Art of the Union

Scroll to Info & Navigation

Ah yes, impeachment. The defense of the nation from a tyrant run amuck. When a commander-in-chief’s ethical tumble starts flying three sheets to the wind, Congress can attempt to send the rascally leader packing to the breadline. No more D.C. quinoa salads and overpriced cupcakes for the ne’er-do-well miscreant, now it’s American cheese and shame.
At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be. Largely in this reality though, impeachment is a joke. No longer a stopgap to halt potential despots, but more an idle threat that’s screamed out on Sunday morning talk shows to get the early-bird crowds hearts kicking. Imagine when your mom would threaten you with no tv for a week, except in this case it’s “That’s it mister, you’re getting impeached if you don’t do this impossible nebulous task.”
All the power to ya if there are politicians that you disagree with, but you can’t just say someone should be impeached because they lobbied for legislation that you don’t care for (as was learned with Bill Clinton). And yes, we could argue back and forth based on the news outlets that we read and try to convince each other why President Obama’s scandals are or aren’t worth the deposit that has been invested into them. But, I’m not going to do that because I am not mother Mitchell and I can’t tell you what to think. What I will do though, is run down various “impeachable” offenses “committed” by the 44th president and contrast them to similar activities by non-impeached presidents. Come now, let’s have some fun:
 "Impeachable Offense" - Benghazi
Let’s just go ahead and get this whipped mule out of the way, shall we? For those of you who have managed to navigate the past few years blissfully unaware of this witch hunt, let me first stress how much I envy you, and then let me offer a brief rundown. On September 11, 2012, militants stormed the U.S. embassy in the coastal Libyan city of Benghazi, killing 2. The main controversy in this scenario is whether the Obama Administration failed to react appropriately to the embassy attack, possibly covering up details after the fact. Was the attack sparked by a Youtube video? Was Susan Rice instructed to lie by the administration? These questions and many more have caught the ire of those meddling kids and their dang dog too in Congress.
Who got away with it?
This one is honestly surprising to me. I understand that an ambassador died, and this is not meant to sound cold, but is that not a risk we run when operating in hostile territory? Attacks on U.S. embassies seem to be as old as time. Like destroying inanimate objects when a sports team loses, attacking embassies is a popular way a large portion of the world chooses to show their distaste. The first embassy attack, which happened to be a bombing, took place in 1958 in Ankara, Turkey. In 1968, the Vietcong raided the embassy in Saigon as part of the Tet Offensive, taking the lives of a handful. To be more contemporary, while George W. Bush spent 8 years trying to catch snowflakes with his tongue, there were 13 embassy attacks with nary a question asked about why there seem to be so many screams and bangs coming from consulate hotlines. Perhaps the most infamous (up until now, at least) embassy attack was the 1979 siege in Iran. In the early morning of November 4, hundreds of Iranian students raided the U.S. embassy in Tehran under the revolutionary support of Ayatollah Khomeini, taking 66 Americans hostage yet resulting in zero Jimmy Carter’s impeached.
 [[MORE]]
"Impeachable Offense" – Secret Drone War
Often referred to as the President’s secret drone war - codenamed “Operation Worst Kept Secret on Planet Earth” - is the name critics have piled upon the administration’s usage of lethal unmanned areal vehicles to dispose of enemies overseas. It’s the presumed overreach that have the outspoken up in arms (and perhaps rightfully so). The ability to rain death from above from a world away allows whoever yields the power as president to redefine the rules of war while answering to no one. Want a side order of death in Somalia to go with your entrée of war in Afghanistan? No need to declare war a second time, just put a predator drone on the tab. Accompanying this are the controversial topics of being able to kill U.S. citizens overseas and the moral pitfall of the collateral damage that now comes hand in glove whenever drones are up for debate.
Who got away with it?
Can you even call yourself a president without a couple of controversial wartime activities under your belt? If you don’t have one, then chances are you were just daydreaming at your desk and never actually ran for office at all. Absolutely everyone can point you towards the Bush Administration’s usage of torture, and pretty much every other war activity they conducted, but that’s so obvious. Secret wars and moral vacuums litter U.S. history. Bush Senior had Operation Just Cause and Clinton had his Balkan shellings, to name a couple. A slightly older-yet-still-modern standout came in the package of Operation Menu. In 1969, after mounting aggravation from North Vietnamese forces plucking at our hind-quarters from their safe havens in Cambodia, President Nixon issued direct orders to turn the country into an ashtray – without consulting congress. Through six whimsically named operations codenamed Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Supper, and Dessert, U.S. B-52’s dropped over 108,000 tons of explosives on Cambodia, with the public back home being none the wiser.
"Impeachable Offense" – Fast and Furious
Let’s for a moment forget that the precursor to this program was started under the Bush Administration. Hindsight in Washington is nothing but a mythical beast that shuffles barefoot through K Street alleyways, and so for the sake of this argument we must occupy the mindset in which President Obama created this world and promptly destroyed it. Fast and Furious (similar to the previous administrations Wide Receiver) employed a tactic known as “gun walking” – selling guns into the system in hopes of tracking them to your target and arresting them (in this case the targets were Mexican cartel leaders). Unfortunately, nothing is ever as easy as it seems on the chalkboard, and the ATF encountered many damning issues such as the released weapons having been found at crime scenes.
Who got away with it?
 Much like the secret wars above, every president has been caught with their pants down (often after being sold the ill-fitting pants by their staff) when it comes to clandestine activity. Eisenhower ran pest control on foreign leaders who were showing too much of a red hue through Operations Ajax and Pbsuccess, Kennedy made the mafia a offer they couldn’t refuse to bring down Castro through Operation Mongoose, Nixon had everything he touched, Reagan sold arms to terrorists to fund revolutionaries in the Iran Contra scandal … you get the picture.
Now you may be saying “Mitchell, that’s all fine and dandy, but President Obama is under fire for a lot more than you listed,” and indeed he is. But, don’t think that the few examples I listed for other presidents were their only trip ups either. Take Eisenhower for instance – commonly regarded as a historically uneventful vanilla bean, Ike presided over multiple CIA staged coup d etat’s, Vietnam’s fall to communism, planning of the Bay of Pigs, a drawn out conclusion to the Korean War, and the loss of a U-2 spy plane and it’s pilot to the Soviet Union. Boy, grampappy must’ve been asleep at the wheel. But of course he wasn’t asleep, he was presiding in a reality of an incredibly hard job where every action will have a consequence.
Leaders can’t be gotten rid of every time the road gets bumpy. Countries like Thailand and Egypt have tried to run a country this way, and their government’s are as stable as a keg of dynamite in a house fire. A key to democracy is expressing your distaste with an official every election. If you don’t get your way and the leader comes back for round two, tough – them’s the breaks, kids. That’s our government, a ride through the highs and the lows, but barring extreme outliers like Dirty Dick Nixon, you can rest assured that it’s probably never as bad as you think it is.

Ah yes, impeachment. The defense of the nation from a tyrant run amuck. When a commander-in-chief’s ethical tumble starts flying three sheets to the wind, Congress can attempt to send the rascally leader packing to the breadline. No more D.C. quinoa salads and overpriced cupcakes for the ne’er-do-well miscreant, now it’s American cheese and shame.

At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be. Largely in this reality though, impeachment is a joke. No longer a stopgap to halt potential despots, but more an idle threat that’s screamed out on Sunday morning talk shows to get the early-bird crowds hearts kicking. Imagine when your mom would threaten you with no tv for a week, except in this case it’s “That’s it mister, you’re getting impeached if you don’t do this impossible nebulous task.”

All the power to ya if there are politicians that you disagree with, but you can’t just say someone should be impeached because they lobbied for legislation that you don’t care for (as was learned with Bill Clinton). And yes, we could argue back and forth based on the news outlets that we read and try to convince each other why President Obama’s scandals are or aren’t worth the deposit that has been invested into them. But, I’m not going to do that because I am not mother Mitchell and I can’t tell you what to think. What I will do though, is run down various “impeachable” offenses “committed” by the 44th president and contrast them to similar activities by non-impeached presidents. Come now, let’s have some fun:

 "Impeachable Offense" - Benghazi

Let’s just go ahead and get this whipped mule out of the way, shall we? For those of you who have managed to navigate the past few years blissfully unaware of this witch hunt, let me first stress how much I envy you, and then let me offer a brief rundown. On September 11, 2012, militants stormed the U.S. embassy in the coastal Libyan city of Benghazi, killing 2. The main controversy in this scenario is whether the Obama Administration failed to react appropriately to the embassy attack, possibly covering up details after the fact. Was the attack sparked by a Youtube video? Was Susan Rice instructed to lie by the administration? These questions and many more have caught the ire of those meddling kids and their dang dog too in Congress.

Who got away with it?

This one is honestly surprising to me. I understand that an ambassador died, and this is not meant to sound cold, but is that not a risk we run when operating in hostile territory? Attacks on U.S. embassies seem to be as old as time. Like destroying inanimate objects when a sports team loses, attacking embassies is a popular way a large portion of the world chooses to show their distaste. The first embassy attack, which happened to be a bombing, took place in 1958 in Ankara, Turkey. In 1968, the Vietcong raided the embassy in Saigon as part of the Tet Offensive, taking the lives of a handful. To be more contemporary, while George W. Bush spent 8 years trying to catch snowflakes with his tongue, there were 13 embassy attacks with nary a question asked about why there seem to be so many screams and bangs coming from consulate hotlines. Perhaps the most infamous (up until now, at least) embassy attack was the 1979 siege in Iran. In the early morning of November 4, hundreds of Iranian students raided the U.S. embassy in Tehran under the revolutionary support of Ayatollah Khomeini, taking 66 Americans hostage yet resulting in zero Jimmy Carter’s impeached.

 

Read more

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.

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.

image

"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.

Isn’t it that time of the year when I pick up everything and move? Why, yes it is. Thankfully, this move is not nearly as drastic as my yearly cross-country expeditions, I’m just moving down the road from Baltimore to D.C.
If you follow my blog, you’ve noticed the lack of posts that comes about when your time is being filled with stuffing your life into cardboard boxes, but fear not! As with every year around this time, I should be back up and running by the end of the month.
Oh, the above image was created for the Baltimore Sun, and I felt it fit nicely with my current circumstance.

Isn’t it that time of the year when I pick up everything and move? Why, yes it is. Thankfully, this move is not nearly as drastic as my yearly cross-country expeditions, I’m just moving down the road from Baltimore to D.C.

If you follow my blog, you’ve noticed the lack of posts that comes about when your time is being filled with stuffing your life into cardboard boxes, but fear not! As with every year around this time, I should be back up and running by the end of the month.

Oh, the above image was created for the Baltimore Sun, and I felt it fit nicely with my current circumstance.

image

Even in his retirement, Ron Paul is still managing to elevate my blood-pressure. The wily mage of shallow-end facts was at it again earlier this week with a USA Today OpEd, offering his version of a concise take on Crimea. I’ve been sitting on the piece since I’ve read it and I still have the same feeling that it’s run-of-the-mill editorial litter, so I thought a fun exercise would be to address the various points that irked me the most throughout his piece.

Right off the bat we have an incredible reach when Paul equates Crimea’s referendum to other European nations toying with the idea of independence. It’s a long haul to reason that nation’s such as Scotland’s and Venice’s by the book procedures when you put that up against Crimea saying “que sera, sera” at gun point and getting the Stoli logo tattooed across its heart overnight.

For instance in Venice, a case where the province may have economically outgrown it’s parent country, nationalist parties have been emerging for years - such as Liga Veneta in the 1970’s and Venetian Independence in 2012 - who have been participating in elections and referendums without units of masked gunmen in sight. There has been petitions to the EU, committees formed, and even recently a referendum was held just to see if Venetians were still open to the idea of being independent. Similarly, Scottish independence has been along time coming. The Scottish National Party was formed in 1934, didn’t win a parliamentary seat until 1945, and didn’t win their second until 1967. The SNP kept that Scottish stiff upper lip, though, and slugged it out until they won the majority of the Scottish Parliament in 2011. Yet still, only 32% of Scots say they’ll vote yes in the upcoming independence referendum. See, this is what the self-determination that Paul refers to throughout his piece looks like, not what is holed up in Ukrainian military bases under threat of unmarked foreign soldiers.

Speaking of these unmarked soldiers, that fits well into Paul’s next documentation of wrong when he tries to compare Crimea to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. First off we need to get real for a moment, there is no comparison between the two. When Iraq was invaded in 2003, there was no question as to who comprised the coalition of the willing. When the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia began fighting towards Baghdad, they didn’t try to keep things a mystery by dressing their soldiers in Kangol hats and Ecco street wear (it was the early 2000’s). Putin’s attempt to claim that the armed troops with no insignia filling the streets of Crimea as spontaneous mystery fighters doesn’t bode well for Paul’s idea of “self-determination.”

More to the point, even if you were against the Iraq occupation there is no denying that Sadam Hussein was a monster. Sure, Russian speakers in Crimea were being hassled by the hard right Neo-Nazi Svoboda party with legislation such as trying to ban all Russian media in Ukraine, but that can’t possibly touch the system of torture chambers and secret police the Iraqi dictator presided over that made fair elections impossible throughout his reign. So yes, despite Paul’s snark, it was a victory that U.S. occupied Iraq was able to have an election without the outcome being a 99% victory for a killer, as opposed to a country “secretly” infiltrated by Russia voting to join Russia.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Ron Paul rambling without mention of those rascally markets. Accordingly he postulates that the U.S. or EU “can’t afford” to levy strong sanctions against Russia because naturally uninterrupted free markets are the only way to peace. No, it would be much better for the markets to just turn the other cheek and let the worlds second largest oil supplier keep using that fact to extort it’s neighbors. Wait … come again? The fact is that what Russia is doing isn’t all that great for the economy, with oil prices on the rise. And if there’s anything the market loves more than uncertainty it’s consumer panic. Many countries throughout Europe are fearing for the future now that Russia has taken up border expansion as a hobby. Nations such as Moldova, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Poland are expressing alarm of an unpredictable Russia. Even Sweden is mulling over the idea of NATO membership due to fear of the Russian military. What country is going to want to freely trade with a nation that they think has missiles aimed at them?

If Ron Paul’s takedown of the U.S. approach to Crimea seems too short and sweet, that’s because it’s leaving out a lot. It’s not just as simple as letting them eat their cake and moving on. In today’s globalized world, actions aren’t containable and it’s time that people like Paul awaken to that fact.

And wouldn't Putin (like all Russians before him) want to punch Hitler in the nose?

Asked by
usofamerickson

image

Yes, it is odd to compare a Russian to Hitler, a tyrant who dedicated part of his inhumanly evil itinerary to wiping out Slavic culture and destroying Slavic art.

I don’t want to completely come off as a smarmy contrarian. I do partially get the comparison being made to Hitler in the terms of both figures seeking to ensure the freedom of their ethnic compatriots living abroad. As Paul Hockenos discussed in his Foreign Policy article yesterday, actions by Ukraine’s hard right such as taking away the Russian language’s special status may have sounded some alarms for Putin. But, as I said yesterday, I don’t think one coincidence in policy automatically equals Herr Wolf status.

What particularly irks me about the Hitler comparisons is just how uncreative and lazy they are. Russia has a long and rich history of despots to tether Putin’s monicker to. Why not Ivan the Terrible? Ivan did have military action with Crimea, plus he took great strides to centralize his government and helped set up a class divide by aiding in creating a Russian serfdom. ”Putin the Terrible” - it rolls off the tongue.

image

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. 

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.