The Column of Lasting Insignificance: October 25, 2008
Q: Is there any tract of wilderness on the planet still unexplored?
A: That vast empty space between George Bush’s left ear and his right.
—Ian Carter, Auckland, New Zealand (from Notes & Queries in the Guardian)
A BEHIND-THE-SCENES battle is developing as to the identity of America’s First Dog when a new president occupies the White House. Required qualifications include child compatibility; travel behavior (Air Force One trips presumed); and performance in the limelight. Under President McCain (whose household has 13 pets) the problem would already be solved, but President Obama has promised his daughters a dog. So what would it be? The elitist American Kennel Club is lobbying for a purebred pup such as the allegedly-companionable bichon frise or miniature schnauzer but nipping at AKC’s heels” (writes Cami Cox) is the group, Best Friends. which urges the Obamas to pick their presidential pup from one of the animal shelters, thus striking a blow on behalf of mutts everywhere.
“The debates introduced Lincoln to a national audience and set the stage for his dark-horse run for the Presidential nomination two years later. ’Lincoln comes out of the debates a more prominent figure in Illinois and across the country’ says historian Matthew Pinsker. ‘The key question facing him before the debates was, Can he lead a party? Now he has the answer; he can. He now begins to see himself as a possible president.’ — Fergus M. Bordewich writing in Harper’s about the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the last of which was 150 years ago this month.
WITH NEW EDITIONS planned for Los Angeles and Chicago, could the Huffington Post be planning “a side-door assault on the Tribune Company and its owner, Sam Zell? asks Los Angeles magazine. The mag quotes Arianna Huffington, 58, claiming that the four-year-old webzine gets 10 million hits a month. “We want to be a national Internet newspaper that covers everything,” she says. “Politics will always be paramount but we now have a lot of people coming for entertainment, media.” (I was invited to contribute to the Post but as I write a column (100% fact) not a blog (99% opinion), my submission was unused.)
AFTER DEVOTING EIGHT YEARS to proving what a competent likable mayor he is, New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg seeks to negate his record by persuading the city council to extend his two terms, despite voters having twice rejected such a change. Obviously, out of self-interest, most of the council backs his move, but why couldn’t the extension be made just for the mayor and not the power-hungry council?
WHAT’S BECOME KNOWN AS the Nigerian scam has now moved into the online dating business. Innocent seekers of Mr. or Ms. Right on internet sites are initially “love-bombed” with emails and phone calls and then asked for money or private details which enable access to bank accounts. “It’s very straightforward,” warns Mark Brooks, founder of OnLinePersonalsWatch. “Don’t give money to people you haven’t met.”
BEING CONVICTED and sent to jail is punishment enough, but adding surcharges and fees “is fiscal gimmickry used to close budget gaps,” charges Brooklyn politician Hakeem Jeffries and it bars successful re-entry into society “because people with low or no income will owe significant amounts to society.” Such fees are mandatory in New York and have their counterpart in many other states. “The ability to stay out of prison depends on making payments,” says NYU School of Law professor David Udell. “You are loading debt onto people who are in the system in the first place due to lack of financial resources.” The quotes, and others by people condemning the practice, appear in a Nation article by New York State Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman who writes frequently about law.
IN A LETTER to The New York Times Magazine, Amherst College law professor James J. Grosfield refers to the attempts to get John Yoo dismissed from the Berkeley law school for allegedly perpetrating war crimes “by helping to establish a policy” that led to the torture of detainees. There is more than enough evidence against Yoo, Grosfield declares, “if not to strip him of tenure, then perhaps to indict him as a war criminal.”
THE WILCOCK WEB: True mavericks, as Maureen Dowd reminds us, “do not brand themselves”….. Hunters always have rationalizations for their hobby, but the one least mentioned is always the same: they like to kill things… It’s easy to be brave from a distance, wrote Aesop, 2,600 years ago ….Red has traditionally been the color of the leftwing in most countries, blue for the rightwing. How did the US get it backward?….The poorest person on the 2007 Forbes 400 List, i.e. #400, is worth a mere $1.3 billion…. Commenting on the proposal to curb CEOs’ excessive compensation, USC finance professor Kevin J. Murphy says “for many of the top executives, such a salary ($500,000) would simply not be competitive”…. Sarah Silverman is so brainy and beautiful that it’s a pity her moronic show can only be watched with the TV on mute….Banned under the terms of her $40 million divorce settlement from writing or talking about Paul McCartney, his ex, Heather Mills is writing a novel about a model-turned-campaigner who falls in love with a rock star …. Born to the Breed: A Tribute to Judy Collins — a record to be released this week — is a long-overdue accolade to the owner of the purest soprano voice in America, who’s been singing for more than half a century…. The extravagantly-praised In-N-Out hamburger chain, which celebrates its 60th birthday on Oct. 22, could almost be described as a cult if you didn’t count its millions of customers in four Western states…. Now that Hershey is licensed to manufacture Cadbury’s chocolate they might as well dump their own (inferior) brand…. Wal-Mart has stopped selling a Fisher-Price children’s walkie-talkie. after reports that some toys had picked up conversations between truckers about smoking pot…“We do not deal much in fact when we are contemplating ourselves.” — Mark Twain (1835-1910)