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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: March 20, 2010

John Wilcock

“By being the first and largely the only publication pursuing the (John) Edwards (sexcapades) story. The Enquirer is under consideration for a Pulitzer Prize…..The success has Mr. (Barry) Levine (its executive editor) considering opening a Washington bureau to look for more dirt among politicians.”  — from a New York Times story

HITLER AND THE NAZIS are ridiculous metaphors that are being recklessly tossed around by Obama’s foes right now, complains the media watch group Extra!  and most of the accusations make no sense. For example, Glenn Beck suggests that President Obama is a “brutal dictator” and compares the Germans living under Hitler to Americans with Obama as president. And Rush Limbaugh declared that this country’s healthcare plan “mirrors Nazi Germany’s health plan … the foundation from which they built the rest of their socialist paradise”. FAIR’s newsletter adds that such ideas have “leapt to the corporate megaphones of the extreme right in their attempts to invalidate Obama and his policies while simultaneously trivializing the Holocaust, one of mankind’s most heinous crimes.”

IT WAS SACCHARINE, promoted as Sweet’N Low that came first in 1957; aspartame sold as Equal in the 1980s; sucralose marketed as Splenda in 2000; and now it’s stevia, a shrub with a bitter taste that all the major food processors are currently working with under different names such as Purevia and Truvia. That’s the timeline outlined by the Economist which reports that artificial sweeteners have become a $1.1bn business in the U.S.

THE COMMON TERM ‘Afro-American’ should be consigned to history declares John McWhorter, a controversial UC Berkeley professor, who says that, like himself, only about one in 30 black Americans were born in Africa and thus have more in common with white Americans than “a man three years out of Senegal.” Writing in the New Republic, McWhorter, 34, says that at this point in history, “true black pride” should no longer have to call itself “African” and that Black is a more accurate term.  Because of his earlier lectures, the writer has alienated many in the Black community, even being reviled as an “Uncle Tom.” Ishmael Reed, a writer who also teaches at Berkeley, has called  McWhorter a “hustler,” adding, “You have these academics who are removed from the African American community who use anecdotes and gross generalizations to make a career for themselves.”

A MAJOR SETBACK for Britain when it joined the European Community, was losing the ability to legislate its own affairs. Even its newly-installed Supreme Court is not the final word if people feel they have been unfairly convicted in the courts and seek to appeal. “Laws passed in Westminster can be vetoed by a group of appointed judges in Strasbourg with little understanding or respect for British tradition,” points out an editorial in the Spectator. “We now have a situation in which our laws are being made by a distant court drawing on vague principles laid down in a 60-year-old human rights convention.”

“In its attempt to stamp out the Taliban insurgency and Al Qaeda, the US military has been arresting suspects and sending them to one of a number of secret detention areas on military bases, often on the slightest suspicion and without the knowledge of their families. These night raids have become even more feared and hated in Afghanistan than coalition strikes.”


FLYING IN FORMATION is the way that birds reduce drag on their wings thus using less energy. After studying this, Stanford researchers now believe the same principle could be applied to aircraft. Say, for example, that flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas could rendezvous over Utah and fly in V-formation for the rest of the journey? It could reduce fuel consumption by as much as 15% estimates Professor Ilan Kroo, although he admits it might be hard to coordinate destination times. It’s a plan perhaps more practical for military aircraft. A government agency is now studying the idea.

“At least in your head, your fire burns as brightly. Let’s not kid ourselves. But God bless her that she likes older guys. And some wonderful enhancements have happened in the last few years — Viagra, Cialis — that can make us all feel younger.”

THE DISMAYING TALE of Nazia Quazi, a mid-20ish woman with Canadian-Indian citizenship, who’s being held in Saudi Arabia by her father and not allowed to leave, is told by Katha Pollitt in The Nation.

In that oppressive land, Nazia’s father is regarded as her guardian (mahram) and has total and absolute control over her life. Under this system she is required to seek his permission to do anything — go to school, marry, rent an apartment. “In effect,” writes Pollitt, “it makes women children for life — there are middle-aged Saudi women who are under the legal control of their own sons.” Apparently, Nadia’s father doesn’t approve of her boyfriend and thus won’t let go of her.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Presumably Dave Letterman’s blackmailer would have gotten more than six months if he hadn’t agreed to keep his mouth shut about Dave’s love life ….Now that the Yucca Mountain solution is a write-off, maybe the problem of how to dispose of radioactive waste might be solved by consulting the French, some of whose 59 nuclear power plants date back as much as 40 years…. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart…. One way to diminish the influence of lobbyists would be for people who seek to bribe politicians to just give them the money directly, thereby cutting out the K Street middlemen…..And when billions of dollars of farm subsidies were passed out in Mexico, who could possibly have dreamed that most of it would have been ripped off by the agriculture minister and his family? Along with a few drug-trafficking farmers… After bankrupting its former colony Haiti for centuries, by enforcing “repayments” for kicking them out, and then sponsoring the coup against its first elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, France has donated $230m to help with earthquake costs…. Padma Choling, the Tibetan-born stooge who’ll run Tibet for his Chinese masters, is a familiar figure in history — a Quisling, a Petain, the national equivalent of an Uncle Tom…. Chief Justice Roberts said he didn’t understand why so many people were contemptuous of his band of merry men and perhaps his cabal should stay away from future State of the Union gatherings because (unlike himself, of course) it had become too “political”….…. Who wouldn’t like to see Clarence Thomas and John C. Yoo tortured, just so they could reassure us it didn’t hurt?….. Considering how short-tempered everybody seems to be these days,  more gun-toting caffeinated phreaks are not a cheerful prospect…. Former mime Robin Williams and fire-eater Pierce Brosnan both began their careers as street performers but won’t be attending San Diego’s annual Buskers Festival next month….A short fortune-teller escaped from prison to become a small medium, at-large….. To simulate the Milky Way, reports the ‘zine Geneva13, shake out the contents of 26,000 canisters of salt and spread the grains on a velvet sheet so that each one is seven miles from the next (the velvet sheet needs to be bigger than the earth)…… “After all is said and done, more is said than done.” – H. H. Munro “Saki” (1860-1917)