John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: July 26, 2008

“If a state becomes thoroughly commercialized, this fact will probably betray itself in the public life. It will be increasingly difficult for officials to quit office with clean hands. The receipt of what is today called graft will affect both magistrates and citizens. If this tendency to make the public loss the private gain is not ultimately checked, it is likely there will be needed some violent change in the structure of government by which political bribery and corruption will be left less opportunity for their sinister work.” — William Stearns Dean in The Influence of Wealth in Imperial Rome, 1910)

WITH ITS MILLIONS OF ACRES of still undeveloped land, Brazil is aiming to be the world’s main food provider in coming years. “The rise of Brazil as an agricultural powerhouse may be the most important story of globalization that many Americans have never heard of,” says US News & World Report. ”What is unfolding on the plains at the center of South America probably qualifies as the most important transformation of land since the breaking of sod in the Midwest during America’s westward expansion.” With its four million small farms, bigger ones averaging 20,000 acres each, and moderate weather allowing two or three crops a year, the country is already the top world producer of beef, soybeans, poultry, soybeans, sugar, coffee, orange juice, and ethanol. And additional terrain for Brazilian crops is equal to all the land under cultivation in Europe. “The real story of Brazil,” says Clifford Sobel, the U.S. ambassador in Brasilia, “is how much more they can grow.”

JAPANESE AUTOMAKER NISSAN is outfitting its designers with suits capable of simulating old-people ailments, to better understand what must be built into cars to make it easier for people who are, say, too fat or unable to raise their legs because of arthritis. Cataract goggles will approximate what it is like to drive with failing eyesight. Nissan spokesman Steve Oldham explains: “We’re trying to get in touch with an older demographic, in terms of what they’re going through to get in and out of vehicles and to drive them.”

WHEN THE IRISH rejected The Lisbon Treaty, they knew what they were doing, suggests David Pryce-Jones in a National Review piece that the un-elected officials who run the EU aim at building a new continental empire that makes the nation-state virtually obsolete. Irish maverick millionaire Declan Ganley, who led the fight, refers to it as “this wretched treaty” and says, “The Irish people have smelled a rat.” Few people have read the 500-page Treaty, (a rewrite of an earlier one which was rejected by France and Holland), and EU officials like it that way because their aim has been to prevent citizens from having a referendum about whether they wanted it or not. “The Eurocrats had learned from their mistake,” NR writes. “Instead of referendums, presidential procedures and parliamentary majorities were now the way to ram the treaty through.” Ireland, however, did have a referendum — and said no.

PHILADELPHIA HAS COME to resemble the Third-world, such is the level of its “disorder and corruption” declares National Review in a story that accuses the City of Brotherly Love of possessing one of America’s “most backward and incompetent city governments.” Politics constantly hobble the ability of the city’s capable police departments to address crime, the magazine alleges, pointing to the prevalence of ‘Stop Snitchin’ T-shirts which discourage any cooperation with the police. The blame, it says, is due to what it calls “the paranoid style in African American politics…the elevation of racial loyalty over citizenship. Philadelphia stands as a warning to other big American cities: this is how you drown under a crime wave.”


  • Largest Roach of the Year Contest (Plano, TX);
  • National Mustard Day (Mt. Horeb, WI);
  • Ugly Face Contest (Grand Junction, CO);
  • Weird Contest Week (Ocean City, NJ);
  • Office Olympics (Shreveport, LA);
  • World Freefall Convention (Quincy, IL).

THE WILCOCK WEB: “Promises are too easy to make by politicians, too easily demanded by voters, and too often unchallenged by the news media,” write columnists Cal Thomas and Bob Beckell in USA Today…. Gerrymandering and term limits could both be curbed if legislators were obliged to run in an unfamiliar constituency when their terms expired….When women run for office, says The American Prospect, they perform at least as well as men. But they don’t run often enough and that’s why the U.S. is way down in 65th place among countries with women in their Congress…. The simpering visage of Michelle Malkin fills a full-page ad in National Review, offering a free poster of the misguided rightwing pundit….The New Yorker may or may not be ironic but, judging by its cartoons, it certainly lacks a sense of humor….After the South Korean government estimated that 168,000 children may require psychiatric treatment for over-the-top addiction to the Internet, Jerald Block suggested in the American Journal of Psychiatry that Web abuse be added to the approved list of mental disorders….. Nevada’s Moonlite Bunny Ranch invites customers to bring in their $600 tax refund check in return for which they offer “the $1,200 George Bush party, three girls and a bottle of champagne”….And just when the DMV thought they had accounted for all the impermissible license plate letter combinations, now they’re facing a new batch — teenage-generated text abbreviations that look innocent but aren’t. WTF is being mentioned (what the fuck?)…. “It is the malady of our age,” sighed Eric Hoffer, “that the young are so busy teaching us that they have no time left to learn”…..The L.A. Opera’s winter schedule lists Woody Allen as its director for its production of Puccini’s Il Tabarro next month. It’s a tale of infidelity and murder…..After busting a score of thieves who stole hundreds of credit cards from parked cars outside gyms, soccer fields and similar recreational facilities, Aurora, CO. detective Bob Friel said that crooks had figured out that victims felt it safer to leave their valuables in their car rather than put them in their health club lockers…. Forbes Life reports that a firm called Eleven Forty will make cufflinks of your own profile (or favorite pet) in silver, gold, or platinum for a mere $1,190…. “To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.” — Confucius