Category Archives: History

Aspects of Terror 1. Alerts To Threats In 2015 Europe From John Cleese.


The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country’s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels .

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy.  These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be right, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.

John Cleese ,
British writer, actor and tall person

And as a final thought – Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive, and Rome is in disarray. Welcome back to 430 B.C.


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The Tour de France, 2015

Stage 19 of 21, The Tour de France in the Alps. A downhill stretch prior to the last ascent to 5,000 feet above sea level.

Stage 19 of 21, The Tour de France in the Alps. A downhill stretch prior to the last ascent to 5,000 feet above sea level.


Landscape near Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, south east France. End of Stage 19, The Tour de France, 2015.

Landscape near Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, south east France. End of Stage 19, The Tour de France, 2015.

An Alpine scene near Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, France.

An Alpine scene near Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, France.

Every year beginning in early July, the great three week long bicycle race, the Tour de France is televised and I watch. Of course I marvel at the physical condition and endurance of the cyclists. They pedal continuously for hours a day at speeds ranging from 10 mph whilst ascending inclines of 10%  or more, to speeds of 50 miles an hour and above  as they soar downhill or sprint to the finish line. The incredible explosions towards the finish by the sprinters is breathtaking. As a dyed in the wine couch potato I simply cannot fathom how these young men do what they do. However, the real attraction for me is the scenery. The two fellows who have been broadcasting this event for years, have info about the various scenes appearing during the race, usually shown from a helicopter. They’ll tell the age of a church or cathedral, how long it was a building, the history of a castle, plenty of those in this year’s Pyrenees Mountain stage, and they’ll point out Château to whose owners they’ve spoken and who just might be the 15th generation occupants.


This year’s race covered a 1,464 mile circuit through various parts of France. The villages are delightful to see. As well, wineries, Château, farms, mountains, castles, canyons and the fields in impressionist colours, provide unforgettable scenes from this endlessly fascinating country. This year, the tour spent one day in the westen Ardeche, immediately beyond the Rhone River and its Chateauneuf du Pape vineyards among others. Below is a Chateau with eight cylindrical towers, one of the national treasures of France.


Every year the race ends in Paris on the Champs-Élysées route. The riders ride now a total of 8 laps (up towards the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs-Élysées, round les Tuileries and the Louvre and across the Place de la Concorde back to the Champs-Élysées.) This is a rather slippery spoke as a great part of the route is on cobblestones. Usually the leader of the race  is protected by his teammates and they are buried in the midst of the peleton, the majority of racers whose job it is to support and protect their star mountain climbers, sprinters, time trial specialists and road racers.  A disaster can occur if any cyclist in the peleton loses his concentration for just a moment and crashes, particularly in front of the  leader, thus making the efforts of three weeks come to naught.  Around and around they go. And finally, if all goes as the teams planned, there is a winner, sometimes by just a minute or two.

To watch the tour live, you’ll need to have cable and rise very early in the morning. If that’s beyond the pale, there is an 8 PM summary. Monday’s are rest days.





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Universal Health Care from a Northern Perspective

“Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson introduced the Medical Care Act in 1966 that allowed each province to establish a universal health care plan. In 1984, the Canada Health Act was passed prohibiting user fees and extra billing by doctors. In 1999 the Social Union Framework Agreement committed Canada to health care that has “comprehensiveness, universality, portability, public administration and accessibility.” excerpted and edited from Wikipedia

In my travels I meet people from the United States who want to know my thoughts on Obama care. I usually avoid discussing the plan, pleading ignorance. But if I had a chance I would explain healthcare in Canada, at least from my perspective.

I arrived in Canada in 1967. Lately some substantial health issues have helped me test the care and cost under present conditions.

In the last 15 years I’ve had  two full hip replacements using stainless steel and titanium prosthetics from Germany. I also had a hernia operation. The hip replacements were done in the Orthopedic and Arthritic Hospital in midtown Toronto. There are 10 orthopedic surgeons on staff and the techniques and quality of care are second to none. Toronto Western Hospital has a new ophthalmological wing where I had a macular hole closed in my left eye and cataracts removed with high frequency ultrasound. The costs of all  these procedures were covered by Canada’s universal health care system and Canadian tax payers.

To combat my high blood pressure, my long-time family physician worked out what he called a very potent cocktail of drugs. I have no idea what the weekly cost of this cocktail would be in the United States, but I guess it would be too much for me to handle as a senior citizen. I pay one small fee a  year to the Canadian government, something just over $100, and a very small pharmacy fee for prescription refills. My drugs are effective and individual provinces negotiate best prices with drug manufactures from around the world.

I am always bewitched and bothered by Americans who fight against government programs designed to make their lives  more comfortable. Those objecting most strenuously are often the conomically poor and middle class, who could be bankrupted by long term care. By coercion, corruption and fear, pharmaceutical and insurance companies in collusion with their political minions, have convinced Americans of Obama Care’s anti-Americanism, even attaching and popularizing its derogatory name.

When Barack Obama ran for president of the United States, he espoused a single-payer health plan. What the American people ultimately got was an almost incomprehensible tome thousands of pages thick. Perhaps something simple and useful will eventually filter through this bureaucratic silt. I hope so.

When universal health care began to take hold in Canada, its population was 19 million. Today it’s 38 million, about 3 million fewer than the state of California. These facts beg the question, with a U.S. population of 319 million, why the problems with health care?

Keep well and have a good day.





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