John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: July 22, 2006


ASKED BY A REPORTER whether he was ever shocked by anything that happened on his show, Jerry Springer said “No, I don’t think you can be a grown-up in today’s world and be shocked by anything that’s shocking anymore? You can’t really say that anything you’ve seen on our show hasn’t really happened in real life to someone, somewhere”.

CONGRESS AWARDED its highest civilian honor to Tony Blair — a staunch and steadfast ally — back in May 2003, but the British prime minister has never bothered to collect it. Many people believe, suggests The Guardian, that he won’t bother to do so until he’s left office because there is so much opposition in Britain to his “lapdog” stance towards Bush.

IN A DISTINCTLY non-scientific study, Swedish researcher Britt-May Wikström called together a group of 20 women for weekly immersion in and discussion of the art of Chagall, Kandinsky, Magritte, and Matisse. A similar group met weekly to discuss current events. When the experiment was over, Wikström claims, the women in the art group were markedly more likely to describe themselves as happy, peaceful, and satisfied and showed significant decreases in fatigue and blood pressure.

THE UNSEEN FLAW IN GLOBALIZATION writes economist Barry C. Lynn is that total reliance on a single source for supplies can be a catastrophe if power and transportation systems are disrupted. When an earthquake hit Taiwan, for example, within days factories were closing in California and Texas, assembly lines were being shut down and workers laid off. In his book, End of the Line: The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation, Lynn calls for more aggressive use of antitrust power to ensure — says The American Prospect — “that no global firm controls more than a quarter of any American market (or)” to protect our supply.

“GOVERNMENT IS FOR SLAVES; free men govern themselves” declared the 19th-century anarchist Albert Parsons who told a congress of revolutionaries (in 1881) that voting was “an invention of the bourgeoisie to fool the voters.” Parsons’ story is outlined in a new book, Death in the Haymarket (Pantheon) by labor historian James Green, which recounts the bomb-throwing incident in Chicago’s Haymarket in May 1886 after which Parsons and three other anarchists were hanged. Ahead of her time. Parsons’ wife suggested that tramps who were thinking of drowning themselves should become suicide bombers instead.

IT’S NOT LIKE THE ‘60s when people felt a need to get out and protest en masse declares Camille Paglia. The fact that people are in constant touch and agreement with each other through the internet, vehemently denouncing the war, doesn’t seem to result in collective action. “You wonder whether technology isn’t in some way sapping energy from overt political action.

THE SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS for ethanol are beginning to look less rosy than at first appeared. First of all, writes former Senator Tom Daschle, barely 600 of the nation’s 180,000 retail gas stations have pumps able to dispense E85 (the 85/15% gas/ethanol blend) due to the major oil companies prohibiting their installation and other barriers also exist — such as Wall Street’s timidity. Daschle’s essay, part of a 32-page After Oil section in The American Prospect, was optimistic about the prospects for American farmers providing the necessary biomass for ethanol production, but another writer in the section predicted gloomily that the industry would eventually be monopolized by such giant corporations as Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill. In 1999, reported Successful Farming magazine, farmers owned all new ethanol plants, but by this year “they owned just 19% of the 1.7 billion gallons that will flow from 29 new plants.”

A CHEAPER ALTERNATIVE to communications satellites will be the new high-tech airship with a solar-powered electric motor, now being tested by Atlanta’s Sanswire Networks reports Scientific American. Because the air is so thin at 20kms above the earth, the whale-shaped “stratelite’ will be able to remain in geostationary orbit, providing wi-fi-based voice, video, and satellite services across a footprint 240-km in diameter.

THE WILCOCK WEB: What’s reported as an “E-poll survey of 1,171 viewers” discovered that more than twice as many were disturbed by television’s violence and sexual content than by nudity…. London’s Daily Mail reports that 75% of the world’s population has never made a phone call….”What credentials do bloggers have?” asked columnist Tom Shales in TelevisionWeek “Why plenty! They have grudges, biases, prejudices, naked ambition, a yearning to be famous and, of course, a computer to access the internet and assemble the mob for lynchings”. … ….The so-called black boxes — cockpit voice recorders — are to be upgraded so that even when the plane’s electrical systems fail they will be able to tape ten more minutes of whatever disaster is in progress…. Too much of the useful methane gas from rotting garbage dumps is burned off and wasted says New Scientist reporting on a new method of extracting the gas which is expected to provide billions of units of energy… It is our peculiar duty to love even those who wrong us. —Marcus Aurelius