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Ah, a perennial question near and dear to ol’ Robbo’s heart:

This isn’t the first time the question has been asked and it certainly won’t be the last – but are drivers in Maryland worse than those in Virginia, or vice-versa?


Just last year, D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) went as far as to call Maryland drivers devils. “They’re the devil, they really are,” Graham told WTOP. “Quote me on that, please.”

So why the hard feelings toward Maryland motorists?

Could it really be that driving on one side of the Beltway is worse than on the other? Or is it just a matter of perception?

Think about it – if you are a Virginia driver and you get cut off, are you more likely to boil over if the driver that cuts you off is from Maryland? Maybe you are just more likely to notice that out-of-state license plate.

The reality is there are bad drivers everywhere. If you don’t like the way your state is being stereotyped, then make sure your driving is up to par.

No, the reality is that Murrland drivers are much worse, and I will tell you why.

Virginia drivers are aggressive.  They speed and they bomb through on the yellow and they tailgate.  But they’re predictable in their aggressiveness.

Murrland drivers, on the other hand, are bat-shite crazy.  Whether travelling at 80 mph on the Beltway or 25 mph on some back road, you can never, ever tell what they are going to do next.  I have seen cars with Murrland tags on my side of the Potomac for example come to sudden stops in the middle of the road, bang U-turns across the median, make left turns from the far right lane while signalling right turn – the examples of their insane behavior are Legion.

And it’s this utter unpredictability that makes them worse, because whenever one gets near you, you’ve got to keep at least three eyes on them at all times.  It won’t prevent them from doing something stupid, because eventually they probably will, but at least you’ll have a bit more time to react and save yourself.

I tell you truly, friends, I’ve got 20 plus years of empirical observation to back me up on this one.

In honour of the Brit elections today:

I am, of course, a strong supporter of the Silly Party.  Somehow, the name “Tarquin Fin Tin Lim Bim Wim Lim Bus Stop Ftang Ftang Olé Biscuit Barrel” has made it into the port-swiller domestic lexicon, albeit usually in bits and pieces.

(I would consider the Very Silly Party, except that “Malcolm Peter Brian Telescope Adrian umbrella stand Jasper Wednesday *pop pop* Stoat-gobbler John raw vegetable *grunt* Arthur Norman Michael *eee* Featherstone Smith *whistle* Northcott Edwards Harris *bang* *wooo* Mason *chuff chuff chuff* Frampton Jones fruitbat Gilbert *we’ll keep a *bang bang bang* Williams If I could walk that way Jenkins *woop woop woop woo* tiger draws strat Thompson *Raindrops keep falling on my head* Darcy Carter *honk* seeker *dont sleep in the subway* Barton” requires too much equipment to pronounce.)

Today marks the anniversary of the conclusion of the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, at least if you count post-climax skirmishing. (And incidentally, if you are the slightest bit interested in this sort of thing, I heartily recommend Stephen Sears’ book on the subject.)

I got thinking about this fight and the fact that it is sometimes referred to as Lee’s “perfect battle.”  What is meant by this, exactly?  What are the criteria?  Of course it’s based on the fact that he won, and against very heavy odds at that.  And in Stonewall Jackson’s famous flank march, critical to his success, he employed a tactic that in retrospect possesses an elegant beauty in its audacity.

But Lady Luck played an enormous part, too.  For instance, what if Jackson had run into Meade or Reynolds instead of the boob Howard and his XI Corp rabble?  What if Hooker had not lost his nerve, but instead had thrown his full weight into the fray, as many of his corp commanders urged him to do?  What if the telegraph lines between Union HQ and Sedgewick (who was in front of Fredericksburg) had not gone down?  There are many other “what ifs?” as well, any one or combination of which easily could have resulted in a very different conclusion and made Lee look, in hindsight, not a genius but a moron.

Such is the frontier of fortune, I suppose.

Frankly, I don’t think of Chancellorsville as Lee’s “perfect” battle.  Apart from the loss of Jackson (which could have happened anywhere), in the end I believe that this pulling of a stunt and getting away with it (as he had done at Antietam, too) probably inflated Lee’s opinion of his own army’s capabilities and blinded him to the Army of the Potomac’s increasing competence and skill.  These factors would catch up with Lee, of course, during the Gettysburg Campaign that started a short time later.


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May 2010