Monday, June 29, 2020

4608 Open and Shut


Stay tuned for our new re-re-opening now scheduled for August 21st, 2035.

As states allow businesses to open, immune systems are shutting down.  This past weekend saw an astonishing jump in the number of COVID 19 cases.  Much of this took place in the South.  But it’s happening everywhere.

It’s pointless to mention figures here because even if you’re looking over my shoulder as I write, the numbers will change before the next auto-save.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. And an awful lot of people thought it wouldn’t.  And an awful lot of that awful lot were in positions to make reopenings happen … or prevent them.  

To paraphrase a Churchill quotation in John Bolton’s 500 plus page Name-Drop-O-Rama book:  We see a problem and ignore it until it’s too late. Then we solve it with what might have worked if we acted fast enough. But now it doesn’t.  

We didn’t seem to learn much during the strict days of the early shutdown.  Shut us down again and we’ll all stay home and try to find a vaccine for cabin fever.  We won’t.  So when the next loosening comes, we’ll be ready to descend on the nearest saloon or Starbunkles or anywhere else with more than five stools or tables.

This is not a big city issue.  It happens proportionately in every whistle stop in the rurals and every TickyTacky plantation in the suburbs.

Stay home except for short, well-masked trips to the grocery, a medical appointment or in an emergency.  If you want to socialize, there’s always Skype or Zoom. Binge watch reruns. Read. Tend to your plants. Rearrange your sock drawer.  

This pandemic won’t last forever.


(JACKSON, MS.) -- The Mississippi House of Representatives has voted to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag.  The governor says he’ll sign the bill if it passes in the senate. A new condition: the new flag must include the words “In God We Trust.” Most of us’ll pick God over Jefferson Davis any day.

(PRINCETON, NJ) -- Woodrow Wilson has left the building. Princeton will remove his name from its public policy school. Woody’s racist past finally caught up with him 96 years after his death.

(NEW YORK) -- New York State is thinking of quarantining visitors from high volume COVID States like Florida.  This leads us to the…
Quote of the Day: “Welcome to New York. See you in two weeks.” -- MarketWatch columnist Ellis Henican.

(BILLINGS MT) -- Nothing worth passing along happened in Montana Sunday. But after reading the Billings Gazette Sunday newspaper, we thought we hadn’t mention Billings here in maybe 12 years. We also were able to determine that probably nothing worth passing along ever happens there.

About the Bolton book:  If this were a novel it would be gripping reading but no one would believe it. Bottom line: Five hundred pages of name dropping -- about the same length as Moby Dick and also about a whale.  And do we really need something like this to know what trump is really like?

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

Friday, June 26, 2020

4607 Chickengate

Keeping this fine feathered lady could cost $15,000 a month in Central Pennsylvania.  And that doesn’t even include the chickenfeed.

A great nation does not self destruct by big events alone.  Most of our attention these days is focused on the killer virus, the mess in Washington and its offspring, the battle flag of the historic traitors in Richmond, Virginia.

This is a story about a kid, her pet chickens, her small-minded small town and a bunch of bullies.  The child is Maeve Elliott, age ten. She lives in College Township, one of the small places surrounding State College, PA.  She has pet chickens.  They are cooped and penned. They comfort her and her 12 year old brother in these terrible and isolating times.

There’s a problem.  The zoning law on their block says you have to have ten acres to keep agricultural animals.  The township zoning officer, one Mark Grabvosek, came to visit. “ Hmmm,” he must have thought.  “Chickens? They’re farm animals. How big is this yard? It’s certainly not ten acres.”

So the Elliott family is given a short time to get rid of the fearsome four or face daily fines of $500.  $500! A day! A short time in this case means June 30th. That’s five days from today.  The Elliotts are not part of the money crowd, such as it is in this dinky area. Hiring a lawyer and appealing the ruling would be a financial burden.  And during it, the fines would keep piling up.

As of now, no lawyer we know of has stepped up to offer his or her services pro bono.  So far, the township is stonewalling, not returning calls from the local newspaper which barely has the resources to keep up with the local news of the day and get a sheaf of fish wrap into the hands of its few remaining readers.

The township says it can’t overrule the zoned-out bully of the zoning law.  It speaks in municipal tongues in a letter telling that to the Elliotts.

Of course it can. The guy’s a political appointee.  Even if he were elected, they could make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

What happens to seemingly normal men and women suddenly elevated to power?  Often they become bullies -- or let their inner bully take over the brain, such as there may be of one.

What happens to elected officials who fear for defeat at the polls? They become stonewallers, hiding behind municipal claptrap and buckpassers with that governmental “who, me?” look.

This is how it starts.  This is how we got to today. Bullying little kids and their astonished parents.  Maeve is a little kid. Your children were once, too.  Can you imagine if this happened to them?

She considers the chickens “family.” And so they are. By the time the birds die of natural causes, Maeve will be in her late teens or 20s. A well-cared-for chicken can live for ten years or so.  

Then what?  Well, as she cradles them, they will teach her more about life and death than any book, any school, any friend or any parent.

Keep the chickens, kid. But don’t unlock the chickengate.

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

4606 What Day is it Again?

Cut this thing into pieces and rearrange as suits you.

This is the part of self incarceration that’s worrisome.  You never know what day it is.  And it doesn’t even matter.  If you’re working from home, you may realize it’s not the weekend.  Unless you work weekends.

If you’re retired this what-day situation crept up on you before you realized you were being crept.

And all this is compounded for people with a “feels-like-a” syndrome. You know this… you get up and into your daily routine and suddenly, there’s this “It feels like a Thursday” thing takes hold. 

What does a Thursday feel like?  

Don’t try to answer.  You don’t know.  It just Feels. Like. Thursday.

Then you get the newspaper off the front porch or your neighbor’s front porch and it says “Things to Do This Weekend.”  Weekend? I was sure it was Thursday.  But that feature usually runs on Fridays.

So maybe it’s Friday.  But it doesn’t feel like a Friday. Or maybe the paper’s been lying there since LAST Friday. “Let me check the calendar.”

All the calendar will tell you is that it’s June, 2020. Thing doesn’t give you any grounding or counseling about which day it is. 

“Well, let’s see. I usually vacuum the rug on Mondays.  I think I’ve done that this week. Um… but I’m not sure. The rug isn’t dirty. It doesn’t get dirty these days because we don’t go out. So we don’t track anything in.”

That reminds you, you’ll think. You need a new doormat. Check by phone -- not by internet -- when the store is open.  Used to be you could look that stuff up. No more. Some merchants are on top of the update process. Others are not.

So what’s a notch or two below the accuracy of your feels-like brain? The weather forecast.  The weather bureau has almost as many statistics to juggle as Major League Baseball.  And they get it wrong x times out of 365.  So don’t feel bad about getting it wrong once or twice out of seven.

Much of this was written on a Tuesday evening.  But today really does feel like Thursday.


(BENTONVILLE, AR) -- Wal mart will no longer display the state flag in its Mississippi branches, waiting instead for a decision on whether to eliminate its Confederate emblem.

(WASHINGTON) -- Anthony “Mr. Science” Fauci says the virus is not under control.  Is that going to make any difference? Probably not.

(WASHINGTON) -- Here comes more gridlock.  Congressional democrats think the republican police reform bill doesn’t go far enough and plan to oppose it.

(WHO-KNOWS-WHERE) -- Former presidential lie-meisterin Sarah Huckabee Sanders is writing a book supporting trump. It’s all Bolton’s fault, she says.

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

Monday, June 22, 2020

4605 What Wall Street Learned from Organized Crime

4605 What Wall St. Learned from Organized Crime
Two guys named Al: Capone (l) and Dunlop. They didn’t work together. Their lives never crossed. But they were both businessmen of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Here’s how organized crime makes money: they commit crimes. They sell undocumented pharmaceuticals.  They run gaming establishments. They traffic in captive women, they infiltrate legitimate business… like waste removal, road building and repair, large scale construction and other public works.  They don’t pay taxes.  They lend money.

Yes, they lend money at interest rates slightly north of the payday lenders, pawn shops and credit card companies.  No credit check.  No monthly, weekly or daily billing. The late fees can be painfully expensive.

The private equity funds, hedge funds and peddlers of derivatives and “futures” tend to be more refined and better educated than their soulmates in the real world where concrete is actually made (mostly) out of concrete. They have adopted the methods -- some of them, anyway -- and refined the process.  But they’re all fruits of the same tree.

Here are the parts that they’ve omitted: construction, public works, waste removal, gambling, prostitution and drug sales.  They pay taxes most of the time, although the payment is usually buried in haystacks of complicated paperwork with math that eludes all but the sharpest-nosed forensic bloodhounds of the IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

They have the money lending thing down pat. They lend in return for more than just repayment with interest.  They lend to gain control.  They use that control to perform divisional amputations -- selling off the parts, generally for more than the whole is worth. Those that resist amputation are starved. Employees are thrown on the mulch pile, sometimes with a few haypennies and some help from the public larder, sometimes not.

Scratch a private equity fund that has saved a business with its money, “management prowess” and goodwill and you’ll find all that survived was the company name. If that.

No knees were broken in the creation of this post.  However, some storefront windows may have fallen apart due to street hooligans practicing their fastball using bricks.  There are some old fashioned businesspeople in your area who can offer… um… protection. 

So, that’s what Wall Street learned from organized crime.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.


(TULSA) -- Rally for Trump Held Despite Protests, according to the Los Angeles Times.

(TULSA) -- Rally Fizzles amid empty seats and canceled outdoor rally, according to most other news companies.

(NEW YORK) -- A passerby on the west side of Fifth Avenue, across from the trump tower claims to have seen a bumper sticker that says “Make Bellevue Great Again. Lock Him Up.” We are trying to verify.

(LONG ISLAND, NY) -- Voters in most of Long Island’s 117 school districts approved school budgets last week. The rest will have to re-submit a budget that’s less expensive. The mail-in vote in each case topped the usual in-person vote, a trend in many recent elections.  Voters have a say in school and library budgets each year, unlike in some parts of the country where school boards dictate the results.

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

Friday, June 19, 2020

4604 Juneteenth and Cardboard Boxes

4604 Juneteenth and Cardboard Boxes

The day’s news mostly traveled slower back in the day.  So when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, it took more than two and a half years for word to get into the ears of the black slaves of Texas.

An army general mounted a soapbox in Galveston and made the announcement.  That was June 19, 1865.  It’s a state holiday there and an unofficial national holiday. Juneteenth.

Here’s the exception to the speed rule: some people have yet to get the message.  And many believe in the convoluted darkness of their hearts and minds that it shouldn’t have happened at all.

Surely, by the end of World War II, it would have sunk in.

Uncle Ben was created in 1946. So the message hadn’t yet reached the makers of the rice for which he was named. What makes that even more twisted is that Uncle Ben is not a real person. He’s an image on a rice box.  Nothing about slavery here. But caricaturing men and women of color has not really stopped.  And the rice company is about ready to retire Ben after 74 years on the job.

Is that because using the image is politically incorrect? Or is it because in today’s world, they can’t risk the wrath of the withheld African American dollar?  We’ll never know.  But it’s good for the likes of Ben.

Aunt Jemima’s creation came much earlier, 1899.  Both characters are positive images of a sort. Jemima evolved, over time, from a BBW --Big Beautiful Woman-- to a sleek lady of many anglo facial features, no one you would take for a house worker in the Civil War or even today. 

The people at Quaker Foods, now owners of the brand, decided enough was enough.  But neither Quaker nor Mars of Snickers fame which now makes Uncle Ben’s know quite what they’re going to do to change the brands, deeply imbedded in the psyche of the American grocery customer.

This is an old problem.  What would we do about black stars of early radio?  The guys who created and portrayed Amos and Andy were white.  Black Lives Matter only because the program made huge bucks from a huge white audience that didn’t seem to care about the notions behind the programs.

When the show shifted from radio to television, originators Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll were shocked and angered when CBS insisted on casting black actors playing black people.  The most famous of them were Broadway and Vaudeville star Tim Moore, who played the character “Kingfish” and his show-wife, “Sapphire,” played by Ernestine Wade and later, Amanda Randolph.  It was the first troupe of black actors on a recurring broadcast.  But it still was parody.

Amos ‘n’ Andy wasn’t -- or weren’t -- alone.  There was the housekeeper “Birdie” on The Great Gildersleeve and Jack Benny’s “Rochester” -- Eddie Anderson in real life.  And how many women of color played the housekeeper “Beulah” on that TV show.

All these actors made union scale or better.  They weren’t at all slaves. But it still was parody.  As long as the money rolled in, Beulah, Birdie, Kingfish, Sapphire, Rochester were pretty secure.

But today’s racial situation has had what might be an unintended consequence:  It stopped or will stop the money.

And the insult.  And maybe bring some sense to the relationship of white people in general and white cops in particular to their senses about people of color.

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

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...