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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: September 18, 2010

John Wilcock

“From FDR to JFK to Clinton, something like the tea party fluoresces every time a Democrat wins the presidency. The only difference: This time they’ve taken over the GOP.” Mother Jones

BRIBING POLITICIANS was something this column mused about some weeks ago, specifically suggesting how useful would be a list revealing how much each pol would charge to do your bidding. Now the invaluable Mother Jones has begun to clarify matters with six-pages of charts illustrating WHO OWNS CONGRESS.

     California’s Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer tops the list with $75million raised largely from lawyers, lobbyists, and Hollywood sources including Time Warner and Disneyland; New York’s Democratic Senator Charles Schumer raised $62.2million mostly from banks, finance, insurance, and real estate; which were also the major donors to more than half the senators, especially Scott Brown (R-Mass), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and Harry Reid (D-Nev), half of whose top donors were gambling interests. In Congress, too, it was fire, insurance, and real estate interests (which donated $2.4 billion to legislators between 1989 and this year) who helped 159  candidates, among them  Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), Eric Cantor (R-Va), Jim Hines (D-Conn), and Ron Paul (R-Tex).

Capitol Hill’s top three corporate sponsors were AT&T, the National Association of Realtors, and Goldman Sachs, the last-mentioned also being among the top donors to both Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008 and to Michael McMahon (D-NY), Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind).

Although the MJ list is not a complete breakdown of how much each individual legislator received — and where from — it includes some fairly obvious matches between them and their major donors, such as Wal-Mart being the number one donor to Arkansas Republican John Boozman and second biggest donor to Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln.

Under the subtitle “Having trouble raising money? Shoot your mouth off and watch the cash pour in,” the mag pointed out that Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Minn) had raised $4.1 million (51% from out of state) after her defense of BP and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C) the same amount after shouting “You lie” to President Obama.

IN ADDITION TO the hundreds of millions of dollars that BP pledged or spent publicly over its recent disaster in the Gulf, the oil behemoth also leaped into the top rank of Google advertisers, spending $3.6million on the web company in the month of June alone. Most of this took the form of “search results,” the term used to describe payments for each click on the advertiser’s site;  to direct traffic to its site, BP bought up dozens of keywords associated with the disaster (such as oil spill or leak). “Google has become the remote control for the world; it’s the first stop, not TV,” ad executive Will Margiloff told Advertising Age. “More than any other media…people (sought) BP’s answers as opposed to waiting to be told.”

IT’S NAÏVE TO BELIEVE that anybody who deeply respects his religion (and one where women don’t count) does not want his religion to prevail. But the politically correct types will do us in with their belief that the religion of Muslims is just like any other. Their devout dream is that sharia law will finally become dominant and women will be firmly kept in their place.

Communism and fascism were not against the law either but some people had the wisdom to foresee that allowing their unfettered spread, without fighting back, was not beneficial to our much-freer society. Does the phrase ‘useful idiots’ ring a bell?  Do some research, folks. Check out what sharia law actually means, what it stands for, and how antithetical it is to the U.S. Constitution (which both sides like to quote).

“The debate in Europe now,” writes Claire Berlinski, “concerns primarily the burqa…and all forced veiling is not only an abomination but contagious…a symbol of a dynamic, totalitarian ideology (that) will not be content until every woman on the planet is humbled, submissive, silent and enslaved.

Calling for a ban on the burqa, because unchecked it will spread to many European cities, Ms. Berlinski writes in the National Review, eventually “no unveiled woman will walk comfortably or safely. Islam’s conception of women is directly tied to gender apartheid and the subjugation and abuse of women throughout the Islamic world, the greatest human-rights problem on the planet, bar none.”

Although some women adopt the veil voluntarily, she writes, most veiling is forced. “Our responsibility to protect these women from coercion is greater than our responsibility to protect the freedom of those who choose to veil. Why? Because this is our culture, we do not veil because we do not believe that God demands this of women, or desires it; nor do we believe that unveiled women are whores, nor do we believe that they deserve social censure, harassment, or rape.

“Europe’s Muslim population is growing, many cities will soon have Muslim majorities. If the conception of Islam that the veil represents is allowed to prevail in Europe these cities will no longer be free.”

EXCESS PROFITS AREN’T the reason why organic food is priced so high even though that might sometimes seem to be the case. It’s more likely the labor-intensive costs of keeping the fields free of bugs and weeds without spraying, and keeping cattle pastured much longer without feeding them through the industrial mass-slaughtering system explains Heather Rogers. In The American Prospect, she bemoans the way Obama gives lip service to the concept of nurturing organic farming “but his policies don’t offer meaningful support for the people who grow it.” The mag points out that almost all of last year’s $15 billion subsidies went to just 10% of the farms, mostly to industrial agriculture and factory food. “While the public and organic advocates may be wooed by feel-good photo-ops, the fact is that Obama has yet to get his hands dirty and truly commit to reforming the industry.”

TURNING PROFITS INTO LOSSES, the renowned ‘Hollywood accounting’ process, is explained by essayist Rob Long in relation to the blockbuster film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which grossed just under one billion dollars but somehow came to be defined as a loss of $167 million when it came to paying investors. How do they get away with this? asks Long in National Review, answering: “The same way Congress does, by simply redefining words such as ‘profit, net, loss, and gross’.” Examples are the ‘distribution fee’ that the studio pays to the distributor (which it owns); “interest” (which the studio pays to itself for the cost of using the money);  and “advertising and publicity” (the movie studio buying spots on a network that it owns). “You don’t have to be a Dumbledore to turn a cash mountain of One Billion Dollars into a loss of $167 million,” Long concludes. “The federal budget. like the movie studio Distribution Report, is a nonsense document, filled with swindles and lies and hidden fees.”

CHURCH AND STATE is traditionally what publishing, especially newspapers, have called editorial and advertising — which ideally are not supposed to mix. But this may be changing says Advertising Age, presumably because of current ad cutbacks, although the mag doesn’t explicitly say so. What it does complain about, is the current issue of Scholastic Parent and Child whose ad page composed in collaboration with its editorial department was declared to be “(in) defiance of industry norms…simply shameful.” The quote comes from Sid Holt, CEO of the American Society of Magazine Editors, who added that “confusing editorial and advertising is a betrayal of the best interests of both readers and advertisers.” Media watchdogs might complain, AdAge comments, but this sort of collusion is likely to happen more and more.

VERTICAL FARMING is the concept of a Columbia University professor who envisages 30-story buildings with crops and even animals nurtured on every floor and, especially in cities, no transportation costs. Environmental prof. Dickson Despommier envisages soil being eschewed in favor of plants grown hydroponically (in a liquid) or aeroponically  (in the air. Britain-based Valvent Products Inc., maker of racks holding the plants, says it is negotiating with entrepreneurs in more than a score of countries.


Vertical Gardens concept drawing
photo credit: Smithsonian


THE WILCOCK WEB: Following the revelation that Supreme Court clerks are picked solely for their Republican or Democrat leanings, why shouldn’t the Supremes be elected for finite terms like all other biased politicians?….Quoting a report from the spookily-named Bedbug Advisory Board that there had been a 240% rise in complaints against landlords, Advertising Age offered advice to companies that had encountered infestations from the creepy creatures: “speedy honesty” is mandatory in today’s age of social media, declared an exterminator. “If you try to cover anything up, or spin or sugarcoat the situation, the public is going to see through it”…..Even non-conspiracy theorists are beginning to realize that a lot more happened on 9/11 than we were ever told about — or ever will be…..Those ubiquitous expensive SmileTrain ads flaunting kids with cleft palates seem more and more suspicious all the time. The charity’s founder and CEO, Brian Mullaney, btw, is reported to pay himself nearly $700,000 a year…..“Not unlike the chimps featured on the Discovery Channel in an unconscious effort to outdo female rivals,” women buy sexier clothing during the handful of days when they are ovulating, reports the Journal of Consumer Research.….Surely you weren’t surprised to learn that Dan Quayle’s son Ben, running for Congress in Arizona, is even dumber than his father….. “Borrow money from pessimists,” quips Steven Wright, “ they don’t expect it back”.….The over-the-top praise for the works of the late author Robert Bolano (writes Benjamin Percy in Esquire) is because reviewers “mistake a fascinating life for fascinating fiction”….ONE LINE REVIEW: “The covers of this book are too far apart” — Ambrose Bierce….. Even if that Florida pastor drops his plan to burn the Koran, it’s inevitable that somebody will do it eventually…What’s Dirty Little Word all about? It’s an event scheduled to take place on September 28 at NYC’s Nokia Theater starring Sir Richard Branson and Mary J. Blige but the website offers no explanation…. Considering how heartily disliked Russell Brand is in England, it’s surprising how quickly he’s been accepted as a viable star on this side of the Pond…..The list of producers for TV’s The Office seems to be even longer than that of the cast…..Condoms should be used on every conceivable occasion….. allows web users to list their non-friends and always be warned on how not to find yourself in places they’re likely to be…. “Some cause happiness wherever they go,” quipped Oscar Wilde, “others, whenever they go”…. Cities stuck with exorbitant pensions (from over-inflated salaries), should just refuse to pay them and let the corrupt complainants sue at their own expense…..London department store Selfridges designated classic brands to fill “The Forever Shop,” stocked with items which encouraged customers to “rethink our obsession with fast fashion and embrace the idea of buying pieces that we can wear until our old age and then hand down to our children”…. Deft definition: Osteopornosis — a degenerate disease…… Originally the old barcodes were comprised of only 14 characters, but recent advances have upped the number to 71 characters, enabling the inclusion of product reviews that can be read by smartphones….When you’ve read this, please email me (see below) simply saying ‘yes’ and I’ll send you an amusing 1963 column….“In the fight between you and the world, back the world.” — Franz Kafka (1883-1924).