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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: December 5, 2009

John Wilcock
the column of lasting insignificance

“Much of the territory stays in the hands of the terrorists. We control the political center but we cannot maintain control over territory we seize….to occupy towns and villages has little value in such a vast land where the insurgents can just disappear into the hills.”
— Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, commander of the Soviet forces in Afghanistan at a Politburo meeting, Nov 13, 1986.

RESISTING VACCINATION has become a nationwide battle in the view of Wired, which reports that vaccination rates have dropped so low in some parts of the U.S. that some children’s diseases are noticeably rising. Much of the resistance is highly organized and stems from a belief that vaccination causes autism, a genetic brain impairment in infants that is incurable and not clearly understood. “Nobody in the pro-vaccine camp asserts that vaccines are risk-free,” says Wired’s November issue, “but the risks are minute in comparison to the alternative.” Numerous studies have failed to find data linking vaccination to neurological problems and Wikipedia calls the hypotheses “biologically implausible and lack(ing) scientific evidence.” The magazine concludes: “Pseudo-science preys on well-intentioned people who, motivated by love for their kids, become vulnerable to…snake-oil salesmen.”

HOW NBC MUST HAVE regretted letting Conan O’Brien usurp Jay Leno as host of the top-ranked Tonight Show. They should have told the vainglorious youth to get lost. Now they have an 11:30pm show with lower ratings, as well as those shows that precede and follow it, plus Leno’s collapsed career and an impending network fire sale.

BLACK LOVE as best exemplified by Michelle and Barack Obama is showcased in Essence whose cover story aims to disprove the mainstream media’s “lie…which consistently promotes the idea that African-American men and women can’t be civil with each other.” Editor Angel Burt-Murray promised that the magazine would continue with its love stories “despite the reality TV catfights and the guess-the-daddy segments on trashy talk shows that would have so many buy into the fiction that Black Love is dead or at the very least on life support.” Cover story of the December issue is about radio comic Steve Harvey who proposed to his wife Marjorie from the stage (when she entered the audience (where he was performing) but didn’t marry her until 17 years later after both had gone through other marriages.

“Is there no statesman, leader or politician on the planet before whom the U2 front man Bono will not abase himself?…he was once a fan of George W. Bush and the “incredible job” the latter supposedly did…speaking truth to power? No, Bono just likes speaking to power.”
Mehdi Hasan in the New Statesman

PASSWORDS. PASSWORDS. PASSWORDS! They can pretty much be anything, writes Michael Fitzgerald in Inc. Many people use very obvious words — password, is popular — or simple words or dates. These simpletons are no match for hackers using “dictionary searches” which can scan a million words a day. A random combination of letters, symbols, and figures, though safer, is tough to remember. Two words connected with a number or a full sentence are harder to crack. Shorter passwords can incorporate @ for a and 3 for e. Fitzgerald writes that a password could even be made from a triangle of keys on your keyboard. And now there’s now a program, a vault, Password Safe where you can store your passwords. Then all you have to do is remember their password.

THE WORLDWIDE DECLINE in fish stocks is forcing trawlers to dig deeper, dredging up dubious species hitherto unseen on restaurant tables, such as the escolar, a bottom feeder that has a purging effect. (It’s sometimes referred to as “the Ex-Lax fish.”) In customary commercial style, this oily snake mackerel has been renamed on sushi counters “white tuna.”  Mother Jones lists the original names of some other unfamiliar fish, along with their up-to-date monikers: slimehead (orange roughy), oilfish (blue cod), and spiny dogfish (rock salmon ).

THE WILCOCK WEB: Responding to the ongoing critiques about Twitter not making money, venture capitalist Fred Wilson says: “I’m way more interested in how we get 100 million or more people using it than how to make money. It doesn’t cost much to operate the business and we have a pile of cash now that funds (it) for a long, long time”…. Welcome to the land of seduction and sin says a sign in the Copenhagen airport… Despite the millions they are paid, Big Pharma’s lobbyists can’t even be bothered to write different speeches for different congressmen to parrot…..Stacy Parker Aab’s Government Girl: Young and Female in the White House recalls being around for the Monica Lewinsky scandal but, says Publishers Weekly, “is mercifully free of salacious revelations”…..A pasta palindrome: Wonton (?) Not now…..Dustin Zuckerman’s Tool Library in Santa Rosa is just one of dozens springing up around the country where impoverished workers can borrow tools rather than buy them Historians now claim that it wasn’t a stroke that killed Vladimir Lenin, but syphilis…. DEFT DEFINITION: Bozone — The substance surrounding stupid people, that stops bright ideas from penetrating…. India, too, is building a wall to keep out immigrants —this one a 10-foot fence (costing a billion dollars) which will stretch for 2,135 miles along the Bangladesh border…..Amsterdam’s The Open Organization of Lock-pickers (TOOL) has found its lock-picking sessions to be such a popular hobby it is planning to inaugurate branches in Germany and the U.S…. Fuji is about to market a $600 camera with twin stereoscope lenses able to shoot 3D photos and videos….Japanese couples are getting married on the 21st floor of an Osaka skyscraper which houses a replica of an English village chapel… Why do universities need to pay consultants to teach them how to save money?…. Hugh Hefner recalls when the first issue of Playboy came off the presses in December 1973 with that Marilyn Monroe cover), “I felt like Clark Kent going into a phone booth and coming out as Superman. I was Mr. Playboy”….. “Some people will never learn anything because they understand everything too soon.” — Alexander Pope (1688-1744)