43 posts tagged humor
This year is one of many noteworthy anniversaries, and this month passed by with another one in the collection. Specifically, 75 years ago on September 3, 1939, England and France issued their declarations of war against Nazi Germany in retaliation to Hitler rolling steel and thunder into Poland. And for an interesting memorial, The Atlantic published the recording of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s speech on the day.
It’s a powerful piece of audio. As viewers of history, we have a the benefit of hindsight in understanding the devastating implications of Chamberlain’s words, and that they’d result in destruction in pursuit of the greater good on an unimaginable scale. But at the same time, 3/4 of a century after the fact, you’re left with the impression that the British accent can make anything sound like a classy affair, including war. As Chamberlain speaks, a little part of you is anticipating the somber tone to turn into an ad for Earl Grey tea with that voice. At one point in history, the British and Germanic people were tied in bad-food bond through the likes of the House of Hanover, yet here you can listen to the absolute darkness that the relations would eventually reach.
This is why speeches are great. They paint a picture and fill in holes of a time gone by. They let you feel the heat of the moment. Certain one’s such as “I have a dream…” and “The only thing we have to fear…” are almost birthed into us, but here is a look at some of my favorite’s that are about due for some stage time. I offer to you a sampling of the best of times, worst of times, and oddest of times from oratory history.
The Good - John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
If you’re going to start it off, start it off with a bang. Kennedy is one of the most celebrated orators in this country’s history. His televised Civil Rights address, his "New Frontier" at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, a plea for nuclear disarmament at American University, all classics. Aided by his look, intellect, and finely-honed Mass-hole accent, his speeches gave off an unforgettable character. The man could’ve declared “Maybe I’m born with it, maybe it’s Maybeline,” and scholars would still be dissecting the great hair declaration. No place is this better displayed than at his inauguration.
Some may say this is obvious, but settle down. Kennedy’s election signaled a re-investment in the United States and a new way forward. It is here that Kennedy made his “ask not” declaration - Surely his most memorable, but not the most powerful. No, for me that comes earlier in the speech when he declares "(A)nd to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside."
Well what the hell does that mean? The first half of the 20th century was torn apart by alliances and bedfellows that erupted into bloody combat, and this was Kennedy’s warning not to repeat the mistakes of the past. As the Cold War struggle between Communist and Capitalist factions threatened to let loose hell once more, and countries throughout Latin America and Indochina were thrust into turmoil and desperately sought hasty stability, this was Kennedy’s call for cool heads. Strangely enough, it would also foreshadow how Kennedy approached certain “shoot first, then shoot some more” advisors who surrounded him that thought the nuclear bomb could be America’s next great pastime.
The Bad - Richard Nixon’s Farewell Address
14 years after John F. Kennedy would ignite a mid-century hope about the United State’s future, Richard Nixon would be the first president to resign and unleash a new era of cynicism. And fittingly, Nixon would lead us into that future as president Pagliacci.
Tricky Dick undoubtedly understood the significance of his approaching fate, because he would deliver a farewell address that could only have been written by a tortured soul in a secluded Irish cabin. Move over James Joyce, the photos of Archibald Cox are roaring in the fireplace and Nixon is working out his Hallmark material.
The speech starts out well enough with a few folksy jokes and small talk, and then while reminiscing about the White House the mood shifts with the line “this house has a great heart.” It’s hard for your mind not to project a sad fiddle in the distance, and by the closing, not a dry eye remains. After Nixon quotes Theodore Roosevelt about crowd favorites like death and loss, he recites the lines that truly make this speech great: “(B)ecause only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain” followed by “Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”
Note the second quote. Nixon was famous for his paranoia. Ever since his first famous speech that he felt the press railroaded him into giving over his pesky secret campaign fund, he suffered from an acute persecution complex that rivaled biblical tales. Nixon would wage war with the media early in his career, mistaking everything aside from glowing praise as a stab in the back, and take it with him throughout his life. So while his farewell address was very touching, was a surprise that it concluded with a diplomatic warning to not drink the haterade?
The Ugly - Harry Truman’s Undelivered Radio Address
Imagine the world’s collective history along a parallel universe - D-day was a failure, the Cold War turned hot in a nuclear blast, George Washington was a break-dancing robot named Jazzitron George 3000. It can be wild stuff, but a wormhole to alien events can exist in the drafts of alternate or unused speeches. One particular gem went unused by President Truman on June 12, 1948.
The broadcasted address was a pretty bland diplomatic affair - Post-war Russia was being a major pain, peace on earth, freedom for all - your standard bits. Where the president really shined was in the speech’s original draft, in which Truman let fly his inner gossip queen commandant.
Where the actual broadcast begins with a rather tame swipe at the Soviet Union, the original draft told the tale of how Truman hike his pants up to his chest and gave Vyacheslev Molotov a real what-for in Washington. I may be wrong, but it feels like Harry has a bone to pick. Truman tells a story of how he soured on Russia like he’s chatting at his weekly gin rummy club- “I had the kindliest feeling for Russia and the Russian people and I liked Stalin. But I found after a very patient year that Russian agreements are made to be broken.”
And contrary to the final speeches world peace theme, the original draft constantly bemoaned the downsizing of the U.S. military. First Truman complains about the sinking of perfectly modern warships after WW1, then he chastised the mamby-pamby parents for wanting their children home from the war front, or in his words “mamma and papa and every Congressman wanted every boy discharged at once after Japan folded up.” Finally, after calling for a larger military budget, Truman threatens to break out his whupping stick - “Our friends the Russkies understand only one language - how many divisions you have - actual or potential.” Someone remind me not to step on this guys lawn anytime soon.
President Truman’s cantankerous wariness of the Soviet Union was not unfounded, though, and 2 years later the United States would be fighting an indirect war with the Soviet Union after Stalin backed Kim Il-sung in the Korean War. But still, the original draft gives a great look at Truman’s no-guff attitude at the time.
And for a 21st century bonus:
The Odd - George W. Bush’s White House Menorrah Lighting Ceremony
"I couldn’t imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah." But really though, he probably just didn’t understand.
Thanks in part to a disgruntled chef with Bond-like espionage talents and the need to look fly, Bob McDonnell was indicted in January 2014 on 14 counts of fraud. After being accused of stealing from the governor’s mansion, executive chef read more …
I would not be fulfilling my bloggerly duties if I did not post a link to my previously-written “Naughty Governor’s Club” piece. With how fast the modern news cycle is, it seems that new enrollees into the not-so-prestigious club are rolling in daily. In New York, the hounds are sniffing around Andrew Cuomo for his meddling in a corruption investigation. In Virginia, the McDonnell trial of tacky trinkets is in full swing. And of course in Texas, Rick Perry is currently being indicted for abusing his gubernatorial powers.
What I find to be interesting about the Perry case is that there is an almost unanimous consensus that he may be victim to trumped up charges. Usually you have your standard left/right divide, but this time everyone seems to have taken the side of the walking, talking Norman Rockwell painting.
The long of the short is that after Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving, Perry threatened to veto the funding for her Public Integrity Unit unless she resigned.
Now, there’s the one hand which portrays Rick Perry as taking the initiative to punish one of the state’s public employees who was arrested in her car after trying to go back to the future in search of more whiskey and rye, with a blood alcohol level over three times the Texas limit.
But, there’s the pesky other hand that looks as if Perry is publicly using his authority to strong arm one of the state’s few democratic politicians into quitting her job. Also, it just so happens that the democrat who Perry seems to be strong-arming was investigating him for his generous grants that he was dolling out to campaign donors.
So it seems as if we are left with three Rick Perry’s to choose from: The virtuous, the corrupt, or the master of timing.
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.
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.
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 be Putin’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.
Bob McDonnell Virginia, Republican
Crime: A thirst for looking fabulous.
Thanks in part to a disgruntled chef with Bond-like espionage talents and the need to look fly, Bob McDonnell was indicted in January 2014 on 14 counts of fraud. After being accused of stealing from the governor’s mansion, executive chef Todd Schneider began leaking information to authorities that revealed a sordid relationship between CEO of Star Scientific Jonnie Williams and the McDonnell clan. In exchange for lobbying on the part of his dubious medical products, Williams gave the McDonnell’s the standard political gifts that totaled upwards of $165,000. Perhaps spurred on by the fact that they were at the bottom of the economic barrel for a ruling class, the McDonnell’s used much of the gifts to pay off credit card debt and other common-folk priorities.
Chris Christie New Jersey, Republican
Crime: Trying his hardest to be a New Jersey stereotype.
What hasn’t Chris Christie been accused of at this point? He’s the rotund Shao Khan in the Garden States Mortal Kombat tournament. Closing down bridge lanes in a show of top tier ball-busting? Check. Extorting a mayor to tow a party line in exchange for hurricane relief funds? Check. Using said hurricane relief funds to film a campaign commercial? Check. The only thing missing in this Tri-State opera is a horse head under a sheet, but to make up for that there has been plenty of backstabbing to satiate a New Jersey party boss fantasy.
Bob Taft Ohio, Republican
Crime: Being the cheapest date in Ohio.
In 2005, then-governor Bob Taft was charged on four criminal misdemeanor counts for failing to report upwards $5,800 in undisclosed gifts. The list of lackluster presents that read more like last-minute Secret Santa scramble includes rounds of golf (obviously) with Republican fundraisers, tickets for the NHL’s most prestigious Columbus Blue Jackets (thanks?), and a photograph with accompanying medal from the Defense Supply Center (oh… you shouldn’t have). Even more embarrassing than Taft’s apparent taste is the fact that in 1999 he issued an executive order requiring ethics training for everyone in his cabinet. Now that’s practicing what you preach.
Eliot Spitzer New York, Democrat
Crime: Making every night ladies night.
In 2008 Eliot Spitzer’s trousers dropped and his career followed shortly after. After North Fork Bank threw up red flags due to Spitzer’s odd monetary transactions, the governor came under the ever watchful eye of the U.S. Government. While acting as a lawful Peeping Tom, the federal agents discovered an accumulated bill of up to $80,000 of taxpayer funds spent on putting ladies of the night “through school.” Facing potential impeachment, Spitzer would resign his office on March 17, assumedly due to exhaustion on account of his nightly calisthenics.
Mark Sanford South Carolina, Republican
Crime: Taking a “walk” on the wild side.
In June of 2009, then-governor Mark Sanford let his staff know that he was taking a vacation to go hiking on the Appalachian Trail, then he promptly boarded a plane to Argentina to simmer in the Sofrito of his Latin American mistress. The plan was fool-proof, except that Sanford decided not to answer phone calls while he was off on his own “Eat, Pray, Love” adventure, leaving everyone in South Carolina to assume that their governor was lost in the woods. The mystery was solved when a reporter intercepted the southern Carmen San Diego arriving from Argentina at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and not strolling in from the Appalachians with a walking stick and full-grown beard.
Rod Blagojevich Illinois, Democrat
Crime: Being too frugal.
In 2008, Rod Blagojevich was charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of soliciting bribes for, among other things, trying to sell off the vacated Senate seat of President-Elect Barack Obama. You see, maintaining gaudy hair like Blagojevich’s didn’t come cheap, and Rod knew it when he uttered the infamous quote “I’m not just giving it up for nothing.” Instead of getting campaign funds or a prestigious new job in exchange for the vacant seat like he anticipated, Blagojevich received the less enviable prize of impeachment and 14 years in prison. But lest Rod fear that it was all for nothing, he can take solace in the fact that he will go down in history as the seventh Illinois Governor to face criminal charges.
Hear ye, hear ye! Today marks the return of my short run “Hack of the Week.” At the end of each week I take the one piece of news in which an individual portrayed the qualities of a supreme jackass and unleash their doings onto the world.
And what a week to return my series, it truly was an embarrassment of riches in fools on display. From political elites moonlighting as 18th century love gurus to a former gunslinger using stand your ground to murder art, it’s been one for the books. In the end though, it felt only right that the honor went local for the return.
On January 22, former Baltimore cop Lamin Manneh (not pictured above) pleaded guilty to running a small business venture in prostitution.
In May of 2013, Manneh was caught playing the field in the job market when undercover cops busted him for prostituting his 19 year old wife while still an officer assigned to Baltimore’s Eastern District.
So congratulations Lamin Manneh: Pimp Cop! On top of the five year prison sentence awaiting you, you have also been awarded the coveted title of “Hack of the Week.”