Friday, March 29, 2019

2070 Gardening


2070 Gardening

How many decades married to a gardener and picked up nothing?  This would be the year to remember if there were anything to remember, but there isn't.

With spring finally here this would be the time to start growing tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, peppers, kohlrabi, turnips, peppers and rhubarb.  But, no.  No expertise, even with the bountiful soil of central Pennsylvania, so much more fertile and farmy than the sands of Long Island's south shore.

This would be the spring and summer to grow all that veggie stuff, with the guidance of the farmy types who inhabit this region.  A big saving over the stupor market, a pleasure, getting dirty in God's green earth.  a matter of pride.  Not to mention nutrition.

There have been some trial runs.  A "snake plant" which grows anywhere and under any circumstances is not growing.  A hydrangea brought back from the dead last autumn? The jury remains out and probably will for a month on whether it'll come back to life yet again.  But statistically, the likelihood is not great.  Both the plant and the planter were in bad shape last summer.

And then, there's Randi Cohen.  She's been a gardener for 70 of her years, which is most of them.  She says gardening is not what it's cracked up to be.  She says "you know, there's more nutrition in a can of corn than in an ear of corn?"  Don't believe it?  Look it up.  Randi says "grow a bunch of tomato vines.  See how many hours you have to weed and feed and water and then tell me if 'Hunts' is any more expensive."

So does grow your own save money?  Only if you don't count your time as worth something, evidently.  Yes, if you don't, no if you do.  Does grow-your-own mean better nutrition?  Farmer Randi says "no."  Is that the final word?  No, but close.

Randi holds up a Mickey D wrapper.  She asks "What's worse than reading the nutrition label on a McDonald's Double cheeseburger?"

The answer: "reading the nutrition label on a McDonald's double cheeseburger after you've just finished three of them."

Maybe there's something to growing your own turnips.  Or maybe there's more in reading labels before you order.

Shrapnel:

--You buy stuff.  Soon thereafter, you find a coupon for the same stuff.  By the time you need to buy the same thing again, the coupon will have expired.

--Then, there’s CVS.  Buy an item for 69 cents and you get a stream of coupons with the receipt.  Caution: they expire before you reach the store’s exit.

--We have to prepare for a round-robin reading of the Mueller report if ever we get to see some or even all of it. Start making your groups early so everyone will be in place when -- if -- the time comes.  Promise: it won’t be boring.

I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
Correspondence to wesrichards@gmail.com
©WJR 2019


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

2069 The Teflon Don(ald) and the Witch Hunt that Failed


2069 The Teflon Don and the Witch Hunt that Failed


They called John Gotti the Teflon don. For most of his career as a simple plumbing supply salesman from South Ozone Park, he slipped out of the pan where prosecutors tried to fry him.  But eventually, the Teflon wore out or off and they got Gotti.

Be assured that the current Teflon Don will have a shorter shelf life.  Our president, a simple innkeeper from Jamaica Estates, managed to slither off Mueller’s cookware.  But that’s temporary.

We haven’t yet seen the Mueller Report.  But the Barr Report by the Attorney General about the Mueller Report is not enough to satisfy anyone but all the president’s men.  And women.

You can’t blame the guy for faking an orgasm when he learned that he wasn’t going to be indicted for collusion with Russia.  But he’s clever enough to know that there’s plenty more to come.  So while he does his victory lap, his teeth are chattering.  And it ain’t that cold in Palm Beach.

Mueller is the opposite of the overzealous prosecutors that pilot most criminal cases as if they were above the law they were supposed to uphold.  He’s so conservative, that he didn’t take steps that a more flamboyant DA would.  The Mueller report, even the sanitized summary from the Attorney General surely has details to attract the kind of lowlife roaches that put this president where he belongs:  In solitary.  Maybe in padded solitary.

So now it’s up to the state and local roach control specialists to clean up the messes Mueller has at least hinted are there.

There are things they couldn’t pin on Gotti. There are things they can’t pin on trump.  But they won’t have to resort to the Capone tactic, convicting a satanic majesty of a relatively minor crime like tax evasion.

The Teflon don is a national security risk.  He opens doors to this country’s enemies and encourages acts that fly in the face of what America is supposed to mean.  He sews the seeds of unrest.  He encourages despoiling the air and water.  He is a reverse Robin Hood. And the witch hunt failed.

To paraphrase Stephen Colbert: Fair is fair. No collusion?  Okay we can cross out one reason trump is unqualified to be president.

But only one.

SHRAPNEL:
--So trump is off one legal hook and so is Jussie Smollett, as prosecutors in Chicago abandon all charges and instantly seal the record to the whole state case.  You can easily infer from mayor Rham Emanuel’s statement he thinks the low rent actor bought his way out of jail. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson remains unconvinced that Smollett is innocent.

--The Illinois State Attorney seemed to have no trouble dropping the charges.  The network that carries Smollett’s program was happy with the decision.  And the rest of us are just plain befuddled … or angry… or both.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
© WJR 2019


Monday, March 25, 2019

2068 Anthony Pellicano

2068 Anthony Pellicano
Sydney Morning Herald

You know you’ve heard the name.  But maybe you don’t remember why.  Here’s why. Pellicano was a susperstar private eye in Hollywood back in the day.  But the day ended when he went to jail which was about 15 years ago.  Now you’re hearing about him again because he finished serving his sentence two days ago, and walked out and into the 67-degree sunshine of Los Angeles.

He is a man without a job, without a private investigator license but with a lot of big name friends several of them who'd started a small trust fund in anticipation of his release.  You think he’s going to live on social security and a few grand in a fund? 

Nah.

He’ll write a book about his exploits, his clients, his private wiretap “war room.” And who knows how much he has stashed away in a hidey-hole in the desert. Maybe nothing.  Maybe something.  Maybe inside a tumbleweed that seems never to tumble.

Are there also bodies out there?  Probably not, though that was a message he may have occasionally delivered to an uncooperative witness.   

So why was he in jail for all those years?  Well, let’s start with the wiretapping.  Let’s go, then, to the plastic explosives the FBI said it found in his office safe. Tools of the trade?

He was famous for spying on Sly Stallone and others in that league.  He worked for (or was it against) Michael Jackson. 

He’s like the colorful old time bad guys we hate to love but love anyway.  If you go back far enough in time, you’ll find a different Anthony.  Slim, intense, and on the side of the angels, specializing as an investigator and an expert witness about all things wiretap.

He must have reasoned that the angels weren’t angelic enough and went into the P.I. business.  And there is where he made his name, where he acquired his high-paying clients and where he got himself imprisoned.

I don’t know about you. But I’m waiting for the book.  If there isn’t one in the works, there should be.

Note to APellicano: You don’t need a PI license to consult for your former competitors.  They’d love to have your expertise and likely would pay mucho dinero for your expertise.

SHRAPNEL:
--Bet you weren’t invited to Friday’s smirk party in Palm Beach either.  There was the “president,” all smiles and orange hair because the Mueller Report had been turned over to the Attorney General and James Comey was nowhere in sight with a pair of handcuffs.  Supporters called that a victory while the rest of us call it a bad start.

--Can we all agree that Bobby Three Sticks is a man of integrity, a pretty good lawyer and more likely to err on the side of caution than to jump into a pool of starving sharks?  Yeah, probably.  But also, he’s left the real dirty work to local and regional authorities in various venues including New York, Washington and Palm Beach.

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





Friday, March 22, 2019

2067 The Plane of the Year


2067 The Plane of the Year


Would you buy a used 737 Max from this fellow?  He’s William Boeing.  And by all accounts, he was a heads-up guy. Hard working. Started from the ground and built a pretty good airplane factory.  Recently, there was a waterspout near Seattle.  In it, Boeing’s ashes reassembled just long enough to yell “Fix those damn things!” loud enough to be heard west to Illinois where his company now has its headquarters.

They’ve started selling aircraft in ways that would make a car buyer crazy.  

“Hey, we have all these dandy safety features if you buy the 737 Safety Package” option.  It has software that sometimes prevent nose-dives.  It also includes two engine turbo boosters, and a well padded cockpit.”

Customer asks whether he can get just the software as an add on.

“No, sorry. It comes only with the Safety Package which also includes deluxe seatbelts and a really nice sounding upgrade to the two-way radio.”

Undercoating? Windshield engraving?  Extended warranty?  All extra.  Keyless entry? A gourmet galley? You know… all those things that make the skies your personal paradise.

Customer asks question about Consumer Reports’ “projected reliability” rating.

“Well, we’re working on some improvements.  Probably ready for the 2021 model year. And no, that’s not an oil leak on the showroom floor. We had a family in here a few minutes ago, and one of the kids spilled a Dr. Pepper under the 737.”

Customer asks question about cancelled orders.

“Nah, that’s just a negotiating ploy. It’s a perfectly good plane. We may have to knock a few million off the sticker price, maybe a rebate or low interest financing. But the customers won’t really cancel.”

And then, the ultimate plane sales question: “What can I do to get you behind the wheel today?”

All of the above snarkiness is a plea for someone to do something about aerial safety.  There have been some terrible hard and software and training blunders in the relatively brief era of heavier-than-air flight.  But most of them did not take place on some fancy upgrade of what was thought of as a tried-and-true workhorse model.

SHRAPNEL:
--Comey doesn’t want trump impeached.  He writes that he wants the Mueller report to prove that “the system works.”  But does it?

--The administration wants to stop federal research grants to colleges that aren’t bastions of free speech.  Translation: let the race-baiters and war mongers and capitalists have a crack at America’s young minds and anti-thises and thats.  Time out for hate and make Orwell proud.

TODAY’S QUOTE:
-“Vote for me.  I’m no good. But since I asked you first, I think you should.” -- Lionel Killberg, songwriter and social worker.

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




Wednesday, March 20, 2019

2066 The Blurry Messiah


2066 The Blurry Messiah

STATE COLLEGE, PA (Wessays ® Wire)  -- Run for your lives, it’s BETO! Beto O’Rourke, who says he was “born to be president” skateboarded into a student center at a local college and waved his arms.

The candidate is best known for losing an election for Senate to Ted Cruz, whom nobody likes.  He also is known for being a pretty good computer hacker, a mediocre skateboarder, the waving arms and -- best of all -- no stand on any issue, at least no stand about which you can pin him down. Blurry.

We’ll talk about that later.  But now, it’s on to the important stuff:
--Democrats don’t have second names anymore.  There’s Bernie. There’s Uncle Joe.  There’s Tulsi.  And even among the handful of non-candidates, some have only a first name or initials. AOC (too young to run,) Oprah (doesn’t want the pay cut,) for example.

Now we can return to Beto at Penn-State-o.

In order to run a viable campaign against a republican in Texas, you have to be an almost-republican yourself.  Beto met that criterion pretty well by spitting platitude out of one side of his mouth while sipping Big Oil money out of the other.

Is there a chance that a white male can win a Democratic presidential nomination in 2020?  Slim chance, but still possible.  Does he have to stand for or against something meaningful? Well, sure.  Playing Dudley Doright won’t work for anyone.  But the candidate can’t be a dry and unlikeable deadmouth like -- oh, say -- Hillary Clinton.

Give him that.

President Obama rode to victory on a combination of charisma and policy in 2008.  The bloom was off the rose in 2012, but the petals hadn’t all fallen to the ground yet, and he had an opponent so stiff and out of touch he might have won re-election by napping.

The present president has been running for a second term since before he won the first one. And trump is running on hot air, lies, and his evil carnival barker persona.

Beto?  Though lower key, he has the substance-free thing pretty neatly sewn up, at least for now.  Uncle Joe waffles a la Mario Cuomo, Andy Cuomo waffles like Mario and the others churn out unreadable position papers or speak actual policies in less Hillary-like manner but can’t skateboard. (Tulsi has been pictured riding a surfboard, but Surfin’ USA is pretty yesterday.)

In his campaign against Cruz, Beto visited every county in Texas.  All 254 of them. It didn’t work. Cruz was disliked but still elected.  O’Rourke may try visiting every county in the US -- and there are more than 3,000 of them.  Guy’s going to have mighty sore feet.

What does early campaigning in a small town with a big university say about a candidate?  It says he’s counting on the kid vote. But at least his handlers (he does have handlers. They all do, even the ones who say they don’t,) plunked him down in a large-ish food court rather than the vast stadium, the near-vast meeting hall or an outdoor venue on campus.  Like trump, you can make a small gathering look like a big crowd if you photograph it from the proper angle.

But the blurry messiah needs sharper focus.

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


Monday, March 18, 2019

2065 Short Stories Told Long





Finally figured out what is so annoying about the endless panel shows on “news” television.  They are short stories told long. Almost always, too long.

Since the birth of television, they’ve used panels to fill time on the cheap. “What’s My Line?” “To Tell the Truth,” “I’ve Got a Secret,” “Hollywood Squares,” and on and on.  But panel shows lasted only half an hour and sometimes were even fun to watch.

Now they’re on all the time. For most of “all the time,” they’re no fun and little more than random noise.  

Podcasts are even worse.  And so is much of talk radio.  Rush Limbaugh famously bloviates for three hours a day without taking either a breath… or a phone call. And all sportscasters are the same guy. But those are stories for another time.

News television is now full time Meet The Press, only with no one of Tim Russert’s ability as referee.  Or they’re college dorm bull sessions and verbal fisticuffs in a barroom that caters to know-it-all philosophy majors and other types who live in various alternative universes.

How many empty thought balloons can dance on the head of a pin?

When trump tweets or burps, it does not take a panel to analyze.  But standard operating procedure has become to form a panel:

1.       A firebrand liberal who lost an election.
2.       A firebrand conservative who thinks the sun shines out trump’s nostrils.
3.       A revered former mid-road Republican office holder with a “don’t fight, kids” demeanor.
4.       A revered former mid-road Democratic office holder who regularly plays cards with #3 and likes him.

It helps if all four of these panelists are on set.  That way if there’s physical violence, viewers will have something to talk about other than the claptrap they hear and see.  But usually, at least one member is a remote pickup with delayed satellite link and who hears everything a second or two after the other members and stares blankly at the camera or the skype gizmo looking lost when you expect him to talk.

On occasions as rare as the appearance of Brigadoon, one member has one important or memorable thing to say. But after he says it, it gets lost in the verbal mist or fog that covers whatever follows. Brigadoon all over again.

Earth to the news channels:  Do you wonder why websites like Axios and The Week are growing like mushrooms after a rainfall?  Well, here’s the answer. They summarize and encapsulate.  And they’re written in everyday English, not newspaperese or legalize or psychobabble, cop speak, soldier speak, doctor speak or any other jargon.

This post is an example of short story told long. There is more unnecessary noise in these words to put all but the most determined readers to sleep.  As an experiment in public service, here is the abstract:

The writer believes there’s too much extraneous noise and chatter getting in the way of much of what’s on the TV news channels.  He cites the roots of this by mentioning panel shows from the early days of TV which were shorter and more fun.

Forty five words. Two sentences. Next case…

And of course, an abstract belongs at the top, not the bottom. But if we put it there, who would read the rest?

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





Thursday, March 14, 2019

2064 ADVANCE FOR FRIDAY 3/15/19 Conversation with Spinach


2064 Conversation with My Spinach


Down at the A&P the other day, we bought a bag of frozen steamable chopped spinach.  That night, we plopped it into the microwave, carefully making sure the proper side of the bag faced up. Four minutes later, a plate of our favorite vegetable.

A little salt and pepper, a touch of butter-like substance and we brought the plate to a tray table ready to enjoy while binge watching old Popeye cartoons on television.

Suddenly, a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder and the power goes out.  No Popeye binge.

Silence.

Then a voice: “Well, dummy, are you going to just sit there and wait for the electric company to guess what happened, or are you going to pick up your smartphone and call them?”

Wait a minute. I’m the only one home.  So where’s that voice coming from?

“From your plate, you hockey puck.”

I think: my spinach can talk?

“Yes, I can.  And I can read your every thought. How else would I know you were thinking your question?  And while I’m at it, can you put less salt on me?  You’re using too much and that’s not healthy for either of us.”

Did I fall asleep and dream a dream of talking spinach?

“You are not asleep.”

A dream of talking, mind-reading spinach?

I pick up the phone and call the electric company.

“Atta boy,” says my plate.

Soon the power is restored and Popeye reappears on the TV set.

“Do you see that cartoon guy?” asks the spinach.

Yes, I do.

“He’s has been trying to give vegetables a good name and this year is Popeye’s 100th birthday.  Does it do any good?”

Not if you lecture us about it. Anyway… I’m going to eat you up and you’ll be gone.

“Oh, do I have a surprise for you, punk.”

I eat a fork full.

Then, in stereo: “You can’t get rid of me just by chewing.”

One channel comes from the plate, the other from my esophagus.  

“Being consumed is our job and we love it. But, hey, treat us with a little respect!  Do you know what a carrot feels like when you peel it?  Carrots have feelings.  So do onions -- especially the purple ones -- and peas… and beans. Whatever happened to humane slaughter of lettuce and tomato?”

The esophagus channel has gone lower in my digestive tract and its volume is starting to fade.  I quickly finish the remaining spinach, turn the TV to a John Wayne movie and promptly fall asleep.

But face it… you talk to vegetables every day. You just don’t realize that that’s what they are.

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





Wednesday, March 13, 2019

2063 Expiration Dates


Some expiration dates are absolutely clear. Take this one from "Mission Impossible:" "This tape will self destruct in five seconds."

Five seconds later, poof, the tape is gone in a small flame and Jim Phelps tosses the tape player in a wastebasket in the park or a dumpster in an ally, and that's that.

Most everything else... it gets vague.

The cottage cheese container says "Sell by March 13, 2019." Implicit here is that the stuff will self destruct pretty quickly thereafter and let's make sure the customer isn’t stuck with the rancid, green cheese or milk or what have you. So, this is a warning for the merchant rather than the shopper. And even for the merchant it's vague. What TIME on 3/13/19? If the store is open 24 hours, do they send people scurrying around at 11:45 pm on the 12th, hunting for things to remove 15 minutes later?

Vaguest of all is "Best if used by so and so date." What does that mean? Does it mean the can or box or package won't explode? Or does it mean the stuff will gradually deteriorate until, when you open it a week later whatever's inside will have shrunk or shriveled or begun to turn to powder, but won't kill you outright?

A side note on a new version of "Sale ends December 28th." Instead of saying that, they say "Prices good until December 28th." What happens on the 29th? Do the prices turn "bad?" Or maybe they turn "excellent." Probably, they rise. But that's not what the sentence says.

Of course, there are "sell by" and "use by" and "best by" dates that are a bit more significant than those for cheese or milk or the big holiday sale. If you're in doubt about a can of soup's viability, you can throw it out.

But you can't throw out a war. The Korean war started in 1950 and an armistice was declared in 1953. Sixty-six years later, American troops remain on the Korean peninsula. Not only that, but North Korea just withdrew from the armistice, so the war goes on. At least technically. So July 27, 1953 was the armistice's "best if used by" date. But not an expiration.

Now, what's kind of date have we attached in Afghanistan or Syria and does anyone believe it?

Shrapnel:

--The charities that used to send sheets of labels with your name and address seem to have stopped doing that, or at least cut back. They were, of course, expecting donations in return -- and may not have gotten many. So you probably are down to your last 5,000 stickers.

--That's not the only thing that's disappearing. What ever happened to contests where you could win something by giving the best answer in 25 words or less? No one can say anything in 25 words anymore, including this piece of shrapnel which runs 45 words.

--The above word count is accurate only under certain circumstances, though it is certified both manually and by Google Documents' word count feature. The rub comes thus: Is "--" a word and are 25 and 46 one word each, or two? The actual count could be as high as 49.

GRAPESHOT:
-Why was it never 25 words or fewer?

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them. ®
Correspondence here: wesrichards@gmail.com
©2019 WJR


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...