John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: September 24, 2011

by John Wilcock


“Nothing will improve for a long time, because the American and Pakistani governments are in a sense mirror images of each other. The Americans have allowed their military and the CIA to dominate Washington’s policy-making on Afghanistan and Pakistan, just as the Pakistani military and ISI dominate decision-making in Islamabad.”
Ahmed Rashid in the New York Times


THAT REVERED HEROINE of Burma, Daw Aung San Sui Kyi, and her lifetime battles with the country’s tyrannical leaders may have diverted attention from an even bigger problem writes Joshua Kurlantzick in the September issue of Current History. And why the world should be worried about this country — “on the verge of becoming a failed state” — is its unholy alliance with North Korea which has been supplying it with nuclear and missile technology. Kurlantzick, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, who says Burma’s potential for meltdown has significantly increased, calls the development “extremely frightening” and that Washington needs to pay closer attention to Myanmar, going beyond the existing sanctions policy. It would be advisable too, he suggests, for us to capitalize on the crisis in the country’s ethnic-minority areas (where the government has always had limited authority) to work more closely with China whose lack of real leverage over the country is increasingly being demonstrated. “In many ways, the country’s long border with China has the potential to be as explosive as the frontiers of Pakistan and North Korea,” the writer warns.

THAT FAMILIAR RIPOFF in which taxpayers are obliged to subsidize the ambitions of wealthy billionaires, still endures in the world of sport despite all that has been written about it. “Public subsidies for stadiums are a great deal for team owners, league executives, developers, bond attorneys, construction firms, politicians, and everyone in the stadium food chain, but a terrible deal for everyone else,” college professor Frank Rashid told the Nation. “The case is so clear against this being a top priority for cities to be doing this with their resources, I would have thought that wisdom would have prevailed by now,” mused Rashid, described as a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan. Why Do Mayors Love Sports Stadiums? the story asks, suggesting that it’s due to fear. “Politicians continue to believe that it would be political disaster to lose a team on their watch.”

THE LIFESTYLE OF THE WEALTHY is not an acceptable one for politicians to flaunt, writes columnist Noemie Emery, offering five examples led by Barack Obama’s $50,000 rental of a vacation house in Martha’s Vineyard. “For many people (that) would be a big down payment on a house in which they would live on a permanent basis, for most it would amount to their entire income for a year.” In her piece in the Weekly Standard, Ms. Emery asks Mitt Romney to wait before knocking down his $12m California house to replace it with a new one four times the size; urges Newt Gingrich to close his Tiffany’s account (“A jewel is the essence of extravagance, also of uselessness…”); refers to John Kerry’s $7m yacht (“how nice to know you have some place to go when your five mansions will not satisfy”); and scoffs at John Edwards’ 28,000-sq-ft compound (“to which you repair when you tired yourself from your anti-poverty speeches”). And then there’s the tendency of Obama to use Air Force One “more or less as a taxi,” and Nancy Pelosi commandeering an Army jet to commute continually between California and Washington. “Together,” writes Emery, “(they) suggest a large and bipartisan government stratum that is completely insulated and immune from the strains that beset normal people, not to mention addicted to a luxury, privilege, and grandeur to a toxic extent.”


“I’m not a party animal. I see myself as rather boring, a straight arrow kind of person who wanted to be free, and I’m constantly searching to liberate myself from my own insecurities and my own uptightness. I think a lot of my work has been a weird attempt to liberate myself, but it’s not altogether successful. That’s my dichotomy.”
Helen Mirren talking to Andrew Goldman


BY THE END of 2010, the United States was home to 25 percent of the world’s prison inmates,” reports the media watchdog National/Change, with roughly 2.4 million people behind bars and over seven million under correctional supervision. The bill for housing prisoners, says Elsie Scott, president of the Black Congressional Caucus, is nearly 68 dollars a day per person.

DEVOTING 4,000 WORDS in the New York Times Magazine to his support for the misbegotten invasion of Iraq, former NYT editor Bill Keller explains:


“I wanted to be doing something, and standing by was not enough….George W. Bush famously argued that to command respect in the world we needed to demonstrate not only strength but also humility. In office, though, the humility gave way to hubris. President Bush got it wrong . And so did I.”


EXTREME FOOD FADDISTS are extremely annoying and might be completely nuts, says columnist Starshine Roshell. “You can’t lob a legume through a restaurant these days without hitting someone on a fussy — and fairly freaky — diet. Do you have legitimate medical and/or moral reasoning for your odd eating, or rather non-eating, habits? Yes, I’m certain that you do. Does it make it any less irritating to the rest of us? No, it doesn’t,” she writes in the Santa Barbara Independent. She was nostalgic, she said, for the days when people had food habits rather than food renunciations — “things we liked and didn’t especially like, rather than things we wouldn’t consider swallowing.”

THE WILCOCK WEB: After claiming that her campaign funds were “wiped out” by a fraudulent assistant, it looks like Dianne Feinstein might actually have to spend some of her own millions to finance future campaigns. No wonder pols can’t protect the people’s money when it takes ten years for them to discover they’re being ripped off….Choosing Dick Cheney as his vp would be pretty much of a death wish for Mitt Romney…. Herman Cain says he’d bring “a sense of humor to the White House” if elected. His fantasy that he could win is certainly amusing….Republicans hate Obama because he’s socialist; Democrats are pissed off because he’s not…. “Sadly,” writes Robert Scheer, “Obama has proved to be nothing more than a Bill Clinton clone triangulating with the Wall Street lobbyists at the expense of ordinary folks.”…. The first aerial bombing in history occurred 100 years ago next week (Sept 29) when an Italian pilot dropped a grenade from his plane onto an oasis near Tripoli (the Italians were at war with the Ottoman empire)….. Is there a secret document somewhere mandating that all TV stations agree to show commercials at the same time?…. Competitive TV ratings never made any sense to the layman; if advertisers pay for numbers-watched, why is it wiser for networks to halve their potential viewing figures by running similar shows against each other (ABC’s Desperate Housewives vs. CBS’ The Good Wife, CBS’ Sixty Minutes vs NBC’s Dateline) instead of in different time slots? …. After watching that vainglorious video, Disney employees are now calling their boss Robert ‘Ego’ Iger…. Bulldozers, excavators, and other heavy equipment are available for use at Dig This, a Las Vegas theme park, by visitors who’d like to play at being blue-collar workers…..Is anybody surprised at the popularity of burning-bank paintings?….Researchers have come up with a pen that writes with electricity-conducting ink which will enable the production of paper batteries and medical diagnostic devices….The truth is,” declares the Weekly Standard, “that ‘green jobs’ is a 21st-century euphemism for a more familiar term — crony capitalism”….“The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese”…If people are paid adequately for doing their best job, so-called “performance-based incentive bonuses” are a ridiculously

A four-man tent that looks like a bus (
Photo credit – The Observer

expensive overkill….Palestinians already have a state; it’s called Jordan…. Scientists can analyze anything these days so how could Coca-Cola possibly still have a “secret” formula?…. How do you recognize a Kerry pirate? He’s got a patch over each eye…. For $5,000 you can buy the WlliamsWarn Personal Brewery whose pressure-fermenting device allows you to brew beer at home condensing the month-long process and allowing home-brewed beer in seven days…. The remains of Adolf Hitler’s onetime deputy Rudolf Hess which were buried in the German town of Wunsiedel have been removed and scattered at sea after too many neo-Nazis had begun to turn his grave into a shrine. (Hess flew early in WW2 to England and was imprisoned for the rest of his life)… “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”  — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the U.S. (1882 – 1945)