The culture war raged all week over anti-gay remarks by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty. Other Robertson opinions surfaced that African-Americans before the Civil Rights Movement were happily singing in the cotton fields, and that men who cook are “girly men.” I found my Cousin Ray Sixkiller in his backyard frying a turkey, and he wanted to know what kind of opinions people expect “from a guy whose claim to fame is talking to ducks?”
On Friday night’s Hardball, Ron Reagan (son of the late President) responded to video of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin in her most festive Christmas camo defending “free speech rights” of Phil Robertson as if the First Amendment restrained corporate persons: “These are the same people who were wanting a boycott of stores where they say 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas.'” Cousin Ray was shocked at Mr. Reagan’s lack of hypocrisy tolerance. “Didn’t he learn anything from his dad?”
About 10 percent of the 720 people in the audience were injured in the collapse of the ceiling during a performance at the Apollo Theatre in London. Cousin Ray observed that the actors “gave a whole new meaning to bringing down the house.”
Charles Blow published an op-ed in the Saturday New York Times about the racial fantasies of the Duck Dynasty dude. Cousin Ray again asked why Mr. Blow would expect a history lesson from the duck whisperer? “Maybe the ducks told him the back of the bus was just ducky.”
The Sunday New York Times carried a feature article on the difficulties Justin Bieber has had growing up, claiming Mr. Bieber has been caught leaving a Brazilian whorehouse, painting racist graffiti, spitting on his fans, peeing in a mop bucket and “writing goofy things in the visitor book at Anne Frank’s house.” That sounds like great material, if we knew who Justin Bieber is and why we should care that he’s acting the fool. Cousin Ray piped up helpfully, “I know who Anne Frank was. Does she count as a celebrity?” I am not informed.
John Eisenhower, the son and biographer of the WWII hero and two term President, died this week. Cousin Ray, a lifetime Republican who has had problems with his party lately, shook his head, “Dwight Eisenhower couldn’t get nominated for dog catcher today. They’d call him a squish.”
Cousin Ray was chuckling about another article in the Sunday Times, reporting a fad for traditional Hawaiian surfboards, the alaia and the paipo, “discovered” by white guys. “They took their land,” Cousin Ray observed, “and now they are coming for their surfboards.”
There was an alarming report in the Times, citing many scary cases, about difficulties disarming mentally ill people. Gun rights advocates are opposed because they don’t think the government should ever take away guns and mental health advocates are opposed because they fear mental illness will be even more stigmatized. Cousin Ray wanted to know “Where are the ordinary people advocates?”
60 Minutes reported on Sunday night that the Denver Post has employed a marijuana critic, but a law professor said it was “not sustainable” to base a multi-million dollar business on federal crimes. Cousin Ray deadpanned “that guy doesn’t pay much attention to defense contracting, does he?”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Monday that Apple has cut a deal with China Mobile to sell the iPhone. China Mobile has 763 million of the 1.2 billion wireless subscribers in China. “Wow,” said Cousin Ray. “They are finally going to let the people who make the iPhone use it.”
If you bought something on plastic at Target between November 27 and December 15, USA Today reports that you better keep an eye on your account because the results of the massive data breach are already showing up. Cousin Ray snickered because I’m always giving him a hard time about shopping at Wally World.
Drew Christie published a Christmas Eve op-doc (video creation) in the New York Times arguing that Santa Claus has left American children soft and unable to compete globally with school kids who have had the laziness scared out of them by the likes of the German Krampus, the Japanese Namahage, or the Icelandic Gryla. Cousin Ray agreed that scaring kids would be cheaper than presents, “but what would we do on Halloween?”
The Times reports that Mikhail Kalashnikov has died in Russia at the age of 94. “AK-47” is the Automatic designed by Kalashnikov for a competition that ended in 1947. Production started in 1949 and is estimated at 100 million. The US buys Kalashnikovs for allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cause of death was not reported, but Cousin Ray was certain it was not a gunshot. “Irony on that level would not be ignored.”
Chicago DJ Larry Lujack passed away from esophageal cancer at age 73. His on air persona was—ahem, unusual—and Rush Limbaugh told the New York Times Magazine that Mr. Lujack “was the only person I ever copied.” Lujack said of Limbaugh, “His appeal escapes me.” Cousin Ray said Mr. Lujack and Mr. Limbaugh were “the difference between funny and mean.”
There was a Christmas present for the freedom to love in the New York Times, reporting on the Indiana campaign to ban marriage equality, started as a wedge issue for Republicans and now turning into a wedge issue for Democrats. I just retired from teaching the future ruling elite of Indiana, so I’m confident the most conservative among the young don’t have hurting gay people on their political radar. Cousin Ray, in a glass half empty moment, said Hoosier haters should not despair. “They’ll always have the Miami and the Potawatomi.”
Rodolfo Hernandez, 82, died of natural causes. He got the Medal of Honor in the Korean War for charging an enemy position with an inoperable rifle and killing six with his bayonet before falling from his injuries. He came around as his brothers in arms were placing him in a body bag. Cousin Ray said “R.I.P.”
On the same subject, Pope Francis’s Christmas message continued to push his Church toward more modesty and less aggression. Departing from prepared text, he said “I invite even unbelievers to desire peace.” Cousin Ray agreed that “the first step to calling off wars is to call off holy wars.”
The Obama family spent another Christmas in Hawaii, leading the birthers to complain that he has faked his birth in a tourist destination rather than “somewhere real Americans live, like Mississippi.”
First Look on Thursday morning featured a report on Rep. Steve King (R-IA) visiting Norway, where he breakfasted on reindeer and lutefisk. The reporter, missing the point, referred to the peculiar dish created with lye as “a type of fish.” Cousin Ray hoped the Congressman “didn’t eat Rudolph.”
Thursday’s New York Times carried a detailed report on 21st century sex toys, including “teledildonics,” “bedroom data mining” and “Fundawear,” his and hers underpants with electronic stimulators activated by an iPhone. Cousin Ray observed that Fundawear “will be stiff competition for Mormon magic underwear.”
Speaking of Mormons, a federal court in Utah declared that denying gay people the right to marry lacks a “rational basis” if you don’t conflate civil marriage with sacramental marriage. Over 700 couples rushed to get married while the state scrambled to appeal, surprising those who thought there were no gay people in Utah.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association continues a valiant struggle with the Food and Drug Administration for the right to label “food” containing genetically modified organisms as “natural.” Cousin Ray did not understand the problem. “Once you decide to manufacture food, isn’t that genetically modified natural cow out of the barn?”
Chase Stuart published a rundown of NFL coaches likely to get pink slips at the end of the season, and one of the predicted goners is Mike Shanahan of the Washington team. Stuart points out that team owner Dan Snyder has never kept a coach for five years and Shanahan is 24-39 overall and 3-12 this year. Cousin Ray said Mr. Snyder should look at the bright sides, a high draft pick and “another year to find a name fit for the Super Bowl.”
Fortune released its predictions for 2014 this week, among them that Puerto Rico will go broke and Amazon.com will buy the US Postal Service. Cousin Ray claimed Fortune has it backwards: The Postal Service will go broke and Jeff Bezos will buy Puerto Rico.
Reddit was buzzing all week with a discussion about an Indian student who can’t take classes as a visitor at Brigham Young University unless he cuts his hair. Many people pointed out that Jesus could not attend BYU. Cousin Ray asked why Jesus would want to? “Are Regents University and Oral Roberts full?”
Since this column is over for 2013, I asked Cousin Ray if he had any message for those dismayed by corrupt tribal governments and dysfunctional US government? “Buck up,” he said, “it could be worse. You could live in Toronto.”