' John Wilcock - The Column of Lasting Insignificance for 11 January, 2014    
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the column of lasting insignificance: February 1, 2014
by John Wilcock

“A recent Pew poll finds that 52 per cent of those surveyed think ‘the US should mind its own business internationally and let others get along as best they can on their own’—the first time since 1964 that more than half the respondents have taken such a stance.”
—the weekly Standard

A MASSIVE POOL OF CASH that is looking to invest ‘wherever it sees the potential for long term profits’, is how Fortune describes the $115bn in revenue of the Koch brothers (oil, timber, food, fertilizers, household products). “Chances are, nearly every store you walk into sells a Koch company product” says the website KochWatch.org which calls them “billionaires corrupting democracy” and urges a boycott. The site’s ire is triggered by the huge sums that Charles, 78, and David, 73, (each worth $36bn) have invested in such rightwing causes as repealing Obamacare and backing Tea Party candidates. They have “a distaste for big government and, some would argue, regulation that might infringe on the profitability of their businesses” says the mag, becoming in the process “all purpose bogeymen to those on the left”. Their father, it will come as no surprise, was one of the original members of the radical rightwing John Birch Society. Huge future profits for the company are expected to come from their increasing determination to privatize (and doubtless monopolize) water supplies. “Fresh clean water is increasingly scarce” Fortune notes, “and demand is growing”.

AWARENESS OF CONCUSSION, probably boosted by the current NFL payoffs, has brought new attention to its deadly presence in boxing. “The growing unease among some boxing writers is something new” writes Alan Neuhauser in Columbia Journalism Review. “The violence that makes the sport compelling has become its biggest problem”. Recent studies from Boston’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (the word means ‘disorder or disease of the brain’) demonstrate that permanent brain damage from pugilism is almost certain. “Before, people were like ‘Okay, this is part of boxing, this isn’t something we’re focusing on” writes Ring Magazine’s editor Michael Rosenthal. “Now people are focusing on it”. And veteran sportswriter William Nack covered what he termed ‘a hell of a sport’ for 20 years but finally quit, confessing, “If you have any kind of sensibility, you’ve got to feel some kind of, not guilt, but misgiving about it. That’s probably too weak a word. Maybe guilt is the right word”. Why haven’t we covered this brutal sport more in the past? the magazine asked, quoting boxing promoter Lou DiBella: “I don’t think the writers give a rat’s ass about concussions”.

“I am not sure if the world is worse than it ever has been, or maybe just seems worse because now with social media and Twitter and the internet we are forced to hear about every single act of stupidity committed in every corner of the planet as it happens. …Comedy is everything to me. It saved me. It gave me purpose. It has helped me find meaning. It may be more of a savior than a revolutionary. I am not a religious person. I just can’t get there. I don’t buy it, and the violence and despair that often comes from organized religion enrages me.”
—Judd Apatow in the New Statesman

DECADES OF RESEARCH may finally have produced a vaccine for malaria which, in a typical year, chalks up as many as 200 million victims, 90% of them in Africa. Later this year, the British pharmaceutical firm of GlaxoSmithKlyne will seek regulatory approval for KTS,S which some tests have shown can counter the tiny single-celled malaria parasite which has shown to be much more complex than the bacteria and viruses that are the usual targets of vaccines. The World Health Organization reports 660 deaths from malaria in 2010.

BLASTING POP MUSIC at excruciatingly loud levels to repel pirates has been reported in the past, usually associated with specifying the music of Britney Spears. But this might have been a light-hearted—and possibly untrue—exaggeration of what actually happened, suggests the Media Watch Group’s newsletter Extra. The actual weapon, reports Germany’s Spiegel, is a tool called Long Range Acoustic Device, which the magazine describes as a futuristic sonic cannon developed by the Pentagon which can cause “excruciating headache and ear pain to the point that (the pirates) could no longer see or hear”.

ISN’T IT ALREADY conventional wisdom that global warning is threatening the world’s future unless we do something about it, asap? Not so, according to Richard Lindzen, an MIT meteorology professor and leading climate skeptic. He dismisses the threat as “small…and nothing to be alarmed about” and suggests that the widespread belief can all be explained by money, “to the incentive structure of academic research funded by government grants”, as the Weekly Standard puts it. “Almost all funding comes from the government which makes scientists essentially vassals of the state”. Generating fear, Lindzen contends, “is now the best way to ensure that policymakers keep the spigot open”. Undeniably, his opinions are definitely in the minority and often met with sarcasm by his colleagues. “Most people who think they’re a Galileo, are just wrong” scoffs climate scientist Richard C.J. Somerville.

THE WILCOCK WEB: After a less successful year, Goldman Sachs has cut its pay “showing a discipline on compensation that no other bank is showing”, according to financial observers. It has set aside for last year’s pay $12.61bn compared to $12.94bn the previous year…..Is Sochi equipped to shoot down bomb-carrying drones?.....California is undergoing yet another drought—and all those billions of gallons of nearby sea water just waiting for somebody to get serious about solar distillation…..An anti-bribe campaign in India has devised fake 50-rupee bills to hand out to people soliciting illegal payoffs….

Fake 50 Rupee Note

Henrique (de Castro) is an incredibly accomplished and rigorous business leader and I’m personally excited to have him join Yahoo’s strong leadership team” trilled Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer when she hired him from Google 15 months ago. Now he’s been fired and is leaving with a mere $88million payoff…..“Sonorous purring” is how Daimler describes the sound they’ve deliberately added to alert pedestrians to the approach of the otherwise silent e-Smart Car. Renault, Nissan and other carmakers are also adding warning sounds to their electric cars….Libraries do it for free but Oyster has gone digital allowing readers to peruse as many e-Books as they want for $9.95 a month… Increased consumption of Middle East flavoring and tea, also milk processed from nuts, and lemon in just about everything, are among food trends forecast for 2014 says Stores…… Nothing could better illustrate what uneducated idiots the Taliban are than their drive to stop vaccination for polio which had been almost eradicated in the world until they sought to bring it back...Packaged salads, fresh daily in recycled plastic jars in vending machines are on offer in Chicago’s Garvey Food Court for $7.99…It takes 15-20 minutes of nonstop footwork to churn your Peddlers Creameryown ice cream at Peddler’s Creamery in downtown Los Angeles…. “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies”, grouched Groucho Marx....What A&E promotes as “the next evolution of magic” is suspiciously bogus when street magician Andrew Mayne makes a car disappear and reaches through a solid restaurant window to grab something from a sidewalk table ……Victory for Scientology happened 45 years ago next week when a US Federal Appeals Court ruled that the cult’s E-meters are not a banned medical device (as the FDA maintained) but part of a religion protected by the First Amendment- ….“Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”—George Orwell (1903-50)

A Personal Note

NEXT WEEK I BEGIN a series of chemotherapy sessions in which some noxious chemicals are injected into my veins attempting to eradicate the traces of cancer that still exist in my lymph nodes after the recent lung operation. The oncologist reports that my survival odds, normally about 50/50, improve to 60/40 in my favor by these treatments: at least three at three-week intervals. From all accounts it’s not a particularly pleasant experience, although apparently not as bad as it used to be, with some of the many potential after-effects including nausea and lack of sleep, with consequent weariness. It’s possible, therefore, that I might soon have to take a rest from this weekly column although, as a lifelong journalist, I will still fill the space, possibly with repeats of earlier work..

It’s eight years since I received any payment for my column—when it ran in the Montecito Journal—and so it is truly a work of love, the centerpiece of my life at an age when I don’t have much else to do. I once contemplated charging a small sum, but realized that would mean losing most of my readers and, in any case, I believe in my mission of forecasting the future, which I do by reading 50 magazines or so every month—political, scientific, artistic, social, cultural etc. An occasional reader might have defined the column as consisting merely of random quotes, but my regulars could have sensed that behind it is a specific viewpoint and philosophy. Just as in my underground paper days I am attempting to foresee what’s likely to happen through the vision of writers who explore trends long before they become newspaper stories. (The underground press used to jest that we wrote about stuff that would be on Time’s cover two years hence). “Coming events cast their shadows before” wrote Thomas Campbell in 1781, the impetus for my “column of lasting insignificance” which is meant to imply that something you read or learn which might not have much impact at the time, may assume more importance when you later become aware of its echo.

Most my writing has been documentation—birth of the Village Voice and the international underground, travel books covering a score of countries, three books about natural magic in 20 countries, history of the popes, 30 years co-editing the Witches Almanac, interviews with many of Andy Warhol’s friends, 60 issues of the Ojai Orange, and of course, all these years of reporting the zeitgeist via half a century of weekly columns—so I anticipate my work will have some value for researchers long after I am gone, Meanwhile, thanks for being here.

1/25/2014



it's here... Marijuana—The Weed That Changed the World

Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)


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