Tuesday, December 31, 2019

4533 Lifetime

4533 Lifetime (From the Least Worst Wessays Collection. Edited and slightly expanded from the original of 2007.)

This frying pan did not come with a lifetime guarantee. It didn’t need to. It already had outlived several owners.  And it will outlive you unless you drop it on concrete.  And maybe even then. 

Do you check the spam folder in your email?  I do. Mostly, just the titles and then I dump the stuff.

But one sure got my attention the other day.  The subject line said “Your free lifetime membership is about to expire.”

Let me say that again:  Your free lifetime membership is about to expire.

Do they know something that I don’t know?

They don’t give an actual date.  So maybe this is just one of those “the world will end at the expiration of the Mayan Calendar” things.  Or a prediction from a radio or TV evangelist.

But I have to tell you, it was scary.

 I don’t remember ever signing up for a free lifetime membership in anything, nor do I have any record of having done so. But who knows what I’ve done in a drunken stupor?

More to the point… is this a death threat?  If so, it doesn’t much matter.  People in my line of work get those all the time.  Usually, they’re written in crayon or extra-wide magic marker.  And on napkins.  And with no return address on the envelope.

But it sure does give one pause.

So if you don’t hear me for a few days… in lieu of flowers, send a contribution to your favorite can shaker in front of the big box store.

Which brings us to another question about the word “lifetime.”  Which lifetime are they talking about when they offer a lifetime guarantee… not that anyone does much of that these days.

Do they mean YOUR lifetime or the lifetime of the product?

If the product, what is its life expectancy.

I have a 101-year old guitar whose maker offered a lifetime guarantee.  Did it expire at the end of his life which was something like 50 years ago?  Does it expire at the same time as my lifetime membership? If the thing is a century old and still works fine, what is ITS lifetime?

I’m confused.

I’m also Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Our take on Don Imus will be posted on Friday. It ain’t gonna be pretty.
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2020

Friday, December 27, 2019

4532 Resolutions

Making New Year’s resolutions is a negotiation with yourself.  So instead of just making a list (and checking it twice,) do what negotiators all over the world do: throw in some things you know you can keep. And add some you don’t care about not keeping others.

Some suggestions: 

--I resolve to not shoot anyone.  Most of us can go along with that, except for a handful of gun nuts who like hunting little kids in classrooms, moviegoers, gay people, Jewish people, black or Latino people and maybe a few bank and convenience store robbers with itchy trigger fingers.

--I resolve to not buy a $4,000 exercise machine and if I do, I resolve to not follow the DVD exercise that come with it, free (a $500 value.) These things arrive. You set them up.  You use them daily for -- oh, say -- a week.  Then (the recommended) three times a week.  Then once. And you realize it will cost you a small fortune to return it, plus the five year loan means only a small payment each month.  And it looks so … so … athletic sitting in the basement collecting dust.

--I resolve not to buy chickens unless they’re labeled “no antibiotics, ever.”  Easy to keep this one.  Makes you feel like you’ve done something for your health while being kind to the chickens.  Except it’s illegal to sell chickens that aren’t antibiotic free.  And you’re not being kind to the chickens. They’re mistreated by the Chicken-Industrial Complex no matter what they’re not injected with.

--I resolve not to vape.  Another easy-keeper.  Nothing replaces the fine, satisfying cancer causing fumes of real tobacco.

--I resolve to be a kinder gentler “me.” Nonsense. If you have to do behavior modification by resolution, it’s never going to work. And you know that.

Here’s a good slip-in:
--I resolve to gain more than ten pounds in 2020.  Chances are this is an auto-break.  But make sure you use an achievable limit. It almost always works. So you gain 9.4 pounds by December. Bingo. You failed on the side of the angels.

--Pick your top-five Commandments.  Bet you already keep ‘em.

Here’s another one that’s relatively easy to keep:
--I resolve to watch less TV. Fine. Get a smaller set and watch all you want.  This is a technical keeper. Just don’t confuse less with “fewer hours.”

--I resolve not to be taken in by the hype and then buying a 2020 Corvette.  It’s radically different from any other year’s model. And it’s in such high demand at such a (relatively) low price and in such short supply that chances are you will be able to keep this resolution even if you put down a deposit and sign onto a waiting list.

So you win this year’s negotiation.  But you also lose. That’s because you’re negotiating with yourself.  

And behave yourself at the bargaining table.  That’s how the greats in the negotiation business did it. Be more like Walter Reuther and less like Mike Quill. Be more like Henry Kissinger and less like donald trump.

You can do it.

Note to readers:  This is our final Wessay of 2019.  We will post a “least-worst-of” on New Year’s Eve, next Tuesday and resume new posts one week from today.

Happy New Year.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
© WJR 2020

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

4531 The Piltdown President

Prehistoric man swings more modern caveman’s club.

Maybe Piltdown man wasn’t a hoax, after all.  Back in the era when PT Barnum was considered non-fiction, someone claimed to unearth the skull of the missing link -- what supposedly came b
just before humans.  The “discoverer” was an archeology hobbyist named Charles Dawson.  And he said he made the discovery in Piltdown, which is near Sussex which is in England.

This happened in 1912 which itself is often considered pre-historic.

It took actual archeologists and a bevy of other scientific types to conclusively “prove” that Piltdown Man was a hoax.  That happened in 1953.  It took 41 years to figure out that Dawson might have made the whole thing up.  Apparently, the bone fragments smelling of hide glue didn’t set off any alarms.

Piltdown man was said to be half a million years in England’s past.  But current thinking has changed.  Put an underdeveloped brain into a critter with a big, loud mouth and what do you get?

That could be the answer about this guy as a throwback and how he set off the reappearance of throwbacks hiding in the closets of their caves.  Those described by the scientists as “fully developed but small-brained.”

The Piltdown skull seems to have been cobbled together with spare parts.  The so-called hoaxers used a handy British skull fragment and some bones from ancient animals and made it look like something half man and half ape.

The only remaining question is how did Piltdown stay out of sight for so long. We’d know more if we had a skull with an open mouth and orange hair.

You have to credit this guy Dawson.  He pulled a fast one on practically everyone.  And those everyones spent longer than the average lifetime of a Piltdowner proving there was no such thing.

But what if they were wrong?  What if there really was a Piltdown Man?  Well, it’s starting to look like there may have been. When we see bones, we don’t also see body fat or development. 

The original skull is still around. Maybe we should dress it up in a fatsuit. Hang a too-long red tie around his neck and compare this with you-know-who.

--Boeing fired its CEO because of planes that crashed and killed people. But that’s not enough. CEOs are essentially “idea people” and paper pushers.  There’s a whole string of lackeys standing on the line behind the top guy and executing the screwups for him.

--Figurehead Chief Justice Roberts says he will consult with his “inner umpire” in conducting the Senate trial of the impeached president. Who’s he kidding?  The fix is already in.

The staff and management of Wessays™ wish you a happy holiday filled with joy and well-aged fruitcake.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments:  Please send to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Friday, December 20, 2019

4530 Capone Speaks from the Grave

don and Al, brothers who never met.  That we know of.

Al Capone was the most famous gangster of the prohibition era.  He was a ruthless murdering crime boss whose downfall came from a small and insignificant breaking of the law.  If Al had had the inept Rudy Giuliani for a lawyer, he would never have been brought down by the likes of the Federal Prosecutors on the small charge. Eliot Ness got lucky.

But that was a different era.  They got “Al Brown” of the Bronx borough of New York on income tax evasion. He died after serving time, his syphilis did him in, not his criminal empire that had gripped Chicago and much of the rest of the nation.

And now, we have a different kind of gangster.  A con man, a deceiver of a magnitude Capone could never have conceived of and we’re treating him the same way we treated the anti-hero, Capone.

Throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks. Plenty. But the “cops” who “got him” are amateurs.  They have no idea how to bring down a Mobster-Mastermind, which precisely what trump is. (Neither did Giuliani, if you check his record as US Attorney.  Good thing he went into politics, because he had no future as a lawyer as his current client shows.)

Yes, the Democratic majority in the house of representatives impeached trump on two of a potential 11,356 possible counts.  And maybe there’s more to come.  Now, the totally nonpartisan United States Senate will deliberate his fate for ten seconds and declare him “not guilty.” After all, that phone call with the Ukraine president was … perfect.

And Chief Justice Roberts will have no choice to pronounce the President as such.  Delaying the start of the trial sounds delicious. Let that hang over his head for a while.

To be fair, trump is more John Gotti than Capone. He doesn’t observe the kind of silence and grit that Capone represented when questioned about his “associates,” as lawyers and prosecutors call his groupies and lackeys. 

Did you watch any of that eight hour “debate” in the House on Wednesday? Screaming Republican kindergarteners vs. boring self-righteous Democratic know it all frat boys and girls.  

New York Times columnist Gail Collins worries in print that the crazy president will get even crazier and do still more damage before he leaves office, which at some point he will have to.

But what about Capone? What would Al say to trump?  Impossible to tell for sure, of course.  But most likely it would be along the lines of “Cancel the twitter account.  Try to look more like a President.  Hit a bucket or two of golf balls on a driving range each morning. Don’t worry, pally, Americans have a collective short term memory problem. If they can resuscitate my image, they can resuscitate yours.” 

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments? Please send to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

4529 We Made This Mess

Could the people who thought up and then made America soon find their thoughts put to a new use?

We’re in trouble up to our noses.  It’s not trump or Moscow Mitch. They’re just the byproducts. Maybe the end products. We put ourselves in this muck by being what most of us are: Good Americans.

What’s that?  For the most part, we are generous of spirit.  We have a feeling -- sometimes faint -- for the other guy’s point of view.  We are willing to say that people will do what they believe is right and won’t do what they believe is wrong.  And often, when we’re wrong about something, we admit it.

And we respect authority, at least with our mouths if not our hearts. And sometimes, we respect too much.

The seeds of our current crises were sewn in the 19th century, then grew -- slowly at first -- but steadily.  When the Robber Barons were in their prime we listened to them. They fed us 19th century junk food.  But, look, they’re rich and powerful. Those are good things to be, right?  Let’s try to be Jay Gould or JP Morgan or at least Astor’s pet horse.

People of deep perception took note. And basically, they reigned in the financial terrorists of the Standard Oil era.  Most of us alive today don’t remember when people fought the creation of regulatory agencies as “socialist.” Also “socialist?” Social Security. Voting rights. The war on poverty. Desegregation.  Medicare. Medicaid. Unions.

None of that was even close to socialism. It was simply American institutionalizing helping hands.

But we’re also bent toward letting things go too long in the wrong direction.  After what Tom Brokaw calls the “Greatest Generation,” we got soft. Consumerism was on the rise. The Saturday Evening Post told us it was a big, wide, white and wonderful world. We believed the Dulles brothers -- there were commies at every bus stop waiting to sell us into wage slavery.

Then came William F. Buckley, a fabulous recontour with an agenda. He was essentially an apologist for Pope Pius XII, but an amusing one.

Then came Ayn Rand with her combination of individual “rights,” and “rational self-interest.”

Then it was the John Birch Society, with guns and ammo for the oppressed white majority.  And the anti-Semites and the George Wallaces and the countervailing Black Power-ites and Nation of Islam and the most violent of violent groups the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.  (My mom was Stokely Carmichael’s homeroom teacher.)

Now we have the remaining Koch, Rush Limbaugh, Moscow Mitch and the puppet, trump.  They are anti-reason, they are anti-intellectuals, they ignore facts. They ignore science and they ignore -- the rest of us.

Their central premise is that America has “always” survived and prospers and “always will,” no matter our greed, our excesses and our ignoring of or hostility toward facts, reason and situational awareness.

That’s wrong. And if you don’t stop it, we will implode.  The dynamite for that already is in place. All that’s left is to light the fuse.

It’s too windy for the Bic lighter. Anyone have a Zippo?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments? Send to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Friday, December 13, 2019

4528 The President and the Hershey Bar

This used to cost a nickel.  And it was bigger.

What do you think of when you hear the name “Hershey?” Chances are it’s a candy bar, the chocolate of peasants and kings the world over.

Or maybe you think of the small, unincorporated company hamlet in Pennsylvania with the chocolate factory, museums, a large and well-attended amusement park where people don’t fall off rides. 

There’s also a pretty decent hospital, some charity offices and a couple of dozen saloons, none of which is called “The Hershey Bar,” where people can retire while their friends and families are busy not falling off rides, having their hearts transplanted or getting contact chocolate highs from the factory smokestacks.

And you can’t swing a dead cat in certain areas of the state without hitting someone named Hershey.

it’s also a place where people gather to hear tall tales told by America’s Storyteller, donald trump, currently pretending to be president and always on tour.

And there he was, earlier this week, with a sputtering 90 minute extravaganza of a tall tale, delivered to an allegedly unpaid cheering crowd. And showman that he is, he followed an important rule of vaudeville, never turn your back on the audience.  We’ll see why that’s important at the end of this tale, which is roughly five times shorter than the Great Man’s speech.

Selling his usual snake oil concoction of lies, brags, racism, sexism, antisemitism; salting it with seeds of victimization, and manufacturing fake enemies for you to devour along with him, trump zigged and zagged through his ever-expanding repertoire of disconnected insults.

--The FBI is corrupt, he says.  Then there are the usual cast of countries and characters:
-Any and every Democratic officeholder, former officeholder, potential officeholder… But especially
The usual gang of people and things he’s either for or against.

An hour and a half of that is poison. Tell him that and he’ll give you the cure: more poison, more venom.
To use a trumpestuous form of the language: “I don’t know whether or not this is true.  But what I heard is that our teller of tales has a tail. Also, Doctor Bone spurs removed the horns.

The scars that may be on his head are why he wears his hair that way. And the tail is why he never turns his back.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ® 
Comments: please send to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

mini 012 Remembering Ed Koch on his birthday

Mayor Koch would be 95 today, Thursday 12/12/19. Boy oh boy would it be fun to have him around these days!  Always audacious, he had the audacity to die back in 2013 at a mere 88.

As former Mayor Mike Bloomberg said at Ed’s funeral, here was the typical New Yorker: A Jewish guy buried in a Protestant cemetery in a Dominican neighborhood. No, Mike, not typical. Archtypical.

My own first look at his audacity came around 1958. It turned into a friendship of more than 50 years. What was audacious about him back then? Try this:

That was the 1950s. Washington Square Park. Sunday sing-ins. Audacious? Hell, yeah. The only thing worse he did back then than play the guitar was to sing.

But he already was a lawyer and he was the lawyer that fought City Hall for the rest of us and won over the Parks Department which wanted us to clear out of the park and stop the Sunday sing-ins.

Ed destroyed the DiSapio-Tammany Hall wing of the Democratic Party, which badly needed destruction.  He rose from City Councilman to Congressman to Mayor to Elder  Scold in quick time. But he never changed much.

When he was first elected, New York City was on the verge of bankruptcy and there was no help coming from Washington.  So he figured out how to do it on his own.  And then, he did it.

He supported W. Bush’s run for president. (We fought. We ate.) He was friends with Republican Senator Al D’Amato (all three of us fought, we all ate.)

He ran his segment on my radio show overtime. When I asked him what to take out to make it fit into the Bloomberg Radio computerized weekend program he said “I don’t care. Take out anything you want.” So, I did. He was harder to edit than he was to interview. And it cut into my breakfast hour. 

I loved the guy. Still, I do.

But Ed, if you can hear me, I know they never gave you a harp up there… so put down the cheap guitar, stop “singing” some Pete Seeger song and get your butt back down here.  New York and all of America needs fixing. And I know you’re the guy who could do it.

Wes Richards 12/12/19

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

4527 Toiletgate

Where Michael Corleone’s pistol was hidden.

Ok, America, are you flushing too many times?  Your president seems to think you are and that has provoked him to propose deregulation of toilets. 

There is some logic. New toilets must provide for low-water eco-flushes.  So, goes the thought, you’ll have to flush more, thus using one of those old fashioned jobs that can suck the air out of the bathroom and use mega-gallons of water in the process.

Is big water toilet-ness an issue?  Maybe in parts of the south, desert and mountain west. (It’s a dry heat) or in places like North Jersey and Michigan (that water can be used to kill household pests and damage the brains of young children.)

But for much of the country, water is not a big deal -- not nearly as big as in places like sub-Saharan Africa.

The key idea here has nothing to do with water. It has to do with regulation.  Let us point out what a mess deregulation has made of air travel, broadcasting, home mortgages, banking and telecommunications.

Deregulation destroys in the name of creating competition.  It endangers public safety and wellbeing.  It puts your life in the hands of corporate giants and petty locals who don’t care about current generations, let alone that of the future -- if there is one.

Deregulation clouds the air, poisons the water (no matter how often you flush or don’t.)  It puts workers in danger. It provokes greed. It makes education falter and puts students into a lifetime of debt.

Why, you may ask, are politicians so eager these days to deregulate everything except abortion, birth control and international travel, among other bodily functions?  Well, some of it’s the money, the catnip of politicians good and bad.  And power, the crack cocaine.

And there’s a page of the flower power era that answers that: deregulation is Power to the People, with some unnecessary middlemen along the way.

The 1960s liberals eventually brought sanity to abortion and birth control laws, and to the freewheeling capital pirates and hatemongers.  But the slogan is more powerful than what it represents.  Power to the people. The people spoke in the 60s. They are speaking now.

It’s not the same people and the same ideas. But it’s still power to the people.

In the 1960s, the “establishment” thought “we” were wrong. They’ve come around.  And now, they’re the outliers. Again. 

M&A Watch:
--The hillbilly bank of BB&T and the other hillbilly bank, Suntrust, have completed their so-called merger of equals.  This space has predicted failure since the deal was announced.  Now, as further evidence comes the combined bank’s new name, “Truist,” completely moronic despite its near-gargantuan size but judging by the completely moronic name, a failure waiting to happen.

--Let’s look at some other “mergers of equals.” Best example: Daimler Chrysler which ended in disaster for both companies.  Then there’s Chemical-Chase. The smaller partner, Chase, won that one because it had a better known name but survives because the seriously overpaid CEO Jaimie Dimon is a genius with an edge and no one remembers Chemical which actually was a good and temperate junior partner had the assets to make it work.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments? Here’s where to send them: wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

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...