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the column of lasting insignificance: Oct. 27, 2012
by John Wilcock

“America is now ruled by the few—the wealthy and powerful who have become this country’s ruling class. Lacking a civic or moral compass, it’s a peer group…with no mission except to wall in the money within its ranks to ever-greater success. We have become a plutocracy in which the few enact programs that promote their narrow interest at the expense of the many.”
—Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele in The Betrayal of the American Dream

TWENTY-EIGHT PAGES from a Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 were censored when the report came out and have remained so. They are believed to contain evidence of just how much the Saudi Arabian government was behind the attack but are part of what former Florida senator Bob Graham describes as “the carefully orchestrated campaign to protect our Saudi ‘friends’”.
    “Re-Open the 9/11 Investigation Now” the senator demands, adding that the story of who may have facilitated the 19 hijackers and the infrastructure that supported the attacks—a crucial element of the narrative—has not been told.
    From the outset of the Congressional Inquiry, Graham says, it seemed implausible that the hijackers who spoke no English and had never been to the U.S.—could have executed the heinous plot on their own. It was known that Mohamed Atta was in contact with a San Diego couple (who left the country suddenly); other Saudi families here left hurriedly after similar contacts with Saudi visitors, and you might recall George Bush’s secretive evacuation of Osama Bin Laden’s entire family on a specially chartered plane right after 9/11.
    “Did the hijackers execute the plot alone, or did they have the support of forces other than the known leaders?” Graham asks. “It is not merely a question of the need to complete the historical record. It is a matter of national security today.
    “If a support network was available to the terrorists before 9/11, why should we think it has now disbanded or been rolled up? It may still be in place, capable of supporting al-Qaeda or other extremist groups that hate America—of which there are many”.

ONE YEAR AFTER the Occupy movement peaked, says the Nation, the media lost interest, giving the impression that the movement no longer exists. “In a society ruled by capitalism and hierarchy, anarchist utopia isn’t easy to keep up for long”. But people organizing for economic justice, especially young people, now know each other, the magazine points out, having practiced direct democracy in general assemblies and risked their bodies in direct actions. They are talking with each other, creating networks and building their capacity for future action. “We’ve formed really close bonds” says Chris Longenecker, one of Occupy Wall Street’s organizers, and the mag adds that young people who once were merely interested in social change “are now committed to it”.

at signITS REAL NAME is the “at sign”, as you doubtless know, but it didn’t just arrive with the internet. The first documented use, says the Smithsonian, was in the 16th century by a Florentine merchant who used it to denote units of wine called amphorae. It retained a role in commerce signifying “at the rate of” but didn’t appear on the first typewriters in the mid-1800s or even in the computer punch-card tabulating systems, half a century later. In 1971, it was reintroduced by computer scientist Ray Tomlinson who was seeking a way to connect people who programmed computers with one another. “I was mostly looking for a symbol that wasn’t used much” he explains. Everybody loved it, even the Museum of Modern Art which cited its modern use as an example of “elegance, economy, intellectual transparency and a sense of the possible future directions that are imbedded in the arts of our time”.

MANUFACTURING METH is no casual enterprise, it requires a meticulously observed formula, and when Donna Nelson first watched television’s Breaking Bad, it seemed to her that producer Vince Gilligan didn’t know it. “He said that neither he nor his writers knew the formula and so they had to rely on Wikipedia and the web.” Donna, a chemistry professor at the University of Oklahoma, says. “When I read that I thought, ‘we scientists are always complaining about shows getting the science wrong…This would be a great opportunity to work with one’”. So she followed up, with a trip to meet stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul at AMC’s Burbank studios and told them how to do it right (for fictional purposes, of course). “The show is now in its fifth season” says Pacific Standard, “and Nelson is clearly enjoying the secondhand glamour it brings her…she’s hoping to leverage her Hollywood cred by making a public service announcement warning Oklahomans about the dangers of crank”.

THE ANTI-SCIENCE STANCE that has been attributed to the Republicans is a relatively recent phenomenon according to Chris Mooney, whose new book, The Republican Brain, attempts to define the major philosophies of the major parties. “The big change in the Republican Party came when it allied itself with the religious right—a marriage consummated by Reagan—in an effort to build a successful political coalition between fiscal and social conservatives,” he writes. Controversially, Mooney suggests that whereas liberals are more likely to change their beliefs based on factual evidence, conservatives may refuse to consider new evidence once their minds are made up. But it’s the Dogmatic Brain we need to worry about, not the liberal, conservative, Democratic or Republican Brain, he declares. “Dogmatism blinds people to reality. Dogmatists will dismiss inconvenient facts that threaten their deeply held beliefs. This is true for fascists and communists; it’s true for extreme liberals and extreme conservatives; and it’s true for the devoutly religious—a group that unfortunately is currently holding the Republican Party in thrall”.

Why is Romney still in the race? asks The Washington Spectator claiming that “a divided popular vote in this election is a symptom of a system in crisis”. The newsletter reminds its readers that Romney made his fortune as a predator, “buying and flipping companies in the United States. Now he keeps much of it beyond the reach of the federal agency that pays for national defense, Medicaid, food safety, college grants and the space program (not to mention the salary, transportation and security for the president.”

DAVE LETTERMAN’S TOP TEN list is echoed in the AARP magazine with a top ten list about him in which no. 3 is “Religiously avoids public places. If Johnny Carson was a hermit, David is a recluse”. The list was compiled by Tom Dreesen, described as one of the talk show host’s ‘comedy pals’ who says that once Dave leaves the show, he “won’t make any comebacks, (he’ll) pack it up and you’ll never see him again”.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Why are we killing and being killed in Afghanistan for two more years, a country that doesn’t want us and which will return to Taliban rule whether we leave now or later? Why are we still pouring billions into Pakistan, a country that actively dislikes us?.... The next president may get the chance to appoint four Supreme Court Justices, warns The Kiplinger Letter, pointing out that Ginsburg, Breyer, Scalia and Kennedy are all in their seventies …..People who bitch about the millions it costs to maintain the death penalty to eliminate murderers, don’t seem concerned that we spend many times as much on drone-killing innocent strangers in other countries……Hundreds of cell phones are smuggled into jails by prison guards (in exchange for money or sex) but the California Correctional Peace Officers Association says it would be ‘insulting’ to search their union members… Reviewing Vagina: a new biography in the National Review, Florence King writes “Naomi Wolf's new book makes going back to the womb sound more like going through a car wash:”…..At least one lesson gained from the recent revelations about how Wall Street manipulated Main Street, may be the revelation about how easily the financial system can be diverted by skillful techies, something that will surely prove irresistible to skillful revolutionaries… New York’s Bauman Rare Books is advertising signed copies of autobiographies by ten presidents, the most expensive being by JFK ($11,000), Theodore Roosevelt ($9,000) and FDR ($7,000)….And in a two-page spread, Art in America displayed the prints by Gehry, Johns, Serra, Ruscha, Rosenquist and 14 others comprising Artists for Obama, a portfolio offered for $28,000. Single prints unavailable but $250 buys you a shot in the sweepstakes…..If they’re ever looking for a real scary cast for a play about Halloween, the models in the New York Times Style Section would be a good place to start… The simplest way to stop Apple making their products obsolete every few months is for customers to stop buying the new versions…. How pathetic it is that Russia and the U.S. can’t jointly explore space together instead of wasting billions duplicating each other’s programs…. …Revelations of how widespread and long-lasting was homosexuality in the Boy Scouts, may explain why the organization fought so hard to keep out young gays. But was it also the reason why gays fought so hard to join?.....
Elephants Eating Pumpkin Overweight elephants who star in religious festivals in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu have been put on a weight loss program after too much captive junk food of rice, salt and energy-giving sugar. One pampered pachyderm has already lost a ton of fat….Accused of favoring the PRI candidate Peña Nieto (the subsequent winner) by not airing a debate in Mexico’s presidential election and said to control 70% of the media market, Televisa may get broken up by the government it helped to elect forecasts Fortune….Entrepreneurs, designers and developers will dissect their failures at an Francisco’s FailCon on Oct 22…. After acknowledging their fealty on Facebook or Twitter, patrons of Manhattan’s Bull and Bear Steakhouse are offered a $1 discount on cocktails each day for every one per cent the stock market declines….“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”—Charles Darwin (1809-92)

2012: It's the rich against the rest

10/20/12

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