John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: October 8, 2011

by John Wilcock


“Think about it: We cherish the rights of Tea Party demonstrators so much that they’re allowed to bring guns into a Presidential rally. But these demonstrators, whose critique of Wall Street speaks for a vast majority of the public, must be herded away from our titans of finance and their delicate sense.”
— from the NationofChange editorial, describing the way that New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is keeping those ‘Wall Street demonstrators’ well away from Wall Street


SHOPLIFTING HAS REACHED horrendous levels, with goods valued at more than $35 million stolen from retailers every day reports Stores magazine. Some of it is due to poverty and the worsening economic situation, but that’s not the whole story the mag says. “Amateurs come in all shapes and sizes,” is the assessment of Joe LeRocca, described as a senior asset protection advisor, “and they steal for all kind of reasons. They might want to lash out, they might think they need the item, and many just steal out of opportunity.”

The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (who knew?) says that as many as one American in eleven shoplifts and relatively few do it because they need the money. “People would often talk about compensatory things,” explains Rachel Shteir, author of The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting, “that some way they felt they had been wronged by someone or some company (but) there isn’t really a specific profile.” NASP director of communications Barbara Staid theorizes that the sluggish economy could produce a feeling of hopelessness among some consumers, especially those who are unemployed or under-employed. “They don’t think they’re hurting anyone,” she says. “They know the store is making more money than they do, the CEO is making millions, and they don’t see the harm.”

MOVING BUSINESSES BACK from China to the U.S. is a growing trend according to Smart Money which reports that “China isn’t the bargain it once was.” Wages have been climbing there 15 to 20% annually for the past four years, the mag says and smaller companies there are particularly vulnerable to what sometimes seems to be a lack of quality control. The number of companies repatriating is a trickle so far but the Boston Consulting Group’s Harold Sirkin predicts hat overall costs in the U.S. and China are likely to converge around 2015, ushering in a “renaissance” for U.S. manufacturing.

MEDIEVAL CHASTITY BELTS never really existed declares the Skeptical Inquirer. Oh damn! Another colorful legend trashed. The mag explains that the myths related to what was “ a symbol of moral purity, not as a physical object” and that some “real” chastity belts in the possession of various European museums are actually forgeries dating to 1840 at the earliest. In any case, says SI, any such contraptions in actual use would have caused wounds, infections, sepsis, followed by death. “And finally, the most obvious problem: any medieval lock could be opened by a locksmith in a few seconds.”

credit – Stores Magazine

AFTER BUYING A huge defunct bank on New York’s Wall Street, the Duane Reade drugstore chain has been equipped with a holographic “virtual greeter.” Her image is projected from a roped-off kiosk and she welcomes customers with information about the store’s attractions which include a doctor-staffed pharmacy, a hair salon, and bars offering smoothies and sushi.

The cavernous (22,000-square foot) former bank space with marble columns and vaulted ceiling replaces a former Walgreens drugstore destroyed on 9/11. (Walgreens acquired the Duane Reade chain last year.)

THE EASE WITH WHICH an inventor can file a patent and the time it takes to process it, has piled up such a backlog of applications that will take four years to handle, Wired announces, while offering a solution. Back in the early days, the mag recalls, the US Patent and Trademark Office required applicants to submit small working models of their idea. Once the requirement was dropped, the plans poured in, a thousand a day. “Don’t just submit a diagram,” Wired advises, “make a model that the examiner can touch… Architects and engineers wouldn’t dream of vying for a major project without submitting detailed models; why should inventors feel any different as they prepare to approach the USPTO?”


“None of (the commentators) talk about Ron Paul. I don’t understand how a guy with consistent grass-roots support at the level he has, is not part of the conversation…Aren’t (they) going to say his name? You’re not even going to mention it? …Nobody is fucking listening to that guy. And yet the real media pretends like all these fringe candidate are for real. Ron Paul has a constituency —like it or not. How can you ignore it? It makes no sense.”
Jon Stewart talking to Rolling Stone’s Eric Bat


EXTREMELY LOW I.Q.s combined with an imperial manner totally out of touch with common folk might be a good description of the elitist trustees of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art who are apparently ready to instantly approve any crack-brained idea proposed to them. This column recently questioned the logic of spending millions to bring a humongous boulder, and a hanging train to decorate the outside of the museum. Now another idiocy. LACMA is removing all the objects from the historic Pacific Palisades house of Ray and Charles Eames, the much admired 20th century designers, to install them in a custom-built replica in the museum. And then to take everything back to the home and replace it. Here’s what the money could do instead: (i) patch up the house; (ii) hire security guards; and (iii) allow free admission to Eames’ fans who would like to see the works in situ, as they actually are.

The local Art mafia is a common factor in some communities, especially Philadelphia where it squashed a group of art lovers in a battle over the unrivalled collection willed by Albert C. Barnes. His dying wish was that it remain where it was, and unchanged. (He fancied not only the museum’s tranquil location but also the unorthodox way he had mixed and matched his superlative collection which included more than 200 works by Cezanne, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso.) Completely ignoring Barnes’ explicit wishes, the city has moved the collection downtown.

DOES TED DANSON smoke pot like the character he played in the HBO series Bored to Death? In answer to that question from Rolling Stone’s Erik Hedegaard, the actor responded: “Well, I’ve discovered something wonderful from doing that show which is that you don’t actually have to smoke a controlled substance to get high. All you have to do is get a pipe, put a little ginseng in it or something fake, light it, hold it in for a while. Then you say something stupid. And you are stoned. For-real stoned….The power of suggestion is huge.”

THE WILCOCK WEB: The Michael Jackson trial demonstrates that paying your personal doctor two million bucks a year is no guarantee you’ll even get to your sixties ……“It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies,” states author J.K. Rowling, “but even more to stand up to your friends”… Smart Money says that all those panicked investors buying gold would be better off buying platinum instead because it’s almost always worth more and may reach $2000 an ounce this year…. The $38,000 paid by those ambitious sycophants to have dinner with Barack Obama would do a lot more good if it went to provide meals for the homeless……“Having the fewest wants,” said Socrates, “I am nearest to the gods” …..When will the US realize that Pakistan is an enemy, not an ally?… As the French proverb says, Beware of a friend who has once been your enemy”….With a foam rubber skin enclosing a lithium-ion battery and power-converting microchip, Uncharted Play’s new football can create enough power from two hours’ play to light an LED for several hours ……Our study shows that alcohol doesn’t reduce your awareness of your mistakes,” says, “it (just) reduces how much you care about them”…. Homeland Security’s various departments will eventually be coordinated in the old St Elizabeth’s Hospital on Washington’s outskirts but await an expensive retrofit to bring it up to the luxurious standards they require. Why don’t they move in and do some real work by tidying it up themselves?…. “Nearly 40 percent of African-American recipients rely solely on a Social Security check for their income,” writes columnist Earl Ofari. “One out of three African-Americans and Hispanics would sink below the official poverty line without their Social Security payout”…Office Depot plans to replace more than four million pounds of cardboard boxes with less than a million pounds of paper bags, protected during transportation in reusable plastic tubes……Why waste time watching the (un) Real Housewives when you can be regaled by the down-to-earth stars of Storage Wars?….. A man hired a Kerryman as an assistant to take phone calls. One day the phone rang and when the Kerryman answered he hung up immediately. ‘Who was that?’ asked his boss. ‘Some fool saying it was a long distance from New York. I told him everybody knew that.’….Those incumbent pols who allowed a crooked treasurer to rip off their funds over a period of years are now asking the public to replace the money. Let ‘em lose their seats. If they can’t keep an eye on their own money, in what way are they competent to handle anybody else’s?…. ….. Beijing Capital Airport is already the biggest in the world but China has started construction on an even bigger one, with nine runways, just to the south….Kim Kardashian topped Parade’s The Most Annoying Celebrity of 2011 with nearly a third of the 60,000 votes…. “Paranoia means having all the facts.” — William Burroughs (1914-97)