Friday, February 26, 2010

Cruel, but too good to pass up

The problem with America is stupidity. I’m not saying there should be capital punishment for stupidity, but why don’t we just take the safety labels off of everything and let the problem solve itself?
(Maybe from George Carlin, maybe not.)

Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Cut him up and use him for bait, and you’ll eat for a couple months.

15 seconds of good, 45 seconds of maybe not

Charles Krauthammer's column is about the costs of new, but I've noticed this as well:

“Consider the oddity of those drug commercials on television. Fifteen seconds of the purported therapeutic effort, followed by about 45 seconds of a rapidly muttered list of horrific possible side effects. When the ad is over, I can't remember a thing about what the pill is supposed to do, except perhaps cause nausea, liver damage, projectile vomiting, a nasty rash, a four-hour erection and sudden death. Sudden death is my favorite because there is something comical about its being a side effect.”

‘Toyota and the price of modernity’

Overall, Krauthammer seems to say, 'You want new stuff, live with the dangers."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just gonna smoke the tires

“That was not the tires.”

Let's see ... Engine at really high RPMs, smoke, tires not moving. What could be the problem?

for high-performance cars, low-performance drivers.

Speaking of those every-60-years blizzards ...

has pictures from the March 11, 1888, blizzard, as well as a link to

with pictures from the same storm in Stamford, Conn.

The winters of December 1885-March 1888 were among the worst recorded in the United States, with 80 percent of cattle in Kansas and more than 50 percent of cattle in Texas frozen to death.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

With some research

after a time you just want to go “Arrrgghh!”

Looking at player records at, when seeing the name Dummy Taylor, I clicked. Taylor was with the 1901 New York Giants.

Three pitchers on that team were nicknamed “Dummy” -- William Joseph Deegan, George Michael Leitner and Luther Haden Taylor. Wondering if all three were deaf or mutes or both or however it’s said these days, I googled William Joseph Deegan. Wikipedia says Deegan was a deaf mute.

Wanting more information, I checked other web sites and came across one pushing for Dummy Hoy’s membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

William Ellsworth Hoy played 14 years in the major leagues (1888-1902), with the Senators, Bisons, Browns, Reds, Colonels and White Sockings. Hoy’s career batting average was .287, with 2,042 hits. Not exactly Hall of Fame numbers. He stole 594 bases, but rules were different, and some stolen bases then would not count today.

But that’s not the ARRRGGHH! thing. The same web site has a story (??) on “The Seven Black Presidents Before Barrack Obama” – John Hanson (under the Articles of Confederation), Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

As with many web sites, the really ARRRGGHH! is in the comments. To wit:

“Thomas Jefferson was impeached because he was lonely when his wife, Martha passed away. Of course he was love the black woman, Sally Hemming’s 6 great great children did interviewed with Oprah few years ago and I watched Oprah and very interesting one of Jefferson’s (5)great grandson who lives in Redmonds, Washington. he say He accepted the way acenstory of his great grandfather who made mistaken. But Sally’s childrens from that time Jefferson admitted he have two children was came from Jefferson’s brother was also involved. It is not clearly I have to looking to find a website later.

“I love Jeffereson’s background with Sally Hemming. his background really hit me hard and understood the plantation he put Sally for slave. I can understand his white children doesn’t along with Sally’s second son who is part of Martha’s children are not connected anymore .. Afterward,they were freedom later after Abraham Linclon finally freedom later on.

”They called them salt and pepper.”

“I agree with the research, 7 black presidents, the black culture comes from the riches country in the world Africa, and we were Kings and Queens, royalty.”


For the “story,” see;

Sunday, February 21, 2010

If you like pictures of old Russian churches ...

10 agencies, one arrest

“The La Marque police were assisted by League City, Dickinson, Alvin, Pearland and Baytown police, the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in the investigation and subsequent early morning raid.”

(What if the dude had been a really, really major player?)

Election in Iraq, 2005

The firefight ebbs. The mortar fire ceases. A few last stray rounds streak past. A cry from behind causes me to turn. Lying in the road is a young Iraqi woman. I run over to help. She’s caught a round just below her temple. Her stunning beauty has been ruined forever.

She cries, “Paper! Paper” over and over until the ambulance arrives to take her away. An old lady emerges from the schoolhouse-turned voting site, sheets of blue paper in hand. She gives one to the wounded girl, who clutches it to her like a prized possession even as the ambulance carries her away.

The ballot was her voice. All she wanted was a chance to exercise it, just once, before she died.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Take out the Dali and the trash

The Dali Lama, after meeting with the president, is escorted from the White House through piles of bagged trash. Nothing says respect like Hefty, Hefty, Hefty.

You'll have to scroll past Terrell Owens, but that shouldn't be a problem.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Random thoughts

Sitting here with a box of Samoas and a cup of coffee, wondering which will run out first. That’s 15 Samoas. The box says a serving size is 2 cookies, “Servings per container about 7.” Why load 15 in a box? Who determined the serving size? One serving size (2 cookies) contains 150 calories, 70 from fat. Maybe it looks better, 150 calories per serving size, rather than 75 calories per cookie. A serving size also has “less than 1g” of protein and the same not-amount of dietary fiber. Nobody ever said Girl Scouts cookies are good for you, only that they are good.

Four down.

Next time around, I want to drive through Armenia (southeast to northwest), into Georgia, turn northeast and go across the mountains and into the steppe. Some areas of Armenia are amazing -- green valleys, high mountains, rocky plateaus. In the deep rural areas there are church buildings centuries old, native stone, and abandoned. That’s what some pictures show – old stone buildings with slate roofs, holes in the slate. There are similar pictures from Gaorgia.

For the drive I will have an M37 ¾-ton truck with an M101 trailer carrying a 250-gallon blivet of gasoline. The M37 listed range (loaded) is 225 miles on a 25-gallon tank. So I could get somewhere between 2200-2500 miles.

Thirteen down. I searched the net for Armenia and Georgia and M37, so it’s not like I wolfed down nine Samoas in a couple of minutes.

The Armenia-Georgia area figured in two dreams from about a dozen years ago. In the first dream, a man and a woman were in a car driving on a road of dirt and small white rocks. Land around the road consisted of low hills with short springtime green grass. The car was black, an open touring model, late 1920s or early 1930s, with a chrome-bordered windshield, chrome fender-mounted headlights, right-hand steering, a wood steering wheel and a spotlight mounted on the left side near the windshield. The man drove the car. He wore a white suit and a white hat. The woman wore a white summer-weight dress. That’s all there was in the dream.

The second dream … My father died in 1989. Ten years later, in a dream, I stood on a road similar to the one along which the man and woman were in the car. My father walked up. He said, “I need your help with something.” I said, “Okay.” My father said, “You’ll have to come with me.” I woke up. I thought in my mind: “Not this time.”

Cylla will be with me in my drive across Armenia and part of Georgia and into the steppes. She will be 20 and I will be 26, the same ages as when we were married. Cylla will learn (again) how to work a four-speed transmission. The M37 should be an easier learn than the 1977 Pinto wagon she first learned.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Losing my temper

One summer at Fort Hood, battalion headquarters scheduled aerial recon of the next week’s training area for platoon leaders and platoon sergeants.

As sometimes happens, though, the platoon leaders were not at the same location as was the recon Huey. The helicopter landed just outside the company assembly area. Somebody (a never-known somebody) put out the word that soldiers who so desired could take a nice little flight on the Huey. Our company commander said the Huey would take platoon sergeants on recon flight – no platoon leaders, since the lieutenants had gone to the air strip at North Fort Hood, where the Huey was supposed to be. Or maybe somebody got it all wrong and the lieutenants were misdirected.

The three platoon sergeants and TOW section sergeant went to the Huey. Three soldiers were on board the helicopter, waiting for the nice little flight. I told the three that the mission had changed and that the Huey was now scheduled for recon. The three soldiers got out of the Huey and walked a short distance away. One of the soldiers began declaiming in a loud voice concerning the unfairness of it all, how sergeants had ruined his day. His language was much more direct, with a specific adjective spoken before the word “sergeant” and the same word and others of similar profanity spoken many times.

I walked to the three soldiers and said to the one who had spoken that he was mistaken in his declamation and that his use of certain words and phrases showed his lack of military courtesy and self-discipline. I then suggested that he and the other two soldiers return forthwith to the company area. At no time did I speak any words even in the neighborhood of his profane remarks.

The three soldiers left. I walked back to the Huey.

My good friend Platoon Sergeant Richard Porter said, “Bob, I’ve seen you mad and I’ve seen you real mad, but I’ve never seen you that mad before.”

I said that the soldier needed talking to.

Richard said, “Well, yeah, he did. But … He’s a pretty good-size ol’ boy.”

I said, “I knew that if he hit me, you would whip his ***.”

Richard kind of laughed and said, “Well, yeah, I would. But … Bob, he’s a pretty good-size ol’ boy.”

Counting noses

A radio public service ad said (paraphrased): “If we have 100 kids in our school, we need five teachers. If we get 40 more kids, we will need more teachers. But if people don’t fill out the census forms, we won’t know how many students we have and we won’t know to hire more teachers.”

Just right off hand, if the school’s teachers teach that kind of logic, the best thing would be to fire all the teachers and administrators and start over.

Yes, this year is census time. The Constitution calls for a census every 10 years. The purpose of the census is to determine how many representatives each state may elect for the Federal House of Representatives. That’s what the Constitution says.

I have searched far and wide in the Constitution and have yet to find permission for the Federal government’s asking how many bathrooms are in my house, the number of wage earners, nor any of the other questions other than the number of people who live under the same roof at my address.

Other nice things the Census Bureau has done include: spending $133 million on its advertising campaign, including $2.5 million for Super Bowl; spending $88 million more than expected updating lists and maps last fall; paying more than 100,000 employees more than $300 each to attend one-day training sessions, and then the 100,000 quit or were let go before doing a single day’s work; paying another 5,000 employees $1.5 million for working one day ($300 for working one day?).

The last census form I filled out had 95 percent more blank spaces than completed blocks. I got a call from the Census Bureau. The CB person said, “Mr. Merriman, you neglected to complete the form.” I replied that no neglect was involved at all. I reminded (or, more likely, informed) the CB person of the language in the Constitution and then went in to the “The government has no business asking how many bathrooms my house has…” etc. The CB person said (and I am not making this up): “Mr. Merriman, we can find out the information. We can talk to your neighbors.” (Here’s a hint to the government: Don’t ever threaten me.) I said, “Ask, then. Ask all the questions you want.”

When the form arrives this year, I will answer the questions required by the Constitution. Two people live in my house. I will list my name and my wife’s name. After that, nada.

And a month or so later, when the CB person calls or (better yet) rings the door bell, he/she and I will have the same conversation as last time.

Grumpy older men have rights, too.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bible, bottle and bath

John Fairfax, a wealthy Virginian opposed to secession, enlisted in the Confederate army and asked for assignment as a staff officer to Gen. James Longstreet.

"Why Fairfax sought Longstreet is uncertain, but the latter assigned him as a volunteer aide-de-camp with the honorary rank of captain." G. Moxley Sorrell, another Longstreet aide, wrote that the middle-aged "Fairfax 'lacked nothing in courage; was brave and would go anywhere. But Fairfax had two distinctions -- he was the most pious of churchmen and was a born bon vivant.'"

"Wherever Fairfax went and despite the rigors of campaigns, he carried his Bible, an ample supply of whiskey and a bathtub ... Each morning when duty permitted, Fairfax bathed in the tub, reading his Bible and nipping at a bottle of whiskey before breakfast." Fairfax soon "took control of the headquarters mess and worked minor miracles wirth the variety and quality of the meals. The supply of whiskey never ceased."

--Jeffry D. Wert, General James Longstreet -- The Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier

Friday, February 12, 2010

Doc knew what to do when Wedemeyer shot the new guy

One of the LTs wanted to put Doc in for a medal for what Doc did when Wedemeyer shot the new guy.
Wedemeyer shooting the new guy was the third accident in three days. The first accident cost me a split upper lip and some blood, but was far less serious than the other two. My accident happened when Wedemeyer and I were throwing a baseball. Somebody scrounged two gloves and a ball from supply. The gloves and the ball were bought with money from the company Morale, Welfare and Recreation fund. Regulations stipulate money from the fund must be used for the benefit of all unit members, but may not be used to buy food, beer or whiskey. Most of us would have preferred the money be used for beer, but the MWR board followed regulations and decided to buy baseball gloves and baseballs. The day Wedemeyer split my lip with the baseball, a couple of guys were tossing the ball around, and Wedemeyer said he would like a turn. Both guys said they were tired of throwing, so I took the other glove.
Wedemeyer threw hard. After a few warmup throws, I dropped into a catcher’s crouch. Wedemeyer wound up and threw the ball and the ball popped loud in my glove. Wedemeyer made a couple more pitches, each just as hard as the first. The fourth pitch, I lost in the background of tents and dust. I saw the ball leave Wedemeyer’s hand, and then I didn’t see the ball until it was about six inches from me. The ball went over the top of the glove and hit me just below my nose.
I was out for about two seconds. I dropped to one knee and held myself up with my right hand. There was a roaring in my head, and sparkles of white light. When I came to, I touched my upper lip. I felt the split skin. Blood covered my fingers.
McMillan, the troop flight ops clerk, got the CO’s jeep and put me in the jeep and drove to the aid station. A medic cleaned the wound. “I’ll have to sew it up,” he said. He got a hypodermic needle and filled the vial with Novocain. He shot the Novocain in several places around the gash. He got a needle and catgut and threaded the needle. I didn’t feel the first six stitches, but when the medic started with the seventh stitch, I said, “I can feel it.” The medic shot me with more Novocain. He waited a few seconds, then started with the seventh stitch again. I said, “I can feel it.” The medic said, “I’m not gonna give you any more Novocain,” and he finished the stitch and tied it off.
Next day, one of the LRRPs was burning empty hand grenade containers at the burn pit, and a grenade inside a container went off after lying in the fire. An M-26 hand grenade weighs 2.6 pounds, so the guy should have known the container was not empty. He was supposed to check each container, but what he probably did was just dump a bunch of containers in the fire. The grenade made a “ka-whump” when it went off. The guy burning the containers wasn’t hurt, but a man from Headquarters Platoon took a small piece of steel in his stomach. The steel didn’t go in very far.
Wedemeyer used Connors’ M-16 to shoot the new guy. Wedemeyer didn’t mean to shoot the new guy. What happened was, Connors came back from perimeter guard and lay his M-16 on his cot. Connors did not remove the magazine from his M-16 or pull back the bolt to check the chamber. Wedemeyer picked up Connors’ M-16 and put it to his shoulder and pulled the trigger. The M-16 fired, and the bullet went through the rolled up side of the hooch and into another hooch, where the new guy sat on his cot. The new guy must have been talking or he had his mouth open, because when the bullet entered his mouth and then passed through the back of his neck, it didn’t hit any teeth.
Guys began yelling when the bullet passed through the new guy and he fell onto the hooch floor. Doc came running over, and into the hooch. He pushed everybody aside and turned the new guy onto his back. The new guy couldn’t breathe. Doc cut a hole in the new guy’s trachea and put a piece of surgical hose in the hole. A few minutes later, an M-37 ambulance arrived. Medics put the new guy on a stretcher and put the stretcher in the ambulance and drove away.
While Doc worked on the new guy, one of the Headquarters Platoon guys came up to McMillan and me. “Somebody better take a look at Wedemeyer,” he said.
McMillan and I went into the hooch. Wedemeyer lay in the floor, curled up, his knees near his hands and his hands in fists. He was crying: “I didn't mean to do it. I didn’t mean to do it.”
McMillan knelt beside Wedemeyer. “It’s okay,” McMillan said.
Wedemeyer said, “I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to do it.”
“It’s okay,” McMillan said. “It’s okay.”
I wanted to drag Wedemeyer from the hooch and maybe kick him for a while. I went outside. I heard Wedemeyer say, “I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to do it.”
McMillan came from the hooch. “We need to get him to the aid station,” he said.
“Well, shit,” I said. “Okay. I’ll get the jeep.” I went to the orderly room tent and told the company clerk I needed the jeep and why. When I got back to the hooches, McMillan led Wedemeyer into the sunlight. “I didn't mean to do it,” Wedemeyer said. McMillan helped Wedemeyer into the back seat.
I drove to the aid station. McMillan led Wedemeyer inside. I spoke to the medic who sewed up my lip two days before.
“He shot one of the guys,” I said. “You got anything you can give him?”
The medic said, “He’s not hurt.”
“Give him something,” I said.
The medic said, “I’m telling you I can’t give him anything. He’s not hurt.”
“Put him somewhere,” I said.
The medic said, “I can’t keep him here.”
“Well then, give him something,” I said. Wedemeyer was still crying.
The medic said, “Listen to me. I can’t give him anything. He’s not hurt.”
“We can’t take him back to the troop,” I said. “Put him somewhere.”
The medic said, “Well, I guess I can let him stay overnight.”
“Thanks,” I said. McMillan and I left.
The new guy died.
Wedemeyer and Connors were court-martialed within a couple of weeks. Both pleaded guilty to whatever the charges were. Both were reduced in grade to Private E-2.
When it came time for the stitches to come out of my lip, I asked Doc to do it. Doc said, “It’ll hurt. I don't have any Novocain.”
I said, “I’d rather have you do it than the medics at the aid station.”
Doc got his medic bag. I sat on my cot. Doc cut the stitches one at a time and pulled the stitches from my lip.
When Doc started working on me, I said, “Somebody said you were in the Army Reserves in California.”
“Be quiet,” Doc said. “I can’t do this right if you’re talking.”
“Were you?”
“Four years,” Doc said.
“You only had two more years,” I said. “Why’d you go active?’
Doc said, “I’m a medic. I thought I might be of some use over here.”
When one of the LTs suggested Doc be put in for a medal for keeping the new guy alive for a few hours, the troop commander said: “The Army doesn’t award medals for **** ups.”


At the 2003 11th Cav reunion in Nashville, Tennessee, Gene Johnson, Loren Marcusen and I got together after dinner on Saturday and talked about people we remembered. One of us brought up Wedemeyer.
Gene said, “I saw Wedemeyer at Fort Sill after I got back. He got out of the army. I think he saved a lot of lives by getting out.”
Marcusen told what happened to Wedemeyer. Marcusen is from Wisconsin, as was Wedemeyer.
“One day a few years after I got out, I was driving to work, and I was stopped at a highway construction site,” Marcusen said. “I was talking to the flag man. I asked where he was from. He told me, and I said I was in Vietnam with a guy from there -- Wedemeyer. He knew Wedemeyer. He said Wedemeyer was dead. He said about a year before, Wedemeyer and his girl friend went parking. It was winter, so Wedemeyer kept the motor running and the heater on.”
The flag man said somebody found the bodies of Wedemeyer and his girl friend the next day, asphyxiated. I kind of laughed. It was just like Wedemeyer to live through a war and then die for being stupid.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lieutenant's intelligence test

Stlolen from Cliff Chambliss, who posted it at the 11th Cav site:

Many years ago while assigned to Fort Benning, Ga., I came across this one:

Lieutenant's Intelligence Test

This is a timed test
Be very specific in your answer

1 Sergeant
3 Soldiers
2 ropes 10' long
1 rope 25' long

1 100' Antenna Mast
1 pre-dug hole 6' deep.

get the mast erected vertically in the pre-dug hole.

Go. (Scroll down for correct answer)

Look at the soldiers and say:

"Sergeant, Get that pole up."
Get out of the way.

Preliminary report on Combat Outpost Keating

“On 3 October 2009, Soldiers of Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry, repelled an enemy force of 300 Anti-Afghan Forces (AAF) fighters, preserving their combat outpost and killing approximately 150 of the enemy fighters.”

OK. Sounds good.

But …

The outpost “originally established as a base for a Provincial Reconstruction Team in 2006, was located deep in a bowl in Nuristan Province, surrounded by high ground, with limited overwatch protection from nearby Observation Post (OP) Fritsche. The mission was unclear to the Soldiers of B Troop who understood counterinsurgency doctrine and the need to engage with and protect the local population. But owing to limited manpower and tactical reach off of the compound, the mission devolved into one of base defense and by mid-2009 there was no tactical or strategic value to holding the ground occupied by COP Keating.”

There’s a whole lot more. What it comes down to is, the higher ups screwed up in priorities. As often happens, the professionalism of people on the ground and aviation assets saved what could have been a disaster.


Monday, February 8, 2010

More snow

Fat flakes falling and thicker than a few minutes ago. Two inches on the ground at daylight, with at least that much more probable.

Carolyn, my older sister, has a picture of her and me standing in snow in the garden area behind the house northwest of Maud, Texas. The picture is from 1950 or 1951. Carolyn was 6 or 7; I was 4 or 5. That was the heaviest snow I remembered until this winter. A couple of weeks ago my wife read a news story that said nation-wide storms like this winter’s occur about every 60 years. That coincides with the picture.

One night in Korea I had second guard shift, midnight until daylight. In the deep of winter in Korea, daylight is later than in other parts of the world. Snow began falling not long after 2 a.m. Duke, my German shepherd sentry dog, didn’t seem to mind the snow. The Army had provided me with clothing sufficient to keep away most of the cold – wool long johns, top and bottom; OD wool trousers and shirt; field trousers with liner; parka with fur-trimmed hood; mittens with wool liners; and Mickey Mouse boots. All those layers and weight made for slow walking.

A truck carried Duke and me to our guard area – officer’s quarters at one side of a hilltop. When daylight arrived, I waited for the truck to return. After more waiting, I decided, given the amount of snow on the road and steepness of the hills over which the road ran, that the truck would not arrive. So, Duke and I walked down the hill and up another hill and down and across and then up the hill to the kennels. The snow was not particularly heavy for Korea, but it was more than I had seen before.

I put Duke in his kennel and broke ice from his water bowl and refilled the bowl from the water tower and then walked down the hill to Sentry Dog Platoon hooch. The diesel space heater roared inside the hooch.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

On Stolen Valor

also see
'Stolen Honor as A Pick-up line'

Saturday, February 6, 2010

There's stupid and then really stupid

MILWAUKEE - A prank turns to terror on Milwaukee's north side.

It happened when a 21-year-old man thought it would be funny to scare his mother when she got home from shopping Thursday night.

He put on a ski mask, confronted her behind their home and pretended to rob her.

That's when she pulled out a .357 revolver and fired several times. Her son was hit at least twice by bullets, one of them to the groin.

He is in the hospital this morning, but there is no word on his condition.

Officials say they discovered two guns on the scene of the shooting in the 3700 block of N. 13th Street.

From FARK.

The story is horribly written, but then it is radio.
"A prank turns to terror." Barf.

Phony soldiers argue First Amendment free speech

Some guy arrested in Colorado for claiming military service says his free speech rights are violated by the Stolen Valor law. However:

"Doug Sterner, a military historian, said the law embodies the wishes of the nation's first commander in chief, George Washington. Sterner noted that Washington created the Purple Heart, the nation's first military decoration, and wrote: 'Should any who are not entitled to these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them, they shall be severely punished.'”

In Houston a really stupid dude finally got busted after several milblogs ID'd him and posted pictures of the idiot in general officer dress blues and a whole bunch of medals.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Of little importance

But if you like airplane pictures, has a bunch fromn War One. Of one the web site says: “(S)hoddy workmanship and a number of other problems led many Italian pilots to conclude the Balilla was unfit for combat. … Following the Armistice, many of these planes were exported to Poland and other nations." is another good site.

As you can see

from the earlier posts, I don't quite have all the fundamentals of this blog stuff in hand -- pasting a link and such. With that in mind, here's another political thingy:

“Talk is extremely cheap. And no one has made it cheaper than the current bunch of self-aggrandizing clowns who control the levers of power in Washington, D.C., and their equally contemptuous soul-mates in the media. The former are bankrupting the country, and the latter are cheerleading them onward.”

--Arnold Ahlert, “Book Smart, Real-world Stupid”

Another good one at Political Mavens has to do with stupid UN people and stupid French-speaking people and stupid USAID people screwing up the Haiti mess. That's what the writer said, anyway.

Theo Spark: Passport Application..........

Theo Spark: Passport Application..........

Sort of political

It's British, but the philosophy is here, too.

Dear Minister:

I'm in the process of renewing my passport but I am a total loss to understand or believe the hoops I am being asked to jump through.

How is it that Bert Smith of T.V. Rentals Basingstoke has my address and telephone number and knows that I bought a satellite dish from them back in 1994, and yet, the Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date?

How come that nice West African immigrant chappy who comes round every Thursday night with his DVD rentals van can tell me every film or video I have had out since he started his business up eleven years ago, yet you still want me to remind you of my last three jobs, two of which were with contractors working for the government?

How come the T.V. detector van can tell if my T.V. is on, what channel I am watching and whether I have paid my licence or not, and yet if I win the government run lottery they have no idea I have won or where I am and will keep the bloody money to themselves if I fail to claim in good time.

Do you people do this by hand?

You have my birth date on numerous files you hold on me, including the one with all the income tax forms I've filed for the past 30-odd years. It's on my health insurance card, my driver's licence, on the last four passports I've had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I've had to fill out before being allowed off the planes and boats over the last 30 years, and all those insufferable census forms that are done every ten years and the electoral registration forms I have to complete, by law, every time our lords and masters are up for re-election.

Would somebody please take note, once and for all, I was born in Maidenhead on the 4th of March 1957, my mother's name is Mary, her maiden name was Reynolds, my father's name is Robert, and I'd be absolutely astounded if that ever changed between now and the day I die!

I apologise Minister. I'm obviously not myself this morning. But between you and me, I have simply had enough! You mail the application to my house, then you ask me for my address. What is going on? Do you have a gang of Neanderthals working there? Look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I don't want to activate the Fifth Reich for God's sake! I just want to go and park my weary backside on a sunny, sandy beach for a couple of week's well-earned rest away from all this crap.

Well, I have to go now, because I have to go to back to Salisbury and get another copy of my birth certificate because you lost the last one. AND to the tune of 60 quid! What a racket THAT is!! Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new passport the same day? But nooooo, that'd be too damn easy and maybe make sense. You'd rather have us running all over the place like chickens with our heads cut off, then find some tosser to confirm that it's really me on the picture - you know... the one where we're not allowed to smile in case we look as if we are enjoying the process!

Hey, you know why we can't smile? 'Cause we're totally hacked off!

I served in the armed forces for more than 25 years including over ten years at the Ministry of Defence in London. I have had security clearances which allowed me to sit in the Cabinet Office, five seats away from the Prime Minister while he was being briefed on the first Gulf War and I have been doing volunteer work for the British Red Cross ever since I left the Services. However, I have to get someone 'important' to verify who I am -- you know, someone like my doctor...who, before he got his medical degree 6 months ago WAS LIVING IN PAKISTAN...

Yours sincerely,
An Irate British Citizen.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

OK, a political thing

Going through court records for idictments a few years ago, I came across "The State of Texas vs. 1979 Chevrolet Pickup." That sounded interesting. I wondered what the pickup had done to bring down the wrath of the State of Texas. Well, the pickup hadn't done anything of its own free will, but its owner was accused of using said vehicle to transport and otherwise distribute illegal substances; i.e., marijuana and methamphetamine.

The charges were not all that unusual, and still aren't. City, county, state and federal law agencies file thousands of similar cases every year, seizing property of those accused of crimes. Note the word accused. The agencies involved need not secure conviction in order to take possession and sell seized property. But that's unconstitutional. So sue. Most people don't.

“Less than 20 percent of federal seizures involved property whose owners were ever prosecuted. … More than 80 percent of federal seizures are never challenged in court. … In many cases the property was worth less than the legal costs of trying to get it back. … Forfeiture defendants can’t be provided with a court-appointed attorney. …”

There was a recent case in which an agency seized a substantial amount of cash following a traffic stop. The owner of the money was not charged with anything. Prosecutors based the seizure on the contention that the owner intended to buy drugs with the money.

Sometimes it is a Brave New World.

Monday, February 1, 2010


"In an ideal condition, children should be brought up in the country as much as possible. An abundance of simple well-cooked food in sufficient variety, ample time at table, where an atmosphere of light gaiety should be cultivated, and a period free from restraint, both before and after meals, should be considered fundamental essentials.

"The exercise of the body must be attended to in the shape of games.

"But severe exercise should only be allowed under adequate medical control, and should be increased very gradually. In the case of girls, let them run, leap and climb with their brothers for the first 12 years or so of life. But as puberty approaches, with all the change, stress and strain dependent thereon, their lives may need appropriate modification. Rest may be necessary during the menstrual periods of early years, and, perhaps, milder more graduted exercise should be taken at other times. In the same way, all mental strain should be diminished. Instead of pressure being put on a girl's intellectual education at about this time, as is too often the case, the time devoted to schools and books should be diminished. Education should be on broader, more fundamental lines, and much time should be passed in the open air. With regard to the mental training of both sexes two points must be borne in mind. First, that an ample number of hours should be set on one side for sleep, up to ten years of age not less than 11, and up to 20 years not less than nine. Secondly, that the time devoted to 'bookwork' should be broken up into a number of short periods, very carefully graduated to the individual child.

"In every case where there is a family tendency towards any certain disease or weakness, that tendency must determine the whole circumstances of the child's life. That diathesis which is most serious and least regarded, the nervous excitable one, is by far the most important and the most difficult to deal with. Every effort should be made to avoid the conditions in which the heredity predisposition would be aroused into mischievous action, and to encourage development on simple unexciting lines. The child should be confined to the schoolroom but little, and receive most of his training in wood and field. Other diathesis (the tuberculous, rheumatic, etc.) must be dealt with in appropriate ways.

"The adolescent is prone to special weakness and moral perversions. The emotions are unstable, and any stress put upon them may lead to undesirable results. Warm climate, tight-fitting clothes, corsets, rich foods, soft mattresses or indulgences of any kind, and also mental over-stimulation, are especially to be guarded against. The day should be filled with interests of an objective (in contradistinction of subjective) kind, and the child should retire to bed at night healthily fatigued in mind and body. Let there be confidence between mother and daughter, father and son, and, as the years bring the bodily changes, those in whom the children trust can choose the fitting moments for explaining their meaning and effect, and warning against abuses of the natural functions."

--Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th Edition, (c) 1929-1938, author not listed.

(The article might have been published also for an earlier edition, given the admonition against corsets.)

"Healthly fatigued," as in work the little buggars 'til they drop. And, anybody who sleeps on a soft mattress in a warm climate ... Well, you're doomed.