Friday, February 28, 2014

1298 A Gay Old Time in Arizona

We’re told that when a dog bites a person, that’s not news, but it IS when a person bites a dog.

Jan Brewer has bitten a dog.  Brewer is governor of Arizona, and the dog she bit was her fellow Republicans, who had tried to pass a law letting businesses withhold services for gays on religious grounds.

Things got so heated out in the already over-warm desert, that even some of the legislators who backed the bill saw the light.

When Brewer vetoed the anti-gay bill, she did the right thing.  Not entirely for the right reason, but nevertheless, the right thing.

If the bill had become law, it wouldn’t have caused a massive cutoff of gay customers.  A few yahoos in the sticks and maybe a few in the big cities would have put up the “no gays need apply” signs.
Not much else would happen.

But what company wants to be seen as being bigots?  None -- even if they are. So all kinds of people would have stopped doing business in Arizona.

And what would come next in a state that would pull something like this?

Separate but equal schools?  Straight-only drinking fountains? Slavery?

No… the bill would have been a terrible step in the wrong direction, immoral in the broader picture.

Furthermore, your average gay guy or lesbian woman does not exactly wear a yellow Nazi style armband declaring their sexual orientation.

And to the best of our knowledge, even the National Security Agency with its apparently all-knowing spy capacity can’t tell that from afar.

Of course, modern technology may actually lead to an eventual gay-dar, similar to the metal detectors that are popping up like dandelions or mushrooms.  But for now, you have to rely on instinct and that’s not awfully reliable.

Barry Goldwater, the late US Senator from Arizona and grandfather of the modern libertarian movement was spinning in his grave.  

Goldwater also was a World War II military pilot.  Asked late in life about whether he’d accept a gay gunner on his crew… he said something to the effect that as long as the guy knew how to shoot at a Messerschmidt, he didn’t care what else he was.

So the questions are: is a gay man’s money green?
And as a business owner, do you want him to spend it at your place or your competitor’s?

At least the proponents came out of their own closet.  Now, we know who you are.


--Leaders of some anti-gay groups say they will continue to “fight for religious freedom.” Thus is written another page to The Good Book of Stuffing Our Religious Beliefs Down Your Throat.  Throw anti-gay into the same cauldron as some of the other things they want stopped and are chipping away at.

--Misreading the will of the people has become a competitive sport.  That’s because politicians generally preach only to the choir.  But sometimes the sopranos don’t vote the same way as the altos.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

1297 Table Talk

Time was, waiting tables was both respectable and a profession. Today it’s students and the occasional out of work actor.

And rather than calling someone a waiter or waitress, they’re all “servers.”  I dislike the word. It implies servitude.

But in the age of gender neutrality, why not just call them all “waiters.”  Very few people identify with “poetess” or even “actress.”  They’re poets and actors.

But I digress.

In restaurant world, everyone follows a script. Good practice for those out of work actors.

It starts when you enter.  The person who greets you will ask something like “just two tonight?”

Usually, you mumble yes.  But sometimes, aren’t you tempted to say “no, we’re a party of 41.  The other 38 are outside trying to help the bus driver squeeze into one of your microscopic parking spaces.”

Once at the table, “Amanda” or “Bob” will announce that she or he is Amanda or Bob and “I’ll be helping you tonight.”

You order your drinks.  The answer, right out the script is “no problem.”  You nod or mumble.  But you wonder what WOULD be a problem.

Eventually the drinks come.  Undoubtedly the ice is melting in the ginger ale and the beer has lost its head, the coffee is either scalding hot or -- even worse -- luke warm.

But that’s … NO PROBLEM.  I’ll just freshen that up for you.  

Drink half the coffee and you’ll be asked “can I warm that up for you?” Which means “Do you want me to pour a little more in the cup so it’s not quite so tepid?”

Next, it’s time to order your meal.  The waiter wants to know what kind of dressing you want on your salad.  Bleu cheese?  No problem.

Then after the meal arrives, the waiter counts to 50 while thumbing through the book of secret lingo and returns to your table to ask “everything okay?”  You say “yes,” and he or she disappears.  Or if there is a problem, it’ll get solved with a happy “no problem.”

When the main course is over, the waiter is required by both state and federal law to say “may I get that out of your way?”

Yes! Get it out of our way so we can put up the ping pong net and have a quick game before we leave.

Open the book to the last chapter where you find another important phrase:  Anyone thinking about dessert?

You pay the check. The waiter wishes you a good night and you answer “no problem.


--A huge, private apartment complex called “The Stonehenge” on 97th near Amsterdam recently spent about $5 million to build an on site health club but won’t let residents in rent stabilized apartments held over from the old Mitchell-Lama moderate income days use it. The tenants’ association is taking them to court with the blessing of Public Advocate Letitia James, saying it violates New York City’s income discrimination law.  Sixty percent of the residents are affected by the ban.


-Should you want to give the owner, Stonehenge Partners, a piece of your mind, the company’s business address is 888 7th Avenue 10106, near Carnegie Hall, their phone number is 212 750 0707 and the CEO’s name is Ofer Yardini.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

1296 The Pain in Ukraine

First let’s ask: why be concerned about this civil war in a place no one here cares about?

Then let’s answer with a question:  why be concerned about similar situations in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Well, some of those nasties in the Middle East have the potential to do us harm or supply us with oil.

Combine this with our thirst for oil and our not-so recently developed need to interfere with countries whose policies are none of our business, and we have at least the embryo of an excuse.

And as soon as there’s an embryo around here…

Ukraine will not invade the US.  They won’t bomb the Freedom Tower or the Pentagon.  They are not trying to impose religious law either there or here. They don’t have enough oil to export.  And while they’re a major supplier of cooking oils, we don’t really NEED any from them.

The US doesn’t yet have a firm policy on the fighting.  All we know is that Putin wants to dominate Kiev as the Russians had for centuries before the rise and fall of the Soviet Union.  And Obama isn’t happy with that notion, and shouldn’t be.

The Ukraine rebels themselves want closer ties with western Europe and fewer strings leading to or from Moscow.

These are people who want something close to democracy… as opposed to some countries in which we meddle and that don’t.

So what’s stopping us from getting more involved on the side of the pro-democracy forces?

Probably there are several reasons.  We feel safe from the Ukrainian menace.  We never think about that part of Europe.  And -- most of all -- we don’t want to mess up our startlingly cordial relationship with Czar Comrade Commissar KGB Putin.

Russia is the largest country in the world and one of the most populous.  It also is a third world country, once you get out of Moscow and St. Petersburg.  And for the time being from Sochi. Putin is playing “superpower catch-up.” But he realizes he can’t do it with an army, so he does it with diplomacy, a trick which we talk about but only occasionally do.

Oh… and since World War II, we have kind of pulled back involvement in countries where the people look like many of us.


--For you Long Islanders planning to move to Florida, hold on and you might not have to travel 1500 miles to get that sinkhole you crave. One opened up under a woman, Gayle Sorrentino… in her driveway in Rockville Centre… while her car was in it… and she was in her car.  Other than some scratches and dents, car and driver were okay.

--The garden shop lied.  That seven foot icicle that just fell off the side of the house was sold as an annual, not a perennial. This year, it was back and even taller and fatter than usual, and tore off an even bigger chunk of plastic siding when the bloom was off the ice.

-Missed Leno… tried Fallon… still not funny… switched to Letterman… not funny anymore… switched off the TV… read Borowitz… not funny often enough… read Robert Benchley… still funny.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

1295 George Washington

Tomorrow, Saturday, February 22nd would be President Washington’s 282nd birthday.  But we’ve monkeyed with the calendar since his day.

So as far as he was concerned, he was born on February 11, 1731.  That would make him 283 years old and would put his birthday adjacent to president Lincoln’s... only much earlier.

And that would make a dandy Presidents’ Day holiday.  

As it is, we have lumped all the presidents together and Presidents Day became one of those dumb floating holidays designed to give us three day weekends.

You may be old enough to remember when Washington’s birthday was a national holiday.  But in 1971 Congress threw all those guys, past, present and future into the mixmaster and what came out was the current mush.

It was kind of nice to honor our first president singly.

And if today’s congress had been in power in 1971, we still would be... because it couldn’t have gotten anything that important done.  

But times were different and so was the presidency.

Nixon was in office then.  And he probably favored the change because he likely knew his administration would at some point collapse and that would be the end of any honors… except this one.

There are different takes on who this holiday actually honors.  We take it to mean all the Presidents.  But some people say it’s still Washington’s Birthday. Some say it’s Washington and Jefferson, some say it’s Washington and Lincoln.

Lincoln never got much recognition in what we now call the former Confederate states.  Not then, and not now, either.

If they’re going to relegate Washington to one face in a crowd, why not go all the way and make it Founders’ Day.  Throw in all those early Americans and the brothers and cousins and family spokesmen.

Why let Alexander Hamilton go uncelebrated.  Or Franklin Pierce.  Or Benjamin Franklin. Or Franklin Roosevelt.

Think of the cabinet members we could throw into this mob.  

And what about the first ladies?  Martha?  Who remembers her? Mary Todd Lincoln?  Abigail Fillmore? Jackie Kennedy? Pat Nixon? Nancy Reagan? Michelle Obama?

Didn’t they all have meaningful contributions?  Not everyone could be Eleanor Roosevelt.  But still…

After all, Washington didn’t do it all alone.  England was too big a cherry tree for one man to chop down … especially with those wooden choppers … or were they ivory?

Shrapnel Bridge, tunnel and airport edition:

--The George Washington Bridge is one of the few in greater New York that people actually call by name.  No one ever called the 59th Street Bridge by its real name, the Queensboro, nor do they call it its new real name, the Ed Koch Bridge.  And does anyone call the Tri Borough Bridge the RFK?
--The local tunnels don’t have that problem, maybe because they were named sensibly to begin with.  Lincoln, Holland, Brooklyn Battery, Queens Midtown.  And does anyone call the airport between Newark and Elizabeth “Newark Liberty International?”

--In Metro Washington, they may at some point resurrect the statue of John Foster Dulles that originally “graced” the airport named for him.  It’s in a storeroom next to baggage claim.  Appropriate for one of America’s leading pieces of baggage.


-The Tappan Zee Bridge was named for a line of sea going kitchen stoves.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

1294 Michael Dun_

There’s a fourth letter in the guy’s last name.  Mostly it’s a second “n.” But feel free to substitute the letter “g.”

Dun_ is the Florida software engineer with the schizo verdict in his trial in Jacksonville.

Some headlines trumpet his conviction, some trumpet his mistrial.  Both are true.

Let’s explain.  Dun_ shot and killed a 17 year old black kid who was a passenger in a car in which loud rap music complete with booming, earth-shaking bass was playing at top volume.

This is established fact.

Dun_ wasn’t convicted of murder.  That charge ended in a hung jury. And as of now, prosecutors haven’t decided whether to re-try.

He was convicted of second degree attempted murder because he shot at the music car as it fled carrying some living black kids and one dead one.

Dun_ killed Jordan Davis and there’s no doubt about that.  But his feeble, cheap and shabby claim of self defense because he was in fear of his life is… well … feeble, cheap and shabby.

The defense brought forth character witnesses that said Dun_ was a good guy.  It would have been instructive if the character witnesses had character witnesses and to hear what they had to say.

But here’s where the prosecution dropped the ball.  The pro- witnesses’ testimony opened the door to the presenting of anti- character witnesses.  The district attorney had at least one who thought Dun_ was a hot tempered guy with a gun problem.

Dun_’s jailhouse e-mails and phone calls showed an anti young black male attitude. But those were after the killing and could not be put in evidence.

Three things can happen as of this writing.  Because of the mistrial, Dun_ can be retried on the first degree murder charge.  Or he can cop a plea.  Or the DA can drop the case.

Smart money is on option two, which would include a guilty plea.

On the stand, the defendant was what some call haughty or snooty. He was obviously well prepared and probably well rehearsed.  If that was his opening act, you can expect more of the same at a second trial.

There’s nothing in his pre trial, on trial or post trial behavior that even hinted at remorse.  He appears to believe he was in the right.

Yeah, right.

A retrial with a guilty verdict would have no practical effect.  The guy is going to jail and will spend the next 60 years yelping about his innocence. And filing appeals.  And maybe attending parole hearings.

Which brings us to question the value of prisons, many of which are called correctional institutions.  What they most seem to correct is an inmate's failure at crime by schooling him in better technique.

A guy who’s in for burglary often comes out with a degree for grand theft auto or bank robbery.

A guy who’s in for rape comes out with an advanced degree in rape, or maybe even a doctorate in murder.

When a guy pumps a bullet into an unarmed kid and goes unpunished for it doesn’t need correction, the rest of us do.  And that’s why they send these guys away in the first place.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ℠
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© WJR 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

1293 What's a Lifetime?

Do you check the spam folder in your email?  I do. Mostly, just the titles and then I dump the stuff.

But one sure got my attention the other day.  The subject line said “Your free lifetime membership is about to expire.”

Let me say that again:  Your free lifetime membership is about to expire.

Do they know something that I don’t know?

They don’t give an actual date.  So maybe this is just one of those “the world will end at the expiration of the Mayan Calendar” things.  Or a prediction from a radio or television evangelist.

But I have to tell you, it was scary.

First because I don’t remember ever signing up for a free lifetime membership in anything, nor do I have any record of having done so.

But more to the point… is this a death threat?  If so, it doesn’t much matter.  People in my line of work get those all the time.  Usually, they’re written in crayon or extra-wide magic marker.  And on napkins.  And with no return address on the envelope.

But it sure does give one pause.

So if you don’t hear from me for a few days… in lieu of flowers, send a contribution to your favorite can shaker in front of the big box store.

Which brings us to another question about the word “lifetime.”  Which lifetime are they talking about when they offer a lifetime guarantee… not that anyone does much of that these days?

One place that does is Lands’ End, which Sears hasn’t quite wrecked yet but not for a lack of trying.

Their guarantee is two words, “Guaranteed. Period.”  So does that mean if you wear a shirt until the collar frays or a pair of pants until the seat shines like that moonlit mackerel they’ll take it back and send you a replacement?

Apparently yes.  So buying the shirt or pants is more like a subscription to a shirt or pants.  

Do people do that?  Yes.  Not many.  But some.  Would you? Probably not.

This started as a gimmick back in the company’s early and independent days.  For the rest of buyable stuff, do  they mean YOUR lifetime, or the lifetime of the product?

If the product, what is its life expectancy?

I have a 100-year old guitar whose maker offered a lifetime guarantee.  Did it expire at the end of his life which was something like 40 years ago?  Does it expire at the same time as my lifetime membership? If the thing is a century old and still works fine, what is ITS lifetime? And where do I go for a repair or replacement if the thing collapses?

I’m confused.


-We’re still reeling over the Michael Dunn verdict and will deal with it in this space Wednesday.


--The independent investigator’s report on bullying among the Miami Dolphins is out and comes squarely down on the side of a black player, Jonathan Martin, and against white teammate Richie Incognito and two other players.  Martin quit the team during the incidents. The Dolphins thus far have announced no sanctions against the three accused but issued a statement saying it wants to lead the league in efforts to abolish this stuff.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014

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 ...