Friday, June 30, 2017

1814 Get a Job, you Bum

Someone lanced the boil that is congress and sent the membership oozing home for the July 4th holiday. It’s the constituents that will be lighting the fireworks.  And the Misrepresentatives and Senators will spend the time in hotseats as their districts and states raise hell about the future of medical insurance.

Even Senate majority leader McConnell realizes he needs to find a body double or stuntman to take his place in public.  At age 75, he does not have the strength or flexibility to go through the acrobatics he’ll have to when the people of Kentucky demand he explain that ridiculous care plan he’s flogging.

And poor Mitch admits he may actually have to ask his Democratic Party counterpart, that kid Chuck Schumer (who is a mere 66 years old) for help in passing that hot southern mess he’s been touting.

“Moderates” like Pennsylvania’s Patrick Toomey face an even stiffer problem than Mitch and Chuck.  A moderate republican is someone who wants to steal coverage from only eleven million people, not the 22 million Mitch has in mind.  

Toomey is president of the Club for Growth.  That’s a cheering section against the poor. (Who was it said Sen. Tumor was himself a growth?)

Congress has been trying to destroy Obamacare for eight years.  And with the help of presidential counselor, creator of “alternative facts” and couch tester Kellyanne Conway it has the best one liner of them all on this issue.

People who lose Medicaid can get a job.
Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home.

Earth to Couch Grrrl: Many of those Medicaid Moochers have jobs.  But they’re not making enough to buy insurance from the pool and their jobs don’t offer benefits.

So basically, Conjob is advocating a time-tested form of population control: let ‘em die.  They’re poor and we all know what that means:  they’re lazy.

Bottle blonde politics. “My Friend Irma,” the 1950s sitcom about a ditzy stenographer could have saved writer salaries if Kellyanne were around back then and they could follow her with a camera.  

“Graciousness becomes this White House like napalm becomes an igloo.” -- NY Times op-ed contributor Bret Stephens.”

--There’s a difference between “fake news” and getting the story wrong.  Fake news is a deliberate lie, wrong is just wrong.  CNN got it wrong about Trump’s guy and the Russians, or at least that’s what it looks like, for now.

--The New York Times is eliminating its venerable copy desk, the last stop for catching errors and the grammatical mistakes that drive its readers gleefully nuts. Before the operation folds by eliminating 50 of its 100 staff members, it should alternative- fact check a statement by executive editor Dean Baquet who says -- in effect -- we’re not eliminating the copy desk.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

1813 Trophy Atrophy

Back in elementary school, when dinosaurs roamed Queens Boulevard along with the buses, they’d give out “commendation cards” in school. Practically every kid got one.

These were nothing more than 3x5 cards with your name written on them.  They were the evolutionary predecessor of the useless “participation trophy” that every kid gets today, just for being you.

Back then, if you did a good job at something, teacher would paste a stick-on gold star.  A lot of kids had no stars because they didn’t do anything worth mentioning and this seemed somehow unfair.  So the educational geniuses who ran the New York City public school system decided maybe kids who weren’t gold-star ready could be recognized anyway.  That’s when they started awarding silver stick on stars.

Soon, everyone had one.  Silver was the new gold.  Well, not everyone.  Everyone except Willie and Freddy.  They just didn’t do anything to deserve a silver star.  But they didn’t disrupt the class, either. At least not most of the time.  So the educational geniuses of the New York City school system came up with the red star. They gave you one of those just for showing up and not pulling a knife.  There’s something really scary about a fourth grader with a knife.

This was before the invention of the metal detector.  But Miss Ascerno didn’t need a metal detector. She was a metal detector. If you had a tin soldier in your pocket or a steel ruler in your bookbag, Miss Ascerno somehow knew.  And she also knew that WIllie and Freddy needed stars on their commendation cards so she and Mrs. Grossfeld went to Woolworth’s and got blue stars.

After that, everyone had a star of some kind.  Everyone. This act of teacher rebellion never reached the educrats so no one clamped down on Miss Ascerno and Mrs. Grossfeld.  Eventually, the blue star went viral.

Wait. That’s not quite right. In those days, nothing went viral but viruses.  So they didn’t go viral. They just spread.

Today there are no Woolworths.  So the major source of stick on stars has dried up. And there are scarce few teachers who prefix their names with “miss” or “mrs.” But you can pick up little plastic trophies for next to nothing at Amazon.  So now, you get a trophy for just showing up.  And it’s not just in school anymore.

You get a trophy for showing up at scouts. No need to earn a merit badge.  You get a trophy for being on the losing team at little league.  And you get a trophy for having an 0.4 grade point average or higher.

Meaningless awards abound.  No child left behind.  No need to achieve anything.  The children of that earlier era are now nearing or have entered retirement.  They don’t have mantles full of crummy plastic trophies.  But if you’re younger, you can trace the history of trophy-making right there on your shelf.

The really early ones were “made in occupied Japan.” Then they were made in just-plain-old Japan.  Then they were made by United Extruding of  Elizabeth, NJ. which eventually was acquired by American Character Dolls which was acquired by Ideal Toys which was acquired by CBS Toys which was acquired by ViewMaster which was acquired by Tyco which was acquired by Mattel.

With each corporate takeover, trophy production moved. First it was back to Japan, then Korea, then China, then Vietnam, then Indonesia then Soweto and finally back to New Jersey where they affixed their own version of stick-on stars to every trophy.  These said “proudly made in the USA,” displayed a mini American flag and in teeeeeny tiiiiiny type the line “some components imported.”

Now you get a trophy for just being the wonderful kid you are.  And Mattel is rumored expanding the trophy division to other awards like the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, Grammys, and the Purple Heart.  

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, June 26, 2017

1812 Hey, Al, What Time is it?

Eat your heart out, Geraldo! You may have become a national embarrassment when you dug up and opened Al Capone’s vault on national television and found … nothing.  But Al DID leave some stuff behind, and it has new owners.

They had an auction of his stuff in Boston they other day.  Someone walked away with Capone’s pocket watch for about 80 grand.  Talk about a holdup!

Someone walked away with an original song he wrote while a resident of Alcatraz.  

Capone probably is the best remembered gangster in the history of the American underworld. The song sold for about 16- thousand.  Here are some of the words as quoted by the Associated Press:  

"You thrill and fill this heart of mine, with gladness like a soothing symphony, over the air, you gently float, and in my soul, you strike a note."

Al, babes, don’t give up your day job.

The auction wasn’t restricted to Capone-abilia.  There was a letter from Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde infame.

But in a terrible act of disrespect, one we cannot leave unmentioned, a letter from Ozone Park, Queens plumbing supply salesman John Gotti didn’t sell. For all the publicity Gotti got, you’d think someone would have wanted it.  It’s probably too recent.

We like our antiheroes old.  Capone, Bonnie, Clyde, Luciano, Lansky, Rothstein, Billy the Kid, Killer Miller.

And we like them even more if they’re fictional. Vito Corleone,  Tony Soprano and Wo Fat to name a few or the better knowns.

They’re not only better at their jobs than the real thing, they’re safer to admire.  None of them will put the head of a dead horse in your bed.  None of them will come knocking on your door asking you to “wet my beak.”  None of them will lend you a dime or collect the time you borrowed last week, the bill for which has risen by 280%.  Oh, wait. That’s your department store credit card.  You loan shark payment is only 187%.)

You have to wonder why as a culture we’re fascinated by these outlaws, real or imagined.   Maybe it’s because there’s almost always admiration of someone who breaks the rules and gets away with it.  And that’s what these men and women do, at least for awhile.

They appeal to something that seems common in the American DNA, an anti-authoritarian rebellion, a sense of stand your ground.  Elsewhere, you find less of that.  That we don’t simply follow orders is an appealing idea.  We pay lip service to the boss or to the parent or to the teacher’s way of doing something and then find workarounds. Comes from the same root.

That often serves us well.  But it often doesn’t. Acting on this idea we elect crazy people to high public office and then wonder if they are high.  We buy junk we don’t need because we’re told it’s good stuff and then anger when it doesn’t work right.  And we rarely win that fight against City Hall.

Capone was responsible for the deaths of who-knows-how-many people, and he’s a folk hero to some.  But there are limits.  You might say the same about Lyndon Johnson or Dick Cheney. No one’s going to buy a pocket watch or duck rifle at auction.

Willie Sutton was a colorful bank robber and a folk hero.  Bernie Madoff outdid Sutton by an immeasurable figure but no one’s lining up for dibs on any love song he may write from his cell.

Yes, there are limits.

-“Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class.” -- Al Capone.

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

1811 The Last American Conglomerate

ITT, Gulf + Western, Time-Warner, Lowes theaters/tobacco, Ling-Temco.

These are school conglomerates that either have vanished or exist only as anorexics of their former selves.  There’s only one real publicly traded conglomerate still standing.

Oh, yeah.  You can make the case for Berkshire Hathaway as a conglomerate or Liberty Media or maybe even Con-cast.  But these are more narrowly focused or more investors than managers.

GE is a real honest and true mega corporation with its tungsten filaments in practically everything.

It doesn’t have the star quality it had under retired chairman Neutron Jack Welch, the hottest stock pumper of the late 20th century.  The stock price has fallen from the upper middle 60s to the upper 20s. In a booming stock market.

The ride down began when Welch came up with the astonishing conclusion that “We’re not a conglomerate.  We’re an information company.” (That may not be an exact quote, but it’s close.)

The hydra that is Wall Street looked itself in the heads and said “Yo, Jack! Are you kidding? What about the jet engines and the financial services, the plastics, the medical equipment, the large and small appliances and the lightbulbs?”  And that IS an exact quote.  

Jeff Immelt took the helm.  He has to wear reflective clothing when he walks around headquarters in Fairfield because otherwise, no one would notice him.

Other than he’s moving the front office to Massachusetts and now has said he would step down as chairman after a mere 16 years he could well be the Invisible Man.

Trouble in River City?  Hard to tell.  This creaky old outfit, the last remaining original member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, isn’t going to go away because Immelt leaves as CEO in a few weeks and as chairman in December. But neither is it going to return to bringing “good things to life,” as their ads once said.

It’s hard to measure the impact of management in a company as hide bound as this one.  But apparently the Hydra Head crowd likes the change. The stock closed slightly higher on the day of the announcement.

The new guy, John Flannery, now head of the medical equipment division will have the same autonomy as Immelt and Welch.  Absolute Maximum Leader.

But don’t expect him to reclaim some of the spun off divisions.  GE Capital is not coming back.  They’re not going to pry NBC out of the cold dead hand of Comcast.  And they haven’t made a nuclear reactor in a dog’s age.

Light bulb making will not move back to Schenectady.  They won’t resume building radios.

For old time’s sake let’s hope Flannery gets record setting crowds at his inauguration.  Or admits he didn’t if he doesn’t.

-“I was chairman for two days. airplane with my engines hit a building I insured, was covered by a network I owned and I still have to increase earnings by 11%.” - Jeff Immelt on what it’s like to head GE.

-“...Weak managers destroy jobs.” - Jack Welch

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

1810 No Thanks, Mr. President

Vacancy. We’ll leave the light on for you.

D.J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave
Apartment Residence 1
Washington DC 20500

Mr. President,

Thank you for the kind invitation, but I am unable to serve as your Press Secretary.  I’m sure you will find an able candidate as you move Sean Spicer up the ladder to Communications Director. And I’m honored to have been considered for this important post.

But I’m also puzzled.  What ever led you to ask me in the first place?  I mean I know we’re a couple of septuagenarians from Queens.  I know you like Long Islanders. You know, Hannity and Spicer.  But I can’t for the life of me figure out where you found me.

My resume is not on Careerbuilder and my LinkedIn account is way out of date.  Since Brian Williams went to cable, I can’t say I know a single soul in the White House press corps.

And yes, I’ve spent a lot of years manufacturing fake news, so I know it when I see it.  So what’s the story? Did my kids maybe put you up to it?  Or some boss who hated me but couldn’t fire me because I was his boss’s fishing buddy?

Maybe it’s because my maternal grandparents came here from Russia or maybe Ukraine and you want to keep that connection going? (I do play a mean balalaika and drink a little more than my share of vodka.  But I hate borscht, so one cancels out the other.)

Oh! I know. It’s my lifelong support of the religion of capitalism that caught your eye.  No, wait.  That’s not possible.

There’s just so much wrong here.  I voted for Crooked Hillary. I have friends from Iran. I speak Spanish, sort of. I just don’t understand why you asked.

And that second phone call just before dawn this morning? And the third one a few minutes ago?  That’s not like you. It’s almost stalking!

In my world, Mr. President, no means no.  But let me propose a deal, since deals are what you’re famous for.  

You stop calling me. And in return, I’ll forward you Ron Nessen’s cell number. He’s a registered Republican.  He’s held the job before, albeit for that Rino Jerry Ford and he’s probably bored now that he has no one to crank at and boss around.

If you act fast, I’ll throw in a bonus: Kim Kardashian’s private email.  That’s gotta be worth something.

Good luck in your search.

--If you’re surprised that the Republican won in the Georgia special congressional election, maybe you shouldn’t be.  Republicans in red states are as dear to the masses as cotton, peanuts, tobacco and pecan pie.  And it doesn’t matter what the polls said might happen.

--Stiff upper lift department.  Queen Elizabeth addressed parliament about legislative priorities even though her husband, Prince Philip, 96, landed in the hospital at about the same time.  She spoke seated for more than ten minutes, urging sanity such as is possible in Brexit and continued funding for her country’s universal health care system.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, June 19, 2017

1809 Megan and Alex UPDATE 1

Megan Kelly (l) attempts to bring down Alex Jones.
Fox News composite. Ratings figures below

Somewhere in the great beyond, Uncle Miltie and David Brinkley are laughing. Finally -- finally! -- NBC has made a personnel mistake more bone headed than theirs.

They paid Milton Berle 27 of the 30 year contract to do absolutely nothing.  They couldn’t agree on a contract with the “washed up” Brinkley thus losing him to ABC where he re-invented Sundays.

Now they have to figure out what to do with the Ultimate Kelly Girl.  Oh, wait. Megan Kelly has an actual contract, not one of those temp things they used to like to do at NBC.

And they’ve aimed her at CBS’ 60 Minutes, which is the number one-watched news show in America today and maybe in the history of TV news.  This is going after an armored personnel carrier with a water pistol.

She proved she’s not ready for prime time by playing softball with Vladimir Putin, who immediately took control of his interview and said nothing. Maybe Vlad should offer her political asylum as he did to Jim Comey.

And then, there was last night. The “big” interview with Alex Jones who deserves less air time than your hyperactive Yorkshire Terrier.

With who?  Alex Jones, the guy who has a radio show and a website with such intriguing nonsense as denying the The Newtown school slaughter and “9/11 was an inside job.”

In other words an out of control conspiracy theorist who makes the 45th President of the United States look stable, a feat previously believed impossible.

She was gonna git him. She was gonna show America what a horror he is.  What she did was make the 290,000,000 Americans who never heard of Jones hear of Jones.

NBC had been flogging the interview all week. But by the time it hit air at 7 eastern last evening, it had been turned into a short piece filled with nonsensical narration and a few minutes of Jones bloviating about… well, it was hard to tell just what.

Cooler heads prevailed. The news division took its latest megastar failure and turned it into something close to an actual report.  At the last minute, as the clock was grinding toward air time, they made a very very very long news item out of it instead of the outing of a monster in his own words.

Either version of the program would have been unacceptable.  Bring on the Yorkie to bark for an hour.  More people will learn something valuable from that.

Jones is an early stage malignant melanoma. The way you get rid of those is not to let it grow on your nose or your arm until everyone can see it in all its ugliness, but to cut it out and then get regular checkups.

Kelly fled Fox but not before her late joining of the chorus that rightly got rid of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.  (Late, but not too late to get some ink.) And NBC hired her.

Big publicity about Megan. Big publicity about Putin (would he admit his fingers were on keyboards that were supposed to be reserved for American election workers? Of course not!)  And big publicity about the Jones freak show. (Step right up folks and watch a monster commit professional suicide before your eyes!)

Then there’s the internals.  NBC bumped some heavy hitters to make budget space for Kelly.  And those left un-bumped can be resentful.  When your coworkers resent you they can do terrible damage, which is why they will quietly elevate Kelly down to some prime spot on some shopping or home improvement channel which is where she belongs.

UPDATE: The Kelly hour scored 3.5 million viewers compared with 5.3 million for CBS' 60 minutes.

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

1808 Hot Enough for You?

Here’s hoping this week was the trailer and the movie will be less exciting.  Hollywood crams all the best stuff in the preview.  Then you see the film and you realize you’ve already seen the only parts worth seeing.

What does this all have to do with heat? Nothing.  At least not the kind you experience when you’re outside in summer.  This is a different kind of heat.

They had a little fire at a high rise in London.  Late reports say the death toll may rise above 100 and some of the victims may never be identified.

As the work week wound down, a UPS driver, Jimmy Lam, shot and killed three coworkers and then himself in San Francisco and no one yet knows why.

And then there’s Steve Scalise.

He’s going to be in the hospital “for some time,” his doctors say. Scalise is the third ranking member of the leadership in the house of representatives, the Republican “whip.” He was shot during baseball practice across the river from Washington in Virginia.

The events, of course, are unrelated. But they all seemed to hit at once.

A nut job with a long gun shot and wounded a bunch of people who he considered hate worthy.  

This time it wasn’t a white right wing kid with a chip on his shoulder who slipped into a church and killed a people because they were black.  This wasn’t a couple of high school misfits who fired on their classmates because they could. This wasn’t ISIS at a dance club

This was a left wing guy who hated republicans for being republicans. Irrational hatred is irrational hatred no matter the politics or age of the shooter or the nature of the target.

As of this writing, congressman Scalise remains in critical condition.  He’s had at least two surgeries, maybe more -- and maybe more to come.

Whips don’t make much news. Their jobs are more behind the scenes.

It’s probably fair to say there’s a good chance you never heard of Scalise until he took a bullet.

Now, we’re hearing calls for unity coming from every corner.  And that’s what we should be hearing and thinking.  

It’s what we hear and often what we do whenever something big and awful happens.  We forget our differences, at least temporarily. And we become a nation.  We embrace those we disdained yesterday.

But it fades quickly.

Just think of how much we could get done as a nation if we didn’t let it fade.
--Democrats won the charity baseball game 11-2 and lead the series 40-39 with one tie. Technically, you can’t tie a baseball game. But you don’t expect members of congress to play extra innings, do you?

-“We’re all Team Scalise.” Democratic congressional leader Nancy Pelosi.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

1807 A Tale of Two Presidents

The whole Trump controversy is about policies only to the point they frame the situation.  It doesn't matter what he says, it doesn't even much matter what he does.  It's what he IS that's troubling.

He could be advocating redistribution of the incomes above one million dollars.  He could be advocating unlimited access of Mexicans and Muslims.  He could raise taxes. Doesn't matter.  The reaction to trump, positive or negative is visceral.

You can unwind that to a point. The angry white men have reason to be angry.  The environmentalists have reason to be angry.  But as the song title says ... it ain't what you say, it's how you say it.

And everything Trump and his lackeys say has this smarminess about it.  He looks, sounds and gestures like a perpetual liar.  He looks, sounds and gestures like someone with something to hide.  Both probably are true.  But even the truth doesn't matter.  In this, perception is reality.

You can find examples every day.  You KNOW he wants to fire the special prosecutor and probably badly enough to throw Sessions under the bus.

People here tend to forgive easily.  More about that later.

But what we don't forgive is being treated like fools even if we ARE fools, at least for the moment.  And what we don't forgive is anyone who damages our highfalutin' international reputation even though there are times we don't deserve anything above  C+ or B- for falutin.

We want our presidents to be people we can respect. We had no one like that in the 2016 election.

"Character" is like porn. It's hard to define, but we know it when we see it.  We also notice when it's missing. And Trump and the people surrounding him don't deserve it, haven’t earned it, evidently can't earn it.  Same goes to the Republican leadership in congress.

Now about "easily forgiven."

There was a video on facebook of Jimmy Carter the other day. He was shaking the hand of every fellow passenger on his flight from Atlanta to Washington.

It looks like a campaign appearance.  But Carter is 92 years old and unlikely to run for anything. Plus, he has the best job in the world: Ex-president of the US.  Plenty of perks, plenty of money and especially since his cancer scare, plenty of affection and respect.  Deserved, I think.

Now why would a guy like that campaign on a plane?  Think of it this way.  An ex-president is on your flight or sitting at a booth at the local eatery.  You do a double take.  Gee, that guy sure looks like (Carter) (Bush) (the other Bush) (Clinton) (Obama.)  

Soon the joint is buzzing.  Some people want to approach him. Some wonder why he's there.  By getting out of his seat and moving in the aisles, Carter deftly took  everyone off the hook.  Hi, I'm Jimmy Carter, and I just wanted to drop by your seat and say hello.

After that, everyone can go back to his in-flight magazine, the movie or the nap and later gets some bragging rights. You know who was on my flight?  Can you beat that! He stopped by and said hello to everyone.  And after that, no one on the flight bothered him. He was free to read HIS in-flight magazine undisturbed.

I didn't like candidate Carter in 1976.   I thought Ford deserved a chance to help heal the country after Watergate. I ignored his glaring shortcomings and voted for him.

By 1980, it was "oh my God," Reagan's going to win. That can't be good for the country. So I voted for Carter.

Since then, I've disagreed strongly on his bashing of Israel. But other than that, I see him as someone to respect, maybe even like.  A completely unimposing guy with a good brain and the right ideas about most everything but the Middle East.

When he was diagnosed with cancer and gave that moving talk about the end of his life, I thought maybe I had the wrong idea about this guy. Not that it mattered. Not that my slow movement toward him means anything.  But I'm sure I'm not alone.

So I left a comment on the video that I didn't care whether he was 210 years old, I'm voting for him for a second term in 2020.

To see the video, with credit to the photographer, scroll down on this page

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...