The Reagan Speech Preservation Society

Red Tape

Modified: Tuesday, 20 July 2021 21:58 by admin - Categorized as: Podcasts
The following is a collection of the materials used in creating the seventeenth episode of the Citizen Reagan podcast (pending permission from the Reagan Foundation) about the Reagan's Radio Commentaries.





I've been looking forward to sharing something for a long time, and I finally found an appropriate episode of the Reagan Radio Commentaries to bring it up.

One of the last broadcasts printed in the book Reagan’s Path to Victory is one called “Red Tape”. In it, Reagan tells more stories of bureaucracy, but this time, he makes us in the United States feel a tiny bit better about ourselves by sharing stories from other countries. What it allows me to share is the plot of an episode of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles that I’ve enjoyed, in a perverse way, much more since I’ve grown more aware of government.

But, let's start with the Reagan broadcast. I’m sorry, I have no audio for you.

Story One: The post office of an unnamed South American country was accused of burning 3 million pieces of mail. This charge was denied… they only burned 300,000 pieces.
I’m not exactly sure how that fits into the theme of bureaucratic red tape. You’d think this story might be easy to track down, but no, I can’t find it.

Story Two: An American businessman, recently transferred to Europe, decided to bring his own American car. It required trips to 12 different government offices, complete with the long wait times, (imagine having to go to 12 different BMVs to renew your license). He decided to hire a private company to do the work for him. That company was run... by former bureaucrats.
Sounds like those ex-bureaucrats were the smart ones. I wish I could track down more information about this story, but if it’s standard operating procedure, it's probably not newsworthy. I did find information about the process required to bring an American car to the United Kingdom. The amount of documentation required according to is rather extensive and does include the statement that there are companies set up to do this work for you.

Story Three: A Swiss woman, living in Paris, just wanted to get married to her Lebanese boyfriend. But every visit she made to the Prefecture of Police (Huh??) turned up a new form she needed to fill out or some missing piece of information the government required from her, like her grandmother’s maiden name. Eventually, she faked a pregnancy to expedite the process.
Again, I am having trouble finding references to the specific story. I did find a blog, written by an American woman who married a French national, covering the process she had to go through, which is rather extensive, though the situations are different. I can see that the woman in the 70s likely had more trouble if both her and the boyfriend are both foreign nationals.

Story Four: It had been 11 years since her mother died, but the woman in this story was still receiving, get this, TV set license renewals, in her mother’s name. She refused mail in her mother’s name about the renewals and was threatened with fines. She attempted to prove her mother was dead by taking the death certificate to the post office (again, huh?), but she was told they couldn’t do anything without... written authorization from her mother.
While I can't track down the actual story, this sounds as though it happened in England. I found a story from May of 2019 indicating this still happens. In the story I found, a 105-year old who had passed away in January was getting "threatening letters" at her empty home. Her son was not pleased.

One no longer goes to a post office for matters involving a TV license. In 2006, the BBC cancelled their contract with the post office and moved to a company called PayPoint. The move was made to save an estimated 100 million pounds sterling over the next 6 years. (I wonder if they passed that savings on to the population?) Incidentally, a TV license is how England and most of Europe collect money for their public broadcasting systems. You cannot watch or record any kind of television without a license.

So, what does all this have to do with Indiana Jones?

During the mid-1990s, ABC broadcast 2 seasons of a Indiana Jones TV show created by George Lucas. In the show, we see Jones between the ages of 10 and 21, and his travels around the world. Along the way, he runs into a great many famous people. He ran away from home and joined Pancho Villa's gang in Mexico. He fought in World War I and escaped from a prison camp with Charles DeGaulle. He knew Hemingway, Lawrence of Arabia, Picasso, Paul Robeson and a myriad of others. In making the show, a great number of now familiar faces made early career appearances such as Daniel Craig, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Clark Gregg, James Nesbitt, and, in fact, the primary Indiana Jones, Sean Patrick Flanery, was quite new to acting.

The episode has two names. When broadcast, it simply would have been called "Prague, August 1917". On the DVD release, 2 45-minute episodes would be cut-together into a single hour and a half movie. On that release, it was combined with another episode, "Barcelona, May 1917" and called "Espionage Escapades". (Video found on Youtube)

In the episode, Indy is working for French military Intelligence. A contradiction of terms...French and Military. He is sent to Prague to receive a phone call at a specific time (in 3 days) in a specific apartment. It is stressed several times that it is vital for the war effort, but when he arrives, there is no phone. It has been removed. He is told he must go to the Ministry of Telephones to get a new phone installed. What he finds is a bureaucratic pachinko machine of offices, and he’s the ball. Installations tells him to go to Reconnections, since there was a phone there previously (i.e. not a new installation). Reconnections can’t help him because there is no phone to reconnect. In his final stop at the Ministry of Telephones, Removals, he finally gets his answers:

Official: If the Removals Department had removed your phone, sir, there'd be a form accordingly. And, as you can see, there isn't one, so we can't have removed it. Naturally, therefore, we can't replace it.

Indiana Jones: Perhaps someone removed it but didn't fill out a form.

Official: In other words, a theft.

Indiana Jones: Oh, no, no, no, not necessarily.

Official: Oh, quite clearly a theft, which solves your problem. If your phone has been stolen, then we can replace it immediately.

Indiana Jones: Really? That's great. It was a theft.

Official: Now, all you have to do is to take this form down to police headquarters, and report the theft and get them to stamp it there. Then take it to the Ministry of Insurance, make a claim for compensation for the goods stolen, and get them to stamp it there.

Then you finally bring it back here, I stamp it to show that it's been duly authorized, then you take it to the Reconnections, Reconnections takes it to Installations, the man at the front desk can take it in the Works, and before you can say "snap," you have a new phone. What could be simpler?

Indiana Jones: I can't imagine.

Official: But the crucial thing is, don't lose that form. Because if you do we can't give you another. Do you understand?

He, of course, promptly loses the form and must spend valuable time recovering it.

Upon arrival at the police, he files a report, twice, (the first time, he wrote it in Czech because he’s in Prague when the national language is German) and he is promptly arrested, interrogated, deemed guilty by a judge and thrown in jail, without being told his crime. The next day, he gets himself released simply by stating there was an error. After filling out an error form and a trip to the Department of Errors, he is free to continue his quest for a new phone. When he arrives at the Ministry of Insurance he’s told about another form to fill out, except no one seems to know where to get it. He encounters future author Franz Kafka:

Indiana Jones: I'm not leaving without Form 27A. I need Form 27A to get this form stamped. And I'm not leaving without it! I'm not! Not! Not! Not!

Franz Kafka: They said you want Form 27A?

Indiana Jones: Yes, that's what they told me. I went to four different desks in four offices and everyone says someone else had it.

Franz Kafka: Well nobody has it. Form 27A has been superseded by Form 27B.

Indiana Jones: What?

Franz Kafka: I thought everybody knew that.

Indiana Jones: This is absolutely ridiculous. All I want is a new phone. I went the Ministry of Phones and my form blew out the window. and then I went out of a ledge and a pigeon knocked it into the street. and the man stepped on it and then I had to chase after a tram, and then a woman hit me with her handbag! And so I went to the police. They make me fill it out in German, and then they give you the third degree, ans then put me in jail!

Franz Kafka: What you're trying to say is you're upset.

Indiana Jones: No, no, I'm not upset. I'm incandescent with rage!

What if I took your telephone, huh? What if I steal your telephone? Then you'd have to go through everything I've gone through to get it back, and you'd go insane!

Franz Kafka: The thing is, you're also in the wrong office. I investigate industrial accidents. But to be honest with you, I feel like a break. Shall I come round with you and see if we can track this thing down together?

Indiana Jones: You mean, you'd help me?

Franz Kafka: Why not?

The only cabinet with the form is locked and the key has been lost. When he does eventually get the form, he gets all the proper authorizations and the phone is installed with time to spare... or is it? No, it's not. The phone gets installed, but remains disconnected, leading to a mad scramble to get a phone line out to the pole, which is conveniently just outside the nearby window.

Just in the nick of time, he gets everything connected and receives the vital call, telling him to... travel to Berlin and have a phone installed in another apartment.

If you'd asked me a few years ago if this episode of Indiana Jones was exaggerated for comedic effect, I'd probably have said yes. Now, though, with all the stories I’ve heard, I’m not entirely sure.

Why does government seem to always make things complicated? I don’t think anyone knows, not even the people IN government because it is just so big, no one person can comprehend everything about it. Perhaps its time we do something to fix it.

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