Friday, May 29, 2015

1492 Church on Sunday or Jail on Monday

Meet the Ultimate Church lady, Sylvia Allen.

Ms. Allen is the president pro tempore of the Arizona state senate where she represents her home town, Snowflake.  And she’d like it if you went to church every Sunday.  In fact, she’d like it so much that she’d make it a crime not to.

She also is a Republican “activist.” Among her activities: (allegedly) violating the state’s “clean elections law” on behalf of her son-in-law, charged with improper conduct with female inmates whom he supervised as a detention officer.  Always nice to have your mother-in-law on your side.

So, messing with incarcerated women isn’t a crime. But missing church is.

Now why would a frumpy grandma type with hair the color of dollar store red and highlights by Sherwin-Williams or Crayola, someone you might mistake for a middle school cafeteria lady, want such a law?  Why to fight gun violence, of course.

Huh? Well, she says the real problem is corrupted souls.  Going to church once a week would be just like going through the car wash. At gunpoint.

Three things come to mind:  

--You can’t clean up in a soul-wash.
--You can’t establish an official church.
--You can’t run around clucking about getting the government off your back by clucking to get the government on your back.

Doesn’t the US constitution just say no to establishment of official religion?  Doesn’t that apply to states as well? (It does.)

But, she says, her proposed law doesn’t specify a religion, only forced attendance somewhere. And she wants it even if it’s unconstitutional.  Even if it’s unconstitutional enough for Scalia to oppose.

And,  Sylvia, what about those who observe the sabbath but not on Sunday?  Like Arizona’s Jews (both of them) and Arizona’s Seventh Day Adventists (they’re out there somewhere) and Arizona’s Muslims (ask the FBI, they’re on a first name basis with all of them.)

Arizona is the Hudson County, New Jersey of the southwest.  Hence, we get special people like Evan Mecham or John McCain and 23 politicians convicted of federal corruption charges over a ten year period.

This proposal has no chance of becoming law. And Sen. Snowflake knows that.  You want to go to church, of course go to church.  You want not to? Fine. Make room in the pew for someone who won’t fall asleep during the sermon.

Grapeshot (who cares edition):

-Question for Dennis Hastert:  Where does a former high school wrestling coach get all that money in the first place?

-George Pataki and Rick Santorum have declared they are candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.

-The governing body of soccer may be corrupt, say investigators in Switzerland and the US but the real problem isn’t Fifa, it’s Qatar.


--Here’s a job you don’t often see in the classifieds or on Craig’s List: Executioner.  Saudi Arabia is advertising for eight to add to its staff. Experience helpful but will train promising beginner… own Kubikiribōchō and accessories, please.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

1491 Your Phone Records

The battle of the bids is underway.  The NSA has been ordered to wind down its collection of everyone’s phone records.

Time-Life records and K-tel are already in Maryland, ready for the auction of rights to produce the compilation CDs. iTunes is expected.  So is YouTube. Pandora is planning a whole new channel for them and Netflix can’t be far behind.

K-tel is famous for its vinyl records.  They wore out in two weeks even if you didn’t play them.  When digital media came along the company spent $40 million to develop a CD that would wear out in a month.  They never could match the short life span of their LPs.

Time-Life is already preparing a script for the hour- long infomercial.  They’ve hired the washed up politicians, Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin instead of the washed up rock stars they usually use.

Dick and Sarah will sit and reminisce about the wonderful days of yesteryear when everyone’s phone calls were secret, but weren’t.
Remember that call you made to Sardi’s?  Yes, the one where you made reservations for a Thursday evening.  Or that pizza or Chinese takeout order you placed just last week?  They’re all going to be there on this set of 18 CDs.   So will be those calls you got from the collection agency and from the cops asking you to pick up your children and bring along $5,000 in bail money.

But wait.  There’s more!  The first 10-thousand people who call will receive this free BONUS CD, “Calls of the Rich and Famous.”

Tracks will include Jeff Zucker’s call to Jay Leno telling him his show was moving to prime time.  You’ll hear David Koch sing “Happy Birthday” to his estranged twin brother Bill, and both Charles and David singing “Happy Birthday” to their estranged older brother, Fred.

You’ll hear Cary Grant and Randolph Scott on the phone fighting over the affections of some waiter from the Coconut Grove.

So, eventually, you’ll be able to buy the data and a handy guide to which number belongs to which person.

But this is going to mean a slight bump in the unemployment rate.  It takes 852 NSA employees to collate all the information.  And when they’re done, they’ll have nothing else to do.  So they’ll be tossed away and forbidden from listing their former jobs on their resumes.  National Security remains a worry.


--This got a lot of Facebook traffic, but in case you missed it: the PacSun incident angers me but not for the usual reason. The flag turned upside down is an approved distress signal, and who can deny this country is in deep distress? The backlash over the shirt is itself a perfect example of the fatal combination of ignorance and stupidity that's killing us.

-- Our old fave Sick Rantorum is to declare for the Republican presidential nomination today and we can hardly wait. The aging frat boy is always fun to cover because he’s so quotable.  Here’s one beautiful head-scratcher: “...a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion.”

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

1490 Antisocial Media

It’s time for us cranks to get our own version of Facebook or Twitter. The only problem left is what to call it.

The easiest out is Back-of-the-Head Book.  Or maybe A*s Book.  Or Heelbook. But two of those are awkward and the one in the middle is mildly offensive. And, goodness gracious, we wouldn’t want to offend anyone, would we?  (Well, yes we would, but that doesn’t attract the right kind of advertising.  And running a runaway website isn’t cheap.)

Get-Your-Dog-Off-My-Lawn Book?  Nah. Tough to say.

Okay. We’ll try to resolve that issue later.  Now about content.

We define the page not by what you can post but what you can’t.  

No pictures of kids under 18.  That’s not an age of consent issue.  It’s a cuteness issue.  You may think your kids are cute, but they aren’t.  Who wants to see them perform in the fourth grade presentation of Camelot?  Or hit the foul balls in Tinyleague Baseball. Or showing their honor society diplomas from the Mary Soakem Charter School.

Throwback Thursday is banned. You weren’t any cuter back in Miss Murray’s fourth grade class picture than your kids are today.  And nobody wants to see that picture of you and the rest of the staff at Carvel from 1970.

Food pictures are banned.  No one wants to see how well you barbecue.  No one wants to see a plate of mystery vegetables you ate at the Lucky Golden Chopstick on Stockton St. during your visit to San Francisco.  Or the positively delicious sandwich you had at Up And Down Burger in Circleville, Ohio.

Pet pictures are banned. Puppies and kittens do cute things.  But they all do the same cute things.  You’ve seen one cat chase a dust mite, you’ve seen them all.  You’ve seen a Schnauzer or Yorkie with the caption “He thinks he’s human,” and wearing something that looks like a human expression or the latest fashion coat and hat from Pets R Us, you’ve seen them all.

Nobody cares about your wedding, your anniversary, your senior prom, your catered divorce.

Nobody wants your war stories, your illness stories, your tax worries, your political views or you crossing the finish line in the 5k Run for Ingrown toenails.  Even if you win.  Even if you’re over 75 or under 15 or have bladerunner blades instead of feet. Especially if you have blades for feet.

The question is: what DO you put on Crankbook?  Cranky stuff, maybe.  Or better yet, nothing.


-Today is Memorial Day, at least officially, and we thank the men and women who died in wartime, especially those who served against their will in unnecessary shooting matches too numerous to mention.  

-They’re coming out with a new humane weapon, the Tickle Taser, so when the cop tases you, you fall over in gales of laughter giving them a chance to cuff you, and beat the tar out of you while you’re still conscious.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

1489 Small Surprises and Little Treats

It doesn’t take much to amuse and delight us these days.  That may be because so much is wrong with so much that shouldn’t be, we elevate minor relief to the status of cure.

Here’s one example of a “little treat.”  There’s no ad on a webpage that says “click to skip this ad.” It’s like getting away with something.

Or you find a $20 bill on the street.  You look but can’t see someone nearby who might have dropped it.  Pennies from heaven.

Here’s an example of a small surprise:  the optometrist says you don’t need new glasses. That’s almost as good as finding the pregnancy test turned out the way you wanted it to.

We focus on the small picture because we don’t know what to do with the big picture.

When you find the 20, you know what to do: search for its owner and be pleased when you can’t find him or her.
If you were to hear that Rush Limbaugh’s cochlear implants attracted a fatal lightning strike on the golf course… then, what? A momentary jolt of electricity may bring a momentary jolt of happiness, but then no matter how you dislike the guy, you feel sorry for him.

When Hillary withdraws from the presidential primary you’re glad for a moment but then you miss her.  Something’s not right.  (Don’t say it.  Your “I won’t miss her” thought waves already have reached here.)

Little surprises for the customer is what drove you to a Japanese or Korean car brand.  It wasn’t just the birth of cupholders that Detroit had ignored; not even the heated seat.  It was things like the way the rainwater is directed off the roof so it doesn’t leak into the poorly sealed trunk.

The next auto company that wants to make a splash will find a way to easily disassemble the headlight fixture, easily remove and replace the bulb at something less than today’s prices… which are high enough to have paid for you first car back in 19xx.

Some surprises are absences.  You vote for the candidate who does not knock on your door and talk your ear off and he wins.

The deposit clears early and none of your checks bounce.

Long life guitar strings don’t die young.

Small surprises and little treats.  Like finding you hadn’t actually finished the ice cream in the freezer and you can do that now.


--Bank robbers can also mean banks that rob. Like the five families of banking now in the hot seat for manipulating the currency market.  But you have to give them credit for actually figuring out how the currency market works well enough to game it.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

1488 There's Something About Waco

They think big in Texas.  Even in little Waco, population about 130- thousand. The crime rate there is big and tall.  And the murder rate just grew a little to keep up with the robberies, burglaries, car thefts and rapes.

The motorcycle gangs and other religious zealots have a way of finding Waco which statistically is the ninth least safe city in America.

Make no mistake, Bikerism is a religion and one with many denominations. And as in other faiths, there are factions that don’t get along.

But the denominations are practical. They share a motto, “convert or die. Or maybe just die.”

Thus when a peace conference deteriorated into nine murders, a lot of us said “oh, that’s just Bikerists being Bikerists.”

Now the cops, some of whom are themselves Bikerists, have rounded up 170 people to charge with murder.
One hundred seventy “suspects.” They think big in Texas.

The arrest scene was peculiar. Where else would you find such a group of murderers sitting around smoking and talking on their cellphones and to one another?  No one was thrown on the ground and cuffed. No one was Tasered or shot.

They can’t even get resisting arrest charges against these men. No one resisted.

Some have decided this is a good example of how police treat white people compared with how they treat African Americans.

“Oh, but wait,” you might say. “These are simply sportsmen who got together to knock heads and it has nothing to do with the way police treat people of differing races.”

Yes and no.

There’s no doubt there’s a difference -- generally -- in the way the races are treated.  But at the same time, there isn’t.

In 1993, after a months- long standoff federal agents stormed the Branch Davidian compound near Waco. In the gunbattle that followed, four agents and six members of the cult or sect were killed and dozens wounded or injured. The compound was destroyed --razed-- by fire.  White on white violence. Cop on civilian violence.  

A few people who escaped the burning compound were arrested. They were cuffed. They were taken away in prowl cars and paddy wagons.

And yes, Bikers and The Branch are entirely different flavors of cuckoo. Each had its own brand of nastiness and neither should have been left to its own devices. Yet overreaction in ‘93 and underreaction now were not based entirely on race.

The events were separated by 22 years.  But no matter, because both show there’s something about Waco.

-Here’s hoping the pope polishes up his spoken Italian so the next time he greets the head of a terrorist faux state we know whether he said “you are an angel of peace” or just “you could become an angel of peace.”

-Why don’t they make it easy on every driver by recalling every Takata airbag made since the invention of airbags?

-Reminder: tonight is David Letterman’s final broadcast.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

1487 How to Know Your Candidate

Presidential election fever is sweeping the land. Never mind that voting is more than a year away.  The political process has become like the Christmas sales at Megamart only worse.

Those start only two months early.  

The Presidential field already is crowded. And more will be upon us well before the end of summer. It’s harder than ever to tell the difference among them.

So here’s a suggestion, something used by one of the smartest and prolific marketers in the country, NASCAR.  When the drivers suit up and put on the headgear, you  couldn’t tell one from the other if they weren’t wearing the logos or names of the corporate sponsors.

Turn on a race.  You’ll see Pennzoil, Cheerios, Office Depot, M&Ms, Skittles, DuPont, Dodge, Burger King, Red Bull, Old Spice, Miller Beer, Budweiser, Go Daddy and on and on.

Let’s get jumpsuits for the candidates.  Then you’ll know who’s paying the freight. Hypothetically:

Koch Industries for Rubio, for example or maybe for Cruz.
Johnson & Johnson for Ben Carson.
Jim Beam for Rand Paul.
Diabetes Solution for Mike Huckabee.
Skull and Bones for Jeb Bush.
Exxon for Rick Perry.
CableVision for George Pataki.
BMW for Lindsey Graham.
Rosebud Coal Mines for Rick Santorum.
British Petroleum for Bobby Jindal.
Madoff Investments for Scott Walker.
Premier Radio Networks for Carly Fiorina.
Ryanair for Peter King.
Comcast for Donald Trump.
That’s not all of them… but that’s enough for now.

Then there are the Democrats:
Baldwin Piano for Hillary Clinton.
The Nation magazine for Bernie Sanders.
ReMax of Newport for Lincoln Chafee.
Smithfield Ham for Jim Webb.
Potomac Edison for Martin O’Malley.
Al Jazeera America for Al Gore.
Victoria’s Secret for Joe Biden.

Okay, boys and girls, suit up.

Some of these candidates are recognizable even without the uniforms.  Trump, Fiorina, Carson, Jindal, Clinton, Gore, Biden, Sanders.  But most of the rest of them look pretty much alike.

If you saw Walker, Santorum, Chafee, O’Malley and Graham in a group photo, could you identify them? Maybe.  But probably not.

So thanks, NASCAR.  You’ve given us something almost as good as fingerprints and DNA to identify this crowd of whistlers and jugglers.  We love to know who or what is behind the people who pretend to have our best interests at heart.

A political race is not nearly as exciting as an auto race or for that matter a horse race.  But showing the candidates’ true colors makes things easy for those of us who are not fans of the sport.

-Some of the uniforms come with fringes.

-Chances are one of the people mentioned here is going to be the next president and that’s truly frightening.

-George Stephanopoulos still has his job, proving the Walt Disney Company not only created Fantasyland but lives in it.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015

1486 vArizOL

At least they’re not calling it a merger.  Verizon is buying America On Line, AOL, for $4.4 (B) Billion.  Well at least that’s the advertised price.  But it doesn’t include sales tax, federal fees, FCC usage, local fees, company surcharges, federal and state surcharges.

Like your bargain phone plan… the one they advertised for $80 a month, but actually costs you $125.  Revenge is sweet.

Verizon has a case of Comcast envy.  If a common carrier can buy a major broadcast network, then why not a major senior citizen of a web company.

Vertically integrated media and communications companies are nothing new. RCA was among the originals.  Its goal was to make or own everything between the live performer and the live listener.  

Hence it made transmitters, microphones, cameras, radios, record players, TV sets. And it owned NBC whose programs all that stuff carried.

(It also made missile guidance systems, presumably so that if you tuned to CBS, they could bomb your house.)

Verizon wants the whole of AOL.  Arianna Huffington may think otherwise.  After selling her web-based news aggregation site to AOL for $300 million, she tried to buy it back and failed.  The Huffington Post is now worth about $1 billion by some estimates, or almost a quarter of the bill AOL will send to Verizon.

It’s lost on them that when HuffPost sold, an awful lot of the worker bees and much of the brain trust moved on to Buzzfeed.

AOL at its peak was the joke of the internet.  But it helped turn the busy signal into a secondary national anthem.  It was the biggest air pocket in the tech bubble.

Then it bought Time Warner and started demolition,  stopped sending free trial discs by the millions and got serious about being what we now call a “content provider” and a messaging service.

Verizon’s main telephone competitor, AT&T wants to buy the satellite TV provider DirectTV.  The satellite service Dish Network offers internet service from the sky.  So Verizon must think it’ll be left holding an empty bag if it doesn’t do, well, something.

The real winners in these consolidations are the lawyers and bankers.  Even mighty telephone companies find it hard to dip into savings and come up with four billion otherwise untargeted dollars.  And deals like these don’t get done on a handshake.

The customers sometimes win, too.  But not often. Has anyone noticed that at $4.4 billion, AOL is overvalued?  That there’s little chance Verizon will recoup its investment during the lifetime of anyone now old enough to read this story?

Makes you long for the good old days of the ever-present busy signal.

--In hoity toity salons of Very Serious Journalism, NBC is taking a lot of flak for having Lester Holt anchor Nightly News from a helicopter above the Philadelphia train wreck of a train wreck.  But part of the job of journalism sometimes includes pull your eyes toward the story. And sometimes it takes a bold move that leaves viewers saying “hey, did-ja see THAT?”

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

1485 An Enemy Within

One thing you can say about George Zimmerman.  Two things actually.  One: he’s a trouble magnet. But two: He must really charm the ladies.

You remember George, right? He’s the Floridian who was convicted of not murdering black teen Trayvon Martin in 2013.  Martin was the unarmed kid who Zimmerman decided was a menace because he was (a.) in a mostly white neighborhood after dark. (b.) he was wearing a dark hoodie and (c.) he was carrying a suspicious package.  And you know kids today, they’re good at making weapons out of anything… even an innocent looking package of Skittles.

Earlier this week, someone took a shot at Loveable George. Whoever it was seemed not to realize that it’s not so easy to pick a guy off when he’s behind the wheel of his car.  Unlike TV shows, the bullet doesn’t always make a clean roundish hole surrounded by spiderwebs in the safety glass.  Sometimes it just kind of blows through the windshield like a brick.

And that’s what happened in this case. Loveable George was showered in shards of windshield. Cuts. But no bullet hole in the head.  The emergency room people treated him and sent him on his way.

Cops “like” a guy with whom Zimmerman had “a road rage incident” some time back, one George Apperson. Apperson said at the time Loveable George threatened to kill him and exclaimed “do you know who I am?”

While we wait for further legal complications and other clouding devices, let’s take a look at that “charming the ladies” thing.

Lady #1: George’s ex wife, Shellie Zimmerman.  She first reported that just after she filed for divorce --  right after the Martin shooting -- he smashed an iPad in their home.  Shellie told the 911 operator George had a gun.  Later she said he didn’t.  Charmed into truth telling? A regular Rudolph Valentino, he is.

Lady #2: Former girlfriend Brittany Brunelle reported that Ole’ Loveable threw a wine bottle at her. The Associated Press says she later recanted and refuses to cooperate.  Charmed into submission?  A regular James Dean is he.

Lady #3: Another girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, charged that Mister Charm smashed her coffee table, pointed a gun at her and threw her out of the house they shared, followed by her furniture.  Court papers say she later recanted and refuses to cooperate.  Charmed back into Loveable’s Loving arms?  A regular Bill Clinton.

Incident one is a happenstance. Incident two makes it a possible coincidence.  Incident three makes it a pattern.

George has a rap sheet that goes back to 2005, but probably there’ll be no charges against him in this latest case.  After all, he was the target not the shooter, right? Maybe he was in fear of his life and preparing to run the gunner over. We don’t know.

What we do know is there’s a guy in or near Lake Mary, Florida who needs more practice at the shooting range. Or a better gun.
NOTE: Coming Friday: Verizon + AOL = vArizOL.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

1484 The WHO Flu

A bird, a monkey and a pig walk into a bar in Hong Kong.  Instead of sitting on stools as usual, they pull up chairs at a table and join a woman wearing a white lab coat and an antiviral face mask.

She is Dr. Margaret Sars, chief of the regional office of the UN’s World Health Organization. They order their drinks and when they arrive, toast each other. The monkey, apparently the leader or group spokescreature, opens the conversation with a friendly tone.

He tells Dr. Sars that he and many other monkeys, birds and pigs feel they are wrongly discriminated against by other animals, birds, fish and people because their monophyletic groups are associated with diseases.

“Monkey pox, Swine Flu, Bird Flu and other afflictions named for us are giving us a bad name and we’d like you to do something about that.

“Not every monkey, pig or bird is a carrier.  And yet, everyone shuns us,” he said.

Dr. Sars replies “mmm mmm mmm fuffa burble cmtmmm” drawing curious looks. Then she removes her antiviral mask and says “sorry, no one can understand me with that mask on. I hope you guys are disease free.”

She goes on to say that just the other day a delegation from “here in Hong Kong” made the same point about Hong Kong Flu and she got a letter from some people in Riyadh who felt they were being singled out for persecution because of MERS.

“Mmm mmm mmm fuffa burble cmtmmm… Oh. Sorry. The mask slipped down again. So I’ve asked the big wheels in Geneva if they can come up with better names, names that don’t insult birds, monkeys, pigs, or residents of Hong Kong or Saudi Arabia,” she said.

But what to call them?  The Nest Flu? The Sty Flu, the Treetop Flu? Sand-Borne Coronavirus?  

How about initials? Most of them already mean something else.  Or numbers? Flu #234.12?

It’s a quandary. And it’s one not likely to resolve itself anytime soon. In the meantime, the Department of Political Correctness is on the case.  Surprising chicken pox, German Measles and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever never came up.

So far, it has considered and rejected Kitten Flu, Puppy Flu, Gingham Flu, Soul Flu, Fiat Flu, Proper Englishman Flu, Dirty Commie Flu, Lady Gaga Flu, Limbaugh Flu, Flue Flu, Bunny Flu, Blue Bunny Flu and WHO Flu.

Next they’ll likely take a page from the weather bureau and use different names each year. Alfred, Beauregard, Cathleen, Doris,  Edward, Frank, Greta, Hillary, Isadore, Jacob, Karen, Lindsay, Mark, Ned, Ophelia, Pearl, Quentin, Robert, Sally, Thalia, Uwe, Victor, Wendy, Xandra, Zebediah.

This may give rise to a whole new industry: disease naming agencies and companies. Start with the National Office of Flu Identifiers or NOFI.  Then gear up for the Flu Channel, AccuFlu and a host of others.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

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 ...