The military-speak name for apparel that Foreign Policy reports brings “super-human strength, sophisticated sensors that respond to brain functions, and an exoskeleton made of liquid armor” is TALOS, for “Tactical Light Operator Suit.” TALOS is being created by an odd amalgam of corporate people, including Boeing, Nike, Lockheed Martin, Under Armour, and Adidas. Prototype testing begins this summer with deployment by 2018. The grunts just call it the “Iron Man Suit.”
“There is no truth to the rumor,” my cousin Ray Sixkiller assured me, “that a college intern was bitten by a radioactive spider during the development of TALOS.”
With the Army downsizing, maybe the Iron Man Suit will make fewer troops more formidable. New grooming regulations have banned cornrows and dreadlocks, as well as tattoos on the face, neck, hands, fingers, and lower arms. The former hits mostly black women and the latter hits a number of indigenous peoples, particularly Alaska natives and Pacific Islanders. “That stuff will last about as long as it takes to get into another war,” predicted Cousin Ray, “or until everybody gets an Iron Man mask.”
The US Navy has released video of an experimental electromagnetic railgun that fires a projectile at Mach 7 using electricity rather than gunpowder. Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, is quoted by Foreign Policy comparing the railgun to weaponry in Star Wars. Cousin Ray is holding out for the Death Star, now that the death panels have been cut loose from Obamacare to work on something even more homicidal.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is working on an elaborate algorithm to measure historical significance of human beings called Pantheon. It measures fame, understood as “cultural production.” To make the cut to fame on this level, a person must be mentioned in at least 25 different languages of Wikipedia. Lots of soccer players made it, but only one American football player: OJ Simpson. “I lost interest,” grumped Cousin Ray, “when Will Rogers didn’t make the cut.”
ABC broadcast an interview with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) conducted by David Muir, in which she said, “I am not running for President” several times. Cousin Ray wanted to know how we’ll ever find out whether she is running for President “when Muir lets her get away with such slippery language?”
The April 19 New York Times carried a report that should excite tribal governments but won’t. Slovakia scored a huge success in using a lottery to enforce a value-added tax. Ordinary citizens who turn in sales receipts are entered in a random drawing with valuable prizes, one entry per receipt. The sales receipts are used by computer to nail any businesses cheating on the value-added tax. Everybody wins but the tax cheats. “Now,” Cousin Ray said, “if more tribal governments would impose taxes…”
Competing with tribal taxes for rarity, the Daily Mail ended the longest drought in Loch Ness Monster sightings since 1925 (18 months) with a report on April 18 that Nessie has been sighted on two independent satellite scans on Apple maps. Cousin Ray said he would have thought the Loch Ness Monster more likely to show up on Android than iPhone.
Reuters reported that Switzerland is voting on a proposal to raise the minimum wage to 22 Swiss Francs an hour, which in our currency would be $24.73. The minimum wage in Germany is 8.50 Euros ($11.69); the United Kingdom 6.31 Pounds ($10.55). CNNMoney reported that GOP Gov. Mary Fallin has signed a new Oklahoma law that bans localities from enacting minimum wages greater than the federal minimum wage, which President Obama wishes to raise from $7.25 to $10.10 over the objections of congressional Republicans and Gov. Fallin.
The Associated Press reported that a small town boy from Indiana, John Mellencamp, has admonished Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) to quit using Mellencamp’s tune, Small Town, on the campaign trail, because Walker’s union busting does not jibe with Mellencamp’s support of collective bargaining rights. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median yearly earnings of union workers are $47,684, versus $37,284 for non-union workers. The Economic Policy Institute has produced a graph based on BLS data showing a rise in worker productivity since 1948 of 240.9 percent that moved with wages until the Reagan years.
On the morning of April 22, there was a hilarious discussion on Morning Joe about rich people paying less taxes than people who work for them. The basis of the difference is that we tax money from work (wages) at a higher rate than money from money (capital gains). Everybody agreed this accounted for the difference but nobody could give a coherent reason why.
Changing focus to more traditional crimes, The Dallas Morning News reported that Lloyd Gibson, 69, has been sentenced to 70 years in prison because, after being convicted 8 times for sex offenses and being paroled from a 40-year sentence in 2010, he cut off his ankle monitor and jumped parole. “No accounting for taste,” muttered Cousin Ray, “but you’d think he could stand some obnoxious jewelry when the alternative was life in a cage.”
The Longview News-Journal reported that Cristal Richardson, 29, has lost her self-defense claim to a murder charge for stabbing a man 130 times and then castrating him in a Dallas motel room. Cousin Ray speculated, “that last part blew the self-defense.”
CNN reported that rapper Andre Johnson, who performs under the name Christ Bearer, severed his penis and jumped from the second level of his California apartment building in an apparent suicide attempt. He was seriously injured, but still among the living after being taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, as was his penis. Cousin Ray wanted to know “if Johnson and his johnson arrived in separate ambulances, since they apparently were not getting along?” The Daily Mail reported several days later that surgical efforts to reattach his member had failed.
In another case of public masochism, Military Times reported that discharged Marine Joshua Klohr crucified himself in his dress blues in front of the state capitol in Denver, Colorado, where 60,000 people were gathered to celebrate Marijuana Day, 4/20. Klohr said he was protesting a raw deal court martial, but Cousin Ray speculated the former sergeant had “gone one toke over the line.”
San Antonio, Texas, was buzzing with the report that Daniel Athens, 23, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for urinating on the Alamo. “I understand the symbolism,” said Cousin Ray, “but I wonder about the $4,000 the government charged him for cleaning it up.”
Time quoted conservative attorney Charles Cooper: “My daughter Ashley’s path in life has led her to happiness with a lovely young woman named Casey, and our family and Casey’s family are looking forward to celebrating their marriage in just a few weeks.” Cooper was last in the news arguing the losing position in the recent Supreme Court case that would have, if Cooper had prevailed, made his daughter’s wedding unlawful.
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter died at the age of 76 in Toronto, where he moved after being in prison for 19 years for a murder he did not commit. None of the tributes to Carter mentioned the rich irony that he was invited to the White House by President Bill Clinton to celebrate the film about his life, Hurricane, not long after Clinton signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Had that law been on the books sooner, Hurricane Carter would have died in prison.
Gail Collins’s column in The New York Times mentioned the rez-raised Kaw Vice President Charles Curtis, “… the first member of Congress descended from American Indians. He led the floor fight for women’s suffrage and brought the Equal Rights Amendment up before the Senate for the first time.” Cousin Ray crowed, “It sounds like Indians took an early side in the war on women—and, by the way, Curtis was a Republican.” Ray, also a Republican, likes to remind me that the GOP used to be sane.
Brisbane Times reported on April 19 that about 30 aboriginal protestors interrupted the celebrity treatment of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Australia, they chanted, “Always was, always will be aboriginal land.” Cousin Ray guessed the aboriginals did not feel honored by the royal presence.
In other indigenous news, the deaths of 13 Sherpas (with 3 still missing) in Nepal have led the Sherpas to outrage over death benefits (40,000 rupees; $410) and working conditions. The Sherpas, who outnumber tourists 2-1 on a typical expedition, are threatening a strike. “Imagine,” Cousin Ray thought out loud, “white people carrying their own stuff…up Mount Everest.”
In another indigenous community, ClimateProgress reported that the residents of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta “can no longer hunt, fish, or swim… With recent advisories limiting consumption of native fish, animals, and plants, the tradition of making a living off of hunting and trapping…is gone.” First Nations people wind up working for the oil companies or seeking compensatory payments from the oil companies, payments the oil companies view as handouts. “We could have told them about the oil boom in Oklahoma,” said Cousin Ray, “but the oil companies weren’t really asking permission anyway.”
The Los Angeles Times quoted an FBI agent “It’s a miracle!” The subject was the survival of a 15-year-old boy who crawled into the wheel well of Hawaiian Airlines flight 45 and rode there from San Jose to Maui at 38,000 feet and 50 degrees below zero. Early speculation that the kid was a wannabe surfer has given way to news that he was a homesick Somalian immigrant trying to go home. Of the 105 people known to have attempted wheel well stowaway, only 25 have survived.
On April 26, the Supreme Court blew past a spirited dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor to hold that the voters of Michigan could declare the end of affirmative action in college admissions. Since affirmative action in employment is long gone, that means we on the short end of the social stick must settle for what was once our Holy Grail, formal legal equality. “Sure glad we got all that racial discrimination stuff sorted out,” said Cousin Ray, with his tongue in both cheeks.
Slate speculated on a question I’ve thought about since Cliven Bundy hijacked most of this column last week: What if the armed posse confronting the feds were black or brown? “We know the answer because it already happened,” Cousin Ray reminded me. “It was called Wounded Knee II.”