Perp Walk

Back in the days that our kids were still in school, I got roped into helping to found and run the North Puffin Parent Target School Development group (fortunately both kids were graduated and have gone on to live happy and productive lives with only the slightest of tics) and the Mooselookmeguntic Rural Health Center.

Northern Vermont was rural and underserved in telecommunications, in the arts, and in medicine three or four decades ago. RHCs answered part of that by staffing small, local storefronts with a team that usually included a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, and often a nurse-midwife, and a physician to supervise the mid-level practitioners.

Our acute care regional hospital provided the expertise and the towns found grant money to found the Mooselookmeguntic Center. We provided outpatient primary care services and basic lab work on site but the hospital was close enough to transfer patients or samples easily. RHCs qualify for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

I got to know an osteopath, Ned Mitchell, when he was a young doc at a clinic in one of the neighboring towns. He subbed for us at the Mooselookmeguntic Center as well as volunteering in sports medicine for a hockey team that played in the North Puffin Arena.

Nice fellow. And unusual for an osteopath these days since he still practiced bone crunching.

“I crunch,” Dr. Mitchell told me, “to restore movement to the stiff joints of the spine.” Manipulation is becoming something of a lost technique as more and more docs move to ultrasound and other gadgets that let them avoid touching a patient.

“I need to touch,” he said. “That connection often tells me more than a normal patient interview.”

As Gregory House liked to remind us, “patients lie.”

Ned wasn’t “our” doc because his practice and clinic was a couple of towns over but he has laid hands on my back more than a couple of times and managed to keep me standing upright. At least he did until the cops perp walked him out of the Arena in front of the TV cameras one cold, snowy afternoon.

It was a divisional championship game between the fierce rival North Puffin Hawks and the South Burlington Rangers. Ned was subbing again as team doc for the Hawks.

Channel 3, the local CBS affiliate, was on site broadcasting the game.

Justin Dupuis had just scored his second goal. That tied the game.

Three Vermont State Police cars and two Sheriff’s deputies rushed the parking lot. The deputies covered the western exits to the arena. Two troopers took positions at the south and north corners of the building. Four more troopers moved into the arena and onto the ice.

The game stopped.

The troopers located Ned on the home bench. They forced him to the ice, searched him, handcuffed him, and walked him out.

This isn’t a story about priests or boy scout leaders or teachers diddling kids.

Page 1, Above the Fold.
Physician Arrested
PUFFIN CENTER (UPI)–Edward G. Mitchell, D.O., a 35-year-old physician in Vermont, has been arrested for allegedly instructing students to cut and burn themselves to get rid of demons.
Mitchell faces charges of aggravated child abuse and child abuse.
One teenaged student suffered second-degree burns. “Dr. Mitchell told me to spray deodorant on my hand and light it on fire,” he said in an affidavit released by the Vermont State Police. Mitchell allegedly also cut that student with a broken bottle and cauterized the wound with a key he heated up with a flame.
Authorities were alerted after one of the hockey teens told his parents.
Mitchell is being held on $50,000 bail and has been put on unpaid suspension from his Rural Health Center clinic.

The hospital released this statement: “Edward G. Mitchell is a physician in our Rural Health Center system and has privileges in this hospital. He has our full support but has been put on leave per hospital policy.”

Page 1, Above the Fold.
New Charges Against Physician
PUFFIN CENTER (UPI)–Edward G. Mitchell, D.O., the 35-year-old physician in Vermont arrested for allegedly performing cutting and burning rituals on students, has been arrested again.
“Our continuing investigation shows that Mitchell was allegedly selling and employing hockey players to help sell, prescription drugs around the sports centers” according to a Vermont State Police statement.
Mitchell was housed in the Northwest State Correctional Facility in lieu of $100,000 bond.
“I’m okay,” the 17-year-old teen forced to participate in the sales and the ritual burning told the Gazette. “I’m fine. All I know is he’s in custody.”

The hospital released this statement: “Edward G. Mitchell was a physician at the East Puffin Rural Health Center from June 1980 through May 1986 and had privileges in this hospital. His contract was not renewed effective the end of May 1986.”

Page 12, Section 2.
Charges Against Physician Dropped
PUFFIN CENTER (UPI)—Edward G. Mitchell, D.O., the 35-year-old physician in Vermont charged with felony drug possession, drug dealing, pandering, theft of services, and performing rituals on students, has been released.
“The student recanted his statement,” according to the Vermont State Police.
That former student, now 19, told police he was angry with Dr. Mitchell for benching him for drug use during a playoff.
“The Centers for Medicare Services Inspector General’s Office performed a complete audit of the prescription medication inventory and of the complete financial books of the clinic and of his private practice,” a CMS spokesman said. “We found no discrepancies.”

After his release, Ned Mitchell, D.O., moved to open a new practice “far from the rumor mill.” He accepted a post in the Emergency Department at a small hospital in rural western Maryland.

Someone uncovered the page 1 stories.

In December of 1989, Dr. Mitchell’s new posting in Maryland told reporters, “The employee has been terminated. As termination is a personnel matter, we will not make any further comment.”

Ned Mitchell, D.O., is now working as a commercial fisherman, catching sockeye salmon, Bering Sea crab and pollock, in Alaska.

And I have no one to keep me straight, all because some kid lied and the system ran with it.


Blimps and Flying Bicycles

Have ye been wondering how a 61-year old postal carrier managed to land his flying bicycle on the Capitol lawn?

Me, too.

Police arrested Douglas Hughes after he steered his tiny gyrocopter onto the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol after flying right up the National Mall through the ultra-restricted airspace. He took off from Gettysburg which is more than an hour away from the no-fly zone over Washington. Apparently no one knew he was there until he landed.

Mr. Hughes had told the world he would do it by way of his website dedicated to this act of civil disobedience. He aimed to deliver 535 letters personally by “air mail” to members of Congress. “The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself,” Hughes wrote to the Tampa Bay Times. “I’m demanding reform and declaring a voter’s rebellion.”

The quotes from those parts of the government assigned to protect us tell us the real story, though.

“Oh, he flew under the radar.”
“Oh, our long guns would have shot him out of the sky had he gotten any closer.”

Let’s think about that.

He got within a few hundred feet of Congress. Long guns like the M107 can shoot a couple thousand yards.

How much closer did they want him?

And it turns out Mr. Hughes didn’t fly under the radar. There wasn’t any radar.

The Army’s “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System” is designed specifically to catch flying bicycles. This JLENS “aerostat radar system” will someday track boats, ground vehicles, cruise missiles, and manned and unmanned aircraft like gyrocopters. The system has two tethered helium/air mix blimps, armored mooring stations, radars, and a processing station designed to communicate with anti-missile and other ground and airborne systems. It was to have been deployed over the Capitol. It has a catchy name, anyway.

Sadly it isn’t out of “testing” yet.

Huh. They pointed this program at the Capitol about September 12, 2001, coming up 14 years ago but it started in back in 1996 which is darned near two decades now. A three-year exercise for one of the only two JLENS orbits is slated to begin sometime this year at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Contingent upon federal funding, of course.

You might recall that we decided to go to the Moon and do the other things on September 12, 1962. And Neil Armstrong took that small step on July 20, 1969, not quite half of 14 years later.

It gets worse.

We already had a Tethered Aerostat Radar System up and running in December, 1980 at Cudjoe Key, Florida.

Fat Albert over Cudjoe Key1980.

And it ain’t even rocket science.

See that tethered Air Force Tethered Aerostat Radar System (the one that looks sooooooooo much like “JLENS”) was capable of detecting low flying objects and to track boats, ground vehicles, cruise missiles, and manned and unmanned aircraft like gyrocopters. Its primary mission has been to watch over counter-drug operations. Just having the blimp present used to deterred crime in the nations southernmost border. It has also proved a huge help to the US Coast Guard with drug interdiction through the years.

“Used to” because, after more than 30 years of service, all the TARS sites including Fat Albert were deflated due to cuts to the federal defense budget. And so the Army could develop JLENS.

But now we have 20 years and $2.78 billions in testing of “JLENS.”

Just another reason to wonder how good this government is at doing the other things they say they excel at.

“Change we can believe in”
has become
“Failure we can count on.”

So, Rufus, Have You Started Yet?

April 15. Wednesday. Midnight. 60.0 hours from right now.

7% of people receiving a tax refund will “fritter the money away” on a shopping spree or vacation according to a new poll.

“Cuz pleasure is bad. It’s so … frittery,” Liz Arden said.

Exactly. Our Victorian more, except most (well-to-do) Victorians seemed to want more.

A new-to-me camera is not frittering.

Rufus just bought a Fishman Aura Spectrum DI which has cool samples of jumbos, dreadnaughts, OMs, 12 string guitars and more to blend with the output of his guitar.

“I’m very excited to get this (used, of course, about 1/2 the price of new),” he said. “It’s an everyday necessity.”

I agree, but neither of us exactly needs more stuff.

The real news is that only 7% of “recession weary Americans” are frittering. A whopping 84% of Americans receiving refunds intend to pay down debt, save or invest their “windfall,” or use it for everyday necessities, according to that poll.

“Taxes ought not be so difficult or expensive to figure out and pay.”

SWMBO and I don’t make a lot of money. In fact, now that we are on what is laughably called a “fixed income,” we really don’t make a lot of money. Still, we live in different states from each other and have a couple of separate very small businesses so Uncle Sam and the great state of Vermont have trained me to dread April.

I do my own taxes.

I used to be able to do it with a calculator and some scratch paper.

After a while, it just got easier to do them with a spreadsheet on the computer.

After a while, all the rules changes made it too tough to do with a spreadsheet on the computer so we switched to Tax software. I’ve experimented with most of the major programs and settled on TubboTax™ as the least bad of the bunch.

Here’s this year’s tale of woe:

February 20:
I loaded and started work in Tubbo. Irritating program; I tried opening the files from prior years with it so I could fart around with some Vermont demands but no joy.

Then I started in on this year’s. No joy there, either. For example, I bought a new, under-$200 printer that has to be depreciated. Tubbo wouldn’t let me close the asset entry worksheet because I apparently made a mistake in my SDA elections. I don’t even know what a “Special Depreciation Allowance” is, let alone why I have to elect it on a sub-$200 piece of office equipment. All I know is that I checked exactly the same boxes on the printer this one replaced.

The help was of little, well, help.

Time passed. I entered stuff.

I’m a Florida resident. I have no remaining connection to Vermont except a spouse who is a Vermont resident. I live here. She lives there. We file “Married-Separate” because we have separate households.

Vermont sent her a letter demanding my returns for the last three years. I’m a Florida resident. I have no Vermont income. None. Vermont says we need to file “Married-Joint” because we’re not, well, separated.

March 7:
“I haven’t started my taxes yet,” Rufus said.

Form 1040I started the joint return with Anne as the primary filer, then did a dope slap because I live in Florida.

Converted the self/spouse thing. I think. Tubbo has no way to switch the primary filer on a joint return. I don’t know why Tubbo has no way to switch filers. It’s a database. It’s a check mark. It should be trivial. Tubbo has no way to switch filers.

I thought I had gotten Tubbo to recognize everything. That turned out to be not quite correct.

My friend Fanny Guay bought an ObamaCare policy. She filled out the questionnaire which asked for last year’s income and got a $529 monthly “discount” that brought her premium down to $34/month. Cool, huh?

She had no idea that the “discount” was in reality a Monthly Advance Payment of the Premium Tax Credit.

She filled out her 1040 online and was blown away when the IRS wanted $3,800 of that Advance Payment of the Premium Tax Credit back. See, last year Ms. Guay and her older hubby hadn’t taken a large IRA distribution. This year, they did. Her income changed and that changed the premium.

Ms. Guay got screwed.

March 23:
“I haven’t started mine yet,” Rufus said.

SWMBO’s Vermont return uses a “recomputed” 1040. Tubbo shows me as not over 65 as of 12/31/14 (I was). It included a Federal Schedule K-1 (neither of us got one). It gave us a $2,485 self-employed health insurance deduction (that doesn’t appear on any other Form 1040). And it created a Vermont Credit for tax paid to another state. Alabama. (We really really don’t even drive through Alabama.)

April 4:
“I haven’t started mine yet,” Rufus said.

I spent the day on picayunia. I still don’t know how to fix Tubbo’s belief that I’m not 65. I overrode their selection. And, since I paid a few bucks as a 15% foreign tax to Canada, I reckon I should file Form 1165 to maybe get a credit for it. Nupe. Not according to Tubbo.

I sent SWMBO a review copy of her Vermont return using a 70 cent Great Spangled Fritillary.

April 5:
“I should start my taxes,” Rufus said.

I spent even more time convincing Tubbo to use the same numbers in the recomputed copy as the Joint copy of same exact tax file.

April 11:
“I, um, haven’t started mine yet,” Rufus said.

E-filing was as screwed up as the rest of Tubbo. I started with [Click here to e-file] that evening and didn’t finish until 12:10 a.m.

At the end of the process, Intuit asked if I’d like to rate my experience.


The link took me to and the page never loaded. It said LOADING… but that was it. No progress meter. Nothing on the progress bar. No new page showing. Nothing. LOADING…

In between, they decided to send my refund to some broker instead of the bank, thought SWMBO’s PIN was mine and vice versa, and reversed our addresses. Maybe. Or they think “Swmbo K Harper” is “Dick” and “Richard B Harper” is “Swmbo.”

And, natch, IRS rejected the return.

F1040-526-02 – If you’re Married Filing Jointly and you’ve entered an e-filing PIN, you must enter your spouse’s date of birth or, if deceased, your spouse’s date of death.
F1040-525-02 – The Primary Taxpayer Date of Birth or Date of Death is missing. Please review your return and make the necessary corrections.

Both our dates of birth are plainly in the return, right there on the Info Worksheet.

I finally figured out that Tubbo does not store the nicknames in any accessible form. They go in about six steps down during the step-by-step “interview.” I had to run the interview again to change that. It seems to have fixed the birth date glitch.

One might expect something as important as a birth date to be tied to the same field as the Social Security number.

The Tubbo help system had no knowledge of how to change a nickname. The Tubbo help system had no knowledge of how to swap primary filer. The Tubbo help system had no help.

!@#$%^Tubbo. The !@#$%^Comcast of tax returns.

It would have been easier to print and mail. A lot easier. SWMBO mailed hers today.


Anyway, I found the nickname source on my own, corrected that and a couple of otter glitches, and refiled. Success to the extent that the IRS accepted the return. I wish I had some idea of what is in the data stream.

What’s the bottom line?

“I, um, haven’t started mine yet,” Rufus said.

A flat tax would solve this. We’d never need !@#$%^Tubbo again.

In 1980, I spent about 16 hours putting together a 9-page tax return. In 2015, I spent about 80 hours putting together an 18-page tax return. And I have no idea of what is in the data stream @#$%^Tubbo sent to the IRS.

60 hours to go. Have you started yet?

April 24 is Tax Freedom Day this year, a day later than 2014 and four days later than 2013.
Yeppers, the economy is booming.


!@#$%^&^ Comcast

Asshole Brown or Comcast?

CBS News requested comment from Comcast Wednesday night but did not receive an immediate reply.

[Updated Feb. 6, 2015, just 8 days later]

Turns our “Asshole Brown” isn’t alone. Comcast has just added “Super Bitch” Bauer to the ranks, along with “Dummy,” and “Bitch Dog” Govan.

And those are just the ones we know about. Comcast has created a company culture where to lie, to cheat, to malign, and to malinger isn’t just common; it seems to us mere mortals to be company policy. I have a lot of trouble believing the fine hand of CEO Brian L. Roberts isn’t in here somewhere.

Super Bitch Bauer or Super Bitch Comcast?

Snippet Central

The Eat-A-Puffin Day
Keys residents back in December sounded off against the genetically modified mosquitoes a British firm named Oxitec and the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District wants to release. The British company wants to beta test a gazillion genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. (Those mosquitoes carry the dengue and chikungunya viruses; the modified ones would presumably kill the breeding population by making them sterile.) We’re the beta testers.

Oxitec and the Mosquito Air Force will start releasing the skeeters next month, I think.

My friend George Poleczech “figures anything is possible from the bunch readying a batch of GMO mosquitoes to release in the Keys.” Yeppers. E.coli, e.bola,

The Don’t Eat-A-Puffin Day
Fort Lauderdale police arrested a 90-year-old man for feeding the homeless.

Alarming Food
Some of the houses here in South Puffin are vacation rentals and Florida has very strict safety regulations for emergency lighting and exits, fire-safety, and fire more. One is the requirement for multiple smoke detectors in each building.

I don’t think the unopened Jiffy Pop pan I saw nailed to the wall in one rental quite passed muster as a fire alarm.

The Penicillin Day
Most of Florida has simple microscopic organisms that thrive in most any moist environment. Fungi. Mildew. Mold.

In addition to wooden boats, mold loves ceiling tiles, cardboard, wallpaper, carpets, drywall, fabric, plants, foods, insulation, decaying leaves and other organic materials. It surprised me to learn that mold lurves my concrete dock and seawall.

I watched a man down the street pressure washing a tile roof this morning. I could smell the bleach.

Now that’s a great idea.

Speaking of Bleach
Cops arrested a naked man after he broke into two homes, raided the liquor cabinets, and used a hot tub at one of them.

Speaking of Nudity Again
Three naked men were caught breaking into a Bonita Springs restaurant. They stole 60 hamburgers, three pounds of bacon, three red peppers, and a paddle board.

A paddle board?

[Ed. Note: As of this writing, they are still on the lam(b).]

Whine in the Air
The Mosquito Air Force has started training with drones to find the mosquitoes’ breeding areas. With a camera mounted to the bottom of their quad-rotor drones, field agents will have “a bird’s eye view of mosquito breeding grounds and better range at killing disease-carrying insects.” And my naked furry white butt in my back yard.

Wine on the Ground
Friends from up north are serious wine peeps. They’re renting a house here for a month. I think they brought seven cases of wine with them. Perhaps South Puffin doesn’t have any wine emporia. They don’t buy cheap wine.

That was on my mind at the Circle K when I was paying for my gas last night. $2.159/gallon for anyone who needs to know. The man ahead of me bought two bottles of some kind of shiraz for $5/bottle so he’s “not out of wine anymore.” Yellowtail.

“It’s not bad for cheap wine. It’ll do in a pinch. Ditto Cupcake,” Liz Arden said.

I much prefer cupcakes to shiraz.

He told me he’s drinking it with bourbon and pomegranate juice mixed in.

“Okay, you just made me throw up a little in my mouth,” Liz said.

My work here is done.