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Ojai Orange | The Column of Lasting Insignificance | Books | Wait-A-Minute

May 22, 2010
John Wilcock - January 5, 2008

 

The column of lasting insignificance
 
       


also posted:



2011
November 26 2011
November 19, 2011
November 12, 2011
November 5, 2011
October 29, 2011
October 22, 2011
October 15, 2011
October 8, 2011
October 1, 2011
September 24, 2011
September 17, 2011
September 10, 2011
September 4, 2011
August 27, 2011
August 20, 2011
August 13, 2011
August 6, 2011
July 30, 2011
July 23, 2011
July 16, 2011
July 9, 2011
July 2, 2011
June 25, 2011
June 18, 2011
June 11, 2011
June 4, 2011
May 28, 2011
May 21, 2011
May 14, 2011
May 7, 2011
April 30, 2011
April 23, 2011
April 16, 2011
April 9, 2011
April 2, 2011
March 26, 2011
March 19, 2011
March 12, 2011
March 5, 2011
February 26, 2011
February 19, 2011
February 12, 2011
February 5, 2011
February 5, 2011
January 29, 2011
January 22, 2011
January 15, 2011
January 6, 2011

2010
December 25, 2010
December 18, 2010
December 11, 2010
December 4, 2010
November 27, 2010
November 20, 2010
November 13, 2010
November 6, 2010
October 30, 2010
October 23, 2010
October 16, 2010
October 9, 2010
October 2, 2010
September 25, 2010
September 18, 2010
September 11, 2010
September 4, 2010
August 28, 2010
August 21, 2010
August 14, 2010
August 7, 2010
July 31, 2010
July 24, 2010
July 17, 2010
July 10, 2010
July 3, 2010
June 26, 2010
June 19, 2010
June 12, 2010
June 5, 2010
May 29, 2010
May 22, 2010
May 15, 2010
May 8, 2010
May 1, 2010
April 24, 2010
April 17, 2010
April 10, 2010
April 3, 2010
March 27, 2010
March 20, 2010
March 13, 2010
March 6, 2010
February 27, 2010
February 20, 2010
February 13, 2010
February 6, 2010
January 30, 2010
January 23, 2010
January 16, 2010
January 9, 2010
January 2, 2010

2009
December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 12, 2009
December 5, 2009
November 28, 2009
November 21, 2009
November 14, 2009
November 7, 2009
October 31, 2009
October 24, 2009
October 17, 2009
October 10, 2009
October 3, 2009
September 26, 2009
September 19, 2009
September 12, 2009
September 5, 2009
August 29, 2009
August 22, 2009
August 15, 2009
August 8, 2009
August 1, 2009
July 25, 2009
July 18, 2009
July 11, 2009
July 4, 2009
June 27, 2009
June 20, 2009
June 13, 2009
June 6, 2009
May 30, 2009
May 23, 2009
May 16, 2009
May 9, 2009
May 2, 2009
April 25, 2009
April 18, 2009
April 11, 2009
April 4, 2009
March 28, 2009
March 21, 2009
March 14, 2009
March 7, 2009
February 28, 2009
February 21, 2009
February 14, 2009
February 7, 2009
January 31, 2009
January 24, 2009
January 17, 2009
January 3, 2009

2008
December 27, 2008
December 20, 2008
December 13, 2008
December 6, 2008
November 29, 2008
November 22, 2008
November 15, 2008
November 8, 2008
November 5, 2008
November 1, 2008
October 25, 2008
October 18, 2008
October 11, 2008
October 4, 2008
September 27, 2008
September 20, 2008
September 13, 2008
September 6, 2008
August 30, 2008
August 23, 2008
August 16, 2008
August 9, 2008
August 2, 2008
July 26, 2008
July 19, 2008
July 12, 2008
July 5, 2008
June 28, 2008
June 21, 2008
June 14, 2008
June 7, 2008
May 31, 2008
May 24, 2008
May 17, 2008
May 10, 2008
May 3, 2008
April 26, 2008
April 19, 2008
April 12, 2008
April 5, 2008
March 29, 2008
March 22, 2008
March 15, 2008
March 8, 2008
March 1, 2008
February 23, 2008
February 16, 2008
February 9, 2008
February 2, 2008
January 26, 2008
January 19, 2008
January 12, 2008
January 5, 2008

2007
December 29, 2007
December 22, 2007
December 15, 2007
December 8, 2007
December 1, 2007
November 24, 2007
November 17, 2007
November 10, 2007
November 3, 2007
October 27, 2007
October 20, 2007
October 13, 2007
October 6, 2007
September 29, 2007
September 22, 2007
September 15, 2007
September 8, 2007
September 1, 2007
August 25, 2007
August 18, 2007
August 11, 2007
August 4, 2007
July 28, 2007
July 21, 2007
July 14, 2007
July 7, 2007
June 30, 2007
June 23, 2007
June 16, 2007
June 9, 2007
June 2, 2007
May 19, 2007
May 12, 2007
May 5, 2007
April 28, 2007
April 21, 2007
April 14, 2007
April 7, 2007
March 31, 2007
March 24, 2007
March 17, 2007
March 10, 2007
March 3, 2007
February 24, 2007
February 17, 2007
February 10, 2007
February 3, 2007
January 20, 2007
January 13, 2007
January 6, 2007

2006
December 30, 2006
December 23, 2006
December 16, 2006
December 9, 2006
December 2, 2006
November 25, 2006
November 18, 2006
November 11, 2006
November 4, 2006
October 28, 2006
October 21, 2006
October 14, 2006
October 7, 2006
September 30, 2006
September 23, 2006
September 16, 2006
September 9, 2006
September 2, 2006
August 26, 2006
August 19, 2006
August 12, 2006
August 5, 2006
July 29, 2006
July 22, 2006
July 15, 2006

 

 


May 22, 2010

John Wilcock
the column of lasting insignificance

“When I was in college it was understood that argument ad Hitlerum was no argument at all. In other words, any time you resorted to comparison to Hitler, or otherwise brought Hitler into the discussion, everyone knew you had run out of anything useful to say and the conversation moved on. I wish more people in the U.S. had the benefit of that sort of education.”
                   letter from Erin Miles, Oakland, CA, in Extra

ONLY A FEW  COUNTRIES appreciate what a valuable resource the post office is, but England and America are not among them. Both countries are under the sad misapprehension that this nationwide network, with branches in even the smallest places, must pay for itself by just delivering mail. And as e-mail undermines this function, the response has been to diminish the network  which, in turn, results in fewer customers. Not a brilliant business model.
      In Britain, scores of tiny villages without even a bus route, no longer have a pub, a grocery store, a bank or branch library; why couldn’t the post office be buttressed to house any or all of these functions? Until a few years ago, Britain’s Post Office Savings Bank was a godsend to poor people who didn’t trust banks (boy, were they right!) and that system worked wonderfully. It still does in Japan where millions of people who bank at local post offices have made Japan Post what the Wall Street Journal claims is “the world’s largest  financial institution by assets with $3.3 trillion on its balance sheets”.
      The U.S. post office savings network had $3bn in assets—the equivalent of $30bn today--when it was abolished in 1960.
USPS   “When Congress created the postal savings system nearly a century ago, one of the goals was to encourage savings among the large number of low-income immigrants” says the New America Foundation’s Michael Lind. “A new system would help today’s immigrants as well as the native poor. Banks are not interested in people with so little money , many of whom are preyed upon by payday lenders and credit card companies”.
   But savings is only one way this unrivalled network could be used. A model could be the highly efficient Swiss Post, deep into digital age data networks, and whose vp Frank Marthaler says: “We believe we are in the communications business, not just in the physical letter-mail business”.
       At a time when 35% of Americans and 50% of rural residents still have no broadband Internet access at home, reports the Nation, the Postal Service remains universal. Its 596,000 career employees travel more than four million miles to deliver more than half a billion pieces of mail each day. “Americans do not often talk about the Postal Service as a crucial underpinning of the democratic infrastructure, but we should”.
    Calling USPS “a national treasure that provides an immense and irreplaceable public service”, the magazine charges that the people who currently run it “are so fixated on the bottom line they cannot see the public good…. in this indispensable service”.

WHO COULD POSSIBLY not be a fervent admirer of Doctors Without Borders whose members are often the first to arrive at any international disaster? Titled “Hospital in a Hurry” Popular Mechanics showed one of its typical 100-bed facilities, neatly packed into a 64,000 square foot site in Haiti, water and power supply units, a staff of 30 working in shifts around the clock and a sketch of the tents which have no rigid parts and are air-inflated. (Become a Field Partner of DWB by donating monthly).

ONE WAY TO END what he describes as the “partisan rancor” that has paralyzed Washington, is to rearrange where Congressmen sit. So writes Joe Reeder who claims that today’s segregated   seating arrangements “shelters our representatives from opposing points of view, reduces the need for common courtesy, reinforces the worst tendencies of a two-party system and undermines efforts at cooperation”. Because the intense animosity is aggravated by the physical separation, he suggests in the AARP Bulletin,  that one way to defuse the wrangling would be to seat members alphabetically, by name or state, and periodically rotate them.

“There is no unified theory for  Lost, nor do we think there should be…. The great mysteries of life  can’t be addressed. We just have to tell a good story and let the chips fall where they may. We don’t know whether the resolution between the two timelines is going to make people say ‘Oh, that’s cool’ or ‘Fuck those guys, they belly-flopped at the end’ But the fact that we’re nervous about it and that we’re actually attempting it –that is what we had to do. We had to try to make the dive”.
 --Co-producer Carlton Cuse in Wired, as the mystifying six-season TV serial draws to a close

MATCHLESS MELLOW MERLOT was so over-produced in the last decade that it was ridiculed in the wine-tour movie Sideways after which consumption dropped dramatically. But some of Napa Valley’s top winemakers are starting to return to the fruity grape, reports Fortune, with drinkers seeking a break from the ubiquitous Cabernet; one winery’s sales are up 300%.. “Merlot was just so uncool for so long” says Brian Smith, director of a NYC wine bar. “Now it’s cool again”.

AT ONE TIME considered potential presidential timbre, New York governor Eliot Spitzer flamed out spectacularly after his involvement with high-priced prostitutes became public knowledge in 2007. Since then he has written a twice-monthly column for Slate and taught class at New York City College, but there are doubtless more ambitious plans in his future writes Peter Elkind in Rough Justice. “I love politics”, Spitzer told the author, “I never said I would never consider running for office again”.

With gold prices above $1,200 an ounce, mom-and-pop mines once abandoned, are reopening all over the country but there are many disappointments. “They buy picks or pans, camp out near the river, but few last more than two weeks” says Bob Schoose, mayor of the appropriately-named Arizona ghost town of Goldfield where he owns two mines of his own. In 1892, a strike which produced $3m of ore expanded the community’s population to 4,000, but—almost deserted today—the tiny town survives on the tourists who come to visit the myth-encrusted Superstition Mountains nearby.

IN THE NEAR FUTURE tiny robots may be projected through our intestines to examine parts of the body that until now have necessitated invasive surgery. With further advances in miniaturization, says the New Scientist, “opportunities grow for getting medical devices inside the body in novel ways”. Already tested is a camera inside a capsule tiny enough to be swallowed, and more sophisticated versions are being developed that can both release drugs and take samples. So-called “keyhole surgery” already allows surgeons to sit at a control desk and manipulate instruments from far away with greater precision (and less hand tremors) than can be achieved alongside the patient.

MOST BUSINESS WRITING is not only boring but “numbingly banal” writes Jason Fried who asks: “Who writes this stuff? Worse, who reads it and approves it? What does it say when tens of thousands of companies are saying the same things about themselves?”. He lists such phrases as full-service solutions and provider of value-added services as the kind of clichés that make every company sound like every other and he blames years of language dilution for turning “the powerful descriptive sentence into an empty vessel (of) vapid expressions”. Some companies (he writes in Inc.) know how to make their pitch interesting, but those that don’t should hire a good writer. “But make sure that writer truly understands your business. Remember, it’s not about telling a story; it’s about telling a true story well”.

WHAT’S KNOWN AS “peak water” is the term that describes when the demand for water outstrips the supply, and it’s a situation that the world is rapidly approaching. That’s the warning from Alexander Bell who forecasts that it will inevitably be followed by “social instability and conflict”. In the New Statesman he predicts that Yemen will be the first country to literally run out of water; Pakistan and Cyprus are close behind. “Soon there will be floods of people, too. Should we fail to solve our water problems people will begin moving in great waves from country to country, searching for the one commodity that is essential to life”. How long will it be before the world realizes that the only eventual solution is to purify the oceans?

THE WILCOCK WEB: Hypocrisy or democracy? They’re the same thing when Afghanistan’s corrupt Hamad Karzai is feted in Washington…..One million copies of Sarah Palin’s second book, America by Heart, will be published in November….And former hotshot police chief (of NYC and LA) James Bratton might be the next FBI chief when Robert Mueller’s term expires in September….… Cuba may legalize prostitution next year….. Annie Haven packages dries cow manure on her farm in San Luis Obistro and sells it small bags online to gardeners who mix it with water to make their own manure….What do all those overpaid Pentagon generals actually do?…… Attenzione ProstituteThe mayor of Mogliano in Italy has erected highway signs warning motorists not to be distracted by the growing number of hookers who now line the town’s streets at night….. Two months after the publication of the Rev. Gabriele Amorth’s book Memoirs of an Exorcist declaiming “the smoke of Satan in the holy rooms”, an anonymous priest told Newsmax: ”There’s a terrible persecution of the clergy going on”….. The Mattel company is making dolls of four characters from the TV series Mad Men….If so many huge U.S. corporations don’t pay taxes why on earth should anybody else?……Writing in the London Times, columnist Camilla Cavendish says Britain’s politics would be greatly improved if they copied America. “Right now we have the worst of both worlds: a quasi presidential system but without the checks and balances of American politics”…..After declaring more than half of its 22million population to be overweight, Romania is planning to tax junk food as soon as it decides how to define it Former president Jimmy Carter says he never won an argument with his wife Rosalynn, “and the only times I thought I had, I found out that the argument wasn’t over yet”…. A  $4.5m federal grant is helping a Massachusetts firm’s quest to create a cellulose substitute for corn currently diverted to make biofuels,….Sears is inviting discarded car dealers to reopen as Sears Auto Centers…. NYC’s Dept. for the Aging is promoting in four languages a free  game that can be played single or in groups to teach old people about financial scams (www.nyc.gov/aging)…”If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”—Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

5/15/10

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