John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: September 27, 2008

“If ever there was a branch of government crying out for varying life experience, it’s the Supreme Court. And if any branch of government is in need of a mother of five who likes shooting wolves from helicopters, the court is it.”—Dahlia Lithwick writing in Newsweek about how Sarah Palin would be great for “the ever more stuffy Supreme Court.

A SELF-DESCRIBED “TRUE AMERICAN” is at it again. Before the 2004 election, 75-year-old George J. Esseff spent $104,600 for a full-page ad in the Washington Post trashing John Kerry and praising the virtues of George Bush and Rush Limbaugh. He said that when he asked people “What is a Republican?” he was told “a rich, greedy, egotistical individual, motivated only by money and the desire to accumulate more and more of it, at the expense of the environment … the working poor ….and all whom they exploit…”.  Sounds right to me but Esseff responds: “I am a Republican….I am none of those things….and I don’t know any Republicans who are.” (Obviously he doesn’t get around much.) Anyway, Esseff has now placed the full-pager in The New York Times, adding Gore Vidal and Barack Obama to his enemies list, directing the ad to the three major networks — pointedly excluding Fox — and accusing them of not giving their viewers the facts. Every sentence in his ad begins What I am but not one of them adds A Catholic, a rich Republican, an egotist.

NEWSPAPER CIRCULATIONS are going up and up in Asian and South American countries as education and better wages bring literacy to a growing workforce. In the past five years, readers have increased by 22% in Brazil, more than 30% in India and Pakistan, and 7% last year in Argentina according to the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers. China’s 20% increase has enlarged circulation to 107m copies a day, more than twice the U.S. figure, and as China’s papers are all state-owned it’s likely those numbers will keep going up.

‘A TURKEY IN THE SKY’ is how the president of the British Royal Society, refers to the International Space Station which he suggests is not worth spending the $50 billion needed to complete. “Future expeditions to the Moon and beyond will only be politically and financially feasible if they are cut-price ventures, perhaps privately funded,” declares Lord Martin Rees, professor of cosmology and astrophysics at Cambridge University. “(They could be) spearheaded by individuals prepared to take high risks — maybe even one-way tickets. Perhaps future space probes will be plastered in commercial logos just as Formula One racers are now.”

IT WASN’T UNTIL 1952 that L. Ron Hubbard invented Scientology. But before that he made a living writing novels with titles like Spy Killers and The Great Secret. Now, 22 years after his death and with a $2 million publicity budget, the cult’s publishing arm, Galaxy Press, is about to publish $10 paperbacks of 80 Hubbard’s fictions along with audio versions, some read by Scientologist Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson.

IS COLLEGE WORTH THE PRICE? is the provocative head on a story in Money which charges that many schools are “engaging in a luxury arms race,”, installing expensive extras such as leaded windows, hot tubs and recreation centers to keep pace with their more affluent rivals. “The appearance of misguided spending…has prompted some lawmakers to question whether wealthy schools still deserve their tax-exempt status” the mag says, quoting an Education Sector spokesman as claiming that college rankings “are a measure of wealth and exclusivity, not quality.” The goal is to entice more students to apply so that by then rejecting more students the lowered acceptance rate “makes it appear more selective,” Money says. “If college costs continue to escalate at this rate,” says Charles Miller, chairman of a U.S. Dept. of Education Commission, “(parents) may reach a point where the investment simply isn’t worth it.”

ALL THAT ENDLESS FIGHTING between India and Pakistan over Kashmir could be brought to an end, predicts Vir Sanghvi, if India just let it go. Writing in the eastern Himalayan paper The Morning Express, Sanghvi says the determination to keep it, is based only on “machismo” and whereas Indian taxpayers prop it up financially, they gain nothing from retaining a burden that “drags us down and bleeds us dry.” Kashmir couldn’t make it as an independent nation but (could join) the “small, second-rate country” called Pakistan, which is what so many seem to want.

THE WILCOCK WEB: No matter how much obfuscation they employ in coming weeks, McCain and Palin are already proven liars….And why are Karl Rove and his White House cohorts allowed to defy a Congressional subpoena to testify? Wouldn’t an “ordinary citizen” be arrested?…..“The willingness to risk abuse for the sake of the truth is one of the writer’s obligatory chores,” noted Edward Abbey ….Four of five car buyers from Max Motors in Butler, Montana, who were offered a bonus of $250 in gas or the same amount off a gun, purchase chose the latter…. In their never-ending quest for cheaper airline fares, more than a quarter of the 1,000 respondents tracked by said they’d be willing to pay half price for a standing-room-only ticket. Airbus dreamed up a plane that strapped passengers to padded walls…My Gonads Roar is the title of a book by Richard Napier comprised of anagrams of celebrity names with the title itself the name of a famous angry chef….If Alaska had a $5 billion budget surplus last year and could afford to give all its citizens a $3,000 payoff, why can’t it finance its own bridges without seeking Federal gifts?…. And speaking of greed, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson might find it easier to get their movies financed if they didn’t seek more than $100 million for their work….Dr. Zahi Hawass, boss of Egypt’s Antiquities department, says initial probes have discovered what may be the burial place of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony, and excavations will begin when cooler weather arrives next month…. A London security firm has invented a magnetic ink which would cause dollar bills or other paper currency to stick together and would be hard to forge but is initially more likely to be used in passports and checks….Pumping aromas into a movie theater’s air conditioning to add credence to a movie was tried before, 30 years ago, but a German firm, Cinescent in Hanover, is now testing it to accent the screening of ads by Nivea sun lotion and Dove soap…. “The universe is change: our life is what our thoughts make it.” — Marcus Aurelius (AD120-180).