Wednesday, August 23, 2017

1835 Uber in Horse and Buggy Country

STOELLENFUSSER PA -- (Wessays™ News Service) -- Abraham Stoellenfusser, great great great grandson of the town’s founder in the 570 Area Code wants to be an Uber driver.  And he has a problem.  Two, actually. First you need a smartphone to hail an Uber and most people in his town and its surroundings don’t have smart phones.  Second, to be an Uber driver you need a car.  And the folks here tend not to have cars.  

He has a truck.  A 1956 GMC - 100 with Hydramatic. Uses it to take the crops for sale to larger towns in less traditional area codes.  It’s OK to have a motor vehicle if you only use it for work. At least that’s what Stollenfusser says.

But he has an eye on a spiffy, low mileage Chrysler station wagon that’s maybe ten or 12 years old but runs like a top.  Clean, too.  Be nice to ferry around needers of rides.  He’s even figured out how to attach a gizmo called a “governor” which will limit its speed to 11 MPH.  No sense jarring those poor old men and women by going, say 20 or 30 in a 55 zone.  Saves gas, too.

The Dollar General has those triangular reflective triangles that indicate “slow moving vehicle” so that’s no problem.

But Uber won’t grant him a job unless he has a smart phone.  And on that, he won’t budge.  

Lots of Amish have cell phones. They just don’t have landlines or VOIP because that would require running wires to the house.

A visitor asks how if he did have a smartphone he would keep the battery charged?  He points out that the Chrysler has a charging port.  

So if you’re around ‘Bram’s town and you need a ride, it’s just a couple of keystrokes away.  Well, not keystrokes, actually. Pen strokes. There’s a signup sheet at the head of that little road that leads to the Stoellenfusser place. He checks it every morning at about 6.

And yes, driving an Uber is driving for work, just like crop delivery.

--Looks like we’ll be hanging out in Afghanistan for awhile.  Trump listened to his generals and will increase the US troop count.  To a hammer, everything else is a nail.

--There’s no public plan to win in Afghanistan and no definition of winning.  There’s no public timetable, either but you can bet there is a non-public one. That’s how to lose… they’ll just wait us out.

--How can the ships of a modern navy keep crashing into others? And when the alarms ring, how do sailors not know to get out of the compartments where doors close and seal to prevent the ship from taking on water.  That’s a technology that’s been around at least since the Titanic and probably earlier.

-Happy 82nd birthday to Morton Dean, the guy who should have gotten Cronkite’s job when Walter retired.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, August 21, 2017

1834 Bannon

Stately, plump Steve Bannon came from the West Wing bearing a bowl of crazy on which a pen and a copy of his resignation lay crossed.

“You don’t know about me without you have read a website by the name of Breitbart, but that ain’t no matter.”

Bannon dropped the paper on John Kelly’s desk and said “I’ll go home and I’ll think of some way to get him back.  After all, tomorrow is another day.”

Okay. Enough of this. The first line here is from James Joyce’s Ulysses, the second from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and the third line closes Victor Fleming’s Gone with the Wind.

So goes the story of the obscure stately plump Bannon’s odyssey from the White House back to his website and likely his thoughts about Donald Trump and Trump’s latest temp worker and chief of staff John Kelly.

All of a sudden the wild man Bannon is a free agent, ready for any team to sign. Looks like he’s playing for Breitbart again, at least during the current off season.  Let’s see who signs him when the real fun -- the 2018 campaign -- starts, probably in a month or two.

Bannon and Kelly “agreed” that it was time for Bannon to go.  Trump is his own “chief strategist” along with being his own Secretaries of state, defense, education, commerce, energy, homeland security and his own press secretary. But he’s not his own chief of staff.  We have to wait and see what comes next in the coup within the coup.

Still, the president has taken on  a lot of jobs for an essentially lazy slug.  But at least for the moment, he has Kelly, Stalin to his inner Lenin.

Did Bannon leave behind that bowl of crazy over which his pen and resignation letter lay?  Probably not.  But he did leave the can of Barbasol from which its contents came.

-Do the skinheads, Klanspersons and neo Nazis realize that the sheets they wear, the swastikas on their arms and the electric shavers they use to keep their heads shiny are all made in China?

--When one of the Murdoch boys pledged $1 million to the ACLU after Trump’s standup routine on Charlottesville, many believed his Fox News might be evolving.  We saw headlines like “Fox veering left.” Don’t get carried away or hold your breath in anticipation.

--The people who run the New York subway system (and yes, there are such people even though at the moment they are all asleep somewhere on a stalled Q Train) have realized there’s something that looks like a Confederate Flag embedded in a tile wall at the Times Square station.  They’re planning to get rid of it.  Not a bad Idea, fellas, but there are higher priorities for the subways now… like making the trains actually run.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, August 18, 2017

1833 Mr. President Please Step Down

At this point, sir, the single most patriotic act you can perform, the greatest good you can do for the greatest number -- including your base -- is to leave office.

Please, in the name of decency and love of America,  pass the reins to your vice president.  You have traveled the road into office and reached a dead end, an end where there is only one exit and for the country you say you love, you must take it. Go back the way you came in.

We know it’s hard for you to back down. For whatever reason, there’s something that prevents you from taking a step you think will make you look weak.

Resignation now would be not a sign of weakness but of strength.  It would demonstrate to all 330-million of us that you are a man of character, intelligence, foresight and righteousness.

It is not just that you are unqualified for the office. You have not used those few assets you do have in ways befitting a self governed people.  It is our fault, not yours.  We elected you.

Even those who voted for your opponents in the primaries, the caucuses and in the general election would accept values we oppose if they were voiced and acted upon in ways worthy of an American president.  Instead, you have offered a combination of ever-shifting views, internet posts that are impossible to believe, hired unqualified assistants and failed to fill vacancies that are critical to our courts, our international relations and our domestic security.

We have had presidents who didn’t understand the workings of government. But in most cases, they brought with them competent men and women who could either educate them or perform the duties they could not.

We have had presidents who consider some people beneath them, inferior in some ways.  In most cases this has been untrue and unjust.  But none of them openly advocated the degree of marginalizing you seem to be working for.

We have had presidents who bait, taunt and threaten enemies, real or imagined. But with few exceptions, their bait, taunts and threats could be modified and negotiated.  

We’ve had presidents who approved treaties that ultimately have hurt us.  NAFTA and its cousins have many a shortcoming.  The Paris Accord on climate change is a voluntary and our participation was symbolic of a stand: global warming is real.  The Iran nuclear deal is deeply flawed.  But we’re America.  We keep our promises, we don’t shrink from them, deny we made them or blame them for troubles they don’t cause.

Almost all of this is mechanics, getting to know the machinery of the executive branch and how it relates to the other branches of government, to the states and to America’s role as a world leader.

But the presidency is more than simple mechanics.  The winner of a presidential election sets the tone and mood of the country.  And the tone and mood you have set is damaging.

It’s not up to ordinary citizens to determine whether laws were broken in your business or presidential dealings. That’s why we have law enforcement and prosecutors. We are reluctant as a nation to start an investigation. But start we have.  And no matter how it ends, it will damage the presidency and the country.  It will distract you from the real business of the United States… of which you act as if you have no understanding.

We cannot afford a second Watergate. For all his flaws, Richard Nixon understood all these things and acted on his understanding. He quit.

Your personal instability, your reckless threats to our potential enemies, your courting of the Russian president all work against a united United States.  Your unwillingness to strongly condemn the so-called alt right and its white supremacists divides us and leaves us open to internal conquest.

You know this. And yet there’s something in you that won’t pull the plug.

You are driving your supporters in congress away  -- possibly the best thing you can do for them because they have the potential to soften the most rash of your proposals.

In this country, it is perfectly legal to dislike particular ethnic groups, to mock the justice system, to mock the legislature.  But it’s not perfectly right to advocate violence even when it’s met with counter-violence. It is not perfectly right to align yourself with others who would destroy America in the name of white supremacy or economic gain. You can not operate the United States Government as if you were CEO of a toaster company or the tin pot dictator of a communist or fascist dictatorship.

And you can’t seem to grasp that important but unwritten part of the office we have given you.

It’s hard to believe the chaos, fear, despair and weariness you have caused have only been present for about half a year.  It seems far longer. The thought of where this is headed if your term runs its four years is unthinkable.   

Maybe things moved too fast for you.  There are those who believe you never thought you’d win the election. Whether that’s true is irrelevant except to the point that your daily actions, your hourly internet posts and your failure to grasp the effects of your trajectory are ever more quickly destroying the country you say you love.

Please, sir, in the name of everything America stands for, do the right thing, the patriotic thing, the moral thing and tender your resignation.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

1832 The New Face of the Master Race

1832 The New Face of the Master Race
There it is, folks.  This is what we’re all in a twist about. James Alex Fields, the “man” charged in the murder at Charlottesville VA.

Let’s first clear up something important.  When we first learned about this kid driving a car into a crowd, killing one person and injuring others, we said he was from Ohio.  He lives there now.  But he’s a recent arrival.  Moved out of Mommy’s house only recently. Mommy’s house was in Kentucky.  It makes a difference.

The way things work today, the insurance company will pay for the repair of the wrecked Dodge and Fiat/Chrysler will announce it decries violence and some auto club will remind us that cars don’t kill people.

But I digress.

This pathetic schlump is the face of the evil in Charlottesville.  His defense team (?) is coaching him in those courthouse cliches, the ones people usually named Bobby Joe or Billy Edd tell judges after conviction and before sentencing:

  1. I had a rough childhood. Mom had to work four jobs just to put food on the table and sleep with the landlord when she couldn’t come up with the rent.
  2. I am not a bad person.
  3. I fell in with a bad crowd.
  4. It was an accident.

  1. Probably at least partly true.
  2. Wrong.
  3. For sure.
  4. Are you kidding?

If this were 1935 in Germany, would this kid qualify to join the Hitler Youth?

Yes, even the NAZIs are subject to the diluting of their standards.

Granted a lot of this anti white supremacist talk from unexpected sources may be less than sincere.   But at least these unexpected sources are doing the unexpected: criticizing the Brat-in-Chief for saying too little too late.


-Alabama tailor Jeff Sessions currently Attorney General.

-Major seller of bed linens and costumes Doug McMillon, CEO of Wal-mart.

-Academician Ben Sasse, currently a US Senator (R-Nebraska.)

-NeoCon Bill Kristol.

-Rupert Murdoch.

These are people you can usually forecast will take a stand for the “should be” and who define the should be as a white male run society where the rest of us behave because we know our place.

So, back to boy genius James Alex Fields. We don’t yet know whether civil rights activist Jeff Sessions will muster the guts to charge this bozo with a hate crime.  That may not seem like much.  But it carries with it somewhat stronger penalties than your run of the mill murder, attempted murder, murder during the commission of a felony and jaywalking.  (Hate jaywalking is a crime only in California, Vermont and Hawaii.)

But prosecutors in Virginia, a state with little to brag about since 1850 know how to lodge a murder charge.

-Unless there’s a more outrageous outrage from the president’s mouth beforehand, we’ll look at his Tuesday afternoon rantings on Friday.

-Think about this historical note:  Most of the confederate statues in this controversy were set in place well after the civil war and mark not the war but the rollback of human rights that followed emancipation and reconstruction.

--Automotive experts are singing the praises of the new Dodge Challenger.  Not only did one recently make the trip all the way from Ohio to Virginia without breaking down, it still had enough oomph to jump a sidewalk before coming to rest atop a pedestrian. Kudos to Fiat/Chrysler for the improvement.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, August 14, 2017

1831 A Weekend in Charlottesville

There are certain truths about the civil war that this column holds to be self evident.  The most important is that the south won and now governs what passes for the United States with the help of its occupied territories in the mountain and desert west and its northern secret police.

Robert E. Lee was a skilled general.  Skilled to the point that if he had a slightly less incompetent army, his side would have won the war officially instead of simply de facto.

And indirectly, this: every word out of our current President’s mouth requires an asterisk and a footnote.

So to the matter at hand, a demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia that supposedly was a protest against a city law requiring removing a statue of Gen. Lee.  But it turned into something much more.

It really was another of those pathetic, violent protests against people who aren’t white and Christian of a particular flavor.

And wouldn’t you know it, those commies and homosexuals and transgenders and fluid drive gender and people of African or Caribbean descent came out to counter protest.

As of this writing one counter protester was killed and several others injured as the Alt Righties took their  cues and tactics from their soul brothers in ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Two policemen were killed when their helicopter crashed en route to the festivities.

The City sent out every cop.  The state sent out every cop.  The president decried the hatred “on many sides.”  On many sides?  There’s that need for an asterisk again.

One republican said on CNN “Trump should have sent in the National Guard.  That’s what Eisenhower would have done.”  Eisenhower did do that.  He federalized the Arkansas National Guard and sent in paratroopers so that nine black kids could enter all white Little Rock Arkansas Central high school and enroll.

As of this writing, there’s no such action in the pipeline.  Just decrying the violence “on many sides.”

Now, what about General Lee?  While he was no open opponent of slavery and proved that time and again as executor of plantation owning uncle’s will, he also was a West Point grad and one time superintendent of the Academy.  He opposed dividing the country, even though he stayed with his native Virginia.

So to summarize, he favored slavery, but opposed the two state solution.  That’s enough to make him a hero to the president’s base.  And it considered removing the statue as sacrilege.

The president’s most important function is not listed in his constitutional job description.  It’s called setting the tone for the country.  Some do it better than others. Most are terrible at it.

Nixon failed. He had that mothballed zombie air about him. Ford was only in office for ten minutes, so that doesn’t count. Carter? Nobody home. Reagan was Nixon but with Old Spice instead of mothballs. Bush-one wasn’t too good at it either.  We can’t all be Connecticut WASPs, after all.  

Clinton?  What can you say about Clinton?  Defined by his enemies.  Bush-two? Mission accomplished.  Obama struggled with this-all for eight years.

Trump is the master.  For all his “what-did-he-say?” bluster, Trump has set the tone.  Here’s a pile of hoods and sheets.  Take one of each and pass the rest to the guy on your right.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, August 11, 2017

1830 Foot in the Florida Room

You have to admire some guys.  They really do live for their hobbies and do their jobs just to pay the bills. 

All of the "life coaches" tell us we should find something we love when we look for a job, and then work won't be work.  They are, as usual, wrong.  Find something you hate.  And forget about it at the end of the day.

Foot O'Brien was saying that, sitting at the table in his Kew Gardens "Florida Room," which seems like a strange name for a room in Queens, but that's what it is.  Foot got the name Foot by changing his previous name from Inch, which drew a lot of laughs at closing time.  He got the name "Inch" from the Danny Kaye movie about the guy who wrote fairy tales.  It had a song about inchworms measuring marigolds.   Foot measures stuff, too. 

He's a business accountant.  A bean counter who refuses to eat beans and doesn't really much care for counting.

"See any accounting crap around here?"  he asks.  "No computer. No spreadsheets, no ledgers, not even a (expletive) #4 pencil!"

Foot doesn't bring the office home.  He doesn't even have a calculator.  But he DOES have a typewriter.  Actually, that's not quite accurate.  He has a load of them. 

Some of them are pristine and shiny.  Some are dusty and old.  Some are in pieces on a workbench.  That's what Foot does.  Foot restores typewriters.  

For whatever reason -- and if you ask him why, he'll tell you "because it makes you ask me why,"  which is not a real answer, but it's all you're going to get.  He's been doing it for years.  It's what he does.  

Used to be, you had a problem with your typewriter, Foot was the go-to guy.  Almost no one uses the things anymore.  So no one goes to the go-to guy.  Which is fine with Foot.  He never cared about your problem.  He cared about the machine.

He can look up when each of the typewriters was built.  Not just the year, but even the DAY.   He's a guy who does his job to pay the bills, leaves the office in the office, has a Florida Room in Queens and has forgotten more about typewriters than Smith or Corona ever knew.

If you ask him -- and often even if you don't, he'll talk your ear off about typewriters.  Just don't ask him about pencils or beans.

--The President spent some time the other day promoting technology for veterans with health problems. His first suggestion was to sit in the electric chair.  The second was to “drink this stuff… like my grandmother… who was sick… she took this and felt great when she died ten minutes later.”

--Was this before or after the latest admission? You know… the one where he lied about getting a congratulatory phone call after delivering a campaign speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree? Honest Sarah Huckabee not only has a diabetes cure to sell you but she now says the call never happened.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

1829 True Grit and the Rhinestone Cowboy

Alzheimer’s is a sneak thief. It steals the brain a little at a time.  So when we heard years ago that Glen Campbell was victim of a break in, we knew what was coming.  Still, it was a shock to hear that Campbell, 81, had died.

He didn’t go quietly. He didn’t go privately.  His fourth wife made sure he left a message along with his legacy.  The message was “this is what can happen. Be ready for it. There is no cure.”

Long before the signs of this grotesque affliction appeared, the Rhinestone Cowboy rode into Rockefeller Plaza and wowed the outdoor Today Show crowd with the songs everyone knew.  True Grit. Rhinestone Cowboy. Wichita Lineman. Gentle on My Mind.

This also was long before the Today Show turned into a daily marathon.  In those days it ended at 9am.  The performers at what we called the Friday Concert Series often stayed on for awhile afterward.  Sometimes, the audience and the performer were so into each other the show went on for awhile off camera.

And that morning -- it was somewhere in the mid 1990s -- Campbell stuck around, then plopped himself into a chair next to me and drank from a bottle of water.  

He looked as he always did.  Vigorous. Youthful. But there was a hint of some cosmetic surgery. Nothing big. But up close, you notice.

I had some questions. Always do. Not about the face-tightening. Not about the drugs, the alcohol, the four marriages. The dalliance with Tanya Tucker.  That would have been rude.  

Instead, the question was about how many violins there were on the original recording of Wichita Lineman.  The question surprised him. And then there was the one about his traveling with an electric 12 string guitar.  The big acoustics, he said, were too bulky for touring. Questions like that must have piqued his interest because the conversation went on long after most of the rest of the news people went home.

What was it like to work with John Wayne? (“What you see is what I saw.”) Do you really know all the cracks in the dirty sidewalks of Broadway? (“I didn’t write the Rhinestone Cowboy. But I researched it.”) I took that for a yes.

Once diagnosed, Campbell set out on a farewell tour.  It was a long farewell.  But he never got to the finish line.  After awhile the sneak thief took too much. He forgot lyrics in the middle of songs he had performed --what-- a thousand times?  Five thousand?

He was down. But not so far down that he couldn’t record that one final album.  In the recording studio there are endless retakes if you don’t get the words right or the guitar solo is filled with clinkers.

The musical legacy is one of a kind.  Everything from rock to sentimental ballads, movie music (True Grit) to country.  He knew how to pick a song.  And he certainly knew how to pick a guitar -- ask anyone else who tries.

This is not genius. It’s not great art. It’s competence mixed with sincerity, familiarity and comfort.  And he evoked that in all of us.

We all knew yesterday would come, and so it did.  We knew we’d feel that tinge we feel when someone whose work has been part of our lives for what seems like forever dies. It’s shock, but not surprise.

Oh… and by the way, there were 23 violins in the orchestra for the original “Wichita Lineman” recording.  Got that fact from the Lineman’s mouth.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

1828 Trump's Magic Camera

You take a digital picture, and suddenly there it is on your screen.  Faster than you can say Polaroid. Many if not most of you have at least one of these.  Even a friend who carries an unregistered cellphone he has in case he needs to call 911.

Trump, ingenious fellow that he is, has a new version, not yet out on the market.  You take a picture and instead of instantly appearing on the screen, the subject disappears from in front of you.

Poof! Gone.

So the day before yesterday, the President of the United States lowered himself by actually raising himself out of his chair, then ambled down the hall to Scary-moochie’s office, stuck his head and camera into the door and snapped the shutter.
Scaramucci portrait by Donald J. Trump
The president can’t stand a mini-me who outshines him even momentarily.  On his way back to the oval office, he stops at Sarah Huckabee’s desk and she hands him a single sheet of paper.

As we were able to do with the Priebus memo to Kelly, we have photographed it.  Here it is:

To: President Trump
From: Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Subject: Reasons to tell the press you fired Scaramucci.

  1. He failed to turn over Hillary’s emails.
  2. He leaked to Mueller’s office
  3. He didn’t leak to Mueller’s office.
  4. He has a fouler mouth than I.
  5. He’s more fragile and needy than I.
  6. His hair doesn’t look like Bugs Bunny’s lunch.
  7. He cheated on his pregnant wife.
  8. He didn’t cheat on his pregnant wife.
  9. He smells funny.
  10. He has better suits and ties than I do.
  11. He lied on his security clearance questionnaire.
  12. He didn’t lie on his security clearance questionnaire.
  13. I just felt like it.

Wessays™ efforts to reach Scary-mooch for comment have failed so far.  Maybe he really did disappear.

Some say it was new-broom-Chief of Staff Kelly who actually pulled the trigger.  But we know better. No one so much as goes to the men’s room without a hall pass from The Supreme Leader.

But notice that when even a faint breeze of sanity floats through the Presidential Palace, we all stand and applaud and think “well, things’ll get better now.” Further evidence that we are losing our grip at the same rate at the Beloved Leader.

- Too bad that magic camera doesn’t have a front facing selfie lens.

-“We work for the American people. We don’t work for the president.” -- US Sen. Tim Scott (R- SC) on why republicans are pulling away from Trump. Scott was appointed to replace Sen. Jim DeMint, then won election to serve the rest of DeMint’s unexpired term, then won a full term.  He is one of three African Americans currently serving in the Senate.

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