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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: January 15, 2011

John Wilcock



CLASS WARFARE is the title of a show we’ll never see on television because the elitist crowd who prepare the schedules think that audiences are not interested in viewing a discussion of the issues most on people’s minds. These, of course, include the greed of banks, corporation rip-offs, and the unceasing need to bribe politicians. Politics, oddly, is rarely the subject of a group discussion on television, apart from the bland punditry of the same old, same old, tired group that bore us every Sunday morning.

What an interesting show Class Warfare would be on the new liberated (detached from PBS) independent KCET in Los Angeles. What a golden opportunity to make so-called “public” TV genuinely public. It would be easy to assemble a rotating panel of interesting conversationalists from the ranks of writers for certain anarchist-minded underground and alternative press, columnists for and contributors to certain newspapers and magazines including the likes of Mother Jones, the New Yorker, Atlantic, Harpers. Everybody knows somebody whose conversation is interesting, whose ideas come from outside the familiar box. Writers for Paul Krassner’s Realist would be a substantial source of idea-freaks just on their own.

To make Class Warfare acceptable, the panels would include a whole raft of people with a foot in both camps; there are many talkers with a degree in respectability who nevertheless think that the miasma of hypocrisy and greed that has enveloped the country, deserves more discussion than it is currently getting. Arianna Huffington, for example, might make a suitable moderator.

The first subject that should come up might be an instructional for Republicans, that communism and socialism are not the same thing. They never seem to have learned that, although one thing the rest of us know is that rich people never have enough and regard any attempt to even the playing field as some kind of obscenity.

Here are some of the other topics that are overdue for discussion:

++ The shameless hacks who work as lobbyists for murderous dictators and the greedy lawyers who take on clearly guilty serial murderers or venomous pedophiles because “everybody needs a good defense” (why does it have to be them?)

* The essential need for a draft in times of war to spread the burden more evenly

++ The hidden agenda of what is increasingly being described as “the Jim Crow Media“

* ALL aspects of the media

++ Why religious assets should not be excused from taxation

* The cruelty inherent in producing halal and kosher meat

++ Apart from being more expensive, is “organic” actually any better?

* “Fashion is for people who don’t know who they are.” — Quentin Crisp

* Why nobody is held responsible for states that go bankrupt *

++ Who exactly are these corporate vultures about to take over the sale and distribution of marihuana?

* Why travel to Cuba is still forbidden when contact with other “communist’ countries is allowed, in fact, encouraged

++ Why isn’t Jordan (population 60% Palestinian) Palestine?

* Why do our political Supreme Court Justices not have to be elected like other politicians and why, unlike other countries, are the appointments for life?

++ The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined. Why is it that 65 years after WW2 ended the US maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites around the world?

* Why is the only goal of prison to breed more prisoners and not apply some form of rehabilitation?

++ “Fashion is for people who don’t know who they are” — Quentin Crisp

* Isn’t racial profiling an obvious necessity to discover terrorists?

Wouldn’t you like to hear some arguments about those subjects?


RACIAL DISCRIMINATION has not been erased in this country, merely redesigned, suggests Michelle Alexander, the method enhanced (and disguised) by bringing two million African-Americans under the control of the criminal justice system. “Once you’re labeled a felon…the old forms of discrimination — employment, housing, denial of the right to vote, and exclusion from jury service — are suddenly (again) legal,” she writes in The American Prospect. “The drug war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color, despite the fact that studies consistently indicate that people of all races use and sell drugs at remarkably similar rates…in 2000, African Americans made up 80 to 90 percent of imprisoned drug offenders in some states.…As a nation we have managed to create a massive system of control that locks up a significant percentage of our population — a group defined largely by race — into a permanent, second-class status.” Ms. Alexander’s story was headed The New Jim Crow, a reference to the segregation laws that endured until 1965.

That evocative term is also the theme of Ishmael Reed’s accusatory book in which he widens the charge to include our alleged free press that, he reminds us, is rarely anything but a tool of the Establishment. Ishmael was among the group of us who founded New York’s first “underground” paper, the East Village Other, back in the Sixties when the battle against segregation was still to be won. “Isn’t it ironic?” he asks “that a media that scolded the Jim Crow South in the 1960s now finds itself hosting the bird. Jim Crow in the South meant separate but unequal facilities. It meant that any white woman who accused a black man of rape was believed. In the media (today) it means that whites get the million dollar equipment and the rest of us get the blogs….In terms of its attempt to build a media that ’looks like America,’ the media are as white as a KKK picnic.” His reference to “nigger breakers,” btw, refers to the overseers who job it once was to dominate uppity slaves, the kind of people who once referred to Abraham Lincoln as an ape and today have used the same scurrilous insult about President Obama.

AFTER YEARS OF WORK, Austin cartoonist and musician Ethan Persoff, who’s currently art director of Evergreen Review, has finally finished archiving all 146 issues (3,000 pages) of Paul Krassner’s Realist which all sensible baby boomers grew up on. Beginning in 1958, Paul, with some cynicism and much humor, documented our changing times methodically and skeptically with such thoroughness that only a random list of names — Patty Hearst, Scientology, Groucho Marx, J. Edgar Hoover, Norman Mailer, Bill Gaines — can give a clue to the wide range. Check out The Realist/Archives.

CHINA DAILY has added Houston to the five other cities in which it is now publishing in this country and is currently offering free trial subscriptions. The paper’s appearance is surprisingly familiar to Western readers, and totally different from the rather staid version offered to visitors to Shanghai, so much so that a recent issue devoted almost half a page to a picture of a barely-covered model, illustrating a story headed The Naked Truth About Nude Art. It seems that newlyweds are among the main customers of the growing number of photo studios that specialize in nude photography.


Credit: China Daily


“A beautiful body deserves pride,” says Xiao Yu, 23. “I wanted to preserve the memory of youth when the body is at its physical peak.” The paper reports “massive demand” for naked portraits despite costing about 4,000yuan ($450), four times that of standard portrait service. The development shows that China “has diversified from its conservative past” and boasts a more social atmosphere, according to sociologist Zhou Xiaozheng at the Renmin University of China.

INCREASING NEWSPAPER CIRCULATIONS is not a phenomenon seen in most of the world, but India is producing more papers with increasing readership every day. Rising literacy (only 65% of adults can read), and the fact that only 7% of Indians use the Internet, are the main reasons for growing readership. But newspapers are also cheap: four rupees a copy (about 10¢.)

NEWSPAPER WARS have arrived in Israel where the 75-year-old Yedioth Ahronoth (Latest News) has just been overtaken by the country’s newest daily Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today) which happens to be owned by Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, 77, who also owns resorts in Macau. Both papers claim daily circulations of 300,000 and claim to be read by about one-third of Israel’s population, but whereas the newcomer is free — one of almost 200 worldwide free dailies — Yedioth costs about $1.35 a copy.

V IS BACK, with its undisclosed mission. When it previewed in the fall. one critic speculated that they are here to eat us.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Some economists are predicting that, in 2011, the collapse of the Euro as currency will soon be preceded by Portugal’s return to the escudo, followed by the rebirth of the Irish punt and the Spanish peseta…. Why do we continue pouring billions into a country that believes anybody who criticizes Islam should be executed for “blasphemy?”…. Just before Christmas, one of Bernie Madoff’s investors generously decided to return $7.2bn her husband had made from the fund while insisting he was “in no way complicit” in the fraud. Come to think of it, what could possibly have raised suspicions?…. “By all means marry,” advised Socrates, “if you get a good wife you’ll be happy. If you get a bad one you’ll become a philosopher …. Scientists have figured out how to remove a single gene from the mosquito’s DNA which is the one the produces malaria. Now if they can spread it into a few trillion others”…. Judging by the saturation advertising for $10k watches, every rich guy must have a dozen of them ….. Evening news is where they begin with “Good evening,” and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t…. Lan Chile’s airline magazine IN, lists three places where both you and your dog can share a coffee: Sarasota’s Flying Dog Café, Mexico City’s Bow Wow Deli and Tomyto in Santiago. It doesn’t say if finicky pets can choose tea……..“Charity degrades those who receive it and hardens those who dispense it,” observed George Sand….Why Can’t Kanye West Shut the Hell Up? was the title of an essay in last month’s Esquire…. Oakland pot grower Matt Cohen predicts that eventually tourists in northern California will be able to stay at ”bud ‘n’ breakfast inns….Pierre Le Guennec, who did electrical work at Picasso’s homes, turned up at the Picasso Admin’s Paris office with 175 undocumented works he claims the artist gave him ….If millions of shoppers are now able to manipulat coupons so that they pay

Forbes Caption: Mohammad Saidullah says he invented the Floating Bicycle to cross the flooded river near his home. It is being promoted by The Honeybee Network which encourages innovation in India’s rural villages.

only pennies on the dollar, why don’t companies just abandon coupons and lower their prices?…. “Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years,” wisely remarked Samuel Ullman. “People grow old by deserting their ideals”…. If anything goes wrong with your Kenmore washer or dryer, just dial an 800 number and hold the phone to the machine which beeps what’s wrong with it so the technician can tell you how to fix it….Jamaica’s new airport will be named after Ian Fleming who wrote his James Bond books while living on the island….Tampico, IL. (current population: 772) was where Ronald Reagan was born 100 years ago on Feb 6…. A score of Massachusetts police departments have forked out $3,000 for the MORIS smart phone which has a built-in fingerprint scanner connected to the national database….Critics of Britain’s belated attempt to enter the speed-train business, claim that the projected line between London and Birmingham (estimated cost $25bn) works out at $750,000 for each minute saved….Ah, if only all the militant Shiites and militant Sunnis could agree to meet somewhere and kill each other off thus satisfying their frequently declared wish for universal martyrdom… Islam vs. infidels in Egypt. Is this the overture to a wider war?….Seek not happiness too greedily.” Lao Tzu (6th c. BC)

John Wilcock’s weekly column has been appearing around the world since its debut in the first issue of the Village Voice in October 1955.