' John Wilcock - The Column of Lasting Insignificance for April 19, 2014    
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the column of lasting insignificance: April 19, 2014
by John Wilcock

“It is no coincidence that some of the most equal countries in the world are those in which union membership is highest: Finland, 69% of workers belong to a union: Sweden (68%); Denmark (67%); Norway (55%). Strong unions are a guarantee not just of social justice but also of economic efficiency.”
—George Eaton in the New Statesman

COUNTRIES SPLITTING UP seems to be a global theme these days—Sudan and South Sudan, the Ukraine and Crimea, Belgium’s Flemish and Walloons, “Imagine how many secession movements there are in Africa” remarks the Guardian: six in Ethiopia alone; a dozen in Burma, Asia and the Americas... the list of would-be seceders around the world is staggering”. Even in such a long-established partnership as Britain, Scotland wants to break away from the United Kingdom, raising all kinds of problems about the currency and which ministers would still get to vote in Westminster after the scheduled referendum in September. In Spain, the Catalonians centered on Barcelona, have longed for their own state; Brittany would like to break away from France; even Venice would prefer to be alone. “That’s the problem with nationalism” writes Stephen Moss. “Where does it end? Once you stir the nationalist pot, you can never know where it will lead. We may be entering the age of the microstate”.

THE SMARTEST MAN in Russia, former world chess champion Gary Kasparov, thinks that Vladimir Putin will come to a bad end. “I think he will not die (before he leaves office); I think he will be removed, and unfortunately in Russia, I’m afraid it will not happen peacefully…The question is how violent this removal is, whether there’s bloodshed, whether it’s limited to the capital or just to the palace”. The Russian grandmaster, 51 this week, held his title for almost 20 years until his retirement in 2005, when he formed a political party to oppose Putin. He was interviewed for the Smithsonian by Ron Rosenbaum, the New York writer known as an authority on Hitler and Shakespeare, who has called him “a major player in that great game of liberty versus tyranny in which the globe is the board”. Russia’s failure, Kasparov suggested, was a reflection of the failure of the U.S. and Western Europe to recognize the new trends. “A lot of positive things could’ve happened. Clinton could have offered a plan for Russia, Eastern Europe, similar to the Marshall Plan. Any plan. We say in chess, a bad plan is better than no plan”.

YOUR SEX LIFE is likely to diminish if you take anti-depressants, warns Men’s Health, with the “drug-specific” benefits being “clinically negligible. The chemicals that seem to make life enjoyable, are the same ones that throttle lust”, it explains, quoting evolutionary biologist Helen Fisher: “When it comes to love and attachment, you want all your natural abilities in place. You don’t want them blunted or altered”. Pasadena psychiatrist Stuart Shipko estimates that two thirds of the people prescribed anti-depressants display diminished sex drive and suggests that the sexual disfunction by drugs is much worse than that caused by depression.

SAWBUCKED TO DEATH: “These days, the only thing harder than making money is hanging on to it. Easier to protect dandelion fuzz in a tornado. Everywhere you go, everyone wants a taste. Their only job is to get a grip on your money. And some of these folks are pretty darn good at their jobs.” The preceding is the opening of a column by Will Durst which I recommend everybody to read. Click here to read the rest of it.

RESPONDING TO OBJECTIONS about raising the minimum wage, Boston Review writes that even some right wingers such as former American Conservative publisher Ron Unz are now supporting the idea on the grounds that it would make jobs more desirable. (i) It would balance the huge uptick in the cost of higher education. “Many marginal students are dropping out... leaving them with student loan debts and no degree. Meanwhile the job market continues to produce jobs that do not need to be filled by highly educated workers”; (ii) It decreases the cost of welfare. “If wages are too low, workers still need government income support such as food stamps or tax credits”; (iii) “A higher minimum would make low-wage jobs more desirable to Americans, and in turn employers would rely less on undocumented workers”.

WHAT A GREAT IDEA, Peter Fox had. Give the guy a medal. Bothered by the closing of the village’s only shop in Clifton, Derbyshire, Fox, 50, figured that the answer was a giant vending

Peter Fox Vending Machine
Daily Mail
machine that would offer such basic essentials as milk, butter, eggs, pet food, bread. And because he couldn’t get a manufacturer interested, he built the thing himself. Customers can use cash or card to buy goods and view available stock on the web, while the machine alerts the manufacturer via email when supplies are running low. This could be the future for so many similar places where all the shops have closed. In fact, Fox says he already has other villages in mind, an idea that could spread around the world.

CALLING HIM “a thief, a fool, a man incapable of managing his own affairs” a writer in Johannesburg’s Daily Maverick nevertheless forecasts that South African president Jacob Zuma will be re-elected as the country’s president next month. Crookedness, cronyism, and “straight-up idiocy” are cited as among the faults of Zuma’s ANC party which has been steadily losing support, writes Richard Poplak, but is still strong enough to win. One of the main accusations against Zuma is the way he has turned his vacation home into an island of luxury in a “sea of poverty”, spending $23m on a swimming pool, visitor center and amphitheater, describing the additions as “security”.

GANGSTER NAMES have become popular for restaurants in Spain and the authorities in Italy regard this as an offer they’d like to refuse. A chain of more than 30 mob-themed pizza and pasta joints called La Mafia are decorated with images of notorious killers. Italian politicians first became aware of the theme by an article in La Repubblica, denouncing them as “squalid” and “offensive to our national image”.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Britain’s equivalent of the CIA, the Secret Intelligence Service known as MI6, is running full-page magazine ads seeking recruits. A circular chart eliminates most readers after each question (“Thank you for your time”) concluding with: www.sis.gov.uk/careers/working-for-us/fast-track.html ……. John Kerry will never solve the Mideast dilemma if both sides are as bored with him as everybody else…. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE—have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar because it says that its support of Al Jazeera “stirs sedition” ….. How much has Comcast spent bribing pols so far, and which ones, to make sure they vote for their merger with Time Warner?….”Television is a device that permits people who haven’t anything to do, watch people who can’t do anything” jibed Fred Allen….“Pakistan, not Afghanistan, has been the true enemy” writes veteran NYT reporter Carlotta Gall in her book, The Wrong Enemy, which strongly implies that the US military has known this all along……..“The past is never dead” proffered William Faulkner, “It’s not even past”....If you think the state might owe you some unclaimed money, check out MissingMoney.com….Even the possibility of a third Bush president is a scary thought….. Britain’s PoundPub has plans for a branch in Stockton-on-Tees where a pint of beer will cost just one pound ($1.70) …..It’s the rich against the rest….Sotheby’s is expecting that a solitary British Guiana 1c stamp from 1856 is expected to fetch $12 million bucks when it’s auctioned in June… Salma Hayek, 12 years after an Oscar nomination for her role as Frida Kahlo

Can't See Your Face Book Getty Images

complains that she is still defined as “Mexican, half-Arab” and even now offered “stripper and maid parts”…..The risk of a stroke rises three-fold and of a heart attack five-fold within two hours after you lose your temper, says the Daily Mail….It’s a definite mystery why people describe the miserably acerbic David Letterman as a comedian….That obnoxious and fraudulent billionaire Steven A. Cohen, shucking off most of his employees to run his renamed SAC Capital (now Point 2 Asset Management) as a firm to handle his personal wealth of $9bn, says he’ll only need a staff of 850….Newspapers are increasingly disguising ads as editorial, complains Andrew Sullivan in the Sunday Times. “But it’s not journalism” certainly not “honest journalism”....Aberdeen’s Brewdog Brewery has sent a case of its new “protest brew” bearing the label Hello My Name is Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin, declaring that the 8.2% pale ale contains Russian “Limmonik berries and traces of sarcasm”….Hong Kong’s media is experiencing “growing paranoia” about the recent trade agreements which they claim are making the former colony utterly dependent on the increasing settlement of mainland consumers whose numbers are growing alarmingly…. ….Operators of a new UK lesbian-dating app have complained that it has been inundated by men “who fancied their chances at bypassing the verification process”... The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper” —Eden Philpotts (1862–1960)


National Weed (1974, issue #3)

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Marijuana—The Weed That Changed the World

Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)


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