Wednesday, August 30, 2017

1838 trump in Texas

1838 trump in Texas: We Can Only Hope

Did trump learn anything from his trip to Texas?  We can only hope. Did he watch how real Americans with a real disaster respond? This is his first shot at dealing with one not of his own making. Or was he just asleep at that folding table while the real world sloshed around him.

At this writing, the rain is starting to taper off in Texas and Louisiana.  And that means the long term work can soon begin.

But here’s the lesson trump should have learned and maybe would have learned if his eyes were at least half open:  Government works.

Houston wasn’t expecting the kind of deluge it got.  But it had a plan and the plan worked as well as any could.

On the street… the entire Texas National Guard is mobilized.  Twelve thousand men and women.  Every cop, every firefighter, every EMS worker is on duty. Each has tasks and is completing them as fast as nature allows.

There are no territorial disputes here, just cooperation.  There are no finger pointers. The fingers are too busy to point.  There are no malingerers.

Still, there are thousands made suddenly homeless.  And there are the dead and injured.  No accurate count is possible yet.  But so what if there were?

The mayor, the governor, the congressional delegation, the disaster management people are all in there with shovels and street sweepers and hoses and trucks.

Some areas are running short of space.  Warehousing instant homeless in the 13,000 range isn’t easily accomplished. And some private operators of large buildings are showing their true colors by keeping the doors closed.

The evangelist Joel Osteen had to be shamed into opening his megachurch to the storm victims and now denies it was ever closed. If it was, as reported, it isn’t now.

The whole point, the whole lesson is that we work together and government provides the infrastructure and planning that makes something like this search-rescue-recovery effort possible.

The trump, sleepy as he was, seemed astonished by the choreography of the effort.  This kind of planning does not appear from nowhere.  People thought this through and connected with one another for decades. Had they not we’d have drowning deaths in six figures by now.

So when he next acts to destroy the EPA or public education, the next time he disowns and denies climate change, the next time he brags about the size of his crowds or sends out a Twitter storm of brags and complaints and white power anthems, maybe just maybe he’ll have learned something about the function of government from this trip.

We can only hope.

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

1837 Trumpademic

1837 Trumpademic
(Sketchite Illustration)

If there’s a vaccine, it’s probably overpriced. But no one can afford to wait for the generic version.  We have a Trumpademic.  Many of us. Maybe most of us. Maybe nearly all of us.

Think of this guy as a disease that affects your perceptions, dominates your waking hours and holds you back from even the slightest diversion of thought.

A category four hurricane blasted southeast Texas this past weekend.  And while we were treated to the usual reporters-in-the-rain, the Very Concerned Meteorologists with their maps and radar and graphics, the people in charge of informing us thought it would be enough to give us a few minutes now and then and an occasional banner crawl at the bottom of the screen or above the front page flag -- where the newspaper puts its headlines. They soon again started showing Trumpademic symptoms.

Print news analysts gave a quick final review to their thousand word articles about whether we were going to have a nuclear war with North Korea or if the Army was going send genitalia inspectors to morning formations at Ft. Dix or Ft. Bragg or Ft. Benning.

They were re- reading their columns on the meaning of some guy no one ever heard of was squeezed out of the White House.

Meantime, political consultants were champing at the bit in cable television green rooms in New York, Washington and Atlanta ready to dive into yet another scintillating debate about the effects of the Joe Arpaio pardon.

Field crews were setting up cameras as correspondents applied their makeup, getting ready for yet another round robin of reports from every town and village where there was even the hint of an impending demonstration by the Klan, the alt-right, the antifas, black lives matter, all lives matter and any other band with a recent hit record.

Trumpademic steals attention from every source. It’s the flesh eating bacteria of 2017.  No one has anything else on his mind.

So the natural question is what are the long term effects of this distraction?

Well, notice that the number of stories about cats stranded in trees, casino building implosions and skiers or climbers found alive ten days after an avalanche buried a mountain in the Himalayas or a TWTD or Third World Transportation Disaster. So it’s not all bad.  But bad enough. Because those who had been inoculated against this disease are probably pulling some shenanigans behind our backs.  You know… maybe plans for applying tattooed numbers on the arms of undesirables, like, say, people with incomes of under seven figures.

And a complication we’re not yet aware of: becoming bored to death.  That’s a recipe for completing the takeover of your life.

“Trump: ‘I want nothing but peace and love and the most cordial relations with the weak-kneed, low energy Congressional Republican losers and the lying, Obama-worshiping fake news media.  I'm the greatest national unifier that any president has ever been.’" -- John W. Gibson

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

1836 Laryngitis at the Village Voice

Image result for village voice 1955
After we all got over our snit, we started to like the Village Voice.  The snit was about unfair competition with the real Greenwich Village newspaper, “The Villager,” which was kind of like the Moote Pointe Mercury-Herald, only for a real piece of geography.

In fact, we started to like it so much that we would line up late on Tuesday evenings (was it Tuesdays?) We’d be the first to get to the apartment rental, help wanted and girlfriend ads.  We’d get to see what was on Nat Hentoff’s mind.  We’d see the latest cartoon from Jules “big black floating specs are good for you” Feiffer.

And it was a big paper.  Many pages.  Many fish to wrap, excess to recycle before recycling was both cool and mandatory.  

In series of ownership changes over the years, the Voice figured it was charging its readers too much.  So it took the coin boxes out of those red boxes on every corner of Manhattan and came up with the Very Best Possible Slogan for a giveaway:  they became “The Newspaper that Can’t be Bought.”  Bravo!

Hentoff’s long gone. Newfield. Cockburn.  All dead or fired or both.  Saving money.  If that weren’t bad enough…  here comes the really bad news:

The Voice will stop printing.  It’s becoming online only.

A lot of alternative newspapers (not to be confused with alternative facts,) have stopped printing and gone away or started scantily content-ed websites that no one reads.

The Voice was not the first paper of its kind.  But it was the biggest and the best known. It had more star reporters per column inch than any other of its breed.  It was the church bulletin of the Beat Generation.  It was the critic the Times and Trib didn’t have the nerve to print.

It was the investigator municipal investigators feared. Even when you had to buy it, it couldn’t be bought.

So they save a few bucks by not printing at all rather than cutting back to a few pages or printing every other week.

The website has no paywall. So from here on in, the Voice will rely on advertisers to keep afloat.

What’s funny is how the rival publications are reacting. The New York Daily news gushed sadness. So did New York Magazine, one of two lasting memorials to the Herald-Trib (it started as the paper’s Sunday mag. The other memorial:  the Fresh Air Fund.)

The New York Times reminds us that the date the presses die has not yet been established.  New owner Peter Barbey vows to “make the Voice relevant again.” Shows you what a Pennsylvania investment guy thinks.  It IS relevant, Pete.

People who buy the paper that can’t be bought should create a title for themselves: New Owner. Because there seems to be one of those every few years.  

This is where you find out whose hands are picking whose pockets… who is paying who for that city contract… who really owns all those new buildings that are popping up all over town.

This is where you find out when your favorite obscure modern dance troupe will be trooping in from Barbados or Cosamil or Riga.  When the next Andy Warhol is about to arrive.  What Bernie Madoff’s life behind bars is like.  Why the streets of Elmhurst and Harlem get plowed only occasionally, and sometimes when there’s been no snowfall.  

Maybe they still can do that as a website. Maybe they’ll list the no show jobs at the courthouse or city hall.  Maybe.

If you want it to, click on some ads.  Many ads. And not just for a week or two. Give them another 62 years.

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

1835 Uber in Horse and Buggy Country

STOELLENFUSSER PA -- (Wessays™ News Service) -- Abraham Stoellenfusser, great great great grandson of the town’s founder in the 570 Area Code wants to be an Uber driver.  And he has a problem.  Two, actually. First you need a smartphone to hail an Uber and most people in his town and its surroundings don’t have smart phones.  Second, to be an Uber driver you need a car.  And the folks here tend not to have cars.  

He has a truck.  A 1956 GMC - 100 with Hydramatic. Uses it to take the crops for sale to larger towns in less traditional area codes.  It’s OK to have a motor vehicle if you only use it for work. At least that’s what Stollenfusser says.

But he has an eye on a spiffy, low mileage Chrysler station wagon that’s maybe ten or 12 years old but runs like a top.  Clean, too.  Be nice to ferry around needers of rides.  He’s even figured out how to attach a gizmo called a “governor” which will limit its speed to 11 MPH.  No sense jarring those poor old men and women by going, say 20 or 30 in a 55 zone.  Saves gas, too.

The Dollar General has those triangular reflective triangles that indicate “slow moving vehicle” so that’s no problem.

But Uber won’t grant him a job unless he has a smart phone.  And on that, he won’t budge.  

Lots of Amish have cell phones. They just don’t have landlines or VOIP because that would require running wires to the house.

A visitor asks how if he did have a smartphone he would keep the battery charged?  He points out that the Chrysler has a charging port.  

So if you’re around ‘Bram’s town and you need a ride, it’s just a couple of keystrokes away.  Well, not keystrokes, actually. Pen strokes. There’s a signup sheet at the head of that little road that leads to the Stoellenfusser place. He checks it every morning at about 6.

And yes, driving an Uber is driving for work, just like crop delivery.

--Looks like we’ll be hanging out in Afghanistan for awhile.  Trump listened to his generals and will increase the US troop count.  To a hammer, everything else is a nail.

--There’s no public plan to win in Afghanistan and no definition of winning.  There’s no public timetable, either but you can bet there is a non-public one. That’s how to lose… they’ll just wait us out.

--How can the ships of a modern navy keep crashing into others? And when the alarms ring, how do sailors not know to get out of the compartments where doors close and seal to prevent the ship from taking on water.  That’s a technology that’s been around at least since the Titanic and probably earlier.

-Happy 82nd birthday to Morton Dean, the guy who should have gotten Cronkite’s job when Walter retired.

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

1834 Bannon

Stately, plump Steve Bannon came from the West Wing bearing a bowl of crazy on which a pen and a copy of his resignation lay crossed.

“You don’t know about me without you have read a website by the name of Breitbart, but that ain’t no matter.”

Bannon dropped the paper on John Kelly’s desk and said “I’ll go home and I’ll think of some way to get him back.  After all, tomorrow is another day.”

Okay. Enough of this. The first line here is from James Joyce’s Ulysses, the second from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and the third line closes Victor Fleming’s Gone with the Wind.

So goes the story of the obscure stately plump Bannon’s odyssey from the White House back to his website and likely his thoughts about Donald Trump and Trump’s latest temp worker and chief of staff John Kelly.

All of a sudden the wild man Bannon is a free agent, ready for any team to sign. Looks like he’s playing for Breitbart again, at least during the current off season.  Let’s see who signs him when the real fun -- the 2018 campaign -- starts, probably in a month or two.

Bannon and Kelly “agreed” that it was time for Bannon to go.  Trump is his own “chief strategist” along with being his own Secretaries of state, defense, education, commerce, energy, homeland security and his own press secretary. But he’s not his own chief of staff.  We have to wait and see what comes next in the coup within the coup.

Still, the president has taken on  a lot of jobs for an essentially lazy slug.  But at least for the moment, he has Kelly, Stalin to his inner Lenin.

Did Bannon leave behind that bowl of crazy over which his pen and resignation letter lay?  Probably not.  But he did leave the can of Barbasol from which its contents came.

-Do the skinheads, Klanspersons and neo Nazis realize that the sheets they wear, the swastikas on their arms and the electric shavers they use to keep their heads shiny are all made in China?

--When one of the Murdoch boys pledged $1 million to the ACLU after Trump’s standup routine on Charlottesville, many believed his Fox News might be evolving.  We saw headlines like “Fox veering left.” Don’t get carried away or hold your breath in anticipation.

--The people who run the New York subway system (and yes, there are such people even though at the moment they are all asleep somewhere on a stalled Q Train) have realized there’s something that looks like a Confederate Flag embedded in a tile wall at the Times Square station.  They’re planning to get rid of it.  Not a bad Idea, fellas, but there are higher priorities for the subways now… like making the trains actually run.

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

1833 Mr. President Please Step Down

At this point, sir, the single most patriotic act you can perform, the greatest good you can do for the greatest number -- including your base -- is to leave office.

Please, in the name of decency and love of America,  pass the reins to your vice president.  You have traveled the road into office and reached a dead end, an end where there is only one exit and for the country you say you love, you must take it. Go back the way you came in.

We know it’s hard for you to back down. For whatever reason, there’s something that prevents you from taking a step you think will make you look weak.

Resignation now would be not a sign of weakness but of strength.  It would demonstrate to all 330-million of us that you are a man of character, intelligence, foresight and righteousness.

It is not just that you are unqualified for the office. You have not used those few assets you do have in ways befitting a self governed people.  It is our fault, not yours.  We elected you.

Even those who voted for your opponents in the primaries, the caucuses and in the general election would accept values we oppose if they were voiced and acted upon in ways worthy of an American president.  Instead, you have offered a combination of ever-shifting views, internet posts that are impossible to believe, hired unqualified assistants and failed to fill vacancies that are critical to our courts, our international relations and our domestic security.

We have had presidents who didn’t understand the workings of government. But in most cases, they brought with them competent men and women who could either educate them or perform the duties they could not.

We have had presidents who consider some people beneath them, inferior in some ways.  In most cases this has been untrue and unjust.  But none of them openly advocated the degree of marginalizing you seem to be working for.

We have had presidents who bait, taunt and threaten enemies, real or imagined. But with few exceptions, their bait, taunts and threats could be modified and negotiated.  

We’ve had presidents who approved treaties that ultimately have hurt us.  NAFTA and its cousins have many a shortcoming.  The Paris Accord on climate change is a voluntary and our participation was symbolic of a stand: global warming is real.  The Iran nuclear deal is deeply flawed.  But we’re America.  We keep our promises, we don’t shrink from them, deny we made them or blame them for troubles they don’t cause.

Almost all of this is mechanics, getting to know the machinery of the executive branch and how it relates to the other branches of government, to the states and to America’s role as a world leader.

But the presidency is more than simple mechanics.  The winner of a presidential election sets the tone and mood of the country.  And the tone and mood you have set is damaging.

It’s not up to ordinary citizens to determine whether laws were broken in your business or presidential dealings. That’s why we have law enforcement and prosecutors. We are reluctant as a nation to start an investigation. But start we have.  And no matter how it ends, it will damage the presidency and the country.  It will distract you from the real business of the United States… of which you act as if you have no understanding.

We cannot afford a second Watergate. For all his flaws, Richard Nixon understood all these things and acted on his understanding. He quit.

Your personal instability, your reckless threats to our potential enemies, your courting of the Russian president all work against a united United States.  Your unwillingness to strongly condemn the so-called alt right and its white supremacists divides us and leaves us open to internal conquest.

You know this. And yet there’s something in you that won’t pull the plug.

You are driving your supporters in congress away  -- possibly the best thing you can do for them because they have the potential to soften the most rash of your proposals.

In this country, it is perfectly legal to dislike particular ethnic groups, to mock the justice system, to mock the legislature.  But it’s not perfectly right to advocate violence even when it’s met with counter-violence. It is not perfectly right to align yourself with others who would destroy America in the name of white supremacy or economic gain. You can not operate the United States Government as if you were CEO of a toaster company or the tin pot dictator of a communist or fascist dictatorship.

And you can’t seem to grasp that important but unwritten part of the office we have given you.

It’s hard to believe the chaos, fear, despair and weariness you have caused have only been present for about half a year.  It seems far longer. The thought of where this is headed if your term runs its four years is unthinkable.   

Maybe things moved too fast for you.  There are those who believe you never thought you’d win the election. Whether that’s true is irrelevant except to the point that your daily actions, your hourly internet posts and your failure to grasp the effects of your trajectory are ever more quickly destroying the country you say you love.

Please, sir, in the name of everything America stands for, do the right thing, the patriotic thing, the moral thing and tender your resignation.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

1832 The New Face of the Master Race

1832 The New Face of the Master Race
There it is, folks.  This is what we’re all in a twist about. James Alex Fields, the “man” charged in the murder at Charlottesville VA.

Let’s first clear up something important.  When we first learned about this kid driving a car into a crowd, killing one person and injuring others, we said he was from Ohio.  He lives there now.  But he’s a recent arrival.  Moved out of Mommy’s house only recently. Mommy’s house was in Kentucky.  It makes a difference.

The way things work today, the insurance company will pay for the repair of the wrecked Dodge and Fiat/Chrysler will announce it decries violence and some auto club will remind us that cars don’t kill people.

But I digress.

This pathetic schlump is the face of the evil in Charlottesville.  His defense team (?) is coaching him in those courthouse cliches, the ones people usually named Bobby Joe or Billy Edd tell judges after conviction and before sentencing:

  1. I had a rough childhood. Mom had to work four jobs just to put food on the table and sleep with the landlord when she couldn’t come up with the rent.
  2. I am not a bad person.
  3. I fell in with a bad crowd.
  4. It was an accident.

  1. Probably at least partly true.
  2. Wrong.
  3. For sure.
  4. Are you kidding?

If this were 1935 in Germany, would this kid qualify to join the Hitler Youth?

Yes, even the NAZIs are subject to the diluting of their standards.

Granted a lot of this anti white supremacist talk from unexpected sources may be less than sincere.   But at least these unexpected sources are doing the unexpected: criticizing the Brat-in-Chief for saying too little too late.


-Alabama tailor Jeff Sessions currently Attorney General.

-Major seller of bed linens and costumes Doug McMillon, CEO of Wal-mart.

-Academician Ben Sasse, currently a US Senator (R-Nebraska.)

-NeoCon Bill Kristol.

-Rupert Murdoch.

These are people you can usually forecast will take a stand for the “should be” and who define the should be as a white male run society where the rest of us behave because we know our place.

So, back to boy genius James Alex Fields. We don’t yet know whether civil rights activist Jeff Sessions will muster the guts to charge this bozo with a hate crime.  That may not seem like much.  But it carries with it somewhat stronger penalties than your run of the mill murder, attempted murder, murder during the commission of a felony and jaywalking.  (Hate jaywalking is a crime only in California, Vermont and Hawaii.)

But prosecutors in Virginia, a state with little to brag about since 1850 know how to lodge a murder charge.

-Unless there’s a more outrageous outrage from the president’s mouth beforehand, we’ll look at his Tuesday afternoon rantings on Friday.

-Think about this historical note:  Most of the confederate statues in this controversy were set in place well after the civil war and mark not the war but the rollback of human rights that followed emancipation and reconstruction.

--Automotive experts are singing the praises of the new Dodge Challenger.  Not only did one recently make the trip all the way from Ohio to Virginia without breaking down, it still had enough oomph to jump a sidewalk before coming to rest atop a pedestrian. Kudos to Fiat/Chrysler for the improvement.

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

1831 A Weekend in Charlottesville

There are certain truths about the civil war that this column holds to be self evident.  The most important is that the south won and now governs what passes for the United States with the help of its occupied territories in the mountain and desert west and its northern secret police.

Robert E. Lee was a skilled general.  Skilled to the point that if he had a slightly less incompetent army, his side would have won the war officially instead of simply de facto.

And indirectly, this: every word out of our current President’s mouth requires an asterisk and a footnote.

So to the matter at hand, a demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia that supposedly was a protest against a city law requiring removing a statue of Gen. Lee.  But it turned into something much more.

It really was another of those pathetic, violent protests against people who aren’t white and Christian of a particular flavor.

And wouldn’t you know it, those commies and homosexuals and transgenders and fluid drive gender and people of African or Caribbean descent came out to counter protest.

As of this writing one counter protester was killed and several others injured as the Alt Righties took their  cues and tactics from their soul brothers in ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Two policemen were killed when their helicopter crashed en route to the festivities.

The City sent out every cop.  The state sent out every cop.  The president decried the hatred “on many sides.”  On many sides?  There’s that need for an asterisk again.

One republican said on CNN “Trump should have sent in the National Guard.  That’s what Eisenhower would have done.”  Eisenhower did do that.  He federalized the Arkansas National Guard and sent in paratroopers so that nine black kids could enter all white Little Rock Arkansas Central high school and enroll.

As of this writing, there’s no such action in the pipeline.  Just decrying the violence “on many sides.”

Now, what about General Lee?  While he was no open opponent of slavery and proved that time and again as executor of plantation owning uncle’s will, he also was a West Point grad and one time superintendent of the Academy.  He opposed dividing the country, even though he stayed with his native Virginia.

So to summarize, he favored slavery, but opposed the two state solution.  That’s enough to make him a hero to the president’s base.  And it considered removing the statue as sacrilege.

The president’s most important function is not listed in his constitutional job description.  It’s called setting the tone for the country.  Some do it better than others. Most are terrible at it.

Nixon failed. He had that mothballed zombie air about him. Ford was only in office for ten minutes, so that doesn’t count. Carter? Nobody home. Reagan was Nixon but with Old Spice instead of mothballs. Bush-one wasn’t too good at it either.  We can’t all be Connecticut WASPs, after all.  

Clinton?  What can you say about Clinton?  Defined by his enemies.  Bush-two? Mission accomplished.  Obama struggled with this-all for eight years.

Trump is the master.  For all his “what-did-he-say?” bluster, Trump has set the tone.  Here’s a pile of hoods and sheets.  Take one of each and pass the rest to the guy on your right.

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 ...