An urban myth holds that Tom Lehrer, songwriter and mathematician, gave up performing after Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel peace prize, maintaining that political satire had become obsolete. I wonder how he would react to news on September 20th that Faisal Trad, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Geneva, has been elected chairman of the United Nations Human Rights panel that appoints independent experts. I imagine that he would characterise the appointment as a classic F.U.B.B. (Fucked up beyond belief.) Jokes about foxes in charge of the hen coop or inmates in charge of the asylum have lost their power.
Two other little stories have caught my eye. They are less serious. The first concerns the kindly judge, who tried to come to the aid of a respectable, middle aged lady, who was giving evidence against some loser, in the dock, on a charge of flashing. The lady was clearly struggling to find a suitable, polite word to describe what she had been exposed to. ‘Madam,’ said the judge, ‘Perhaps you should call it his organ.’ ‘Organ,’ said she, exasperatedly, ‘That was no organ. It was more like a flute!’
The second concerned the parents of one of the Times’ best writers. He told how his parents, aged about twenty five, were on their way to Bournemouth, for their honeymoon in 1947. They were travelling in an old banger and had to stop twice, in the pouring rain, to allow his father to fix punctures. His mother, who knew little or nothing about sex, had purchased a book in plain covers that she hoped would help her out. While Pa was fixing tyres, she was furtively swotting. What she read was disturbing. ‘He is going to that!’ I am going to have to do this!’ ‘Oh dear! I am not at all sure I wish to be married.’ In that she bore a couple of children, she must have overcome her squeamishness.
Most will have read that a huge crane collapsed and crushed well over a hundred people at prayer in the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Shortly afterwards, well over seven hundred people were trampled to death in the same city, while taking part in one of the prescribed rituals that make up the hajj. Actually, they were on their way to throw stones at three pillars said to represent Satan. Sad it is to read about these deaths, but I cannot be the only person to have noticed the morbid irony surrounding these events. Was Satan annoyed at the prospect of being stoned yet again? Was Allah asleep at the wheel, for after all, the dead were taking part in the pilgrimage in his honour?
Lastly, two stories about capitalism have been the stimulus for this week’s piece. The Volkswagen debacle and the tale of the hedge fund manager who put up the price of daraprim from $13.50 per tablet to $750, are worth a few remarks.
Latest piece: Economics
September 30, 2015
Regular readers will be relieved to learn that the Orthodox Jewish sages, who declared that children whose mothers drove them to school would not be admitted to class because their mothers’ behaviour was immodest, have gone over the relevant chapters in Leviticus and decided that their initial interpretation of the scriptural law was in error. It’s all right kids, you can go to school however you manage to get there. I believe that the authorities in the UK who supervise the operation of schools suggested that the sages had made fools of themselves and that they should have another look at the holy books. Unfortunately, there is no word yet about the Islamic cleric in Saudi Arabia changing his divinely inspired understanding of gynaecology. It is likely that he, too, will realise that he is an idiot and will seek some other interpretation of the scriptures.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the World, another bunch of holy men have declared that a recent earthquake involving Mount Kota Kinabalu was caused by a bunch of Canadian tourists who elected to climb to the top and pose naked for selfies. It appears that the spirit of the mountain was greatly offended and had no option but to trigger an earthquake. Seems entirely reasonable, does it not? Professional comics are fast becoming redundant. One can get all the laughs one needs from the antics of seers, sages and other holy men.
The following three incidents speak for themselves. Comment and questions are superfluous.
A few days ago, Lester Bower, aged 67 years, was led from his jail cell in Texas and taken to an execution chamber and filled with lethal drugs. He had been living in his cell on death row for a little over thirty years and his execution had been delayed while legal appeals went through the courts. On one previous occasion, his execution had to be postponed because the drugs obtained had gone past their expiry date. In Kano, Northern Nigeria, a fourteen year old girl was acquitted of murder. She had been married off against her will to a man more than twenty years her senior and had somehow managed to lace the food to be eaten at the wedding party with rat poison. The husband and two others died. The girl was let off as she was considered to be a minor and thus too young to be convicted but old enough to be married. Albert Woodbox, a coloured man, who has been in solitary confinement in a Louisiana Jail for just under forty years, has been granted unconditional release by a judge. However, the attorney-general of the state disputes the ruling believing Woodbox, who is frail and elderly, poses a threat to the local citizenry.
Latest piece: Two Books
June 13th, 2015