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the column of lasting insignificance: Feb. 5, 2011
by John Wilcock

“Why are we in Afghanistan? The current rationale is that we want to prevent (that country) from becoming a safe haven for Osama Bin Laden and his followers. But they already have safe havens in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia” --Fox News commentator Andrea Tantaros


IT WAS INEVITABLE
that the Big Money guys would eventually jump into the marihuana business and Mother Jones introduces us to two of them, Derek Peterson, 36, and Dhat Mann, 26, who envisions his hydroponic grow store in Oakland as becoming “the Wal-Mart of Weed”. Peterson, an investment banker, is even bolder, forecasting that a year from now the pot business ”is gonna be as ruthless as Wall Street”. All this is not likely to bode well for the hundreds of mom and pop growers in California’s Humboldt County where, says MJ, “the mainstreaming of California’s largest cash crop, worth $14bn annually, has sparked a battle for market share”. To survive in the new economy, says Hank Sims, editor of Eureka’s North Coast Journal, the old yeoman growers “have to get out and hustle”.

Mother Jones’ fascinating story on this whole matter presented the magazine with a problem, which is that an equally important story was on their desk concerned the heartbreaking situation in Haiti—an on-the-spot report about the millions who live in displacement camps suffering exposure to the elements, rapes and near-starvation. Which of these stories should go on the magazine’s cover? “Compelling as (Haiti) is” say MJ’s editors, “it’s a tough sell on the newsstand. Even assuming that anyone tempted to buy this magazine probably isn’t expecting cheerful (tales) .…rape gangs are pretty heavy stuff with which to hit a new reader”. The solution to this dilemma? The magazine decided to go with both covers: the pot one for newsstands, the Haiti one for subscribers. They invite comments at MotherJones.com.

CATS AND DOGS can cost a family as much as the children or the car these days—especially when they get sick. Smart Money says pet owners are “developing a severe case of sticker shock” on discovering that implanting a pacemaker in the animal can cost $1,500, or treating kidney failure might run to $25,000. Packaged Facts, a market research company, estimates that the $20bn Americans spent on veterinary bills last year points to the increasing tendency to humanize pets. “All those people paying for pet massages and buying designer doggie clothes find it all but impossible to say no when the health—or life—of their pet is at stake”.

“I’m always trying to feed my knowledge base and pass on what I learn in constructive ways. One of my messages these days is that ageism is rampant in the U.S. I want older people to see how much we bring to society.”
—Jane Fonda, 73, interviewed by Kenneth Miller

MACHINE PLAYS JEOPARDY will be the headline when that television game’s champions—Ken Jennings, who won 74 games in a row in 2004/5, and Brad Rutter, who won $3.25m in prize money—battle against a specially-trained IBM machine called Watson later this month. Before IBM pitted Deep Blue (which won) against chess master Garry Kasparov in 1997, it had spent six years fine-tuning the supercomputer; and as much tutoring has gone into this challenge, with Watson (named after IBM’s founder) inputted with the equivalent of millions of books. “It understands anagrams, wordplay and has memorized every Shakespeare soliloquy, major river and world capital” says Forbes. Winner of the contest, Feb. 14-16, gets $1million with $300,000 and $200,000 for second and third place. Jennings and Rutter have promised half their winning to charity, Watson all of it.

EXCERCISE GYMS are mostly a scam, “one of the great cons of our age” says Guardian columnist Zoe Williams suggesting that any sensible person seeing the word ‘gym’ should add the words ‘stimulates appetite’. After a vigorous 20-minute workout you might burn off a couple of hundred calories—which you’ll immediately replace by eating even more calories.

Exercise doesn’t make people slimmer, just hungrier. “With our private gym subscriptions we’re just shelling out a fortune each month for a joyless, dressed-up beauty regime that doesn’t even work”.

HERE WE HAVE 12-year-old Michelito Lagravere who’s already killed 300 bulls in his short life -–the first one at the age of six—but can’t get into the Guinness Book of Records. (“We don’t accept records based on the killing or harming of animals” explains its website). But Michelito who, says Details, “has a preternatural confidence in his own future greatness”, isn’t too concerned, because he’ll become a full-fledged matador when he’s 14, like his father before him. Then he’ll be ready to earn the million of dollars a year that top Mexican matadors routinely pull in.

IT’S NO BIG SURPRISE to learn that the people who climb Everest are not suffused with a warm spirit of friendly cooperation. Jealously, one-up-manship and downright obstruction are more likely, reports the Journal of Consumer Research, as “status-seeking” climbers “jostle for position…far from any spirit of real community. Money versus personal skill and experience compete as climbers argue that they deserve to summit the mountain while others there do not”. The Journal’s researchers discovered that climbers were most likely to be focused on their individual accomplishments, and they surmised that the commercial aspects of the endeavor reinforced “an individualistic and competitive ethos that I, the climber, am the only one who matters”.

THE MOST HATED BAND in the world is the proud inscription on the T-shirts of the Insane Clown Posse (ICP) and, of course, its two members—Joseph Bruce, 38, and Joey Utsler, 36—couldn’t be prouder of the title. “The more (they) are shunted to the margins, whether by critics, labels, or kvetchy bloggers, the more their outcast fans love them” explains Wired which describes a visit to the Detroit HQ of Psychopathic Records. There in a vast warehouse, a staff of 30 tend to a recording studio, an Internet radio station (www.FUCKOFF) and other ICP acts ranging from killer-rap, gangsta-zombie rap and southern-Gothic rap. Indeed, it takes all kinds…

“To train, equip and maintain one American soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan for one year costs a cool million dollars.”
—Andrew J. Bacevich in the Atlantic



UNSEEN BY MOST Americans, the Kremlin-financed Russia Today television network devotes much of its programming to making America look bad, says Intelligence Report, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

One of its favorite themes, for example, is that of the “9/11 truthers” who suspect the U.S. government of being behind the attack on the World Trade Center, publishing on its website suggestions that it may have been “an inside job”. Unsurprisingly, the “birther” nuts who maintain that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. also get sympathetic treatment with the channel, failing to point out that the birth certificate is posted on the Internet. “Russia Today is clearly serving the interests of those who promote the burgeoning Patriot Movement” the report concludes.

BOTH THE “birthers” and the “truthers” are discussed in the Humanist by Brian Trent who explains that their “blind allegiance” thrives on the false principle that all opinions are equal. “even those without a shred of factual data, documentation or reasoned methodology”. Trent says that throughout history there have always been irrational true believers but ominously “we have taken this tendency to new heights”. In 2009, he writes, half the U.S, population accepted creationism—“one of the only developed nations where the subject is even a debate anymore”.

“Only when they give me no choice!. If they say to me, ‘Boss, you must fuck me or I will kill myself’, then I do it. Think if I don’t! The karma!”
—Bikram Choudhury,64, billionaire owner of 5,000 yoga studios asked if he has sex with his students

THE WILCOCK WEB: The U.S. always seems to find some good reason to back a dictator but it usually turns out to be not such a great idea in the long run. Especially when power changes hands. If we have to pay dictators $3bn a year to keep the peace, maybe we should impose some conditions…..Some countries have friends because they share common interests. America has friends because it buys them....That commission investigating why the country got into such a financial mess, reports that the financial industry spent $2.7bn in advance lobbying.. Oh, and another billion went for bribes to politicians. Business as usual, then….“Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for” quipped Will Rogers...…If all those produce-nothing Wall Streeters would give up their bonuses for just one year, most states wouldn’t have a financial problem. (And if the insurance companies were kicked out of the medical business, we wouldn’t have a health problem either)….Alcohol is more dangerous than illegal drugs, according to research by Britain’s Center or Crime and Justice Studies, which reported that booze is connected to higher death rates and a greater percentage of crime than most drugs… Publishers and agents are arguing over what the author’s royalty should be on e-books….What happens if you get scared half to death twice?…In Uganda there are already twice as many people with a mobile phone as have electricity….. California’s glorious Huntington Museum, which began as a ranch in 1903, has returned part of its site to a ranch, incorporating the original orange grove…. The logical conclusion to


Consumer Reports magazine

the NRA’s twisted reasoning is that if everybody was armed, there’d be less shooting….Right from childhood we’re all taught that arsenic and strychnine will kill within seconds, so why are only impossible-to-get drugs needed for the death penalty?…...Now there’s a sensor-equipped trash can ($225) that opens up when it sees you coming …. When the Feds hand over millions of bucks of taxpayers’ money to banks, why not make it obligatory that they can’t foreclose on anybody who continues to pay rent?….. .Canada’s prohibition of vehicles from sections of the border to allow access by bears, is a threat to security claim U.S. Border agents….Gun freaks are complaining about a new California law intended to stop delivery of ammunition bought on the Internet without further checks…. Holland, of all places, is trying to close down illegal marihuana plantations, and has issued scratch ‘n’ sniff cards so that people who seek to file complaints can identify the smell (does any Dutchman not know the smell of pot?) … If people from Poland are called Poles, why aren't people from Holland called Holes?….An English company (surfaceview.co.uk) specializes in converting pretty well any picture into a huge mural that fills an entire wall of your room….… Now that scientists have devised a headset that enables people to power video games with just their mind, can they eventually use it to power other people’s minds?--Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.—Langston Hughes (Feb 1, 1902-1967)

1/29/11

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