Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The effect of TennCare cuts hits home

Thank you Dana for posting a link to this article on Nashville is Talking. It's a story about people struggling with their health in Lawrence County, following the TennCare cuts. It made me so sad. It's so different from what happens here in the UK.

It also made me sad, because Lawrence County is where I went to high school (I'm a triple legacy of Law-Co-Hi and UT) My mom and quite a few of my kin live in Lawrenceburg, the county seat.

Before the cuts were made, VolMom attended a lecture where a local doctor told a local audience that TennCare would kill some number of Lawrence Countians each month. I can't remember what the number was - but it was staggering. Meet a few of those who will die and whose family members have died in that Nashville Scene article.

In the UK, we have socialised healthcare and it's not a dirty word. Poor people, small business owners, fledgling entrepreneurs, people with chronic conditions and fatal illnesses don't have to worry about being uninsurable or not being able to afford insurance. We are all covered. Rich people, healthy people, people who want a bit more of a cadillac service can pay to go private. And they are still covered by the National Health Service, too, when they need it.

Yes, it has its problems, particularly in London. A lot of people have their horror stories, and I do too. But at least it's there. People don't kill themselves because they think they're going to get cut off insurance. And I want to stress that there are much better models of universal health care coverage than that of the UK.

I understand that there are all kind of fiscal constraints and that there were management problems with TennCare. But a caring society doesn't treat people the way these people are being treated.

UPDATE: and now I am a "liar"

He knew he had it comin'

In a letter to the editor of the Tennessean on the 27th of November:

I hear that freedom of speech is an issue. Well, I feel if freedom of
speech is killing our children at the rate that is reported, someone needs to
get to the root of the problem, and I am telling you what that problem is.

In yesterday’s Tennesseean, Mark Forrester has a letter to the editor in response.

In some kind of quasi-defence of rap music, he writes:

Years ago, one of our most beloved country music icons, Johnny Cash, sang
with a snarl in his deep, baritone voice, "I shot a man in Reno just to watch
him die." To have scorned the Man in Black because he pointed out the darkness
of the human condition would have been a ridiculous denial of the pathos his art
so ably conveyed.

C'mon, man, don't go after the Man in Black

I first saw Cash lyrics used for this purpose, though in a far less balanced way, in Michael Moore’s book Stupid White Men. Moore selected a few of the fluffier lines from rap music to show how “positive” it could be – and then went on to lambaste Johnny for singing “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.” VolBro had bought the book in Florentine bookshop and spluttered and ranted and read the section aloud to me in our Italian hotel room (without a view) so I could splutter and rant, too. He wanted to pitch out the book there and then, but it was the only one he had in English.

As for any work of art, literature, song, etc. You can’t look at a single line to determine the meaning of the piece. Yes, the character in Folsom Prison Blues is sorry example of humanity, but he expresses regret, if not remorse, in the lines:

When I was just a baby, my mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy; don't ever play with guns."
But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
When I hear that whistle blowin' I hang my head and cry.

Followed in the next verse by:

I know I had it comin, I know I can’t be free

Within the context, you know that the character is a bad man, not someone whose actions are to be emulated.

I don’t listen to rap music if I can help it, and there may well be examples of songs which both describe and condemn violence. However, it’s my impression that much of it glorifies and condones violence, criminal activity and promiscuity. I would never suggest that these works be censored or outlawed, but I can’t see anything wrong with avoiding them and encouraging others to do the same.

And if you do want to defend that stuff, for goodness sake, don't go after Johnny in the process.

Go Vols?

VOLuminous has posted Phil Fulmer's letter to Tennessee season ticket holders.

I am speechless, or whatever the written equivalent may be.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

good speech and a new coat

The presentation today went pretty well, though when I sneaked a peek at the evaluation sheet filled out by my neighbour, I thought she was a little stingy with the points.

I went shopping afterwards and found a delightful overcoat - and two pairs of orange gloves. Unfortunatey, the beautiful gloves at Liberty have spoiled me - they weren't quite right (one was a Texas orange and the other was medium quality suede) and I bought neither pair.

After I came home, I gave made myself a little drink (Jack and Ginger Beer - good), but I think I made it a little strong, so don't expect any insightful blogging today.

Though please do welcome Expat Teacher - to my American Expats in London blogroll.

Granddad blogging: Loot

Last week my grandfather managed to get off the front and become a cook in the army. This week he finds a train and gets some booty.

You asked me how I came to have this German silverware that I have. When the war was drawing to an end the Germans were abandoning trains, aeroplanes, buses, cars and tanks and everything else. And I didn’t have any idea why then, but the simple fact was that they were running out of oil. Their sources of oil had all been cut off. The fields that were in Romania and Bulgaria had been bombed. They couldn’t any more from Russia. Their oil fields, limited that they were had been bombed. They didn’t have any tankers that could bring oil into ‘em and they had plenty of tanks and aeroplanes and trains and that sorta stuff but they were all parked and camoflaged.

I remember walking down the autobahn. And I had never seen an autobahn, we call them Interstates here, and there were aeroplanes parked on the right and left and camoflaged. All up and down the autobahn. They used the autobahns for airstrips for the planes to take off and land on. And they were good, new-looking planes sitting there. I knew we hadn’t been strafed or shot at by planes in a long time, and I didn’t understand why. And I didn’t understand why the tanks weren’t running or anything else.

And somewhere between Munich and Nuremberg, I don’t remember where, I probably have it written down somewhere, but I’ve forgotten, we came upon a great long train. It was sittin’ on a track in some woods, and it was covered up with pine trees and everything else. Camoflaged so it couldn’t be seen at all, and when we came up on it we began poking around in it and decided it wasn’t booby-trapped, so we really began poking around then. I was in the cooking end of the outfit at that time, so I was always interested in finding any food that we possibly could. And rattled around in the dining cars and kitchen all along this train. And there were sets of silver and china and crystal, of real fine stuff, I thought. And it was sterling silver, and it was good china and it was real good crystal. And people were lootin’ it pretty fast.

And we could loot it because... Looting’s the wrong word, confiscating it. We could confiscate it because it had DR on it. Deustche Reich. And it had a swastika on it, and it had the German eagle on it, so it was eligible to be taken if we wanted it. And I took a set of silver. Everything that I could get. Knives and forks and spoons and serving spoons and serving pieces and this, that and the other. A whole lot of it.

I had in mind when I took it that I was gonna send it home. And I got it all and wrapped it up the best I could and put it in a tow sack, and took the tow sack or croker sack some people would call it and throwed it in the back of a trailer that was hooked on to a jeep. And the reason I used this trailer is because it was where I carried the crudest of field kitchen stuff that we used to cook for the people that were in this part of battalion headquarters. And I went to one of the officers and asked him if we would sign to let me send this home, because you couldn’t send German contraband home unless it had an officer’s signature on it. And he said, yeah he would sign for it and let me send it home, but he’d have to have all the teaspoons. He wanted them. I gave 12 I believe, I kept a few, but I kept all the rest of it, and I wrapped it up in sacks and got me some boxes and tied strings and paper stuff around it got him to stamp his OK on it and shipped it to [my wife]. And that’s the story of that.

Note: This silverware was used at big gatherings where he and my grandmother didn't have enough sterling to go around. So often we ate Christmas Eve or Thanksgiving Dinner off Nazi silver. The silver is very good quality, but by this time, the German steelmaking capacity was decreased and that steel that there was, I presume was going to the war effort - so the blades of the knives which were stainless steel have not held up over 50 years of use.

This set of silver is now mine, but my brother and I had a little "dispute" over this. He finally agreed that I could have them so long as I never took them out of the country (for use or donation). One spoon was given to my mother-in-law (by my grandfather) so that's now in Europe. The rest will stay in America.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Performance anxiety

Tomorrow I'm speaking at a conference. It was supposed to be one of those big conferences with the giant lecture room and the podium and the big screen powerpoint and all.

Friday, I spoke to the conference organisers and found out that there are only seventeen delegates. Great, me and my copresenter D prepared a speech for 100. D couldn't quite believe it and asked if maybe it was 70. Well, I was pretty sure I heard her right, but I phoned back to check today - and it wasn't 17 - no it's eighteen. One more person signed up.

Ok. It's tempting not to give my all, but these people paid nearly 400 pounds (about 700 bucks) to hear us speak- us and the other people on the panel.

And frankly I want them to walk away saying hey, this conference sucked but Vol Abroad was good. I learned something.

So even though it's only 18 people, I'm still nervous, and I'm still going to be up late prepping for something lively and informative for a small group.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Black Saturday

Apparently, the no-shopping day in Europe was yesterday. Oops, I should have read Mel's post on Black Friday a little more closely. I went shopping yesterday in the heaving morass that is Oxford Street/Regent Street in direct contravention of European anti-consumerism.

My in-laws were in town and they actually like that sort of thing. I understand that when you live in the provinces it can be exciting to shop in the glam hustle and bustle of London, but they live in Edinburgh. They have a Harvey Nick's there for goodness sake, I can't see why in the world they'd want to go to the one here.

We met them for lunch in a cafe not far from the Vol-in-Law's work. The food was passable, but the toilets were amazing. There were nearly life sized murals of nekkid men painted all over. And these paintings were...anatomically correct as well, no well placed drapery in sight. They were men of all color and different amounts of chest hair and circumcision status. In my stall, the tackle was right at eye level and gently lolling onto his thigh. I wanted to warn the Vol-in-Law's slightly doddery aunt as she made her way to the loo, but I just couldn't quite find the right phraseology.

Afterwards, we went our separate ways as I wanted to go to Liberty. I don't know why, as I can't afford a damn thing in there. I tried on a smashing hat made of fluffy lamb - but it was actually strikingly similar to the two I already have and it was £150 - which is nearly $300 in real money. (The Cabela's hat is clearly a better deal) I also saw a beatiful pair of leather gloves in Tennessee orange. They felt like butter, they were so soft, I must presume they were made out of Romanian baby orphan...cows. They were lined with cashmere and fit me like, well, a glove. I wore them for a little bit and they made my existing coat look like the shabby drab second hand overcoat that it is. I really wanted them, but they were £70 (c. $130). I set them down.

We then went on to Dickens and Jones, which is shutting down after Christmas, so I was hoping for some clearance bargains. By this point I realised that I needed an overcoat worthy of those gloves should I break down and go back for them. I tried on a lovely black coat, but even in the process of trying it on I managed to transfer some of Other Cat's hair to it and that wasn't so attractive. We then found a clearance area for bed linen. I love stuff like that, so I spent about a half an hour with the Vol-in-Law rummaging through those. (Big points to the ViL for putting up with this.) We got some amazing bargains. We needed a new duvet cover, but we got two.

One was super cheap - 100% combed Egyptian cotton, for £15. The other was slightly more expensive (at £40) but it was Marimekko - and I do love my Finnish design houses. It was this pattern, Unikko designed by Maija Isola. Lovely. Perhaps not my favorite Marimekko pattern, but lovely nonetheless.

I'm so excited, I want to strip the bed immediately, but the ViL said he would prefer not to, and it's really a two person job.

...and a side of okra

Big Stupid Tommy loves sweet potato. Yumm. He loves it so much that he says - that forced to choose a last meal, sweet potato would be on the menu.

I love the "What would you have for your last meal?" game. It's kind of like "What would you do if you won a million bucks?" game, but low rent.

I do like some sweet potato and usually serve it instead of white potato as an accompanient to sausage or pork loin. But I'm not sure it would be on my last meal list. The rules of the "last meal game" are: meat and three, drink and dessert. That's it.

So if the warden came to me, and said "Vol, it's time to die. What would like for your last meal?" I guess it would be:
  • catfish
  • fried okra
  • hushpuppies
  • slaw (but the vinegar kind, not the mayonnaise kind)
  • iced tea
  • and lemon ice box pie for dessert.
Then if I were granted a twenty-four hour stay, my second last meal would be:
  • stewed okra and tomatos
  • cheesy grits casserole (that's polenta for you high-dollar readers)
  • sausage
  • grilled sweet potato
  • beer
  • and chocolate chess pie for dessert
And of course, if it were dawn execution, then my last breakfast would be:
  • sausage biscuit
  • gravy
  • grits
  • sliced tomato (but not just one measly, gray slice)
  • coffee
  • and a second sausage biscuit for dessert

What kind of gravy goes with crow?

Well... Go Vols. Hurray, we won a game. I've got that same kind of numb feeling that I had following the win over Memphis. To be honest, I'm kind of ambivalent. Perhaps if we had lost that would have meant a real shake-up (though we appear to be sloughing off assistant coaches like so much dead skin).

I've just come back from the expat Thanksgiving dinner which was organised through various alumni associations and of course football was discussed. Thankfully I didn't have to eat too much crow along with my turkey. P - a native Brit, but die-hard Texas fan (he hates teams that wear red even more than I do) had a few little jibes, but did ask rather solicitously about my brother's mental state. I had to say that VolBro wasn't too pleased with the current state of Volunteer football. A Vanderbilt graduate was supposed to come, but didn't make it. He had warned me in advance that I would be ribbed mercilessly.

I don't need a Vandy grad to torment me about the loss. I can feel it. Besides, the Vol-in-Law seems to be developing some sort of weird affinity for Vanderbilt and has been tossing the pro-Vandy bon mots around like Halloween candy. He went to Oxford himself, so maybe he sees them as some sort of fellow high-tone school. (I don't even think he's aware that Ole Miss is in Oxford.)

Hopefully, finally, we can put this season behind us and go move on to victory in 2006. One VOLuminous reader has a list of why Tennessee football bites. It's a dreadful catalogue of sins of ommission, commission and failed mission, but the variability of Tennessee orange has to be my favorite:

Pick a shade of orange and mandate its consistent usein your licensing agreements. There is no reason why those Orange Nation student t-shirts should be closer to Texas or Virginia orange than to Tennessee orange. Gather all non-compliant clothing and donate it to the poor in third world.

Cop killers

Last week a police officer was shot dead and her partner injured when they responded to an armed robbery in Bradford in the North of England. Three young men were seen running away from the slaying and this morning it has been announced that one suspect was arrested.

Sharon Beshenivsky's shooting death and the wounding of Teresa Milburn has prompted a number of debates. Some of these debates are open and predictable. Should police be armed? Should the Bobby on the Beat carry? The UK is one of two nations in the world where the police are not regularly armed.

Gun crime has been increasing in the UK. And though it is still more likely that criminals will not be armed than that they will, there are certainly increasing calls for police to be armed. The police themselves, and specifically the body that represents the most senior police the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) are against it. But my sense is that most ordinary citizens grudgingly accept that police should be armed. However, there are some voices strongly against, and given that UK police seem to have a tendency to shoot the wrong guy, I can understand why this is.

My fellow American London blogger, Sarai of Anglofille, wrote:

This incident has renewed the debate over whether police should carry guns. From an American perspective,it’s rather astonishing that 90 percent of the British police force is unarmed. To me, police and guns are synonymous. I can’t imagine the police being able to do their job without having the threat of deadly force at their disposal. But then I guess that’s just the blood-thirsty Yank in me. A survey of the UK police force three years ago revealed that 80 percent of them do not want to be routinely armed.

And I would echo that, except for the bloodthirsty Yank bit, as I would never call myself a Yank.

There's also a less open debate about immigration policy. At least two of the suspects in Sharon Beshenivsky shooting are Somali. Near my office the other day, I saw a hand drawn sign pasted on the outside of a bagel shop which said:

Somalians fired the gun, but Blair loaded the bullets. How many more people will die as a result of Blair's misguided immigration policies?

This has not been a part of the mainstream coverage, but clearly there are some rumblings of discontent.

Finally, there's a debate which doesn't seem to be occurring at all. And that's one about Police recruitment and operational policies.

Sharon Beshenivsky was 37 years old and had only been working as a police officer for less than six months, before that she had been working as a childminder. I don't want to suggest that people in their 30s can't join the police, but it's probably not a good idea unless they have just left a career in the military or had been spending the last decade or so in a physically demanding job. I have to wonder why Sharon Beshenivsky was recruited as beat police officers. Her partner, Teresa Milburn who is of a similar age and a former machinist had only been a police officer for around a year.

I also have to wonder why it's the operational policy of the West Yorkshire police to respond to robberies with two unarmed, relatively inexperienced police officers.

Tags:Politics, Crime, Police

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Buy nothing day

Well, I very nearly bought nothing yesterday. Free lunch. Managed to avoid buying any drinks at the three bars I patronised last night. (Tip: Don't go drinking with me, I'm rubbish at getting in my rounds. I usually owe everybody a drink or three.)

I started off my evening at my friend D's birthday drinks. I met his girlfriend V for the first time. She was marvellous. She's a primary school teacher, but seems to be of the "My favourite teacher is Miss V" variety rather than "Miss V is so mean." I've been working with D on a project for over two years now, and a lot of our best work has been done in pubs. Really. As I left, I said goodbye to V and she said "Now that I've met you, I know when D says he has a meeting with you, you two are really just drinking in the pub." But she said it in such a generous way. I replied "We work really, really hard in the pub."

I left there to catch the last 40 seconds of the Texas - Texas A&M game. I missed a heckuva game. I got some commiseration over the dreadful Volunteer football. I don't want sympathy, I want a winning football team. I don't want a team that's the laughing stock of the NCAA (Honk if your team beat Tennessee) But still... Good luck to Texas - the other UT. One guy - a completely obsessed football nut told me his prediction was that the Texas Tech coach (was it the head coach Mike Leach?) would be on his way to Knoxville soon.

I met up with the Texan there who was not endowed with her usual vim and vigor and powerful thirst for liquor. She's been working in North Africa and has caught some kind of Tunisian Tummy Trouble. I went with her to a cavernous bar called the Knights Templar near Chancery Lane. The Texan won't get on the Tube if she can help it, so we walked and we walked and we walked. (We could have got there quickly and easily with three stops on the central line and a 5 minute walk either end.) On the way, I lost my buzz and bought a six inch Subway Sub. My sole purchase.

We were only there an hour before we walked and walked and walked to Waterloo Station. Did I mention it was bloody cold? Freezing it was. Anyway, walking across Waterloo Bridge is one of the more amazing sights of London. Look to the right (if you're heading South) and you can see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye. Look to the left and let your eye follow the line of the Strand and the glowing nighttime dome of St Paul's. Everyone has their favorite view in London, and this is the Texan's. It is indeed breathtakingly beautiful and ranks up there for me.

Of course, there was one other purchase. We bought our flights to Tennessee today. My stomach clenches at the thought of all that money. But it will be good to be back to the Home of the Vols. Perhaps, dear Tennessee readers, we can meet up for a drink.

Photo is from according to their terms and conditions.

Friday, November 25, 2005

In service to my country

I hope the American community of London appreciates what I did for them today. I had to go to a swanky London dinner club to taste the Thanksgiving meal we are having on Sunday and be fawned over by the restaurant staff during my lunch hour.

Actually it's a good thing we did go. The green beans were al dente and the pumpkin pie was too salty (a problem with the cups and teaspoons to metric conversion, I nearly spit it out).

But my gosh everything else was great. Best mashed potato I've ever had.

It's a tough, tough job. But someone has to do it.

Can you email me the leftovers?

From the mailbag:

VolBro emailed me to let me know:

We had Roasted Turkey, Fried turkey, Country ham, Cheesey potato casserole, HOMEMADE DRESSING*, (not that dry crumbly stovetop stuffing crap. It was good.), gravy for the previously mentioned dish, sweet potato/pecan something or other, cranberry fruit something or other, homemade rolls, cheesey potato casserole, green beans, and topped it off with chocolate chess and pecan pie.

But at least you had an Indian meal on Thanksgiving.

Photo ripped from the American Costume Company, Denver.

*this has been a matter of some controversy in our family. VolMom once called me to complain that one of our cousins L had usurped her assigned role of making the dressing. I asked why she had done it. "Well, probably because she thinks I'll make stovetop stuffing."
"Would you?"
"I was thinking of it, yes."
"Then I agree with L."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving abroad

Thanksgiving dinner:
Tonight we enjoyed a lovely curry, on which the Vol-in-Law worked extra hard. He had to ring the take-away three times, because their phone was busy.

Tomorrow, I go to the restaurant where we're having Thanksgiving this Sunday with over 100 expats. We've arranged with the venue to "test" the food to make sure it's, you know, authentic.

The meaning of the holiday:
Yesterday before I left a pretty intense training course, I wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Maybe it wasn't the right thing to do. Anyway... some grumbly ol' cuss said "What's the point of that holiday anyway?"

I said "You're supposed to reflect on what you're thankful for."

"Like thankful you've invaded foreign countries?" he said.

Long pause. Silence falls across the room. "Yes, if that's what you're thankful for."


Well, I've been reflecting today. Not as much as I should, but more than the Grumbly Ol' Cuss, I bet.

I'm thankful for all sorts of things - friends, family, reasonable health. A decent job. I'm thankful to be living in London in such interesting times. Really, I'm incredibly lucky. I've seen a lot and done a lot. I like the talents I've been given. Even if I can't be in America celebrating this holiday, I have loads of good memories of Thanksgiving with my extended family.


I've said it before and I'll say it again. Happy Thanksgiving.

She's still gagging for it

Looks like the British attitude to rape extends all the way to the judiciary.

Since when does slumped in a hallway mean consent to be penetrated by a security guard?

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. Today I am not doing anything for Thanksgiving. Some years I do and some years I don't. Given that I no longer have a working oven, this will be a year without a big home cooked Thanksgiving dinner (maybe I'll get some turkey steaks and do them on the George Foreman). I will be attending a big Thanksgiving event on Sunday with around 120 members of the American community. But in our host country, today is a working day and so those of us with British employers or clients are working.

Sometimes it can be a little sad that you're not gathered round a big table eating turkey and whatever sides are traditional in your family - but it could be a heck of a lot worse. I'm working at home today, so even though I have a lot to get through, I am indeed thankful that I'm not commuting. I'm also thankful that I'm at home and not on the road.

The worst Thanksgiving I spent in the UK, I had to travel up to the northwest. I spent the afternoon of Thanksgiving interviewing senior police officers and then standing for around a half hour in front of the closed police headquarters in the freezing weather waiting for a cab. I spent the evening dining alone at the Holiday Inn Preston Ringway and watching tv in my hotel room. I mostly just tried to pretend that it wasn't Thanksgiving.

So enjoy your day and be thankful you're not in Preston.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

All a gal could want

Thanks to Rex L Camino and Cabelas, I now know exactly what I want for Christmas.

Oh, yes. It's the ultimate accessory.

Now, I could excuse you for thinking that perhaps a girl who had not one, but two of these already might not need another one. The one on the right I scrounged from my in-laws and the one on the left I found at a thrift store in Prague. And you know, it was so dang cold, I promptly put that second-hand Eastern European hat on my head and wore it, if not proudly, then at least warmly.

2005-11-23 109

But I think you have to admit that that Cabelas hat is purely something else.

To be honest it reminded me of a documentary I once saw on Cats. I was all excited, thinking it would be all about the secret life of cats, but instead it was all about how pesky cats were and how we must reduce their numbers. I'm a cat lover, so this didn't go down to well with me. Especially, when I saw this guy who also likes fur hats a la Cabelas, but weird Australian naturalist John Wamsley's is made of cat.

Seeing cruelty to cats always makes me want to give my cats affection. So I said "no dead cats for hats" - and picked up Other Cat and put her on my head. Not advisable. She took a plug out of me.

And here's what she thinks of other kinds of furry hats.

2005-11-23 103

Granddad blogging: Escape from the front

Last week, my grandfather nearly got his million dollar wound. This week he gets off the front, with just a little bit of deception and comments on his time in the catering corps and French hygiene standards.

But our company had gotten so weak and down so low that they pulled us back to the rest area, and I think it was in Nancy, France. I’m not sure where it was. But anyway they pulled us back and fed us and re-outfitted us and did this, that and the other and we were way away from the front.

And the only thing we had to do at night, somebody had to stay on the telephone. And they called on the telephone that night and said the cook up at Battalion headquarters got some kind of disease and they were gonna have to send him back to the States and said we want your company to send a cook up there.

Well I went down to the First Sergeant and said they’d called from Battalion Headquarters and said they wanted me to come up and cook for ‘em. And he said “Cook? Hell, what do you know about cooking?” I said “Well, man I’m a graduate from the Army Cook and Baker’s school.” And he cussed a little more and said “Get yourself up there.” And that was the last of my front activities.

And I was back cooking again, I was cooking for about 20 or 30 men. We had one unit out of a field oven that we carried with us and it was loaded in a jeep every time we moved. And the Assistant Battalion Commander had the last, when you tear a command post down, the assistant battalion commander was the last one to leave and the jeep that held my stove was hooked on to his jeep. So I was as far back as you could possibly get and that worked much better.


I went through Hitler’s Eagle Nest. I went up there to it, saw it, didn’t go through it. We went up there ‘cause that was the only place that I knew of in Germany or Austria where they made ice. They had an ice plant. We’d go up there to get ice. The only other ice you got was where in the winter time they cut huge blocks of ice out of the river – and the rivers were polluted something awful, but we’d throw those anti-pollution drugs in that water and make ice tea and then throw those pills in the water. Supposed to kill anything and everything. Drink it right on.


[What was it polluted with? Sewage?]

Aw, the people were so thick. You’d go in these French farmyards and they would have a concrete pit not quite as big as this room, but nearly, and it sloped toward a hole in the middle and all the straw and everything from the cows and the horses and everything was pitched in that pit and the dad-gum well water wouldn’t be as far from here to the kitchen from that pit where all that water ran in the ground.

And then all the human waste was saved and it pumped out in great big tanks and wagons, they called ‘em honey wagons and they’d take those out and I don’t know if there was enough liquid with it or if they put more liquid with it or not, but they’d spray all the vegetable gardens with that – the lettuce and the carrots, spinach and everything else.

And I guess the sewers, I don’t know, I didn’t see a sewer treatment plant, I guess it went straight in the river. As far as I know it did. We were supposed to have water purification outfits with us to purify the water. I know I was pumping water into a jerry can out of one of these wells close to the manure pit one night and some Lieutenant Colonel came by and wanted to know what I was doing. And I told him I was getting water to cook with or wash dishes or something, I don’t know what.

Oooh, he chewed me out, up one side and down the other. Said I was supposed to be using water from this purification plant. I said “Sir, I never have seen any water from a purification plant.” And he cussed around there for a while and they sent two jerry cans of water that they said was purified, I don’t know whether it was or not. I never did see another one.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Remember Babar Ahmad - the guy from Tooting who is probably shortly on his way to the good old US of A for trial on terrorism charges?

Well, someone in his family, my guess is his wife (but no real indication one way or the other since it's an anonymous comment) - has expressed regret that we haven't popped 'round for a friendly chat.

Sure thing, hon. Next time I'm up on Fountain Road, I'll drop by, since they're such a normal family.

But she's right on one thing I do have to fess up to poor spelling on the word extradition.


Just as a little reminder here's the US Department of Justice request for extradition (link to a large pdf file)

Here's a tip

So Bush wanted to bomb the headquarters of the Arabic television station Al Jazeera. Some people are more than a little disturbed by this.

But I say, heck, it's an easy mistake to make - what with all them Al-this-as and Al-thattas.

Here's a little primer.

This is Al Qaeda - our enemy.

This is Al Jazeera, that pesky Arab television station.

And this an Al Pacino. He's just an actor. Really.

Cultivating controversy

O England, the green and pleasant land
Thou art Mecca for the gardener's hand

Part of my anglophilia can be attributed to my love of gardening. My whole family (at least on VolMom's side) are big gardeners. My grandfather always had a pretty yard (and he raised lovely orchids)and his two daughters have taken it to the next level. VolMom regularly wins prizes in Lawrenceburg for good gardening in both the commercial and domestic categories and my aunt is on the Nashville pond and water garden tour. (You tour, the ponds stay where they are)

I was surrounded by books and magazines extolling English gardens (e.g. Kew and Wisley). And when I worked at Oakes Nursery and Garden Center in Knoxville for a number of years one of my colleagues, Ty, was a devotee of English horticulture, and he had a strong influence on my approach. Fort Sanders residents of a certain era may remember the wild and colorful garden on Highland Ave next to the fire station. That was me.

The first night I arrived in the UK, I was astounded to see prime time network coverage of the Chelsea Garden Show. Gardening in England is just as big and just as wonderful as I ever imagined.

But when people care that much about something, they can be a bit precious about the subject, too. Garden snobbery is rife. There is even a term in regular usage to denote "common, or not class" that comes from a horticultural distinction "yew" or "non-yew". Class gardeners used slow growing yews, common oik use privet for hedging. Of course, when lesser gardeners caught on and starting using Taxus for themselves even yews became "non-yew" for a time.

This morning on the Today programme Anne Wareham was on saying that gardening standards were slipping and what was needed were professional critics (perhaps she fancied herself for the role). She thought gardeners were using "too many plants" and that public gardens should have a more artistic and modern approach.

Here’s what she says in The Guardian:

… their association with gardens is more about "how-to" and plants than art. If
someone sits down in front of an easel with a brush in their hand, all their
thoughts and cultural notions about art hover over their shoulder, but anyone
can happily garden without thinking for a moment about art or aesthetics.

Yikes! Too focused on plants? Not focused enough on art. I do think about impact and effect when I garden – and I garden in the round thinking through seasons, colors, smells, texture and sound. What the garden looks like at night and in the day. But I’m not sure I want Anne Wareham in my garden with her own tastes and reflections. My garden is a private thing. My garden is also a work in progress and an experiment – it’s not a finished work ready for criticism. I constantly seek new ideas and discuss with others, but in the end I need only please myself.

I worry that Anne Wareham’s vision is less about green and living things and more about the light playing on concrete blocks and decking. And in gardening terms, it all sounds a bit non-yew to me.

canna and lavender

Monday, November 21, 2005

My fellow Americans

Out of original ideas today, I'll do a little round up of what my fellow Americans in London (greater Metropolitan area) are up to. I could call this Expat Monday. Does that work?

Nicole is going to be walking with llamas, let me know how that goes.

Elle and alpha males - they don't impress her much.

Scott is mad at the BBC - again. This time over Bush and the locked doors. Sometimes I feel a little sorry for W. I've tried to exit through closets or panelling myself. Of course, I don't have a professional staff looking after me making sure I leave by the right door.

Robert speculates on how the AP would cover the Gettysburg Address today. Being a Southerner, I would just normally expect Lincoln to get bad press, but Robert's from New York.
Monica has been cuttin' the fat (really, read it) and now she's knackered.

Jen, my near neighbour, is all holiday focused with a post on an upside down Chrismas tree. (I won't be buying one, I don't think she will either.) But at least you have more room for the presents.

Jessica's been in the pub - and this is just one of the things she overheard:

German: I am sick of talking about British TV shows from when you all were kids, let's talk about German TV.
Brit: We don't have any German TV here
German: Exactly! We have to import all your crap shows and all you have from us is WWII

Kathy F still wants Cheney Impeached and she's learned some saucy local history.

Maureen informs us that the Benjamin Franklin House in London will soon be open. I'm sure Marcia, the director of Ben Franklin House, has done a swell job on a long-running, painstaking project.

Sarai at what must be the cleverest blog titles of the bunch - Anglofille - has a post dissecting one of Britain chick rags and which ends with calling for Gordon Ramsay's castration. Too late, he's already bred.

...and that's all the ones I've found... An American expat in London? - email me - you can find the address in my profile.

Tags: ,

She's gagging for it

The headlines in this morning's Metro is:

Flirting women "asking for rape". And here’s a link to this story in The Telegraph

According to a new Amnesty International telephone survey around a third of British respondents believe that a woman really can't expect not to be raped if she's being a bit flirty.

We haven't come a long way, baby. After all a (flirtatious) wink is as good as a nod.

Similar attitudes prevail over the wearing of tight clothing and about 20 percent thought a woman was at least partly to blame for her rape if she was "known to have had several sexual partners".

Part of me is shocked, but part of me is not in the least surprised. Egalia of Tennessee Guerilla Women covered this topic back in June with a Tennessee billboard advising girls to “cover-up, if it’s not for sale” or presumably just there for the taking…

This same survey found that 3% of men and 5% of women thought a woman was “totally responsible” if she was drunk.

I can find similar attitudes to rape in my own family (you know who you are) that were not just held but acted on in defending a young man against an allegation of rape. The statement “____ was drunk” which applied to both of them in that case was used as an excuse for his behaviour and a reason to blame her. In fact, she was passed out and was penetrated without her awareness much less her consent.

When I first arrived in the UK the legal position of rape claimants was shockingly poor. A valid and often successful legal defense was assumed consent. That's right - so long as the alleged rapist could convince a jury of his peers that he thought she wanted it (maybe she was being a bit flirty, maybe she was passed out – which seems to be as good as a wink or a nod) even if he and/or the jury later accepts she didn't, it wasn't rape. Until relatively recently, a rape victim's previous sexual history was also admissable and could be raised regardless of relevance.

Investigation of rape allegations is still poor. Only 10 police forces in the England and Wales (out of 43) have specialist rape investigation teams.

UK convictions for rape are shockingly low - only 6 percent of reported rapes lead to conviction. But to be fair this is probably nearly as attributable to the general incompetence of the Crown Prosecution Service and the poor administration of the courts as it is to attitudes toward rape.

Tags: Feminism, Sexual Assault,Rape

Sunday, November 20, 2005

New York City, imagine that

I've been struggling with a cold for ages, so I took the opportunity to have a nice quiet weekend, no going out. Obviously, I was checking football scores...grrr.

Last night the Vol-in-Law and I watched the Country Music Awards on BBC2. It's an edited broadcast, they show only the performances and skip the awards - which is probably just as well, since I don't know who half these people are. London, a city of 7 million people and probably over 70,000 Americans no longer has a country music radio station (there used to be a fairly good one) so I'm not really up on the latest names.

I have to say that despite my doubts about the CMA in NYC, it was pretty good. Better than last year's which I found absolutely unwatchable. What is it with trying to mix rap and country? Dreadful. I won't even go into the "mainstream country music has no soul, no respect" rant. There's no point, so many others have done it so much better. And anyway, I'm grateful for the small amount of C&W I do get - so what if it's more like the musical version of Skoal Bandits, when it should be that tar black twist of tobacco that my great grandfather used to chew.

Anyway, I was glad to see that George Strait was in good form, Willie is still alive and Kris Kristofferson looks better than he did last year.

Dolly's maybe looking a little rough. And the Vol-in-Law nearly spit out his drink when he heard Dolly singing Imagine. "When did Dolly Parton become a tool for International Communism?"

Saturday, November 19, 2005

This wasn't supposed to happen

enmph, nmm, euhhehh

I don't know how to spell the whimpering sounds I'm making. See Big Orange Michael's post - all that - enhh....

Fire Phil Fulmer!

Santa's pal, yumm!

The Vol-in-Law and I met up yesterday to go to the Finnish Christmas Fair. After a rather disastrous tube journey, I finally got on to the Docklands Light Railway (this is a form of transport for East Londoners). I met the ViL on the platform of Prince Regent station and we tried to make our way to the Sunborn Yacht Hotel where the fair was being held.

Well, normally the only people who go out this way are there to buy arms or weapons of medium scale destruction at the ExCel Convention Centre. This is where they hold the big annual weapons show. And these aren't the everyday gun shows that you can get down at the Rotary gym. No, you can buy tanks and stuff (if you got the cash! Human Rights Violator? - no problem, meet me 'round the back.)

We did have to wander round the back to get to the Sunborn Yacht and the place was absolutely deserted and not really set up for pedestrians. (I guess most weapons buyers don't come by public transport).

I don't want to dis' the fair, but I have to say that it's a lot better when it's held at the Finnish Church - for one because they have a liquor license (they only just managed to get it for the yacht on the day). Nothing quite means Christmas like walking into the church and seeing the giant pyramid of Finnish beer available for purchase. There was, sadly, no beer this year. Some Londoner had taken a day off work just to go buy Finnish beer. Boy was he disappointed. We did get our liqueur, though, but at boat prices, not at the low, low prices you normally expect when you buy liquor at church.

They had less room on the boat than they do at the church, so they didn't put on a full meal (which is fantastic). Instead they just had a "grill" where you could buy reindeer meet on mashed potatos or sausages and mash. We got the reindeer - yumm!

Santa's pal

How did I miss this? Osama's wish list

What does Osama have on his Christmas wish list? Well, for starters, no Christmas, of course.

A collection of Osama's demands were published yesterday according to this story in the Telegraph:

The first complete collection of the Saudi's statements published today
portrays a world in which Islam's enemies will take the first steps towards
salvation by embracing the "religion of all the Prophets".

What does he want?

Osama bin Laden wants the United States to convert to Islam, ditch its
constitution, abolish banks, jail homosexuals and sign the Kyoto climate change treaty.*

They Kyoto treaty!!! What? That's what Osama wants? Dude, you got to prioritise. First global domination...then carbon reduction. Everybody knows that.

*Check out BP's sponsored link -- that's probably not what they had in mind when they signed the contract.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Monkey pet

I always wanted a monkey for pet. When I was in first grade we lived in Philadelphia for a year. I went to a private school that was cool and quirky. In our Science room there was a monkey. How cool is that? Sure, the room smelled like monkey, but still...

Ever since then I've wanted a monkey pet. I already have two cats - Fancy and Other Cat, who are just as adorable as can be... but they ain't monkeys.

white and black cat
Cute, but not a monkey

My friend Karen, from Mississippi, told me her dad once had a monkey pet with a poor understanding of etiquette. If I remember correctly, which I probably don't, she said that it would steal food and throw it around the house. This did not deter me in the quest for a monkey pet.

I keep tellin' the Vol-in-Law that I want a monkey pet, but I'm afraid he's kind of the sensible sort. He says "They bite. They're nasty and smelly and dirty. And they cost money." For more of this view - see Rex L. Camino's coverage of the Mississippi Night Monkey incident here and further updates here. Plus Paris' monkey runs amok here. It's like a full season of that show When Good Pets Go Bad (or as it might be more aptly titled: When Really Inappropriate Pets that You Messed With Did Exactly What You Thought They Might) but with court artist's representation.

Hmmph. I still think it would be great. Plus I think a monkey would be the ideal companion for Fancy and Other Cat.

Photo ripped from One Fun Site

What's the rising agent for that thing?

Along the blog "ticker" bar at Nashville is Talking, I saw Cake Fun's post for Persian Love Cake. I'm not much of a baker, but gosh I had to take a look at that. What's in Persian Luurv Cake? What happens when you eat it? What's the decoration on top? I must confess I thought of certain temple reliefs in India.

No such luck. But the cake still looks pretty tasty.

This is why I like Bob Krumm

Bob Krumm has a post on an Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruling which, basically, hopefully, means that bloggers can keep on blogging even if they have a political axe to grind.

Bob thinks that's a good thing. I do, too.

Bob finds himself defending Kos against GOP Blogger, despite the fact that he's a (potential) Republican candidate for the Tennessee State Senate:

So I just laud a story from Kos, and the next thing that pops up on my news feed is a GOP Blogger story that I disagree with, talking about a similar subject. It's entitled: The FEC Ought to Regulate Liberal Hollywood.

An excerpt:

The FEC loves to quantify the value of in-kind contributions and it ought to figure out how much NBC is contributing to liberal causes with its propaganda.

Something must be wrong when I'm defending Kos against Republicans. It's time for me to go to bed.

Many issues he's blogged on, I don't agree with his take. But those are political issues. I have to say he's always blogged on keeping political discourse civil and keeping politics and public service ethical and transparent. I also think that's the way things ought to be. He's seems so wedded to this philosophy, I have to wonder why he's a Republican. :-)

Update: The Vol-in-Law thought my last comment was too mean. He says "The important thing is for the Republican party to turn around, and that means encouraging decent people to run as Republican candidates"

Get typin'

Kathy F at What Do I Know asks "Where are all the British Political Bloggers?"


Perhaps the Vol-in-Law will consider this question in a post on the death of liberty in the UK? I wonder if there's a link??

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Finnish Christmas Fair

Tomorrow is the Finnish Christmas Fair - hurray! I love the Finnish Christmas Fair. You can get Finnish food, Finnish drink, Finnish crafts, Finnish design items. You get to meet the Finnish Father Christmas (and sometimes he's a little worse for the Finnish drink).

The only thing I'm not crazy about is that the Finnish Church in London's website - the main place to get information on the Finnish Christmas fair is nearly all in Finnish. (Perhaps Stormare Mackee of Appalachistan can work it out for me.) If you switch to the English version, not all the info is there. Hmmm? Perhaps they want to keep all that cloudberry liqueur for themselves.

Here's how to get to the Finnish Christmas Fair:

Bazaar will be held in a unigue place
The Finnish Church in London´s traditional Christmas Bazaar will be held in a unigue place due to the Church`s renovation work. The Finnish ship Sunborn Yacht Hotel, which is moored on the Thames beside the ExCel London Exhibition Center, will be the venue for this year`s fair. Royal Victoria Dock, London E16 1SL
Friday 18.11 noon - 7pm
Saturday 19.11 10am - 6.30pm
Sunday 20.11 noon - 6pm

Every year I go and take a suitcase to bring back all the goodies. The Karjalanpiirakat, the Lapin Kulta, the Lakka liqueur, the special rye bread, the sausage, cheese and candy. I may even pick up some Koskenkorva Viina - that'll put some hair on your chest. And of course, I need room to bring back my real addiction - Arabia and Iittala tableware.

You don't have to wear that thing

A Muslim woman in Holland has won the right not to wear hijab (the headscarf). Well, that's good news.

A Times article describes the fight with an Islamic school board that she took to a Dutch equal opportunities tribunal.

Samira Haddad, 32, won her case against the Islamic College of Amsterdam,
which insists that all Muslim women wear the hijab. The secondary school
rejected her for a job after she said in an interview that she did not wear it.

The country’s Equality Commission ruled in Ms Haddad’s favour, saying that
the college had illegally discriminated against her on the ground of her
religion and that it could not legally compel Muslim women to wear headscarves.


A member of the school board explained at the time: “If Miss Haddad were to
declare she was no longer a Muslim, then she could in principle come and work
for us.”

Another case where Muslim women are under pressure to wear hijab...

Personally, I don't think Islam need be a threat. But I have a deep, deep suspicion of all forms of fundamentalism. (As my mother-in-law would say "All extremes are pathological") Fundamentalists seem to have grabbed all of the "moral authority" and are quick to condemn or ostracise if you don't fall in line. And pressuring women to wear the headscarf isn't the end of the line.

I have a friend who's Muslim, but pretty secular, she doesn't wear hijab, drinks (moderately), eats pork, etc, but she describes herself as a Muslim, so that's good enough for me. I mentioned this once to a more "strict" Muslim who said "She's not a Muslim!!"

Yet, after the 7/7 bombs this same person wouldn't condemn those who condoned or excused terror - "We can't be divided, it's unite and fight."

Right... have a little drink, don't wear a headscarf and you're condemnable, excuse terrorism as a likely and reasonable reaction to "Western imperlialism" and hey, it's all part of the big tent of Islam.

UTK, Dick Cheney and parking

Hearing about Dick Cheney's visit to UT Knoxville (link may require registration) has reminded me of another presidential visit to UT. Back in (was it in 1990?) George Bush the elder came for a visit. Tickets were free, all you had to do was take your activity card down to the Student Center and get it punched.

In the run up to the big day Secret Service were prowling all over campus and they weren't very secretive about it. I remember working out at the Bubble and looking up from the stairclimber machine to see two men in dark suits and dark glasses with wires coiling out of their ears surveying the sweating students. It was rumored that the Secret Service had crawled through the sewers running beneath campus as part of their detailed security assessment.

The night before Bush spoke I drove up to the Hill, parked in the Faculty One lot and studied in the Geology building. I then went to the library (the one stocked with books, not the one stocked with beer) and walked home.

The big day.
Maybe I went to class, maybe I didn't. But I met up with friends and we all went to see Daddy George speak at the Alumni Gym, I don’t recall that the president received the same kind of warm reception that Cheney got. Lamar Alexander was there, too. Perhaps it was during his brief ineffectual spell as UTK president.

I can't remember much of what was said but I do remember the sound of Security locking the doors behind us and the curdle of panic in the packed auditorium. Alumni Gym is old and wooden and a fire trap. And we knew that should anything happen they'd get out the Pres and the Republican elite of East Tennessee while our bodies piled up in a terrible crush at the sealed exits. (However, I'm sure there would have been a lovely memorial to us all in Circle Park).

After the speeches we all went down to the Copper Cellar where it was dollar well drinks. I handed over more ones than a groom at a strip club stag night. I think other fine establishments were visited, but which ones they were has been lost in the mists of time and sloughed off brain cells.

I crashed at a friend's dorm room in Morrell and got a lift home the next day. The first thing I noticed was that my car wasn't parked in front of my apartment. I asked my friend to circle the block. No car. We circled a couple of blocks. No sign of it.

Then I suddenly remembered I had left my car up on the Hill - in the faculty lot - and it had been sitting up there all day Friday. Damn, damn, damn - the Parking Nazis* of UTK were sure to have plastered the car with expensive tickets. My friend assured me that I wouldn't behold that sight should we drive up to the Hill, for the car was certain to have been towed already. (If you didn’t go to UT, I don’t know how to explain exactly how evil and ruthlessly efficient parking enforcement was)

I made him drive up there anyway. And there was the car, parked in front of Ayers Hall. How many tickets? – Zero. Not a single ticket. Apparently there’s either a special rule for full parking amnesty during a presidential visit, or the Secret Service didn’t want the Parking Nazis roaming around. I meant to share this before Dick Cheney spoke at UT, so any students might take advantage of this piece of secret wisdom, but I didn’t. Story of my life – (more than one) day late and a dollar short, but overall pretty lucky at parking.

Update: Egalia at Tennessee Guerilla Women has some great pics of Cheney's visit - Go Vols! I hope y'all all went down to the Copper Cellar afterwards for a snootful.

*These people are hard. I once saw them ticket a female faculty member’s car who was about 8 and 3/4 months pregnant as she parked in front of the Physics building (1 Lot) five minutes before parking restrictions lifted. She had a permit for the 2 Lot which would have required her to climb many flights of steep stairs.

War memorial update

The other day I got an email from a reader about my post on the war memorials in London and the American plot at Westminster Abbey. It was a really kind offer to financially assist the British man who pays for the US Armed Services plot.

If this plot is ever not set up, not paid for, in any given year, the plot is lost and another will take its place (almost certainly to a British regiment that currently doesn't have its own plot).

The man seemed less concerned about the money and was more worried about whether he might fall sick or die. He really wants the plot to go on and he wanted it taken over by the US Embassy. IAs I understand it, Federal law dictates that war memorials for US soliders must be on federal land or American soil. No exceptions. The reason that the Field of Remembrance plot doesn't count is that you only "rent" the land from the Church of England for a period of two weeks or so. The Federal Government can't own a piece of Westminster Abbey's front yard, and so won't maintain a memorial.

I suggested that he hand over ownership to one of the long standing US clubs, such as the American Women's Club, but I think he was concerned that these weren't reliable and long lived enough to support a monument in perpetuity. Of course, I thought his faith in US bureaucracy in the form of the Embassy was touching if perhaps a little misplaced. I've worked with government long enough to know that things slip through the cracks.

This same reader emailed me back suggesting that we set up a small trust to fund the plot. Perhaps, if the law doesn't forbid it, this could be administered and held by the Embassy but paid for by the American community in London. I'm certain we could raise the money for this, but I'd have to dig out my old financial formulas to figure out by how much we'd have to capitalise the trust. I think I will investigate.

If the law does forbid such a thing, then that's a damn shame.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

ViL: The future of British policing

My wife has a name tag from a long ago conference that says "The Future of Policing: The Vol Abroad!" (ok, it has her real name and no exclamation mark).

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police (London's Chief of Police) Sir Ian Blair, has demanded a debate on the future of British policing

"The silence can no longer continue. The citizens of Britain now have to articulate what kind of police service they want."

What do I want from the police? Well, reading Peter Hitchens' "The Abolition of Liberty", which is about the British police, was instructive. Let me see - I want:

1. Beat policing. In urban areas that means lone policemen on foot - or on bicycles in the more spread-out areas like large council estates - each assigned to a particular 'beat', with the entire beat patrolled several times a day. This is the one simple but radical measure that would reconnect the police with the people and provide a sense that inner-city areas were owned by the lawful inhabitants, not thugs and criminals.
Currently the police are never seen on the streets, except whizzing along in their cars with sirens blazing. This does nothing to make the public feel safe, quite the reverse. We're lucky enough that the visible presence of police here does make people feel safe, in many countries the police are a source of fear. That's a huge asset that is currently squandered. Now we have "Police Community Support Officers" who perform the beat policing function in some areas, but with limited training, limited powers, low pay and un-policey uniforms - they look more like traffic wardens. Realistically, our pampered 'real' police are not going to give up their desks and squad cars, so I guess improving the status and uniforms of PCSOs is the best alternative. What we don't want is the French situation with a widely distrusted police force waging paramilitary warfare against its own territories. Police have to be there on the ground, interacting with the community, part of the community - most PCSOs in London seem to be ethnic minority, I think as long as they meet reasonable standards of probity and honesty it's a good thing the police are part of the community they serve and nice if they look like the community to some extent. One reason for this is that ethnic minority police should be less vulnerable to unfounded charges of racism and other thought crimes, which should enable them to act more professionally. Currently it seems if a white police officer hears someone say nigger, they arrest them, for fear of being found Institutionally Racist. I'd like to think a black police officer would use their discretion more sensibly.

2. Crime to be investigated and prosecuted, with criminals jailed. Likelihood of punishment is vital if policing is to have a detterent function. The current prosecution service have a very poor reputation. Returning prosecution to the police would probably be a good idea - OTOH they recently abolished the no-double-jeopardy rule. Repeated prosecutions can be easily abused and are not acceptable IMO. I'd bring the rule back.

3., that's it really. Does Blair want us to give him a license to kill? I guess I want the police force idealised in Dixon of Dock Green, albeit using modern investigative and forensic techniques. I want the "colour blind policing" the MacPherson report condemned, in that I want the police judging us by the (likely) content of our character rather than by our skin colour. Of course more West Indians are muggers and suicide bombers are Muslim, I don't want them ignoring empirical truth; nor do I want them flagellating themselves at the altar of cultural Marxism. Not when it can get the rest of us shot, blown up or unfairly arrested. I want them to call everyone "sir" or "ma'am" - I like that. I want them mostly unarmed, and I want the armed ones reluctant to shoot - this isn't Basra - in fact it seems investigation of the army in Basra is rather more aggressive than the Met's attitude to trigger-happy CO19 members, such is the power of unionised labour.

Tags:Politics, London, Crime, Police

Is that a threat?

My neighbour - the jihadi, Babar Ahmad is due to be extradicted to the US to stand trial for all kinds of allegations around running websites to promote terror in Afghanistan and Chechnya and for attempting to set up a terrorist training camp in Arizona. And there are loads more ancilliary charges.

He's being dealt with under new "fast track" extradition procedures, which haven't proven to be very fast (this has been dragging on for a long time).

There's been quite an active campaign supporting Mr Ahmad and needless to say, they're upset that he's finally being bound over for trial, according to an article in The Telegraph.

A statement on the Free Babar Ahmad campaign website says:

This is a sad day for Britain and an even sadder day for British Muslims. In
effect this sends a message to British Muslims that there is no “legal and
democratic” means to air your concerns: you must use other ways to get
[Emphasis mine]

Is that a threat?

And in Mr Ahmad's own statement:

Babar, speaking from Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes, said today: “This
decision should only come as a surprise to those who thought that there was
still justice for Muslims in Britain. I entrust my affairs to Allah and His
Words from the Quran, “And when the two armies saw one another, the companions
of Moses said, “Indeed we are finished.” Moses said: “No! Indeed, with me is my
Lord and He will guide me.”’[1] O Allah, You have seen what they have
done to me. O Allah, avenge my injustice
. In Allah we put our trust.”

Is that some kind of threat?

Politics, London, terrorism, terror

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tennessee on the BBC

I listen to the radio in the morning. Specifically BBC Radio 4's Today program. This is news for British policy wonks, and there are occasionally people I know, people I've chatted with in the lift or shared a few drinks with, on the show. So I listen faithfully.

This morning on Today I heard someone from the British policy elite whom I once drunkenly accosted at a Christmas party and then there was another story even closer to home. There was a little feature on Tennessee. Rocky Top and the sounds of a Crossville, TN high school homecoming parade drifted from my radio. Awww, how sweet, wholesome Tennessee fun.

Nope, it was a story on meth addiction.

From the Today programme website:

“America's long-running "war on drugs" is now focused on Crystal
[link to story’s audio file]. Use of this highly-addictive
and largely home-made drug, has reached epidemic proportions in rural areas of
the country.”

Tennessee doesn't get much press in the UK* and when it does it usually isn't flattering. Stories from the past year (in the Economist) covered the collapse of TennCare (with requisite photos of dentally challenged, overall beclad hillbillies) and the Tennessee Waltz scandal wherein The Economist noted that despite the FBI using both the names Operation Rocky Top and Operation Tennessee Waltz, we have yet more official state songs they can use in political stings.

To be fair, the TN meth story on the BBC seemed pretty reasonable to me. Meth is a scourge with disastrous consequences for communities. And meth hasn't really caught on in the UK, so why shouldn't they go abroad to cover it?

Hmm, this story could stimulate demand and there is clearly a gap in the market. (I made an A in high school chemistry...) Goodness knows there are plenty of dentally challenged (track suit wearing) Brits who could use a little extra buzz in their lives.

* Glenn Reynolds did have some positive coverage on the BBC a while back.

Granddad blogging: Hot coffee

Last week in Granddad blogging, my grandfather and a few others were ordered to hold a bridge against the German Tiger tanks. This week, he gets a brief respite, fresh clothes and the offer of a hot cup of coffee.


Course we were wet and cold and everything else and in a little while here come a bunch of trucks and they load about half of us on these trucks and take us back three or four miles. And they’d set up a great big tent back there and they had dry clothes back there and extra rifles and everything and hot coffee.

Well, at that particular time I didn’t drink coffee. I didn’t want any coffee. So I got my dry clothes on and got my rifle and got to lookin’ around and saw what they were doing. When they got the coffee they’d load ‘em right back on those trucks and they were gonna take ‘em and put ‘em right back on the line again. Well, three or four more of us saw what was going on so we just eased out under the side of the tent and didn’t go get any coffee and therefore didn’t get in those trucks.

And we went back down in the town somewhere, I don’t know where it was and went in this town and took our blankets and hung ‘em up over the windows, tore the panelling off the walls and built a big fire in some stoves and went to sleep and woke up the next morning.

In daylight we were a little worried, maybe we had deserted, maybe – we didn’t know what. So we decided we better get out and find our company. There wasn’t hardly anybody in this town and we finally saw some MP s and told them we were lookin’ for George Company and they said “Man, George Company’s about five miles down the road.” And we were five miles closer to the front than our company was. So we walked all day long getting back to our company. And there wasn’t much hardly anybody left in our company. But we got a few replacements in and we're back, we’re gonna attack the Colmar canal and go into Colmar.

Now the Battle of Bulge was going on up on the right toward Belgium and Holland and we’re way down on the left close to Switzerland. But we didn’t know all of this. WE were supposed to go across this canal. I don’t know exactly what happened, yeah I do, too. That’s where our first lieutenant and a bunch of people got killed with a shell or two. This was on the second day of February, ‘cause I was sittin out there in the woods it was real bright- sunshiney – wondering if the groundhog in Lawrenceburg was gonna see his shadow.

And here come a shell and WHAM – it killed the only commissioned officer we had – a First Lieutenant and I never did see any blood on him. I reckon the concussion killed him. But there were shells landing on other people and wounded them pretty bad and killed some of ‘em, I don’t know. And that’s when I thought I had got hit because I felt a sting go in the back of my shoulder and being that cold you can’t imagine how many clothes we had on to stay warm, but we had a lot of ‘em on. So I started to peelin’ ‘em off and get a man to help me get em off and got down to my shoulder and there a piece of steel about the length of a needle and half the size- no, maybe about the size of a fountain pin point stuck in my clothes into my shoulder, but didn’t break the skin. So not only did I not get a million dollar wound to get to come back home, but I didn’t even get a Purple Heart.

So for some reason, the Sergeant took over, there were no commissioned officers and he said we’re supposed to go this way. And we went that way and went down to that canal, there wasn’t anybody to give orders or tell us what to do and another little boy, he was much shorter than I were together then. I don’t know how we got together but we did so we decided we’d dig us a hole and get in it and get to sleep. The ground was frozen and it was hard and we dug a hole about a fourth as deep as you’re supposed to and he got in the hole and layed down and I layed down on top of him and we both went to sleep. And now that’s where you get killed, when you get careless and don’t watch your hole or pull guard duty or anything. But that’s what we did. We didn’t really care.

And we woke up the next morning and there was the biggest fire fight going on you ever heard in your life. And we were right down on this canal and really didn’t know we were that close to it. And there was another company coming through attacking the barges on this canal. And I reckon they must have gone on across, I don’t know.


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Monday, November 14, 2005

Straight eye for the straight guy.

The Vol-in-Law and I shopped for new tablecloths at the John Lewis Department store on Oxford Street today. Being mucky pups, we got the easy wipe down kind. It's a necessity, because I embarked on refinishing our dining table. I got it stripped, but never varnished the top again, so it has to have protection. (Before you ask, that was a project I started about eight years ago - and yes I have older unfinished projects)

I must have caught the ViL in an exceptionally good mood, as normally he prefers not to browse amongst the dry goods. After guiding him to the correct table cloth choice from the three options I presented him with, he was still in such good cheer that I suggested we look for a new sofa bed. He agreed. The ViL is an intense shopper, he actually considers the options, feels the fabric, tests the springiness of the cushions, consequently he burns out early in shopping. Unfortunately, we didn't find anything to suit. There was one sofa I quite liked, but it came in pseudo suede only.

While at John Lewis, we ran into a friend of mine. A male friend, who was shopping for upholstery fabric on his own. He has recently moved in with his girlfriend into a new (to them) house. He's a great guy to drink beer with, but I'm really not sure that I would trust any man to go out upholstery shopping on his own. Certainly not for fabric that I have to live with.

My shock at seeing my friend out shopping on his own made me realise that I am a tyrant of the domestic sphere. It's definitely my (design) way or the highway. But the ViL doesn't mind, because he knows I have exceptionally good taste.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Vols and diminished expectations

At supper:

Me: The Vols won, but you know I don't really care.
Vol-in-Law: You'd care if they lost.
Me: Yeah, too right. Against Memphis?!
ViL: You know that numb feeling you have right now?
Me: Yeah.
ViL: That's the best you can hope for this season.


Big Orange Michael has more on the numbness.

London remembers the fallen of War

Today I went up to Westminster Abbey to see the Field of Remembrance.
Westminster Abbey November 2005

Today is Remembrance Sunday, and the area around Westminster was very busy with people paying their respects.

The entrance to the Field of Remembrance.
Field of Remembrance

The field is divided into plots, each dedicated to a different Regiment. One section is dedicated to the fallen of the US Armed Services.

The American section
American section, Field of Remembrance

A few years ago when I visited the Field of Remembrance in the middle of a weekday I came across two older English gentlemen standing in front of American section. One of them holding a wreath asked me if I were American, and I replied I was. He told me he was a young boy during the war and a number of soldiers from Arkansas were stationed near where he lived. He said that they were very good to him, generous with their time and their food. When they were shipped to Europe they took heavy casualties and he leaves a wreath in their honor every year. (For this, Bill Clinton thanked him when he was Governor of Arkansas). He said he never lays the wreath himself, but always asks an American to do it for him and there's always one there when he arrives. He asked me if I would lay the wreath, and I told him I would be honored to do so. The wreath in this photo is dedicated to the fallen soldiers of Arkansas.

The other man who was standing there was the 'owner' of the plot. Each plot is paid for (money to charity) and if you don't pay for your plot you don't get a plot. Someone else in the waiting list for plots gets it instead and it will be years if ever before you get another one. He has been paying for the US Armed Services plot for years and for around the same length of time, he has been trying to get the US Embassy to pay for the plot. But there's a problem. Under US law, there can be no war memorials to American soldiers unless it's on land owned by the US government. Of course, this monument is transitory, it's only up for about two weeks a year, and then it comes down again. If something happens to this man (whose name, I have sadly lost) that means no more plot for the fallen of America at Westminster Abbey. I'd like to see an exception to this law.

Here are the crosses I left in the American section.
2005-11-13 remembrance 053 2 crop
One for an old war and the men who died while serving with my grandfather. And one for a current war and the fallen of the 278th.

Then I walked down to the Cenotaph - the tomb of the unknown soldier - which the center of Remembrance Sunday ceremonies.

I decided not to get back on the Tube at Westminster, but walked down Victoria Embankment by the River Thames. I'm glad I did. There's a new monument there to the Battle of Britain. "Never in human history have so many owed so much to so few" W. Churchill. It's kind of an unusual monument, full of detail, depicting civilians, air raid wardens, pilots, soldiers, munitions factory workers. It's a stark reminder of what it must have been like in London during the blitz.

An air raid warden shocked by what he sees:

Another detail: Civilians scanning the sky for terror.
Scanning the skies

Now when we look for terror we scan the faces of our fellow passengers.

Finally, here's a picture of a Women's Auxilliary veteran leaving her poppy on the Battle of Britain memorial.

Battle of Britain monument