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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: November 14, 2009

John Wilcock
the column of lasting insignificance

“President Obama expresses a willingness to expend untold billions — not to mention who knows how many lives — in order to determine the fate of Afghanistan… What is it about Afghanistan, possessing next to nothing that America requires, that justifies such lavish attention? That is a question that in Washington goes not only unanswered but unasked.”
Andrew J. Bacevich in Commonwealth.

NEXT MONTH’S GLOBAL SUMMIT in Copenhagen about climate change is getting attention in the mags with Mother Jones’ Bill McKibben calling it “the most important diplomatic gathering in the world’s history.” The MJ’s  lady editors emphasize the importance of working to preserve the future of the planet and ponder why Americans, in contrast to the rest of the world, seem so little concerned. Without major environmental changes, they forecast, 30% of the world’s species will in our lifetimes become extinct, the Southwest will be a dustbowl and 200 million people will have become climate refugees.

Among the proposals to be considered when representatives of 192 countries meet is “climate debt,” the controversial idea that rich countries should pay reparations to poor countries for the climate crisis. Nearly 50 of the world’s least-developed countries will take this demand to Copenhagen, writes Naomi Klein in Rolling Stone as she quotes Sharon Looremeta, an advocate for Kenya’s Maasai community which “does not drive 4x4s or fly off on holidays in airplanes. We have not caused climate change, yet we are the ones suffering. This is an injustice and should be stopped right now.”

DIAMONDS REALLY AREN’T forever says the skeptical Theodore Gray and neither are they either rare or intrinsically valuable. ”Those are ideas invented by the diamond industry,” he writes in Popular Science as he points out that cheaper and more attractive stones would survive if your house burns down, but diamonds “will be gone in a puff of CO2.”

THE BATTERY-OPERATED electric airplane is ready but is still prohibited for use by the sort of pilots who could use it — the owners of “light sports” aircraft. “We’re reluctant to introduce new technology on a less experienced flight population,” says the FAA’s Steve Flanagan. “We need to get some more flight experience with electric motors.” The new ElectraFlyer X kit plane, to cost $65,000, is powered by lithium-ion battery packs and can stay aloft for two hours with a top speed of 100mph.

Johnny Carson used to come to Spago and take home 10 pizzas. One day, I said, ‘Johnny, are you having a party?’ He said, ‘No, I put them in my freezer and then pop them in the oven for dinner.’ I thought, How can you do that to my pizza? Then I tried it — it wasn’t bad.” Wolfgang Puck, explaining to Inc. how he got into a new line of business

HUNDREDS of ads have appeared about an exercise machine promising that four minutes a day is all you’ll need to spend on it for a complete workout. Sounds unlikely? Well, according to Benjamin Radford’s investigation, “it’s a load of bullshit.” At an expensive $14,615, the ROM (Range of Motion) machine “is little more than a stylish, glorified exercise machine not unlike any other costing one-hundredth of the price,” Radford writes in the Skeptical Inquirer, “You’re paying for pretension and packaging instead of proven efficacy.”

SURELY FEW THINGS could be sadder than the pictures of homeless horses on the website of the Unwanted Horse Coalition whose recent report explains that the declining economy is not just affecting people. The issue is “a big problem,” the UHC reveals, with most of the existing rescue/retirement facilities for the poor beasts so full, that hundreds now are being turned away.

CONTEMPORARY ART’S BIGGEST conman, Damien Hirst, he of the “dead animals and pills and paintings painted by other people,” (in the words of the Independent’s Tom Lubbock) staged a show of his own paintings in London which was not universally admired. Lubbock described Hirst’s work as boring and “about the level of a not-very-promising, first-year art student,” an assessment endorsed by the Evening Standard’s volatile Brian Sewell who termed the exhibition “fucking dreadful.”

THE WILCOCK WEB: “Why start with Afghanistan? Why not first fix, say, Mexico?” writes Andrew J. Bacevich…..…. Russian oil billionaire Roman Abramovich is awaiting delivery of the world’s biggest yacht (557 feet long), which is equipped with 25 cabins, a mini-submarine, and laser system that can deflect and disrupt electronic light sensors in paparazzi cameras.….  “If Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters they might still be around,”  wrote Florida correspondent Julia Hughes Jones in a letter to the Utne Reader ….William F. Pepper, lawyer for Sirhan B. Sirhan who shot Robert Kennedy in front of a dozen witnesses, is wasting everybody’s time seeking reopening of the murder because of “new evidence.” Could the sad assassin have had an unhappy childhood?…..In California, Orange County honchos are declining the offer of 20,000 acres of open space because they don’t have the funds to “manage” it. Why not accept the gift and leave it alone until they do have the money? Obviously, the land survived for thousands of years without “management” before bureaucracy arrived…. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still…Anything more than hiking boots is forbidden for visitors to German’s first nude hiking trail, an 11-mile woodland trek in the Hartz Mountains which Goethe praised in his poetry”…. Multi-armed robot tools that can perform complex surgical operations on patients with more precision than the doctor are becoming mainstays of hospitals reports Popular Mechanics A Michigan firm, Windtronics, has produced a rooftop turbine that, with sufficient wind, can produce 18% of a household’s energy needs…. And Italy’s KiteGenResearch has devised a kite that, spinning an alternator as the wind carries it to 2,600 feet, generates electricity and is then winched in before rising again…..….Trashing the likes of Sean Penn and George Clooney for their political comments, Rush Limbaugh sneered that they were just “entertainers,” which is also how he has described himself ….We do not deal much in fact when we are contemplating ourselves.” — Mark Twain (1835-1910)