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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: October 1, 2011

by John Wilcock


SOME MISGUIDED BLOGGERS have criticized next week’s massive Washington demonstration because of its link to the tenth anniversary of the Afghanistan war along with a demand that it be ended. But this war, these critics claim, was justified; the protest should be legitimized for other reasons.

    On October 6 the war will have lasted for ten years at a cost of billions of dollars — much of it going to crooked contractors, opposition warlords, and the corrupt thieves who run the Afghanistan government. What’s more, the war will continue for the rest of our lives unless somebody stops it, and so that’s what thousands of protesters have pledged they will do by staying put in Washington ‘Tahrir Square.’

    “Previous demonstrations were one-day events which were simple for the administration and Congress to ignore,” says Margaret Flowers, a Maryland pediatrician who is one of the organizers. “This is different because it is an occupation [of Freedom Square, 13th St. & Pennsylvania Ave. NW] that begins on a Thursday, a day of business, and will continue.” Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed is the slogan that has impelled thousands of potential participants to sign a pledge (at that they will fill a public square two blocks from the White House and stay there.

“Here in the US,” writes cartoonist Ted Rall, “corrupt politicians and their corporate overlords have raped the wealthiest nation in the history of civilization, reducing one out of five Americans to unemployment as the income of the rich skyrockets.”

History will surely judge that only a complete cretin such as George W. Bush would have taken a country into an unnecessary and cripplingly expensive war while at the same time reducing (rich people’s) taxes.

WITHIN A FEW DAYS, Californian officials are expected to announce whether the state will allow Americans Elect, a serious third party, to be on the ballot for next year’s presidential election. To get this far, organizers have submitted 1.6 million signatures, hoping the state will join Arizona, Alaska, Kansas, and Nevada which have already gained ballot access. An additional 18 states are being targeted before the year’s end. Difficult as it is to get onto the ballot in every state, Ross Perot achieved it in 1992 and 1996. (Ralph Nader made it onto 45 states’ ballots in 2008). Investment executive Elliott Ackerman who’s staked the organization to a couple of million, claims that its sole political philosophy is that people should be greater than parties.

    “People want more voice,” he says, “ and they want more power in their politics. The Internet and social media have been a great flattener in all areas of our lives, and there’s no reason why they can’t do the same in politics.”

    Voters will be able to choose Americans Elect candidates via the Internet with the nominees reduced to six next April. Each will then have to choose his or her running mate, the mandate being that if one is Republican or Independent the partner must be Democrat or Independent. “Our goal is to open up what has been an anti-competitive process to people in the middle who are unsatisfied with the choices of the two parties,” says the organization’s CEO Kahill Byrd.

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS. What exactly is dark matter? Are there extra dimensions in space? Does the Higgs boson, commonly referred to as the ‘God particle,’ exist? How did the universe form? According to Popular Science, the Large Hadron Collider, buried beneath the Swiss-France border — and costing $1billion a year to operate — “may answer some of these questions.” There now, aren’t you just suffused with relief?

PRESS RELEASE FROM the Journal of Consumer Research that we never finished reading:


When Do Products (and Money) Literally
Make Your Mouth Water?


In certain situations, people actually salivate when they desire material things, like money and sports cars, writes Northwestern University’s David Gal who says that “the terms hunger and salivation are used metaphorically to describe desire for non-food items…. Merely being exposed to the concept of money has been shown to have dramatic effects on behavior, and it has even been argued that money can be conceptualized as a drug in that it imitates the action of biological incentives in driving behavior.” In one experiment, the author measured salivation by having participants put cotton dental rolls in their mouths while they gazed at pictures of money. He later weighed the rolls to measure the amount of saliva…..


THOSE HUGE NEW FREIGHTERS aren’t the only reason that the world of shipping is about to see drastic changes. Containers that can be collapsed in 30 seconds when not in use, ships that can transport 18,000 of the bulky beasts at a time, and expanded Panama Canal locks able to accommodate vessels a quarter of a mile in length: these are some of the elements detailed in Popular Science’s eight-page feature on The Future of Shipping. And the whole subject gets more expansive with the opening up of routes through the Arctic Ocean at the top of the world. Global warming has been melting the formerly icebound Northwest and Northeast Passages which by linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans will save shipping thousands of miles.

THE WILCOCK WEB: If there’s really life elsewhere in the universe, think of the money we could save by just waiting until they contact us….Surely we have some Iranian prisoners we can sell back to them for half a million dollars apiece? …..Beijing’s Global Times reported that a survey of 4,000 hotel owners nominated the Chinese as the world’s worst-behaved tourists, describing them as “spitting, slurping, smoking queue-jumpers” who hadn’t had enough travel experience to realize they were just as rude as the “clueless, loud, and boorish” visitors to their own country… Ever wonder what the speed of lightning would be if it didn’t zigzag?…. Now you can scoot through the airline terminal on a wheeled scooter attached to your wheeled suitcase (…. “An ignorant person,” quipped Will Rogers, “is one who doesn’t know what you have just found out” …. Scientists can analyze anything these days so how could Coca-Cola possibly still have a “secret” formula?…. One thing the X-Factor has instantly reaffirmed is just how stubbornly delusional untalented singers are about how good they think they are…. How do you recognize a Kerry pirate? He’s got a patch over each eye…….Tony Bennett’s such a nice guy, it’s a pity he felt pressured into apologizing for his casual but sensible remark: that the motivation for 9/11 might at least have something to do with world reaction to America’s sometimes-murderous foreign policy…. Greed is becoming such a modestly inadequate word to describe the rapaciousness of bankers and all those other grabby billionaires….A study of nearly 1,500 Walmart shoppers revealed that 86% of them no longer believed that the company had the lowest prices with most stating their allegiance had shifted to 99c stores…. …..420 has become the ultimate password… The night-vision camera on the 2012 Mercedes Benz scans constantly for human shapes in the road ahead and warns both driver and pedestrian… Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm…. Moving inmates to different prisons every month or two would be one way to counter the hold of prison gangs…..Designed for the rooftop of a house, Honeywell’s wind turbine costs $10,000 but works with winds as slow as 2mph…Almost one-quarter of British parents have tried to impress their children by falsely claiming they attended concerts by bands such as the Beatles and The Who reports the Press Association. “Progress isn’t made by early risers,” explained Robert Heinlein. “It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways of doing something”….. When less than 50% of the electorate votes, any election should be invalid and all candidates barred from running again….. “We work too much, eat too quickly, socialize too little, drive in traffic for too many hours, don’t get enough sleep, and feel harried too much of the time,” says sociologist Judith Schor….After his wife said that watching 3-D movies gave her a headache, Hank Green modified a pair of 3-D glasses so she could watch them in 2-D and discovered he had a new business. So far he’s modified and sold 3,000 pairs — “A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity.” — Robert Frost (1874-1963)



The stupendous ego of a so-called artist to require up to ten million dollars worth of somebody else’s money to transport a 340-ton granite boulder 85 miles from a Riverside quarry for displaying outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art museum, is hard for many of us philistines to comprehend. It’s one of the heaviest objects to be moved since ancient times, boasts LACMA director Michael Govan, surely one of the supreme idiots of the museum world. To facilitate its week-long journey, roads must be closed, utilities taken down, a police escort required: all in the name of ART, which elitist morons excuse as a sacred mission which poor peasants must not criticize — and will not for fear of snobbish disdain. Think how much good ten million bucks might do if applied to something constructive. And, btw, isn’t this the same museum that plans to spend millions carting a surplus railroad car to hang above its portals and impress the rubes? — john wilcock