Friday, August 30, 2019

2023 Maxy's Cadillac



We called it “The Silver Pig.”
What was the most obvious sign of living the American Dream?  For immigrant boys from World War II Europe, it was a Cadillac. You had one, you showed ‘em.

Maxy from Frankfurt always wanted one.  He came from a country where they make big fancy cars with good reputations.  But all they were... were, well, big fancy cars with good reputations.  Here in America, you want to show you’d “made it,” you drove a Caddy.

By the time he got to the point of owning one, they’d come a long way down.  So what? It was a Cadillac.  And it was all his.  Bought for cash. No car loan; no monthly payments.

On his first drive from Florida to Long Island, he pulled into the driveway and called the fire department.  The fire was under the hood. The re-call letters had gone out too late for the trip. They put out the fire and got the car to a local dealer for warranty repairs.

The thing rode like a living room couch on wheels.  And the paint peeled.  More than once.  The V8 engine was smooth and powerful.  But it threw a piston at 80-thousand miles making it useless.

It had a loud and melodious horn. But when the temperature dropped into the low 20s, it would blow continuously on its own, usually in the wee small hours of the morning and awaken neighbors who became wee small enraged. If the door lock wasn’t frozen shut, you had to go into the driver’s position and fist pound the horn button to shut it up.  If you couldn’t get in… well.  It wouldn’t be that cold forever.

Cadillac has been in deep trouble for years. Its customers are old. Its cars are, um, less than the Cadillac of Cadillacs.  Its manufacturer has pulled bone-headed stunts for decades.  Maxy’s was a 1978 model. It outlived him, but not by much.

Among those bone-headed moves? Slapping its nameplate on what was essentially a Chevy when compact cars were new.  Making a whole line of sedans when no one was buying sedans.  Customers, such as there are of them, are still awaiting an up-to-date SUV.  It’s coming, says GM. So is Christmas.  Christmas will arrive first. 

The most bone-headed stunt of all was moving its headquarters from Michigan to lower Manhattan. The office. The design studio. But not the factory.  Why? Well, they wanted to be in SoHo where “the action is,” where cool young people gather to work and play.” Maybe some of that “cool” would rub off.  It didn’t.

They made a big splash about the move.  Then they returned -- quietly -- to Detroit with their tailfins between their legs.

Now, comes new leadership.  New models. New high tech things.  So, what else is new?  Well, the new division president, Steve Carlisle, had been running GM Canada.  He says “We’ve stopped trying to out-German the Germans,” meaning he realizes the Escalade is no Benz. (Actually, today’s Benz is no Benz either.  But that’s another story.)

At least you can pronounce his name.  His predecessor was Johann DeNysschen.  Try saying that three times in a row.  In fact, try saying that at all.

The basic issue in carmaking is getting the tin off the lot.  The newer ones still have that couch-on-wheels ride.  And the soon-to-be standard Almost Self Driving system works like a charm.  Really.  And this machinery hasn’t killed anyone. Yet.

The current models are flashy, though they don’t score as well as most of their foreign competitors in predicted reliability.

But president Carlisle should take a listen to one of the last Actual Car Guys of the late 20th Century, Lee Iacocca who created the Ford Mustang and then saved Chrysler for a time.

Iacocca said you can’t be successful if you’re shipping crap.

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


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

2022 Back to School


Old Main at Ameriker’s Braine, the school on the hill.

NEW ROSES PA -- (Wessays) --The college kiddies return to the bars, supermarkets, buses and the occasional class this week.  It's a good time to stay indoors even in good weather... of which we have occasional if only momentary bouts.

There was one fringe benefit for working at WBLF radio. The studio window faced the sidewalk of a street that a lot of students used to walk to class. About 50% of them were girls.  About 50% of the girls were worth girl-watching.
Now, WBLF has moved.  And the view from the new place can't be anywhere near as good. No more watching. But they’re in an abandoned bank with the vault still intact. That’s something.
Forty thousand undergrads pack the streets of what we preposterously refer to as “downtown.”  Two days from now, the police blotter will be filled with the names of public intox accused, underaged drinkers, violators of the noise ordinances and crossing against red lights -- which, believe it or not, is a major problem around here.
Between listening to their iPods or believing the business district is part of the campus -- which it almost is -- no one over the age of eight or under the age of 35 pays any attention to traffic signals. This malady is an offshoot of the thousands who walk but whose feet don’t touch the ground.  
Business hint: Do not open a shoe store here.  No one ever wears out a heel or sole.  You have to have your feet on the ground for that to happen.
So far, things are off to a relatively slow and civilized start.  You still can find a parking spot at MegaMart, although it requires walking a hiking trail to get to the building.  
None of the monster buses which run on Environmentally Correct compressed natural gas and serpentine narrow streets has disabled itself by hitting a much smaller vehicle.  Yet.
No football player has added to his rap sheet. Yet.  No party-goer has fallen from a balcony.  No frat or sorority pledge has passed out on the Great Lawn.  Yet.  And no freshman has yet to crack open a book. But the semester is young. Some of these events are as sure as the law of gravity.  Patience.  You can’t stop the natural order of things. But the newbies have yet to learn the route to the next party.

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





Monday, August 26, 2019

2021 The Order of Business




No, this is not about Robert’s Rules of order.  Poor old Bobby is long forgotten.  This is about the Great Dictator’s order to American business to cut ties with China.

Can he do that?  Well, yeah, he can.

There’s an obscure and little used law that lets him.  It’s called the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.  It’s been around since 1977 and requires a “state of emergency.”  We certainly have one of those, its name is donald trump.  But that’s not the kind of emergency the law-givers meant. 

All of this goes back to the World War I era “Trading With the Enemy” act.  So is China our enemy?  Only if we declare war.  That would take congressional action.

Under a section of the Patriot Act, a joint session of Congress may end the emergency.  What do you think the chance of that might be?

Let’s say, for argument’s sake that the Great Dictator declares the emergency and makes his tweet order real.  How would American companies extract themselves from China?  However it might happen, it might take years.  

What happens if America comes to its senses and elects someone other than Charlie Chaplin as president next year?  Would the candidate, let’s call her Norma Normal, revoke the emergency?  If so, what do the companies do?  Call Allied Van Lines and say “Never mind?”

“Sorry, Fiat Chrysler.  You have to put your Chinese factory back together.”  Sorry, Wal-mart, you have to put all those out of work sewing factory workers back to work, even though technically they don’t work for you. 

Sorry, McDonald's, no tofu for you

Even the apparently almighty Koch Industries will have to leave. 

What would happen if all these businesses simply ignore the order?

Here’s another question: how did trump learn of this law when he is so busy performing all those miracles that he says occupy his time and whatever kind of vegetation grows in his skull?

Once again, the pseudopresident sews chaos.

Advice to the reality show viewing public. Give the guy his Emmy, cancel his show and don’t allow reruns. And do it before he can do even more damage.

SHRAPNEL:
--There are other questions the get-out-of-China order would raise.  Example: Is the post office a business? If it is, can it stop delivering US mail to China?  What about letters from here to there?

--If your $1,000 Korean-branded cellphone was made in China? Is it Chinese or Korean when it comes to the shipping laws? What about your Chinese-branded air conditioner that was made in Mexico? Does Google have to remove Chinese from its translator app?

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



Friday, August 23, 2019

2120 An Open Letter from a Jew Who Votes

scroll down please.
Mr. trump,1.
Of all the bat guano crazy stuff you’ve come out with for all these decades, the thing about Jews who vote Democratic being uninformed or disloyal to Israel and by implication the US is close to the top of the list.

In the first place, what in the world do you know about loyalty?

And you’ve against used the old “Dual Loyalty” ruse.  Let me assure you that while most Jews the world over support the country that calls itself Israel and its status as a Jewish state, those same Jews are loyal to their own country first.

The monstrous claims about Israel were followed by your tweets and your little talk to reporters that carried this nonsense even further. You claimed to be “the Chosen One.” That was about the China trade war, not the Jews.  But you looked skyward when you said it.  

And there was the ludicrous tweet about how the Israelis love you.  Other than the immediate circle of Netanyahu crazies, that just isn’t true.  Oh, and the tweet about “King of Israel?”

We gave up the royalty routine after guys like Kings David and Saul and that was the end of it.  Want a biblical reference?  Well, let’s look at the book of Deuteronomy. It’s where “God” tells the Jews if you want a king, I can do that for you, but restrictions apply. Among them: 

He must be one of your kinsmen, this king you appoint over you — you are forbidden to appoint a foreigner over you who is not your kinsman. 16 However, he is not to acquire many horses for himself or have the people return to Egypt to obtain more horses, inasmuch as (god) told you never to go back that way again. 17 Likewise, he is not to acquire many wives for himself, so that his heart will not turn away, and he is not to acquire excessive quantities of silver and gold. (Jewish Publication Society translation, Deut 17:14-20)

Well, don, that kind of lets you out on several counts.

Jews kind of drifted into the Democratic Party because in some form it is the closest American secular organization that comes close to embracing Jewish values.

At latest count there were about 125 million registered Democrats in this country.  There are 4.2 million Jews in America, and that includes men, women, children, those without government IDs, those gerrymandered into districts that make their votes meaningless and those too lazy or discouraged to vote even if qualified.  And by no means is every registered Jewish voter a Democrat.

Some don’t think much of Israel while others embrace the idea and still others who seek refuge from people like you there.

We have suffered indignities at the hands of various people for millennia and managed to remain in place.  Well, in placeS.  And you’re not the worst of them. Your concentration camps for Latin Americans don’t have gas chambers.  At least not yet. That we know of.  The pogroms against immigrants haven’t included mass murders.  At least not yet. That we know of.

Bill Clinton -- this space considers him a crypto Republican -- reminded himself “it’s the economy, stupid!”  With you, also a crypto Republican, but of another sort, we’d suggest that your sticky note says “it’s morality, stupid.”  But there’s a difference. Clinton know what the word economy means.

1. this space never capitalize the "t" in "trump."

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them ® and I’ll be watching for the Cossacks. 
Comments? Send ‘em to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

2119 Arrow Analytics



2119 Arrow Analytics
Seventeen arrows hit the target, none in the bullseye. Four others fell short  Another 25 hit the hay bales behind it.

Corporations in fear of a Democrat in the White House are getting all squishy about their mission.  Some members of the Business Roundtable have decided that “shareholder value” no longer needs to be their main goal.  They want to be “good corporate citizens.” They want to be ethical. They want to keep their employees happy.  And their customers.

Great idea, boys and girls. Probably a good way to bolster profits in the long run and attract those juicy millennial customers and workers.  But it’s also time to take a look at executive compensation.

Don’t worry.  This is not going to become a screed about avaricious CEOs who earn 480% more than the workers.  It’s simply a new way to promote a saner form of bonuses and other perks. 

CEO as Archer:

It’s simple. Take that rarely used Swedish Modern conference table, get rid of the Eames chairs and the Ben Carson-ish table and install an archery range.

Nice big target.  Rings and a bullseye the labels marked with dollar amounts.  Give the top ten bosses the bows and arrows and let them try for the bullseye.  That’s where the big bucks are.  Outer rings get lesser amounts.  And if the shooters miss the targets entirely, they have to give back part of their salaries.  And pay for repairs to the wall.

Not fair, you say?  Illogical? Discriminates against people with weaker arms; less steady body control or eyesight? Pishposh. Weaklingism is not a protected class.

At least those who hit the target will have a marketable skill unlike most CEOs.   There’s an increasing call for archery instructors these days, what with all those AK 47s being confiscated.  And those who fail to hit the target can practice for next year with a computer game that supposedly sharpens your bow and arrow skills.

(Here’s hoping it works better than the app that claims to improve your golf swing or the one that helps you become a more successful bowler.)

In the world of shareholder value and other fake reasons for corporations to cook the books, no analyst will look doltish because accuracy will no longer determine what’s on his paycheck.

Compensation for accomplishment and punishment for wrong guesses? How yesterday is that?

SHRAPNEL:
--We’re due for a recession because we’re three years over the usual seven years between them.  Or not.  To remind, a “recession” is two consecutive quarterly contractions of the Gross Domestic Product.

--Who makes up these definitions?  The same people who post GDP figures.  And the people who revise the figures two weeks later.

--All the Republicans went boo-hoo back when the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates.  Now, they’re all for one because it’ll make voters happy. Having it both ways is not how we define fair play and also shores up the notion that politicians should keep their dirty hands to themselves and let the few remaining folks in charge who still know how this machinery works do what we pay them for.

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, August 19, 2019

2118 The Death of Clocks




There’s no clock in baseball.  The longest major league game ran 33 innings and lasted eight hours and eight minutes. The White Sox beat the Brewers 7-6 on Thursday, May 8, 1984.

Other sports DO have clocks.  But no one watches them. The clocks, that is, not the sports.  A typical televised NFL football game or college game can take four 15 minute quarters and make them last for around four hours.

In the NBA, four 12 minute quarters can last almost three hours.  In the NHL, three 20 minute periods also last 2 ½ hours or more.

Life imitates sports.  You can spend 15 minutes grocery shopping and another 30 checking out.  An Amtrak train can be six minutes late and still be counted as “on time.”

And then there are political campaigns.  The presidential campaign of 2020 began on Friday, January 20, 2017 and will last until Tuesday, November 3, 2020.  That’s 1,383 days not counting recounts and the counting of absentee ballots. That’s about 8,000 professional football games played sequentially and without interruption.

And that’s how long the professional campaigners want your undivided attention on their glorious selves, their Great Ideas and their reasons you should vote for them or at least against everyone else.  It only seems endless because it IS endless.

But don’t worry about staying awake for all those hours.  There are many sports announcers ready, willing and able to catch you up on all the thrilling action any time you turn on a radio or television or read a newspaper.

Sports play by play announcers, statisticians and analysts like Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity... and panelists more numerous than sum of singers in the chorus formerly known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, musicians in the famously overcrowded Gewandhausorchester and commuters awaiting the 6:46 pm to Babylon on Penn Station’s infamously short track 20.

This really is Babble On.

And then, there are the survey makers.  Fortunately, you can include that in campaign time if you wish.  But examined separately, they form a whole ‘nuther level of stale baked goods and termite food.

Candidate A is leading Candidate B 38-to-20 percent among white male turnip farmers aged 25-to-49. But the number is reduced by half if you include their adult children and older parents. The margin of error is plus or minus 18%.

Oh, but that was ten days ago.  What about NOW?  And what about tomorrow.  Or the day after.

Also worth considering are the opinions of political science professors, many of whom were fired as stock analysis for getting something right.  “If Candidate A loses Central Falls, Rhode Island, he cannot possibly win the national election,” says Professor H. Plancton Cabotlodge, Ph.D. of Cartilage University, “No one who lost Central Falls has ever won national office.”

If you’re a sports fan in a hurry, you can watch all of this on YouTube, the Reader’s Digest of video and you won’t need to get a home equity loan to afford the peanuts and Cracker Jack as you might at Yankee Stadium or the L.A. Coliseum. And who needs context, anyway?

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

Friday, August 16, 2019

2117 Moote Point Marvin and the Seagulls




Note to beachgoers in Ocean City, NJ: Moote Pointe Marvin is available to solve your seagull infestation without sending in hawks, falcons and owls to scare them off.  The gulls were there first. They’re not going away.  But they should be tamed.

According to published reports, the gulls at Ocean City are so nasty, they swoop in and steal food out of peoples’ hands. They strike fear into the hearts of innocent children because up close and closing in at high speed, a seagull seems fierce and dangerous instead of the beautiful, graceful sky-floaters they really are.

Moote Pointe had a similar problem.  Those familiar with these posts know MP is a small hamlet on the immediate south shore of western Long Island, New York.  In winter, the birds go hunting for shell fish in the ocean, grab what they catch in their beaks and fly it to the highways, where they drop them, then land and eat from the shells they’ve opened. 

But in summer, the beaches are full of people working on their tans and each other and chasing after their kids. So, the gulls stay where the food is and eat what they can.

This problem is not exclusive to the waterfront.  It extends to nearby parking lots where people sometimes leave empty or mostly empty bags of food on the ground.  One particular Moote Pointe lot is served by three burger joints, a bagel bakery and a Chinese takeout.

Marvin was job hunting there one day and he had a brilliant idea.

Next morning, he bought a few small bags of fries and scattered them, unopened, in the parking lot.  Then he cornered the manager of the property -- already frazzled about the gulls -- and showed him the ground chaos he’d created. Mr. Manager was aghast when Marvin said he did it on purpose.  Threatened to call the cops, all that. No, says Marvin, when the birds finish, I will sweep up the trash they leave behind.

And that’s what he did.  The rest of the afternoon, no more gulls.

Mr. Manager’s reaction? “You’re hired.”

So each morning in summer, Marvin goes to one of the fast food places that are open early enough, buys bags of fries.  Places them strategically in spots on the outer edges of the parking lot and waits with his broom.

It’s not as easy for a gull to open a bag and then a box and eat the fries as it is to drop an immobile clam on a concrete road.  So the gulls have to work for their food.  Sometimes, when he’s feeling flush, Marv will buy a bacon egg and cheese biscuit, just one among the bags.  You should see the attention that bag gets.

The folks at Ocean City can stop hiring jet fighter birds to attack gulls.  All they have to do is make a feeding station or two and the gulls won’t bother the beachgoers.  They’ll be too busy pecking holes in paper bags and pulling out the contents.

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

2116 Melting Plastico




There are a lot of reasons to dislike Placido Domingo.  The current mini-uproar is not the best of them.  

Oh, yes, the famous 33% of the Three Tenors musical clown show was apparently a womanizer. But by today’s standards, he wasn’t all that evil.  

Domingo is not Cosby. He’s not Epstein. He’s not Weinstein. He’s not trump or the creep at the bar and his field of targets is a small number.  Yes, he’s a big fish in the small pond called the Opera Industrial Complex.  And yes, by his own admission sometimes behaved boorishly.  And sometimes even had sex with women at the office, some of whom were fearful and reluctant. 

The main reason to dislike Plastico is his stiff delivery, bad acting and mediocre conducting.  As he ages, his voice becomes lower. He’s now singing baritone roles when he’s not busy playing himself at the conductor’s podium.  Compare him in Verdi’s Macbeth with a newer upcoming star, Zejko Lucic and you’ll hear the difference.

If you’re not an opera buff, try Plastico’s duets with John Denver. Yes, they made an album together.

Most opera stars have built-in weirdness. Most usually, it’s the tenors and sopranos.  Callas was crazy. Caruso drank a lot and refused to rehearse. Pavarotti ate himself into an early grave, though the actual cause of death was pancreatic cancer.

The world of opera is a cauldron of cat and dog fights, paranoia, pomposity, one-upmanship, superstition and bed crawling.  We just don’t hear about it because the audience of appreciators is so small and well to do. And it likes to keep those things quiet.

After the allegations became public, Domingo issued a statement that translates roughly as “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.  And times were different when all this stuff happened, which it really didn’t.”

There’s a reason opera houses are smaller than baseball stadiums.  The promotors want a packed house for every performance, while televised baseball doesn’t mind when half the seats are empty (watch any game that isn’t between two major rivals.  You’ll find plenty of empty space.) MLB revenue doesn’t depend solely on live human beings attending.  They make big bucks from selling television rights and advertising. Opera depends on ticket sales and rich donors.

The Metropolitan Opera televises its performances and puts them on the radio.  But the cameras are glued to the stage and don’t pan the grandstand, so we have no picture of audience attendance.

But sex in the opera house raises some questions.  Here’s one of them:

We’re interested in knowing if a cheating tenor and a soprano faking pleasure grunt or squeal in a key two octaves higher than Middle C.

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


MINI 018 The Other Side of Mystery

We Know what the victim and the cops think when someone breaks into one of these.  But what about the safecracker? What goes on in her head...