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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: April 14, 2007


IN CONTRAST TO MANY OTHER societies, America completely isolates young people from adults, creating a peer culture and artificially extending childhood. “This makes no sense” writes Hara Estroff Marano in Psychology Today, “because teens should be learning from the people they are about to become.” By spending an average of 65 hours a week with their peers they learn everything they know from other teens and become a segment of society just waiting to consume, a segment surrounded by massive industries encouraging them to spend $200 billion a year almost entirely on trivia. “Young people should have more options — to work, marry, own property, sign contracts, start businesses…. every right, privilege, or responsibility that an adult has.”

DESPITE THE FACT that alcohol sales represent at least 20% of their profits New York restaurants are increasingly cutting off drinkers when they’re thought to have had enough according to Crain’s New York Business. Restaurateurs say the risks associated with serving patrons too much alcohol are much greater today, the mag reports. Spots can lose their liquor license more easily or be sued for ever-greater damages if an over-served patron is then inured or injures somebody else. “In prior years you’d wait till somebody got drunk” says Howard Greenstone of Rosa Mexicano. “We are much more cautious now.”

“I am intrigued and mystified by the disproportionate privileging of religion in our otherwise secular societies… What is so special about religion that we grant it such uniquely privileged respect?” — author Richard Dawkins in his controversial bestseller The God Delusion.

GIVEAWAY PROGRAMS that reward companies for not picking up stake and moving out of state are a waste of money in the opinion of the National Review’s political editor John J. Miller who asserts that, apart from the companies, it’s mainly the politicians who benefit. Usually the companies wouldn’t have moved anyway and sometimes the jobs they create end up costing up to $1 million apiece. Of the employment promises made, for example, by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA) only 10% were fulfilled. “MEGA is another in a long line of political programs disguised as economic ones” says Michael DeFaive, co-author of a report that studied the corporate-subsidy program. “They’re great at giving politicians cover but do little to produce real job growth.”

IN EGYPT WHERE opposition to President Mubarak’s 25-year rule is virtually unknown (and definitely not allowed) blogs are starting to make a difference writes Negar Azimi in the Nation. Blogging has emerged there “as an extension of existing popular movements,” working in alliance with the tiny independent press (totaling less than 40,000 circulation in a country of 78 million) and satellite television. “No longer simply an upper or middle-class phenomenon, blogging has become an outlet for expression among a broad spectrum of people.” It has become troublesome enough for the Interior Ministry to set up the Department for Confronting Computer and Internet Crime.

SOME ADVENTUROUS INVENTORS claim to be building space rockets cheaper and better than NASA; others boast they can produce electric cars better and cheaper than General Motors. But 35-year-old billionaire Elon Musk, who made his fortune by selling PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion, is doing both.  His company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) sent a rocket, the Falcon, 200 miles into space from a launch pad in the Marshall Islands last month and his Tesla Motors plans to start producing an electric car (with a 250-mile range after an overnight charge-up) in August.

“The current regime is likely to pursue policies more favorable to the United States than any successor regime… Saddam Hussain’s removal could usher in an extended period of instability in Baghdad… any post-Saddam regime is almost certain to fall into factional fighting.” — from the National Intelligence Estimates report on Iraq, 1983.

THE REAL VILLAIN behind the recent brouhaha over a compromised plan to allow outsiders to edit the Current section of the Los Angeles Times was publisher David Hiller who apparently knew long ago of the relationship between op-ed page editor Andrés Martinez and his PR girlfriend. In fact, writes Nikki Finke, he’d socialized with the pair of them on more than one occasion and had not only approved the section but had agreed to Donald Rumsfeld (Donald Rumsfeld !) being the second guest editor. Finke, a columnist for LA Weekly, calls Hiller a moron, a “toady sent to the LA Times to quell a colonists’ revolt…. (a) dirtbag who misused his own personal and professional relationships to impugn the integrity of the supposedly independent editorial pages side of the paper he supervised… the archetype of a bad newspaper publisher.”

He should be fired, Finke adds, and if he is, that would be, what? the third? the fourth? publisher to leave the paper within half a dozen years. If the pending sale of its Tribune owners to greedy billionaire Sam Zell goes through, maybe she’ll get her wish.

Editorially, the Times isn’t too bad (although a very distant second to its New York equivalent) but managerially it’s a shambles. When he was at the New York paper, Martinez was apparently the only editorial board member to support the Iraq war, and Hiller was a big Republican donor. Jeeze, what a crew.

THE WILCOCK WEB: It might be a risky business buying property in Turkish-ruled northern Cyprus, as thousands of Russians, Israelis, and Brits have done, because — until the Turks pushed them out &mdaaash; most of the property was once owned by Greeks who hope one day to get it back…. Widely regarded as “the father of economics” Adam Smith (1723-90) will replace composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) on Britain’s  £20 notes…. California’s answer to Donald Trump in the ego stakes is Donald T. Sterling whose picture usually appears at least twice in his ads in the Los Angeles Times (last week it was four pictures, accompanied by a double-page spread announcing four different condos bearing his name)…. Imagination is more important than knowledge declared Albert Einstein…. Bruce Cutler, the hoodlum-loving lawyer who’s currently defending Phil Spector will preside as judge in a new syndicated TV show, Jury Duty, due in September…. Farmers in North Carolina are prohibited from using elephants for plowing…. “It’s an open secret in Hollywood that many of the movies supposedly picked up at Sundance have in fact, been pre-financed by the studios, who are only pretending to come on board after the film has been made” writes Toby Young in the Spectator…. Linked by rumor to Bill Clinton, is Belinda Stronach, a Canadian Liberal MP who will be 41 on May 2 …. The universe is change: our life is what our thoughts make it — Marcus Aurelius (AD120-180)