the column of lasting insignificance: Feb. 9, 2013
by John Wilcock
IT’S A SAD IRONY that America’s most valuable asset remains at the mercy of the institution that people who have been polled admire less than root canals, colonoscopies or cockroaches. We’re talking about the U.S. Post Office, whose first boss was Benjamin Franklin back in 1791, and about its today’s clueless overseers: the U.S. Congress.
DUBIOUS ETHICS AND LEGALITY are how the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins refers to the increasing use of armed, pilotless aircraft to kill foreign suspects. “Drones are ‘fool’s gold’”, he writes “holding out the promise of risk-free, precision killing”, but merely prolong wars we can’t win by giving an impression of progress while “cutting a glamorous dash on the home front. It’s hard to imagine a greater danger to world peace”. But, in addition to the prospect of pinpointing some definite enemies, such as Mexican drug lords, drones can have their uses. And as they proliferate for law enforcement, oil and gas discovery and wildlife management” predicts Fortune, a lot of jobs will open up for desk-bound ‘pilots’.
“AMERICA HAS CHURCHES like an ice cream parlor has flavors” comments the Philadelphia Trump, yet one-fifth of the public and one-third of adults under 30 no longer claims a religious affiliation. The country that began as a safe haven from persecution, has evolved into the world’s religious marketplace, writes Dennis Leap, filled with Christian churches, Buddhist and Hindu temples, Islamic mosques and countless other denominations. In God We Trust was declared by Congress to be the national motto and Under God was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. And yet, despite all this, “Young Americans came to review religion, according to one survey, as judgmental, homophobic, hypocritical and too political”. The quote comes from a book, American Grace by Robert D. Putnam who explains that the majority of ‘Nones’ (non-believers) come from the center to left of the political spectrum. “They tend to be liberal in their views on gender roles, homosexuality and marihuana. For many, their aversion to religion is rooted in the unease with the association between religion and conservative politics. If religion equals Republican they have decided that religion is not for them”.
AMERICA’S SUBSIDY of the Mexican military is spreading joy among south-of-the-border drug cartels, writes Mary Wakefield. “The more cash America puts into training the Mexican army, the happier the Zetas are, purring over all the potential new recruits”. Because, she explains, the Zetas still enlist recruits from Mexico’s army after they have been trained by American and Israeli special forces in intimidation, ambushing and marksmanship. What Mexico’s new president is currently puzzling over, she writes in the Spectator, is that 40% of the cartels’ business is selling cannabis across the border, much of it headed for states that are legalizing it. “So why should Mexico bust a gut keeping it from getting to America if it’s legal there?”
ALMOST 20,000 GUN-OWNERS in California are supposed to be deprived of their weapons now they have become convicted felons, but Dept. of Justice Firearms chief Stephen Lindley says he lacks staff for the confiscations, which would take three years and cost $25million. But if he offered the gun owners $1,000 apiece to turn in their guns voluntarily it would cost only $20 million and have almost immediate results.
THE WILCOCK WEB: More than half of the members of Congress have an A-rating from the NRA, indicating they are solidly pro-gun. For all the press’s “exuberant” claims of a shift in political opinion, nothing has changed, says The Week quoting Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel. “The more sweeping any gun proposals, the more dead on arrival they will be in Congress”…. US Attorney Melinda Haag, a bully and a coward who’s been closing down San Francisco pot shops, bailed out of a planned public debate when she heard she was gong to asked why she hated AIDS victims who’ve found relief with the blessed herb……The fallout from the Federally-mandated use of corn to make ethanol has “dramatically distorted the market” reports Stores, resulting in billions of dollars to restaurants because of increased prices…..”The war machine is killing this country” shouted Leah Bolger, vp of Veterans for Peace, as she was carried out from a House Armed Services Committee meeting….Spectator columnist Rod Liddle calls Twitter “a conduit for the shriekingly self-obsessed and vapid”… "Wise men talk when they have something to say” noted Plato, “fools because they have to say something" ….. …A three-month hunting season is underway in
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Forty years ago the second of my three books about magic was published, A Guide to Occult Britain (Sidgwick & Jackson) covering a wide range of sites from Stonehenge to Loch Ness and King Arthur country to the witches of Pendle Hill. It is now available as an eBook on amazon.com.
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January 17, 2013
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
The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol