Monday, January 22, 2018

1895 Wish Comes True

Wow, we got what we want. A country with no government.  Anarchy, at last. 

No government?  

No laws. It’s a do-your-own-thing paradise.  And historians can now authoritatively write the final chapter because there’s no more United States left to chronicle.  

The crimewave that swept Washington is now the (unwritten) law of the land. Schumer, McConnell, Ryan, Pelosi, trump, all those Great Americans? They gave you what you want.  

No government? No constitution.  Second amendment yahoos no longer need to hide behind their misinterpretations.  They can simply have entire arsenals without having to rely on anything but their whims.

But, of course, that sword cuts both ways. You can’t ban abortion because you can’t ban anything.
Now get out there and be a real American: spill drums full of oil into a lake.  Pick an ethnicity or race or sexual orientation and ban it from your bakery. Who’s going to stop you?

Okay, enough of that. The government really isn’t shut down. Not entirely. The people who shut it down in the executive and legislative branches still will be paid.  The post office, a semi-public constitutionally mandated agency -- make that the only constitutionally mandated agency -- will continue to operate. 

The “bigger” and “more powerful” button on the oval office still works.  That’s the one that auto orders the cherry Cokes trump drinks by the oil drum full each day.  So will the other bigger and more powerful button that will nuke Little Rocket Man. (Is he related to Little Marco?)

The IRS and Social Security Administrations are working. So is the FBI and the CIA.  And don’t even think of carrying a handgun onto an airplane. Or a giant economy size tube of toothpaste.

We’ve had this kind of shutdown before. Thank you, Newt. We’ll get over this one too. Probably.  After billions of dollars wash down the drain.

Look at the bright side.  There are 4,000 job vacancies in the executive branch and its agencies and departments.  Think of the money we’re saving.

With any luck the sides will agree on something and start up the shut down parts by the time you see this. Of course, that would mean trump and the men and women of the house and senate would have to do actual work over the weekend.  And when was the most recent time that happened?

--There’s no real reason we still have states. But in cases like a federal government shutdown, maybe that position is a little extreme. The roads still will get plowed and since it’s near the end of the month, the traffic tickets still will be issued.

--The Huffington-less Post has ended its practice of accepting free columns from wannabes who wanna be famous. Now called Huffpost, it’s owned by a company that’s owned by another company that’s owned by Verizon. Verizon worrying about the onslaught of fake news would be better off worrying about what to do with it’s gazillion miles of unused copper landlines.

--The year-round population of the Wessays (™) Secret Mountain Laboratory is three. Sixty Six percent of that population has the flu. The one who doesn’t doesn’t usually get a flu shot because it almost always ends with the disease full blown… which thus far it hasn’t.

-“You ask professors to study things, but you never put them in charge of anything.” --Dwight Eisenhower on learning Nixon named Henry Kissinger national security adviser.  Quoted by Niall Ferguson in Politico Magazine.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, January 19, 2018

1894 Welcome Home, Ann Curry

Where is home?  Why, it’s in your living room.  And it’s about time. Television’s most battered anchorwoman will be on PBS with a new program, “We’ll meet again” starting this coming Tuesday 1/23/18.  It’s about people who met, were separated by critical events -- wars, terrorist attacks -- those little things, and then who later re-met.

This template is right up her alley and plays to her biggest strength: melodrama with a goal and/or a happy ending.  You put this woman in a room with a camera and a bunch of homeless kids and they’ll all find parents by nightfall.

The camera believes her.  And it should. And when a story is Humanitarian Update, you will, too.

Curry is a news reporter. Her roles on NBC News at Sunrise and then the Today Show news desk was where she belonged.  As Today co-anchor, the chemistry with Matt Lauer was iffy at best.  A lot of learned opinion says she wasn’t right for the part.  So they executed her. The death penalty may be used sparingly except in Texas and Florida.  On television, it’s common.

The conventional wisdom is that Lauer pushed her out of the chair.  NBC’s rinse and spin cycle says it was ratings.  Maybe.  True, she’s better at asking a third world dictator if he tortures small animals than she is at demonstrating how to barbecue the perfect rack of ribs.  But as someone who worked her way through college as a hotel housekeeper, she could probably teach you a thing or two about using that $500 Dyson you just bought on a whim from Kohl’s.  Too bad that never came up.

 Now about that new TV show… Curry is the child of an American soldier and a Japanese war bride. They were separated and then reunited.  Pretty good background for reporting on similar events.  WWII wasn’t the only time that happened.  It happened in the Vietnam war. It happened during the terrorist attacks on America.  But it also happens in coal mining accidents and high school romances and in the house down the block from you. And it’s probably happening now.

So welcome home, Ann.  I’ll leave a bowl of Hershey Kisses in the living room for Tuesday.  I just don’t remember whether you like the ones with or without the nuts.  Probably will go for plain. My teeth ain’t what they were back in the day.

-“I am the future.” -- Ann Curry discussing her biracial heritage.

--Baseball has long been replaced by gossip and celebrity worship as “America’s Passtime.”  And people often complain about how long it takes to play an MLB game.  To speed things up, the leagues proposed a pitch clock and time limits on the mound which the players have rejected.

--In other sports news, NCAA President Mark "nuclear option" Emmert says he wants to see college basketball “cleaned up before the start of the next season.” How about a more realistic goal like “before the start of the next century?”  Oh, and Emmy, baby, what about college football?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

1893 The 21st Century Edsel

1893  The 21st Century Edsel
Driving right off the page
The biggest blunder in automotive history is about to be superseded. When Ford Motor planned the Edsel in the 1950s, the plan made sense. They needed more brands to compete with GM and Chrysler.  But by the time the car was produced, it was little more than a laughing stock and a mighty expensive one.

When production shut down the company had lost what would be billions in today’s money.

Why did it fail?  Well, it wasn’t a bad car. Oh, sure, it was ugly.  Tom McCahill, a leading auto journalist of the era said it most succinctly.  He wrote that it “...looks like an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon.”

Ford put on a first magnitude marketing circus in an era when magnitude 3 would have sufficed and maybe even saved face.  The car was a sales disaster.  To its credit, the company manned up and quickly euthanized the poor thing.

But the melody lingers on, though not for long.

The next big Disaster in a Tin Dress is the self driving car.  The technology is progressing nicely.  So far, the tests are ho-hum, but that’s to be expected. Oh, there are stalls and crashes and such, but that’s why they do tests -- to see what works and what doesn’t.

Every manufacturer is on this bandwagon.  They’re all saying self-driving cars will

--reduce accidents and save lives.
--keep traffic moving in predictable and steady flows, thus speeding trips.
--allow the people formerly known as “drivers” free to text, telephone, watch movies or read the paper, have actual conversations with fellow passengers and nap.

Paradise on four wheels.

But the fact is that once this idea is perfected (if that day ever comes) it will mean 15 or 20 cars will be left on the lot for every two that are sold.  It’s not going to work.  No machine maker in Detroit or Tokyo or Juarez or Ontario is going to convince American drivers to take their hands off the wheel or their foot off the gas pedal.

Special tip for potential buyers of the Tesla, which is a brilliant and beautiful tribute to the art of auto design.  There’s no question all-electric and hybrid and hydrogen-fueled cars are here to stay.  But Tesla is a soap bubble blown up by a boy genius with his heart and his money in the right place.

If you have the money, buy one of these and put it up on blocks.  They’re going to be more valuable when production stops, which eventually it will, than they are today.  It’s a win-win situation.  You get bragging rights now and a good return on your investment later.

-Cheers for the shopping channels QVC, HSN and JTV which have at last started using some plus size models and show hosts and even some with gray hair.
-I love wandering around Altoona PA because next to most of the fellas I meet or see there, I look thin.
-And speaking of plus size women and men, let’s hear it for Oprah, the kind of take-no-prisoners but otherwise relatively normal president we need to undo the current damage.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, January 15, 2018

1892 MLK and DJt

1892 MLK & DJt
Mugshot to remind us tat Martin Luther King Jr and many others did more than just talk,

It is Martin Luther King Jr day, and we’ll get to that. But first about the president.  He said something awful the other day and it got widespread publicity because it had a four letter word in it.  Actually, the word he used had eight letters. But since everything with trump is exaggerated, we’ll let that pass.

First he called Haiti and other places “shithole countries.” Then he denied saying it.  In front of witnesses.  But not just any witnesses.  In front of witnesses who also are United States Senators who until January 3, 1981 were cut from dignified cloth and behaved properly even when they didn’t really mean it.

And one of those senators went on television after the denial and denied the denial.  “He said it,” says Sen. Dick Durban (D-IL.)  Other senators also in the room are suffering from amnesia.  They did it using the mobster dodge “I don’t recall… him saying that.” 

We may be fools.  But, sens.,Tom Cotten (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA), we’re not that big of fools.

But what the president said is true.  

Say what?

Yes, Haiti and those other places are living, breathing, throbbing infected lands of horror.  And many of the people there agree.  And they come here to try to realize the American Dream.  And many do.

Call it smart or call it cowardly, these men and women know their surroundings and strive to climb out of those holes.  Meantime, the US supports corrupt regimes around the world because we see the suffering and can’t stand it.  

Haiti lost its stability with the demise of Papa and Baby Docs.  But what they got was the same kind of squalor and growing crookedness that they left behind.

South Africa’s government has been captured by a trio of brothers from India who seem to make all the important decisions in that country.  The difference is that South Africa has saleable natural resources coming out of its ears, so there’s no need to worry about a bunch of fat, greedy boys who control who sits in the president’s chair, the national treasury, the advertising media, etc.

But what about Sudan?  Ethiopia?  Places like that.

When trump said we need more immigrants from countries like Norway, the instant retort that comes to mind is “what self respecting ambitious and happy Norwegian would want to emigrate here these days?

America could flush the overflowing toilets of Haiti and the African continent.  And it would be cheaper than just opening food banks and washing mud off the streets of Port-au-Prince.

"I am not a racist." -Donald trump
"I am not a crook." - Richard Nixon

SHRAPNEL (Martin Luther King edition:)
--For many years on this holiday, this space has derided the notion that anyone could speak for Dr. King all these years after his death. But that’s never stopped anyone from members of his family to poverty pimps to Reagan and trump. As conditions in this country deteriorate and the workings here fall into the hands of the weak-but-loud, the hypocrites, the ignorant and the illiterate, we’re less steadfast in our denial that anyone could speak for Martin.

--King delivered thousands of sermons and lectures.  He wrote dozens of position papers and worked tirelessly for jobs, freedom and equal opportunity.  But we remember him for four words, “I have a dream.” And that’s both inadequate and unfair.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, January 12, 2018

1891 English Muffins

Sam Thomas was a genius. He hasn't been around for a long time, but you know him, even if you don't know you know him.

He's the guy who either invented or stole the idea for the English muffin.

Thomas arrived in New York from England around 1880 and immediately started baking. Some say the thing's been around since maybe 1710 or so, but everyone associates the name Thomas' with English muffins. And even if he did borrow the basic idea, he should be credited with breaking the laws of physics.

That's because a 12 ounce pack of six muffins can (and usually does) produce 40 pounds of crumbs. No one but Thomas knows how that happens. But it happens in millions of toasters across America every day.

Maybe it's biology, not physics. English muffins may reproduce at a rate that would turn Peter Rabbit (or Bugs Bunny) green with envy. But biologists don't know whether all those crumbs are embryonic muffins or new matter, like, say, positrons.

When you buy the package, it weighs 12 ounces.

If you leave the package standing for a couple of months, it may weigh a little more, because eventually the bread molds and mold has weight. But just a LITTLE weight. When you pick it up to throw it away, it doesn't feel any heavier than the day you bought it.

But if you do what most of us do, you open the package within a day or so of its purchase. And that's when the new matter starts to form, or the embryos spread.

Cut one to put in the toaster and all of a sudden you have an acre of crumbs. (How you cut it makes a difference. If you use a knife, you only get three quarters of an acre. If you stab the edges with a fork -- as the packager recommends -- you get the full acre.)

We've consulted with two or three science guys and they agree that this form of creation does not generally work with other items, such as bananas, inner tubes or your kids. Here at the Wessays(™) Secret Mountain Laboratory, we tried it with a hard roll and got a fair result, and with an apple and just got wet, but no crumbs.

You open the muffin, the muffin doesn't seem to get heavier -- and certainly doesn't seem to get lighter. But there they are. A million crumbs. On the countertop, on the floor, in the sink.

You toast the thing and it STILL doesn't much change size. But there's a whole new set of crumbs on the bottom of the toaster. They weren't there before. They are there NOW. The only thing we can tell for sure is once you eat the main muffin, it stops making new matter (or emitting embryos.)

We need to know two things: (1) how does this process work, and (2) how can we build cars and furnaces that run on English muffin crumbs. It's an amazingly prolific form of self renewing fuel, if we can only figure out how to harness it.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

1890 Ronald Ray-Gun

1890 Ronald Ray-Gun

That’s what we called him in the Liberal Media Newsroom on Rockefeller Plaza back when he was running for President.  Ronnie was brimming with bad ideas he tried to turn into bad policies and sometimes he succeeded. His bolts may have started coming loose long before we knew for sure.  And he may have napped during cabinet meetings, but with the exception of Iran Contra and the HUD bid rigging case, Deaver the liar, he ran a pretty clean ship.

Oh, and the Meese scandals and a small number of others.

That is to say there were relatively few high ranking officials who landed in prison, if you take the figure as a per capita percentage.

And the people who weren’t jailed were relatively well credentialed and tried to more or less stay the course in keeping with American values as they saw them.

There were no Dulles Brothers.  There were none of the German Shepherds of the Nixon years.  There was no lurking constitutional crisis.  And no one who made his bones in the Reagan years considered a 25th Amendment takedown, at least in public.

Whatever else he was -- or wasn’t -- Reagan was presidential.  If he was an egomaniac in need of constant adulation from his subordinates, it didn’t show.

Fast forward to today.  There’s wide speculation about trump’s bolts.  He may or may not implode.  His crime family/immediate family may end in the witness protection program and/or behind bars any day now.  And that’s a problem.

There is no bench. There is no net. The people he’s hired are to a man or woman zeros. Does the brilliantly hand-eye coordinated Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, MD, know Thing One about housing and urban development?  Does the Secretary of Education know anything about education that’s not in the bible? Does the Secretary of State, perhaps the most important cabinet member know anything about anything?

Secretary ReXXon seems to be trying to do the right thing without honking off The Boss.  But his main qualification for the job is that he accepted the nomination.

The president has put in a lot of cronies with the word “acting” before their titles.  These are positions where the Senate has to confirm a real nominee but any worm in the garden can do the job as long as he (or she) is merely “acting.”

If we become trumpless, there is no one who knows anything who will be in a position to run the country’s business.

Pence?  A failed talk show host who sent a wrecking ball through the halls of the Indiana state house.

All this is far more of a worry than what tweety does or doesn’t state.

Our friend and fellow observer Ellis Henican called Twitter “trump’s virtual primal scream room.” He’s right.  And running the country from a cell phone and bragging about his intelligence does not inspire public confidence. Not even among his ignorant and gullible base.

Ronald Reagan, for all his flaws, did not degrade America in the eyes of the rest of the world. You can’t make that case for trump and his merry band of future jailbirds.

Book ‘em, Danno.

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I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, January 08, 2018

1889 Pressure Cookers and Bad Teeth

1889 Pressure Cookers and Bad Teeth

Pressure cookers weren’t always weapons of mass destruction.  But they always were explosion prone.

A couple of pre-teen kids, a brother and sister are about to surprise their parents with a delicious spaghetti dinner.  They fill the pressure cooker with uncooked spaghetti, put in sauce from a jar, close the pot and put it on the stove.

Closed? Not so fast.  The pot looks closed.  But soon after as the pressure builds, they find out it isn’t.  The way they find out is by walking into the kitchen just as sufficient pressure has built up to pop the lid and send a Vesuvius of pasta and red sauce all over the stove.  And the wall. And the floor. And the ceiling.

Cleanup was neither easy nor complete.

So it was a surprise, alright. Just not the kind the kind they planned.

The nature of pressure cooking has changed.  Now you can get machines that plug in, eliminating the need for stoves.  And you can get pressure cookers that won’t start pressurizing unless both the top and the relief valve are locked tight.

A major advance in modern technology.  

Using a pressure cooker has become foolproof.  Well, maybe not foolproof, but at least fool-resistant.

Pop stuff into the pot, lock the top, lock the relief valve, set the timer and presto! Dinner.

Modern cookware has turned the painting of kitchen walls from mandatory to optional.  
But parts of the cooking have remained untamed.

Rice and beans in nine minutes is fictional, even though that’s what the makers claim in their sales pitches.  The timer doesn’t start its countdown until sufficient pressure builds in the pot.  Sufficient pressure is something we mere humans can’t measure. But we can time it.  It takes longer to build pressure than the nine minutes to cook the rice and beans.

So while you may save your walls and ceilings, and stuff inside will indeed cook faster, you never really know how much time to give your recipe.  If there’s meat or poultry in your dish, you want to make sure that it’s hot enough to kill lurking germs. No one wants e-coli or salmonella.  So you give it a little more time than the cookbook recommends.

The result often is tasty, if industrial cooking is your thing.  But it also will turn your dish into mush.

Mush has its advantages for the tooth-deprived.  If eating a cracker is a source of pain, then pressure cooking a saltine or a Ritz will solve the problem.  Most people don’t pressure cook crackers.  But there are those of us who have contemplated such.

Most people also don’t like eating beef stew with a spoon.  But when you open the pot and find a sea of glop, eating it with a fork becomes impossible.  There are those of us with what the dentists call “compromised” mouths that are grateful mounds of mush. But to most, it’s not a treat no matter how good it tastes.

But at least you don’t have to worry about rice pocks, pasta and red sauce on the ceiling.

GRAPESHOT (pressure cooker edition):
-The dishes never come out just perfect like Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay and even Guy Fieri say they will.

-A sudden intentional release of pressure will be accompanied by superheated steam and probably liquid… almost as cringe worthy as the exploding pot that ate Mom’s ceiling.

-Cook the rice separately unless you like rice-like glop.

-Counter intuitively, put the chopped onions in last or they will vanish in the cooking.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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1895 Wish Comes True Wow, we got what we want. A country with no government.  Anarchy, at last.  No government?   No laws. It’...