Hey, Adam Schiff, the 1980s Are Calling and They Want Their Foreign Policy Back

I have to say, after watching the Impeachment  Hearings over the last couple of days, that I am uncomfortable with the idea that President Trump was trying to use White House Office visits and/or the release of an aid package already approved by Congress to obtain a political favor from a foreign ally.  I’m a Republican and I have to say that this behavior is “wrong”- period.  Full stop.  So let’s start with that.  I believe most Americans agree that it shouldn’t have happened, and it calls into question several things, not the least of which is the President’s judgement. 

At the same time, something that is “wrong” or “indiscrete” or “odious” or “amiss” or even “immoral” does not an impeachment make.  Bill Clinton wasn’t impeached for having an affair.  He wasn’t even impeached for having an affair and lying about it.  He was impeached for having an affair and lying about it under oath, which IS a crime.  And as we all know, he was not removed from office even then, because a Democratic majority in the Senate, voting exactly along party lines, voted to find him Not Guilty –  and so he remained in his office. 

The standard to remove a President from office is extremely high, as it should be.  To throw over a duly elected President of the United States ignores the will of the people in a democracy. The high bar for removal wasn’t reached in Bill Clinton’s case, even when he had already been shown to be guilty of a crime, and it won’t be achieved this time, when there has been no crime committed.  Folly is not an impeachable offense, though my Democratic friends clearly want it to be.

The democrats know this.  That’s why they are using every trick in the book to paint the actions of the President not just as something “wrong” but as something far worse.  One of these attack vectors comes in the form of the accusation, repeated many times yesterday and today by Democrats on the show-trial-committee-to-impeach, that “people died” in Ukraine while they were waiting for the aide that Congress had appropriated.  

Wow.  If there was  Nobel prize for Hypocrisy, the democrats would certainly have earned it over the past couple of days for all their Johnny-come-lately support for the Ukrainians.  Where was all this anti-Russian and pro-Ukrainian support during the 8 years of the Obama administration?  Oh, that’s right, it was nowhere to be found.  Let me repeat that.  IT WAS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND.   

Put simply, none of the Democrats gave a crap about Ukraine during the Obama years, especially President Obama himself.  Were people not dying from Russian aggression during those years?  Of course, they were.  Will the democrats’ newfound support for Ukrainian freedom fighters mean that they will re-evaluate Obama’s legacy in light of how often he was played for a fool by Putin during his presidency and how he failed to provide aide to Ukraine during such a critical juncture?  You’ll die holding your breath waiting for that to happen.

Some history.  If you are student of politics at all, you’ll remember the moment in the 2012 election debate, where President Obama famously mocked his opponent, Mitt Romney, over his contention that Russia was our biggest strategic enemy.  Obama famously quipped, “The 1980s are calling to ask for their foreign policy back”.

Here’s a link to that exchange if you’re a democrat and you’ve conveniently forgotten about it.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=video+of+obama+chastising+romney+over+russia&&FORM=VDVVXX

This shows exactly how Obama thought about the Russians in 2012, just two years before the Russians, who, according to Obama were no longer our enemy, invaded Crimea.

Also, here is a link to a Politico article from 2016 that makes it clear how feckless Obama’s foreign policy was with respect to Ukraine and Russia.

Obama’s Ukraine policy in shambles – POLITICO

Here’s a quote from the Politico article:

“But even as he warily partners with Putin on a cease-fire for Syria, Obama has not shaken the Russian leader’s support for the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has killed nearly 10,000 people and stunted the country’s political and economic progress.”

Here’s a link to a 2017 article from the Atlantic by Krishadev Clamur,  titled , “Was Obama Too Soft on Russia?” https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/02/trump-obama-russia-crimea/516777/

The article makes it clear how Obama and Hillary Clinton demonstrated total incompetence when it comes to Russia.  Here is part of the what the article has to say:

“Obama’s response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea in March 2014, and Moscow’s subsequent support of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine was economic sanctions. Although the measures had an impact on the Russian economy, they were seen as woefully inadequate by some Republican lawmakers in Congress. Senator John McCain of Arizona, a harsh critic of Obama’s foreign policy, wanted the U.S. to send arms to Ukraine. But Obama viewed the Ukraine conflict through another lens. As Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s editor in chief, wrote in the Obama Doctrine:  “Obama’s theory here is simple: Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one…” 

My point here is not that Trump did nothing wrong this summer.  It certainly looks like he tied a White House visit to the announcement of an investigation into Burisma, at a minimum.  And that’s wrong.  He’s going to be impeached for his actions. That is inevitable given the nature of Democratic politics today.  Whether he ends up getting convicted in the Senate remains to be seen.  My personal opinion is that he should not be removed from office.  He should, instead, get a strong Censure and we should move on and then let the voters decide who will win the Presidency in less than a year.  But that’s not in the Democrat’s play book. They intend to impeach Trump and have him tried, publicly, in a way that will further divide an already dangerously divided county.

Just know this. The Democrats in Congress will be looking for every possible way to paint his actions as worse than the were.  They will continue to repeat the line that people died waiting for the aide that Trump held up for 55 days this summer – something that’s patently unprovable.   But it’s petty certain that it wouldn’t hold a candle to the more than 10,000 Ukrainians who died while Obama stood by and did, essentially, nothing for Ukraine in 2014 during the Russian Crimean aggression.  

And the democrats will continue to wax on about our great Ukrainian ally and how it is a key bulwark against Russian aggression.  Just know that when they are making that argument, they’ll be painting themselves dirty at the same time.  One will be left to wonder how many brave Ukrainian lives would have been saved if Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton hadn’t been foolishly duped into trying to push a Russian reset button.  One wonders if we would have had a President in place in 2012-2014 who had telegraphed to Putin that we wouldn’t be putting up with an attack on Ukraine if maybe Putin wouldn’t have done it.  And, surely, more people died in the years between 2014 and 2016, when the Russians attacked Ukraine and annexed Crimea, while Obama was pushing back with “sanctions” and warm blankets, than in the 55 days this summer when the Trump administration held up Ukrainian military aide that was, for years, denied under the Obama administration.

But hey, I guess I’m glad to see that the Democrats have finally decided that Russia is our enemy.  It’s just too bad that Russian aggression on Ukraine in 2014 wasn’t what made them decide that Russia was our strategic enemy.  Nope. It took the idea that the Russians may have played a role in defeating Hillary Clinton before the Democrats allowed themselves to become awakened to the truth that Putin can’t be trusted and Russia is a strategic enemy.   That’s what really gets them going.  People dying?  Clearly not a big deal while your own guy is President.  So hey, Adam Schiff , the 1980s are calling and they want their foreign policy back.

Mike Blaylock, November 21, 2019

The Big Toe Blister Hike To Fish Heaven

My favorite recreational activity is to hike several miles to a high mountain lake in Montana with the hope of casting a dry fly out onto the surface of some ice-cold tarn on a warm summer day to catch a nice sized cutthroat trout.

Some of the lakes that were great for fishing years ago have not been very good the last few years – too many people fishing there and keeping their limit I guess. But I did find one this summer that offered me the single best hour of fishing in my life. It involved a 14 miles hike (7 in and 7 out), resulting in the worst toe blister of my life, but I would take that blister all over again for the opportunity to catch fish like I did that day.

I had heard about _____________ Lake from my son, Jesse, and his wife, Cara, who went there about 5 years ago and caught tons of cutthroat. They had told me that the fish weren’t that big – just 10 or 11 inchers, but that there were lots of them to catch. As this summer was ending and some of my other trips had yielded disappointing fishing results (compared to past years) I decided to go to ____________ Lake.

I knew it was a hard hike with 3000 feet in elevation gain across 7 miles of some rough terrain, but I felt I had to try, and I really love these challenging adventures. So, I packed my gear and got up the next morning at 5 am to drive the ~40 miles to the trailhead.

Armed with my hiking poles and a new Garmin Satellite GPS Device that I was just learning to use, I started hiking just after first light – around 7 am.

This particular hike has you climbing about 1000 feet in elevation in just the first couple of miles so it’s really steep at first. But with fresh legs, (and all the hiking I’d been doing earlier this summer) I had no problem with that. Then the trail flattens out a bit and you go another 3 miles or so to gain another 1000 feet in elevation.

After about 5 miles on the main trail, you see a rock cairn off to the left which marks the spot where you need to get off this primary trail and hike the rest of the way on unmaintained trail for the remaining ~2.5 miles to the lake.

You first cross a stream by walking across a log jam and then through the forest where you alternatively climb over or under logs that have fallen across the “path” created by all the hiker’s boots that have stomped the ground there over the decades.

Soon, you come out into the open and find yourself needing to cross several large granite boulder fields on the final ascent toward the lake.

The boulder fields are broad and treacherous. The path is sometimes marked by little rock cairns that previous hikers have put in place to show you the way, but mostly, you just push on in the general direction of the lake as you continue to gain elevation.

Because you are now at about 9000 feet, oxygen is a much harder to come by. To make it worse, the final push is almost straight up on boulders for the final 700 feet of elevation gain before you arrive at the general vicinity of the lake.

Up on top I cut too soon toward what I thought was the lake and found myself climbing up and down steep embankments only to arrive at what turned out to not be the main lake. Instead, it was a small after-bay below the lake. I felt I needed to get to the main lake, so I continued moving upstream along the creek that flows out from the lake and gradually worked my way there, but not without having to rock climb over a 10 foot wall of granite to get to the lake.

Having arrived there after five and a half hours of hiking, mother nature greeted with me an overcast sky and about a 50 mile an hour wind. Because of the wind, there wasn’t even a chance that I would be able to fly fish there.

I was exhausted, but I put together my spinning rod and tried casting some lures into the lake. I got no hits on the lures in 20 or so casts and then my line got all snarled up on the cheap spinning reel that I’d too quickly packed for this trip. I made a mental note to stop bringing spinning rods and to just give up altogether on lure fishing. I don’t really enjoy it and its always done out of desperation when the real reason I go there is to catch fish on flies.

There was no hope of throwing flies in the snarling wind, so I didn’t even try that. Instead, I sat down to eat a little bit of lunch. At this point the winds seemed to pick up even more until it was not unlike the situation you see someone hugging a lamp post as they report on a hurricane that’s slamming into the Carolina coast somewhere. The treacherous wind blew one of my gloves toward the water in the lake and I had to lunge to save it from going in, which just further irritated me.

At this point, I was pretty much exhausted and totally ticked off at the situation. I had hiked for more than 5 hours and climbed more than 3000 feet to get to this place and I couldn’t even fish. At this point, in a rather immature moment, I started screaming at the wind. Some choice words were shared.

If anyone had seen me, they would have concluded that I was totally insane at this point – exhaustion and disappointment can do that when mixed in healthy doses.

So, in utter disgust, I decided that I would just pack up and get the heck out of this place. But I stopped for a minute and said a prayer that, somehow, this day could be salvaged and that I could at least regain my serenity.

As I surveyed my surroundings to plot the course out, I realized I was in a weird spot. I knew that I should head north to get to the trail that parallels the lakes edge (that would be the quickest way to get back out) but there were some pretty high cliffs in the way. (see cliffs in the lower right of the picture below). It’s one thing to climb up a 10 foot wall – it’s a whole different thing when they are 30 or 40 feet high.

So, I decided to just retrace the path that brought me in since I knew I could get back out that way. This route took me back to the 10-foot cliff that I now needed to climb down– going down it was harder than climbing up it. Thankfully, I made it down off that without injury.

This now put me, again, along the creek that flows out of the main lake. The sun started to peek out. At the same time, the wind seemed to die down, partly because the creek was protected by a cliff on the opposite side of where I was hiking along the creek.

At this point, I decided that I might as well put my fly rod together and at least try to fish the creek. After I had put my rod together and strung the line, I put on my new favorite dry fly (a Swisher’s PMX royal #14). This recently discovered pattern looks and fishes a lot like a Royal Wulff but floats better and longer and is easier to see on top of the water.

I cast out into one of the little pools that form as the creek flows down to the after-bay and I immediately hooked a very nice cutthroat. I quickly reeled it in and saw that it was a very pretty 13 inch cutthroat.  The coloration is particularly beautiful on this trout though, so it almost looks like a Golden/Cutthroat hybrid.

I removed the hook quickly and took a picture with my iPhone before releasing it back into the water to see it swim away. Watching these beautiful fish swim away is fast becoming my favorite part of fishing.

I got back up and sorted out my rod, got the line in order, and made sure the fly was dry. Then I cast out again – and almost as soon as the fly hit the water, another nice fish took the fly and ran. When I reeled this one in it was about the same size as the first one with the same beautiful coloration.

After a few casts yielded no new bites, I moved down to the next pool and cast toward the top of it. The fly hit the water and floated a foot or two and – WAM, I got another nice one. So, after getting skunked at the main lake due to the wind I now found myself in fishing heaven, catching trout essentially at will.

After about half hour of fishing the little pools in the creek, I found myself at the place where the creek flowed out into the after-bay. As I threw out my fly here, I sometimes saw two or three fish going for the fly at the same time before it even hit the water.

In just little more than an hour I had caught 20 fish. They were all around 12 or 13 inches (and quite healthy – fat and beautiful) and one or two that were more like 14 inches.   So, this was easily the best cutthroat fishing hour of my life.

I needed to get going because this was late in the summer and I knew it would take me at least 5 hours to get out and back to my car so I, sadly, had to stop fishing at about 3:15 pm and packed up to go out.

The hike out seemed to be just as brutal as the hike in, thanks to the boulder fields near the top and getting confused about where the trail came out of the woods below. I wasted at least 40 minutes going into some woods (well below the foot trail) and having to bushwhack through a bunch of brush to get to the trail. The thing that saved me was my Garmin Satellite device. It had dropped way points on the way in so I used the device to point me in the direction of one of the nearest way points and I was soon back on the trail.

And that was one of the happiest moments of the day because, even though it was a secondary trail, it was like an interstate highway compared to bushwhacking through virgin forest.

Since I’d lost a bunch of time bushwhacking, I was now in a major race with the end of daylight.

I got back to the primary (maintained) trail very late in the afternoon with 2000 feet of elevation still to drop and at least 5 miles still to go till I reached the trailhead. So the rest of the hike was essentially a race against coming out of the mountains in the dark. I had a headlamp in my day pack so I *could have* hiked in the dark if I needed to, but I didn’t really want to have to do that.

On top of this, my left big toe had started to become “hot” at some point during the descent from the lake and all the bushwhacking I had done, and I didn’t have time to stop and check it. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to doctor it, so I just kept going. At one point, I was pretty much running to get out before it got dark. Finally, after what turned out to be a 14-mile hike I was back at my car.   In less than 15 minutes it was pitch dark.

When I got home and took off my boot, I observed the worst blister of my life. It took more than 2 weeks to heal, but, thanks for soaking in Epsom salts and good bandaging I didn’t end up at the ER.

My experience of catching no fish at the lake and then finding a place where I was catching a fish on every cast reminds me of John 21 in the New Testament. The disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. But then they see a stranger on the shore and he said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.”

I think that my Heavenly Father was watching over me that day in more ways than one. He protected me, and I didn’t end up with any serious injury. When I was lost, he helped me remember that I had a new device on me that, if I learned how to use it properly, could help me get out of the woods and find my way back to the trail. He saw me discouraged and angry with the howling wind and dark clouds and answered my prayer with a “multitude of fishes” of my own.

 

Anthony Bourdain Sketch

It was such a sad thing to hear about the loss of Anthony Bourdain this past weekend.   I loved watching his shows that showed great food from around the world combined with all the interesting sites he saw along the way.

He had a lot of attributes that made him worth watching  – he was insightful, fun loving, and genuinely interested in learning about other people and other cultures.  But I think the the thing that I’ll miss the most will be his honestly. He was unflinchingly honest about himself, his past mistakes, and the world as he saw it.  I felt he pulled the world closer together at a time when so many others expend inordinate amounts of energy trying to pull it apart.  At the end of the day, he showed us we all love a good meal shared with friends.

It took a lot of courage to be so open  and honest and uncompromising in telling the truth and the world lost one of the great story tellers with his passing.

Watercolor and Sketch of Vincent Van Gough

I actually painted this watercolor of Vincent Van Gough more than a year ago, well before I started this blog.   But then last week I did a sketch of Vincent and decided to put them together in this post.

Van Gough is my favorite for many reasons.  We know he was a tortured soul.  It is touching to realize how talented he was at the same time.  The fact that he died not knowing how popular he would become adds an extra bit of pathos to his story.  But his painting really speak for themsleves.  He had a unique vision, expertly executed in his work that will be around as long as we remain.

Sketching Fyodor Bronnikov

Fyodor Bronnikov was a famous Russian painter from the 19th century who spent most of his life painting in Italy.

I came across a really cool self-portrait he did of himself in 1856 and decided to skech it as my sketch of the day.

This is his original self-portrait so you can judge how well I captured him.

Sketching and Painting After Rembrandt

I have been studying some of the grand masters recently and challenging myself to sketch them and/or some of their works.  So I spent a couple of days focussing on Rembrandt.

I really liked the painting he did of his father – I ended up sketching his father’s portrait on the same page in my sketch book as the one of him as a young man.  This kind of remnded me of the song by Neil Young “Old Man” with the lyrics:

“Old man take a look at my life I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes and you can tell that’s true” – Neil Young

 

I also really liked this self-portrait he did in middle age (below)  And the detail from of “the father” from his “Return of the Prodigal Son” was very poignant in his rendition of the aging( but loving and forgiving) father of the Prodigal Son.  I found it to be amazing and I loved skeching that to try to capture the mood that Rembrandt conveyed.

Drawing and Painting After Picasso

I thought it would be fun to mess around with some sketching and painting of Picasso and some of his works that I was most attracted to.  The sketch above was him as a relatively young man, done from a photograph of him I found on the internet.

Then I found a sketch he had done of his first wife, Olga Khokhlova,  that I thought was interesting so I sketched that, along with a self portrait he did of himself when he was 28.

Then I was attracted to a painting he did in 1907 – “Head in Three-Quarter View”.  I did my rendering in pastel.  His original was done in gouache and watercolor.Then, I locked on to his wonderful painting entitled, “Portrait de femme” from 1945.  My copy, below, is done in watercolor on sketch paper.

You learn a lot about another artist when you do these “copies”.  For a while, I was not allowing myself to copy any other artists – but this can be a fun exercise and I feel like I connect better now with Picasso than I did before.  I understand better now how he used shape and structure.  So once again, I broke my own rule and it was a good experience.

I really enjoyed these so much that I think I will do a few more.

Favorite Picasso Quote: “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it”

 

Mick Jagger Sketch

It’s crazy to think that Mick Jagger will turn 75 this summer!

Long after most bands would have broken up and fallen apart (or physically departed this world), the Rolling Stones just keep on keeping on.  If nothing else, they are testament to the power of focus and the longevity they’ve achieved as a result of that focus is almost unparalleled – they know what they love doing and they just keep doing it.

My favorite Mick Jagger Quote: “You can’t be jealous and be a leader”

 

Easter Island Sketches

In my never ending search for something interesting to draw, I came across some photographs of the ancient Easter Island sculptures and decided to sketch them.

One of the important learnings I’ve had about drawing and painting is to focus on getting the tones and values right.  So these drawings gave me the opportunity to get the darks and the lights right and to play with the contrast of dark and light on the faces.

 

Abstract Pen and Ink Sketch

I was in Hawaii recently with my family and we had a lot of fun sketching and drawing when we weren’t playing in the ocean and shopping.

This is a pen and ink sketch I did – took me  couple of days because of all the detail.  Doing drawings like this puts you in a very Zen place – so much fun!