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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. Another week has passed boys and girls: another week closer to the great 2006 massacre of congressional Republicans; another week in which George W. Bush did not sign the Secure Fence Act, the team of wild horses that was assigned to drag him to the signing desk apparently not having been strong enough to do the job.
Yes, another week: another week of inching closer to our goal in Iraq, which is … oh, I forget what it is, but I'm sure we're closer to it, whatever it is; another week of Kim Jong Il's doctor warning him that he really mustn't spend so much time laughing uncontrollably at the feeble, impotent antics of his enemies; another week of debate in Malawi over whether the government should build a fence along the border to keep out the hordes of Western celebrities seeking to make off with cute Malawian infants.
Yes, folks, it's been another week in the great charivari of human folly and self-delusion. Let's explore some of the lesser byways
|02 — Midterms: predictions and suggestions. You want me to make a
prediction about the upcoming elections? All right, here's my prediction.
All hell will break loose over new voting machine technology. Numerous key races will be disputed all the way up to the Supreme Court.
Quote from a New York Times story on this topic. The speaker here is one Tova Wang, an expert on elections. Quote:
We've got new laws, new technology, heightened partisanship, and a growing involvement of lawyers in the voting process. We also have the greatest potential for problems in more places next month than in any voting season before.
You know what, why don't we just hand the whole electoral process over to lawyers and be done with it? Heck, they already control everything else in this country — including the Congress, where pretty much everybody is a lawyer anyway.
So then we'll have lawyers deciding the election of lawyers to write our laws. Those dwindling few of us who never went to law school and didn't pass a bar exam could just be put on a reservation somewhere and left to grub for roots.
Wouldn't the country be happier, richer, and more contented then? Of course it would
|03 — Something black in the lentils. Meet young Cody Stott, a 14-year-old
schoolgirl in the North of England.
Cody was arrested, questioned, fingerprinted, DNA-ed, and held for either three or six hours depending on whose story you believe in either a cell or a "juvenile unit" at the local police station.
Cody, you see was under suspicion of having committed a crime. What crime? The actual name of the crime was spelled out in British newspapers: a Section Five Racial Public Order Offence.
In the course of a school science class, you see, Cody had been assigned to a study group of six, the other five of whom were Pakistanis. Four of that five were recent immigrants who couldn't speak English. The fifth Pakistani spent all his time explaining things to them in Urdu.
Cody found it educationally unrewarding to sit there listening to her teammates chattering in Urdu, a language she does not speak. She went to the teacher and asked if she might be transferred to another group, one whose members spoke English.
The teacher reacted like the beadle in Oliver Twist. All the school's PC alarms went off, and that's how our Cody ended up having her fingertips rolled on ink pads down at the local bridewell.
There's something badly wrong with things over there in England. Or as they say in Islamabad: daal mein kuch kaala hai. That means "there's something black in the lentils". Come to think of it, that's what they say in Cody's science class too.
Pretty Soon English will be banned all together in English schools. Urdu is so much more expressive.
|04 — Angelina Jolie does blackface. You remember, I'm sure, the terrible
story of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and murdered by crazy Islamists while on assignment in Pakistan four
Well, Mr Pearl's wife Mariane wrote a book about living through that horror. She was pregnant at the time. Now a movie's been made of the book with Angelina Jolie playing the part of Mrs Pearl.
Why is this news? Because Mrs Pearl is visibly of part-African ancestry and Ms Jolie visibly isn't. To some people that is racist casting. Wasn't Halle Berry available? the bloggers are whining.
Boy, we've come a long way from the days when Al Jolson, who was white and Jewish, could entertain the nation in blackface, singing songs about his Mammy down in Dixie. Nowadays, he'd be arrested and fingerprinted for a Section Five Racial Public Order Offense, like our friend Cody over in England.
|05 — China's border rules. Here are a couple of stories from China.
You don't live in China very long before some Communist Party hack boasts to you about the country's national minorities, the xiaoshu minzu. There were fifty-four of these groups the last time I looked, ranging from actual nations like the Tibetans, who had their own country until Mao Tse-tung relieved them of the responsibility of governing themselves back in 1951, all the way down to tiny tribes living in the mountains and jungles of the remote Southwest with names that look as if they are lost letters of the Greek alphabet: The Da, the Po, the Ku, and so on.
The Chinese have an odd attitude to the national minorities. On the one hand, not being properly Chinese, the minorities are really just different kinds of barbarians, and so they can be regarded with contempt and massacred with a clear conscience if they get out of line.
On the other hand the national minorities demonstrate the benefits of communist rule, the Party having lifted them up out of darkness, ignorance and superstition, and introduced them to the delights of state socialism, concrete block architecture, and Karaoke.
I think I have also detected a general feeling among the Chinese that national minorities have interesting sex lives. At any rate the lower kind of Chinese magazines often seem to feature soft-porn pictures of minority women in skimpy costumes.
Well, anyway, here are two minority stories.
Minority Number One: the Koreans, up in Northeast China. The ChiComs worry a bit about their Korean minority. They are after all Korean — "the Irish of Asia," as old Asia hands will tell you. So part of what drives China's North Korea policy is fear that a flood of refugees coming in from a collapsing North Korea will destabilize that region. The strict policy is therefore to keep Koreans out.
Now Minority Number Two: the Tibetans. Tibet is deeply unhappy as a Chinese colony and there is a steady trickle of people trying to escape across the Himalayan passes into Nepal and India. When Chinese border guards spot these refugee columns up there in the snow, they shoot at them.
A couple of weeks ago one of these shootings was seen and actually filmed by a team of Romanian climbers nearby. They saw one Tibetan being killed and another wounded.
This caused a mild fuss and the ChiComs had to wheel out a spokesCom to explain that the refugees had savagely attacked the border guards — a thing of which there is no evidence whatsoever on the Romanian film — and that they were anyway, quote, "leaving the country illegally." So they got what they deserved.
So there's the rule on China's borders. On the border with Korea: "Keep 'em out!" On the border with Nepal: "Keep 'em in!"
You need a course in dialectical materialism to understand the logic of this.
|06 — China shuns cultural enrichment. Here's the other story from China;
and also, time for a song.
No, no, no — don't click off. I'm not actually going to sing myself. This is a segment about a singer: to be exact, the rap singer Jay Z, formally known as Sean Cory Carter, currently president and CEO of Rock-A-Fella records, which is a hip-hop label, whatever that means.
Mr Carter is quote, "one of the most respected rappers in the music industry," according to the internet reference source I looked up. I am very sorry to report that the great respect in which Mr Carter, or Mr Z, is held here in America seems to have done him little good with the rules of mainland China.
A concert that Mr Carter planned in Shanghai has been cancelled because, according to the ChiCom Ministry of Culture, "some of Jay Z's songs contain too much vulgar language."
What a wicked thing to say! Just to show how wrong-headed these commissars over at the Culture Ministry in Peking are, here's a sample of Jay Z's lyrics. I've beeped out some taboo words and epithets here, the lengths of the beeps corresponding approximately to the lengths of the words, which range from one syllable in length to four.
Here we go. These lyrics are from a song titled "Bring It on." [Clears throat.]
Aiyyo Jay word up; these [beep]
Now I ask you, what's not to like there? Heck, Jay Z even slipped a reference to Peking in there.
Those mean old ChiComs, depriving their citizens of all this cultural enrichment.
|07 — De minimios curat lex. Should an employer let workers display
religious symbols on the job or not?
This is one of those things nobody would've thought worth a minute's discussion a few years ago. Now it's a huge issue electrified with allegations of discrimination, with weeping plaintiffs claiming their feelings have been irreparably hurt, grim-faced lawyers hurling briefs at each other, etc., etc., et bloody cetera.
Latest instance: British Airways, which sent home an employee because she was wearing a necklace with a Christian Cross on it.
The employee pointed out that British Airways permits Sikh employees to wear turbans, and female Muslim employees to wear headscarves. The Airline responded that jewelry is treated separately in their rules and ought to be worn under the company uniform. I wonder if that rule applies to wedding rings.
Oh, never mind. A lawsuit has of course been launched. No doubt when millions of dollars have been spent and hundreds of hours of court testimony heard and recorded, we shall all be much wiser — as wise, perhaps, as we were back when nobody gave a fig about such trivialities.
|08 — A crime to say it in Turkey, a crime to deny it in France. It used to
be the case when I first set out on my travels that Swedish law insisted that cars be driven on the left-hand side of the road, as they still are in
Britain, while Norwegian law had cars driving on the right.
So when you crossed the border from one country to the other — and that's a pretty long border; consult your atlas, please — you had to do a swift little maneuver to get from one side of the road to the other and hope that nobody was coming the other way trying to do the opposite maneuver.
Well, it's going to be a bit like that from now on if you fly from France to Turkey.
In Turkey, you see, it is a criminal offense to assert that Turkish troops massacred Armenians back in 1915. Well, France has just passed a law making it a crime to deny that those massacres occurred.
Try to get this straight, now. Did Turks massacre Armenians back in 1915? In France a "no" will get you thrown into jail in; in Turkey a "yes" will get you thrown into jail.
Thank goodness for freedom of speech! — that's what I say. It just makes life so much less complicated.
|09 — Miscellany. Okay, a little miscellany of minor items.
First off, we all know about the delights of cajun cooking. Well, here's a feller down in New Orleans who plumb ran out of crawfish and red beans, so he thought he'd try a little girlfriend jambalaya.
Yes, folks: Twentysomething New Orleans resident Zachary Bowen, finding that he was losing an argument with his gal pal Adriane Hall, took a cleaver to her, apparently feeling that he'd appreciate her better as a nice gumbo with some okrah and chillies on the side.
Then Zachary thought better of the whole project and jumped off a high building, leaving several of Adriane's body parts in a pan-blackened condition for police to find in his apartment.
This is obviously a consequence of our President's disgraceful refusal to cope properly with Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Another black mark against George Bush!
Item: British scientists have figured out that one of their country's biggest contributions to global warming comes from belching cows emitting methane. All those bovine burps are caused by the cows' food not being chewy enough.
Given the reputation of British food you can't help but wonder if there isn't a human component there too.
Item: Also from Britain: A student over there has figured out how to boil an egg without using any water.
Memo to this guy: A country where it rains four times a day, year round, is not short of water for boiling eggs. What you need to do is help out with those belching cows.
Item: Boxer Mike Tyson is starting up a publicity tour and says that he might include women as opponents in some of his exhibition bouts. Mike Tyson punching a woman — there's a concept.
Item: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who is black, referred to Republican Senate candidate Michael Steele, also black, of having slavishly supported the Republican party.
This remark caused outrage among several Polish-American, Czechoslovak-American, and other organizations representing Slavs, all of who declared that in future they will be niggardly with their contributions to Representative Hoyer's party.
|10 — Signoff. That's enough stupidity for this week, kids. I'm just waiting
for the wife to come home from work so that I can fix myself a little catfish pie and filet gumbo.
More from Radio Derb next week. Here's one of Franz Joseph Haydn's Derbyshire Marches to see us out.
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]