Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, You're Cleared of all Charges

Devoted readers of this forum might recall an episode in early October, in which I was ticketed and fined for biking the wrong way on a one-way block of New Hampshire Avenue (you may also recall the vitriolic comment thread that followed). Needless to say, I contested the fine.

Well, Happy Christmas to me, the District has dismissed the violation:

I'd be happy to give detailed pointers to anybody contesting a similar violation, but the gist of my defense came out of a few helpful posts and comments on Greater Greater Washington. Basically, I argued that going the wrong way on NH was the only safe way to navigate that part of the city, and that DDOT has recognized this fact in their plans to install contraflow bike lanes on that very block. Victory!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 Roundup: The Year in Festive Verse

‘Tis the night before Christmas and DC is away
Or lounging in bed, or perhaps led astray
The news has gone quiet and journos are napping
After quite a long year of political happ’ning
And heck, they’ve all earned it, so I’ll take a crack
At recapping the year with a rhyming look back

Concord, New Hampshire, and Reno, and Ames
A year back began our electoral games
And that was the end of John Edwards and Biden
(Or so we thought then! ‘Twas just 8 months of hidin’)
Bill Richardson also then bowed out with grace
As did Rudy and Fred from the opposite race

On a real super Tuesday, McCain mopped the floor
With his weaker opponents, who soon saw the door
And in the left corner, we were left with just two
Democratic contenders, in a Senate who’s who
There was Barack Obama—young, black, and cool
Who could give a mean speech—his most evident tool
And then Hillary Clinton, of first lady fame
A force in the Senate, and an ace at the game

Barack barnstormed Iowa, and though dared not brag
He looked good in New Hampshire—it was all in the bag
But Clinton held strong, put her campaign in gear
Gave an impassioned speech and—wait—was that a tear?
It’s hard to say now, but the outcome was decisive
And they continued campaigning in a race quite divisive
Of Reverends and fist daps and American identity
Our once-civil quarrels now laced with obscenity

They battled for months, until one day in June
It was suddenly over, not a moment too soon
Obama had clinched it, a real upset win
With a campaign quite free of both malice and sin
Then hit July, and with smiling elation
We all read a novel and went on vacation

Olympics in August kept us glued to the telly
The Michael Phelps gold rush turned insides to jelly
Brown air aside, we admired Beijing
Where athletes faced off and did battle for bling
Saint Paul and Denver fended off the attacks
Of hoards of political junkies and hacks
The endless campaign approached final conclusion
As the Veepstakes at last yielded full-ticket fusion

Joe Biden was swell, a real old-fashioned mensch
And Palin, well, we’ll just say was a wrench
First in Barack’s campaign, and then in her own
As she proved to be more than excessively prone
To non-answers, half-answers and full-blown live gaffes
Summoning cringes, and head-slaps and too many laughs
The campaign’s sad attempts to make blunders less big
Were like trying to put lipstick on an unwilling pig

In debates we heard all about mavericks, my friend
As ec’nomic signals began to portend
Of a hyper-grade meltdown to ruin us all
And the banks soon had all of their backs to the wall
As Lehman neared death, Paulson refused them bail
AIG, it turned out, was much too big to fail
And with crisis still rising the red team got dumber:
Based their whole fiscal plan on Joe/Sam the not-plumber

Riding high on his promise of change and of hope
Barack pulled ahead, looking ready to cope
With whatever foul chance fate should throw his direction
The American people preferred his protection
And on November fourth, took an historic leap
Of such powerful force it made stolid men weep

Since then we’ve been basking in electoral glow
And saying goodbye all our earned dough
Our stocks and our bonds continue to sink
GM and Chrysler are now on the brink
In Iraq, shoes are flying; here we’ve got Blago
The lord of the darkness in seamy Chicago
So we’re distracted with stories about Caroline Kennedy
And Colmes’s depression over breakup with Hannity

But here comes ’09, ripe with fresh opportunity
A time for community and national unity
And from K Street to Petworth to far Kalorama
Everyone’s eyes follow Barack Obama
Hopes ride on Barack, and he’s got quite a task
So I won’t request much, just one small Christmas ask:
Our country is busted! Make everything right!
Now, Merry Christmas to you, and to you, a good night

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night

Cross-posted at NDN.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Naming of Shysters

I suspect you'll agree with me when I say the scandal that has blown up on all sides of Rod Blaogjevich is bizarre and amazing and depressing almost beyond rational comprehension. Once you've made the mental leap to understand that he was seriously trying to sell a senate seat, it's an easy next step to realize that this guy must have put a price on everything. And when I read about his sad, pathetically delusional conversations about how he hoped to run for president-- it's hard even to know if this guy was living in the same dimension as the rest of us.

As Adlai Stevenson, another Illinois governor who surely had close personal experience with Blagojevich types, once soberly observed (and I'm sure to misquote here, because I'm only remembering what my grandfather told me, and can't find this quote on any of the internets):
The grabby pols wax fat in the land.
They do, indeed, Mr. Governor, they do indeed.

I'd also like to add that I'm sorry to see Jesse Jackson, Jr. has been nailed as Candidate #5. I was very impressed with him when I saw him at the Convention, and I thought him savvy enough, smart enough, and honest enough to avoid this. It's of course too early to indict him, and I hope he comes out of all this looking better than he does now, but it sure doesn't look good.

Last, and perhaps most importantly, I'd like to make the case for renaming Blagojevich in the popular media. Understandably, everyone has quickly taken to calling him Blago, which has a nice onomatopoaeic quality to it, considering his moral standing. I, however, am pushing for a more descriptive and, I would argue, more literary moniker: "Crooked Rod." And that's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

District of Beards

I’ve been troubled by Bill Richardson’s decision to shave his beard as he ascends (or descends?) to his new role at the head of Commerce. The basic takeaway here, for me, is that he’s endorsing and acceding to the idea that you can’t be taken seriously in Washington if you have a beard. Troubling indeed.

I’ve taken this question up with some of my most trusted, bearded consiglieres, and I’ve heard a few new viewpoints. For one, you have to account for the bearded and powerful among us, most notably Ben Bernanke. He, however, is a bit of an academic, and certainly above the fray. So perhaps the qualifier is that one can’t be a politician with a beard in DC and be taken seriously. Still troubling.

Jon Corzine is one exception to this rule, but his beard is perhaps unique in that it is part of his trademark– part of who he is– and in that he has always been bearded. He’s also not in DC anymore.

Richardson’s beard, much like Al Gore’s beard, may be too closely associated with his defeat in the presidential race (much in the way that that a teenage girl who just got dumped by her boyfriend might go gorge on a pint of Ben & Jerrys, these guys consoled themselves by letting their facial hair go wild), and thereby be a political liability. Hard to say. Regardless, I think the man made a mistake, because beards are coming back in a big way, and Richardson rocked his pretty well.

I’d like to see a study on the rise and fall of beards among the American people, and how those trends are reflected among our leaders. Here’s a start (at the bottom).