the column of lasting insignificance: April 13, 2013
by John Wilcock
TORTURE IN PRISONS may not fit the standard definition, but in the view of James Ridgeway, it’s torture just the same. “On the say so of corrections officials, American prisoners can be placed in conditions of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation for months, years, or even decades” he writes. “At least 80,000 men, women, and children live in such conditions on any given day in the United States. And they are not merely separated from others for safety reasons. They are effectively buried alive. How is it possible” he asks in Columbia Journalism Review, “that a human crisis of this magnitude can carry on year after year, with impunity?” In its five-page story, the magazine talks of the many ways that prisons all across the country, with occasional exceptions, constantly place obstacles in the way of journalists gaining access to inspect solitary confinement facilities. “Solitary confinement is a brutal form of prison punishment that has claimed many lives and caused untold suffering. That is the story that officials do not want told” says Mary Beth Pfieffer, an award-winning Poughkeepsie Journal reporter whose book Crazy in America: The Hidden Tragedy of our Criminalized Mentally Ill, first brought attention to the problem. Due to the War on Drugs coupled with “tough on crime politics”, almost one in 100 Americans is in prison jail—“a rate that leaves even Russia or China in the dust”—with most states spending up to a billion dollars a year to run its prisons.
THE STUPIDEST LAW EVER is what Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi calls that short-sighted legislation that sends people to jail for life for something as simple as the theft of a pair of socks, if it happens to be their third conviction. The law was instituted in 1993, reacting to the horrendous kidnapping and murder of a young girl by somebody who was already a felon. “Three Strikes turned out to be not only an abject failure but also a terrible embarrassment to the state of California” Taibbi writes, and sadly it was copied by other states. Politicians were wary of being tabbed “soft on crime” so it took a while, but with donations from George Soros and efforts by such as Michael Romano and David Mills of Stanford Law School, there have been some recent reversals of the law, although many undeserving victims will remain imprisoned for a long time.
HERE’S SOMETHING we’ve long been a-waiting—a list of the exact bribes that the NRA pays to politicians who vote in its favor. The lineup appears in The American Prospect for March/April and is headed by Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake who has been handed $344,329 for his votes. Next comes Utah Senator Orrin Hatch ($116,348); Nevada Senator Dean Heller ($98,935); Texas Senator Ted Cruz (58,487); Congressmen Steve A. King, Iowa ($41,035), Scott Tipton, CO. ($40,811), Dan Benishek, MI ($39,031), Sean Duffy, WI. ($38,017), Bill Johnson, OH ($35,838), Reid Ribble, WI. ($35,472) and Chris Gibson, NY ($30,528). Four other Representatives each received more than $20,000. All on TAP’s list are Republicans.
THAT MISGUIDED MISCREANT, the despicable John Woo, 46, who gave the Bush administration the go-ahead to torture, accuses President Obama of enlarging executive power…avoid(ing) hard decisions” and “weakening his office, the Constitution, and the nation” in a rambling, muddled piece in which he takes 1,700 words in National Review to “redefine” the presidency. It’s surprising that this addled law professor is still making worthless pronouncements and even more puzzling why his students treat him with respect.
SIX DREAM JOBS are on offer in Australia and each comes with a free jar of Vegemite. The jobs also pay $100,000 each for six-month stints and range from Park Ranger (check water temperatures, patrol beaches, leave only footprints) and Outback Adventurer (sleep under the stars in a bush camp, immerse yourself in the indigenous culture) to Chief Funster (review festivals and events, tweet your thoughts,
TITANIC THE SECOND is currently under construction at China’s Jinling Shipyard, the first European-style luxury cruiser to be built in that country. Exactly the size and shape of the original with nine decks, 840 rooms and all the lavish accoutrements as restaurants, library and swimming pool, it will be staffed by 900 crew members. Financed by Australian mining tycoon Clive Palmer, it will make its maiden voyage in 2016 on the same Southampton to New York as its predecessor which split in two and sank 101 years ago after hitting an iceberg on April 14, 1912. Only 705 of the 2,207 aboard were saved but among them were six of the eight Chinese crewmembers who had shared cabin number 1001.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Shouldn’t senators be subject to term limits like everybody else?..... Pampered pols are too lazy to shave themselves and too greedy to go into town once a month for a haircut, so it costs the taxpayer $350,000 a year to finance the Senate barbershop.....Wouldn’t you like to be eligible for a medal for sitting working at your computer? The Pentagon has just created one for drone pilots….…If they can construct an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas why can’t they build a water pipeline from continually flooded to drought areas?.... Before the trial of Amanda Knox in Italy last year, they had already convicted somebody of the murder she was charged with. What did he say about her role (if any) in the murder?....Forbes says there have been 200 more billionaires in the world since last year and runs the complete list of all 1,379 in its March 25 issue. Mexico’s rip-off telephone tycoon Carlos Slim Helu is still number one ($73bn) , with Bill Gates ($67bn) still number two…As the ice cap melts, Greenland (pop: 57,000) is discovering that it’s a source of the rare earths with which China has so far dominated world markets….If Kim Jong Un declares he's still at war with South Korea, they could legitimately use a drone and take him out...By scheduling its best shows against the networks on Sunday night, PBS (which doesn’t need to compete) is deliberately aiming at lower ratings than it would get at other times…. Russia’s Bolshoi ballet is “a big brothel” according to former ballerina Anastasia Volochkova telling Hamburg’s Der Spiegel that both male and female dancers are obliged to sleep with wealthy patrons to further their careers….. Trying to reduce corruption, the Kremlin has issued a booklet listing phrases that officials should stop using such as Let’s come to an agreement or the ubiquitous dogovorrimsya (“we can sort this out”) ….Instead of always bringing in new immigrants, why not fill those vacant farm jobs with illegals who are already here, giving them green cards in return?....If New Yorkers think Michael Bloomberg is too bossy, they certainly wouldn't enjoy being dictated to by that council speaker, a declared lesbian, who takes away discretionary funds to punish councillors who disagree with her…..BUMPER STICKER: If life gives you a lemon, ask for a bottle of tequila and some salt….John Podhoretz, the weekly Standard’s film critic calls Manohla Davis of the New York Times, “a decent prose stylist but easily the most ludicrous critic ever to write for a major newspaper”…….Yahoo is reported to have given some teenager $30 million for some silly app. Of course, it wouldn’t have occurred to them to give the kid $25m, surely enough, and donate the rest to lifting a few thousand people out of poverty…..A new book by Neil Gross with the speculative title, Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care?, places authors and journalists to the liberal side. The book doesn’t quite nail down the obvious answer: liberals are readers, writers and thinkers as well as being more intelligent and less greedy… “Republican hypocrisy hangs over the American body politic like poison gas over the trenches in WW2” writes columnist Raymond Freeman…..Who was the stupid ignoramus who designated the states red or blue in direct contradiction to the way the rest of the world identifies right and left politics?…...Now that Viagra will be available in liquid form for use as a mixer, writes Phil Proctor, it will be possible for a man to literally pour himself a stiff one. “Although it can’t be labeled a soft drink, it’ll bring new meaning to cocktails and highballs, so the new concoction will be marketed as —Mount’n’Do…. One hundred years ago last week, Kansas became the first US state to legalize chiropractice …. “The Michelangelo of the trite” is how Harper’s Thomas Frank refers to Steven Spielberg, calling his Lincoln movie “hackneyed and mendacious”…. One of the Bush administration’s stupidest decisions was to spend three quarters of a billion dollars building an embassy in Baghdad almost as big as Vatican City. Now we’ve withdrawn from Iraq do we really need a staff of 5,500 to represent our interests there?......“Only one step separates fanaticism from barbarism"—Denis Diderot (1713-84)
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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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— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen (continued)--Travels
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— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
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— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six (continued)--Tom Forcade: smuggler supreme; That pathetic drug czar
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— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Steve Allen derides TV columnist; Marlene Dietrich--glamorous grandmother
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Chatting with Marilyn Monroe
— Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
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March 7, 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