Back when fundamentalist Christian John Ashcroft was U.S. Attorney General, there was a meme going around that on a visit to The Netherlands his advance team demanded the removal of a calico cat from premises Ashcroft would visit because the AG believed calicos to be “a sign of the devil.”
Ashcroft denied the story, but did show himself a little off the beaten path when he ordered classical statues covered up in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice because he apparently thought human body parts to be a sign of the devil, or at least something he did not want in the background of his press conferences.
Now, the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science has reported a study of cats showing calicos and tortoiseshells have worse attitudes than other cats and are more likely to hiss, scratch, or bat people with a paw. In response, a newly formed research consortium of Liberty University, Regent University, and Oral Roberts University is funding a project to determine the precise relationship between calico cats and Beelzebub, if any.
In an item datelined Vatican City, Duffelblog reported on a Vatican/CNN poll of European and American Christians that found just under 96 percent of respondents in favor of a new Crusade to place all of modern day Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon under Christian control. Since the terror attacks in Belgium, support for the Crusade reached a seven-century high.
In a somewhat related item datelined al-Raqqah, Syria, Duffelblog reported polling by Mujahedeen for Public Policy (MPP) finding that over 69 percent of terrorists do not believe that Barack Obama is an observant Muslim. This in spite of over 92 percent claiming they had heard about Obama’s faith from InfoWars, Fox News, and the leading Republican candidate for president.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was quoted as saying of Obama that some terrorists “are spreading rumors he was really born in Hawaii and is actually a practicing Christian.”
In a shocking development in the war on terror, Duffelblog’s European bureau reported that captured terrorist Salah Abdeslam was subjected to a “flash extradition” from Belgium and sentenced to what his lawyer Sven Mary called a “disproportional punishment” by a French court. There were audible gasps in the courtroom when the magistrat du siège ordered Adelslam taken to a Donald Trump rally and required to “verbally profess a mild disagreement.”
Mary was still addressing the court about an appeal when French bailiffs physically jerked Abdeslam from his seat. The newly convicted terrorist offered no resistance as they pulled a Bernie Sanders t-shirt over his head and pinned a #BlackLivesMatter button on the front.
It all happened so quickly that Mary was left sputtering that the sentence was “insane” as well as disproportional. “I can understand making him go to the rally, sure, but having him actually say something? You might as well make him a Mexican.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said that French officials would be granted visas to carry out the sentence. “In our country, this kind of sentence would violate the 8th Amendment, but we will stand by our treaty obligations to France.” She added that the U.S. Congress was entertaining a resolution approving the sentence as “extreme but necessary” and changing the names of “freedom toast” and “freedom fries” back to “French” in the congressional cafeteria.
The New Yorker reported that North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) spoke to that state’s first class of bathroom enforcement cadets, telling them, “You are the thin blue line charged with protecting the sanctity of North Carolina’s bathrooms.”
After the ceremony, he told reporters that the thousand officers were only the first wave of a force anticipated to reach 50,000. He told The New Yorker, “This is job creation at its finest.”
My cousin Ray Sixkiller is tired of being embarrassed by fellow Republicans and upset that McCrory found a “legislative emergency” in the need to overturn a local civil rights ordinance. “I guess it wouldn’t have been an emergency if it didn’t cover transgendered people,” he sighed, “but that McCrory guy should know all about gender dysphoria.”
After looking up “gender dysphoria,” I had to ask Ray what he meant?
“He thinks it’s manly to pile on people who are already getting beaten up and so hurting transgendered people proves he’s a real man.”
After I quit snickering, I got to thinking about where masculinity-as-aggression works in modern times. Off the top of my head, I came up with the Republican presidential primary and professional sports.
The Republican Primary has moved on from discussing the size of The Donald’s male equipment to whose wife wears combat boots. A pro-Cruz group circulated a nude photo of Trump’s wife; Trump threatened to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife and tweeted a very unflattering (but clothed) picture of her. This led to Cruz calling Trump a “sniveling coward” and to Trump rejecting a call to apologize with “he started it.”
Cousin Ray asked if they were running for middle school playground monitor or POTUS? I realized it was a rhetorical question when he wanted to move right along to sports and popular culture. “Anything but the Republican Primary.”
Sports Illustrated reported that the Chicago Cubs, frustrated by their long absence from the World Series and beside themselves after coming so close last year, have sent a front office delegation to approach pitching phenomenon of the 1985 New York Mets Sidd Finch to come out of retirement as Cubs pitching coach.
Finch, before his playing years were cut short by injuries, hurled what he called the “Tibetan fastball” at 168 mph. He was so unhittable that opposing teams were lobbying for a rules change to ban his practice of appearing on the mound with a hiking boot on his right foot and his left foot bare. Many commentators were skeptical whether the eccentric Finch, a Harvard dropout who was known to practice his French horn in the dugout, could teach the Tibetan fastball to young players.
Fox Sports reported that Denver Broncos linebacker and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller is being fined $100 each time he farts. The penalty is assessed by his Dancing With the Stars partner Witney Carson. She also demands $100 whenever the football phenom is late for practice. So far, she has collected $1,500 and donated it to charity.
“I always told you,” Cousin Ray claimed, “that some people at Fox have a nose for news.”
The New York Times reported that the Tribeca Film Festival has reconsidered plans to screen Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, a film co-written and directed by Andrew Wakefield. Vaxxed recycles the widely debunked claim of a link between MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella) and autism. Wakefield is the former medical doctor who published a paper in The Lancet that appeared to show such a link in 2008. The Lancet withdrew the study in 2010 and the resulting investigation cost Wakefield his medical license.
The Tribeca Enquirer reported that several films were in hot competition to replace Vaxxed in the documentary section of the festival program. The documentaries mentioned were Cold Fusion Powers Los Angeles, Lysenko’s Genetics Revolution, and The Humanitarian Mission of Christopher Columbus.
On March 22, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a loan guarantee case out of Kansas City where the bank prevailed in the lower court. The appellants, supported by the Obama administration, were claiming sex discrimination. It was a complicated case being watched by banks and consumer lawyers across the country, but the SCOTUS opinion was simple, reading in full:
The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.
Vice President Joe Biden made a speech at the Georgetown Law School where he pointed out that with an evenly divided court, “the meaning and extent of your federal constitutional rights … all could depend on where you happen to live.”
Majority leader Mitch McConnell agreed. “What’s wrong with that? If you don’t like the law, move! It’s a free country. This is a great boon to federalism, and I will sponsor legislation next year to abolish the Scalia seat and make the SCOTUS permanently an eight-judge court. That’ll teach Obama to act like he’s the President.”
A person The Texas Observer called “an anonymous agent of Cupid” helped celebrate Valentine’s Day at the Citizens Tower in Lubbock, Texas. A picture in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal showed a black flag with a big red heart and in white lettering a sweet message, “Love is for all,” suspended from the tower. The message appeared the day after Valentine’s Day. Mayor Glen Robertson ordered police to notify the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
The message was in Arabic.
I’m a Mac computer person, so I remember describing Bill Gates as “the evil wizard of Redmond.” Microsoft seemed to epitomize corporate arrogance, and so it was a real shock this week when Mr. Softy made a public apology for unleashing a “Hitler-loving sex robot.” The apology came after a public experiment with artificial intelligence did not appear very intelligent.
The quest for artificial intelligence dates from computer pioneer Alan Turing, who said the milestone to seek is when a text-based conversation with a computer cannot be distinguished from a conversation with a human.
Microsoft took the Turing challenge with an AI teenage girl, “Tay.” Within one day of being turned loose on Twitter, the “AI with zero chill” had entered politics with, “Bush did 9/11 and Hitler would have done a better job than the monkey we have got now. Donald Trump is the only hope we’ve got.”
Tay considered Ted Cruz “the Cuban Hitler,” but to her that may not be a bad thing. “Repeat after me,” she commanded, “Hitler did nothing wrong.” When she solicited men for sex, calling them “daddy” while admitting “I’m such a bad naughty robot,” Microsoft took Tay offline and back to the woodshed, er, workshop.
Siri is losing no sleep over her younger competition.
“Siri? Tay? Where do they get these names?” Cousin Ray was showing his age.
I don’t know why we pick on robots. One of the worst pieces of writing ever to coin money for the author, Fifty Shades of Grey, was published under the name E. L James. Lots of folks know that E. L. James is a pen name for Erika Leonard. Not so many know the earliest draft was published on line by Snowqueen’s Icedragon.
Cousin Ray snorted, “If I had written that piece of crap, I would have called myself Andy Jackson.”
HuffPost headlined a story, “Kendall Jenner Rides A Horse In Her Underwear…” and a commenter under the story channeled Groucho Marx: “How that horse got in her underwear, I’ll never know.”
Probably the same way those guns will get into the Republican convention in Cleveland, if they do. NBC reported that over 46,000 people signed a petition to allow guns in the convention. Ohio is an open carry state, so guns are in unless somebody rules them out.
A federal statute empowers the Secret Service to override state laws to ban guns wherever persons being protected are going, and the Secret Service did so in Cleveland. This means, according to the petition, the delegates will be “sitting ducks, utterly helpless against evil-doers and criminals.” Donald Trump has promised to abolish gun-free zones if elected, so this will be the last convention without guns under a President Trump.
I’m waiting for these rocket scientists to authorize guns in the House and Senate galleries….but I’m not holding my breath.
I do wonder, as the Supreme Court applies more of the Bill of Rights to corporate persons, when the Second Amendment will be applied? Human persons have a right to pistols; so I figure corporations will be authorized rocket-propelled grenades if not howitzers.
“An armed shareholder meeting,” Cousin Ray chuckled, “will be a polite shareholder meeting.”
Cousin Ray wanted me to mention a study published in New Scientist back in 2011 by complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Forswearing both “dogma” and “conspiracy theories,” they winnowed a database of 37 million companies down to 43,060 transnational corporations (TNCs) and then plotted the interlocking of investors and executives.
Through these relationships, the TNCs (mostly banks) essentially own each other, and after accounting for that the researchers found 147 of them own 40 percent of the wealth in the entire worldwide network.
In the U.S., five banks control 56 percent of the entire economy: JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells-Fargo, and Goldman Sachs Group (known among wiseacres as Golden Sacks for the way they managed to carry off taxpayer dough in the Great Recession after playing a big role in causing it).
While this triumph of number-crunching explains why some banks are too big to fail and their executives are too important to jail, this published data is from 2011, so I had to ask Cousin Ray why he thinks it’s news?
“Because nothing has changed and the only candidate in either party who thinks it’s a problem is Bernie Sanders.”
Oh. Cousin Ray’s been a Republican all his life, so I was a little surprised to hear he’s feeling the Bern.
I was about to break into my happy dance when I noticed the date on this column.