John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: March 12, 2011

John Wilcock


“For the wealthy few, it’s getting better all the time. Between 2007 and 2009. Wall Street profits: up 720%; unemployment rate: up 102%; Americans’ home equity: down 35%; median net worth of American families: $120,000; median net worth for members of Congress: $912,000.”
Mother Jones, March/April, 2011

things should be fair? was a truism often heard from the late psychologist Albert Ellis and, of course, the expression was an answer, not a question. Certainly, when it comes to sharing the wealth, things aren’t “fair,” haven’t been for most of our lifetimes, although in this country the gap between rich and poor may never have been greater than today when the richest 10% of Americans control two-thirds of the wealth, and the average CEO makes 185 times as much as the average worker.

Seething with anger, thoughts of armed rebellion enter the heads of some of the have-nots but clearly, this is inconceivable. Who would they fight? Company shareholders? The authorities? Politicians? The army? To even begin a revolution would mean that all the media — newspapers, radio stations, the blogging world — would have to be on the same side and sharing the same aims: an obvious impossibility. Sure, there are millions of poor people in this country, but there are also millions of rich ones, not to mention the millions who are content with their lot and wouldn’t raise a finger to change things.

“How did we get here?” asks Mother Jones. “In the past, after all, liberal politicians did make it their business to advocate for the working and middle classes, and they worked that advocacy through the Democratic Party. But they largely stopped doing this in the ’70s, leaving the interests of corporations and the wealthy nearly unopposed. The story of how this happened is the key to understanding why the Obama era lasted less than two years.”

The sad saga, in the magazine’s March/April issue (on the Web), is a must-read for anybody who feels beleaguered by the current economic climate. The Vampire Economy. The Superrich are Sucking America Dry. Congress is under their Sway cries the front page and the story reminds us that the Democrat party — once an advocate for the have-nots — abandoned them when it turned its back on the unions. What adds to the despondency is many people’s gut feeling that the protests in Wisconsin (and increasingly elsewhere) are the right action for at least partly-wrong reasons, a suspicion that some workers appear to deserve more protection than others.

One important key to the feeling that politicians are on the wrong side. “American politicians don’t care much about people with moderate incomes,” says MJ, which includes a chart listing the ten richest members of Congress, all of them multi-millionaires and all of whom voted to extend the Bush tax cuts. Seven of them are Democrats.

EATING INSECTS will be commonplace within a few years predicts the Wall Street Journal which raves about how nutritious is The Six-Legged Meat of the Future. Most of the developing world already consumes vast amounts of insects, the paper explains, and the rest of us will be following suit for the same reasons: too many hungry people competing for less land and water and fewer animals to share. (It already takes about 10 gallons of water to produce every two pounds of beef). The UN’s Food & Agriculture Org predicts that rising production costs will turn beef into a luxury item — like caviar — by mid-century. Raising mealy worms or locusts (rich in proteins, vitamins, iron, and zinc) instead of, say chickens, doesn’t cost as much and, of course, wastes much less space and, to begin with, says WSJ, they’re likely to be incorporated “subtly” into dishes — replacing meat in meatballs and sauces, for example. “Could beetles and dragonfly larvae be the meat of the future? Of all the known animal species, 80% walk on six legs….and the taste? It’s often described as ‘nutty.’’


“(Mayor) Mike Bloomberg has become important because he represents a great American dream…the foundational American dream — the dream of freedom from politics. Freedom from the ugliness and corruption and compromise of democracy, with its raised voices and perpetual fights over who is more equal than the others. Bloomberg is the ultimate independent.”
John H. Richardson in Esquire


CLIMATE CRANKS, impervious to the fact that virtually every scientific body in the world has warned us about global warming, have the upper hand in Washington, says Mark Hertsgaard, apparently believing that it’s all some left-wing plot. These corporate lobbyists and right-wing ideologues, he writes in The Nation, “have no more credibility than the Flat Earth Society and that should discredit them from holding any influence over our climate policy.” NASA scientist James Hanson’s warning has gone unheeded, he suggests, because energy and auto companies benefit from carbon dioxide emissions as do the politicians and propagandists that these companies sponsor.

DOING BUSINESS WITH RUSSIA can result in “an unimaginable nightmare,” was the warning financier William Browder proffered to the Daily Telegraph, recounting the sad tale of how through illegal sanctions that country tried to confiscate his business – and arrested his lawyer (later found dead). Browder spoke of “enormous corruption” in Russia’s business activities and cautions about investing in the country despite the supposed benefits. “Before anyone takes these representations at face value,” he says, “They should hear my story.”


“Sometimes I look at my own work and I’m abandoned at sea. I wonder what it’s all about. I look at every work I make as an isolated event. I don’t always know where it fits.”
Ed Ruscha talking about his new paintings


ALTHOUGH THE EVOLUTION of 3-D imaging has advanced at a glacial pace when compared to other video technologies, opines Via Satellite, and there are big changes in television about every ten years, one problem is constant: the need to find a common standard. This time, with 3D standards, there is greater worldwide collaboration than in the past, says the mag, but it warns that “there is always the possibility of a maverick openly bucking the system.” And the current suspect? The Chinese government which has announced plans for its own system which, with its huge potential audience and the capacity to produce its own 3D television sets, “may throw a kink into the plans for a global standard.” The magazine makes no reference to the recent plans by Japan’s Toshiba company to produce 3D sets that don’t need glasses to watch.


Illustrating the fact that America’s problems are nationwide, the Economist recently ran this cover about a story that said: “America faces two huge, linked problems. Its unemployment rate is running at 9.4%..…and the budget deficit is running at almost 10@ of GDP…Neither Mr. Obama nor the Republicans has a workable plan…”


THE WILCOCK WEB: All those Washington lobbyists who’ve been paid millions for years to whitewash murderous Middle Eastern dictators may soon be out of a job, but doubtless they’ll exalt some other despicable clients…Who are these idiots who buy every new version of everything as soon as it appears (and why don’t they donate more to charity?)….. Flamboyant designer John Galliano always looked like a nincompoop, and has now proved to be one….. Los Angeles designer Carl Jones has produced jeans (selling for $156) that are reversible, from light to dark shades… Julian Assange and Bradley Manning never stood much of a chance once the forces of righteousness organized against WikiLeaks…More than 3million Bangladeshis have so far learned English on their mobile phones via three-minute language lessons costing 2c each….Lying between England and France, the island of Sark has been officially designated the world’s “dark sky island” after strenuous and successful attempts by islanders to reduce light pollution…. Popular British retailer Marks & Spencer which pulled out of France in 2001 is about to return to Paris with a store on the Champs-Elysées…. Rome’s La Repubblica forecasts that 60 million Chinese are likely to head to Europe as tourists but visas are hard for them to get, direct flights are few and hardly anybody in shops, hotels, or museums speaks Mandarin…… Consumer Reports says respondents to its Panty Poll averaged having 21 pairs each; 25% had a pair “they’d be embarrassed for someone to see” and 10% had gone out without underwear…. With the aid of American and French companies, India is fingerprinting and photographing 1.2bn citizens to give them their first identity cards…U.S. naval researchers have invented a liquid antenna via which signals could be sent and received without attracting attention ….Charged by the SEC with stealing investors’ money, a hedge fund manager “neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing (but) agreed to pay $14million to settle the charges,” says the NYT. Why are these crooks allowed to get away with pleas like this?….Never trust a helper who works for beer, advises Popular Mechanics…. How about introducing term limits for superannuated senators?….A “dry canal,” 135 miles long and paralleling the Panama Canal (to which it would be a cheaper railroad alternative), is being planned by Colombia, with Chinese financing…..Only 69 new toothpastes entered the market last year, reports a research group, compared with 102 new brands in 2007…. Wired’s story, Easy Money, suggests that several people have figured out a way to read the hidden numbers on those scratch-off lottery cards and are winning most of the prizes, leaving the ‘losing’ cards to ordinary suckers…. The difference between common sense and “the law” is illustrated by that contentious Supreme Justice Antonin Scalia who sought to reject, on some spurious technical grounds, the naming by a dying murder victim of his killer…. “All societies on the verge of death are masculine. A society can survive with only one man; no society will survive a shortage of women.” — Germaine Greer (1939- )