23 June 2010
The vitriolic political rhetoric of the past decade or more in the United States has reached a level unseen in the history of a generation that has seen the end (for now) of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, and the loss of two Space Shuttles (Challenger & Columbia) and their crews. The cries of “worst president ever” echo in the halls and on TV, talk radio, and internet blogs on a minute by minute basis. It should be noted that, while the war of words has gone tactically nuclear, we still don’t even approach the chaos of some contemporary foreign legislatures or the violence of the antebellum Congress when Representative Preston Brooks savagely beat Senator Charles Sumner into unconsciousness on the floor of the Senate Chamber. But for flaming rhetoric, the Internet has given voice to millions of people whose freedom to speak has not yielded verbal and written contributions of value to the historical narrative. George W. Bush was (and still is) vilified as stupid, bumbling, inept, and the greatest liar in history. Barack Obama is an elitist, arrogant, anti-US, Big Government Socialist, who is spending money by the trillions, rivaling any band of drunken sailors ever to disembark.
Labeling either Bush OR Obama as the “worst president ever” is at best simplistic, and more likely belies a serious lack of knowledge of United States history. Since its inception, America has had 44 presidencies by 43 different men (Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms). The halls of the White House have seen a staggering level of corruption, incompetence, and mismanagement. Let’s look at a few former “leaders of the Free World;” men who would be in the running, were we officially assigning an award for “worst president.”
1. William Henry Harrison. President for about 2 hours in 1841. Harrison is on our list, if for no other reason, because he literally didn’t have sense enough to come in out of the rain. Despite being the oldest president elect in history until the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, Harrison wore neither hat nor overcoat while delivering a nearly two-hour inaugural address. His attempt to dispel his critics by a most public display of vigor resulted in pneumonia. His greatest accomplishment during his 32-day presidency? Calling Congress into special session.
2. Ulysses S. Grant. President from 1869-1877. Grant had the ignominy to preside over perhaps the most corrupt presidency in U.S. history. Grant’s two-term presidency was plagued by no fewer than twelve separate scandals. Grant staffed his administration with a litany of former military associates, many of whom were simply not up to the task, and a few of whom were actively involved in the aforementioned scandals. Grant has the distinction of being one of the few presidents to give a deposition during a criminal investigation regarding the alleged actions of a subordinate (at least so far, notwithstanding the current trial of Rob Blagojevich). Grant’s few “accomplishments” include the establishment of The National Weather Service,” Yellowstone National Park, Department of Justice, and the Office of the Surgeon General.
3. Warren G. Harding. President from 1921-1923. Before his death by heart attack in 1921, Harding’s presidency looked promising for a country emerging from the shadow of WWI and a financial depression in 1920-21. He would go on to give Grant a run for his money, scandal wise, suffering at least seven separate scandals, watching the first U.S. Cabinet member (Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall) ever to be convicted and sent to prison for accepting a bribe; endure his Assistant Secretary of the Navy (and future 4-term president) Franklin D. Roosevelt launching an investigation into allegations of homosexuality in the Navy. Harding himself was accused of at least three extra-marital affairs. A quick Google search gave no indication of the existence of any stained dresses.
4. Millard Fillmore. President from 1850-1853. The first unelected President (to this day sharing that title with only Andrew Johnson, who completed the term of the assassinated Abraham Lincoln, Chester A. Arthur, who completed the term of the assassinated James Garfield, and Gerald R. Ford, who became president when Richard Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment over the Watergate break-in), Fillmore failed to even receive the nomination of his own party after serving out the term of Zachary Taylor. Fillmore’s presidency was marked by the violent defense of and opposition to slavery and the so-called “Compromise of 1850", which ultimately failed to avert the U.S. Civil War. He may best be seen as attempting to, if not make anyone happy, at least make virtually everyone equally UNhappy.
5. Richard M. Nixon . President from 1969-1974. Where to start? Nixon was described as “an idiosyncratic president, so brilliant and so morally lacking”(Skidmore 2001, James MacGregor Burns), Nixon remains the only man ever to be elected twice as both president and vice president. The stark contrast of his presidency may be seen by his successes: a negotiated cease-fire with North Vietnam, effectively (although not successfully by most standards) ending the Vietnam War, opening arms treaty talks with The Soviet Union, and being the first U.S. President to visit China while in office. Unfortunately, he also very likely committed several major felonies and left office in disgrace over his role in the so-called “Watergate" scandal. His iconic “I am not a crook” speech remains a common punchline, ranking right up there with “you misspelled ‘potatoe’”, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” “Mission Accomplished,” and “I’m going to find out whose @$$ to kick.”
The list goes on, but you get the point. Obama might go down in history as the most EXPENSIVE president in US history, and Bush might go down as the progenitor of the longest war(s) in US history 24, but neither could crack the top five, perhaps even the top TEN worst presidents.
18 June 2010
At some point in your college/early professional life, you may well find yourself living with someone solely out of financial necessity. All humans are, at least to some degree, annoying to all other humans. It is the nature of the beast to believe that all of your own mannerisms, quirks, habits and hang-ups are perfectly normal, while everyone else can only hope to achieve such perfection. Learning to live with others without killing them or yourself is a natural part of growing up.
Sometimes, however, you encounter a person that simply cannot be tolerated short of a sudden “snap” into a homicidal rage. But moving is such a hassle that it is usually preferable to try to get the offending party to leave voluntarily. To this end, there are a number methods for the annoyed to one-up the annoyer.
It is important to remember the words of Sun Tzu; “know your enemy and know yourself, and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” Even scant observation will give insight into the soon-to-be-ex-roommate’s “hot buttons.” But some annoying things are almost universal, and as long as these do not represent acquiescence to matching the offender’s habits, they can be used to great effect. Begin with common but low-level annoyances like leaving the toothpaste tube open on the sink; replace the toilet paper roll “backwards” (“over” if your roommate likes it “under,” and vice versa). With a little advance planning (unless you are going prematurely bald), you can leave thick, disgusting mats of lost hair in the shower drain. Bonus points are awarded for attaching little black and white “googly eyes” (available at any crafts store) to your creation. At a minimum, you may get that goofy “somebody’s watching me” 80’s song stuck in your victim’s head (some of you probably thought it was just from those insurance commercials, didn’t you?).
If these steps do not yield satisfactory results, stronger methods are called for, such as leaving a few “Soldier of Fortune” magazines, spent shells casings, and a half-completed Federal Firearms Dealers’ License applications lying around. Highlight one of the questions about “mental illness” with a sticky-note caption like “CRAP! Ask Doc if this is gonna be a problem,” or under “have you been convicted of domestic violence,” write “NOT convicted, no.” Pretend to practice a religion that calls for periodic bloody sacrifices. Thanks to the recent “vampire” craze, recipes for fake blood are almost as plentiful on the Internet as porn. Animal organs that are usually cast off in the making of everything except vienna sausages may be obtained at many grocery stores in predominantly low-income areas, and unless your roommate is a pre-med student, they’ll never know the difference. Some items, such as eyes, lips, and testicles, can be had for little or no cost.”
If nothing else is working, and you’re beginning to rationalize murder, desperate measures are in order. This method will only work, however, if your roommate is of the same gender as yourself, and neither of you are GLBT, OR with a person of opposite gender if one of you is GLT and the other isn’t. Wait until your roommate is asleep, preferably after a night of serious consumption of alcohol (roommates over 21 only, please). Crawl up next to them and very gently wake them up. When you are sure they are awake enough to process complete sentences, say something like “good morning, sexy,” or “My GOD, that was amazing!” They should be packed and out the door in 15 minutes. If they are not, LEAVE THE PREMISES IMMEDIATELY!”
One final caveat: your roommate may be reading this, too.
07 June 2010
A friend posted on Facebook a link to a story about Obama telling the press he was going to "find out whose ass to kick." I posted a couple of comments, and it really took over her post, which I certainly did NOT intend to do. So I decided to take it to my own space. You are the lucky recipients.
First, I do NOT expect Obama to do much more than he's doing. Obama could imprison every employee of BP (and Transocean, the real culprit) and declare Martial Law, and it wouldn't stop a drop. There's a reason why he hasn't taken charge. It's because no one, not BP, not Transocean, not FEMA, or the US Military, or Obama and his "experts" (remember how well the eggheads ran the Vietnam War?), NO ONE has the technology to fix something that's never been broken this badly before. No one really knows how to completely fix this thing until the pressure is taken off that oil deposit. And that won't be done until the well runs dry or the relief wells are drilled, and they'll take another 2-3 months. It takes months to drill relief wells, and relief wells were not already drilled because it costs months of labor and MILLIONS of dollars to drill each hole, and no one expected ALL of the "fail safes" to all fail at once. They never had before.
When George Washington was sick with pneumonia, his doctor drained a pint of blood, because bloodletting was the "conventional wisdom" of the day. An hour later, he drained another pint, and wrote in his journal: "he seems to be getting worse."
I'm not being sarcastic (for once), but the analogy is the same. Again, no deep water well has ever failed this badly before. At least one of several redundant safety mechanisms has always worked before. This time, everything failed. Wells of twice this depth are being explored right now, or were, until this happened. No one, at least from everything I've read, believed a catastrophic failure like this was even possible. It would be literally like blaming BMW for not building their cars to survive a meteor strike. It's not COMPLETELY out of the realm of possibility, but it ain't very likely. The analogy here would be me pulling up to the pump to fill my gas tank, then while the gas is pumping, the rubber hose breaks, starts a fire, kills me and several customers, and destroys the station. Then the owner of the equipment blames ME, the buyer of the gas, for the failure of their own equipment. Do you inspect the gas pump when you pull up in your car? No, you assume that the people who do this for a living know what they are doing and are not taking shortcuts. BP apparently did the same with Transocean. I say "apparently," because it is possible that BP was pressuring Transocean to take shortcuts.
BP should get SOME credit for taking ownership of this nightmare from the beginning. I think BP stepped to the forefront early on because they had a better chance at stopping this thing than anyone else and they knew that doing nothing except getting on TV pointing fingers at Transocean would not win them any sympathy whatsoever. I'm sure BP's lawyers are already preparing their case against Transocean, who know they have nothing to gain from any visibility at all. Tragically, the only ones who will make money off this is the lawyers; hundreds, if not thousands of them in twenty years or more of courtroom combat.
Ironically, I've seen some stories that say that the water/foam used to extinguish the fire may have sunk the rig, ripping open the pipe deep underwater. It's at least possible that it may not have been nearly as bad if they'd let the rig burn itself out above the pontoons.
Obama isn't an idiot. He's trying to walk a fine line between looking like he's doing something without having to actually do something, because there isn't anything else he CAN do. BP is still in charge because no one has come up with a better idea. I'm among the first to castigate Obama for spending TRILLIONS of dollars, and meddling where he (and Congress) doesn't belong, but for once, this one isn't his fault.