The Column of Lasting Insignificance: January 13, 2007
THERE ARE MORE CCTV cameras (an estimated 4.2 million) keeping an eye on Brits than all the rest of the EU countries combined, a fact about which critics are beginning to express alarm. The all-seeing eyes have proliferated in the past few years with the public scarcely noticing. They scan most major streets in towns large and small and are monitored in a Big Brotherly way by the police and other security agencies. In addition, reports the Daily Telegraph, Britain also has the world’s largest DNA data base containing about 3.6 million profiles with 400,000 more added every month. A surveillance society, wrote Henry Porter in the Guardian, is “one that necessarily reduces us all from citizens to subjects.” The government has plans to extend the snooping by introducing a biometric identity card system and computerize medical records making them available to police and security services.
“HAVING AN ACCESSORY to go with sex doesn’t mean you’re a slut” says Toys in Babeland’s Rachel Venning. “it’s a pretty normal part of life now.” Ms. Venning was quoted in Crain’s story about how lickable sweet almond massage oil, flavored condoms and vibrators are helping revive flagging sales at the Duane Reade drugstore chain. “Sex sells and it’s selling faster than ever in the corner drugstore” the magazine comments.
WHAT RICHARD HOFSTADTER called “the paranoid style in American politics” is still alive and well in the opinion of Christopher Hayes writing in the Nation about the belief by one-third of Americans that the government either carried out the 9/11 attack or allowed it to happen. He suggests that public cynicism has led people to reason that because the government “has acquired a justified reputation for deception… what else are they hiding?” Truth activists maintain they are merely asking questions and the commission report into 9/11 was clearly a whitewash so it’s hard to blame people for thinking we lack the whole story, Hayes writes, but a full scale investigation by a Popular Mechanics team in March 2005 found the most common allegations “almost entirely without merit.” Yet, the more this government’s cynicism and deception is laid bare the more people “will be led down the rabbit hole of delusion of the 9/11 Truth Movement.”
“ONEDAY WE WERE BEING MEASURED FOR OUR COSTUMES” reminisced Tony Curtis about the time he spent working with Marilyn Monroe on Some Like it Hot (1959), “and when the designer measured Marilyn, he (told her) ‘You know Tony has a better-looking rear end than you do.’ Marilyn opened her blouse and said, ‘Yeah, but he doesn’t have these.’”
USING MATHEMATICAL FORMULAE discussed to determine plausibility and probability, the German science magazine P.M. determined that (after examining such concepts as creation, evolution, good, evil, and religious experiences) the probability of God’s existence is 62%.
KIDNEYS ARE THE SUBJECT of “a quietly growing global drama” says the Economist reporting on the way that Iran has become a unlikely model for the way that religious authorities encourage voluntary gifts thus making kidney transplants relatively accessible. In America, Canada, and Britain, waiting time for a transplant is several years, encouraging illicit — and sometimes “slap-dash surgery” — in poorer countries. “We’re against kidney sales; we discourage them” says a spokesman for Iran’s Association of Kidney Patients which nevertheless pays all donors $1,200 (a figure usually topped up by recipients).
“SCIENCE DEPENDS ON openness; we expose our scientific findings, including details of how they were obtained, to the scrutiny of the scientific community. …(this) reinforces the idea that science is conditional — always subject to being replaced by better information. This can be frustrating to non-scientists, who ask why science can’t make up its mind, but the alternative is dogma.” — Bob Park in the New Scientist
ENDORSING THE PRINCIPLE of a voting option listed as “none of the above” (NOTA) Ralph Nader says only 10% or less of Congressional elections are competitive (no major opponent or the challenger greatly under-financed). Nevada is currently the only state with a NOTA option, and although such votes can’t offer a winner, writes Wendy Girard in the Los Angeles Free Press, “they serve as a truly democratic referendum on candidates’ credibility with voters.”
THE WILCOCK WEB: Finally bowing to international pressure, China has agreed to ban transplant tourism — the practice of selling rich Westerners organs harvested from executed prisoners…. Calling it “a disgusting, cruel, and unregulated business, animal rights organizations claim that as many as two million cats and dogs are slaughtered in China each year to provide furs for coats, boot linings and toys…. The British condom company Durex has created a new condom to contain Zanifil, a Viagra-like chemical that is rubbed directly onto the penis…. “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” runs the adage known as Hanlon’s Razor…. Saudi Arabia claims it spends $800million a year treating smoking-related diseases (with 22,000 deaths) and has threatened to sue the tobacco companies unless they pay the bill in future…. Using plastic resin instead of wood pulp for the pages, London publisher Charles Melcher will produce a series of waterproof books for reading in the bath or at the beach…. Some Brazilians have launched an internet campaign to boycott the movie Turistas in which a group of young travelers to that country are pursued “by a gang seeking to harvest their organs….” Overwhelmed by road-clogging traffic congestion, Taiwan is investigating a plan to integrate cell phone users into a system that would charge tolls whenever a driver crosses into a region away from his home area…. If hydrogen can so easily be extracted from water (H20) why can’t supplies of hydrogen and oxygen be delivered to barren regions to make water….? The only existing first copy of the Los Angeles Times (Dec 4, 1881) will be on show at the Huntington Library’s exhibition from Feb 4 to June celebrating the paper’s 125th anniversary…. The Hackett Group, a business advisory firm, says that if Fortune 500 companies sent many of their back office activities offshore they could save a combined $58 billion a year — with the attendant loss of 1.47 million U.S. jobs…. “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.” — Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)