John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: September 8, 2007


EVEN BEFORE THE BOOK Heroic Conservatism, by chief White House speechwriter Michael J. Gerson, was published last week, it was already under fire by a colleague who accused the author of “extravagant falsehood… a history of self-seeking and media manipulation.” And the criticism carries weight if only because it was by Matthew Scully who, along with John McConnell, formed the triumvirate who jointly wrote the presidential speeches for which Gerson invariably took sole credit. “It was a perplexing experience to read press accounts of Bush speeches that left the distinct impression that they were the work of just one man,” Scully writes in the current Atlantic. “Great works carried out collaboratively make for an undeniably less interesting story than the solitary genius scribbling away.” Referring to Gerson’s “credit hounding” and “foolish vanity” he said his partners failed to correct the misplaced credit in the past because “the sheer pettiness of such conduct served to repel corrective action.”

THOSE POCKET-SIZED clinics in pharmacies and other stores have tripled to more than 300, and despite skepticism from the AMA — they usually charge about half the cost of a visit to the doctor — seem to be a big success. “We’re seeing a tipping point,” says health care consultant Steve Wunker about the industry’s claim of a 98% satisfaction rate. Fast Company says it’s because it “mimics the secrets of the fast food industry… (seeking) to offer convenient, predictable service and transparent pricing.”

ADDING TO ALL its other clones, China has already reproduced a copy of the iPhone which works with most other cell phone systems and not just AT&T and, of course, and costs less. So says Popular Science which sent Dan Koeppel to China to investigate. While there he discovered not only the miniOne, due on sale next month, but also “a sleek new product called the P168 (which) came in a black box marked with both the iPhone and Apple logos”. They will be available to millions more than Apple’s products at a lower price,” predicted the writer, and “the rest of the world will accept the clones as if they were the original.”

THERE’S GROWING INTEREST in Europe in abolishing most of the directional clutter that assail the eyes of motorists as they maneuver down streets filled with traffic warnings, cautions, superfluous white lines, directional signs and all the other admonitions that assume drivers have no mind of their own. In some places it’s been found that removing these “road safety” features causes drivers to maneuver more cautiously. After London’s Kensington High Street tried the experiment one year ago and found that accidents fell by almost half, and pedestrian injuries by almost two-thirds, the scheme will be rolled out in other cities.

“Stick a pin in a map of Russia and you are likely to alight upon a poisoned river or the rusting hulk of a nuclear submarine, an irradiated steppe, some chemically defoliated birch trees, or a gently glowing peasant with a lifespan expectancy of 34 years.”
Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times dismissing the recent Soviet claim to Antarctica while claiming that the Russians have wreaked more environmental havoc and misery than any other nation.

THERE IS PLENTY of incentive to invent new drugs but little likelihood that any of them will reach poor patients says a story in Foreign Policy. One solution to this dilemma, it says, was outlined by a UC Berkeley economist (who died a couple of years ago after his plan was rejected). What Jean O. Lanjouw proposed was that — as a condition of receiving US patent protection — drug companies must renounce patent rights in countries with a per capita income of less than $1000 a year. “It would not destroy incentives for drug invention for innovators who would still get monopoly rights in rich markets,” the magazine explained. “Indeed the patent rights that drug firms would give up are worth nothing to them because leading cancer cures are not marketed in poor countries.” Needless to say, Big Pharma stubbornly opposed the idea, even resisting letting go of “rights that had no value.”

“Bush’s inability to effect change … was a failure of power, the power to move the world’s conscience — a glaring example of America’s fallen standing in the world. President Bush and his neo-conservative cadre squandered the goodwill of the world with a disastrous war of choice in Iraq, then began a dizzying campaign of disengagement from international accords on critical global issues such as arms control, torture, and climate change.”
Hannah Lobel in Redeeming America, what it will take to win back the world (Utne Reader, Aug/07).

THE WILCOCK WEB: Wal-Mart’s plan to open 1,000 Money Centers in its stores, offering check-cashing and money-transfers, is being criticized as “a back door into banking” … Powered by eight powerful rotary engines and fueled with water and ethanol, Moller International’s 9ft wide “flying saucer” can glide 10 feet above land or water (and costs a mere $90,000…. A tri-lingual German website that does $10million worth of business each week by renting what seems to be everything, began by renting slogan-chanting, sign-waving protesters for $188 per shift…. India’s Science and Technology minister recently decreed that every chemistry student must take a year of ”green” chemistry seeking ways to eliminate hazardous substances…. “The American people generally do the right thing,” commented Winston Churchill, “after first exhausting every available alternative”…. More than 600,000 of the country’s military were enlisted before they were 20, reports In These Times, reporting a study by the National Institute of Mental health that noted a teenager’s brain is still undergoing structural change in the prefrontal cortex “which polices impulse control” and thus the ability to make thoughtful decisions…. The number of tourists to Antarctica has doubled—to 30,000 — in the past three years… “Open source,” once a mere computer term has gained currency in almost every part of life, even to the Australian beer Blowfly whose “open source” recipe can be tampered with by others…. After 15 years publishing Venus, a publication for black lesbians, Charlene Cothran got religion overnight, declared that “same sex relationships are not what God intended for us,” and turned the magazine straight…. Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve. — Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)