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the column of lasting insignificance: Nov. 10, 2012
by John Wilcock

“Election day is now dominated by a handful of secretive corporations with interlocking ownership, strong partisan ties to the far right and executives who revolve among them like beans in a shell game…Many of the key staffers behind our major voting machine companies have been accused or convicted of a dizzying array of white collar crimes, including conspiracy, bribery, bid-rigging, computer fraud, tax fraud, stock fraud, mail fraud, extortion and drug trafficking… we have actually lost the ability to verify election results.”
—Victoria Collier in the November Harper’s on ‘How to Rig an Election’

IT’S INEVITABLE THAT as we get nearer to December the media will be more and more filled with silly nonsense about how the Mayans predicted the world was going to end next month. The main thing to note, however, is that the Mayans said nothing of the sort, as an art show at Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology seeks to prove. The Philadelphia show, MAYA 2012: Lords of Time which will run until January, was organized by Loa Traxler and Simon Martin “to expose the lie of this prediction”.

K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo'
Ceramic censer lid depicting Copan
founder K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo',
ca 695, 28 x 16 x 15 inches.
Courtesy Honduran institute of Anthropology and History.

It’s true that the Mayans—whose origins date back to 2000 BC—were fascinated with time, but what the date of December 21, 2012 (in our calendar) represented to them was just the close of one of their 5,125-year segments, the way we measure by millenn.ia. “Another myth the show addresses and dispels” says Art in America, “is that with the fall of their cities in the ninth century the Maya disappeared… (but) in the highlands of Central America where over five million Maya still speak over 30 dialects, not only are the Maya alive and well but—astoundingly—they have maintained a certain self-sufficiency and continuity with the past”. Massive ruins are still maintained at Copan, in Honduras near the Guatemalan border, a major Mayan capital from the 5th to 9th centuries. Its first ruler K’inich Yax K’uk Mo’ is often portrayed as the rain god Tlaloc with distinctive goggle eyes.

THINGS A MAN should never say at work is a one-page feature in Esquire’s fall supplement which is devoted to the subject of working. Some listings:

  • Why don’t more of us have nicknames?
  • You’re the boss’’ [When speaking to the boss].
  • That’s not how we did it at my last job.
  • I’m sorry she’s in the bathroom. Can I have her call you back?
  • It’s called Zumba. I’ve lost 12 pounds.
  • Any nautical idiom. Including but not limited to: smooth sailing, hard-and-fast, cut of his job,, ahoy, batten down the hatches, learn the ropes, scuttlebutt

FORECASTING THE FINANCIAL FUTURE has been Roger Bootle’s game for more than a decade. In successive books he predicted the bursting of the dotcom bubble and the worldwide housing crash. Now he says the breakup of the Euro zone—with weaker countries dropping the Euro—is all but inevitable and continued bailouts are just buying time. “Far from a disaster” asserts the 60-year-old British economist, “the breakup of the Euro is the only way to bring back growth and get Europe out of this mess”. It will be tough at first for Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain—the so-called PIIGS—because the cost of their productiveness has caused their inability to compete and the only way to get it back is letting high unemployment grind down wages, raising taxes, and slashing government spending. But, as occurred in Argentina after its currency was devalued, the economies would start growing again within a year. “The truth is”, he tells Fortune, “the politicians have got it totally wrong. They waffle and get lots of money from the public sector to buy time, but the markets win in the end”.

“Leadership is about doing what you think is right and then building a constituency behind it. It is not doing a poll and then following from the back…What leaders should do is make decisions as to what they think is in the public interest based on the best advice that they can get, and then try and build a constituency and bring it along.”
—New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg in the Atlantic

NOT MANY PEOPLE are fond of notaries, comments the Economist. Although they may be “important gatekeepers” in many economies, they are also regarded by some as “overpaid bureaucrats who delay the passage of simple transactions and bloat their cost”. But while they are losing their privileges in Europe—in France they can compete with lawyers—their authority is growing in Asia. Almost five million notaries exist in America, largely to satisfy this country’s “maddening appetite for stamps and seals” the magazine says.

RUSSIA IS AT A CROSSROADS writes Lilia Shevtsova and if it doesn’t move away from the personalized rule that is “suffocating” it, the country is headed for disaster. “Putin’s return to the presidency leaves no doubt as to where Russia is going. It proves that Putin himself will never voluntarily give up his monopoly on power and his team is not going to carry out either political or economic reform…today’s authorities” she asserts, “are ready to fight for their power until the bitter end”. One of the problems outlined by Ms. Shevtsova, a director at the Carnegie Moscow Center, is that those she terms Russia’s “systemic liberals” have been co-opted, not only working within the government but by trying to “monopolize the right to speak on behalf of liberalism and democracy”. And making it worse has been the “acquiescence “ of the West by ignoring the brazen, even criminal behavior of Russia’s elite who have thus come to believe that the West will always accommodate it. The writer, one of several discussing Russia in the October edition of Current History, adds: “If the current trends continue, Russia will inevitably head into economic, social and geopolitical decline. A country cannot renew itself, after all, if the authorities are intent on maintaining the status quo indefinitely:”.

BY YEAR’S END, 300 bars will be participating in a game by Miami’s Drink Exchange which is described as making the ordering of cocktails much like playing the stock market. The way it works, explains Wired, is that via some algorithm program the price of drinks will rise or fall according to its popularity at any given moment. Television screens denote constantly-changing prices, enabling an alert patron to switch drinks from the crowd at a nearby table orders by conversely ordering some obscure mix that nobody’s currently drinking.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Apparently the U.S. military has decided to sacrifice a lot more men, and kill a lot more Afghans, as the Taliban waits another 14 months for us to leave. How grateful will all those bereaved parents be for our continuation of this fruitless war?...….”The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it” declared a prescient Billy Graham in 1981….A recent study in Psychological Science about reducing stress levels suggested that making an effort to smile while you’re experiencing a stressful event—such as getting trapped in a traffic jam—may benefit your mood and health….…. Applicants for New Jersey driving licenses have been told not to smile when their photograph is being taken…Is the New York Times searching for a new CEO yet? Mark Thompson, the ex-BBC boss who was due to take charge of the paper of record this week, must be either incompetent or in denial to an almost unimaginable degree. During three decades with the broadcaster, he claims he was “unaware’ of a multi-pederast who was notorious throughout the company…. Eager to know how Britain’s satirical magazine, Private Eye, felt about the matter I asked if they would be kind enough to send me relevant issues from which I could quote. PE editor Ian Hislop, a pretentious jerk, replied tersely in four words: “We don’t do that”….A new faster and cheaper way of erecting skyscrapers by a tycoon in China (wouldn’t you know). is being tested with a 220-story high rise going up in Hunan province. It’s built by stacking prefabricated modules atop one another and then connecting wires and pipes on the site…..Impresario Bill Graham (d. 1991) commissioned 287 posters for his shows

The Byrds poster

at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium in the psychedelic Sixties, and music fan Tony Newhall was savvy enough to collect the first 62 of them, which he’s now donated to the Huntington Library. Almost all of these including the one for The Byrds and Moby Grape (above) were done by Wes Wilson, now 75…… DEFT DEFINITION: Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web….…Smoked beer is hot right now reports Details, listing various brews created mostly with malt that’s been infused with smoldering birch, beech wood or peat….…...“Until the for-profit health insurance industry is replaced with single-payer national health insurance program, Americans will continue to suffer and die for the sake of excessive corporate salaries and shareholder profits”—writes New Yorker Dr. Elaine FoxStores magazine reported the arrest of a man in Florida who admitted his goal had been to shoplift in all 50 states within the same year….A Peruvian root vegetable called maca, ground into a powder and mixed with milk, is the latest fad among the health bar crowd which is always seeking a new one…. In last week’s issue of America’s least-needed magazine—it should be called Paucity instead of Parade—a woman wrote a full-page essay about how she hasn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey…. Along with a note from the Dalai Lama and an appeal for funds to help keep the pressure on China, the Campaign for Tibet (www.savetibet.org) encloses a charming Nepal-woven prayer flag…. Why doesn’t the TSA just confiscate the guns of airline travelers who “forgot” they were in their bags?....”You won the elections, but I won the count.” –Anastasio Somoza (1925-80)

Goodbye Mittens. And don’t come back,
‘cos a third time
wouldn’t be any luckier for you...




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Bagan, Myanmar (Burma):
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