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the column of lasting insignificance: August 25, 2012
by John Wilcock

“Economists, we should all have learned by now, are mostly quacks. They practice neither a science nor an art but a bad game of darts. Boozed up on shoddy theory and meaningless statistics they..hurl an arrow at the board, then blame the flight, the lighting, anything but their own incompetence when it falls to the floor…The economists claim to know what they are talking about and we make the fatal mistake of believing them”
—Philip Delves Broughton in the Spectator

SKIES FULL OF flying robots all carrying out different tasks, and not a few of them watching your every move, are part of the near future. Drones with a license to kill, operated from thousands of miles away, are increasing hugely in a dangerous world where “auto-sniper” systems are already set up on the border between the two Koreas and at the Gaza strip. “Personally, I think democratic nations should not permit autonomous weapons to kill human beings algorithmically without a human being in the loop” declares Daniel Suarez whom critics have designated as the natural heir to the late Michael Crichton’s gloomy predictions. But there is inarguable truth even in scary novels, and Suarez’ recently published Kill Decision points out that as unmanned drones proliferate, there isn’t any international legal framework monitoring their use by either the military or the police. Small ones are cheap to manufacture and thus within reach of virtually any trouble-maker.
    It’s not hard to imagine taking out Mexican drug cartel bosses in their otherwise impregnable mountain hideaways, but what about when these untraceable lethal weapons replace suicide bombers to eliminate a political foe? Not only the US, but China, Russia, India are spending billions to build drones for the military or the police. Even small ones should have visible markings for identification and be registered, Suarez says. “My big concern would be that the public will fail to notice until they’re in widespread use in both government and commercial surveillance—at which point it will be much harder to rein them in”.

TOO MANY WAR MEMORIALS not enough peace memorials declares the Polish artist Krzysztof Wodiczko who has set his sights on transforming the Arc de Triomphe into a monument for peace. Specifically, he wants to “encage” the WW1 monolith (160 feet tall, 148 feet wide) with scaffolding, even if only temporarily, to remind people of “the absurd notion” that after the death of Arc de Triomphemillions of people and destruction of the environment, the end result is peace. “It’s crucial to analyze how war is made, how people are drawn into it, how ideological stereotypes and clichés perpetuate it” he told Art in America. “These subjects can be very closely examined with the help of the physical structure and the media armature I want to build around this famous monument”.

THE BATTLE FOR VIEWERS in what’s claimed to be a trillion-dollar television market for Latino viewers is about to heat up in a big way. ”There’s scarcely a company that’s not scrambling to launch new offerings targeted at American Hispanics” says Forbes which predicts that the 52 million Americans of Latin-American descent will have reached 133 million by mid-century, when one in three Americans will be Hispanic. The big Spanish-language players with be the present leader, Univision, which already reaches 97% of its market and has just launched three new channels; Comcast-owned Telemundo whose 40% increase in live programming will be produced in this country unlike most of the transmissions of its rivals; and Mundo Fox which plans to invest $50 million to reach more than 10 million Spanish households via 60 stations. Rupert Murdoch, 81, is so involved, Forbes reveals, that he’s raising his youngest children to speak Spanish.

THAT SNOOTY LITTLE Vogue writer Joan Juliet Buck was a self-important snob when Andy Warhol first introduced me to her via our magazine Interview 40 years ago. So it didn’t particularly surprise me when the fashionista wrote a fawning profile of the Syrian dictator’s wife. Buck apologized recently in Newsweek, saying “she didn’t know she was going to meet a murderer”. But that’s a lame excuse, says the Weekly Standard, pointing out that there was plenty of evidence even then of Assad’s viciousness. Nevertheless, the magazine comments, “others are as guilty, if not more so”. They name Barbara Walters, Bob Simon, Brian Williams and Scott Pelley, “who flattered Assad for the sake of trying to get an interview. But who is calling them to account?”

WOMEN MODERATORS will be part of the presidential debates this year for the first time since ABC’s Carole Simpson questioned George H.W.Bush, Ross Perot and Bill Clinton back in 1992. CNN’s Candy Crowley and ABC’s Martha Raddatz will share moderating duties with Jim Lehrer of PBS and CBS’ Bob Schieffer. Restricting the moderators to men, says women’s studies professor Mildred Antenor sends the message that men are in charge “and men are the only ones who are capable of that type of work”. Of the 17 members of the Commission on Presidential debates, only three are women, and in an era when an all-male Congressional panel can rage on about women’s reproductive rights, declares the media newsletter Extra!, “it’s imperative that a woman pose questions to the presidential candidates about future policies that will affect her gender”.

IN THE DAYS WHEN snail mail was more widely in use it was not unusual for some artists and writers, myself included, to send unsolicited individual art samples to people they thought might enjoy them. Few of the recipients ever replied, of course. “People who are normal (i.e. sane, sensible) don’t try to open lines of communication with total strangers” says Ida Applebroog who, along with artists such as Susan Fishgold and the guru of mail art, Ray Johnson, infiltrated my mail box in the Sixties and Seventies.

You Are the Patient Gourds Relating
Ida Applebroog Susan Fishgold

For Ida, now 83, it’s finally paid off with a huge exhibition at Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, for which she has reproduced 750,000 posters which are handed out free to visitors. The summer edition of Art in America—dedicated to artists who buck the status quo—also contains a poster by Ida whom editor Lindsay Pollock describes as “indomitable”.

IT’S NOT EXACTLY WW3, but a huge international conflict is brewing in a section of the Pacific where half a dozen countries are vying for ownership of a score of islands, some hardly bigger than the handful of rocks from which their flags flutter. China is the chief claimant, last month declaring Sansha City on Woody Island—186 miles from the Chinese coast—to be the center of government for a whole range of islands, some of which are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. China pushes through diplomatic opposition as if were “wet rice paper” complained the Sydney Morning Herald. Its fishing boats and ships have been in at least a score of serious clashes with ships from Vietnam and the Philippines. Although ownership of the islands has been in dispute for years, China says interest from other countries only surfaced when plentiful oil and gas reserves were discovered on the ocean floor. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared the South China Sea to be of ‘vital interest” to Washington.

THE WILCOCK WEB: “We can’t imagine anything in Mitt Romney’s (hidden) tax returns that would make a rational voter turn against him” blurts National Review. Which suggests they don’t have much imagination…. Kalashnikov sales to US buyers have increased by 50% reports the Russian factory that makes the AK-47. Good news for our amateur assassins who’ll now be able to get off more shots before being stopped… What kind of idiots have convinced themselves that there’s no relationship between the number of guns available in this country and the number of people being shot?... Paul D. Ryan—yet another uptight Catholic who wants to impose his restrictive rules on everybody else… We’ll soon be seeing the Aeroscraft overhead, the first in a new generation of 800ft-long, helium-filled blimps capable of carrying 500-ton cargoes for thousands of miles …..Why has Fifty Shades of Grey been so successful? The obvious answer, writes Miriam Gross, is that “a large proportion of women are to some degree closet masochists”….Checking on the unwelcome microbes present in space craft, scientists have warned that salmonella becomes even more virulent when in orbit…When water becomes, as predicted, as valuable as oil, somebody will finally see the wisdom of piping it into perpetually drought-stricken regions…… Lost time, said Benjamin Franklin, is never found again….. Who cares about food shortages, says Agri-business, as long as we can turn corn into ethanol after ignorant Congressmen were bribed to mandate this damaging policy.... If ducks and geese enjoy expanded livers via force-feeding, why not force-feed a few chefs?...... Hit by killer raindrops twice in a minute during a storm, mosquitoes escape by
Evita bill “parachuting” with their legs and wings, say researchers at Georgia Tech…. Hostess Brands, currently in bankruptcy for the second time, lost $341million last year—while selling 323 million Twinkies…..A dozen Chinese millionaires have paid $700,000 to a match-making firm to find them a suitable wife from among the 5,000 women who have applied…. “Sometimes the truth doesn’t lie in the middle, it lies squarely on one side or the other” says Aaron Sorkin. “(But) you’ll never hear the word ‘lie’ on network news when something plainly is a lie”….Two years after their dramatic rescue from being trapped underground for 10 weeks, those Chilean miners have trademarked “The 33 of the Miracle” to sell mugs, T-shirts and medals…. A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two tired….. “Remember this—that there is a proper dignity and proportion to be observed in the performance of every act of life”—Marcus Aurelius (121-180)

2012: It's the rich against the rest




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