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the column of lasting insignificance: July 14, 2012
by John Wilcock

Missionary work also teaches young Mormons to persevere despite harsh odds. They must sell a product for which there is almost no demand; an idiosyncratic version of Christianity that teaches that Christ made a post-resurrection visit to the United States; that the Garden of Eden may have been in Missouri and that drinking alcohol is a sin”. Schumpter in the Economist

SKEPTICISM ABOUT MORMONS is still widespread, declares the Utne Reader’s new editor, and Mitt Romney hasn’t done anything like enough to convince many devout Christians “who have been taught to view Mormons with a wary eye’”. From outspending his opponents to shifting further to the right, Christian Williams notes, “Romney has tried just about everything to sew up the nomination except conviction (but his faith) “is a deal breaker no matter how attractive his other qualities might be”. The magazine’s June issue reprinted a piece from The American Scholar in which Jennifer Sinor recalled the constant harassment to convert to the faith she underwent when living in Utah, a state (she wrote) where magazines are on display with all visible skin covered but which has the highest Internet pornography subscription rate in the country. Utne also, however, reprints an essay from the Salt Lake City Weekly which reveals the existence of the Atheists of Utah Valley which helps former Mormons in “spiritual disengagement”. The younger generation, it claims, ”is dropping out of religion at five to six times the historic rate”.

ELVIS IS BACK if, indeed, he ever left. A company called Digital Domain, which included “a digitally wizened Brad Pitt” in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and a “digitally youthened” Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy is already creating Elvis likenesses, says Variety. It recently signed a deal with Core Media Group to insert the showbiz legend into “a range of entertainment projects” which would include live shows, film, and TV. Core’s parent company, Apollo Global Management, currently manages such brands as and Muhammad Ali.

MAYBE COMMON SENSE is finally beginning to make some headway and the word ‘socialism’ will stop scaring the ignorant idiots who don’t seem to know that it means public ownership, government ownership—you know, like Medicare, Social Security and the Post Office, “Public ownership in certain sectors of the economy is the only way to solve some of America’s most pressing problems” claim Gar Alperovitz and Thomas M. Hanna. “Take the financial arena where the current recession was hatched. Today, five big banks control more than one-third of all deposits. Wall Street claims this makes it more efficient (how ‘efficient’ are institutions that didn’t know they were carrying a huge backload of underwater loans?) but they were all deeply involved in creating the meltdown that cost taxpayers billions in bail outs and the overall economy trillions”. Efforts are under way, the writers say in the Nation, to create state-owned banks like the one in North Dakota. Legislation exploring or creating such banks has been introduced in seventeen states.
    “The first step toward public ownership is recognizing that it is not the radical departure most imagine it to be”. And it has many advantages. “Private companies all too frequently run off to China or Mexico looking for cheap labor, leaving behind unemployed workers and wasted cities. Public enterprises stay here, maintaining jobs and sustaining rather than abandoning our communities”.
    And there’s always this stupid health system that the US suffers. “The Medicare administrator made a base salary of approximately $170,000 in 2010. Stephen Hemsley, CEO of United Health Group, made a base salary of $1.3 million and received $101 million that same year. Our extraordinarily wasteful healthcare system costs twice as much as that of other nations.

ARCHITECTURAL RECORD magazine commends Starbucks (17,000 stores in 58 countries) for “raising its design ambitions” in accord with its different surroundings. In Amsterdam, for example, one of its outlets in a converted bank vault includes a wall of bicycler tubes, Delft blue tiles and a mural paying tribute to the Dutch coffee trade.

Starbuck Shipping Containers CafeStarbucks at Tutwila, WA photo credit: Tom Ackerman

In a Fukuoka city park in Japan, the cedar-clad shop nestles into a group of trees and wood plays a major part in the “weblike composition” of “a head-turning café” in the city of Dazaifu. Perhaps the most adventurous project is the cafe composed of four cargo containers in Tutwila, WA. “We”ve never done this before” says designer Anthony Perez. “It’s created a lot of conversation”.

THE 18TH ANNUAL O. Henry Pun-Off World Championship in Austin was won this year by 25-year-old Gracie Deegan who works on the concierge desk at a Whole Foods store. “I am really worried about the Middle East” (she told the audience).

“ I mean this is a Syria situation for Shah! And if we don’t find a solution Sunni, I Farsi the Shiite is really gonna hit the fan.”

SURROGACY IS ILLEGAL in China but, of course, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take place. At least 500 agencies cater to the wishes of wealthy Chinese who have paid for 25,000 children to be born to surrogate mothers since the country initiated its ‘one-child’ rule 30 years ago. And this year, an auspicious Year of the Dragon, record numbers of such births are expected. The entire process—costing about $48,000, of which the mother gets almost half and the agent $3 to $,4000—has attracted bargain-seeking childless couples from overseas, too. Singapore’s The Straits Times says customers can care for the surrogate mother themselves or pay $472 per month for an apartment with nanny. It explains that the reasons for the growing demand is couples marrying later and postponing having a family; the millions of Chinese who are sterile or, simply, vanity in that many career women seek to maintain their svelte figures.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Justice John Roberts' advisers obviously told him that the Supremos needed to do some pr work before issuing those recent decisions…..Just a few days before, a “retired educator” in St Louis, MO. Had paid for a quarter-page ad in the New York Times accusing the Court of “ideological biases moral cowardice and lack of integrity”. The Supremes, he wrote, were…”a shame upon my beloved nation. I fervently hope history will judge you to be among the worst justices to serve on the most important court in the world”…..Anticipating a Greek withdrawal from the Euro, the 189-year-old British company, De La Rue, that prints banknotes for most of the world’s currencies, is rumored to have printed “warehouses stuffed with pre-printed drachmas”….Will the new Mexican government eventually turn to those new miniature drones to track down and eliminate elusive drug cartel bosses?.... “The only way not to think about money” quipped Edith Wharton, “is to have a great deal of it.”…..Norman Mailer’s old home in Provincetown is being sold by the family and the writers’ group currently in residence are trying to raise three and half million bucks to buy it…What is it with this surfeit of movies whose heroes are zombies, vampires or teddy bears? Can you honestly claim to be a grown-up if you’re paying to watch this sort of garbage?....Producers of a forthcoming biopic about Jimi Hendrix have been unable to secure the rights to any original songs.....”We’re number two” claimed Wendy’s hamburgers, boasting to Stores magazine that they’d overtaken Burger King….Billions of dollars spent over countless years have finally revealed an invisible sub-atomic particle which may (or may not) explain how life began. Scientists are celebrating, but not because the world’s a better place…. The English language is now so widely taught and learned in the Middle East and Gulf States—especially among the affluent—that educators are worried that Arabic is beginning to disappear, especially in business and journalism….One of the world’s biggest junk mailers (up to 75 million pieces a year) complained to the Postal Service that their mostly unwanted crap is being delivered late ….A Fast Company poll recorded that 73% of Americans would give up alcohol rather than the Internet…. The U.S, taking only an average of only 12 vacation days per year is beaten only by Japan, which takes five (Brazilians take 30)…. “Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain't bothering you none” advises The Ol’ Farmer…Asked what writer, living or dead, he’d most like to meet, novelist John Irving replied: “There’s nothing I need or want to know from the writers I admire that isn’t in their books. It’s better to read a good writer than meet one.”….….London supermarket chain Tesco has positioned a live

Broccoli cam
photo credit: Stores magazine

video camera above the broccoli stand, linked to a system that monitors the inventory level and automatically orders replacements when needed….Miffed by a forthcoming visit to Gibraltar by some of Britain’s Royals, Spain ordered its Queen Sofia not to attend Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations….….”People who think they know everything” complained Isaac Asimov, ”are a great annoyance to those of us who do"….Advisers to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth have recommended dropping the outdated word ‘empire’ which still accompanies many of the royal medals that are awarded….Next month, CBS is sending a giant bus across country, handing out souvenirs and promoting some of its network shows….In Texas you can pay forty bucks to work out your anger by destroying a furnished room…. A letter in Inc. makes the sensible suggestion that USPS should collaborate with the TSA in making sure that travelers whose items that get confiscated can mail them home….. A rubber-band pistol was confiscated from algebra class as a weapon of math disruption…..”Only a malicious person is always at his best”—Somerset Maugham (1864-1965)

The war on drugs cannot be won




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