[Clips] The united states of total paranoia

R.A. Hettinga rah at shipwright.com
Thu Jul 6 15:21:17 PDT 2006

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  Date: Thu, 6 Jul 2006 18:19:43 -0400
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  From: "R.A. Hettinga" <rah at shipwright.com>
  Subject: [Clips] The united states of total paranoia
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  The Sunday Times

  July 02, 2006

  The united states of total paranoia

  Jeremy Clarkson

  ::nobreak::I know Britain is full of incompetent water board officials and
  stabbed Glaswegians but even so I fell on my knees this morning and kissed
  the ground, because I've just spent three weeks trying to work in America.

  It's known as the land of the free and I'm sure it is if you get up in the
  morning, go to work in a petrol station, eat nothing but double-egg burgers
  - with cheese - and take your children to little league. But if you step
  outside the loop, if you try to do something a bit zany, you will find that
  you're in a police state.

  We begin at Los Angeles airport in front of an immigration official who,
  like all his colleagues, was selected for having no grace, no manners, no
  humour, no humanity and the sort of IQ normally found in farmyard animals.
  He scanned my form and noted there was no street number for the hotel at
  which I was staying.

  "I'm going to need a number," he said. "Ooh, I'm sorry," I said, "I'm
  afraid I don't have one."

  This didn't seem to have any effect. "I'm going to need a number," he said
  again, and then again, and then again. Each time I shrugged and stammered,
  terrified that I might be sent to the back of the queue or worse, into the
  little room with the men in Marigolds. But I simply didn't have an answer.

  "I'm going to need a number," he said again, giving the distinct impression
  that he was an autobank, and that this was a conversation he was prepared
  to endure until one of us died. So with a great deal of bravery I decided
  to give him one. And the number I chose was 2,649,347.

  This, it turned out, was fine. He'd been told by his superiors to get a
  number. I'd given him a number. His job was done and so, just an hour or so
  later, I was on the streets of Los Angeles doing a piece to camera.

  Except, of course, I wasn't. Technically you need a permit to film on every
  street in pretty well every corner of the world. But the only countries
  where this rule is enforced are Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea and the United
  States of America.

  So, seconds after breaking out the tripod, a policeman pulled up and
  demanded that we show him our permit. We had one that covered the city of
  Los Angeles . . . except the bit where we were. So we were moved on.

  The next day I was moved on in Las Vegas too because the permit I had
  didn't cover the part of the pavement I was standing on. Eight inches away
  was fine.

  You need a permit to do everything in America. You even need a passport to
  buy a drink. But interestingly you don't need one if you wish to rent some
  guns and some bullets. I needed a 50 cal (very big) machinegun. "No
  problem," said the man at the shop. "But could you just sign this assuring
  us that the movie you're making is not anti-Bush or anti-war."

  Also, you do not need a permit if you want - as I did - to transport a dead
  cow on the roof of your car through the Florida panhandle. That's because
  this is banned by a state law.

  Think about that. Someone has gone to all the bother and expense of drawing
  up a law that means that at some point lots of people were moving dead cows
  about on their cars. It must have been popular. Fashionable even.

  Anyway, back to the guns. I needed them because I wished to shoot a car in
  the Mojave desert. But you can't do that without the say-so of the local
  fire chief who turned up, with his haircut, to say that for reasons he
  couldn't explain, he had a red flag in his head.

  You find this a lot in America. People way down the food chain are given
  the power to say yes or no to elaborately prepared plans, just so their
  bosses can't be sued. One expression that simply doesn't translate from
  English in these days of power without responsibility is "Ooh, I'm sure
  it'll be fine".

  And, unfortunately, these people at the bottom of the food chain have no
  intellect at all. Reasoning with them is like reasoning with a tree. I
  think this is because people in the sticks have stopped marrying their
  cousins and are now mating with vegetables.

  They certainly aren't eating them. You see them growing in fields, but all
  you ever find on a menu is cheese, cheese, cheese, or cheese with cheese.
  Except for a steak and cheese sandwich I bought in Mississippi. This was
  made, according to the label, from "imitation cheese".

  Nope, I don't know what that is either but I do know that out of the main
  population centres, the potato people are getting fatter and dimmer by the

  Today the average petrol pump attendant is capable, just, of turning on a
  pump when you prepay. But if you pay for two pumps to be turned on to fill
  two cars, you can, if you stare carefully, see wisps of smoke coming from
  her fat, useless, war losing, acne-scarred, gormless turnip face.

  And the awful thing is that you don't want the petrol anyway, because it'll
  simply get you to somewhere else, which will be worse. A point I shall
  prove next week when we have a look at what happened in Alabama. And why
  the poor of New Orleans will sue if the donation you make isn't as big as
  they'd hoped for.

  R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
  The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
  44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
  "... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
  [predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
  experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
  Clips mailing list
  Clips at philodox.com

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R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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