This column appears on the holiday declared inaccurately to be the birthday of the United States of America. Hearing this remark, my cousin Ray Sixkiller asked why I hate BBQ, fireworks, and ice cream?
Oscar-nominated actress Amy Adams made news when she gave up her first class seat to a uniformed US soldier and rode in coach on a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles. Adams was outed on Twitter by an ESPN reporter who happened to be on the flight and witnessed the classy move. Adams was raised an army brat and did time in dinner theater before hitting the big time.
The US Supreme Court held that for-profit corporations have religious identities and can lawfully discriminate against the beliefs of employees who do not share the boss’s faith. In a remarkable coincidence, all of the Supreme Court justices who voted to reinstate having ovaries as a preexisting condition in health insurance policies were male.
The SCOTUS has opened a new front in the war on women that has driven an extraordinary electoral gender gap to the disadvantage of the GOP. The Hobby Lobby case has energized the national Democratic base in a way that used to depend on pointing out the anti-woman policies gushing out of Republican-controlled states. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passionate dissent has even been set to music.
Speaking of goofy males in government, Kim Jong Un is referring to a forthcoming caper movie that takes his image in vain as “an act of war.” The Interview, produced by actors Seth Rogan and James Franco, provoked a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman to warn that screening the film “will invite a strong and merciless countermeasure.” Cousin Ray speculated that the movie will nail the coffin shut on Dennis Rodman’s attempts to promote a series of basketball games between the boy dictator’s Pyongyang Midgets and the Harlem Globetrotters.
The big news for the other kind of round ball was Team USA advancing to the “knockout round” in World Cup competition, leading professional xenophobe Ann Coulter to opine, “Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation’s moral decay” and “No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer.” I guess that means no Indians watched. Somebody was watching soccer, because the ratings for the US-Portugal game beat the NBA Finals and the World Series.
Ms. Coulter is no doubt breathing easier since Team USA exited the World Cup tournament at the hands, er, feet of Belgium. I was going to ask Cousin Ray’s opinion of World Cup fever, but he interrupted with a rant about penalty kicks deciding the Brazil-Chile game.
On another addiction front, Foreign Policy reported that global opium cultivation has reached its highest level since the UN began tracking it in 1998. Most of the heroin precursor has come from the steep rise of opium poppy farming in Afghanistan after the US invasion. The Taliban government of Mullah Mohammed Omar had reduced opium production by 99 percent in 2000. Cousin Ray figures the Taliban will be back within a year of the US leaving, and observed “if they throw acid on girls for going to school, can you imagine what they will do to drug dealers?”
The New York Times reported that persons stopped by authorities in the parts of Iraq controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may be quizzed on theological issues with their life depending on the outcome, since Sunni and Shi’a look pretty much alike.
Another report found radical Islam to be officially in schism when ISIS declared a new Caliphate with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Caliph, titular head of all Islam. Al Qaeda, led by Ayman al-Zawahri since Osama bin Laden lost a fight with SEAL Team Six, begged to differ, and the Muslim Brotherhood has had its claim to radicalism tarnished by attempting to involve itself in electoral politics rather than blowing stuff up. Cousin Ray commented, “Pass the popcorn.”
Army Times reported that retired USAF Col. Robert Terrill, 92, was found in Arlington National Cemetery, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was found in Section 54, where the on line grave finder places his wife, Helen, who died in 2009.
Michelle Obama denied that the White House chef puts crack in his pies. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) promised an investigation into “pie-gate.”
Billionaire Nick Hanauer, a proud member of the .01%, published an essay in Politico warning his fellow filthy rich that “the pitchforks are coming” if they don’t quit using government to aggravate inequality as if it were possible to keep their customers rich and their employees poor.
The Washington Post published an analysis of how Bill and Hillary Clinton left the White House “dead broke,” and quickly joined the one percent. The analysis was made possible by the fact that Hillary held public offices that required financial disclosures. Between leaving Washington and January 2013, when he no longer had to disclose, Mr. Clinton was paid $101.9 million for 542 speeches. The most common sponsors were “Wall Street banks and other financial services firms.” Cousin Ray calls the investment bank with the biggest revolving door between Washington and Wall Street “Golden Sacks,” and that outfit alone paid Mr. Clinton $1.35 million for eight speeches.
The reporting requirement went away when Sec. Clinton left office in January of this year, but she is said to be more in demand than her husband, and has visited the Goldman, Sachs well twice in her first six months on the circuit. “Just think,” marveled Cousin Ray, “what the Clintons would make if they could sing and dance!”
Conservatives sometimes like to compare the US Postal Service to Fed Ex or UPS and argue that government can’t do anything as well as private enterprise. Thanks to an earmark called the “Alaska Bypass,” the Postal Service has to ship anything under 1,000 pounds at a fixed rate below cost to the shippers and at the same time pay more than market value to the carriers. The Washington Post gave the example of a Yupik woman in a small village paying $15.15 for a 12-pack of Coca-Cola that came in on a cargo pallet that cost the Postal Service about $3,200 to ship, but under the Alaska Bypass law, the postage was only $485.
The shipping rates the Postal Service has to pay airlines are not set by the market but by the Department of Transportation at cost plus a 15.5 per cent profit. Most commercial airlines make 2 or 3 per cent. Do the retail stores pass on these government subsidies to their mostly Yupik customers? No, they mark up their Coca-Cola 35%. The Alaska Bypass cost the Postal Service $77.5 million last year alone, and Cousin Ray thought that was a steep price to see that the Yupik can rot their teeth like we do in the lower 48.
The Moscow Times reported on the controversy surrounding auction of a death mask of Vladimir Lenin, allegedly one of three originals taken by sculptor Sergei Merkurov, by RR Auction of Boston. Cousin Ray speculated that if Lenin had been an Indian, this quarrel would have been over body parts rather than a piece of plaster.
Science reported on the latest contender for the “discovery” of the Americas, Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, whose writings show that he had discovered specific gravity, conceived time as infinite and understood that refutes creationism, and argued for heliocentrism five centuries before Copernicus. Biruni not only knew the earth is spherical, he calculated its circumference within 16.8 kilometers and---here it comes---inferred from his calculations that there had to be additional land masses between Europe and Asia. Some say inferring the existence of the Americas is not “discovery,” and would disallow Biruni because he never set foot in the Americas. Cousin Ray pointed out that Murray Gell-Mann never set foot on a quark, either, but is credited with “discovering” the sub-atomic particle. “And I’m sure quarks, like American Indians, didn’t think they needed discovering.”
While this day, July 4, is celebrated as Independence Day, the fact is that the Second Continental Congress approved a resolution of independence on July 2, 1776. Thomas Jefferson’s eloquent statement of the natural rights of propertied white males is what came on this date. Cousin Ray put down his plate of ribs long enough to remind me that the First Nations of the Americas were Indian nations and were already independent until subjugated by the colonists. Ray quoted one of Jefferson’s complaints against King George:
He has … endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
“So you see,” Ray said, “the rebels attributed the colonists’ style of warfare to us….so I’m thinkin’ old King George probably wasn’t all bad. Pass the potato salad.”