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.
And wouldn't Putin (like all Russians before him) want to punch Hitler in the nose?
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.
Here’s a sweet little glimpse into my inner workings - I have an immeasurable guilty pleasure for false analogies when it comes to politics. It’s the act of taking a pig of a fact and slapping enough make up on it to hopefully fool everyone at the prom into thinking that it’s your girlfriend, and the bravado needed to pull that off has me enamored. I’m talking about the type of article that takes something as menial as stumbling in a speech and screams “This is his ‘Bush pukes after bad sushi’ moment!” So you can imagine my excitement at the cornucopia of trash that the new Putin story arc has blessed us with.
The most obvious would be the Putin to Hitler dot-connecting, and it’s so trendy that even possible presidential contenders are joining the party. Hitler invading the Sudetenland is like Putin invading Crimea? Well duh, Hitler sent in troops to protect the native Germans from persecution and Putin occupied Crimea to keep it’s Russian descendants safe - They’re almost somewhat identical kind of! How about Hitler and Austria? Hitler demanded that Chancellor Schusnigg turn the whole operation over to the Austrian Nazis under the threat of invasion, and Ukrainian President Yanukovych speaks Russian just like Putin and “asked" for troops to be sent in, so the connection is there if you squint hard enough and maybe tilt your head a little in a dimly lit room. Maybe we go even further back, what’s the market value on a slathered Napoleon analogy? Crimea could bePutin’s Waterloo … yeah, I’m going to just let that one keep sailing over my head.
I’ll be damned if I miss out on the fun, too, so tell the conductor to lead the rhetoric train down my street because I’m throwing my hat into the ring. I raise you this - Putin is not Napoleon, is not Hitler, but is Otto von Bismarck and Crimea is his Schleswig. Wait guys, come back! It makes perfect sense. In 1863 Denmark annexed the German speaking Schleswig region and Bismarck took issue, leaving him with no other choice than to let the Prussian army do what it did best - Destroy until Prussia and the German Confederation was a Schleswig richer. You see what I’m seeing? Russia seems to not have been able to get over Ukraine claiming the Russian speaking Crimea after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with Russian troops having now been marched in. Mr. Publisher, my hand is primed and ready to sign that book deal now.
Well there will be no book deal, at least not for now (wink) because all of this speculation is rubbish. This game of guessing Putins spirit despot has been interesting page filler, but ultimately worthless. Putin is not Napoleon, he doesn’t have the accomplishments or the romantic fashion sense. Putin certainly isn’t Hitler, he doesn’t have the popularity or military force to be. And begrudgingly I must rescind my suggestion that Putin is Bismarck, because that was absolutely ridiculous. Putin is actually just a regular ol’, historically on point ruler of Russia.
Peter the Great never died, he just now heads Putins foreign relations department. Russia seems unwilling to let go of the old European idea of immediate border expansion that was relevant in a time when the Mughal Empire was a world player and Johannes Guttenberg was a young man with a dream. Even as other European nations set out across the seas to turn Asia, the Americas, and Africa into a global flea market, the Russians stayed right at home, slugging it out with the likes of the Turks and Swedes. A look at any other European nations global empire would look like scattered puzzle pieces, yet Russia’s is a big mass of cold, connected sorrow.
And as nation wars fell out of vogue in Europe during the latter half of the 20th century, there Russia was, picking on it’s neighbors to extend it’s influence radius. Afghanistan, Georgia, Abkhazia, Chechnya, South Ossetia, all regions that touched the Russian border. While powers such as the United States and Great Britain were getting bogged down world’s away, Russian troops were never more than a hop, skip and a jump from the motherland.
One of the unfortunate consequences that comes from a period of tyrannical rule is that it erases all historical reference up until that point. Any action taken by anybody with negative intentions will undoubtedly appear somewhere with a little black mustache photoshopped onto their faces. Putin’s encroachment and disregard in Crimea may be tempting for the doomsayers, but it is better for the understanding of any conflict to learn the unique history that has boiled over, instead of automatically jumping from zero to Hitler.
A used diaper, a half-eaten banana and a ripped shirt. The significance of these three items could be anything, depending on the person. But for me, these random objects represent a glimpse of the trash that could be littering my neighborhood at any given moment.
I have a new Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun about Baltimore and its affinity for litter.
With President Obama ratcheting up the push for a higher minimum wage with his state of the union and subsequently taking the message on tour across the country, the retaliatory responses have been sure to follow. It’s the usual suspects that popped up last year during the same argument: Jobs would be lost, businesses would stop hiring, the four horsemen will descend the sky and lay waste to American business once they can’t buy a lawnmower for half off at Walmart, so on and so forth. But the argument that I take the most umbrage with is that if wages rise, prices will follow suit.
Price control through poverty, and it’s a self defeating circle - Shoppers won’t buy unless prices are low, in order to keep prices low I can’t pay above this wage, people aren’t making enough to dispense with willingly so business’s don’t meet their expected profits. Moreover, it highlights the problem of American business replacing innovation with sales to increase profits, creating a coupon culture in which people expect to buy too much for too cheap.
But even if prices were to increase, it would be so minuscule that unless you have a penchant for pinching pennies into pancakes, it wouldn’t matter. For example, the Center for American Progress reports if President Obama’s original proposed minimum wage hike to $9 were to take effect, prices would only have to rise .21 percent for a span of 2 years to cover any profit lost by the spike.
The downside for some businesses is that they would have to adjust their ludicrous low pricing systems and become more in-line with average prices. Take for instance McDonald’s (the company who gives its product away for $1 and floods your mailbox with half-off coupons) - if the minimum wage were to double to $15, the price of a Big Mac would rise by $1.28 to $5.27, which is still considerably cheaper than more “upscale” burger chains such as Red Robin or Applebees.
And when we look past the chicanery of saying that a rising minimum wage will make shoppers run rampant through the streets looting and pillaging due to rising prices, with the current wages Americans are unknowingly paying higher prices whether or not if they bargain shop by eating McDonald’s rubber shmeat. When Americans can’t cover their cost of living with minimum wage, they turn to welfare programs, which are paid for by everyone.
A study released by Congressional Democrats suggests that just one Walmart super center can cost taxpayers upwards of $900,000 to cover the needs of it’s employees. And if you have your underwear in a knot because it was a report issued by a left committee, be assured that some on the right also recognize the fault of subsidizing low wages with welfare. Republican billionaire and former California gubernatorial candidate Ron Unz petitioned the state of California to raise minimum wage to $12 an hour, explaining that “It’s a classic example of businesses’ privatizing the benefits of their workers while socializing the costs. Forcing the taxpayers to supplement the salary of their own employees.”
Lo, how the mighty have fallen. Two Republican mammoths who, in 2012 were being tossed around as possible presidential contenders are now campaigning for a room with a view in federal pen. Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and current New Jersey governor Chris Christie are wrapped up in particularly serious scandals that are noteworthy for their lack of breezy genitals. But for some reason, one isn’t being treated with the severity that it ought to.
I think it’s safe to say that McDonnell is cooked, but it looks downright amateur compared to what Christie is being accused of. McDonnell’s pining for the bland, upper middle class caucasian dream lead him to accept the challenge of breaking Virgina’s lax ethics laws. After being rendered the political version of trailer trash (mansion trash?) when their real estate venture was given a haymaker from the housing bubble, both McDonnell and his wife Maureen accepted large gifts of cash and expensive items from Johnnie Williams in exchange for giving Williams’ company - Star Scientific Inc - a push. Some money was spent in the expected vanilla manner of golf clubs for McDonell and clothes to make Maureen look like a dusty Nordstrom mannequin, but it also went to paying off their credit card debt, their daughters wedding, paying off houses, and replenishing starved bank accounts.
Now let’s look at Christie’s rapsheet, starting with when he compensated for the George Washington Bridge not having kneecaps to break by shutting down 2 of the 3 lanes into Fort Lee, NJ. The talking point being peddled about this maneuver is that sure, Christie may have abused his powers and inconvenienced drivers, but it’s just a classic example of tough party boss politics. Unfortunately it’s a bit more severe than that - the lane closings delayed emergency response vehicles which possibly resulted in the death of an elderly woman, and moreover, may constitute a case of false imprisonment by trapping the drivers on the bridge. Beyond that, there’s also the side venture of putting the screws to Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer by withholding relief funds for Hurricane Sandy when she did not support one of his pet projects.
So which is worse? If you have eyes then the answer that you should be screaming at your screen is Christie. But for some reason there seems to be a pacifism hive mind when it comes to giving Christie his due lashing.
McDonnell has been having the book thrown at him since July, aiding doubly as a prop to batter Ken Cucinelli’s campaign with, but really the only thing that was hurt in his scandal was good taste. Christie’s goon antics actually hurt people, yet he’s still pegged to do the less strenuous version of a jump back in time for 2016. Maybe it’s because the way he can pick a fight with one hand while masterfully conducting an ice cream cone with the other makes him a TV all star, or the desperation to peg a GOP presidential candidate is making some people more lenient, but it’s time to quit letting Christie off the hook for his behavior.
With a possible evasion from the fire sale directed at the Detroit Institute of Art’s city owned collection, this could be a nice reprieve from art once again being taken to the woodshed to extract every last piece of copper to make up for budgetary tomfoolery. A group of foundations and individuals has stepped up and is attempting to donate enough money to offset an auction of the DIA’s portfolio, the city may hopefully be on a track to keep the cultural treasure.
The question is why should the DIA’s art be held responsible for covering the ground lost on Detroit’s pensions? Looting the museum is a patented short-sighted plan that gets drawn up in rough times and often does nothing more than shoot the craftsmen in their feet. Tearing up the DIA would not only disrupt one of the cities biggest tourist attractions and the dollars vacationers may bring, but attacking the arts could drive away the young crowd that cities so often depend on to pedal into their blighted areas and paint it over with a fresh layer of gentrification, using their elbow grease to put artisanal kale-only bistros in formerly abandoned libraries and beautifying the city with typography posters from Etsy.
Let’s not think that art is the only asset of value that men in suits can send down the river for wealth. Detroit boasts 3 professional sports teams who chase other colorfully dressed men over fields of tax payer funds. With their conception in 2000, The Tigers’ $300 million Comerica Park was 38 percent funded by the taxpayers, and the Lions’ $430 million Ford Field was 36 percent funded by the taxpayers to consistently disappoint the public in. Even just last year the Detroit Red Wings were recently awarded public money for their new $450 million arena. To cover ground lost, why is there no discussion about levying an extra tax on athletic tickets/concessions to recover Detroit’s fly-by-night economy? Or even better, why is no one asking why Detroit should be giving money for a new stadium while they can’t afford the lights to see it at night? The answer’s easy - we value sports, or really anything, above art.
As the Maryland General Assembly begins debate over the fate of pit bulls, let’s step back and note the ways that ham-fisted breed discrimination laws negatively effect society. Instead of labeling certain dogs with a Scarlett letter, we should be scrutinizing the crimes that happen to pit bulls and the paltry consequences that encourage individuals to commit these actions.
For instance, in Maryland, abandonment of an animal is classified as a $100 misdemeanor, animal cruelty is 90 days in the slammer, and aggravated animal cruelty (which includes dogfighting) would mean a charge of no more than 3 years in jail or a $5,000 fine. Yet when a Maryland public school employee was charged with bestiality, she was met with a charge of up to 10 years in prison. Why the disparity? The logical thing would seem to be enacting harsher penalties for the type of mistreatment that breaks these animals instead of resorting to smearing the reputation of an entire breed and their owners.
And what about the victims of breed discrimination? The trumpet is played the loudest for those who fear falling prey to a pit bull in the wild, but we rarely ever hear of the toll that bans can take aside from “dog owners would lose a member of the family.” But let’s get specific. Take for example Daniella Guglieimi of Prince George County, Maryland, who had been forced to give up her pit bull despite the fact that it acted as her service dog due a county wide ban on the breed. Guglieimi relied on the dog due to issues from being paralyzed and sustained injuries until a judge ruled the dog be returned to her due to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Or look at the broader repercussions breed discrimination laws can have on a state. Such ineffective legislation can dampen the prosperity of a region by dissuading possible residents from moving there and send residents packing as they seek a new home that won’t ask them to send their pet up the river. All of this piled on the cost that taxpayers have to shoulder in order to debate and implement laws that end up not living up to the price.
The key to repealing breed discrimination laws is to admit that they don’t work. Holland had the courage to stand up and admit their error. In 2008, then Dutch Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg repealed a 1993 pit bull ban after it was found that the law had led to no decrease in dog bites. Similarly in 2009, Italy had decided that it’s ban on 17 dogs (down from 92 breeds) was a little too hair-trigger and scrapped it in favor of focusing on irresponsible owners.
All dogs are animals and possess the ability to snap, as unfortunately the former mayor of Bullhead City, Arizona found out last month when she was attacked and her husband mauled to death while breaking up a fight between their boxer and cocker spaniel. The important thing when such a tragedy happens is to not snap into blind action that will villainize dogs and their owners, but rather to calmly decipher the actual issue and craft solutions that have real benefits down the road - of which breed discrimination does not.
Is it possible to brand a race? Dan Snyder is willing to bet the estate on it. The owner of the Washington Redskins has adorned himself with his finest pair of marketing pants and declared that he will not change his football franchise’s name in the foreseeable future.
Here’s my first published Op-Ed! I’m pretty pumped to put it mildly. It’s a version of my piece about Native American history that happened simultaneously alongside the Redskin’s formation as a team and it’s up on the Baltimore Sun’s website.
Is it possible to brand a race? Dan Snyder is willing to bet the estate on it. The owner of the Washington Redskins has adorned himself with his finest pair of marketing pants and declared that he will not change his football franchise’s name in the foreseeable future. For Snyder, the team’s name has transcended it’s racist connotations and has morphed into a flag of pride for those who follow it. In a letter to his fans, he waxes nostalgic about being born a Redskin. He fondly recalls his first game with his father and the chilling experience and atmosphere. But the question has to be asked for those who weren’t born “Redskins” but actual Native Americans - can an entire history be rewritten on a feel good whim at the behest of sports fandom? The trials of the Native is not a dust covered relic from ages ago, but rather just yesterday in our country’s timeline.
At the tail-end of the 19th Century, Native Americans - spurned on by a religious awakening of Native’s that was permeating throughout the United States - sought to alleviate their plight through an exercise that would come to be known as the “Ghost Dance." The purveying thought was that the Native’s way of life had been decimated as a punishment from the Gods for abandoning their culture and traditions, and if the Sioux were to participate in the Ghost Dance, it would cleanse their spirit and return them to a time before the white man had turned their land and animals into kitsch collectibles.
As was to be expected, the suits in Washington viewed this with spectacles that were forged from Manifest Destiny. No virtues were seen in a spiritual awakening for the Native’s, and was instead seen as a precursor to an Indian uprising. A boiling point was reached in the Winter of 1890, on a frigid morning in South Dakota. On December 29, the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry intercept a group of of 300 Native’s outside of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The group was treated as a hostile force and transported to Wounded Knee Creek. In an effort to disarm the group, a struggle broke out between a deaf Native and a cavalryman, causing the deaf man’s gun to be fired. U.S. forces promptly mowed down the group of Native’s, killing upwards of 300 men, women, and children. Those who did not die by gunfire froze to death in the winter chill. This would mark the last major exchange between the Native’s and the U.S. military, and the 1890 census would officially declare the American Frontier closed. 43 years later in 1933, the Boston Braves would play their first game as the Redskins.
That may seem like a long gap, but given how fleeting time is, it’s not. Children who lived during the Wounded Knee Massacre would now be parental age, young adults would now be senior citizens. Generations of people who came of age with the Native as their supposed enemy were now watching and hearing about a football team named “Redskins.” And, despite the fact that Wounded Knee marked the last “battle” of the American Indian Wars, small skirmishes would help keep alive the malice towards the race of the new football team’s namesake. That malice would not flicker out, either. As The Redskins flourished throughout the 20th century, Native Americans were suffering at the hand of racism and discrimination.
We’ve heard it from journalists across the board - John Boehner’s speakership is in jeopardy. He’s somehow worked himself into a corner, presumably in a soaked fetal position, as all of the scenarios to end the government shutdown have him personally damned. To keep his job, Boehner has to endure each painful cog of the world’s worst Rube Goldberg machine - It will shoot him in the foot, stab him in the back, douse him in booze, and all for the payoff of being universally hated. He can either concede to the White House and pass a clean resolution free of any Obamacare infractions, which would result in him having a very ticked off Tea Party caucus (we’re talking “show me your birth certificate” level of ticked). Or, he can press on with his gin-soaked stiff upper lip with no clean resolution and watch his party’s approval ratings sink.
But this isn’t the first time that Boehner has had to have the contact information for his local unemployment office when it comes to his speakership, so let’s look beyond that. What I find incredibly curious is the process of picking a House Speaker and the oversight in the constitution that could potentially allow anybody to fill that seat, regardless of if they are a politician.
The standard process for selecting a new Speaker of the House is fairly nebulous, but basically it boils down to a nominee having to win a majority of the total number of votes cast in the house. Note that it is votes cast in the house, not the majority of house members. For example: There are 435 representatives in the house. Let’s say 5 of them voted absent, now a nominee must win the majority of 430 representatives. You’re probably saying “of course dummy, that’s simple math,” - but it gets complicated. Imagine that nominee A gets 200 votes, nominee B gets 190 votes, and a darkhorse write-in gets 40 votes. Despite receiving the highest tally of votes amongst the 3, nominee A would not become speaker considering that his/her 200 is not the grand majority of all of the votes added up. Better hope Boehner left behind the keys to the liquor cabinet, cause the voting will need to continue.
Before any of the voting happens though, it has to be decided on who to vote for. And thanks to a very loose wording in the constitution, it is believed that absolutely anyone can become Speaker of the House. Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5 states that “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker…” which is believed to open the door to anything with opposable thumbs. Think of it like the mock presidential elections your teacher would make your class do in middle school. Remember how they would make you choose between whoever the 2 candidates were but there would be a handful of miniature stand-up comics who would write in Mickey Mouse or Terrell Owens? Now imagine Terrell Owens actually winning the majority of votes over the 2 politicians. Granted, this has never happened in the history of the House, but it certainly is thrilling knowing that there is the smallest of chances that we could end up with Charles Barkley as House Speaker.
So if John Boehner ends up being forced out to greener pastures (assuming greener pastures is the name of the lobbying group he ends up at), don’t look at the election of a new House Speaker as a civics lesson bore, but rather a world full of wonderment and possibilities. Like Disney World, but with more old drunks.
It finally happened - after years of whining threats and hair trimming misses, the U.S. Government has closed until further notice. And don’t let any shortsighted crystal ball gazers lead you astray when they forecast that a shutdown won’t have much of an effect, because it will. The Small Business Administration will halt loan processing, National Guard troops were being put on hold in the effort to rebuild flood-damaged Colorado, the National Institutes of Health sent home scientists who are researching cases such as the cause of Autism, and a laundry list of equally depressing affairs.
So if asked to find the silver lining in this scenario, what would it be? As federal workers are furloughed and money flowing into the economy is strangled it may seem like a pittance to say this amid the mess, but Democrats could have finally learned to fight for their interests.
Up until now, the Obama era batch of Democrats has approached policy debate with the strategy of being smacked around like a troublemaker in 50’s Catholic school. They’ve continually let Republicans control the course of dialogue and have offered a “good try” cower in the corner defense. Immigration reform, gun regulation, entitlement reform, sequestration, all of them had the dialogue dictated on the conservative side of the spectrum.
And now we look at Obamacare as the battleground - a Democratic piece of legislation that, despite having all of the validation needed, has been allowed to be used as an instrument to induce blunt force trauma on liberal politicians. Democrats have been running away from the Affordable Care Act after they passed it and let Republicans name it Obamacare, even campaigning away from it in elections instead of embracing their signature accomplishment. But no more, it finally seems that Democrats have realized that the bones running down their back is their spine and are finally standing up for their baby. And it’s a better time than ever to do it, considering that the Republican effort to dismantle Obamacare is a farcical load.
Let’s look at the last Republican offer before the federal government was stuffed with mothballs and packed away, in which they were willing to fund the government in exchange for a one year delay to Obamacare. This delay would be used to iron-out the laws problems, fix what needs mended. Now that sounds well and good, until you dig deeper and find out that Republicans have been trying to break the law as much as they could up to this point. Just a few items on the checklist - Republicans have tried to defund and overall stymie the Obamacare navigators and, funny enough, have blocked improvements to the health law that they now seek time to fix. If Democrats were to have capitulated on this negotiation, it would’ve meant getting sucked back into a circle of rhetoric that always ends with a steel-toed boot to their tukas.
So while the government shutdown will be painful for many, if it took this to finally make Democrats mean business, then so be it. Remember, this shutdown is just a temporary taste of many things that Republicans are actively fighting for. Things like shuttering the EPA, turning national parks into a swiss cheese of gas-wells, and defunding WIC are all in the Republican crosshairs. The Dems will have to toughen up to make sure it doesn’t happen, because doormats are better suited for walking on than winning debates.
If the question presented is “What does the United States have to gain with military intervention in Syria?”, history will show that it is nothing that any country would willingly seek. As a nation, we have a Midas touch for creating disdain in the Middle East. War is increasingly becoming the only matter we excel at in a timely fashion, but none of it’s benefactors ever seem to appreciate our efforts. The U.S. has a little black book of Arab heartbreak that it could flip through to be reminded that the best intentions can often lead you lost without a hope in the hot Mid-East heat.
Iran - In the early 1950’s, the United States joined with the British to dabble in interior decorating on a national level. Spurned on by the election of the hard-line nationalist Mohammed Mossadegh as prime minister, the two western powers sought to remove this new thorn in their side by staging a coup to overthrow Mossadegh’s government. The pains initially started for the British in May of 1951, when Mossadegh nationalized the production of oil in Iran. You see, this was a massive problem for Great Britain because they had amassed great power over Iran during their imperial conquests and attained much of their wealth by capitalizing on Iran’s oil fields. After cutting the oil production to try and financially bring Mossadegh to his knees (Iran received 10% of the wealth made from the trade of their resources), Britain approached the U.S., who was fearful that Mossadegh would carry Iran over to the communist bloc to sip vodka with the Ruskies. Through the use of tactics such as supplying weapons to the Iranian military and paying protesters to pretend to be communists, Mossadegh was successfully overthrown in August, 1953 and the Shah (Mohammed Reza Pahlevi) assumed power.
The United States came away with a sweet deal after the coup - They had attained a new ally in the Middle East, The Shah gave U.S. oil companies 40% of Iran’s oil fields, and the United States got to keep pretending that their foreign policy was nothing but sunshine and smiles.
Unfortunately, The Persian vacation was not to last forever. In 1978, incited by anti-American protests and tired of having their toenails ripped out by the Shah’s forces, Ayatollah Khomeini led Muslim fundamentalists in revolution and successfully overthrew the Shah in 1979. Since then, relations between the U.S. and their former puppet ally have been at best cold and at worst on the brink of war - being our one true enemy in the region.
“Okay, okay, I read the entire thing. But what you’re saying still falls under “White Race History”, or “Knowledge is not legitimate, unless a white person knows about it too.” I’m guessing China and India knew pretty much most of that before. They just didn’t frickin’ act like they owned the world. Have we ever cross-checked with local historical records? Ship journals and documents from Asian seafarers? If we have, then why haven’t I heard about the effort?
Okay, I’m speaking like an ignorant little shit today. Nevermind. I know nothing about history.”—
This argument is working in hypotheticals. We are not talking about “White Race History,” but rather the discovery of a landmass that lead to what we know and inhabit as The America’s. We can only operate on the timeline that history has given us.
If the Europeans had bypassed this land as an arbitrary landmass, or if the Moors decided that they weren’t content with what they had in North Africa and embarked to expand beyond the Mediterranean, or as you suggest, the continent were to be possibly colonized by the Asians (the evidence that The Chinese discovered The America’s before Europeans is controversial), then perhaps we would be having a whole different conversation about which race colonized the West.
But as far as we know definitively, none of that happened.
As much as it’s been said in the past, history is written by the victors. The discovery of The America’s as we know them isn’t a question of who saw it first, but who conquered it first. And whether or not you agree with the tactics or the after math - the reason we are sitting here in The United States, in a continent named North America - having this conversation is because a group of Europeans discovered for themselves a piece of land that they sought to map and utilize, and were victorious in doing so.
This is a repost from earlier, since the original post fell victim to the Great Tumblr Meltdown that happened last night.
Last week Slate, in their finely-tuned contrarian falsetto, posted Bill Rankin’s map of "Actual European Discoveries." The ideology behind this being that a good amount of Age of Exploration discoveries did not actually count because supposed hacks like Christopher Columbus or Ponce de Leon actually stumbled upon lands already known to the natives. Not that you should need help finding holes in this solid narcissism bubble of an argument, but to state the obvious - Since Montezuma or no other native sent a messenger pigeon across the Atlantic to exchange pleasantries, the unknown land was made apparent and recorded by the European society as a new discovery as it was not knowledge that the land had existed beforehand.
But Slate’s antics aren’t why I’m drawing attention to the map, because the map actually highlights something that has fascinated me for a long time - Portugal. More specifically, how can Portugal be Europe’s oldest country, a guiding force during the Age of Exploration, and have absolutely no cultural bearing over my life.
I’ve probably invested more time into wondering this than any individual should, but it fascinates me that my life path has been in touch with remnants of every major player in the conquest of the new world except for the Portuguese. I was born and raised in New York which was discovered for the Europeans by the French, and subsequently my mother’s lineage is French and Tuscarora. I attended college in Pennsylvania (colonized by the Dutch), then found myself in Florida (discovered by the Spanish), and now reside in Maryland (a British discovery). It’s all there, Europeans and Natives, yet the only time I’ve knowingly been in the presence of the fruits of Portuguese labor was when I almost ordered barbacoa at Chipotle.
I’m aware that Portugal focused most of it’s colonization efforts in South America and Africa - never really having much of a footprint in North America other than the territory that they situationally gained and lost through the Iberian Union with Spain - but for having such a massive colonial empire, you would think that they would be less inconspicuous throughout the history of the United States.
The revolving door of prison - a vicious cycle, that if not given the proper guidance, a man or woman can get locked into for the rest of their lives. According to a 2011 Pew Center on the States report, more than 4 in 10 inmates will return to their barbed-wire abode within three years of release. Here in Maryland, 43.3 percent (that’s nearly half) of the inmate population will be refitted for an orange jumpsuit. This is no doubt a startling statistic, but one Maryland Gubernatorial hopeful has the answer to turn the revolving door into a one way exit – tablet computers. Wait … come again?
Quit rubbing your eyes, you read that correctly. Maryland Attorney General and early gubernatorial contender Douglas Gansler announced the plan as part of his “Building Our Best Maryland” tour.
Sarcasm aside, most likely your opinion on Gansler’s tablets-for-inmates program will largely be leveled by your idea on the role of prison’s in modern society. If you are one who believes that prisons are a reforming tool for individuals who were subverted from their bright future down a derelict path, then you will probably agree with the tactic. But, if you feel that prison is a punishment for those who chose to be blights on society, then you could very well see this as a leavening of the required harsh conditions and an incentive for criminals not to fear returning to prison.
Personally, I feel that Gansler is taking a “What now?” as opposed to “Why in the first place?” stance when it comes to inmates. Or, in less convoluted terms, he’s trying to figure out what to do with inmates after they’ve entered the system as opposed to stopping them from becoming inmates to begin with. You need to target potential inmates while they’re young.
When faced with the criticism that perhaps the tablets would be better suited in the school system, Gansler responded that his proposal is a “a different issue,” - but is it? Studies have shown that better schooling can be an influence on crime levels. Let’s look at Maryland’s largest city - Baltimore. Baltimore County school’s lag behind the rest of Maryland’s school system, and at the same time Baltimore’s crime rate is over half the rest of the state. Is it mere coincidence?
The Baltimore public school system is well known for not investing in it’s students. $250,000 spent on executive suite remodeling, funds meant for the classrooms being spent on dinners and hair appointments, $3.5 million in federal stimulus dollars targeted for troubled schools vanishing, and the song keeps playing. The school system can at times seem like a golden parachute for it’s employees while acting as a lead ballon for it’s students. Perhaps it is not out of bounds to suggest that the same reasoning behind using tablets to keep prisoners from returning could also benefit the students of an inattentive school system. Especially if that inattentive school system is engulfed in an area of high crime and high poverty.
While it’s all well and good to think about prisoners after the fact, Gansler and the rest of Maryland needs to start getting serious about putting proper firewalls in place at a young age to keep the prison populations low. Maryland legislators scrapped a proposed (and condemned) $70 million juvenile detention facility plan, but the idea behind it’s initiation shows how unwilling we can be to get our hands dirty in the gritty lives of troubled youths - opting to just lock them into a system of turmoil. Perhaps we’re just not ready as a society to invest in tackling the root of the inmate population. Instead we’ll just keep trimming the branches, and scratch our heads when they keep growing back.
In an opinion piece for The Boston Globe over the weekend, Julio Ricardo Varela argued that the time to end Puerto Rico’s relation as a colonial relic to the United State’s is now. And while he makes many great points that I agree with, there has to be more to the taking on of a new state than if the people deserve it. The people of Puerto Rico are wonderful and would bring a great culture and history to the United States, but the island is surrounded by 2 major problem’s that do need remedied before there would likely be a mass acceptance for a Puerto Rican state.
Problem number 1 - Crime
Puerto Rico is dangerous. Very dangerous. In 2011, the commonwealth accumulated a jaw-dropping 1,136 murders and has a homicide rate of 26.2 per 100,000 people. Keep in mind that those are statistics for a potential state. Compare that to Louisiana, the state that logged the highest 2011 per capita murder rate per 100,000 people at 11.2 (513 murders), and you begin to see a very gruesome picture being painted of an island in peril.
If that weren’t bad enough, annexing Puerto Rico would mean that The United States would have a state with a definite foothold for the drug trade. Due to heightened scrutiny along the U.S.-Mexico border, traffickers have started using Puerto Rico as a springboard for their product into the country. Due to it technically being part of the United States, once the illicit cargo enters Puerto Rico, it essentially has an open-door to the U.S. mainland since it no longer has to clear customs. This hotspot had federal agents wrangle in 43,000 pounds of narcotics in 2012. At this point, inquisitive minds should be connecting the dots between this and the previously mentioned murder rates.
So what does this mean for Puerto Rico? With it’s murder rate double the highest state in the U.S. and it’s housing of a drug corridor, it could spell a state of emergency from the outset of annexation. An emergency that would require Federal assistance that some may not be willing to give.
You are definitely one of my favorite illustrators, both for you work and your political insights. Thank you for the follow(s)!
Thank you! Sometimes operating a political blog can be a lonely world (I settled with the fact that drawing pictures of Harry Reid or any other assortment of wrinkly politicians will never score me any cool points) so comments like this definitely make the work worth while.
Ugh your last post is so relevant. I tell people this all the time.
When you read news about instances like Missouri trying to pass a bill that would nullify federal gun law’s and jail journalists who published the names of gun owners (even in the case of a competition), you have to wonder if state officials have started taking their oath of office over a copy of their favorite Dr. Seuss story.
One lesson that I hope was gleaned from the past couple of weeks is that State Legislature’s should get a larger share of every voter’s attention.
The State Legislature is an unique place in that it costs quite a bit less to run for state office rather than federal office, so the elected officials run the gamut from qualified or extremely dear-god-what-happened-unqualified. It’s the type of unqualified that if you typed the officials name into Angie’s List, your computer would start playing a .gif of a small girl weeping. Just think of it this way – Joe the Plumber as a federal candidate was a national joke, but Joe the Plumber as a state candidate could’ve been a viable contender.
Now you might think I’m being a bit bombastic in describing the competency of some state legislatures, and I would direct you Steve Windom, the former Alabama Lieutenant Governor who urinated in a jug because he thought the Senate would strip him of his power if he went to the bathroom. Now that’s some firm dedication to insanity.
I bring this up because more and more important decisions are being decided at the state level. Mountains of money are being poured into these races unlike ever before, yet they yield unimpressive voter turn out. That has to change.
Just use Wendy Davis as an example. Her stand against the Texas abortion bill garnered national attention and Tumblr acclaim. While it was great that she managed to create a groundswell of support, it was a rare occasion of shedding light on an issue that is happening in state Legislatures nationwide.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill that would attempt to close abortion clinics through entrapment, making them enter into an agreement to transfer patients to hospitals in certain situations, an agreement that public hospitals cannot undertake. North Carolina piggybacked abortion restrictions on a bill that bans Sharia Law to fly it under the radar (that’s right, North Carolina managed to mangle the democratic process in a bill concerned about Sharia Law. Now that’s commitment). Arkansas passed a bill that tried to ban abortion after 12 weeks. The list goes on.
The tossed salad of stupid isn’t just confined to women’s health on the floor of state capitols. Just last year the state of Tennessee attempted to pass a bill that would ban foreigners (Muslims) from teaching in schools. If Tennessee isn’t going to teach their kids, they’ll be damned if anyone else will either.
The state level is the new battleground for our rights, and many times these decisions will be morally scrupulous and hot issues. With the national media very unlikely to cover these events (like these protests in North Carolina), it needs to be our prerogative to seek out the issues that deserve the Wendy Davis treatment through our own volition.
In the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision declaring Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional, the majority opinion unintentionally authored a statement that I agree with. In it, Chief Justice Roberts and his split decision gang declared that the times are much different than they were when the Voting Rights Act was implemented. That, I agree with. Unfortunately, Roberts and I have a different view on what has changed.
The majority opinion suggests that life is much much better in the South for minorities, and to hold certain states to the same bar as their 1960’s counterparts would not be fair. According to Roberts, the fact that minorities can run for office in a state like Mississippi and that the Southern air is pollinated with the smells of barbecue rather than burning crosses means that racism has all but faded away, and with it the want to discriminate at the voting booth.
While I said I agree with the Court that times are different, it definitely isn’t in the ways mentioned above.
I believe that as the clock has ticked forward, voter discrimination has morphed from a racist task of the South to a tactical ploy that is not contained in any individual state line. When the Voting Rights Act was initiated in 1965 it was meant to combat the disenfranchisement of African American voters. Now lawmakers seem to try their damnedest to keep anyone at home on voting day that may clash with a certain agenda. These tactics are open to anyone - black, hispanic, white, poor - great efforts are made to make sure that no one feels left out of election day displacement.
This leads me to agree with another majority court opinion, that there must be a new way to decide which states require oversight to change their election laws, as it is a much bigger problem than just isolated to the South.
You might recall Florida trying to suppress the vote last election by turning voters into election day lawn ornaments, or organizations such as True the Vote sprouting up in places such as North Carolina to make sure that anyone who doesn’t own a Mercedes Benz didn’t commit voter fraud. But what about the states not covered under the Voting Rights Act? States such as Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania attempted to enact early vote regulations and strict Voter ID laws that would’ve left anyone who didn’t have (couldn’t afford) the proper nebulous ID unheard on election day.
This doesn’t mean that I think the court was right in scrapping Section 4 either, because Texas’s day of jump to Voter ID and gerrymandering certain districts into a child’s scribble drawing to tip the scales shows that something must be left in place in the interim. Because now that Congress is left to come up with a new election oversight formula, that interim could be just shy of indefinite.
Over the weekend I went to the movies to see “Man of Steel” which I had been awaiting to be released since I watched the first trailer. For the purposes of this story I must state that I hate movie theaters, and swore them off after a mother braided her daughter’s hair directly in front of me for the entirety of “The Amazing Spider-Man” while a brigade of small children participated in a Twisted Metal competition through the aisles. But even with my predisposed hatred, “Man of Steel” made me forget all of it and kept me completely enthralled, which is why I am so perplexed by the negative reviews that it has gathered.
Let’s start with the accusation that “Man of Steel” is too dark and takes itself too seriously, that it doesn’t match the light-heartedness of the Golden Age Superman. Well guess what, Golden Age Superman sucks. Sure, while it could have been interesting to see Superman defeat Zod in a heated cookie-baking contest officiated by the Harlem Globe Trotters, my fragile sensibilities register a little bit above a seven year olds in which I can see some violence and not need to reach for my mothers hand as a safe haven.
More to that point, this was a movie about Clark Kent figuring out how to become Superman. An origin story is trial by error, with the hero eventually limping to victory. It might be a little more violent because the character is inexperienced. The hero learns from his foibles, and uses it to become the character that we all know. The way “Man of Steel” approached it may not be Superman canon, but it is still a believable idea that Superman could learn from his mistakes in the first movie without being the serial killer from “Se7en” like many critics are making him out to be.
Reading news recently has been somewhat of a trying experience, and I blame it all on the article comment sections. I feel like a character in a Cormac McCarthey novel, trudging my way through a trail of misinformed dreck, waiting for a family to take me in and tell me that the road has been wrong all along.
The comment section is a hierarchical tree of superuser badges and favorite commenter awards, all of which can be attained by scrawling such nonsensical junk as “Sarah Palin-in comparison, am I right?” Woah, make sure you sign that gem. Don’t want anyone to steal it. It can be comparable to a whitetrash caste system – the more furniture you have in your yard, the higher up you are. Having 12 couches on your porch will grant you the position of town Brahmin, much like having 12 super user badges will net you 13,000 followers on Huffington Post.
Now, before I quickly derail my intended purpose for writing this, I should get to what inspired this post. It is not to combat all comment section writers, I want to hone my scorn in on a select few. Listen up Baltimore Sun commenters, this PSA is for you:
There you have it. That’s October, the month that comes after September and before November. It’s the 10th month of the year. It rhymes with Shmoctober. Please quit inferring that the bill has taken effect every time you take to your Utz salted keyboard and type “How’s that gun control working out for ya?” on every single article that comes into your line of vision. It is a ridiculous question, and unless you are Professor X strolling through comment boards while your gifted mutants are in study hall, it is an unanswerable question.
This is a city that’s so eloquently nicknamed “Bodymore, Murdaland,” so you can imagine that city news outlets would provide acres of articles for such asinine comments to roam free. Normally I just sit and stomach them, but one finally broke me. It was an article about the fatal shooting of a 1 year old in the Cherry Hill neighborhood. Even the comment calling it the “gun grab” bill is incredibly wrong. A key tenant to the Maryland gun bill is that owners get to keep any gun owned or ordered prior to the Oct. 1 date.
What there is a severe lack of in comment sections is an understanding of what the writers are lobbying for. The least you can do is know when the law of your ire is set to kick in (In this case Oct. 1. Remember, rhymes with Schmoctober). After that date, feel free to say that it’s worthless, try and tie it to President Obama, or you can blame it on GNC being out of Gov. O’Malley’s favorite flavor of Muscle Milk. But until that date comes, you’re just a troll shouting into the wind.
I thought it would be a good idea to explain my lack of posts recently. These past few months have been incredibly hectic and it’s thrown my art and writing way off course. Just a recap of what has been making my blog so desolate - In November I was laid off due to the economic strains of my previous employer, spent December through March frantically updating my portfolio/learning new skills/applying to jobs to regain employment, and am now making my 2nd cross country move in a year’s time (from Florida back up north to Baltimore).
I am truly appreciative of all of my followers, and ask that you please stick with me during this incredibly busy time. I am currently working on some new art, and once I get settled into my new apartment I will get back into the full swing.
Inspirational work Mitchell. I've followed your blog since beginning my own a while ago, as an aspiring illustrator myself I'd appreciate some feedback or advice from an illustrator who's work is highly politically motivated. I'm currently studying bachelor of illustration that I hope will lead to a masters in journalism. Regards, Sam.
Thank you so much! As far as advice for illustration, it would be to mainly draw what and how you want. I feel like there’s this thing happening in the illustration field where more times than not art looks like James Jean or Yuko Shimizu work. While trends definitely are a dark part of the art world, I’m definitely much happier that I did my own thing. Of course, that’s not to say that you can’t take bits and pieces from artists who influenced you to make your style.
And for the political/journalism side of my art and writing, I’m just always following the news. The majority of my day is spent listening to podcasts, reading the news, or watching the God-awful cable news programs. It’s key to know what you’re art talking about, especially if you’re going to put it out there for others to see. A misinformed piece of art can reflect badly on how your work is viewed.
I hope this helps. I’m also working on an online class about political art that someone such as yourself might be interested in taking. I will post the link when it is up.
I’ve been watching the new Netflix series “House of Cards.” A quick synopsis for those unaware: “House of Cards” is a political thriller/drama based on various characters dealing with life and business in Washington, DC (The main 2 characters being House Majority Whip Frank Underwood and reporter Zoe Barnes.)
To be honest, I love the show and have become completely enthralled with it. But, every time I watch the show the same question rings in my head - “What political world does ‘House of Cards’ exist in?” You see, “House of Cards” is a show populated with handsome men, beautiful women, and all are definitely not left wanting in the coolness category. Juxtapose that with the political world I worked in which consisted of a bunch of dudes eating Cheeze Nips in a small office bathing in their own smells. Sure, everyone was nice, but I feel like I missed out on a party.
Now granted, the political scene of Florida is probably a very different scene than that of Washington, DC. But still, every character looks like they just got off of an L.L. Bean photoshoot and are on their to an Aerie video shoot. Has anyone actually looked at the political elite while watching the news? At best they look like a mannequin pulled out of a Marshall’s store window. On average, they’re like watching a turtle exhibit at the National Aquarium.
Also, I feel like the bravado and intent on display by the characters is a bit of a fairy tale. Main character Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is a calm, cool, and conniving Southern Democrat. He’s what we would’ve gotten if Charles Bronson ran out of death wishes and ran for Congress. His wife, Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), is a supermodel who heads a non-profit. The closest real life example I can think of to this power couple is the Gingrich’s, and the coolest thing they can boast is that their hair hasn’t moved out of place since the 90’s.
Obviously this is just nitpicking, and the show is a great watch. It especially is worth checking out if you are tired of the same dull real life story lines of Washington do nothings that seem to be on a repeat track these days.
Last night while catching up on the days news, I was introduced to the concept of the end of the NFL. The article in question, an interview with Ravens Safety Bernard Pollard, predicts that the end of professional football will come at the hands of disgruntled fans who will grow tired of the games rules and regulations.
Further investigation lead me to read articles predicting that parents will quit letting their kids play football due to new research linking brain damage to the game, eventually drying up the talent pool.
I for one am inclined to brush the doomsayers to the side, if only because people who usually make such bold predictions fail to realize that their opinion is one of a handful. Take for instance professional wrestling. Despite numerous crippling injuries and suicides, the WWE still thrives as a half-naked multi-million dollar toy machine.
There have been many theories on how the NFL can “save” it’s game, whether it be more rules or less tackling and pads (which, as a former rugby player, I can say first hand does not stop bad head injuries).
If I could postulate my own opinion, I believe that the NFL should implement size restrictions on it’s players. Now hear me out. Throughout the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, the NFL had a love affair with it’s fans because it wasn’t watered down with rules as it is today. I believe that the onset of such rules came about as players morphed from larger than average men into striated industrial appliances. An impact from Jack Lambert would hurt, but not nearly as much as one from a modern Universal Soldier like James Harrison.
Just look at a position comparison. Compare linebacker legend Mike Singletary to modern day linebacker Ray Lewis. Singletary, a Hall of Famer, looks like your uncle who works construction. On the opposite end, Lewis looks like a monster who was pulled out of a Universal Studios warehouse.
If the NFL pushed more natural bodied players over performance enhanced monstrosities, and couple that with the new helmet designs that will undoubtedly be developed overtime to help absorb shock, perhaps the NFL would no longer have a need to keep thinking of the best ways to protect the players from each other.