' John Wilcock - The Column of Lasting Insignificance for April 26, 2014    
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the column of lasting insignificance: April 26, 2014
by John Wilcock

OUR ONLY INDEPENDENT SENATOR, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, 72, would make a fine president in the view of many of his supporters. And he’s thinking about it, says the Nation, but first he wants to poll the magazine’s readers. He says that his instincts tell him that America is ready for a “political revolution”. Of course, even he can see it’s a long shot. But we can all dream, can’t we? This country, he says, faces more serious problems than at any time since the Great Depression, and there is “a horrendous lack of serious political discourse or ideas out there that can address these crises…There is today more and more alienation from the Republican and Democratic parties than we have seen in the modern history of this country. In fact most people now consider themselves to be ‘independent’, whatever that may mean”.
Bernie Sanders    Sanders, a Congressman from 1990, a Senator since 2006, has long focused on the shrinking middle class and America’s widening income gap, as well as giving attention to reversing global warming, universal health care, fair trade policies, supporting veterans and preserving family farms. He is well aware of obvious obstacles in the way, not least the difficulty of running as an independent, making it hard to get media coverage outside the two-party system, and thus getting included in the debates. “It would require building an entire political structure to get on the ballot (but) the Democratic Party in general remains far too dependent on big-money interests, is not fighting vigorously for working-class families…When I talk about a political revolution, it’s about creating a situation where we are involving millions of people in the process who are not now involved”.
    And, of course, there is always the question of Hillary Clinton. “She is very, very intelligent. She focuses on the issues. Look, I like Hillary, but I think, sad to say, that the Clinton type of politics is not the politics I am talking about. And it is certainly not going to be the politics that galvanizes the tons of people today who are thoroughly alienated and disgusted with the status quo”.

THAT TENACIOUS CREW which won the New York mayoralty for Bill de Blasio is all geared up and ready to repeat their mission in other places. What it takes, they explain, is for their Working Families Party (WFP) to collaborate with progressive unions, turning their collaboration into a social democratic force that wins elections. “You don’t organize movements” says their national director Dan Cantor, “You build organizations and if movements emerge, you may catch their energy and grow…We will fail if there aren’t strong community and environmental and youth movements in America”. In addition to the mayoralty, all but one of WFP’s 13 candidates for New York’s City Council swept to victory, and its online campaign against fracking in the state is getting a positive response. Last month the organization—described by The American Prospect as “the ideological heir to the American Labor Party”—began operations in the District of Columbia, and has plans for Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Funds come from foundations, unions, and small donors. “A big part of my job is being a small businessman” Cantor says. “The hunt for money is part of politics. I don’t mind it”.

“We’re going to do for tea what we did for coffee. I’ve known Oprah for years. We were sitting at a friend’s wedding. She was telling me how much she loves tea. We’ve always dreamed of doing something together. Oprah’s Chai’s going to be everywhere come Mother’s Day. Tea’s a $90 billion global category—it’s very significant.
—Howard Schulz talks to Charlie Rose in Bloomberg Businessweek

“DON’T SAY WE DIDN’T warn you!” declares Forbes in a story about the disreputable pot penny stock business that has grown up since the relaxation of the marihuana laws. “Ex-cons, ganja-preneurs and multi-level marketers” all inter-connect around Canna-Vest which the mag describes as “the highest-flying stock in one of the year’s biggest market frenzies”. Sixty publicly traded outfits claim to be pot and hemp stocks with the only protection for investors being last year’s warning from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to be on guard for con artists. “You can’t have an industry where they say, ‘We can put you in jail for the rest of your life, but we probably won’t today’” says University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin. “Who would invest in that?”

WOODEN BUILDINGS sound like something from frontier days but they’re making something of an impact in certain architectural circles. It seems that light weight, specially “engineered” wood can not only be as tough as metal but when it chars on the outside in a fire it can seal the interior from damage, whereas metal begins to melt. “Steel, when it burns, it’s like spaghetti,” B.J. Veh, a director of the Engineered Wood Association, told Popular Science which illustrates what it describes as “anatomy of a timber tower”. This is a nine-story office building in East London constructed from cross-laminated wooden panels up to half a foot thick that the mag says has more in common with precast concrete than traditional timber frame design—“plywood on steroids”, say the engineers.

THE PHILOSOPHER'S MAIL is a new news organization, with bureaux in London, Amsterdam, and Melbourne, run and staffed entirely by philosophers. It is committed to bringing you the latest, biggest stories, as interpreted by philosophers rather than journalists. The group explains that “although the most attractive, charming, sexy, and compelling news outlets enjoy unparalleled influence over the minds of tens of millions of people, unfortunately, they rarely put out content that might make the world a better place”. At the same time, they write, lots of serious, earnest good people who are attempting to change things, produce publications full of dense articles that only reach tiny and already-convinced audiences. “The goal of the Philosopher's Mail is to prove a genuinely popular and populist news outlet which at the same time is alive to traditional philosophical virtues”.

GAMBLING MAY BE APPROACHING saturation levels according to industry observers who point to casino closings in Mississippi and New Jersey, declining revenues, and cuts in the global workforce of International Game Technology, the world’s largest slot machine maker. In Ohio, a Columbus casino removed 500 machines and the state’s voters were told that gambling revenue would be 30% lower than expected. “Casinos know when to fold ‘em” was Bloomberg Busineweek’s head on a story about the $38bn US gambling industry’s decline. Currently 39 states have casino gambling of some kind.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Apart from the government’s need to stage an expensive spectacular, why does the trial of the Boston bomber (who’s already pled guilty) need another year plus the cost of five defense lawyers and a huge number of paralegals and aides?... It’s difficult for we financially ignorant observers to understand why it’s better for a country to be permanently paying interest on more and bigger debts than to gradually eliminate the debts and thus have more money to spend. Maybe Bill White has an explanation in his book America’s Fiscal Constitution: Its Triumph and Collapse… Billionaire Larry Ellison’s ego-trip World Cup venture lost San Francisco millions…..It’s the rich against the rest….Ian D. Campbell and his wife Ann Spira collected $763,000 for running the San Diego Opera last year but seemed surprised that the Opera had to shut down for lack of money…….NBC’s ridiculous show Under the Dome returns for a second season in June…...What’s the point of the UN if the US is allowed to decide who other countries can send as their representative?..... Flashy-looking convertible cars are gradually going out of style, dropping 44% from their peak of a decade ago. “Most convertibles are not really used for open-top driving” says industry analyst Christopher Stürmer, “but rather for giving the impression of being somewhat wild-at-heart and sporty”…..Some New York legislators make more than twice as much from other jobs as from their state salary, but an attempt to make these figures visible to all was shut down by the same legislators…. An update on the crude spiked strip in the road with which police stop law-breaking drivers, is an electro-magnetic beam which can immobilize the car’s electronics...... That Salvadoran General José Guillermo Garcia who fled to Florida after his involvement with killings and torture back home 38 years ago, has been ordered deported. But there’s always some douche bag lawyer such as Alina Cruz willing to jump to the defense…. An average of 66 children every day are hospitalized because of shopping cart accidents reports Clinical Pediatrics….. Soon there’ll only be one route left in London along which those iconic red Routemaster buses continue to run. That’s the no. 15 from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill…..Coffee shops offering free coffee—that’s the operating plan of Russia’s Ziferblat chain that charges for the time spent therein and plans to open a branch in New York….. A survey of 28 European countries reveals that 48% of people aged between 18 and 30 are still living with their parents…. …. Corporate Fraud: the Human Factor, a book by Maryam Husain says that 70% of companies studied for security last year reported internal fraud and that the most powerful weapon to expose it came from whistleblowers… ..Chinese officials will shortly start charging tourists for bottles of oxygen-laden air from Tianmu Mountain which is currently being handed out free….Forbes listed ten of baseball’s 22 top-earning players who because of “sky-high local cable deals and the lack of a salary cap” will earn more than $20million this year… “Between truth and the search for it, I choose the second” —Bernard Berenson (1865-1959)


National Weed (1974, issue #3)

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