Monday, January 30, 2017

1751 Give it up, Eddie

1751 Give it up, Eddie
Retail Genus Eddie Lampert

Mr. Tchaikovsky wants to go bowling but hates crowds. Mrs. Tchaikovskya says she knows a place that’s both crowd and cost free, but you have to bring your own ball and shoes.

Kmart or Sears.

No employees, no customers.  No stock. No nuthin’.

You can bowl all the way from Kenmore to Craftsman and never hit another human being.  Mrs. T says she’ll set up a bunch of car jacks to act as pins if Mr. T will do the same for her.

What else you gonna do in those sorry former stores?  

Owner Eddie Lampert is about to sink another billion into this shopperless shopping disaster as Wall Street which says they need at least twice that to stay afloat is starting betting pools for which month they go belly up.

Oddsmakers’ early line: win, place, show.  August, September, November.

Eddie’s dream of transforming his properties into some kind of retail monolith is dead.  It’s time to close up shop, Ed.

Of course there are those who thought Lampert wanted to turn Sears Holdings into a real estate investment trust. When he bought in, the company had thousands of acres of prime space nationwide. But the commercial real estate market tanked right about then. And ever since, they’ve been selling land off piecemeal just to make payroll and keep the lights on.

Once again this month, they cut employment, mostly at the Kmart division.  They’ve sold the Craftsman tool brand.  And what’s the future for Kenmore appliances, once the pride of the appliance industry but now just another brand among many?

You can’t recover by shedding assets.  There is no reason to go into one of your stores.  Wal-mart, Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s (both with troubles of their own,) and lately Amazon Com have not only eaten your lunch, they’ve kidnapped your customers.

Say goodnight, Eddie.  Close up and walk away from the mess you bought and the hot mess you’ve turned it into.

Let the Tchaikovskys pay at the bowling alley like anyone else.

-The US is becoming the Kmart of nations; aimless, lost, poorly managed and married to our glorious past and our image as first among first world countries.

--The president has been signing a lot of “executive actions,” and most of us don’t know what they are and confuse them with “executive orders.”  An “action” is an informal suggestion or recommendation.  But an order is equivalent to law.

--So, if the president signs an executive action stating all incoming Syrian refugees must stand on their heads when applying for asylum, they don’t have to. Of course if they don’t, the prez will get even. He’ll build a special camp for those who remain on their feet.

We report with sadness the passing of radio personality Herb Oscar Anderson, a long time favorite in New York City and vicinity. He was a happy guy and knew how to spread that happiness to his listeners. Anderson was 88.

 A message from Blue Health
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I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, January 27, 2017

1750 The Golden Apples of the Sun

Sci Fi fans will immediately recognize the title of Ray Bradbury’s short story collection of the early 1950s.  Bradbury was open about “borrowing” the phrase from Yeats’ poem, “The Song of Wandering Angeus.”

Yeats wrote in the late 1890s. But earlier yet, Angeus or Angus is based on Irish myth about a winged guy searching for his true love.

Forget the sun for now. Fast forward a bit and consider the Golden Delicious Apple of the orchard.  Coming to a grocer near you in a month or so, genetically modified version.

This miracle of modern science has a huge advantage over its obviously inferior predecessor, the all natural Golden Delicious.  What would that be? Well, for one thing it doesn’t turn brown.

Goodness gracious! Apples turn brown quickly when cut and exposed to the air, don’t they?  Well, not any more.

Leaving a sliced apple on a kitchen counter and coming back to it hours later to see it hasn’t turned brown probably isn’t one of the big dreams of your life.  But it is a curiosity.

GMO foods are today where climate change was 20 years ago.  No one was sure what was happening or why.   Over time, we found some problems -- or worse -- and by now, most reasonable people realize (a) something is happening, (b) there are many reasons, (c ) we are at least partly responsible, though there’s disagreement about how responsible and (d) Futile as it may be, we should do our best to not make it worse.

At the moment, there’s little evidence that GMO apples or other foods will harm you and there might even be advantages.  But while we’re waiting for answers, there is one simple little thing the growers, wholesalers and merchants could do: label GMO foods.  That way you can decide for yourself whether you want to put that stuff in your mouth.

If you live long enough, you can lose track of some people. That’s harder to do in the age of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Skype and their cousins. But with a little effort, you can safely ignore people.

Even those who leave you behind or you have left behind come back and often it’s from the grave.  In contact with an old co-worker; he mentions oh, by the way did you know so-and-so died?

No. When?

Almost three years ago.

Seventy three.  That’s young these days. Congestive heart failure, they say.

So and so and I were sparring partners.  Worked together at a newspaper, a wire service and a radio station.  Good reporter.  A decent editor. A good marksman when it came to using the secret weapon of the American South: Death by Sugar Coating. Matched my Doberman/Rottweiler of the North pretty evenly.  But underneath the scrappiness was a deep mutual respect.  That’s how the second of us to go remembers the guy who went first.

And that’s as it should be.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

1749 A Lesson from Lysistrata

It’s the year 411 BCE. Athens and Sparta are at war. And Aristophanes (above) is at his laptop and on deadline.  His comedy, “Lysistrata” is opening tonight on Broadway and managers at the Theatre of Dionysus on 44th Street are demanding script changes.

(It’s well known that Ari used a Lenovo laptop and not a Macbook because he didn’t need the graphic capability.)

Anyway, the upshot is Lysistrata gets the women of both sides together and persuades them to refuse sex to men who won’t negotiate peace.  Other women (singles, mostly) take over the Athenian treasuries.  No money, no war.

On the Saturday following the inauguration of the current President, a gazillion women and some men gathered in Washington and dozens of other places to show their displeasure with the president’s views and even more so with his means of presenting them as well as his attitude toward women.

There’s a lot of power in that.  And it leads to a course of action that Lysistrata would approve.

So, ladies, here’s the plan.  Make Bobby sleep on the couch until he sees things your way.  Stand by your man.  But not too close.

Back to the play. A bunch of geezer men show up at the gates to the Acropolis… where the money is.  They try to force open the gates. But just as they’re hobbling into action along comes a bunch of geezer women who throw water on the plans. Literally.  They soak the men.

Then the courts get involved.  The judges are angry with the men for not being able to control the women.

Further there were ancient Greek women who felt they must yield to their husbands.  If forced, Lysistrata preached that the woman should do a lousy job of it, leaving their husbands either unsatisfied or otherwise troubled.

Lysistrata was single.  But that didn’t mean she was celibate.

The war between the city states had raged for more than 20 years.  The current war has gone on much longer.  And today’s men are not the brave guys who lived in and fought for Athens all those centuries ago.

Betty Friedan and company could have learned a few from this tough lady.

In the so-called Great Democracies of ancient Greece, women did not have the right to vote.  You do now.

So, what are you waiting for?

--“Facts and the truth are not partisan. They are the bedrock of our democracy. And you are either with them, with us, with our Constitution, our history, and the future of our nation, or you are against it. Everyone must answer that question.” --Dan Rather on Facebook.

-The new temporary chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, opposes current net neutrality which if erased will put this and many other sites into the horse and buggy lane while all the corporate sites will buy their way onto the express.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, January 23, 2017

1748 Inauguration Day -- Celebrating the Cons

1748 Inauguration Day -- Celebrating the Cons
They started small.  First it was the God con. Two men and a woman, a diverse cross section of White American Christianity got up to speak.  Each one at greater length than the previous.  Wanted to make sure He got the message.

Two choirs and a soloist brought us the music con. One from the Missouri State University. Lotta clinkers, but in near- freezing temperature, expectable, though hard to listen to.

The second was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir which makes up in power and numbers any musical shortcomings.  There are some folks in Salt Lake City who weren’t one bit pleased to send those hundreds of men and women to Washington Friday.

And finally a soloist, a woman singing the national anthem. Temperature and the rain took their toll on her, too.

Then, the diversity con. The lone clearly visible black face on the platform was that of Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.  He administered the oath to the vice president.  It’s the same oath you take when you work for the federal government as anything from floor sweeper to secretary of state or vice president.  Since almost no one has ever heard Justice Thomas speak -- because he doesn’t -- people were impressed with his bass-baritone, more musical than the musicians.

Then Chief Justice John Roberts administered the presidential oath to the president elect.

Then the new president spoke.  That was the real con. The biggest of them all.

The president’s speech was the least presidential in recent history and mercifully one of the shortest.  In it he trashed his four most recent predecessors and all of congress, about which he was right.

One commentator called it his best-ever campaign speech.  And while it was quieter than most of his others, it still was angry, demeaning, insulting and borderline barbaric.

Even worse, it was a 15 minute lie-a-thon, with cement bouquets designed to fool his followers into believing their lives would improve over his term.

Tell that to the 18 million people who are apt to lose health insurance. Tell that to the soldiers and sailors and marines and airmen and women who think they’re going to be defending our shores against potential enemies instead of far off lands where the enemies -- and the battles -- are real.

There’s a central flaw in the Make America Great Again racket.  The America the new president wants to make great again is a nightmare fantasy, an impoverished, crime ridden, lawless, jobless land in which bread lines will soon appear and bridges will collapse and bury the homeless living beneath them.

There certainly are pockets of that and some are pretty deep.  But this is not Greece and it is not Venezuela. So ask yourself how the similarities developed here and who is to blame.

Ask yourself who threw roadblocks in the path of the previous president.  Ask yourself who you elected to state houses, legislatures, congress.  These are the people who made the pockets possible.  

Reminder: the new president won because of states where each vote counts more than yours and are cast not by real people, but by politicians.

-A hat tip to Tom Brokaw who tried mightily to say something that made him seem still relevant.

Today’s Quote:
-“And where are the clowns/Send in the clowns? Don’t bother/they’re here.” --S. Sondheim

--All this fuss about “peaceful transition?” That’s something so ingrained and presumed here that it never had to be mentioned and never was until now.  The campaign of 2016 raised serious doubts and serious well grounded fears.

--We learned something new about former President Obama during the inauguration ceremony.  He has a talent we weren’t aware of.  He can bite his tongue without any obvious outward sign and proved it time and again during the inaugural address.

Wessays (™) Insider: If the Times can do it, so can we. There’s discussion about Wednesday’s post.  The debate raged all weekend: Should we comment on the weekend’s marches or should we just tweet.  Stay tuned.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, January 20, 2017

1747 Buzz Windrip

You know who that is, the guy in the picture. Or at least you think you do.  But it’s not the 45th President of the United States who is fictional.  He is Buzz Windrip, who won the election of 1936, defeating FDR.

Actually, Windrip is a fictional character, too.  He is the anti-hero of Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 Book and 1936 play, “It Can’t Happen Here.”

As fascism and nazism posing as populism rose in Europe, the United States was mired in what still is the worst depression in our history.

Sound familiar? Windrip was a bully, a loudmouth and a lout.  If Twitter had existed, he would have been right up there with Prez 45 dissing the communists, the Jews, the unions, the clergy, and the media.

Sound familiar?  Windrip took office and promptly outlawed dissent. He assembled a military force akin to the German SS and set about getting rid of “unpatriotic men” and “people who failed to uphold
“traditional American values.”

Sound familiar?  Windrip was a business type and member of the Rotary Club.

There was no Environmental Protection Agency, but had there been you can bet Windrip would have gotten rid of it. There was no department of education.  There wasn’t any cabinet job with today’s duties of the Labor Department.

This made destroying what little regulation there was easier than it will be now, but no less sure.

So, a tactless con man becomes president and the economic recovery he promises never happens. His closest aides manage to oust him and exile him to France.

Lewis didn’t give us a full accounting of this horror’s end.  But he did give us hope things wouldn’t get as bad as many of us now expect it to.

Today is the first day of the rest of Trump’s presidency.  He will discover that the job is bigger and tougher than he -- or anyone else -- and he has to accommodate to that. It’s humanly impossible not to. Ask anyone who has had the job.

The White House is not a corporate boardroom.  It is not a betting parlor. It is not a downtown social club, or an Atlantic City casino.  If #45 thinks otherwise, it will crush him.

But it won’t crush us.

Today’s Quotes:
-“The press has been very dishonest when it comes to me.” --D. Trump.
-“You keep us honest and make sure we’re accountable to the people who sent us here.” --B. Obama saying goodbye to reporters.

-Get used to Code 45, the language spoken by the staff and management of the incoming administration which has all kinds of unique ways of expressing its bigotry.

-Code 45 example: Rapper Kanye West was not invited to perform at the inauguration ceremonies because -- and here comes the code -- they are going to be a “typical and traditional American…” event.

-Kanye West might not be to your taste in entertainment but he’s pretty popular… and what’s more typically and traditionally American than that?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

1748 Rethinking Congress

1748 Rethinking Congress

Let’s pay our congressmen and women by the pound.
Blake Farenthold (R-TX) Soon to be nouveau riche
We’ll have weigh-ins once a month and that will do several things:

  1. Determine the following month’s pay.
  2. Get them to Washington more than three days a week.
  3. Help them avoid actual work, something in which they need no training.  The line for the scale will be so long, they can spend hours waiting.

As a society, we’ve learned to take our shoes off at the drop of a TSA hat.  So there’ll be no problem for Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas removing them for the weigh in. But there are some who are too thin, and maybe they’ll have to put fishing weights in their shoes.

Of course, this would encourage our employees to overeat.  No worries.  There’s plenty of food to go around.

(And no, they won’t have to disrobe further. The sight of naked congressmen and women is even more repulsive than the site of them fully clothed.)

But in America we must complicate everything. It’s in the Constitution. Look it up.  So here’s something else to do: a bonus for low IQs.  We can’t be having smart people in the house or senate, now can we?  Do we want someone who can actually think beyond his belly?  Of course not.  Smart people are dangerous.  IQs at about room temperature would be ideal.

Hmmm. Do we really need a Senate?  Yes, temporarily.  But let’s start phasing it out.  Zap one southern state and one northern state at a time.  If we run out of small northern states with elephantine sway, we can always start on the far west and the midwest where we can do without all kinds of places.


--For those thinking of leaving the US because of the change in Presidents, strike Poland from your bucket list.  Air pollution abounds.  People without two Zoltys to rub together are burning garbage for heat.

--An Oxfam report says eight men are as wealthy as 3.6 billion people combined, the bottom half of the world.  The names:  Bill Gates (Microsoft,) Amanico Ortega (Intidex fashions,) Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway,) Carlos Sim (Mexico Telco,) Jeff Bezos (,) Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook,) Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Mike Bloomberg (Bloomberg LP.)  Obscene.

--There are two main lists of the world’s billionaires.  The Forbes 400 never mentions anyone named Forbes (probably with good reason.)  And the Bloomberg list never mentions anyone named Bloomberg.

-Not to be outdone, the president will start his own magazine with its own top moneybags list:
-Trump, Donald (New York)
-Trump, Ivanka (D.C.)
-Trump, Melodious (Kiev)
-Trump, Dondon (New York)
-Kushner, Jared (New Jersey)
-Trump, Todd (Ohio)
-Trump, Don (Florida)
-Trump, Fred (Arizona)
-Trump, Hubert (Indiana)
-Trump, Angelica (Oregon)

-“I’ll run if I can walk.” Joe Biden on his plans for the 2020 presidential election when he’ll be 78.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, January 16, 2017

1747 This Way to the Egress

When the milling crowds on the midway got too thick, P.T. Barnum -- so the story goes -- would put up signs pointing to the “egress.” Many thought that was another exhibition and left, allowing waiting patrons in. Too many people?

Barnum’s successors at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus haven’t had that kind of problem for decades.  So much so in recent years that current owner, Feld Entertainment announced this weekend that the circus will close permanently after this year’s tours.

Poetic justice:  The tattered and superannuated traveling show will make its final bows at the equally tattered and superannuated Nassau Coliseum on New York’s Long Island on May 21st.

Beside declining attendance, CEO Kenneth Feld cites protests from animal rights activists and changing tastes.  At least he had the grace to not blame the media.

One hundred forty six years of freak shows, scary and semi scary clowns, death defying feats of aeronautical acrobatics, overpriced food and trained big cats always on the edge of mauling and devouring any living being under 60 pounds.  

One hundred forty six years of bearded ladies, adult conjoined twins, three legged men, four legged women and “the living torso.”

Goodbye Lobster Boy, General Tom Thumb and the Human Unicorn.  Also jugglers, unicycle riders, tightrope walkers, human cannonballs, fire eaters and sword swallowers.

And with all that, dies a whole culture of workers from tent builders to boxcar loaders, the whole backstage crew, animal handlers and ringmasters.

Life has become so heart-in-mouth that there’s no more thrill to watching some skinny dude and a leggy woman do mysterious things on a pair of trapezes without falling to their deaths.  The real circus is going on all around you and there’s no admission charge.

Of course, Ken Feld’s announcement could be just another circus stunt.  Maybe he’s opened 30- million fake email accounts and contracted with some temp agency to write angry protests and demands that he keep the company running.

Probably not.  But don’t be surprised if you see the clown car up for auction.  And Emmett Kelly’s broom.

--For many years on Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday this space has railed against those trying to second guess what he would have said about these times had he not been murdered. Not anymore.  This year, it wouldn’t take much guesswork, though you won’t find any here.

--If you thought we were governed by the worst among us for the last few decades, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. We’re days away from government by kleptocracy.  We are days away from Alice in the rabbit hole where up is down, down is up and nothing is real.

--But we sincerely hope for the continued good health of the president- elect.  That’s not some sentimental statement of faux patriotism as once we offered for the health of George H.W. Bush.  You want this guy healthy because if he dies, we get Pence -- and that’s even worse.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, January 13, 2017

1746 A Tale of Two Presidents

On Tuesday night, President Obama delivered a long “farewell address” to the public.  On Wednesday morning, the president-elect held his first news conference since July.

Obama’s speech was part Bill Clinton (long,) part Ronald Reagan (tugging at heartstrings,) part John F. Kennedy (gracious and graceful) and part FDR or Winston Churchill (understated but powerful.)

You couldn’t ask for more in that kind of a speech.

The following day, the president-elect met the press. He backed down from “Russia didn’t hack us.”  And he got into a shouting match with a CNN reporter.  He had a pile of manila envelopes beside him, said they were legal documents about how he’s going to temporarily cede control of his holdings but wouldn’t let anyone see any of them because they’re “legal documents about how he’s going to temporarily cede control of his holdings.”

Obama drew smiles, tears, applause.  The president elect drew flies.

You had to wonder where the Obama on stage in Chicago had been hiding for the last eight years.  You had to wonder at how he went to work each morning when the path to accomplishment was always blocked by the body of a morally, spiritually and legislatively dead series of republican bodies lying across the path.

Was this guy really president? This master of the speech, this orator in chief?  Yes, he was.  But the part we saw was hidden behind those bodies.

Was the Affordable Care Act all it was cracked up to be in the long run of coming attractions that came before it?  Of course not.  Can you figure out why?

The President elect has shown no understanding of how government works.  He appears to have confused the presidency with wheeling and wheedling real estate development companies he’s been running.

Development has several meanings. You can look up the original definition in any dictionary, even the newer ones that report your usage, unlike the older ones that report on what should be you usage.

In Academia and other charities, “development” means panhandling.  In real estate it means take paradise and make it a parking lot, according to pavement scholar Joni Mitchell.

So the president elect has been in effect privatizing the executive branch.  But there are some in government who haven’t gotten the message.

Little Marco Rubio for one.  He’s already started his 2020 presidential campaign by feigning a move toward human rights while the basket he’s shooting for is the White House.

The intelligence agencies may be several dogs fighting over the same bone. But they’re best friends when it comes to digging up dirt on people they don’t like.

--FBI director Comey is on the carpet over the timing of his big mouth. He presented the beanbag on Hillary Clinton eleven days before the election, ceremoniously opened it.  No beans spilled and now the parent agency, the Department of Justice wants to know he got away with it.

Today’s Quote:
“There’s not a guy would try something as stupid.” -- Chairman Sergio Marchionne of Fiat Chrysler on reports of a federal investigation into VW- like cheating on emissions tests.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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4745 An Ounce of Cure

  Forget the ounce of prevention and the pound of cure.  With everything getting odder, let’s make it a Troy Ounce of prevention.   While “n...