Friday, January 31, 2020

4544 Again, Bolton

Bolton, right, appears to be thinking “What the Hell have I gotten myself in to?”

Surprise, surprise!  All of a sudden, ousted National Security Adviser John Bolton has drafted a book that supposedly reveals state secrets and threatens the security of the US.  

But trump’s handlers didn’t name them.  If they did, they’d be guilty of the same charge. Only worse. Bolton’s book hasn’t been published.  At last a show of caution from the white house.  But the strategy is older than time. Block the book, save trump’s skin.

It’s possible the charge and its sub-headline are true.  But it’s not likely.  Bolton respects precedent and the institutions of government. Saying anything nice about the nation’s most infamous war-hawk isn’t easy.

This issue is going to duck-waddle through the courts for a while. Look for a Mueller Report-like redactions.  But ultimately, the book will be published.

Our leading bad guy has become an impeachment crowd rock star. And he should be.  Unlike the fluttering of the president, Bolton is a Very Stable Evil thinker.  

The trump lawyer Dershowitz continues on the long downward spiral that started when he began representing the worst of our high level lowlifes… people like OJ, Von Bulow, Mike Tyson and Jeffrey Epstein. Dersh says with a straight face that accusations against trump are not impeachable offenses.  This is open to interpretation.

Stately plump trump lawyer Kenneth Starr needs no further introduction to those who followed his prissy preening porno performance as prosecutor of Bill Clinton.  Now, he’s the deputy defender-in-chief. 

Well, Starr WAS dean of a law school, Pepperdine, the right wing college that seems more like Ace Technical School than, say, Yale. Unable to do sufficient damage in California, he became president of Baylor where he was “close to” a student who was “accused of” sexual misconduct.  

This two-legged stool provokes a question.  Where’s Rudy?

-- New York radio DJ Harry Harrison has died from a combined bunch of health issues at 89-ish.  He was a pleasure to listen to and a pleasure to work with.  But before meeting him and working with him, I was told not to mention that “I listened to you as a kid,” which I did. So I didn’t say it.

--Harry was on WMCA, the locally owned, family owned full service A.M. teapot. Then he made it to the real big time, WABC which at the time was to radio as Ford and Chevy were to cars… and Formica was to furniture. But it was later at CBS/FM that he solidified his role as New York’s “Morning Mayor.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them.
Comments?  Send ‘em here:
© WJR 2020

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

4543 National Kazoo Day

Flash mob or a real kazoo chorus. Oh where is Toscanini when you need him?

It was yesterday, January 28th.  I bet you missed it. Maybe you never even heard of it.  But admit it: You have one stashed away in a drawer somewhere, or once did.

Maybe you stashed it away because it’s just a childhood toy.  Or maybe you’re intimidated by some of the Great Masters like… um… well, surely there have been some. And surely they were better at it than you or I.

No excuses!  

--Gee I had one years ago but some rat stole it off the piano in the bar while I was refreshing my drink.
--Gee, I feel stupid when the neighbors call and demand I stop running my leaf blower after 10 PM.  It’s not a leaf blower, it’s a respectable musical instrument.  It only sounds like a leaf blower.
--Gee the kids will think I’m an imbecile.
--And they’ll laugh at me.

Had big plans for the day.  Going to stand on a street corner. There was to be a collection hat at my feet.  I was going to take requests.  (Like “get off my corner” or “go back to the nuthouse you escaped from” or actual Kazoo-friendly songs.

The Flight of the Bumble Bee, the Minute Waltz, the first movement of Beethoven’s fifth, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, The National Anthem, Nola, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, the Salem Cigarette jingle, the Theme from M*A*S*H, the Teddybears’ Picnic.  All of them are great Kazoo songs.

I’ve been working on Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” for a long time and it’s finally stage-ready. Well… streetcorner ready.

Seriously, people… the first kazoo was patented in the 1880s, but there’s strong geological evidence that it had already been around 40 years earlier.  So, this is no passing fad.

The first mass produced metal kazoos appeared in upstate New York in the early 1900s.  The factory remains in Eden NY which as a little southeast of Lake Erie where other tiny towns with names you probably never heard of exist in bucolic beauty and splendid isolation.  

They have a museum and what probably is the world’s largest retail store devoted entirely to kazoos.  But you can buy them on line for a couple of bucks. 

Or you can make your own, using a pocket comb and tissue paper. 

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

Monday, January 27, 2020

4542 The New Normal

This is not going to be what you probably think.  It’s not about politics. It’s not about climate change.  It’s about this:

Your “normal” temperature, 98.6 degrees isn’t normal anymore. And no one can figure out why.  That 98.6 figure was established in about 1850 when a cabal of doctors and makers of mercury thermometers at a secret meeting in Leipzig, Germany declared it so after sampling 25,000 local residents.

Imagine the power of that small group of Leipzigers!  They helped make a decision that has affected billions of people for 170 years, give or take.

Average, normal body temperature is accepted as fact right along with 32 or 212 degrees at sea level are accepted as freezing or boiling.  It was not to be trifled with.  At least not until now.

The physician-Insurance company complex periodically admits that “average” doesn’t mean universal.  They do that the same way they admit the existence of pharmaceutical side-effects… in whispers and fine print.

There are people whose regular temperature varies by a degree or two either way. But scientists at Stanford have been working for a long time, sampling temperature records of people who were alive between the 1860s and 2017, using Civil War-era data collected before the school was established and then gathering its own. 

And what have they decided? Well, the statistics show that over time, the average male temp used to be about one and a half degrees higher than today. The average female temperature was about half a degree higher.  So 99.6 for men and 99.2 for women. They don’t report directly that men lost 1.06 degrees and women 0.57 degrees instantaneously on August 18, 1920, the day American women were first able to vote.

Now, you might argue that today’s thermometers are more precise and they are.  But the decline over time has been measured in round-ish figures.  So while the exact numbers may be off, the downward trend is not.

Is the decline because we’re all on Obamacare?  Nah. Is it because we’re just generally healthier? Nah. Is it because we’re evolving faster than we realized?  Who knows? But probably not.

The real reason is one of simple logic.  Follow this: If the starting premise is wrong, the logic can be perfect, and you still may get the wrong answer.  In this case, the starting premise was wrong. What premise? The so-called normal temperature = 98.6.

But that still doesn’t explain why average/normal declines about one half of one degree every ten years or so.  As reported by Vox and other sources, the way we heat our homes can be one factor. If the house is warm in winter, the body doesn’t have to work as hard to get to its optimum temperature.

But if that’s true, what about the people who live in extreme heat almost all year?  Air temperature in Phoenix, Arizona rarely gets below 65 degrees in the course of a year. But average body temp is falling at the same rate there as it is in Minneapolis where 32 degrees in December is considered a heatwave. 

And if that’s not mysterious enough for you, try this:  Your own personal normal can vary with your age, your weight and the time of day, just like your blood pressure.  That’s comforting in a way. It means various internal systems work similarly. Body functions in harmony with one another are, well, harmonious.

But in an era that’s obsessed with data, it’s also unnerving to have to adopt a sliding scale of “normal” as opposed to the rock-solidness of 98.6.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own and my “normal” body temperature is 97 and change and you’re welcome to either. 
Please address comments to this rock-solid datapoint:
© WJR 2020 (or maybe 2018-2028)

Sunday, January 26, 2020

25,000 dead people from Leipzig dictated a number that affects you now, 150 years later.  Find out how and why tomorrow on Wessays.

Friday, January 24, 2020

4541 Voting Our Feelings

That’s how they used to spell it.

The trump cult has swallowed the Kool-Aid.  This all started with the soft drink in the 1890s, the brainchild of a Nebraska Postmaster, Edwin Perkins.  The brand remains a good seller.  But it carries the weight of the Jim Jones debacle in which the religious cult leader caused the deaths of 900 followers who drank a generic version of the drink laced with poison.

So for the past 48 years, “Drinking the Kool-Aid” has acquired a sinister meaning.  And we are fond of saying “Drinking the Kool-Aid” has become shorthand for the irrational following of a madman.

This leads us to today’s thought: We vote our feelings, not our beliefs or thoughts.  Some Very Smart People are affected just the same as the rest of us dummies.  IQ doesn’t count.  

Buried among the trumpets, there are bound to be some people who see him as the scuzz he is but will vote for him even so. Why? 

--“I’m a Republican. The Dems are commies. I don’t want to live in a socialist state. He may be imperfect, but he’s OUR imperfect.”

--“He’ll keep the teeming hordes of people with dark skin from infesting our neighborhoods, raping our women and stealing our jobs.”

--“It’s about time someone tells it like it is.”

These are the pipedreams of the right.

You can’t break people from this kind of thinking, so don’t try.

About those Very Smart Voters, the ones on the left? They’re for this democrat or that because, well, it feels right.  And often they hide behind intellect.

--“We need a revolution.”

--“We need to eliminate billionaires,”

--“We need to tax the super-rich into poverty that matches our own.”

--“We need to end corruption.”

--“No Justice, No Peace.”

These are the pipe dreams of the left.

None of these pipe dreams has a future if we remember a few well-chosen things:

--Dreams, pipe or otherwise, don’t come true without the cooperation of the non-dreamers.

--No one’s agenda, no matter how extreme can overcome an overwhelming vote.

--No one’s agenda -- not trump’s, not Bernie’s, not Mike’s, not Biden’s (if you can figure it out) will be approved and become law in your lifetime, if ever.

So what’s the secret to this Kool-Aid Krowd? 

There are two.  One is as old as George Washington’s campaign for a second term:  Swill them with Bumbo. Our First President was not averse to ladling out stiff drinks to a walk-by campaign lineup.

The other: Swamp ‘em at the polls.

While the inconsequential candidates remain inconsequential, the consequential candidates are busy with inconsequential nonsense.

C’mon, people.  The only issue is trump.  Not the man, but the leader of the pack-gone-wild. Once gone, the so-called “base” will fall apart, the name of the game is winning. Nothing more, nothing less.  His surrogates -- McConnell and Graham, et al., will fade into oblivion where they unquestionably belong.

The Democratic Socialists don’t realize that the US is way more complicated than Denmark and way more diverse. The knee-jerk peaceniks don’t realize that pulling out of Afghanistan and the war for the so-called soul of Syria are marginal to many voters.

Sure, our overseas underworld deserves to be eliminated. Sure, the individualism over community of the Libertarians is unworkable. And the anti-establishment wackos don’t realize that “establishment Democrats” are people, too and they have values that are encouraged by the Constitution and by history.

I’m Wes Richards, the pro-establishment dupe and whore. My opinions are my own but if you don’t like them, you’re likely to be destroyed by normal and average Americans. And some Very Smart People.
© WJR 2020  

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

4540 The LIRR Ain't the Wabash Cannonball

 The LIRR’s last coal-burner when “on time” really meant “on time.” (From Steel Rails to the Sunrise)

Aw, c’mon, guys, give us a break.  The Long Island Railroad, busiest and most complicated commuter rail line in the country is out with its 2019 figures.  The headline? Best stats in three years. Yeah, right.  

There were 18,976 delays in 2019. You read that right. Eighteen thousand, 976, according to the Newsday newspaper.  That’s 4,575 fewer than in 2018.  A train is considered “on time” when it is fewer than five minutes and 59 seconds behind time at its terminal. All railroads build in that seemingly minuscule buffer of varying numbers.

Let’s interview a commuter with 39 years of commuting and 18 years of casual or school use before that.  39 + 18 = 57 years.

Question asker:  When does the train arrive at its destination?
Answerer: When the doors open on the platform of the last scheduled stop.

In this case, the The question asker and Answerer are the same person.

Not fair, you say?  Okay here’s the answer from the railroad: “Well, um, sometimes when it platforms. But, um, sometimes when it switches from the incoming main track to the one that leads to the platform.”  There’s many a slip between these seemingly seamless motions. The train may hit the East River Tunnel more or less on time and barrel into the switch point.  It’s checked in there.  But often it stops while the LIRR and Amtrak rail controllers have a platform conference:

“I don’t know, Jack, which platform should we use?”  “Uh, I dunno, Jill, wait a minute and I’ll check.”  “Okay,” Jack continues four minutes later, “let’s go for track 18.” And so it does, arriving at the platform ten minutes behind schedule.  And it’s another couple of minutes or more before the conductor or assistant conductor -- formerly known as a “trainman” until they started hiring women for the job about a million years ago -- makes his or her way to the controls that open the doors.

This routine has gone on for this particular train for 60 years. And the end result always is the same: Track 18.

You are now about 12 minutes late. But your train, technically, was “on time.”

This kind of thing is cyclical.  This railroad predates steam engines. It’s a mixture of nine different smaller railroads that eventually merged into one company, was acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad which had absolutely no business doing that, and eventually when to the State of New York when Governor Nelson Rockefeller got up in front of a bunch of news people and civic leaders and pronounced the LIRR “The best commuter railroad in the nation.”  Rocky took a lot of derision for that self-evidently wrong statement.  But things did get better. Eventually.  Somewhat.

The old Pullman cars, comfortable as they were, were replaced by Budd Cars.  Sleek, modern, less comfortable and beleaguered by the same antiquated switches, signals and tracks that had bothered their predecessors.

There’s no way this Rube Goldberg-inspired railroad can work any better than it did in 2019.  There is no way the MTA or the magic of Christopher, the former Saint of Travel can do anything about this mess.

But you will find, as you always have found, commuters grateful for the relief of subjecting themselves to almost 19-thousand delays a year.  Because the alternatives are worse.  Ask anyone who’s ever driven the Long Island Expressway or Northern State/Grand Central Parkway between 4:30 and 10 am on a weekday.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them.
Comments including some weak-weasel defense of the LIRR to
© WJR 2020

Monday, January 20, 2020

4539 Your Updated Shopping Channel Guide

Would you buy a mail order mattress from this guy?

The TV shopping channels are slipping.  Time was most of them gave you a decent product at a decent price.  They are marvels of speed shipping, second only to Amazon and Zappos. And masters of fat “shipping and handling” charges. 

We are not going to name names.  But you probably know that the biggest player has acquired the second biggest player, that the third biggest player has changed its name for the fourth time in ten years.

And you probably know that the two biggest players now have three channels each on your TV provider.  Company number three is working toward adding to this glut.

Let’s start with the basic premise that the main point of these huge and complex virtual stores is to make you want stuff that you might not have thought of without their help.  Kindly, no? The targets are mostly women.

Hair goo, skin goo, a thousand varieties of cosmetics.  Eye stuff. Hair removal stuff, moisturizers, wrinkle creams, all things that key into the Great Secret of the American Woman.

What is that secret?  Deep in her heart of hearts, many believe her appearance is somehow flawed.  This starts pre-teen and often lasts right through to old age -- and old ain’t our grandparents’ old. We live way longer.

In her three o’clock in the morning self evaluation, many women believe “My this is too big.  My that is too small. I’m only (fill in the age) and my eyes have big bags, my neck looks like a turkey and my skin is turning to crepe paper.”

Wrong, ladies.

There’s nothing wrong about putting your best face (and other things) forward. Even if you don’t… you’re fine just the way you are.  But as long as you think you aren’t, you’re going to buy lifting creams and hair thickeners and the electrical appliances that go with them, like curlers or straighteners or blow dryers, each the supposed be-all and end-all of beautyworld.  Once home, you’ll find the appliance is too heavy or to loud or the cord is too short or too long. But you’ll keep it anyway.

There are channels that specialize in jewelry, though they all sell at least some.  A lot of them brag about gemstones you never heard of. Tanzanite, Morganite, Russian Diopside. Often the stones are pretty nice and well priced. But the settings of rings and the clasps of chains are pure junk. You get what you pay for.

Who will pay to fix that nice sweater you had when your Herkimer Diamond Quartz ring’s setting rips a hole in the sleeve?

Shoes: A thousand brands. Some you’ve heard of and trust but shouldn’t. Some make promises they can’t keep and don’t.  EZ returns (at a price.) Slow refunds.
Usually, they have nerdy men to sell you electronics to scare you.  Video cams, video doorbells. Brand-X telephones and tablets and the occasional bloatware-larded computer with trial programs and actual programs you’ll never use.

Decorations:  battery operated candles. Lawn gnomes. Water hoses that “can’t” kink.  Flowers both real and fake. The mechanical stuff lasts about as long as the warranty.

Cleaning products.  Your supermarket has everything you need and nothing you don’t.  But Dr. Whizbang’s Clean-It becomes the holy grail of stove cleaners, or clearer of clogged drains.  Until a few hours later when something else makes the same claim.  Note: You can get Formula 409, Windex or Krud Kutter for a few dollars a bottle at any supermarket.

And then there’s food. Beef and fruit at usurious prices. Cakes and cookies that tempt. Poultry.  And the machines to cook all that. Pressure cookers, toaster ovens, tableware, cookware, air fryers. A hundred different kinds and sizes of pots and pans.

In point of fact, much of the merchandise, whether a diamond ring, a steak, a cookie, a cell phone, tablet, wrinkle cream or lipstick don’t live up to your expectations.

Big stuff: Mattresses, exercise machines, recliners. Disappointments at stupendous prices with iffy guarantees you won’t read but should. Buyer beware.

How about the men? Tool kits with stuff you’ll never use. Laser measuring devices you can get at Home Despot, Ace, Lowe’s, Wal-mart and Sears if there’s still one in your town.

Ugly watches, some B-stock from famous names, others from names that you never heard of except from a shopping channel.

It’s not all bad, people.  But it’s worse than it used to be.

When you hear the carnival barker barking, or the “middle-aged lady next door” showing you shoes, either turn off the television or watch those “classic” movies.  They’re much more fun than you remember.

Who can resist a John Wayne classic or a Perry Mason re-run? Or episode 5,408 of Law and Order.

If you must leave the TV on to combat your loneliness, there’s always Lester Holt or Wolf Blitzer.

SHRAPNEL: Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. on the hard-won holiday honoring him. Normally this space doesn’t speculate on what Dr. King would say about today’s world.  But I would love to have had him moderating the Republican debate that eventually gave us the present occupant of the White House.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
With this post, we resume our thrice-weekly schedule of putting drivel on the internet since “On the Weekend” was a glint in my eye and funded by a grant from Bloomberg News.
© WJR 2020

Thursday, January 16, 2020

4738 I, the Fed

Batteries not included -- or needed.

With apologies to Mickey Spillane. 

I don’t like writing in the first person. But this “accomplishment” is worth a few hundred words.  I have become a Federal Government employee -- at least for a while.

So be careful, all you ne’er do wells. I have your numbers.

I have been accepted as something called a “field service supervisor” with the Census bureau.  This is contingent on my passing a background check and passing three days of training in a local library known for its catering to illiterates.

Next week, I will be fingerprinted.  That’s nothing new. That happened several times before.  Two adoptions, press cards from two jurisdictions and a one-finger print for quick access to all the secrets of Bloomberg data, emails and the computer programs that I needed to put my programs on the air.

The FBI probably also has info on me from investigating my friend of many years Dave van Ronk. Goodness! One time I actually had a drink with him.  And FBI agents were waiting in the men’s room of the bar where we were drinking.

I am not shuddering in anticipation.  I have no criminal record and I’m old.  

Also, I have to pass the training.  And I will because I know how to fake academic reality, such as there is of it and twist it to my secretly held nefarious purposes, which include… nothing I can think of.

There I will be, supervising the people who decide how big your congressional district is, who is legal, who isn’t and whether you have had a child living with your sister in Uruguay. 

--So begins the trial of the century. It has its own built-in jury tamperers.  And remember... if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.

--The impeachment trial is more like Casey Anthony than OJ Simpson. In Anthony’s case, no one could prove an actual crime had been committed.  If you listen to trump’s defenders, there hasn’t been a crime here, either.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
I’m thinking of returning to a thrice weekly format. Any opinions?
Please send comments to
© WJR 2020

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 ...