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How Did I Miss That? Bob Dylan's 'Hate Crime'; Yoda Lives!

Friday news was dominated by the death Thursday night of the great African lion, Nelson Mandela. Cousin Ray Sixkiller and I are in agreement that every oppressed community should have a Nelson Mandela and the Indian nations of the US and Canada are an oppressed community. “The problem,” Cousin Ray said, “is our perfection of a European political custom, the circular firing squad.”

GOP Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, appearing on The O’Reilly Factor, compared Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid to the GOP’s struggle to repeal Obamacare. “Well,” Cousin Ray ventured, “they both happened on the same planet, right?

President Obama traveled to South Africa to eulogize Mandela, the man who befriended his jailors and negotiated with apartheid terrorists. Obama promptly fell into scandal on the home front for shaking hands with Cuban President Raul Castro, “proving,” said Cousin Ray, “Obama was never qualified to be President. Next time, US voters should be careful all candidates have demonstrated enough hypocrisy for the job.”

Speaking of hypocrisy, it came out after Mandela’s memorial that the “sign language interpreter” was a fake and so the deaf were excluded.

Saturday’s New York Times brought news that Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), about to turn 76, will run for a seventh term, the latest race pitting conservative GOP establishment candidates against Tea Party challengers. Mississippi is in the middle of the Tea Party’s geographical base, the former Confederate States of America. A statewide race is a severe test of the Republican establishment’s authority. “What a choice,” said Cousin Ray, “a guy who wants to sail the ship of state back before 1954 or a guy who wants to shoot holes in it below the water line. ”

Shareholders of AT&T and Verizon have offered resolutions requiring regular reports on what information management shares with the government. The AT&T board has taken the position that shareholders should not even get to vote on the resolution because it deals with “ordinary business operations.” Cousin Ray said if spying on customers is “ordinary business operations,” maybe we should go back to smoke signals. “Not private,” he remarked, “but a lot cheaper.”

In related news, the Washington Post revealed Saturday that the FBI has, with a search warrant, sent malware over the Internet to inventory the contents of a suspect’s hard drive and take pictures with the computer’s camera without triggering the light that informs the operator that the camera is on. “Dang,” said Cousin Ray, “I’d better make a practice of getting dressed before logging on. Or not…”

Also on Pearl Harbor Day, North Korea released Korean War veteran Merrill Newman, 85, who had been held in custody over a month for “war crimes.” He was released after reading a videotaped “apology” for his actions in the war, reminiscent of the “confessions” forced out of POWs before the Korean Armistice in 1953. Newman went to North Korea as a tourist, Cousin Ray remarked, “because the Chernobyl tour was sold out.”

Stephen Marche published an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times, “The Case for Filth,” where he parsed empirical evidence about the gender division of housework and concluded “the more egalitarian a household is, the less housework gets done altogether.” I went to ask Cousin Ray what he thought, but his wife had made him take out the trash.

The Times also reported that Houston has had 11 armored car robberies this year, about a third of the total for the entire country. “One more reason,” Cousin Ray predicted, “Rick Perry will run for President again.”

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Finally, there was a report on the British “Ministry of Nudges,” which uses insights from behavioral economics and social psychology to help people help themselves. Cousin Ray said he started out to study British government, but never could get past the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Monday’s New York Times reported that South Korea has declared an “air defense identification zone” over the East China Sea that overlaps and conflicts with similar declarations by Japan and China. Cousin Ray observed that with all those “defenders,” you would be really safe on the wet reef that is the only land in the area “unless you got caught in the crossfire.”

In the month after Bob Dylan received France’s Legion of Honor for his inspiration in the fight for justice and freedom, he was charged with “incitement to hatred” for these remarks to Rolling Stone: “People (are) at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color. It’s the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back — or any neighborhood back. Or any anything back. Blacks know that some whites didn’t want to give up slavery — that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can’t pretend they don’t know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood. It’s doubtful that America’s ever going to get rid of that stigmatization. It’s a country founded on the backs of slaves.” If that’s inciting hatred, Cousin Ray warned, “Indians better keep their mouths shut about their history.”

Thomas Friedman, interviewed on Tuesday’s Morning Joe, decried watering down hard subjects to lessen stress on schoolchildren. “Stress?” he said, “Trying to understand the thick Chinese accent of your first boss—that will be stress.” Cousin Ray said Friedman was stressing him. “He wants grade school kids writing computer code. I can’t write computer code.”

Tuesday brought the news that Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R), who opposed the Violence Against Women Act because it would extend tribal court jurisdiction over non-Indian men who abuse Indian women on Indian land, got a primary challenge from Rep. Steve Stockman, who declaimed "If liberal John Cornyn loves being a senator he can move to Massachusetts." Cousin Ray and I made some popcorn.

On Wednesday, the New York Times featured a Senate report finding that “Many of the most flagrant violators of federal workplace safety and wage laws are also recipients of large federal contracts.” Cousin Ray speculated that contractors named in the report—like Imperial Sugar and Tyson Foods, where violations are alleged to have killed 25 workers---“were cutting corners on wages and safety to turn in the lowest bid.” Then he remembered the no-bid contracts during the Iraq War and the 18 soldiers electrocuted in Iraq from shoddy contractor work. “Maybe,” Ray suggested, “all federal contractors should nominate a Vice President in charge of going to jail?”

In the same week the government sold the last of the General Motors stock it acquired in the bailout, GM elected Mary Barra, the daughter of a GM die maker who started her education in a GM tech school, to be the first woman to head a major auto company. “No more jokes about women drivers,” said Cousin Ray, observing that GM has made some all time classic rez cars.

Thursday’s New York Times brought news that investment-banking behemoth JPMorgan had entered a deferred prosecution agreement, paying $2 billion in penalties to avoid criminal charges in the Bernie Madoff swindling case. This comes within a month of a $13 billion settlement for selling the kind of mortgage-backed securities that were a cause of the US economic crash. This is just a cost of doing business while JPMorgan is pulling out the lobbying stops to kill the Volcker Rule, which would ban investment banks from investing on their own accounts. “What do you expect,” Cousin Ray snarked, “with all the bank robberies in the country? A bank robs back, and everybody gets mad.”

Craig Whitlock blogged in the Washington Post that Yoda is “still standing.” “Yoda” is the nickname of Andrew W. Marshall, the 92-year-old boss of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment. Marshall has escaped a fairly robust cost-cutting budget axe that spared his mission of trying to see into the future of military challenges. Marshall bears a physical resemblance to the Jedi master, and his job is prophecy. “There is only do or not do,” said Cousin Ray with a straight face, “there is no try.”

The NFL world is buzzing with rumors that Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington team with the racist name, is about to can his head coach, two time Super Bowl winner Mike Shanahan, who has been reported upset enough over Snyder’s interference to be interested in the recently vacated job coaching the Houston Texans. Thursday’s decision to sit RGIII for the rest of the year is seen as an effort to provoke Snyder to fire him. Fired, Shanahan would pocket the worth of the last year of his contract, which he would lose if he resigned to pursue the Texans gig. However, the Washington Post reported that Snyder’s lawyers are exploring whether they could save the $7 million they would owe by characterizing Shanahan’s dismissal as “for cause.” Cousin Ray, a Texans fan, commented “yay-HA!”