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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: June 18, 2011

John Wilcock


“The GOP should be wary of becoming the political face of corporate America. The same goes for those Republicans who lately have been defending Wall Street’s incompetent, too-big-to-fail bankers. Instead, (they) should concentrate on reforming the individual tax schedules…the key to reducing joblessness.”
International Economy magazine editor David Smick in the weekly Standard

that offers some form of rehabilitation has never been much of a priority, but Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca would like to change that, especially with all the current fuss over prison over-crowding. What do sentences achieve? Not much, Baca suggests, with current recidivism rates in state prisons at 70%, meaning that nearly three-quarters of prisoners are back soon after being released. “The theory of incarceration has always been punitive in America,” he notes. “‘Lock ‘em up, throw the key away,’ and I’m not suggesting changing any of the punitive components. But…90% are hungry for new knowledge. They’re willing to acknowledge their limitations in thinking. They flat-out are a very good student population.”

Interviewed by Miller-McCune magazine, the outspoken county sheriff said his plan was about changing the mindset. He conceded that many of the 20,000 prisoners would move out to state prisons but, hopefully, the education process would continue there. “The average prison sentence is about eight or nine years. You can do a lot with (that) if you’re on a learning track and you have unlimited educational resources. We don’t have enough teachers so we’re using technology as one of the tools — DVDs, closed-circuit TVs running educational programming, self-instruction booklets, computers you can’t get on the Internet with, MP3 players with pre-recorded lectures. We’re planning to use the cell as a classroom and technology as the teacher.”

GOLD IN AFGHANISTAN — there’s plenty of it, according to the Feds and the time might finally be approaching when speculators are ready to go after it. When the Russians were in the country, test holes proved the presence of just about every valuable mineral in existence but they were forced out before they could act on their discoveries. Later, the U.S. Geological Survey identified veins of copper, iron, lithium, gold, and silver — “hundreds of billions of dollars worth,” says Fortune, and three years ago the Chinese won a bid for one site south of Kabul although unable so far to pursue it. “This is the time in Afghanistan for the adventure capitalists,” says General David Petraeus, “for those who can do business in tough places in the world.”

READ THE CONSTITUTION urges Parade magazine. “Considering how much time we spend arguing about it, why not bone up on what it says?” The admonition is one of 32 things the magazine lists as “essential experiences every American should have.” The list begins with eat real barbecue and ends with See a bald eagle soar.

MEDICAL TOURISM HAS, in the past, usually been a reference to those glamorous foreign hospitals that welcomed patients into hospitals in exotic surroundings, enabling recovery in places with the style of five-star hotels. Now, a Colorado company — Bridge Health Medical — is offering “domestic medical tourism,” having struck deals with 30 hospitals and medical centers around the US. Inc. magazine narrates the tale of a fairly typical case — the employee of an Alaskan firm who flew to one of Bridge Health’s clients, a hospital in La Jolla, CA, to have an operation on her shoulder. The $16,000 cost was picked up by her insurance company which would otherwise have been responsible for a $32,000 bill at a local hospital in Anchorage.

IT’S ABOUT TIME that the government begins to get tough with Mexico ”before our border towns revert to the violent Wild West,” writes William von Raab in the Spectator. Drug lords and corrupt politicians don’t respect civilized diplomatic overture and foreign aid he says in a piece labeled Mexistan, and meanwhile, parts of the border have become more like Afghanistan than America. “There is unbridled violence, financing of corrupt activities through drug trafficking, control of what should be government authority by brigands or worse, and corruption all the way through the social and political hierarchy. It is North America’s own terrorist camp across the Rio Grande. It is time that we stopped thinking of Mexico just as a friendly trading partner and began to assess her potential as another terrorist breeding ground.”


“I think they’re prematurely rushing and showing little confidence and faith in what they’ve really got, their real asset which is the magazine itself which is still a great commodity.”
Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner talking to Advertising Age about why magazine publishers should be in less of a hurry to move their readers to tablets.


IN A STORY advocating Texas governor Rick Perry for next president, Republican state pol Dan Logue says: “I think that (he’s) the next Ronald Reagan.” The Newsweek story focuses on the fact that during Perry’s tenure, Texas has added 730,000 jobs whereas California has lost 600,000, and revealed that the Carl’s Jr. hamburger chain planned to open 300 outlets in Texas this year, none in California. The company’s CEO explained: “It takes two years to get permits in California, 45 days in the state of Texas.”.

Charlie Chaplin statue at Vevey photo credit: Keystone

THIRTY-FOUR YEARS after Charlie Chaplin’s death, his house at Corsier-sur-Vevey (pop: 3,203) overlooking Lake Geneva is being turned into a museum about the world’s first international movie star, who died there on Christmas Day 1977. His desk, grand piano, books, and leather-bound volumes of Tatler and Punch magazines fill the library, and a café movie theater, outdoor stage, and tiny British pub will be part of a miniature movie set through which visitors can stroll along streets reminiscent of Chaplin’s youth. The star’s oak desk and a sofa from the 1931 movie City Lights are currently part of the sparse furniture but Charlie’s son Michael has appealed to relatives and friends to return items that once belonged to the house. Most of the Chaplin documents, manuscripts, and photographs are stored at nearby Montreux, in the town archives.

THE WILCOCK WEB: New York State Senate passed an ethics bill that is so curiously ineffectual that any verdicts can be negated by either party …. If, starting tomorrow, all lawyers received only sensible pay (say, a hundred bucks per hour) this country’s financial problems would be over in a New York minute…. If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain… …. Dog bones, snacks, and bowls of water are on the menu for four-legged pets at the monthly Canine Cocktails night at San Diego’s Hotel Indigo….With its sophisticated camera system plus wireless censors, Park Assist is a company that malls are hiring to install in their multi-level parking lots which points motorists to constantly opening vacant spots…. “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for freedom of thought,” quipped Soren Kierkegaard, which they seldom use”…..More than three-quarters of today’s American brewing industry is now controlled by foreign industries, says Advertising Age — South Africa’s Miller-Coors and Brazil’s InBev companies….Most of the sort of people who use Twitter have such short attention spans, they’ll be tired of it before too long…. .For fledgling companies that don’t want to pay $$thousands to have a logo designed, suggests Inc., there are sites such as 99designs or HatchWise. where you can sponsor a contest for considerably less……“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people,” suggested Thomas Mann, who did plenty of it …Visitors to Kettering University’s Craft Safety Center are invited to watch a test car crash and then pose with the injured dummy…. …. Hospitality: making your guests feel like they’re at home, even if you wish they weren’t..…More and more employers refuse to consider unemployed people for job openings, on the grounds they were laid off for performance problems or have out-of-date skills. “These days,” comments the AARP Bulletin, “you may need a job to get a job”….The museum in Rouen celebrating the French heroine Joan of Arc, burned at the stake in 1501, may close for lack of visitors…. The American Lung Association reports that Los Angeles and three other California cities are among the top five most polluted in America (Cheyenne, WY, is the least polluted)…..Swim alongside 50-ft. fish — the world’s largest — at the Whaleshark Festival in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, next month….How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?…. ….Seeing what makes health care so untenable is the need for insurance companies to make substantial profits, how could anybody with any common sense believe that turning Medicare over to them could be an improvement?….. “In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end.” — Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59)