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How Did I Miss That? Penn's Pratfall; Racist Dwarves

Jimmy Kimmel made a long and hilarious tape of local newscasters trying to pronounce the name of the Best Director Oscar winner for Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu. Presenter Sean Penn caused a ruckus of another kind when he remarked, “Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?”

Watchers at home could not have known that the honored director has been a close friend of Penn’s since directing him in 21 Grams. Backstage, Iñárritu commented, “Sean and I have that kind of brutal relationship where only true friendship can survive. I make on him a lot of very tough jokes that I will not tell you.”

Mr. Penn is like a football player who is ignorant of the historical context of the Washington team name. With all the controversy over Selma being snubbed and the unbearable whiteness of Hollywood, making immigration jokes is tone deaf---unless you think the same joke would work directed at Eddie Redmayne, the Brit who took home Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything?

Indians have a whole genre of humor around immigration jokes and a longstanding beef with Oscar for white actors playing historical Indians and Indian actors getting little notice for outstanding work. With that context, most Indians barely looked up from their popcorn when Sean Penn stepped in the cow pie of racism.

Spanish artist Eugenio Merino got in trouble for creating a hyper-realistic sculpture of Francisco Franco’s head and using it to ridicule the Fascist dictator who ruled Spain with an iron fist between 1939 and 1975. “Fascist” is meant in the literal sense that Spain supported the Axis in WWII but did not declare war. The deceased dictator still has enough fans in Spain to sue the artist for making fun of their hero.

The Dallas Morning News reported that the Bugatti Division of Volkswagen has sold the last of 450 Veyrons, 10 years after putting them on the market. The Veyron is a turbocharged, 16 cylinder, all-wheel drive beast that leaps zero to sixty in under three seconds and tops out over 250 mph. The base price of the Veyron was $1.8 million. The average buyer owns three jets, a yacht, and 84 other cars. My cousin Ray Sixkiller commented, “Bugatti Division of Volkswagen sounds like Lamborghini Division of Fiat.”

The Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order blocking any further marriage licenses to gay people after a lesbian couple in Austin was allowed to marry under a state court order issued for the reason that one of the partners has cancer. A federal court has struck down Texas’ constitutional ban on same sex marriage, but that order is stayed pending appeal. The couple with the health emergency proceeded in state court.

Newly elected Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is trying to find legal standing to ask that the marriage be declared void. Can’t let that hospital visitation and inheritance stuff get into the wrong hands, you know? If you let gay people make medical choices for ailing partners and inherit from them, next thing you know that will stop straight people from doing the same. Can you follow that “logic?” Neither can most courts asked to rule on it.

Jodi Kantor reported in The New York Times about an unforeseen consequence of electronic court filings: “lurid details” alleged in a lawsuit can, in a wired world, “go viral.” Court filings have always been public unless sealed, but the documents were spread out among courthouses in every corner of the land.

Court records can always be unsealed, as the Republican candidate against Barack Obama for the U.S. Senate found out. He denied the sexual improprieties alleged by his ex-wife in their child custody case, but he also withdrew and left Obama opposed by the redoubtable Alan Keyes.

Keyes found himself a Maryland resident running for Senate in Illinois only four years after making strident attacks on Hillary Clinton for running in New York. He spent much of the campaign explaining why Clinton was a carpetbagger but he was not. Clinton’s carpetbag carried 55 percent of the vote; Keyes’s 27 percent. Some carpetbags are bigger than others.

Wisconsin Governor and GOP presidential hopeful Scott Walker appears to be crafting a backup plan for getting on the Green Bay Packers roster as a punter. He punted on evolution. He punted on whether Barack Obama loves his country. Walker declined to express an opinion on whether Obama is a Christian because, he said, he had never had a conversation with Obama about it. Chris Hayes pointed out that Walker has rendered himself unable to answer the question, “Is the Pope a Catholic?”

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is sometimes called “the land of racist dwarves,” because of the North Korean obsession with racial purity and the persistent famines that have rendered the average North Korean smaller than the average South Korean. Still, the boy dictator Kim Jong-un takes pride in the athletic prowess of his country, so he has determined that a North Korean will win the Mangyongdae Prize Marathon in Pyongyang this April.

Cousin Ray wanted to know how Kim could swing that? “African runners win all the big marathons.” I told him the Korean government has closed the race to all foreigners, citing fear of Ebola. “Isn’t it handy,” Ray harrumphed, “that the best runners come from the same continent as Ebola?” That’s barely true. The distance between Kenya’s world-class runners and Liberia’s Ebola outbreak is over 3,000 miles.

Al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab has issued a specific threat of attack against the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. U.S. media were not as quick to report that the same terrorist video threatened the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, and Oxford Street in London.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, within a week of seeing his agency shut down because Congress can’t pass a funding bill, called on shoppers to be “vigilant.” Cousin Ray was not sure how to be vigilant while shopping but he recalled John Crawford, shot dead for picking up a toy gun and carrying it around Wal-Mart while he talked on his cell phone. “Somebody was too vigilant in that case,” Cousin Ray reminded me. “We’re in danger of lending a new meaning to ‘Shop ‘til you drop.’”

HuffPost reported that Robert McDonald, the former Proctor & Gamble executive tapped by President Obama to clean up the VA, has had a Brian Williams moment. McDonald was caught on video in an exchange with a homeless veteran claiming that he served in Special Forces. The VA Secretary is a graduate of West Point and of Ranger School, but he spent most of his service assigned to the 82nd Airborne. McDonald appears to have saved his job with an immediate and unconditional mea maxima culpa.

Back on the media side of lies, Bill O’Reilly proved himself unable to distinguish between covering an anti-war demonstration and covering a war when he called his reportage on the Falkland Island conflict for CBS “from a war zone.” He was in Buenos Aires.

The Associated Press reported that when Houston uploaded the results of DNA testing of over 6,600 rape kits left untested for up to three decades, the result was 850 hits in the FBI database. Untested rape kits filed away in evidence lockers are a nationwide problem. The AP cited Cleveland (4,700 kits), Detroit (11,000), and Memphis (12,000).

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Colorado voters are still behind their decision to legalize recreational marijuana, 58 to 38 percent. There were differences by age, with voters under 34 supporting legalization 82-16 percent and voters over 55 against legalization 46-50 percent. Meanwhile, Alaska became the third state to legalize recreational weed.

Wired reported on federal officers shutting down RedBook, “a mashup of Craigslist, Yelp, and Usenet where sex workers and hundreds of thousands of their customers could connect, converse, and make arrangements for commercial sex.” The shutdown affected the safety of sex workers by putting more activity on the streets, where the political pressure to shut down the world’s oldest profession comes from in the first place.

Alan Kuperman of the LBJ School of Public Affairs published a piece in Foreign Affairs arguing that it’s all President Obama’s fault that Libya is now a failed state. In the rear view mirror, Kuperman argued that dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi would not have bombed civilians in Benghazi like he said he would and that the dictator’s son was a closet liberal. The heat Obama got then was for doing too little and “leading from behind.” So should he have heeded his critics then or now?

The Daily Mail reported that ISIS has used improvised explosive devices against the Mosul library, destroying 10,000 books and over 700 rare manuscripts. If true, this puts ISIS in history beside the Spanish conquistadores who burned the Mayan codices. Nothing to brag about.