Random Shots: The Pope’s Middle East Program

Against the Current, No. 1, January/February 1986

R.F. Kampfer


I am sweating away on the assembly line when the foreman comes along and says: “There’s a cigarette butt on your floor,” Should I reply?

A. No shit, Sherlock.

B. There’s plenty of room to walk around it.

C. You have a remarkable grasp of the obvious.

D. Thanks, but you can have it. I’m trying to cut down.–Perplexed

Dear Perplexed,

C. By the time the foreman gets back to his office to look up the big words, he will probably have forgotten the entire incident.

Civilized Standards

THE FACT THAT the South African police use the sjambok tells you all you need to know about apartheid. This vicious hippopotamus-hide whip, known to Arab slavers as the kurbash and Belgians as the chicotte, is hated all over Africa as the symbol of slavery and colonialism. C. S. Forester once said it was “a perfect example of mankind’s ingenious inhumanity, in that so comparatively rare a material as hippopotamus hide should have been found by experiment to make the best whip.”

When King Leopold of Belgium was subjugating the Congo, his troops were required to turn in a right human ear for every two cartridges fired. If not enough corpses were available, they were taken from prisoners. Soldiers who wasted ammunition were liable to forfeit their own ears.

Taking Sides

DURING WORLD WAR II, it was sometimes difficult for conservatives to remember that the Soviets were on our side. One businessman, in a speech denouncing some government agency, called it “a vicious institution imported directly from Red Russia, our gallant ally.”

Bio note: When Kampfer was eight years old he was very surprised to learn that the U.S. and Russia had been allies during World War II. He felt that if he could somehow get this information to the government, they would stop the war in Korea.

China has acquired a fleet of 20 Cadillac limousines, each equipped with TV set, refrigerator and bar. Each costs the equivalent of 115 years pay for a Chinese worker. Who’s going to break the news to Bob Avakian?

Wonders of History

THE ACADEMIC gowns worn by graduates were copied from the costumes of medieval students at the University of Paris. The wide sleeves and loose robes were used to conceal food stolen from the public markets.

Prior to modern advertising and rapid transport, no commodity ever gained such immediate consumer acceptance as tobacco. Within a hundred years of its introduction to Spain, it was being grown in the mountain valleys of Tibet. It took twice as long for potatoes, imported at the same time, to become popular in France.

Religion as Politics

GORBACHEV WAS not the first Soviet leader to use the G-word in public. Lenin said, in Left Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder, that “It seems to be ordained by God Himself that young people should behave foolishly at times.”

Pope John Paul II has announced that he will kill two birds with one stone by calling for a new Crusade in the Middle East. Not only would this provide all the hostile factions in the area with something to unite against, it would deal with over-population in the traditionally sanctified manner.

Military Genius

A MOTOR-POOL clerk at Fort Carson, Colorado, attempting to order a jeep headlight, filled in the wrong part number and got a seven ton Navy anchor. A similar mistake was made some years ago in Kaiserlautem, Germany, when a clerk inadvertently requisitioned a battleship. It was not delivered, but the Inspector General showed up to enquire why an armored cavalry troop needed one.

Break-dancing is all right, but in the army we used to enjoy a dance called the Alligator, which consisted mainly of sliding around the floor on your belly in spilled beer.

In 1920, an IRA officer walked into a Dublin Ford dealership and announced that he was liberating some of their trucks in the name of the Republic. The manager refused, saying that the trucks were American owned, and the U.S. was neutral in the war between Ireland and England. The commandant thought for a minute, then borrowed a pencil and wrote out a Declaration of War against the United States. “Now,” he said, “let’s have those trucks.”

One of the silliest pieces of legislation ever passed was a bill introduced in the Confederate congress in 1865. It was a bill to purchase slaves from the plantation owners and arm them to reinforce the Confederate army.

King Louis XVI might have avoided the guillotine if, following his escape from the Tuileries, he had not stopped at Etoge for a three-hour lunch.

One of the last supply planes to reach the starving German VIth army at Stalingrad contained 3,600 pounds of black pepper. The quartermaster corps never changes.

Rambo and His Fan

THE MAKERS OF the Cabbage Patch Kids hope to have a Rambo doll on the market for Christmas. Wind it up and it wipes out your whole family.

Sylvester “Rambo” Stallone sat out the Vietnam war at a university in Switzerland.

Rambo in Beirut would last about two minutes, or however long it took everyone to stop laughing. At least we wouldn’t get any more Stallone movies.

They should have kept the tumor and amputated everything else.

A Parting Shot

KAMPFER IS NOT going to bother writing anything about Madonna’s recent appearance in Playboy, since the editors of Changes were too chicken to publish his comments about Vanessa Williams.

January-February 1986, ATC 1

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