New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio has thrown in with FRA. That would be “ferret rights advocacy,” as he undertakes to repeal a ban on keeping the creatures as pets instituted by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Mr. De Blasio also declared war on feral rats. Cousin Ray cracked wise about the mayor’s preference for “domestic, dependent rodents,” a remark that drew the ire of the FRA, which was quick to point out that ferrets are not rodents.
This month brought the latest iteration of scientific racism, Nicholas Wade’s new book, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History. Wade disagrees with the American Anthropological Association and claims there are races, three or five or seven—the number is not clear. He attributes the racialization of H. sapiens to genetic differences and separate evolutionary histories, but he’s a bit unclear how to define “race.” He seems to lean toward behavior. Jews become doctors; Indians drop out of school. It’s all in the genes.
Charles Murray offered a glowing review in The Wall Street Journal. Murray was the co-author of the last upsurge of scientific racism, The Bell Curve. I do not mean to equate racism with social meanness—though they often run together—but rather with the position that biological races exist. If races in fact exist, it should be possible for somebody who believes that is the case to describe what he means in terms other than color or culture.
In other racial fantasy, Cynthia Hooper blogged at History News Network that Russian tabloids are making much of chocolate mogul Petro Poroshenko’s Jewish heritage, playing on the stereotype of the “rich, unethical Jew” that served Adolf Hitler so well when he portrayed Judaism as a “race” rather than a religion. Poroshenko has just been elected President of Ukraine, and the Russians need something to use against the man Forbes called “the Willy Wonka of Ukraine.” My cousin Ray Sixkiller wrapped up half of his Hershey bar for later and asked, “How could anybody hate Willy Wonka?”
I am reminded of writing a paper on Nelson Mandela’s liberation movement in South Africa as a student at the University of Texas. I turned in a request for a very old book in the closed stack library titled The Race Question in South Africa. My discovery that it was about conflicts between English settlers and Dutch settlers was one of my early clues that “race” is made up for political use and what people mean by “race” is slippery as a squid.
Speaking of slippery politics, The New York Times noted that the Tea Party is losing nationwide but still winning in Texas, blaming low turnout in Republican primaries and superior organization by the Tea Party. “How does the Times know,” Cousin Ray asked, “that the people who don’t vote aren’t even crazier than those who do?”
The Miami Herald reported that the media CEO salary in the US has broken above $10 million. CEOs now typically make 257 times what an average worker makes. Defenders of this disparity pointed to the stock market rising 30 per cent last year. Cousin Ray took that news with a wry grimace and wondered how many Indians are living on their portfolios.
Showing that some of the rich are also famous, TMZ.com reported that rapper Busta Rhymes has been hit by the IRS with almost a million dollars in back taxes. Cousin Ray said that sum “would busta my bank account.”
May 27 Morning Joe showed a hilarious video of kids reacting to being put in front of an Apple II computer.
Looking for it on YouTube, I learned that it is part of a series where kids are introduced to stuff that we geezers once considered hyper-cool. Remember the Sony Walkman? I went to ask Cousin Ray for a comment, but found him sitting in his recliner with headphones on his ears and a goofy grin on his face.
On a more serious note, CBC News reported mass shooter Elliott Rodger posted a video on YouTube titled “Elliott Rodger’s Retribution,” saying exactly what he intended to do. The video was a culmination at least 22 videos Rodger had uploaded, some of which CBC reported were also threatening.
In other public safety news, NewsOK reported that the Oklahoma City city council has approved a liquor license for a gun range. Cousin Ray was not impressed. “If they want to be more direct, they should forget these half-measures and put a gun range in every funeral parlor.”
Speaking of people who ought not to be carrying guns, the Nigerian military claims to know the whereabouts of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. “This,” Cousin Ray snorted, “would be the same military that claimed to have rescued the girls days after they were taken.”
Showing that famous people don’t always have to mess up, The Buffalo News reported that Emma Watson, AKA Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter films, has graduated from Brown University. “How could she fail,” Cousin Ray asked, “after that first rate prep school, Hogwarts?”
A piece in The New York Times on “smart clothing,” which can connect all kinds of medical information to the Internet, saved the best for the last paragraph: a dress that becomes transparent when the wearer is sexually aroused. Cousin Ray wondered if that wouldn’t be a good time to drop the Internet connection?
Presumably, a woman wearing a smart dress would be consenting to being seen naked, but the New York Post reported that a former New York University art history professor has pled guilty to using his iPhone to take pictures of women in a dressing room who were absolutely not consenting. Ross Finocchio, 35, got five years probation on top of losing his job and being christened “pervy professor” by the Post, always a class act in the field of journalism.
On May 27, President Obama hosted the fourth annual White House Science Fair. Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia), a member of the House Space, Science, and Technology Committee, accused Mr. Obama of leading children to believe “lies straight from the pit of hell.” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) called it “part of the socialist climate change conspiracy” and promised hearings to “uncover the truth.”
Striking back against scientific heresy, the House passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill on that would bar the Department of Defense from spending money to assess climate change implications for national security. The author of this struthious nonsense was Rep. David McKinley (R-West Virginia) and it passed in nearly a party-line vote. Four Democrats voted for and three Republicans voted against.
Science reported this month that the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire didn’t just alter the cultures of South America. The conquest also altered the land, because the coastal peoples of what is now Peru had left middens of discarded mollusk shells big enough to be “visible from space.” Those middens protected the beaches on the coastline from common 25 mile per hour winds. The Spanish depopulated the Peruvian coast, and the beaches blew away. Carbon dates from the fire pits associated with the shells ranged from 5100 years ago to about 400 years ago. Cousin Ray, who is grossed out by oysters on the half shell, wondered if archeology can ever identify the brave soul who ate the first one?
On another nutritious slime front, Soylent has arrived ahead of the autumn rollout promised in the Kickstarter campaign that funded the idea of total food replacement by a formula that is supposed to contain everything the human body needs. Cousin Ray just wanted to know if it comes in green. He was relieved to hear it does not.
The BBC News Magazine carried a report on the original code talkers, noting the irony that they were winning World War I battles while “the tribe's children were being whipped for speaking in their native tongue at schools back home in Oklahoma.” Navajo in Oklahoma? No, Choctaw. Comanches, who code-talked in both world wars, joined them later. The heroic Navajo code talkers of WWII, while subjected to obnoxious discrimination, at least were US citizens. The code talkers of WWI were not.
Speaking of veterans treated poorly, Time carried a heartbreaking report on the death of Isaac Sims, 23, at the hands of a Kansas City SWAT team after being turned away from an overcrowded VA Hospital where he sought treatment for the PTSD that was turning his life upside down and even, according to his mother, offered to sleep on the floor if they would treat him. It made no difference to the VA that he was court-ordered to seek in-patient treatment for PTSD. There was no room at the inn, and so Army Specialist Sims, survivor of two combat deployments with the storied 82nd Airborne Division, was crucified.