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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: February 9, 2008

Obama should concede the obvious — that if he persuaded Hillary to adopt him as her veep, millions of conflicted Dems would be overjoyed to have their dilemma defuse.
—from JW’s column Nov 10, 2007

DOES SUBLIMINAL ADVERTISING actually work? Discover magazine says psychologists have been studying it since the late 19th century but apparently there’s still no general agreement. They quote the famous experiment exactly fifty years ago when eat popcorn and drink Coca Cola were flashed repeatedly on a cinema screen for less than one-third of a second supposedly resulting in spiked sales. Brooklyn College professor Matthew Erdelyi told the magazine: “There’s (still) a lot of interest but the subject matter is a little bit taboo.”

AN ATOMIC WING is the name for a sauce-covered chicken sold at the Quaker Steak and Lube in Erie, PA., and its name comes from its rating of 150,000 heat units on the standard Scoville measuring scale. (A jalapeno pepper is rated at 5,000). Writing in the New Scientist, Eric Bland says the heat comes from capsaicin in the chile pepper and when he visited New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute — which has been studying chilies for more than a century — he found they had bred one which clocked in at more than 1m Scoville units. Some researchers believe that capsaicin might help to treat cancer, but for a few daredevils it’s just that they like things hotter and hotter. “It’s only a matter of time before some dies from eating these incredibly hot sauces,” forecasts Dave DeWitt, author of 31 books about chili peppers.

WARDROBING IS THE trade term for taking back to stores items that have been ‘bought’ for one-time use, and together with using counterfeit receipts and returning for credit goods that were stolen in the first place, will cost retail stores $3.7 billion as a result of the past holiday season according to estimates by the National Retail Federation.

WE CAN EXPECT to see 500,000 illegal immigrants crossing the border every year indefinitely, predicts The American Prospect, as long as the number of Mexican workers outgrows the number of jobs created, “The dirty little secret of Mexican out-migration to the US is that it has been encouraged by the oligarch-run governments of Mexico as a safety valve to get rid of ambitious, frustrated workers who otherwise could be trouble at home” says the mag, adding that “virtually everyone in Mexico knows that racketeer coyotes who organize the border crossings could not operate without at least tacit government approval.” Mexico’s problem is that it is ruled by an oligarchy of rich families “in a system of hyper-crony capitalism” and NAFTA has driven millions out of rural areas northwards. The only solution, says TAP, is to copy EU’s model of investing funds in poorer countries to generate job growth.

“The European ideal consists… of imposing on voters far-reaching changes to the way they are governed without allowing them a voice…. Across (Britain) supine acquiescence is the order of the day. With only paltry exceptions, we see the same thing on the Continent. The handover of freedom and self-government to a smug, self-perpetuating, unelected bureaucratic elite is virtually complete, awaiting only ratification by the parliaments of the member countries”
The New Criterion, January

NO MATTER HOW MANY times the idiocy of expending 1.3 gallons of oil to produce one gallon of ethanol is pointed out, the policy is unlikely to change because so many politicians are bribed by agribusiness to use corn for this purpose. Popular Mechanics, in a piece headed The Ethanol Policy explains that it would take 450 pounds of corn to yield enough ethanol to fill the tank of an SUV, and to replace America’s imported oil would require putting 900 million acres — 90% of the country’s farmland — under cultivation. “Once we’ve turned our farms into filling stations, where will our food come from? …our nation could end up with an ‘alternative’ energy that is enormously expensive yet barely saves a gallon of oil.”

THE TINKLING OF PIANOS will soon be a thing of the past in department stores if others follow the lead of Nordstrom which plans to eliminate such music without explaining whether it would be replaced. “It’s not an expense issue,” Nordstrom’s spokeswoman told Stores magazine. “It’s a store environment issue. Like fashion, we want to be current.”

THE WILCOCK WEB: If all the candidates could be limited to some finite sum (i.e. only public financing) for their electioneering, you can bet that TV ad rates would drop precipitously…. “The future, according to some scientists, will be exactly like the past,” reports John Sladek, “only much more expensive…” Snake fans will assemble at the oddly-named Alabama City of Opp on April 5 for the Rattlesnake Rodeo…. With full page ads in business magazines, the Mars company is inviting firms to advertise its logos and slogans (“in company colors”) on millions of M&Ms…. Wal-Mart topped the list of Global retailers last year, with Target in 7th place. But Target ceo Robert Ulrich made $36.5 million, Wal-Mart’s H. Lee Scott ‘only’ $29.6m… Jane Fonda was right about at least one thing: frozen grapes are delicious…. Hawaiian obit: Oh no, Don Ho…. Now, what tennis whiz John McEnroe will always be most remembered for are those vulgar All Bran ads….. “I’ll be the first to make a fool of myself if I think it will help the party,” admits Richard Branson…. Movie theaters have to fork over $50,000 to install 3-D systems, and pay an annual $25,000 licensing fee, but Forbes estimates they’ll be on 3,400 screens within a year…. Just as in NYC, Saudi Arabian diplomats are also scofflaws in London where they owe $58,000 of parking tickets….. “I’m like the Grateful Dead of Comedy,” boasts Tommy Chong..“I’ve got Chong-heads”….. With the help of subsidies, San Francisco plans to have 10,000 buildings equipped with solar power within the next few years…. That diamond-encrusted skull that sold for $100m last year was bought by its creator, Damien Hirst, and his friends to force up the artist’s market value…. For a mere $135, New York’s Metro system is offering “miniature Metro cards set in sterling silver.” Silver tokens sold as cufflinks cost $115 — “You meet your destiny on the road you take to avoid it” — Carl Jung(1865-1961)