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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: October 20, 2007


KEEPING MARIHUANA ILLEGAL makes a lot of money for a lot of people including dealers, judges, lawyers, and the entire police establishment. Most of them know full well that the drug is less harmful than liquor but, against all common sense, politicians are aware that to advocate legalizing it would end their careers. “Futile rhetoric about winning ‘a war on drugs’ persists;,&rdquo declares the October issue of Foreign Policy, “despite mountains of evidence documenting its moral and ideological bankruptcy… Today global production of (cocaine, cannabis, and opium) are roughly the same as they were a decade ago, and cocaine and heroin have become purer and cheaper.”

The magazine says the U.S., with less than 5% of the world’s population but almost 25% of its prisoners, has exported its “highly punitive and moralistic approach” to drug prohibition internationally. “Rarely has one nation so successfully promoted its own failed policies to the rest of the world. There’s virtually never been a drug-free society (and) legalization is a far more pragmatic option than living with the corruption, violence, and organized crime of the current system.”

ACCORDING TO Eccentric America, a book by Jan Friedman, a sign in a Las Vegas hemp store reads — “You will be refused service for saying any of the following words: bong, weed, pot pipe, or any other illegal references. All items are intended to use with tobacco only. If you don’t know what to say, point.”

OPENING NEXT MONTH near Abbott, Texas, the showy new truck stop by Willie Nelson with its restaurant, bars, and 800-seat theater, is the latest phase of the singer’s campaign to promote the use of biodiesel fuel. “It’s going to be an incredible place to go” says Nelson. “I want to start a farmers’ market there where local producers can bring in farm produce, and have a place to sell it. Before we started on the new truck stop we did a few shows there. We’ll be doing those kind of things again.”

THE BATTLE BETWEEN MYSPACE and Facebook caught the attention of Fortune which says that although the former was on the lips of every teenager last year, “now Facebook is growing faster, usurping the buzz.” But Rupert Murdoch apparently is not worried, having bought MySpace when its revenues were $23 million but are estimated now to be about $800 million. And ad revenue for this year is anticipated to be $525 million — more than four times that of its rival. “Murdoch visits the hipster-filled headquarters at least once a month,” Fortune reports, “peppering (founder Chris) DeWolfe with membership numbers and sign up rates.”

HEART ATTACK SURVIVORS who pray or regularly attend religious services might hope that it helps, but according to Duke University’s Medical Center it doesn’t. A research team monitored such patients over an 18-month period and reported that the specifically religious ones showed no health advantages over the others.

“The first time acting appealed to me was when I was very young. I’d done something emotional on stage and my father picked me up and showed me off to all his friends. ‘This is Billy who just made you cry,’ he said. I was the apple of his eye. What better motivation could a child have? From that simple start, I still explore new possibilities, travel a great deal, and have a great time doing it all.” — William Shatner

IN A STORY about the recovery of France’s Beaujolais industry after a precipitous decline in interest, vintner Mathieu Lapierre told the New York Times that “Nouveau really contributed to the problems here. People overproduced and made really bad wine.”. The Times reported that nouveau now accounts for about 30% of the Beaujolais produced, but growers in lesser regions are stuck with an oversupply of poor wine.” And the public is stuck with an image of insipid wine meant to be drunk immediately.”

ANSWERING A CORRESPONDENT in Archaeology, Heather Pringle charges that short-sighted treasure hunters “may have ruined it for us all.” UNESCO, she writes, “stresses the importance of protecting shipwrecks intact on the floor (of the sea) wherever possible so that future generations of researchers can study them.”

THE WILCOCK WEB: In his new novel, The Uncommon Reader in which he imagines Queen Elizabeth II becoming addicted to reading, Alan Bennett sympathizes with her lack of actual power, writing “she often felt not unlike an air hostess going through the safety procedures….” A lady doctor from the U.S., aged 47, and a Russian colonel, 45, just began a six-month stay in the International Space Station together. Wonder what they’ll do for fun…. Nearly six million of the 16m visitors to the website are from the U.S. — and that was before the newspaper last month launched… “If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents,” cynically observed H.L. Mencken, “he would promise them missionaries for dinner….” Jerry Seinfeld used to be funny until he started doing those stupid Bee movie commercials…. At eBay headquarters in northern California, employees are invited to spend a couple of hours a week with company chefs preparing take-home dinners. “It de-stresses them,” explains eBay spokesman Bob Worthen…. What’s another word for thesaurus?…. The star of the Japanese video game, Mushiking, a Turkish stag beetle, has been hunted almost to extinction by fans of the game, with one million of them imported into the country each year…. The star of the Cockroach Hall of Fame in Plano, TX, is Liberoachie wearing a white mink cape and sitting at a tiny piano… Beating the $4.4 billion made by the 22 James Bond films, the five Harry Potter movies have brought in $4.47billion… And incidentally, surely J.K. Rowling has made enough money from her creation that she doesn’t need to sue an Indian religious group for erecting a model of Hogwarts for its four-day festival?…. China is to stop its so-called “panda diplomacy” — renting out the animals to friendly countries for as much as a million a year — allowing some of the remaining 1,600 pandas out of the country only for research and breeding purposes…. The e-mail of the species, quips Stephen Fry, “is deadlier than the mail….” Hamburg SV, a soccer club, is building a cemetery, its entrance in the form of a goalmouth and 500 graves arranged in tiers like a stadium…. Virtue has never been as respectable as money — Mark Twain (1835-1910)