July 12 will be the second annual Malala Day, so declared by the United Nations on Malala Yousafzai’s 16th birthday last year. On that day, Malala was sufficiently recovered from the gunshot wound to the head she took from the Pakistani Taliban for daring to go to school that she was able to address the UN General Assembly. Malala remains under death sentence by the Taliban, who believe it is sinful to educate girls, but she is also the public voice of the UN’s Global Education First Initiative. She told the UN last year: "Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.”
An exhausted elder went to sleep behind the wheel in Arkansas and ran over the last telephone booth operated by the Prairie Grove Telephone Company. According to The New York Times, they had been collecting the coins twice a year and got about two dollars. Still, they intend to replace it. “Where else,” Cousin Ray Sixkiller wanted to know, “would Superman change clothes?”
Warren G. Harding’s presidency is remembered for monumental corruption and particularly the mother of all political scandals before Watergate, Teapot Dome. Indians have a different memory, of one of the worst Indian fighters to ever serve as Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, the first cabinet member to go to prison. When not separating Indians from their property, Fall was taking kickbacks on oil leases of public land.
This year, the time ran out on the sealing of President Harding’s correspondence with his mistress, Carrie Phillips. Now we know that in addition to appointing crooks to office, Harding wrote sophomoric poetry and referred to his equipment as “Jerry.” After Cousin Ray quit laughing, he observed that what we call “hiking the Appalachian Trail” Harding called “climbing Mount Jerry.”
Steven Greenhouse and Stephenie Strom published an investigative piece in The New York Times profiling several fast food chains that pay substantially more than the minimum wage: In and Out Burger, Shake Shack, Boloco, and Moo Cluck Moo. Some charge a little more for their food but all are successful and have cut their employee turnover/training time to near-zero. Trying to start a fight with my Republican cousin Ray, I asked him if he would rather be Starbucks, in the news for picking up college tuition for line workers, or Mickey D, in the news for instructing employees how to apply for food stamps and public assistance for heating and medical bills?
Ray was having none of it: “Ain’t nothing conservative about forcing people who work full time to be on the government teat, and most Republicans favor raising the minimum wage. The Tea Party loons won’t allow a vote on it.” Since I knew the polling supports what Ray said, I accepted my defeat.
Politico counted approximately 70 openly gay people serving on the White House staff of George W. Bush and reported on the feelings of several about Mr. Bush’s gay-bashing to show the rubes he was one of them.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson showed how hard up some are for news when he claimed that Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to give up boots because they aggravated his bad back made Perry “look like a West Coast metrosexual.” “And how,” Cousin Ray asked with a raised eyebrow, “does Patterson know about metrosexuality?”
Senior Judge Richard Kopf, a Bush I appointee, observed on his blog that the five justices who authorized bosses to interfere workers’ medical care in Hobby Lobby were all male, Catholic, and Republican and in the interest of the Court’s credibility they need to “STFU.”
Christopher Solomon published what ought to be an important op-ed in Sunday Review asking whether the Wilderness Act should be amended to allow humans to mitigate the effects of the climate change they have caused by, for example, watering sequoias to keep them alive or relocating endangered plants to higher elevations. Cousin Ray groused that this Congress has done so little that they seem like so many potted plants that need watering. “If Congress woke up, I wonder if they could pass a bill to relocate climate change deniers? I heard that Alaska Natives have some ideas where to put them.”
The Dallas Morning News reported that five months after a fertilizer plant explosion leveled the town of West, Texas and killed 15 people, a $25,000 contribution to Attorney General Greg Abbott’s campaign for governor from Chase Koch, head of Koch Industries fertilizer division showed up. The Koch Industries PAC gave another $25,000 and billionaire Charles Koch himself took $25,000 out of the petty cash to elect Abbott, who claimed it was sheer coincidence that he then issued an opinion making the presence of explosive chemicals no longer public information.
In a state with no fire code and a legal prohibition against most localities enacting their own, the only defense against a disaster like the one that destroyed West is to stay away from the stuff, a defense just shut down by ruling that people have no right to know. Cousin Ray snarled that the next victims will know what their safety was worth: $75,000.
The Telegraph reported another factoid on the centennial of the Great War (WWI). A survey showed that one in five Brits believe their country entered WWI to fight Adolf Hitler. “That’s technically true,” laughed Cousin Ray, “since Hitler was a corporal in the Bavarian Army in WWI.”
Rachel Maddow reported on the international hoots and catcalls that followed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the less than wholly holy gentleman who just proclaimed himself Caliph of all Islam. The “Caliph” delivered a sermon on the evils of western materialism while wearing an absurdly expensive wristwatch. Observers differed whether it was a Rolex or James Bond’s watch, the Omega Seamaster (£4,000 or about $6,850). Cousin Ray pointed out that religious leaders always need to know the time, because it’s running out.
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed of Al-Arabiya TV published an op-ed in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat opining that Baghdadi is “the new Osama bin Laden.”
The US 6th Fleet is participating in Bulgarian-led war games in the Black Sea at the very time Russia is staging war games in the same waters. Cousin Ray wondered,“Games?”
Our client government in Afghanistan is in the throes of an electoral crisis. Abdullah Abdullah became the apparent front-runner when the Karzai clan decided there was more money in opium than in graft, but the election commission says Ashraf Ghani is leading in the provisional count, causing Abdullah to claim fraud. Cousin Ray and I agreed that sounds like an ordinary election in the Cherokee Nation.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary system we left in Iraq is so far unable to form a government.
Foreign Policy reports that AeroMarti, a State Department boondoggle that involved flying an airplane around Cuba and beaming propaganda at the Cubans has finally been grounded. Every year, State tried to pull the plug on AeroMarti, pointing out that Havana had jammed its signal with over 90 per cent effectiveness, but Cuban-Americans in Congress kept it flying for seven years at a cost of $35.6 million dollars. Radio Marti is still on the air—just not flying—after two decades and over $500 million dollars
Robin Wright reported in The New Yorker in sickening detail about the practice of purposely targeting children in modern warfare rather than chalking up the small bodies to “collateral damage.” Counting unintentional killings would factor in approximately 35,000 Afghan children killed by land mines, as the Republicans attack President Obama for willingness to sign an international convention banning land mines. “Do you mean to say,” Cousin Ray asked with an ironic smirk, “that it’s not right for us to do it if other people do it?”
On July 6, The New York Times posted two videos, taken from different vantage points, of Israeli police beating and stomping a Palestinian-American, Tariq Khdeir, 15, of Tampa, Florida. Watch for it, the police will claim that the kid threw a rock just before the videos picked up the stomp fest. Watch for it, some will claim that those who circulate the videos are at best anti-Israel and at worst anti-Semites. No. I’d be opposed to police stomping a helpless civilian no matter what he had just done, and no matter whom the police work for.
The 15-year-old getting boots in his face was cousin to Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, whose autopsy suggested he was beaten and then burned while alive in retribution for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by parties unknown. From published photos, all the teenagers looked young for their ages.
Cousin Ray’s comment was not fit for a family publication except for his remarks about the whole idea of adults killing children to get at their parents. “Palestinians and Israelis both, who do they think they are? John Chivington? George Armstrong Custer?”