John Wilcock column header

The Column of Lasting Insignificance: May 10, 2008

“Despite an estimated million civilians killed, 5 million displaced, and the country hollowed and destroyed by sanctions and bombs, too many of our Congressional representatives seem to conceive of the war as something we did for the Iraqis, not something we did to them.”—Nation editorial

THE MYTH OF THE MORAL MAJORITY is kept alive by America’s newsrooms which are “determinedly secular and self-consciously so,” according to Christine Wicker, author of a recent book. “Afraid of being tagged as godless liberals, most journalists would never dream of calling BS on believers,” she writes in The Fall of the Evangelical Nation: The Surprising Crisis Inside the Church. Wicker, a veteran Texas reporter, followed up a Gallup Poll which maintained that 40% of Americans attend church and found it not to be true. Southern Baptist claims of 16 million members included some who had been double and triple counted, she alleges, with the true figure being a quarter of that. And an initial claim of 30 million members by the National Association of Evangelicals was amended to 4.5 million when she checked. “The idea that evangelicals are taking over America is one of the greatest publicity scams in history” Wicker concludes.

EVERY TIME THE PRESIDENT did something stupid (which was often enough)” says Ryan Red Corn, “we’d get a spike in our sales. That really catapulted our business.” Ryan, an American Indian carpenter, is talking about a T-shirt he printed mocking Bush, which sold so well that now he has his own printing press, two employees, and lots of business. His tale is told by Inc. magazine describing The Hate-Bush Economy, comprised of peddlers selling dog biscuits, anti-Bush thongs, golf balls, and tons of other merchandise (much of it emblazoned with 1.20.09) deriding our most unpopular commander-in-chief. “He’s been such an easy target,”  comments Richard Parr, a Santa Monica businessman who owns Anti-BushBumperStickers.com.  It’s going to be hard for some businesses to adjust.”  And Ryan Red Corn adds: “Right now all the Bush stuff is on clearance.”

REFUSING TO SIGN a pledge never to criticize the Tribune company when he left as editor of the Los Angeles Times, Dean Baquet says the Chicago-based Tribune did not like the Times and during his term “was not a good steward, but (Sam) Zell seems to be worse….  (He) seems to be flailing and making it up as he goes along. At least with the Tribune,” he told Los Angeles magazine, “you could have a rational fight — they never shouted obscenities at me.” Baquet, one of four editors at the paper since the turn of the century, returned to his old job at the New York Times 18 months ago.

THE SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY paid advertising consultants $250,000 to come up with an inspiring new slogan for the country. Six months later, the agency produced: Welcome to Scotland which failed to impress the SNP. “It sounds more like a road sign,” complained Scottish MP Jackie Baillie.

SINCE THE RAPPER Jay-Z incorporated paintings by Takashi Murakami and Damien Hirst into Blue Magic, one of his music videos, there have been other crossovers between art and hip hop reports Art News. Kanye West commissioned Murakami to design the cover for his new album, Graduation, and has been buying Andy Warhol works, for example. “They’re not going crazy trying to buy everything,” one consultant to hip-hop stars says, “but they are very interested in educating themselves about the contemporary art world.” Detroit’s Museum of Contemporary Art is about to open a show containing life-size paintings of such stars as 50-Cent, Snoop Dog, and Russell Simmons.

WHO OWNS THE ARCTIC? and the huge, undiscovered reserves of oil and gas that lie deep underneath its icy surface? Claimants so far include Russia, Canada, the U.S., Denmark, and Norway and a UN Commission has been trying to sort out the conflicting claims. A NATO summit in Bucharest later this month is scheduled to discuss the dispute although The Week says it won’t be able to compel obedience “and there are many ominous signs that power, not international law, will be used to settle the issue.” A U.S. Geological Survey estimates there is more untapped fuel under the North Pole region than in Saudi Arabia.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Now that John Yoo, who handed George Bush his legal excuse for condoning torture is back at UC Berkeley, what exactly is he teaching his law students there?…. TelevisionWeek claims that “multiple networks” want to make a series about surviving in the urban jungle from Cody Lundin’s book, When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes…. After hiring an aroma therapist, Credit Suisse installed “a subtle blend” of peppermint, grapefruit, and green tea in three pilot “sensory branches” to enhance customer satisfaction and is now extending the idea to 35 more of its banks…..For at least 20 years, Annie Liebowitz has been America’s most overrated photographer….Guardian columnist Peter Preston says there’s such a “melee of contradictions” about tipping in 27 European countries that the EU ought to set a single standard….Some Silicon Valley firms are proposing more and more “topless meetings” which have nothing to do with clothes but a request for attendees to leave their laptops back in their offices…. Just standing still for 500 years has caused cracks in the legs of Michelangelo’s David statue reveals Science News. The software that discovered this while scanning the statue in Florence, suggests the mag, may soon help orthopedic surgeons study stress on human bodies….. For about $8,000, Spanish surgeon Luis de la Cruz will raise a person’s height with a silicone implant between the top of the skull and the scalp. The doctor’s 17 patients to date, have each added about two inches….A Miami music company is battling in court with London-based Apple Corps Ltd which is trying to prevent them issuing long-lost Beatles recordings made in Hamburg in 1962…In the latest excavation of Stonehenge archaeologists now theorize that the reason the bluestones were brought from 140 miles away is because they were believed to have healing properties….Virtue has never been as respectable as money. — Mark Twain (1835-1910)