Friday, March 31, 2017

1777 Why Nothing Gets Done

First you have to accept that nothing gets done, or at least not much gets done.  If you're hearing this while waiting in a supermarket line, or if you're reading it while on hold for a "customer" "service" rep., you know the story.  If you've ever tried a building project --(Wessay #589 Part Q) -- in a house full of people, you know the story.  Nothing gets done.

Here's why: Zigzags have taken over the world.  Oh, they don't know they're that... and they don't know to call it that.  But that's what they are.  You want to make lunch?  Great.  Start to make lunch and see if something doesn't happen to stop you well before you're finished, to end your momentum, your inertia.  "Honey, please water the plants..." is one good interruption.   Or "I have to sweep the kitchen floor right now and right where you're standing."  There's another.

Zigzags.  You can't go directly from point "a," in this case the "crafting" of a peanut butter sandwich or two (nothing gets "made" anymore.  It gets "crafted."  Even beer or cars.  How do you "craft" a beer?) You get zigzagged at every turn, sometimes literally.

You're on the road.  All of a sudden there's a road crew that sends you on a detour.  You're in the doctor's office, in the exam room, and he or she pops in and says "I'm sorry.  I'll be a few minutes.  Something's come up.  That "something" may be a patient in dire need of help.  But more likely, it's time to set up an appointment for a haircut or a home repair.  The doc is not exempt from zigzagging. 

So, it seems you can't get from A to B in a straight line anymore.  Some people call this multitasking.  It ain't.  THIS: is multitasking:  Hunting for an open register at a near-vacant Sears while texting your mom about her mom’s pot roast recipe and counting time between contractions to guess whether you’re going to give birth before they announce the winner of “America’s Got Talent.”

Needing to "throw in the laundry" in between spreading the peanut butter on the slices of bread, that's zigzagging.

And there is no cure.  You can't, for example, say "Honey, I'll do the laundry as soon as I'm finished making lunch"  -- heaven forbid you sit down and eat before heading for the Maytag.

Polite explanations don't work.  Intentional deafness doesn't work. Snapping angrily CERTAINLY doesn't work.

Those of us not inclined to zigzag are conquered.  Face it. Accept it. Live with it. Learn -- if possible -- to love it.

-“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.”  -- Archimedes

--Let’s hear it for the oh-so-progressive state of North Carolina. They’ve finally flushed their idiot public restroom regulations that required you to prove your birth gender before entering.  But that has a downside… they’ve thrown all the hall monitor inspectors out of work.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

1776 A Familiar Date

© Paramount Pictures/Famous Studios

Wessay #1776? Familiar number.  Oh, yeah. Something of importance happened here in this rural backwater that year.

And now 241 years later, we have become a world colossus heading backward faster by the day.  Most of us old enough to read this will not live long enough to witness our collapse into a third world sewer.  But make no mistake, that’s where we’re headed.

We’ve elected a president who is like Kim Jong-un only a better braggart with less power.  A Baby Huey who throws his weight around carelessly and in the service of the people he thinks are friends. Sometimes, his influence is non-existent.

We saw the latest example last week when the House of Misrepresentatives ® failed to Stand by its Man, Ryan, and chickened out on the seven year plan to Make America Unhealthy Again.

And all of the know-it-alls are out in force saying this, that and the other thing will result. Let’s look at this and that.  No space for the other thing.

Will the failed and leaky Republican ship manage to come up with some kind of tax reform?  Will we really put $50-ish billion into new military hardware?  What about that infrastructure thing?  What about that “bringing jobs back” thing. Don’t get your hopes up, coal miners.  (The only industrial jobs on the horizon are for people who know how to make robots to do the work actual humans once did.)

Then there’s The Wall.  Really? Baby Huey campaigned on a hodgepodge of hot air projects and policies that can’t possibly be implemented now or in the near future.

He hoodwinked the angry white men frustrated by their inability to feed their families. Will they turn on him?

Splinter parties.  That’s the answer in many smaller countries.  France, Germany, Israel and to an extent Britain.

The far rights have their far right parties in all those countries. The far lefts have theirs.  And in the middle are all kinds of middle grounders.  Could something like that work here?  A lot doesn’t get done in France and Israel.  But a lot does. Why? Because people have to work together.

The two major parties here used to be like competing automakers:  Four wheels and an engine, with customers more or less brand loyal.

The US Republicans are essentially three different parties under one shaky leadership. The Democrats, used to intramural squabbling, have only two.  

And a lot of energy is wasted trying to herd these cats by people who don’t know much about cats… or about people for that matter.

Somewhere in that mess is the potential for a coalition government that might actually show at least a passing interest in governing instead of the squishy self promotion that seems to be the object of the various factions within the parties.

The “Freedom Caucus” is a party unto itself. So are the members of the “traditional” Republicans, and the oh so miniscule moderates. The Democrats have the establishment crowd and the “progressive” dreamers.

We’re at a fragile moment in our 241 year history.  And something as big and important as the United States cannot survive by self promotion alone.

Stability. We don’t hear much about that these days.  But we need to.  Think of where we’d be without it. There’s a balance to things and that’s what keeps us us.

An unstable chemical will explode when jiggled or heated or triggered.  

What’s the first thing they do when the ambulance brings someone into the emergency ward?  They stabilize the patient.

But there’s good stability and bad stability.  Bad? Sure, when a dictator uses it as an excuse to dictate.

And what’s going on today in governments from Congress and the White House to state capitals to county seats to city hall?  That’s instability bordering on chaos.

We don’t have a dictator.  Yet.

What we do have is destabilizing of our institutions and therefore our way of life.

The things we were told all our lives to count on are eroding like a beach in a hurricane.

And sometimes -- this time -- stability can come only from coalitions.


Now available for pre-order, the book you’ve been waiting for:  “The Ayn Rand Outtakes” edited by Paul Ryan.

The novelist-philosopher and TV spokeswoman for the New York Daily News wrote hundreds of thousands of words in her books, newsletters, magazines and prepared lectures.  But time and space constraints forced trimming.

Now, America’s preeminent Rand Scholar, Paul Ryan, has gathered those “outtakes” in one stunning volume.

Read it and learn how John Galt kidnapped a generation of billionaires and spirited them off to the wilderness of Colorado.  Learn how he found how to generate electricity with simple everyday items including Jim Beam, TV rabbit ear antennas, zip ties and a polyester blanket.

You’ll learn the secret formula that made Reardon Metal the choice of building contractors the world over.

Plus the slut-shaming of Dagney and Dominique, how Roark used firecrackers and Ivory Snow to blow up a skyscraper, what Rupert Murdoch learned about tabloids from Gail Wynand. Also: Francisco’s fruitless search for E.D. medicine. And how George Soros funded the work of Ellsworth Toohey.

Preorder now by calling 1212 AYN RAND (Sorry, no toll free number.  This is capitalism, after all.)

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, March 27, 2017

1775 Back of the Envelope

Cranky Dr. Congeniality, the wheel chaired chiropodist, has this cheapo habit of sending bills without reply envelopes.  So being charitable, we have saved those received from others, unused because we’re billed on paper but pay on line. The plan was to make a gift of them to Madam Foot.

From the electric company, the gas company, the TV satellite folks, the internet “provider,” the car loan, the department stores, the insurance companies, the credit cards and even the exterminator, we get envelopes.

So now, there’s a drawer full of return envelopes, some with windows (useless) and some with someone else’s address (these can be rescued with a blank paste-on label for the Magic Foot Clinic’s address.)

But wait.  In the age of The Art of the Deal, we need the most important part of deal making, the back of the envelope.  That’s where the real work of mergers and acquisitions, price manipulations and other scams endemic to this country are done. So we keep the backs, some of them tattered.

Why?  So when you and Donald go out to dinner, both of you can pull out envelopes.  Makes you seem spontaneous.  Makes you think dinner was never supposed to be a negotiation.

But if you use a pristine unmarked envelope, it looks premeditated.  If you have an envelope that looks slightly bruised, you can maintain the appearance of spontaneity, always a good position.

Why always? Because you can either say you’re just thinking out loud and change your mind about conditions later or claim the scribbling is a contract, depending on your needs.

It won’t be long before the paper mavens catch on to this and create special backs of envelopes on which to write stuff.  Luxury stationery brands like Cranes will market envelope backs in seven different levels of rag content.  Staples and Amazon will offer bulk backs for the busy.  And Levenger or Vistaprint will offer backs that include a replica of your business card.

This will pose a problem to the stationers of the world, one that is common in the poultry industry:  what do you do with the unused parts?  We buy chicken legs, wings, breasts, thighs, etc. But it takes a lot of chickens to make a “Family Pak” of wings.  What do you do with the spare parts?

What the stationers won’t have to worry about is if their backs are made from organic, free range trees with no antibiotics. Ever.

There’s another plus for reporters.  Many of us horde our old notebooks.  That’s always dangerous especially these days because you never know when a subpoena will arrive and demand that you show up and pay up because you called So and So a so and so.

Notes?  What notes?  I jotted a few words down on the back of an envelope and tossed it when I was finished with the story.

-“Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner...” -- Bruce Springsteen.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, March 24, 2017

1774 Mister Justice Gorsuch

1774  Mister Justice Gorsuch

Trust the faker Gorsuch.  Trust him to undo 70 years of good supreme court decisions and none of the bad.

Guy dresses up in a fancy lawyer suit; plays it cool in the Senate confirmation hearings, has a really good report card from a really good law school and also no heart.

This is the judge who wanted a truck driver who was stranded on the highway in subzero temperature to freeze to death in order to keep his job.  He is the judge who rules if you have a troubled or physically or mentally challenged student, don’t waste too many resources or too much money trying to get him to learn things he can’t and will never need anyway.  

This is someone who never met a rich person he didn’t like or a poor person he did.

And this is a lawyer who reads the law the way Billy Graham reads the bible.  Every word, every syllable, every punctuation mark is the whole truth. Heaven forbid Gorsuch slams a lawbook closed trapping a bug. Next time he’s open to that page he thinks the squashed bug is a punctuation mark that changes the whole meaning of the law.   It’s in the book.  So we follow it exactly.   Not even Billy would do something like that.

So here’s Mister Justice Gorsuch with the fashion plate suits and the Mike Pence hairdo.  And he’s from a state where the sheep farmers and the cattle ranchers are still fighting about who gets the carcass after the fight, and bazillionairs congregate in fancy ski lodges that look like log cabins but are made from Purpleheart wood harvested by night in Surinam and Guyana and sneaked into port on a freighter that ships cocaine as a diversion because the wood is more valuable and less legal. Customs goes for the cocaine and pays no attention to the wood.

And this is who they want to replace Scalia, the jolly fat man who wanted to sneak into your bedroom and steal your morning after pills and punch pinholes in the condoms and went duck hunting with Cheney who had a case before the supreme court.

Give Gorsuch a year and the only place you’ll be able to terminate a pregnancy is Denmark. Schools will be separate but equal.  Mississippi will revive the poll tax, and they’ll put micro RFID chips under the skin behind your left ear so that they won’t have to bother with DNA or dental identification when a drunk without a license t-bones you on an unlit highway and scoots off into the woods leaving you for dead-- which probably you will be.

There’ll be oil pipelines in the Park Avenue tunnels because Amtrak will have no money to run trains there.

But look at the bright side.  You’ll be able to buy leaded high octane gasoline again.  You have an ingrown toenail?  Just sit there between the heart attack and the gunshot wound in the emergency room waiting area where everyone is hoping everyone ahead of them in line will die before they’re seen and Volunteers using trucks that Meals on Wheels had to abandon will bring in cold chicken nuggets and warm Dr. Peppers from McDonalds because you haven’t had a bite to eat since day before yesterday.

Bring on the faker in the Armani judge costume.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

1773 Park Avenue Doctors

STATE COLLEGE PA (Wessays™)  --  If you live around here, you know this place.  It is called the Park Avenue Medical Sciences Building and it shared by the hospital up the street and the local college’s dockery.  The only real science that goes on here is financial extraction.

This is where the local Park Avenue doctors practice. It is three stories tall and about as wide as the average Home Depot.  And after they had the first floor plans done right, the lobotomy kicked in and the rest of the place was designed like a fun house without the mirrors.

I’m coming out the front door and walking away from having my bum knee shot full of Miracle Cure and about where you see the lamp post on the right, is The Greatest Generation.

Now if you read Brokaw’s book, you know those are the people who saved us from the Nazis and Japan, imperfectly but close enough.  Robust, hard working, community minded, young and strong.  But the young and strong stay neither forever.  

And here’s the old sea dog, all maybe 5’ 4” of him, but he’s bent over so you really can’t tell.  He’s scraping along with a pair of those double crutches that grip each arm. We used to call them Polio sticks. He is moving with all the speed of a garden slug but none of the grace.  He’s wearing a World War II vet’s  baseball cap with the medals and stars and “US NAVY in letters big enough for the top line of the eye chart. It’s what the Greatests have so we don’t mistake them for track stars.

“Do you need a hand, sir?” (Watch. He’s going to smile and tell me go pack it. It’s a sure thing.)


“Yes,” he says.  I have to get to my skin doc and I’m having some trouble.”  Is that a tear in his eye or is it just a bit cold on this first day of Spring?

Okay, I steady him, grab his arm and our goal is the invasion of Normandy Bench.  You can see it there near the door. He makes it but it’s cold, “is there a bench inside?” Yes, but you can’t see it unless you’re right on it.

He makes it to the inner bench.  

“I can find someone who can get you a wheelchair for the rest of the trip.”  

“Nah. You have troubles of your own.” He points to my cane. “This is nothing,” he says. “I’ll rest for awhile and then take the elevator.”

You don’t insist. You don’t patronize the Greatest Generation. They’re the only reason we’re still here.   So he sits.  And the elevator will arrive and he’ll go to the third floor and search for the room number which is at the end of a maze that takes you the longest possible distance to the farthest corner of the building.

Once inside, he’ll find the route to the exam room is another maze.  By the time he gets to see the doc, he’ll be moving at the speed of growing grass if he’s moving at all.

Greatest was hurting and the dermatologist is a Brooklyn born and raised MD who closed his ground floor office on the other side of town and joined a group here.

Another of his patients once quipped “So if your ambition has always been to be a Park Avenue doctor, you’ve made it.”

His immediate rejoinder: “No. I never wanted that. I get enough grief from my patients here.”  But then he turned serious.

“A lot of my patients are seniors and some of them are going to have trouble getting up to this floor and then walking all those corridors into the exam room.”

And how right he was this day.

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

1772 Remembering Breslin

Portable typewriter, case closed.

Jimmy Breslin died this weekend. Everyone who knew him and most people who read him thought he had anger management issues.

But they were wrong.  Guys like Breslin don’t have “issues” and don’t “manage.”  They have problems. And Jimmy’s wasn’t anger.  It was much bigger.  It was rage.

And that rage fueled some of the best newspaper work in New York, a town with enough newsprint star quality to fuel its own galaxy. At the time, anyway.

Breslin filled the room even when he wasn’t the biggest guy at the bar.  He filled it in a way that pushed movie stars and politicians and sports stars and clergymen and mobsters to the wall… just by being there.

Because this was the guy who was going to find out the truth about your dirty doings and write about them in long, run-on sentences and short paragraphs both of which he denied using, but did.

By now you’ve heard the stories because they’ve been circulating for most of the weekend. Jimmy interviewed JFK’s grave digger instead of the cluster of bigshots at the funeral.  He’s the guy who got Son of Sam the serial killer to cooperate and lauded the cops who stumbled over David Berkowitz and brought him down because of a parking ticket.

And there was “Un Occhio,” the one eyed king of “all organized crime” who operated out of the back room of a candy store.  And Mansion Murphy, the Long Island bishop who built a monument to himself out of a former convent.  Breslin was a Roman Catholic and Irish. But he always said the Irish church didn’t get it while the Italian church did.

He was a liberal in a liberal city but took on the state government of Gov. Hugh Carey -- Society Carey he called him -- when the rage hit him.

Good cops got the royal treatment.  Bad cops got a verbal Louisville Slugger to the jaw.

Jimmy didn’t like dogs.  He didn’t have much use for little kids, though he had six of his own, two of them long gone by the time he died.

So, yeah.  The stories.  Everyone knew the stories. Everyone saw him on Channel 7 and on Channel 4 and in beer ads.

A throwback.  A Queens boy with a Queens accent that was already a dead language by the time he was a grownup.

Rage.  He said it himself.  Someone who really was for the little guy and the losers and the nobodies and all the rest of us who don’t count.  No politician gets softballs from this guy. Just that baseball bat.

Rage. A guy who didn’t write his columns sitting in his living room wearing a bathrobe.  He went to the scene of the crime.

And the funerals. And city hall.  And it’s a good thing for the blobs in Washington that Breslin never learned to drive a car.  Because if he had been able to get there and back easily, there’s no telling the damage he could have done to the reigning princes of politics.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, March 17, 2017

1771 Your Car as Professor of Economics

Tell ‘em Groucho sent you

We have to go back in time for this, folks.  Back in the old days, you had a car that had a part that needed replacement, say a power steering pump.

Teddy the mechanic (they weren’t yet “technicians” in those days) installs the new pump.  And for awhile everything seems okay.  But a week later, something springs a leak and you rail against Teddy. “He must have screwed up something that will make me return for another repair.”

Yes, he did.  But it probably wasn’t his intention.  The vigorous new pump in an older car pressures parts that have grown accustomed to poor circulation or loose hose clamps. Something.

Everyone wins and everyone loses.  The mechanic gets an extra job.  But he loses some of his capitalist capital with the car owner.  The car owner gets a better running car.  But he loses some bucks. Sometimes more than a few.

The failed economic policies of the United States are just like Teddy and your car.  They fix something and immediately, the power of the fixed segment becomes too much for another part of the system to withstand and something else breaks down.

The right has long advocating lower taxes for the “job creating” upper crusties. A good idea.  Except for one part:  that’s not what happens.  What happens is corporations stage wholesale stock buybacks which generally cause a bubble on Wall Street.  When the bubble pops, everyone loses.

But one segment of the economy benefits: Yacht sales.  Create jobs?  Why? We’re getting all this free money and what better to do with it than shuffle papers to increase the appearance of the bottom line and buy mid-size ocean liners so we can cruise all the way from Moote Pointe to Fire Island.

The only jobs that are thus created are people whose lot in life is to say things like “Would m’lady like her drink refreshed?”

Which probably is a little less tiring and slightly better paying than the people whose lot in life is to say “You want fries with that?”

--The president’s proposed so called budget includes a $54 billion increase in military spending, thankfully with better pay and better treatment of veterans. But a lot goes to weaponry for which we have no use.  That’s putting the cart before the horse.

--That $54 billion has to come from somewhere. Reagan, patron saint of the modern mainstream conservative, did it the old fashioned way, he raised taxes. The current president will do it by gutting the budgets of agencies that protect the environment, work to improve the nation’s health and collect taxes.

--In a burst of fairness, the Deep State is developing new technology. Soon it will place a warning MP3 on the phones it taps.  It will say “this call will be monitored or recorded for training purposes.”

--Note to so called Secretary of State Rexxon Exxon. When you decline to talk to the press, you’re declining to answer questions for the American people.  This is the USA, not USA, LLP where you can get away without filing information.

-“                               ”--Secretary of State Rexxon Exxon answering a question about… anything.

-When you finally get customer service on the phone, start the conversation by saying “this call will be monitored or recorded” and see how Bombay Bobby and Milly Manila on the other end of the line react.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

1770 Down in the Mine: the View from Urbia

How the government decides things

It was just an ordinary apartment house.  Six floors.  Fewer than a dozen apartments on each of the top five.

Now and then, the coal truck appeared and stuck a long chute into a basement window and the coal would come rumbling down.  The only other time we thought about coal is when they rolled big ash cans up to the sidewalk for collection.

Ash cans. A once common term but one you hear rarely these days.

In the warmer weather the kids would go up on the roof… we called it “Tar Beach” and come down filthy.  It was tar.  You got dirty. But we could get a bit of sun and a nice view.  And no grownup came up to bother us.

Nothing much up there.  The elevator mechanism, chimneys.  That kind of thing. Television was just getting popular. People in the building were buying sets.  The sets were attached to antennas on the roof using long flat brown wires.  

The wind turned the antennas.  The adults came up to adjust them and came down filthy.  It’s a tar beach, right? But the dirt wasn’t tar.  It was soot from the chimneys.  And that’s how we all learned what coal was doing to our lungs, our skin, our clothing, our faces.

At some point they converted to oil.  No more soot. No more coal deliveries. No more rumbling down the chute. No more ash cans on the sidewalk awaiting the carter trucks.

As building after building changed heating fuel, mine after mine closed.  People were thrown out of work.  But New York is a lifetime away from West Virginia and Pennsylvania and Kentucky.  So we didn’t much notice that.  And those of us who did couldn’t do anything about it.

Coal disappeared from houses, from railroad trains, from just about everything but Con Ed plants.  

Now a pinball machine of a federal government wants to bring all that coal back.  It’ll create thousands of jobs, we hear.  Great. Meaningful jobs.  Big bucks jobs.  A pipe dream that can be made real only by gutting the Environmental Protection Agency.  

No problem these days. Just put in an administrative  head who wants to eliminate the agency and give him a jump start by cutting the budget by 25 or 30 percent.

The mines will open. New jobs galore. And lots of yummy soot.

How to fix the problem? Leave that up to the public private partnership that no doubt will arise with the pinball model.

Uh oh! The pinball machine blinked “tilt” and went dead.  OK. Just leave it for the next guy with some pocket change.

-“If I cross a kangaroo and a turkey, can I stuff it from the outside?” --Lonnie Donegan

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