John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: October 16, 2010

John Wilcock

“Maintenance of the status quo is the only possible precaution against the West Bank’s falling under the control of Hamas and therefore Iran, both of which have the declared purpose of putting an end to the Jewish state. The end game of the two-state solution, then, is illusory, wishful thinking, outdated because there are now two incompatible Palestines, and with Israel that makes three states. Three into two won’t go.”
David Pryce-Jones in National Review

SURVIVING UNDERGROUND is a concept that is on the minds of many more people than you might have imagined. Robert Vicino’s bunker in the Mojave desert near Barstow — stocked with enough food and clothing to sustain 135 people for a year — is just one of numerous armageddon refuges seeking customers. And Vicino is planning at least a dozen more “community bunkers” all within easy range of big cities and the budget of people who can afford to invest $50,000 (the remaining $90k later). There’s also Texas-based Radius Engineering with its underground shelters made of fiberglass; Colorado’s Hardened Structures whose six-person steel shelters begin at $36,000 and the Survival Condo Project in Kansas which is converting abandoned missile silos to rent for $1.75million.

    This all began in the days of the Cold War when, to ensure the continuity of government in an emergency, a huge nuclear fallout bunker beneath West Virginia’s Greenbrier resort was constructed,  a shelter big enough to hold all members of Congress and their staffs. No word on the current status of that, but Vicino says that although the Barstow bunker will withstand a 50-megaton nuclear blast from 10 miles away, there are other possibilities: a magnitude 10 earthquake, for example, or a lasting flood or even a solar storm that could crash the power grid. “You just don’t know what’s heading our way,” he moans.

THE CANADIAN QUARTERLY Maisonneuve says that it would make sense to erase the border, accept Washington DC as the capital, extend congressional representation north, and form a North American federation. It would save money, eliminate trade regulations and reinforce existing ties. Les Horswell points out that there have been precedents for amalgamations: Texas, Newfoundland, Alaska, and Hawaii were all independent once and Canada’s Cascadia considered absorbing British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. The U.S./Canada border, he suggests creates “artificial limits.”

WHEN SOMEBODY WEBCAST the picture of that Chinese guy, Gao Yang, 37, who says it took him 24 years learning to sleep on a rope (he seeks a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records ) it was followed by numerous sarcastic comments. One writer said:  “I for one am contacting Guinness to see if I can have the world record for not caring about something a great deal.  I don’t think I’ve ever cared less about anything in my life…”



ELECTRIC CARS ARE being touted as a major contribution to the environment, but it just isn’t true suggests Bill Freedland in Austin’s Rag Blog. Promoted as the next stage of the green revolution — a cost-effective and clean alternative to the gas-guzzling of today — the vehicles are not only expensive (average price: $43,690) and eventually requiring a costly battery replacement, but require lengthy recharging with energy derived from fossil fuels. “So either way, cars pollute,” writes Freedland. “So, sadly for the environment, while all-electric cars are the new thing, they aren’t any better than what we have now.”

AS CARS ARE INCREASINGLY fitted with wireless systems, won’t that lead to them being manipulated by random hackers? That’s the disturbing question raised by Popular Mechanics which concludes that it’s possible but unlikely. The story points to the example of the OnStar system whose access to a vehicle’s “diagnostic and component control systems” can, with police cooperation, bring a car to a stop from far away. OnStar says the system has never been ‘compromised’ and the story downplays the threat but warns: “Now is the time for the auto industry to concentrate on cyber security…If cars are going to be able to communicate with each other or access the Internet, information and security professionals should be working with mechanical and electrical engineers in designing the software and hardware for cars from the first line of code to the last.”


“I wouldn’t have been cast for this role on any other network,”  says (Mad Men’s) Jon Hamm, “I never would have been cast, ever, period, done, never, no way. They would want someone like Rob Lowe who’s got a proven track record. I would’ve gotten all the way to the end…and then I wouldn’t get cast.”
interviewed by Details


BECAUSE OUR SOCIETY is based on endless growth, it helps to create poverty and insecurity. That’s the theme of A Nation of Farmers whose authors, Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton, maintain that “industrial agriculture” has consolidated land ownership and destroyed “local self-sufficiency.” Shifting reliance to local farms and gardens from multinational corporations — controlled by wealthy elites who own the best lands and displace the poor marginal areas — offers the best hope for the future, the authors maintain. “Globalization’s demise is coming. The rising costs of transportation and the trade deficit make it inevitable.”

THE SCANDAL OVER one of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids illegally tapping into people’s phone calls might mark the beginning of the end of the Dirty Digger’s formerly invincible empire, wistfully forecasts Simon Dumenco who’s billed as Advertising Age’s Media Guy. “Getting a letter from Scotland Yard that your phone has been hacked is rather like getting a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket,” he writes. “Time to queue up at Murdoch Towers to get paid.” Quoting a comment in Slate that, “the U.K. phone-hacking scandal will undo the media mogul,” the mag reports that since erecting a firewall, i.e. trying to make readers pay for his Times and Sunday Times, traffic for the papers “has collapsed” and predicts that Murdoch will eventually close his money-losing New York Post and sell the Wall Street Journal to Bloomberg.

THE ONCE-UNTHINKABLE notion that the U.S. Supreme Court justices were there for the rest of their lives, is increasingly being questioned following the present court’s obvious political bias (preeminently Republican, predominantly Catholic). Commenting on Justice Stephen Breyer’s recent book, Author in the Court, NYT editorialist Lincoln Caplan wrote: “The court’s ‘infirmity’ shows that its legitimacy in the public’s eye ‘cannot be taken for granted.’”

THE WILCOCK WEB: Among the folk who occasionally think of politicians as human beings (after studying their lives), Jerry Brown has a good rep….But if Meg Whitman had devoted $120m to helping California out of its financial mess, instead of inflating her ego, she’d be a genuine heroine instead of a pathetic joke…Apart from closing access to our supply routes, we need to be reminded of what Pakistan is giving us in return for our $3bn a year…. A Times columnist, Bronwen Maddox, explains the reason why a $25m reward for Osama Bin Laden hasn’t brought results is that druglords in many parts of the world can make an easy $1m per day….Anticipating a flood of electric cars, several companies are working on modules in gas stations that will be able to recharge engines in less than one hour…... “Have you ever noticed,” George Carlin asked, “how everybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and everyone going faster than you is a maniac… Now they’ve ‘discovered’ that highfructose corn syrup (it’s in almost everything) may be a shortcut to diabetes, liver disease, and obesity, manufacturers will promote it as simply “corn sugar”…. We’ll never know what the electorate really thinks until voting becomes mandatory ….Legalizing marihuana in California and growing more of it in-state would obviously diminish Mexican imports from the cartels……. “In the ’60s, people took acid to make the world weird.  Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal”… Freezing tanks of rooftop water at night and using it to cool the building — via an evaporator coil as it melts in daytime — allows the air conditioners to be turned off for a few hours…. Attempting to cut the extravagant costs of ink in their office printers, some companies are changing to slimmer typefaces, even using type with tiny holes in each letter…. “Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.” — Gustave Flaubert (1821-80)