I have given several Golden Fleece awards on this blog site since I started that program last year: I should clarify for my new readers that the Golden Fleece Award is an idea I stole from U.S. Senator Proxmire, who gave such awards in the 1970’s and 80’s to particularly stupid government programs and officials. I was a lobbyist in Washington during that time, and Senator Proxmire’s awards were a breath of fresh air, and eagerly awaited by many Washingtonians and others, elsewhere. I am pleased to continue the tradition.
However, the story I am about to relate, illustrates that, once in a while, government officials do come up with brilliant ideas that often go unnoticed in the morass of stupidity that generally emanates from such sources. I feel that these brilliant ideas should be recognized as well.
I am therefore awarding a new class of Golden Fleece citations called Golden Eagle Awards: This story more than qualifies as the first of those awards.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have been in the news more than usual since Russia invaded Ukraine. The reason is obvious. They are very vulnerable to a similar attack from Vladimir Putin.
Conventional wisdom says that Russian tanks would need approximately an afternoon to roll over the borders with these small countries, and reach the Baltic Sea, thus subjugating them to Russia once again. All three have joined NATO specifically to avert this possibility since, as part of NATO, they now fall under Article 5 of the NATO charter – an attack on one is an attack on all.
However, it is interesting how the Russian invasion of Ukraine has altered, somewhat, the fear these three small countries have traditionally had of their massive neighbor. In a recent interview, a Lithuanian Air Force General said, “We have always thought we were facing a superior enemy. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown that we aren’t!” Still, they have to be vigilant.
Latvia has just made the news for a different reason, and that reason is the basis of this Golden Eagle award.
Late last year, Latvia changed its drunk driving law so that drivers found with 1.5mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood – three times the legal limit – could have their vehicles seized and sold by the government.
Latvia has among the worst rates of drinking and driving in Europe, according to public broadcaster LSM, with an estimated 3,500 cases a year.
The change in the law has led to a surge in vehicle confiscations that filled state pounds in a matter of weeks.
Members of the Latvian parliament have agreed to allow the transfer of these, now state-owned, confiscated, cars to the Ukrainian military, and to Ukrainian hospitals.
Authorities pledged to hand over two dozen cars a week to NGO “Twitter Convoy”, a Latvian charity that sends donated vehicles to Ukraine.
Eight seized vehicles left a car pound in the capital, Riga, last Wednesday and are due to cross the border soon.
“No-one expected that people are drunk-driving so many vehicles,” the NGO’s founder, Reinis Poznaks, told Reuters news agency. “The government can’t sell them as fast as people are drinking. So that’s why I came with the idea – send them to Ukraine.”
The first eight cars had a combined value of about €18,500 (£16,500), according to Latvian website Delfi.
I can’t think of a better, more innovative idea to start off this new category of the Golden Fleece Awards.
Reinis Poznaks and the Latvian parliament are my first recipient, and deservedly so. May there be many more Reinis Poznaks out there and if you, my readers, know of any more examples of positive, innovative ideas, please let me know. It’s time we celebrated the positive contributions as well as the negative ones.