the column of lasting insignificance: Apr. 28, 2012
by John Wilcock
MITT ROMNEY’S FRIENDS and backers range from the merely greedy to the shamefully unscrupulous. One of them is Paul Singer, founder of the $19bn hedge fund Elliott Management, in which onepercenter Mitt is an investor. How Elliott makes its millions is by buying the debt of struggling economies like that of Peru and then suing them when they can’t pay up. Sadly, some judges go along with the rip-off which means more hard times for poor Peruvians. They must love America, over there. Fortune says the “joke” about Singer in hedge fund circles used to be that he’s “to the right of Attila the Hun”.
SPEAKING OF JUDGES it’s about time more of them used their commonsense and stopped jailing people for minor offenses (especially drugs). Two million prisoners behind bars in America—more proportionally than any other country in the world. Some of those judges should be in jail themselves and as for the Supremos, at least three of them shouldn’t even be in office considering how biased they’ve shown themselves to be.
ONE OF THE WORLD’s biggest mining companies, the British/Australian-owned Rio Tinto company which has been accused of desecrating almost every country in which it has operated, is under fire for what Robert Redford has termed “the worst corporate assault on America’s natural heritage”. Rio Tinto’s plan is to gouge a two-mile wide pit beside Alaska’s Bristol Bay, producing not just copper but 10 billion tons of toxic waste, threatening salmon, bears, whales, seals and eagles. A full-page ad in the New York Times asked the company “What part of NO don’t you understand?” in reference to the overwhelmingly negative 80% vote of locals that rejected the company’s plan. Rio Tinto has claimed that “Good community relations” are necessary to its success but nevertheless are challenging the vote in court.
ARIANNA’S HUFFPOST has become the most-visited of all the internet’s media sites and is launching clones in many European cities, often in partnership with the big daily newspapers there. Brazil and Japan are next in Arianna’s sights. London’s Daily Mail is close behind with viewers, one-third of them in America. Both the Mail and its leftwing rival the Guardian have hired dozens of editorial staff in this country. The New York Times’ website is among the top four with millions of viewers for whom it maintains a partial pay-wall.
SUNDAY MORNING PUNDITS tend to be “very narrow, very white and male, and overwhelmingly conservative declares Peter Hart in the Media Watch Group magazine FAIR. And it’s boringly true that the same familiar faces appear over and over again ad infinitum. The mag studied all four political shows and determined them as being “extra ordinarily friendly terrain for the right” with 43% of the guests categorized as middle-of-the-road Beltway political reporters. For less than a year, the internationally-known correspondent Christiane Amanpour hosted ABC’s This Week but her international pieces and interviews with people rarely seen on Sunday shows “no doubt contributed to her being replaced in less than a year”.
ANOTHER $7MILLION GIFT to members of Congress was part of the $87million spent on lobbying by the tobacco companies in the past couple of years. That’s according to Mother Jones which reports that smoking is still the leading of cause of death in this country with 350,000 billion cigarettes smoked each year. The 400,000 Americans who die from smoking is the equivalent of two jumbo jets crashing each day, the mag says, bringing to our attention a new book, Golden Holocaust, by Robert Proctor which summarizes thousands of secret documents and which the industry tried to prevent being published.
THE VENERABLE HOMES maintained by Britain’s National Trust are loosening up their strict policies, removing Do Not Touch signs, dressing up the guides in period costumes allowing chairs to be sat upon and pianos to be played. It’s all about “making houses come alive” reports history lecturer Anna Whitelock in BBC History, emphasizing “the rich daily life within their houses that the Trust is now looking to make visible”. The Trust has 3.8 million members and they are not all are pleased with this break with fusty tradition, being especially riled by the justification is Trust chairman Simon Jenkins that “there are things to learn from Disney”.
INTERNATIONAL WATER COMPANIES that seek to own the water supplies of other countries, an ominous trait one might think, have been joined by China’s Investment Corporation (CIC) which has paid at least $800million to acquire 85% of London’s water supply, Thames Water. Abu Dhabi owns another ten per cent. CIC boss Lou Jiwei told The Week that Britain was “one of the world’s most open economies”, with 400 Chinese companies owning or part-owning British businesses. The mag says that luxury-seeking Chinese shoppers spent an average of $5,000 each while Christmas shopping in Harrods department store.
WIND POWER is getting a bad press on both sides of the Atlantic as experts have begun to question its efficiency and wealthy homeowners complain that its structures are spoiling the view. But perhaps more serious are the complaints about the number of birds that are being lost to the whirling blades of hundreds of turbines. “America’s wind industry has a license to kill” charges the Wall Street Journal which reveals that among the 10,000 birds that die each year after crashing into the thousands of turbines in California’s Altamount Pass, are golden eagles, owl, kestrels and other protected species.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Nice to know we still have so much money to give away. Apparently when we finally get out of Afghanistan we're going to keep tossing them $4bn a year for Hamid Karzai to share with his crooked pals.... How many of tubby Kim Jong Un’s army generals think their immature commander-in-chief is a complete asshole but are too frightened to say so?....If Mitt Romney reverted to his original position about most things, he’d be well suited to run as Obama’s vp….The shocking thing about The Hunger Games is how few critics think there’s anything wrong with a movie that presents kids killing kids as a sport to be admired…. “If you find yourself in a hole” says The Ol’ Farmer. “the first thing to do is to stop diggin’”….Spurred by the news that eight million British dogs are overweight, a pet insurance company has invented a dog stairlift to transport Fido upstairs without
effort… Security companies are warning about electronic charging stations in malls and airports, some of which have been tampered with and will steal your data…Currently popular with young mothers in Brooklyn: the $2 babyccinno consisting of steamed milk and foam topped with chocolate powder….Physicists at UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory complains of the continuing shortage of helium to operate their neutron beams because so much of it is being consumed by people inflating children’s party balloons…In his recently published autobiography, actor Frank Langella recalls Laurence Olivier’s immodest confession to him that as a youth he dreamed of standing naked in a museum while people paid to worship him….The 45c stamp is a bargain compared with the new price of a first class stamp in Britain which is now 60p (92c)… Now there’s a $3,000 wheeled suitcase with headlights at the front and a seat on which you can ride it thru the airport (www.boxxcorp.com)….Stores reports the arrival (in Beverly Hills) of the first of a projected chain of gourmet cupcake machines with $4 buns available 24/7….Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson may have backed Newt Gingrich with millions but he still has plenty left, and he’s about to commit $21bn to building a new gambling resort, Euro-Vegas in Spain. He hasn’t yet decided whether it will be in Barcelona or Madrid….Prizes and rewards of all kinds are offered by sweepstakes listed at Contests.About.com….. The type of camping offered by Paws Up in Montana, with bathrooms in the tents, and art on the walls , is called glamping and costs $1000 per night…. How much can you trust a man who spends all night with a hooker and then won’t pay her in the morning?.... Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.—Will Rogers (1879-1935)
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— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Steve Allen derides TV columnist; Marlene Dietrich--glamorous grandmother
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Chatting with Marilyn Monroe
— Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
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It was the first handwritten letter I’d received in 5 years. Or maybe 10. Signed by John Wilcock, a man I’d never heard of, and postmarked Ojai, Calif., it was waiting for me when I returned from my São Paulo-to-New York summer trip. Mr. Wilcock wrote that he had been an assistant editor at The Times Travel section back in the 1950s, and had written the first editions of “Mexico on $5 a Day,” “Greece on $5 a Day” and “Japan on $5 a Day” for Arthur Frommer in the 1960s.
By George, I thought. This man was the original Frugal Traveler.
by John Wilcock
"A GOOD WAY to describe John Wilcock is to say that he is a talented bohemian counter-culture journalist who once played a major role in the emergence of America’s underground press. Born 1927 in Sheffield, England, he left school aged 16 to work on various newspapers in England, and on Toronto periodicals before moving to New York City. There in 1955 he became one of the five founders of the Village Voice in which he and co-founder Norman Mailer wrote weekly columns. Wilcock called his column “The Village Square”, an intended pun. He and young Mailer were not quite friends, although Wilcock was at times annoyed, but always amused, by Mailer’s monstrous ego."
-From the preface of Manhattan Memories, by Martin Gardner
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