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the column of lasting insignificance: September 7, 2016
by John Wilcock

“Global warning denialists, those who oppose genetically modified crops and vaccinations, or the teaching of evolution: their trick is to treat scientific argument as if it’s a political argument, and cherry pick data...Policy debate these days involves trying to rubbish the science, and that is dangerous.”
—Sir Paul Nurse, president, The Royal Society

WHY DOESN’T RUSSIA, which has done so much to perpetuate the killing in Syria, give refuge to Assad? Why doesn’t the UN persuade Iran to give Bashar al-Assad “a villa in downtown Tehran”? These are questions asked by Douglas Murray in the Spectator in an essay pointing out how little incentive murderous dictators have to give in when they see the fate of those who stick it out, such as Egypt’s Mubarak or Libya’s Gaddafi. “Even a bungalow outside Vladivostok looks appealing if the alternative is swinging from a Damascene lamppost”. Instead of persuading dictators not to commit atrocities, Murray writes, we have instituted a system which in the name of justice encourages those who have started, to make sure they never stop, whereas the priority should be not ‘How can be bring these leaders to justice?’ but simply ‘How can we get these leaders off their people’s backs?

ADVERTISING ON MARS, what a prospect! But it’s probably the only way that the Dutch company Mars One will be able to raise the $6billion necessary to stage their reality television show from the Red Planet in 2023. In the intervening decade, teams of four (beginning next year, anyone in the world can apply) will be rehearsed and trained for the seven-month, one-way flight to a makeshift encampment already set up via unmanned delivery space shuttles. "To attract sponsors, we will create appealing media content around the selection of the astronauts, the training, unmanned missions and other topics," says Bas Lansdorp, one of the project’s producers. "This should convince sponsors and investors to participate with the promise of an even bigger exposure later: we expect that almost every person on Earth will witness the landing of the first astronauts on Mars. Their departure from Earth, the journey to Mars and the first months on Mars will also attract a very large audience. After that, many people will tune in a couple of times per week to see how 'our people on Mars' are doing—a reality show that never ends." Mars One plans to send another four visitors every two years and, supplemented by regular supplies from earth including machines to make bricks, the community will eventually be self-sufficient.

Dear reader,

Today's column is on of the almost 500 columns I ran on the Ojai Orange site between 2006 and 2014. These will, of course, be free as is everything on my sites, and has been for the past decade or so. But, I do request that if you find these columns interesting, that you consider sending a donation, which you could possibly write off as a gift for my birthday on August 4, when I will be 90.

Chapters from my autobiography, Manhattan Memories will continue to run on


John Wilcock
Ojai, CA 93023

TO RETAIN THEIR membership in the Olympics family, Saudi Arabia sent two token female athletes to London but nothing has changed at home where women are still banned from driving and, because of restrictions, form only 15% of the workforce. And segregation will still prevail next year when the government builds the first of four women-only industrial centers providing jobs in textiles, food-processing and pharmaceutical industries. The new sites will offer “working conditions consistent with the privacy of women, according to Islamic guides and regulations” chirp the authorities.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS WILL replace French fries on the plates of many diners in a new chain of restaurants offering healthy fast food (which sounds like an oxymoron). It’s the grand dream of Mike Roberts, a former McDonald's CEO, the first of whose Lyle Kitchens—already operating in Palo Alto, CA—eschews cream, sugar, white flour, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. “Market

Watermelon Tent
photo credit: Wired

research Roberts had done at McDonald's convinced him that mothers, the dominant decision-makers about mealtimes, are more focused than ever on healthy food” says Wired. “So this time around Brussels sprouts and quinoa will enter the picture”. The name Lyfe is an acronym for Love Your Food Everyday and Roberts’ plans for hundreds of branches rest on his hopes that millions will come to appreciate mango strips, yogurt, faro with chipotle sauce. There’ll still be hamburgers, but with beef guaranteed from grass-fed cows.

IF EUROPE IS FED UP with German’s demands for consistent cutbacks to correct the Continent’s economic problems, just think how Germany must feel about all this anti-German sentiment. And more significantly, says the Philadelphia Trump, how will they respond? “Since 2008 the nation has been saddled with the unpopular, high-risk, hugely expensive task of rescuing Europe…it has already forked out tens of billions in bailouts and is on the hook for tens of billions more… (Yet) its European counterparts are thankless, unrepentant—and in many cases openly hostile”. The mag quotes historian Victor Davis Hanson, a Stanford professor, who says that conditions are similar to those leading up to both World Wars in that “the growing backlash against Berlin’s leadership is once again wounding Germany’s pride and arousing resentment and animosity…and when it comes to Germany, history reveals a unique tendency for deep-seated national resentment to end in intense conflict”.

KILLING ELEPHANTS BY heavily armed gangs is growing to such an extent that up to one thousand of the innocent beasts a month are dying in Central Africa alone, according to the UN-backed organization Traffic. ”Elephants are being hammered and the situation hasn’t bottomed out yet” Traffic’s Tom Milliken told the New Internationalist. About half the continent’s threatened forest elephants are in Gabon where the government is now assembling a special 250-strong-force of soldiers to flush out gangs of poachers and illegal gold miners. And following the lead of Kenya, whose president set fire to almost five tons of ivory--often pulled from the dying animals—Gabon plans to burn its stock of confiscated ivory.

PREDICTABLY EVERY FOUR YEARS somebody asks the same futile question: Why can’t voters have more choices to vote for than just two over-familiar faces? “If the broadcast and cable networks would (have) let the two most prominent minor parties, Libertarians and Greens, briefly address the nation immediately after Mitt Romney and President Obama delivered their acceptance addresses, the whole dynamic would change” suggests Terry Michael. As things are, he says, the debates avoid serious discussion of issues the two parties prefer to avoid and the moderators steer clear of controversy, fearing they might look biased if they push too hard. So why don’t we ever get more choices? The answer, says Michael—director of the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism—is a Catch 22: “Third parties can’t qualify unless they poll at least 15%, and they can’t get 15% if they don’t receive news coverage.

THE WILCOCK WEB: If there are really no funds available to fix the long-overdue repairs to the leaky U.S. Capitol (built 1793), why don’t some of those legislators who use it most of the time contribute by kicking in some of their $multi-million fortunes?.... The CIA has had no compunction about torturing foreign prisoners, but apparently it’s illegal to repatriate them to countries where they “might” be tortured….As budgets get cut to the bone, the concept of working at a job and then retiring and still getting paid will eventually be obsolete. Saving for one's later years? Hey, there's an idea….. “Did you ever wonder”, asks Philip Proctor, “why you never see the headline: PSYCHIC WINS LOTTERY? …Weeks before his comments about “legitimate rape”, the mean-spirited GOP Rep. Todd Akin suggested that the Fed should stop financing the National School Lunch Program…. “You cannot unsay a cruel word” warns The Ol’ Farmer…….If that Muslim army major who slaughtered 13 people had been a U.S. soldier who’d done the same thing in Pakistan, they would cut off his head not just his beard….Australia’s biggest dailies, the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s the Age will become tabloids next spring….The average age of the Rolling Stones (68.75) is almost two years more than the average age of the Supreme Court justices…. If you insist too long that you’re right, you’re wrong… Why are disc jockeys paid such ridiculous sums for playing other people’s music?.... Some people have a photographic memory that was never developed…..Organic produce may be more expensive, but it’s not necessarily any better for you, or even less likely to be contaminated, say scientists at Stanford University…. A vegetarian egg, the Vegg, has been selling well even though so far it only consists of a yolk (nutritional yeast, black salt , beta carotene and seaweed extract) but now its inventor, Rocky Shepheard, 58, hopes to create the white part…. Researchers say that the noise from male flies fluttering their wings as they screw their partners inside cowsheds attracts bats which eat them both….Disdained by British gourmets, pigs ears are a popular delicacy in China to which they’re now being mass-shipped under a new trade agreement….In Utah, authorities are shooting elk now so they won’t starve to death later….”Water flows uphill to money” declares environmentalist lawyer Mike Chiropolos, talking about the fierce competition in Colorado between frackers and farmers for limited supplies…The Bank of England, which sets policy, is looking for a new Governor to take over next year. It’s an eight-year term with a $650,000 a year salary…Picking a new crop of volunteers from the streets and training them, organizers of the 10th annual Homeless World Cup will present matches between 68 countries in Mexico City next month…. “One of the disadvantages of wine” asserted Dr. Samuel Johnson, “is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts….Using recycled paper, an Ann Arbor firm has already sold 50 companies on their new toilet paper bearing advertising (soybean-based ink). Minimum order is $99 for 20,000 ads….With 250 million youngsters about to reach working age in the next decade or so, India needs a big manufacturing base warns the Economist. “No major country has grown rich without one”…. …“OFF! is the new Chanel 5 around here” says Dallas political consultant Carol Reed talking about the widespread use of bug spray to counter hundreds of local victims of the West Nile virus…. “Know how to prefer what costs you the most effort”—Andre Gidé (1869-1951)

This column first appeared in 9/15/2012

comments? send an email to John Wilcock

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“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.”

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