In the wee hours of September 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was intercepted and shot down by a Soviet Sukhoi Su-15. The civilian airline was hit with 2 missiles after entering Soviet airspace on it’s route from Alaska to South Korea, finding a fatal resting place in the Sea of Japan.
A world away, over skies painted by car dealerships and Bon-Ton store lights, there is a flicker that then flairs across an illuminated sky. It’s the Ronnie signal! Dashing forward from his Californian Ranch - codenamed “The Hippie Basher” - Ronald Reagan darts through the night post haste towards Washington, DC. Minutes after sensing a disturbance in the capitalismic force as soon as KAL 007 hit it’s watery grave, President Reagan summoned Vice President Bush, Secretary of Defense Captain Planet, and the rest of the Teenage Mutant Cabinet Officials to discuss a new clandestine operation. The task - simple - Ronald Reagan would lead a select group of G.I Joes on a shirtless mission into the USSR and exact revenge on Andropov and his minions …
Unfortunately, this gold standard of fan fiction is not actually how Reagan handled the downing of KAL 007. And I’m not the first to point out the claims that Republicans made about Reagan’s swiftness in riding the vengeance eagle against Russia are complete bunk, but how else are they going to attack Obama’s approach to handling the MH17 downing? Compare him to Ford, the man who ate a corn husk? I don’t think so, my friend.
As I’ve already stated, I’m not the first to point out the hypocrisy here, so I won’t beat a dead horse in making a case that Reagan had to be goaded into acting and finally addressed the downing after 4 days. And frankly, I consider arguing about Reagan’s legacy to be a futile task. Despite the books and documentaries and family member’s to argue to the contrary, Reagan’s corpse is constantly fished out of the catacombs and thrown in front of any current discourse. It’s the most predictable ouija board, with the guiding hand of Reagan’s spirit always spelling out “I’m awesome, bro.” But if Republicans really want to hold up an administration that would review the AIDs epidemic as a knee slapping laugh out loud riot, then so be it. I suppose everyone has their quirks.
I actually want to play devil’s advocate to the devil’s advocate. Republican’s want to claim that Reagan took life by the balls when the Soviet Union blew KAL 007 out of the sky, that’s fine, because I’ll argue that he didn’t go far enough.
First we need to lay out a few key differences between KAL 007 and MH17. To begin, MH17 was leaving Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur and was shot down over a war zone. On the flip side, KAL 007 was an outbound flight from U.S. territory - on it’s way from Alaska to Seoul, and was downed not over a battle field but for unintentionally encroaching into Soviet airspace. This brings us to our second difference. Due to the flight routes, the MH17 crash killed one American, and while that is a tragedy, the destruction of KAL 007 lost a whopping 61 American citizens. Which brings us to the biggest discrepancy between the two, which is that the KAL 007 destruction resulted in the death of sitting U.S. Representative Larry McDonald, who was a passenger on the flight.
An elected official killed by a foreign nation - that’s unprecedented. The only instance remotely similar was when Representative Leo Ryan was shot to death in Guyana in 1978, but he was murdered by Jim Jones’ cult followers, and you can’t really retaliate against lunatics aside from carpet bombing households that buy large amounts of tinfoil.
So what should Reagan have done? Am I spreading my wing and flying like a war hawk to the scene? Well, no, but surely you could argue that killing a sitting U.S. official might constitute an act of war. Lord knows the United States has had enemies dine on lead buffets for lesser causes. What then, aside from war? Reagan did eventually get around to condemning the Soviet Union and demanding an apology, but whether he spent a press conference calling the USSR monsters or spent the entire speech roundhouse kicking a photo of Yuri Andropov and burping into a microphone, schoolmarming trigger happy nations doesn’t deter them. Many in ‘83 America were upset by Reagan’s lack of action such as reinstating grain embargo’s and ending arms control talks (and of course the white noise that always chatters in the background screaming for bomb dropping). They, whether right or wrong, demanded more from Reagan just as they are from Obama - despite the peachy memories that are being tossed around today.
In the wee hours of September 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was intercepted and shot down by a Soviet Sukhoi Su-15. The civilian airline was hit with 2 missiles after entering Soviet airspace on it’s route from Alaska to South Korea, finding a fatal resting place in the Sea of Japan.
I think it’s time to put the nails in the coffin when it comes to the worthless art of public polling. They’re connsistently wrong, and can only act as a barometer of public opinion so much as the knowledge of those responding to the polls allows. Sure, they make great clickbait and troll feed, but what good is that to the greater discourse? We’ve all seen the headlines - “3 out of 4 think Hirohito was one swell chap.” “Majority considers Obamacare is too big for its britches, thinks Affordable Care Act is someone they’d like to have a beer with.” Well 100% of me’s think polls need to go.
When Quinnipiac University rolled out their recent poll which found that Americans believe that Barack Obama is the worst president since World War 2, my eyes got tendinitis at how hard I rolled them at the results. Right off the bat this poll is flawed because it relies on Americans understanding of American history, which solidly rests in the “meh” to “huh?” range. And yes, it shows in this poll. It was basically paint by numbers results, with all of the top scoring commanders-in-chiefs being the most well known names.
The worst polled president was Obama (remember that eyeroll comment?) with 33%, George W. Bush in second place with 28%, and Richard Nixon at a distant third with 13%. Conversely, in the best president since WW2 poll, Reagan came in first (more screentime for the eyeroll) with 35%, and sitting in the bleachers in a far second was Bill Clinton with 18% and John F. Kennedy in third with 15%. The lesser known wallflower presidents barely registered, Jimmy Carter cracked the highest with 8% in the worst president category, followed by Dwight Eisenhower with 5% in the best category. So expected. I say we do a mulligan and administer this poll as a pie eating contest. Each pie tin can have a president’s face taped to the bottom and each eaten pie is one percent, with every uneaten pie resulting in the participants death … ok maybe not the last part. The results will be more fun and less biased.
Honestly though, how can you have a worst president since WW2 poll and not have Richard Nixon take (or steal) the crown unanimously. Yes, yes, I know Obama replaced Clinton’s FEMA death camps with death panels and is replacing all of our youngsters with odd sounding tan children, but here on planet earth, Nixon was the only president to abdicate his duties because of how corrupt he was. Resumé highlights like Watergate and the Saturday Night Massacre left Nixon with the choices of being impeached or voluntarily hitting the bricks. But either way, he was gone.
If you are one of Americas true patriots that waves the flag by day and wears the flag by night, you may feel that Nixon’s ouster was just the result of a witch hunt conducted by daisy sniffing protests music fans who had a vendetta against Nixon and his silent majority. That’s ok, because just a look at the superficial barebones can show that Obama is not even in the same stratosphere when it comes to throwing shade on Tricky Dick’s level.
President Obama inherited 2 ground force wars and subsequently drew them down, Nixon was bogged down in Vietnam and expanded the war across the border after developing a taste for Cambodian. Speaking of Cambodia, Nixon secretly dumped roughly 110,000 tons of explosives on Cambodian targets that were populated by around 5,000 civilians. Nice try, Obama drone war, but your collateral damage has been raised by collateral slaughter. Then of course there is the economy, and the Nixon economy sent it’s contestants home with gas lines, food shortages, and inflation. And lest we forget President Obama’s latest scarlet letter(s) for the NSA’s overzealous spying activities. Here’s a fun fact - the NSA gets their authority to act from the FISA court, which is a product of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which was introduced in response to Nixon’s woodshed whipping of his presidential powers. Congrats, you just played your first game of Six Degrees of Nixon. Where scratching the surface here, but Nixon seems to have set the precedent for presidents to really do whatever the hell they want.
Personally though, I find this poll, this whole subject, to be a fools errand. Whether I was blessed with a next-level naivety or utilitarian (yet dashing) nature, but I don’t believe in the concept of a “worst president.” To me, all presidents have some sort of purpose, and until someone’s policies have us boiling car tires for food, no president has been textbook terrible. Despite my tarring and feathering of Richard Nixon a paragraph above, he wasn’t a complete atrocious mess. The man did great work for the Native American population and the environment. Other “bad” presidents such as George W. Bush or Gerald Ford may have boiled their tenure’s down to the goal of preserving the country after truly trying events.
So what good is a poll like this? We’re already in a climate where people who get their news from a spoonful of alphabet soup want President Obama impeached because they think he’s satan, and surely this will give them ever more reason to froth at the mouth. But there’s the flaw in opinion polling - you can ask the experts and get something useful, or you can ask everyone who still has a landline telephone in 2014 and gauge them like they’re the consensus for the nation.
Ah yes, impeachment. The defense of the nation from a tyrant run amuck. When a commander-in-chief’s ethical tumble starts flying three sheets to the wind, Congress can attempt to send the rascally leader packing to the breadline. No more D.C. quinoa salads and overpriced cupcakes for the ne’er-do-well miscreant, now it’s American cheese and shame.
At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be. Largely in this reality though, impeachment is a joke. No longer a stopgap to halt potential despots, but more an idle threat that’s screamed out on Sunday morning talk shows to get the early-bird crowds hearts kicking. Imagine when your mom would threaten you with no tv for a week, except in this case it’s “That’s it mister, you’re getting impeached if you don’t do this impossible nebulous task.”
All the power to ya if there are politicians that you disagree with, but you can’t just say someone should be impeached because they lobbied for legislation that you don’t care for (as was learned with Bill Clinton). And yes, we could argue back and forth based on the news outlets that we read and try to convince each other why President Obama’s scandals are or aren’t worth the deposit that has been invested into them. But, I’m not going to do that because I am not mother Mitchell and I can’t tell you what to think. What I will do though, is run down various “impeachable” offenses “committed” by the 44th president and contrast them to similar activities by non-impeached presidents. Come now, let’s have some fun:
"Impeachable Offense" - Benghazi
Let’s just go ahead and get this whipped mule out of the way, shall we? For those of you who have managed to navigate the past few years blissfully unaware of this witch hunt, let me first stress how much I envy you, and then let me offer a brief rundown. On September 11, 2012, militants stormed the U.S. embassy in the coastal Libyan city of Benghazi, killing 2. The main controversy in this scenario is whether the Obama Administration failed to react appropriately to the embassy attack, possibly covering up details after the fact. Was the attack sparked by a Youtube video? Was Susan Rice instructed to lie by the administration? These questions and many more have caught the ire of those meddling kids and their dang dog too in Congress.
Who got away with it?
This one is honestly surprising to me. I understand that an ambassador died, and this is not meant to sound cold, but is that not a risk we run when operating in hostile territory? Attacks on U.S. embassies seem to be as old as time. Like destroying inanimate objects when a sports team loses, attacking embassies is a popular way a large portion of the world chooses to show their distaste. The first embassy attack, which happened to be a bombing, took place in 1958 in Ankara, Turkey. In 1968, the Vietcong raided the embassy in Saigon as part of the Tet Offensive, taking the lives of a handful. To be more contemporary, while George W. Bush spent 8 years trying to catch snowflakes with his tongue, there were 13 embassy attacks with nary a question asked about why there seem to be so many screams and bangs coming from consulate hotlines. Perhaps the most infamous (up until now, at least) embassy attack was the 1979 siege in Iran. In the early morning of November 4, hundreds of Iranian students raided the U.S. embassy in Tehran under the revolutionary support of Ayatollah Khomeini, taking 66 Americans hostage yet resulting in zero Jimmy Carter’s impeached.
I am willing to admit that I am but a simple man in the pursuit of happiness, but mama taught me two simple truths: paste ain’t for eatin’, and Americans don’t negotiate with terrorists. And well, by lord, Dale Earnhardt and the other founding fathers must be twisting in their graves over how far this nation has strayed.
Honestly, it’s these ham-soaked American idioms that are just going to drive our country into a trash heap. Ridiculous sayings that are supposed to stiffen our spines but only hold us at the bronze-level in the mental Olympics. That classic Americana like “America doesn’t negotiate with terrorists,” “These colors don’t run,” and “Cousins aren’t for kissing’” cement us into a way of thinking that has no where to look but back. The simple fact is that not only does and has the United States negotiated with terrorists, we’ve settled pleasantries with folks a lot worse, too.
The word terrorist is just semantics. It’s a hazy way to think that nation states can’t carry out the same heinous activities and wonton disregard for human life before cozying on up at the bargaining table.
Pragmatism trumped ideology on the battlefield even when we dealt with the baddest of the bad - despite being the universally renowned cretins that they were, even some Nazi’s were able to cut deals to keep their lives and necks intact after the war. On May 2, 1945, card-carrying Nazi and undisputed German science fair champion Wernher von Braun surrendered to the U.S. Army. Fearing that the incoming Soviets wouldn’t appreciate his scientific acumen as they let von Braun starve in a POW camp, the Nazi scientist traded his rocket knowledge to the U.S. in exchange for a life on this side of the dirt. Von Braun and his men were scrubbed clean of their Nazi coats and shipped to the U.S., where they were shuffled between various bases while toiling away and laying the groundwork for the American space program and NASA.
But let’s rewind the tape, this was not the stereotypical pocket protector science nerd that the United States negotiated safe haven with. Von Braun was complicit in using concentration camp slave labor to build his infamous V-2 rocket. Tens of thousands died during the creation of von Braun’s weapons, and that’s not even to mention terror the rockets rained down over London and Antwerp. Luckily for von Braun, we were in a giving (and taking) mood when it came to his projects.
As I’ve argued before, history doesn’t begin and end with the Nazi’s, and there are plenty more contemporary instances of the United States cutting deals with regimes that don’t have the “terrorist” label but are just as morally stained. The first that springs to mind is the kingdom where happiness is as rare as a good haircut - North Korea. For years, the U.S. has been offering up treats to the Kim clan in exchange for them to quit performing mad-scientist nuclear activities in their basement, with nary a word or thought given to the cavalcade of human rights abuses that litter the DPRK. An estimated 400,000 have died as political prisoners in North Korean labor camps through a mixture of starvation, torture, and execution; all while the flamboyant gnome-people in charge hold their hands out to accept gift bags from the west in exchange for “halting” their nuclear program. At least, if only for a second.
So what’s the distinction? Why is it ok to negotiate with terror-minded nations but not with terrorists? Both have the same end goal - to rule with fear. If terrorism is the act of influencing submissiveness through threats and violence, then I see no difference between a roadside bomb or jailing 3 generations of a family for 1 “crime” in a forced labor camp for speaking against the government. Germany, North Korea, Iran, Egypt, and the list goes on of all the countries that enrolled in the U.S. gifts-for-monsters program, but negotiating with terrorists is off the table. Perhaps it’s because none of the aforementioned nations have attacked us on our own soil. Or, it could be that the terror themed marketing campaign of the 2000’s to maintain support for war-cations in the Middle East was a rousing success.
Well it’s time for some people to start taking in the news with a drink of their choice, because negotiating with terror groups is going to have to happen.
Specifically to the point that ignited this debate - prisoners of war. It’s perfectly acceptable for some to be concerned about the 5-for-1 deal in the Bergdahl swap. But what isn’t acceptable is to turn this into another Obama “oh no you didn’t, girlfriend” because he released prisoners at all. Our collection of POW’s that we’ve been collecting have to go. As Foreign Policy recently explained: “Under the laws of war, the legal authority to detain unarmed forces ends when the conflict ends.” With U.S. combat operations ending in Afghanistan at the end of this year, those held captive need to go somewhere. It’s not like we can just take the prisoners down to the local supermarket and exchange them for 10 cents a piece, and as much as some would like, we can’t just destroy them. So, that leaves you with the option of milking them for all they’re worth now in negotiations or just hold onto them and playing political games at the cost of the POW’s human lives, similar to what took place after the Korean War.
A more cynical reason to approach the need to negotiate with terrorists would be that the Middle East is boiling over in a butternut shit soup. Terror groups are running rampant through Syria and Iraq, and while I would never suggest that “getting on the good side” of terrorists is ethical or even possible, they may need to start being treated somewhat on par with nation states or political parties if the countries they are blazing trails of violence through prove unable to get a grasp on them. Because unfortunately for us, our patented 20th century “kill ‘em all” style just doesn’t fly anymore in public opinion, even if the resources were there to begin with.
Chief Snyder has made his decree - the name stays. Responding to Harry Reid and his rabble-rousing band of congressional troublemakers, Dan Snyder - medicine man of the DC Metro sports complex - is battling again for the Redskins’ name. Feeling a strong sense of deja vu, Snyder is hitching his bandwagon to the idea that the Redskins name is beneficial and beloved by Native Americans. Sort of like the Kix cereal of sports - white guy tested, native approved. Except of course that it’s not, and Snyder is getting all of the profits while Native Americans are getting a big helping of “respect," which is usually P.R. speak for "nothing."
The funny thing about the Snyder talking about surveys in support of his team name is that his stats seem to come from pure junk. The American University Washington College of Law has an interesting takedown of the 10 year old Annenberg survey that Snyder is clinging to like it’s an 1880’s gold-mining deed to a native’s property. Some of the issues cited in the breakdown of the sloppy survey include it’s small scope (only 768 people were polled), the question asked was a confusing double negative, the poll was delivered using landlines, and what I find most damning, it relied on the participants to self-identify as Native American with no follow up.
A sad fact of being Native American is that for centuries your people and culture have been on the chopping block, and once you’re near wiped out, everyone claims to be one with you. There’s a good chance that anyone who has ever ridden in a van with Steppenwolf blaring form the stereo will call themselves Native American. Doubly so if that individual has a wolf tattooed on them. Grandfather in a picture smoking American Spirits? That could make Gran’pappy O’Doyle a Cherokee Chieftain. I witnessed a firsthand case of indian-claiming when my tattoo artists daughter stormed into the shop and inquired about “how much indian” they were so she could apply for some scholarships. But those are now the breaks of history - Native Americans have had others speaking for their best interests since the encroachment on their lives began. In the past it was for their “assimilation” into society, and now it’s telling them that they actually like the name Redskin and should be happy with it.
This is neither here nor there, though, because I have a solution to what currently ails Snyder. While it was a nice gesture for Snyder to buy Native Americans heavy jackets at the tail end of winter and a backhoe to till their dry dirt over 100 years after the Dawes Act pushed them onto the sub-par lint-trap land plots, there lays something more substantive. Something that can touch what seems to be the true matter here - marketing. It’s a plan that would allow the Redskins to keep their logo and color while only sacrificing the name, and it’s a solution that can be found in Utah.
The Ute Indians inhabited the Western desert, roaming the “land of the sun” for centuries before European explorers would transform the continent into an apple-pie eatin’, football-loving America. And when other franchises were swooping up Native American identities like it was a $5 DVD bin at Best Buy, the Utes were able to work a deal that was beneficial for all parties involved. The Ute tribe and the University of Utah have between them a signed “memorandum of understanding" which allows the school to use the Ute name with certain perks for the tribe. On the University’s end, they have pledged to fund scholarship programs for Native Americans, educate people about the Ute tribes past, and promote fan behavior that doesn’t degrade American Indians - i.e. no dressing up in head dress and drunkenly shouting "how" for 2 hours.
So would something like this be feasible for the Redskins? While they certainly aren’t a school, I would think that the team has ample revenue to create some real, effective outreach programs (they are the NFL’s most profitable team). Snyder’s just going to need to take chastity belt off the piggy bank. And c’mon, the D.C. area isn’t lacking in a rich American Indian history that could be promoted by such a name change agreement. Perhaps the Powhatan - the native people who lived among the first English settlers at Jamestown. Certainly that’s a history that could benefit from a deal similar the Ute-Utah memorandum and have some money put into educating fans on their history beyond the “Pocahontas” movies. Why not partner with the local tribes to establish a scholarship open to all Native Americans while setting up a larger educational program based on the Powhatan tribes or go to their even broader Algonquian umbrella. And since we’ve established that a football team is not a school, the scholarship could be awarded once a year and the educational aspect could be through print collateral and summertime events. It is even conceivable to think that Snyder could remain a stingy cheapskate and not have to pay for new branding/advertising since his team would retain the Native American theme. All that would need changed would be the typography for the new name, and old merchandise could be recycled through a buyback/trade in program - similar to what the New England Patriots did after Aaron Hernandez turned in his cleats to become deaths right hand. The Washington Powhatan, it could grow on me.
Admittedly this plan is a longshot, skimming the edge of the galaxy of likelihood. Too many parties would have to come together and meet in some sort of an agreement, something that no one seems able to do when it comes to the Redskins. But, it is a plan, and that’s one thing we can agree that Dan Snyder will need. As much as he fights it, this issue has penetrated the sphere of influence, and changes are bound to happen. When you have a band made up of 50 U.S. Senators, the Oneida Indian Nation and the National Congress of American Indians circling you, it will be almost certain that you’ll have one hell of a fight before you to retain the status quo.
"One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures." And unto us an artist is born. While not quite Rembrandt, but with all of the spirit, George W. Bush’s art show is drawing to a close. On June 3, "The Art of Leadership" will vacate the walls of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and make way for W.’s next big undertaking. Perhaps a melted crayon tribute to Miss Beaszley. I’m personally hoping for a replica of Tony Blair’s teeth done completely in macaroni.
I should say that this will not be used as a platform to practice my “George Bush, more like Dumb Bush.” routine. Even on the internet, that topic has reached peak-oil and can only suitably be followed by talking about how weird the weather’s been.
In fact, I quite like some of Bush’s paintings. Not so much his portrait show, which has a sort of Shady Oaks Retirement Home activity hour feel. The same could be said for all portraiture though - painting people in the stead of your family who doesn’t visit anymore while waiting for a nurse to bring your juice. But beyond this, if you dig deeper into Bush’s body of work, you can find some very interesting pieces for an amateur artist. His bathroom scenes evoke a sense of isolationism, painted in a pleasing loose style which I am sure was unintentional due to his lack of skill, but a nice mistake none-the-less. Kind of like a bad Edward Hopper.
As the way life is, the internet was alive with keyboard babble about how nieces and nephews, cats and dogs could paint better than what George Bush was doing. But of course, art isn’t judged on the basis of how real something looks. If it was, then there have been centuries of paintbrush wielding con-artists pulling fast ones on hapless patrons. What is interesting though, is that he stuck to the path laid before him by his political renaissance- men forefathers - portraits and landscapes. Always portraits and landscapes.
Bland and vanilla. Might as well have been painted in oatmeal on a saltine cracker. But it is very much in line with the left brain type that you would find in politics. Buttoned down and logical. Who has time to dribble paint onto a canvas in phallic shapes when there’s a world to run? Here’s a winter cottage.
The 2 most well known politician-turned-painters came out of the battlefields of the World Wars. It’s as if the only way to spend a life at rest after staving off the hun was through art, and both kept to the portrait/landscape blueprint. Winston Churchill took up painting in his 40’s, focusing primarily on scenery as if to give himself a new location to have a drink in every night. The other, Dwight Eisenhower, captured what most conservatives would in their art - farms and grandchildren, whose names might as well have been Apple Pie and War Bonds Eisenhower. And then of course there was their foil and most renowned artist to emerge from the early 20th century - Adolf Hitler - who also painted primarily landscapes and portraits. Though, in a completely expected twist, Hitler would add the tattered remains of World War 1 into some of his pieces as if to give out early hints that he had the ability to be one dark bastard.
Luckily for Bush, he is benefiting from the name recognition that other artist-politicians have garnered with their work, being able to sell artwork and get the gallery attention without having to cut off any appendages or die penniless in coal heated attic beforehand. Eisenhower recognized this injustice when he told Richard Cohen that “They would have burned this [expletive] a long time ago if I weren’t the president of the United States” at the 34th President’s gallery show. In 2007, an Al Hirschfeild-like doodle by soon to be President Obama sold for over $2,000. Similarly, former president Jimmy Carter has original paintings, such as his piece “I Think it’s a Bird,” bring in big Benjamins for the Carter Center. Sure, an impressive feat, but it’s certainly no Billy Beer.
When art sells solely on name alone, though, there can also be complications. As is no secret, many politicians are monsters, but in some cases the artwork of tyrants can sell for big bucks on novelty alone, completely casting any concern for their misdeeds by the wayside. You’re almost obliged to look back at Hitler again, whose art in any other world would be buried 75 pages in to a deviantArt search, sold for nearly $15,000 in 2009 with a price driven up solely because of his historical atrocities. Of the same era, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s (actually quite good) paintings can be seen in the book "The kindness of Franco" - a title that Spaniards may find something to pick at. Despots showing their creative side isn’t a 20th century fad, either. While not a painter, Ivan the Terrible caught himself a musical fever and proved himself somewhat of a composer. In a way that’s beautiful to Russian ears and terrifying to everyone else, he wrote himself some little ditty’s for his new serfdom to toil away into the night.
As you can see, Bush is joining an illustrious group of greenhorn virtuosos. Leading figureheads from Ulysses S. Grant to Queen Victoria have pushed paint around canvas to take them away from the high-stakes pressures of ruling a world. It will be interesting if Bush can take his amateur workings and run with them - I could possibly see one or two mid-western housewives pining to have an original W. hanging next to the Precious Moments figurine display. After all, George W. Basquiat could have a nice ring to it.
I long for the day when the motorists of Northern Virginia wake up to the fact that they’ve turned owning a BMW into the equivalent of having a shiny, relatively new Toyota. When snooty yuppies realize that the inanimate object that they’ve loaded up as their personality conduit is no longer impressive, it’s like taking in the dark humor of a 16th Century German etching masterwork. Albrecht Durer in his prime has nothing on Thadrick waking up to the sad dawn that his 4 Series Gran Coupe will no longer be an acceptable excuse for him being an animated turd, as he speeds down the road at 92 mph.
But let’s not kid ourselves, that moment of introspection will never occur. We will have to contend with D.C. road warriors and their dime-a-dozen snob vessels for the time being - or at least until private jets become more affordable and they can abandon us unwashed on our dirty cement rectangles completely.
Phew … I feel at this point it must be said that in whatever malice I am excreting towards these particular car owners, none of it is driven by any sort of jealousy or class-envy. They could take 10 Bentley’s and meld them into an ultra Bentley-tron 5000 for all I care. No, the reality is that every ounce of ill-wiil I hold for Washington, DC’s high-end car owners is based solely on the simple truth that they are the absolute worst drivers on the road.
How bad is that, you ask? Well to put it into context - in 2013, Allstate ranked D.C. drivers the worst in the nation for the sixth year in a row. The study sites the D.C. motorists tend to smash up their cars every 4.8 years, as opposed to the national average of every 10 years. So when I say that high-end car owners are the worst, essentially you need to imagine the worst driver that you can, and then imagine someone even worse.
And no my friends, this is not just the imaginings of some passive-aggressive motorist raving from a keyboard, there is scientific proof to back me up here. Researchers in California conducted a study to see if those who one high-end cars were getting a bad wrap or if being a road-dick just came naturally. The findings - published in 2012 - noted that 8 out of every 10 cars followed the law at the observed conditions. Those outstanding 2 cars who decided that the rules of the road are just so blasé? You guessed it, they tended to be the higher end status-mobiles.
I’m having fun with the topic, but driving really is a hair-raising ordeal here. And with the area continuing it’s economic boom, there is the underlying fear that D.C.’s antiquated infrastructure will keep being flooded with people whose driver licenses were written in crayon on the back of a Kool-Aid packet.
So when you see a BMW zoom by you on the 295 shoulder because all of the Honda drivers had the gall to drive near (nobody here drives at) the speed limit, or the Mercedes owner taking a brave stand against those pesky pedestrians in their daring crosswalks, you’re eyes aren’t deceiving you - drivers really are just that atrocious here in the nation’s capital.
Isn’t it that time of the year when I pick up everything and move? Why, yes it is. Thankfully, this move is not nearly as drastic as my yearly cross-country expeditions, I’m just moving down the road from Baltimore to D.C.
If you follow my blog, you’ve noticed the lack of posts that comes about when your time is being filled with stuffing your life into cardboard boxes, but fear not! As with every year around this time, I should be back up and running by the end of the month.
Oh, the above image was created for the Baltimore Sun, and I felt it fit nicely with my current circumstance.
Even in his retirement, Ron Paul is still managing to elevate my blood-pressure. The wily mage of shallow-end facts was at it again earlier this week with a USA Today OpEd, offering his version of a concise take on Crimea. I’ve been sitting on the piece since I’ve read it and I still have the same feeling that it’s run-of-the-mill editorial litter, so I thought a fun exercise would be to address the various points that irked me the most throughout his piece.
Right off the bat we have an incredible reach when Paul equates Crimea’s referendum to other European nations toying with the idea of independence. It’s a long haul to reason that nation’s such as Scotland’s and Venice’s by the book procedures when you put that up against Crimea saying “que sera, sera” at gun point and getting the Stoli logo tattooed across its heart overnight.
For instance in Venice, a case where the province may have economically outgrown it’s parent country, nationalist parties have been emerging for years - such as Liga Veneta in the 1970’s and Venetian Independence in 2012 - who have been participating in elections and referendums without units of masked gunmen in sight. There has been petitions to the EU, committees formed, and even recently a referendum was held just to see if Venetians were still open to the idea of being independent. Similarly, Scottish independence has been along time coming. The Scottish National Party was formed in 1934, didn’t win a parliamentary seat until 1945, and didn’t win their second until 1967. The SNP kept that Scottish stiff upper lip, though, and slugged it out until they won the majority of the Scottish Parliament in 2011. Yet still, only 32% of Scots say they’ll vote yes in the upcoming independence referendum. See, this is what the self-determination that Paul refers to throughout his piece looks like, not what is holed up in Ukrainian military bases under threat of unmarked foreign soldiers.
Speaking of these unmarked soldiers, that fits well into Paul’s next documentation of wrong when he tries to compare Crimea to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. First off we need to get real for a moment, there is no comparison between the two. When Iraq was invaded in 2003, there was no question as to who comprised the coalition of the willing. When the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia began fighting towards Baghdad, they didn’t try to keep things a mystery by dressing their soldiers in Kangol hats and Ecco street wear (it was the early 2000’s). Putin’s attempt to claim that the armed troops with no insignia filling the streets of Crimea as spontaneous mystery fighters doesn’t bode well for Paul’s idea of “self-determination.”
More to the point, even if you were against the Iraq occupation there is no denying that Sadam Hussein was a monster. Sure, Russian speakers in Crimea were being hassled by the hard right Neo-Nazi Svoboda party with legislation such as trying to ban all Russian media in Ukraine, but that can’t possibly touch the system of torture chambers and secret police the Iraqi dictator presided over that made fair elections impossible throughout his reign. So yes, despite Paul’s snark, it was a victory that U.S. occupied Iraq was able to have an election without the outcome being a 99% victory for a killer, as opposed to a country “secretly” infiltrated by Russia voting to join Russia.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Ron Paul rambling without mention of those rascally markets. Accordingly he postulates that the U.S. or EU “can’t afford” to levy strong sanctions against Russia because naturally uninterrupted free markets are the only way to peace. No, it would be much better for the markets to just turn the other cheek and let the worlds second largest oil supplier keep using that fact to extort it’s neighbors. Wait … come again? The fact is that what Russia is doing isn’t all that great for the economy, with oil prices on the rise. And if there’s anything the market loves more than uncertainty it’s consumer panic. Many countries throughout Europe are fearing for the future now that Russia has taken up border expansion as a hobby. Nations such as Moldova, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Poland are expressing alarm of an unpredictable Russia. Even Sweden is mulling over the idea of NATO membership due to fear of the Russian military. What country is going to want to freely trade with a nation that they think has missiles aimed at them?
If Ron Paul’s takedown of the U.S. approach to Crimea seems too short and sweet, that’s because it’s leaving out a lot. It’s not just as simple as letting them eat their cake and moving on. In today’s globalized world, actions aren’t containable and it’s time that people like Paul awaken to that fact.
Yes, it is odd to compare a Russian to Hitler, a tyrant who dedicated part of his inhumanly evil itinerary to wiping out Slavic culture and destroying Slavic art.
I don’t want to completely come off as a smarmy contrarian. I do partially get the comparison being made to Hitler in the terms of both figures seeking to ensure the freedom of their ethnic compatriots living abroad. As Paul Hockenos discussed in his Foreign Policy article yesterday, actions by Ukraine’s hard right such as taking away the Russian language’s special status may have sounded some alarms for Putin. But, as I said yesterday, I don’t think one coincidence in policy automatically equals Herr Wolf status.
What particularly irks me about the Hitler comparisons is just how uncreative and lazy they are. Russia has a long and rich history of despots to tether Putin’s monicker to. Why not Ivan the Terrible? Ivan did have military action with Crimea, plus he took great strides to centralize his government and helped set up a class divide by aiding in creating a Russian serfdom. ”Putin the Terrible” - it rolls off the tongue.