jail, goes to home incarceration. And not for long.

Abuse of power comes in several forms. It’s not only doing what you can do. It’s sometimes not doing what you can.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Friday, June 15, 2007

The News Conference

255 The News Conference

It’s about time the Washington press corps started asking some of the hard questions of our leaders.

The President gets up at that podium and invites questions, and gets mush-balls.

“Mister President, when will American Troops be leaving Iraq?”

“Mister President, are we planning to attack Iran?”

“…is inflation really a threat?”

“…how can we reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and what are you doing to bring down fuel prices?”

“…are you going to fire Gonzales? Rove?”

Total nonsense. Mush-balls designed to be countered by Presidential smokescreens. Wimpy.

One day, one of you bright lights, seeking to shine some of your own wattage on the true character and being-ness of this president.

“Mister President, how many States are there and what is each called?”

Think you’ll get a complete answer?

“Mr. President, what is the capital of Utah?”

“Mr. President, how big is Texas and is it the biggest state?”

“Mr. President, who was President the year you were born?”

“Mr. President, where is Tijuana?”

“A followup question if I may, Mr. President, on which coast of Venezuela is Tijuana?”

“Mr. President, have you switched to a single-malt scotch?”

“Mr. President, who fakes it better, Laura or Condi?”

Let’s see what’s really going on with this guy. We know he doesn’t know squat about Iraq or Iran or the War on Terra Firma or the economy – especially the economy – so let’s find out if he knows about his own staff, geography, history or the content of the beverages he claims no longer to drink.

After all, it’s Legacy Time. The term is winding down, and what’s he going to leave behind?

Verizon and AT&T have banded together to find a couple of old fashioned phone booths in which the Presidential Library will be located. Actually, there was some warring about that, too. The President wanted a used Good Humor Ice Cream truck. That would make it the first “books-on-wheels” Presidential Library. Plus if no one wanted to look at the Presidential stuff, they could at least get one of those Walnut Flake Good Humor bars.

Thing would roll through the streets, the little bells ringing, and kids would come out of the houses and look for ice cream, and the driver would say “sorry, kid, this is the George W. Bush Books-on-Wheels Presidential Library. Did you want to see the material on nucular destruction?”

Most Vice Presidents don’t get their own library. Cheney will. But it always will be closed. Too many secrets. And its location will be undisclosed. He’s good at “undisclosed.”

“Mr. President, how much does white bread cost?”

“A followup question, if I may, what is the price of a postage stamp?”

“Mr. President, may I see your license, registration and insurance card, please?”

“Mr. President, what was it like BEFORE the lobotomy? No, no, not yours, sir. Ours.”

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Coal Miners' Daughters

254 Coal Miners’ Daughters

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the single most idiotic Supreme Court decision in the lifetime of anyone reading or hearing this.

The Supremes rule that home care workers aren’t allowed to make overtime. Astounding.

The hardest working people in medicine, and the lowest paid, most of them immigrants, most of them impoverished, all of them trained and licensed. These are today’s coal miners.

Many work two and three shifts or partial shifts in a day. Sometimes they get carfare out of it in addition to their six or seven bucks an hour. If they do, it’s taxable income. Well, probably not really taxable because most of these women make so little money they don’t need to pay taxes.

So, now the Supremes rule that the normal time-and-a-half laws don’t apply. And who’s going to fight that? Who can?

This is a tough job. Coal mine tough. They’re dealing with aged, infirm people unable to care for themselves. That means people with no sanitary habits to speak of. These women are the first line of medical defense. But many of them are more housekeeper than nurse. And housekeepers get better money – and better hours.

How would you like to work from, say 7 in the morning until 10, then have to go home and come back at 3 or four and work another three hours?

How would you like to spend your days wiping the rear ends of a bunch of people either so out of it that they can’t do it for themselves or so nasty that they treat you like an intruder?

And the industry says “oh, we can’t pay overtime. It would bankrupt us.” And Medicare says the same. And Medicaid.

Awhile back, Congress (a Republican Congress) expanded the Fair Labor Standards act and the power of the Department of Labor to enforce it. At least that’s what the act was said to say. What it really did was gut the act and exempted one million people (yes, there are one million home health care workers) from its reach.

When the Act was first Acted, it covered this category. Now, no.

To be fair, not every home health aid and home attendant is denied overtime. Some are unionized (including those who work for the City of New York.) And those contracts usually specify things like time and a half for OT and short turnaround (that’s extra money if you return to work without more than a 12 hour break.) But that’s for relatively few. The overwhelming majority get straight time, no holidays, no vacations, no lunch breaks, no nuthin’.

The Labor Department sniffs that the decision is well within its discretion.

Compassionate conservatism in action.

The Supremes’ decision was unanimous. But Ruth Bader Ginsburg is quoted as saying “Isn’t it odd…” that the goal was to expand not contract coverage and that’s what they’re doing?

Yes, Ruthie. It IS odd. So why did you vote to go along?

Ever been in a coal mine?

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Fine Romance

253A Fine Romance

What did they call those notes the young girls wrote to the soldiers in World War II, saying a tearful goodbye? “A Dear John Letter?” This is one of those. But the recipient won’t take it hard as the receiving soldier must have, because this romance has been largely one sided for more than 60 years.

New York won’t notice it got the letter. But here it is.

It’s been forming for a long time. Maybe Christmas Eve on 34th Street put it over the top.

It was Rabat, or Delhi or St. Petersburg or Cairo that day. And Tijuana, Taipei, Tokyo and Seoul. And Port Au Prince, and the Seychelles.

The basic city hadn’t changed. The walls and buildings and streets were the same. But She put on new makeup and new costumes and the Old Boyfriend was out of place. Bull in a china shop? Fifth wheel on a Land Rover? Pine needles on an oak tree?

Such English as there was came with Boston and Montgomery and Des Moines and Lake Charles overtones.

Where were the “dees, dems and doze?” Where is Sadie from Orchard Street? Where is Gianni from Mulberry Street? Where is Mayor Van Wyck, and how come no one can say his name right anymore?

How can you walk on 125th Street and hardly see a black face?

How did the pushcarts get from the Lower East Side to Midtown?

New York’s importing Her mascara from Lahore, not Paris.

Does it make a difference? Not to Her, and in the long run, not to the Old Boyfriend, either.

Move on. It’s not the same place. It’s not the same time, it’s not the same city. Maybe a movie set of New York? Get over it.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2005, 2007

Friday, June 08, 2007

Low Tech

252 Low Tech

You’ve heard it before. You’ll probably hear it again. But low tech has fallen by the wayside, and that’s a problem. It’s a problem because you need it to make high tech works.

High tech we get. Low tech we don’t.

You know about the “big” examples: They send up a spaceship with all these modern engines and electronic tracking and navigating devices and then, the thing crashes to earth and kills people because of a bad “o ring” or bad glue on the high tech ceramic tiles that are supposed to keep the thing from burning up on re-entry.

The “Challenger” and the “Columbia” became flying death wagons because of faulty materials that have been successfully used elsewhere (and for next to no money) for a century. Glue and rubber.

Our 1971 Pontiac Grandville had a huge, powerful and (for its time) modern engine that functioned perfectly. It had an air conditioner and heater that was 30 or 40 years ahead of its time.

But the power seat failed in the first week, because a 59 cent rubber gizmo that held the pieces of the seat motor in place failed. You had to remove the seat (welding, nuts, bolts, tracks, upholstery, headrests) to get at the 59 cent rubber gizmo. It stayed broken for the next 100,000 miles.

Now, in the computer age, things are the same.

The electronic stuff works like a wonder. Sometimes a slow wonder, but a wonder, nevertheless. You can write. You can send and receive e-mail. You have access to most of the world’s accumulated knowledge on your desk and at your fingertips.

The operating systems have gotten to the point where the average guy or gal can fix them when the get stuck.

But not the power switch. It’s a low tech piece of junk, and when it gives way it can’t be fixed. And when it can’t be fixed, you can’t turn the machine on. And when you can’t turn the machine on, you might as well not have it.

A power switch. Under a quarter’s worth of low tech hardware. Similar “devices” have been in use since – when? – maybe the late 1920s. Basically unchanged since its invention.

A simple little thing with some metal contacts and a spring. A push button.

We took the computer to Big Buy’s Nerd Squad, which can fix anything to do with computers, or so they say.

Guess what? 25 cent power switches are not “…to do with computers.” It’s not that the kid didn’t try. He actually DID make it work, after a fashion. Of course, now instead of pushing a button, you have to stick your hand through a hole in the cabinet to turn the thing on or off.

Maybe we should be looking for a pull chain, like they have on bare bulb light fixtures.

They’ve been making THOSE for 90 years. Right there in a big cinderblock factory aside the tracks in the Sunnyside Rail Yard.

They never broke when they were accessible. Why would they break now?

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Representative Nein

251 Representative Nein.

He didn’t start life that way. His name when he was born was Benny Kerickov. But Benny soon got the nickname “Nein.” And it stuck.

As a kid, he was against everything. You were an A student, he was an F (a perfect score for his future career.) You were an F student, he was a C+ (never could get more than a B, and that was in art.)

“Benny, you want cereal for breakfast?” his mother would ask. “No,” he’d reply.

“Benny, your pal Arnie is here. Why don’t you two go play outside?”

“No. Inside.”

“Benny, it’s raining, get in the house.”


Later, his interest in politics started developing. You were a Republican, he was a Democrat. You were a Democrat, he was a Republican.

This changed more or less permanently when the Democrats asked him to run for City Council. “No. I’m a Republican.”

The Republicans didn’t invite him to join, so he stayed a Republican. But it didn’t matter. Councilman Nein never voted a strict party line. He just voted “Nein!”

Whatever was proposed, Nein opposed.

This brought notice from the state Republican Chairman who was wise and clever. One day he went to Benny and said “Nein, please don’t run for higher office.” And of course, Nein said “nein” and that started him on a career in the Statehouse.

The Chairman knew he had a winner. And Nein didn’t disappoint. He recently was invited to step down rather than running for an eleventh term. And, naturally, he declined the request, ran, won again and continues to this day to oppose everything.

Now, they’re thinking about running him for Congress, which – if they do it – they will do by telling him he cannot run for Congress. And Nein will say “nein” and run, and probably win.

There’s something to be said for this kind of consistency.

Nein really favors the war in Iraq and would have been in a terrible quandary if he were forced to oppose it with his vote. But that’s all passed, and he’s free, now, to oppose a war budget (“it’s a guaranteed tax increase.”) He’s free to vote against any expansion of social programs (cost too much.) Even can vote against establishment of National Bassett Hound Day (minority dog breeds should be afforded the same honors as majority breeds, like Labrador Retrievers, and they don’t have a special “day” named for them!)

He can oppose Republican nominees to the Supreme Court (too liberal.) He can oppose Democratic nominees (WAY too liberal.)

He can oppose pay raises for himself. (He knows the bill will pass, so he can vote “no” and look good to the constituents.)

But he’s never sponsored a bill (hasn’t figured out how to sponsor and oppose at the same time,) but once came close.

It was a measure that would have kept the voting records of State Representatives secret. “We can’t go to fast in letting the public know what we’re doing behind its back, now can we? We must be cautious,” said Nein.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sewerpipe And The Suits

#250 Sewerpipe And The Suits

One night a little after closing time, Sewerpipe walked out of The Store carrying about a dozen men’s suits. There were a couple of grey flannels in 42Regular, a 38Short in a nice striped tan, a few 40Longs in Charcoal and a couple of nice pinstripes in various regular and short sizes.

This wouldn’t be too terribly unusual, except that Sewerpipe didn’t exactly pay for the stuff, wears a size 50, himself, and doesn’t need suits because The Store pays for his, which is navy blue, with shoulder patches that say “Securit,” and have captain’s bars on the epaulettes.

Embarrassingly, Egan, who wears a 40Regular and is Sewerpipe’s boss, head of security, happened also to be in the parking lot, along with two squad cars of Nausia County police officers with guns drawn.

Do you see a nice pinstripe or orange jumpsuit in this guys future? He debated for a brief moment (not to be confused with a long moment,) and thought better of trying to make a run for it.

Sewerpipe, whom everyone called CAPTAIN Sewerpipe got his name because he was able to swear at the top of his gravel-toned basso for at least 20 minutes, without ever repeating a word.

But this did him no good in the parking lot that night, though he tried it.

This was in 1965 or 1966 when the dollar value of the suits was around $300 or $400. In 2007, the value was about two grand, maybe 2500.

In his house, they also found a half dozen pairs of shoes, size 12, which was Sewerpipe’s size. And they found a bunch of dresses and nightgowns which they later determined belonged to Mrs. Balloona, who was The Store’s Chief Telephone Operator, and who regularly visited Sewerpipes, apparently unknown to Mr. Balloona.

Plus a couple of air conditioners that were not counted in last month’s inventory report.

Poor Sewerpipe. He did a few months in the Nausia County Correctional Facility and when he got out, he had trouble finding work as a Captain of Security.

But Sewer is nothing if not resourceful.

He took an inventory of his skills (20 minutes of un-repetitive swearing, size 12 feet, some nice, but ill-fitting suits,) and decided his next stop should be the stock market.

Problem: you can’t make it big on Wall Street with suits from The Store. They fit like cheap suits. Especially if you’re a 50, wearing a 38Short.

So he’d have to actually BUY something. Maybe he could swap some of those air conditioners and Mrs. Balloona’s intimate underthings for enough to get something worth wearing to a job interview.

Or maybe he could be a professor of “Modern Culture” at a prestigious university. That’s somewhere those swearing skills can be put to good use. And no one will blink if a size 50 guy is wearing a size 38 suit. As long as it’s rumpled enough.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Friday, June 01, 2007


#249 Rude!

The Moote Pointe Chamber of Commerce is trying to solve this problem: People are getting ruder all the time. And, says the leader, Harold “Yep” Kornfeld, this has to stop.

So, here’s Yep and he wants to stop the onslaught of rudeness. Bad for business. Can’t figure out how that all happened.

Actually, it didn’t happen. It’s all a figure of Yep’s imagination. But there’s nothing like an imaginary enemy to mobilize the forces.

Sounds like Iraq, no? Well, Yep’s going to stay the course on this one.

He’s having a tough time selling it to his buddies, but they’ll come around.

But if what he’s saying is true – even a little bit, why?

Maybe it’s Reagan.

Sounds strange, right? Mister Courtesy himself to blame for an outbreak of rudeness?

“Well,” as The Gipper would say, let’s see if we can get to the bottom of this.

The conservative template says that each of us is an island, a land unto itself. It’s our job to take responsibility for our actions, and for our incomes and for our outcomes. Once accepted, the corollary is “if I can do this you can and SHOULD, too.”

Follow so far?

Nothing too wrong yet, right?

“You SHOULD TOO” turns into “You’re not as good as I.” Which turns into “you’re not worth being nice to, listening to or taking seriously.”

The Gipper would be horrified and mystified.

Yep is just dumbfounded.

But it isn’t surprising that the rugged individualists we’re supposedly encouraging get so rugged and so individualistic that they don’t have diplomatic relations with any other island.

So, where will this go from here if it continues along the same path?

Probably, it will mean that “no diplomatic relations” with other “islands” turns into hostilities with other “islands.”

This is not likely to generate the wave of civility that Yep thinks is lacking but that his cohorts seem not to see.

Does this make Yep ahead of his time, or behind it?

In order for there to be an epidemic of courtesy (REAL courtesy, not the kind of phony stuff you get from people who are trying to sell you something) we’re going to start have to seeing value in others for their own sake and not for what they can do for us.

This is not a concept that sits well with today’s rugged individualists.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

4744 The Running of the Bull

  Newsday Photo   A bull escaped from a farm in Moriches on New York’s Long Island and has been playing hide and seek ever since.  It’s not ...