Show 083: The Cuisine of Wonderland

The Political Bistro is back! (At least for one week.) Friend of the show, Jack Greer was in town, the GOP convention was going on, so we thought, why not? Hoping to be back on a more regular schedule and back on broadcast radio again soon, but until then, enjoy, as Mark, Steve, Shelley, and Jack go “down the rabbit hole” and discuss the GOP convention and other oddities.


Course 1: Cocktails anyone? Unidentified bottles of liquid with a label that says DRINK ME.

Course 2: Tea and your choice of crumpets with orange marmalade or hot buttered toast

Course 3: Roast turkey with onions, magic mushrooms, and sneeze-inducing ground pepper.

Course 4: Choice of….
1. Pineapple custard with treacle
2. Cherry tarts
3. Un-birthday cake
4. Cake with EAT ME spelled out in black currants on top.

As always, playlist available on our YouTube channel.

Hillary Clinton’s Nomination is not Indicative of Success

“I’m so excited! Finally, a woman is the presidential nominee of a major party in America! I get choked up just thinking about it! Now we can tell little girls they can be ANYTHING they want to be!”

This is a deeply tragic statement and has nothing to do with the political views or reputation of the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee. Were this statement referring to the most upstanding, moral woman in the world, it would be, perhaps, only slightly less tragic.

I’m not going to say these are the worst of times or that the nation or world is going to hell in a handbasket. We’ve certainly seen more strife in the course of world history than what is happening now, but things could certainly be a lot better. And the real tragedy isn’t the lack of character of the two presumptive presidential nominees; it’s the character of the nation, for the candidates we elevate are only reflections of the national zeitgeist.

We’ve always been able to tell little girls they can be anything. Certainly, at some point, someone told Mrs. Clinton that she could be president. Perhaps that wasn’t when she was a little girl, but the fact remains that the idea always precedes the reality. If we tell ourselves that the reality must precede the idea, not only are we being illogical, we’re halting any progress.

In 1867, just shy of five years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and two and a half years after the end of the Civil War, while the South was still very much a slave culture, a woman named Sarah Breedlove was born. Sarah’s mother died when Sarah was only five and her father left her orphaned just a few years after that. She was abused by her brother-in-law and later widowed at the age of 20; not the makings of a success story and certainly not the sort of privileged childhood Mrs. Clinton had, but Breedlove worked hard and from “the cotton fields of the South… to the washtub… to the cook kitchen” she rose to being the head of a multi-national hair product business that employed tens of thousands of women and was later eulogized as the first female self-made millionaire in America.

Now, while Breedlove was unquestionably motivated, she didn’t do all of this on her own. No one ever does. In particular, she had her second husband and business partner, cheering her on the whole way. To have told 7-year-old Breedlove or even 20-year-old Breedlove that she’d one day rise to such heights would have seemed ludicrous. Even if she’d been a white woman born into better circumstances, her success would have seemed quite unlikely in those days, but that didn’t stop her or those around her telling her she could succeed. The fact that there had never been a woman who had achieved what she did, didn’t matter either.

And the list goes on: Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; Nellie Tayloe Ross, the first female governor in the U.S., elected in Wyoming in 1924, just four years after suffrage; Oprah Winfrey, born to a single mother and raised in rural poverty. More importantly, one could argue, are the millions of unsung heroines who make the world a better place every day, be it one classroom, one community, or one household at a time and against the odds.

Little girls can grow up to be anything they want but if we’re waiting for one of them to achieve some certain status before we can tell the rest that it is possible, it will never happen. Furthermore, if we wait until something is achieved before we begin telling our children that that thing is achievable, how does that further progress? Accomplishment without risk is no accomplishment at all.

So point to Hillary Clinton as someone who achieved her goals if you must (although I can name a thousand women more deserving of emulation than she is), but don’t let her success be the marker for our daughters. Whether she wins or loses her bid for the presidency she should not be the reason they strive for their goals. In fact, regardless of her political views or character, the arc of her life, which could best be summed up as her pursuit to become the first female president of the United States, should not be lauded. Instead, we should be teaching our daughters, lo, all of our children, to strive for something much bigger than that. While anyone can be “the first (fill in the blank: woman, black, Asian, Hispanic, gay, etc.)” anything, it is not the census form box we check that matters, but what we do with the opportunities we’re given. I’d much rather that my children grow up to be the best janitors or convenience store clerks they can be than senators or CEOs without integrity.

How to Fix DC’s School Problem: Lose the Schools

Last week, the U.S. House of Representative passed the SOAR Reauthorization Act.  (Next week they will, no doubt, be debating other clever backronyms for other equally banal bills.)  SOAR, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results, is, like so much of what government does, benevolent on its surface.  After all, who doesn’t like giving money to disadvantaged children in one of America’s most disadvantaged cities?  It’s almost as fun as handing out puppies!

But, also like so much of what government does, someone else ends up paying for it.

First, the whole concept of Congress legislating anything that happens outside the halls of federal government but inside the borders of the District of Columbia flies in the face of what the District was meant to be.  The “taxation without representation” nonsense on the license plates and the ongoing quixotic call for D.C. statehood are just so many sour grapes.

D.C. was never meant to be a permanent residence for anyone.  It was created to house the federal government at a time when the fledgling nation was still very much a delicate alliance of independent states, not the ironclad country that it has increasingly (although lately, decreasingly) become since the end of the Civil War.  Part of the reason for this should be abundantly clear now that five out of the top ten richest counties are bedroom communities for federal government officials and lobbyists: government service was never meant to be a permanent gig or a road to wealth, so why would anyone want to stick around long enough to put down roots, especially in a humid, mosquito-infested cesspool like the one that D.C. was at its nascence?

But there’s no turning back now.  D.C. is one of the largest cities in America, and its future is undeniably tied to the whims of Congress and the president.  (This fact was intriguingly examined in both The West Wing and House of Cards, where it was used as a political football by a president seeking to control Congress.)

But when the federal government runs roughshod over the 10th Amendment as it has for so long now, it’s at least somewhat checked by the desires of political leaders in state capitals who either have a genuine interest in the future prosperity and freedom of their states or simply want credit for whatever program Congress is seeking to shove down the people’s throats.  I’m sure D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser has similar desires, but, being only one person with her entire budget at the mercy of Congress, she doesn’t have quite the power of a governor and his legislature (except when she has the president on her side, as displayed in the aforementioned TV shows).  So, then, D.C. becomes a hyperbole of every bad (and sometimes good) idea that the federal government has – all that power laser-focused on a mere 68 square miles.

So what’s the problem with SOAR?  Well, nothing, really – just as there’s nothing wrong with giving kids puppies.  The problem is in who pays for the puppies, and for the scholarships.

When you’re taxing 300 million people and using it to educate a mere 1,244 children, that’s not bad at all.  But it’s also the federal government doing what it does worst: picking winners and losers.  Don’t get me wrong: I have a lot more faith in the future of the boys and girls attending D.C. private and charter schools on an Opportunity Scholarship than I do in whatever cockamamie green energy scheme made it to the president’s desk this week, but it’s still a dangerous precedent that’s been set – and all the more dangerous because, ironically, precedents for federal fiscal support of something as controversial as school vouchers are rather tenuous.

Now, if I were a congressman, I probably would have voted for SOAR, too, just to keep the money coming, and I applaud President Obama for his support of it as well (words I don’t often write), but at some point, SOAR will become a political football, and the unfortunate children of D.C. will be held hostage.  Furthermore, regardless of the future, there are thousands of children in D.C. schools who, while perhaps not as “disadvantaged” as the ones taking advantage of Opportunity Scholarships, are still at a disadvantage.  (And many of them could be worse off, since D.C. Opportunity Scholarships are awarded through a lottery.)  There is a better way – as Reagan may have said, not necessarily an easier way, but a better way.

The ultimate solution to this problem lies in D.C. ceasing to be a quasi-state, with its public infrastructure tied to the whims of the federal government.  For education, this means that residents need to start sending their children to schools outside D.C.  This is where permanent residents of the area should be living anyway.  In turn, schools in Maryland and Virginia (and the other 48 states, for that matter), should be allowed to succeed or fail on their own, with limited ties to federal or state mandates.

While people often lament the state of public education in this country (and rightly so), I’ve never heard anyone feel sorry for the children going to private schools.  Wouldn’t the answer, then, be to send all of our children to private schools?  And before you protest, trust me when I say that this solution doesn’t necessitate only the wealthy getting an education; after all, many of the children using D.C. Opportunity Scholarships may attend private schools – even Sidwell Friends, home to First Daughters Sasha and Malia Obama!

Cross-posted at

Boycotts, Bathrooms, and the Boss

bruce_springsteenThis past Sunday, Bruce Springsteen was scheduled to play a concert in Greensboro, NC. He canceled the concert, citing opposition to the recently passed HB2, the “bathroom bill”, which he labeled discriminatory against the transgendered community.  Three weeks ago, Disney and several other companies, state governments, and individuals threatened to boycott the state of Georgia if Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill with similar legislation. He folded to the pressure and vetoed that bill. In 2010, a similar boycott of the state of Arizona was launched in opposition to SB 1070, a bill which strengthened immigration laws.

Never mind that the people boycotting these states haven’t read or don’t understand what’s in these bills. If they did, they might stop hyperventilating and calling everyone they disagree with bigots. Let’s assume for a moment the bills that liberals cite as their reasons for boycotting entire states are really as horrible as they say. Their boycotts are ineffective.

In fact, boycotts, in general, are ineffective. Greenpeace and other groups called for a boycott of Exxon following the Valdez oil spill. Here in my home state of Washington, Exxon gas stations disappeared fairly quickly. But not for long. And my guess is, even while Exxon signage was “gone”, the company itself was probably still raking in bucks from Washington. And now, of course, ExxonMobil is the largest oil company in the world.

Even sanctions, legally enforced boycotts of entire nations, are not nearly effective as supporters claim. Tin-pot dictators are very adept at illegally funding their dictatorships and sanctions typically hurt the masses much more than they hurt the leaders. (Not that I’m saying we should do away with sanctions; they still have their place, are much more effective than voluntary boycotts, and do help to stifle the flow of funds to said dictators. Besides, regardless of sanctions, money rarely gets to the masses anyway in third-world states. There’s always another Ferrari to buy for Uday or Kusay, after all.)

Yes, for the most part, boycotts are nothing more than feel-good endeavors that help buoy the self-righteousness of the boycotter, and may, at best, make the company being boycotted look up for half-a-second until the next squirrel races by for the masses to follow. (“Oh, look! Monsanto!”)

And boycotting an entire state, at least voluntarily, i.e. not through sanctions, is the most ineffective boycott of all because it is near impossible to boycott an entire state in today’s interconnected world. You want to boycott North Carolina, Mr. Springsteen? Okay. Better make sure none of your millions find their way through a Bank of America account. And no sleeping on a Sealy mattress tonight. That Hanes undershirt you’re wearing? Scrap it. Same with the Burt’s Bees you just put on those talented lips of yours. All those “evil corporations” are headquartered in North Carolina. And you’d better cancel that upcoming tour stop in Italy as well. They still don’t even recognize gay marriage!

And what about Disney? Certainly no small potatoes compared to yesterday’s rock star. They’re one of the largest media companies in the world and spend millions of dollars on production in the state of Georgia every year. Disney threatening to boycott Georgia certainly made Governor Deal’s decision to veto HB 757 a bit easier but it wasn’t the deciding factor I’m sure. And if it was, he’s clearly not adept at making deals. I would have played chicken with the Mouse. Again, a squirrel would have run by in a matter of months and Disney would have been back to filming all sorts of movies and TV shows in the home of the Falcons (and herein ends the animal references). Curiously, Disney didn’t seem to have a problem distributing Force Awakens, which was filmed in the United Arab Emirates, a nation that actually murders people for simply engaging in same-sex activities. (To be fair, I’m not sure where they come down on transgendered bathroom use.)

So, we’ve established liberals boycott because they want to feel good about themselves. They’re also notorious hypocrites so that argument falls on deaf ears. But what about hurting those you’re aiming to help?

Liberals love to point out the evils of sanctions because, as mentioned above, they disproportionally fall on the backs of the downtrodden masses.  And an argument can be made that engaging with one’s foe will do more than stonewalling him. This is even more so the case when one’s foe is not a bloodthirsty dictator. I know liberals love to equate murderous thugs like Kim Jong Un and “evil Christian bigots” like those at Focus on the Family or Chick-fil-A, but if they actually took a moment to listen to Jim Daly or Dan Cathy, they’d realize there’s actually quite a bit of difference.

But, okay, okay, let’s go even further and assume they’re right and everyone who voted for North Carolina’s HB2 and everyone who voted for those people are really hate-filled homophobes that want to send every transgendered person in the state to a re-education camp where they’ll be thumped by Bibles 24/7. Are these the same people who would attend a Bruce Springsteen concert? Actually, yes. Unlike liberals who would rather stand in a downpour than take an umbrella from someone with whom they disagree, those of us on the right can separate the fact that good music can be made by people with whom we disagree politically and our entire outlook on life isn’t going to be defeated by listening to a little Born in the U.S.A. Heck, even Ronald Reagan used it as a campaign theme for a while until Springsteen threw a fit over that because, again, “tolerant” liberals simply can’t tolerate things like that.

But I’ll go yet one step further. Let’s say that those supporting HB2 would never be caught dead at a Bruce Springsteen concert and the whole audience agrees with Bruce. That only makes the argument stronger. Refusing to play a concert in a state that has policies you disagree with doesn’t hurt the people with whom you disagree, it hurts the people with whom you agree and those you seek to help.

If Bruce Springsteen and his followers want to change the political tide in North Carolina, the best thing he could have done is play his concert in Greensboro and, between songs, give a heartfelt plea to those in attendance to rally for the cause. Who knows, maybe a few folks not in his camp may even have been persuaded.

And with Disney and Georgia, assuming that bill hadn’t been vetoed, Disney’s impact could have been even greater. I’m assuming that the majority of the people in the entertainment industry were opposed to Georgia’s religious freedom bill, so how much better would it have been to put money in those people’s pockets by filming in Georgia; money that could have gone on to elect people who are more amiable to Disney’s views?

So, liberal boycotters (and conservative boycotters for that matter), be the change you want to see in the world! Engage! You’re sure to change more views from inside the state than screaming at it from the outside, even if you can scream as loud as Bruce Springsteen.

Cross posted at

Another Senseless Shooting; Another Senseless Response from Anti-gun Crowd

One of Ronald Reagan’s signature phrases was “there you go again.” Well, here we go again. Another senseless shooting and, in response, more senseless response from the anti-gun crowd.

To catch you all up to speed, a vehemently pro-gun gal in Florida left her loaded .45 in the back seat of her car and was promptly shot in the back by her four-year-old. Tragic for all involved and thank God she’s going to survive.

What’s wrong with this picture? Extreme negligence. In fact, criminal negligence as, in Florida, it is illegal to store or leave a loaded gun where a child has access to it. This is a great law and any sensible gun owner should practice it. Makes one wonder what Gilt, who runs the Facebook Page “Jamie Gilt for Gun Sense” was thinking. But like comedian Ron White says, “you can’t fix stupid.” And I don’t mean any disrespect to Ms. Gilt. Let’s face it, we’ve all done really stupid things at some point in our lives but most of us have had the luck not to be harmed by them.

Gilt of all people should have known better and once she’s released from the hospital she should be charged for her criminal negligence. But Gilt’s biggest crime isn’t leaving her gun in the back seat, as bad as that is. Her biggest crime is being the poster girl for weakening gun rights. The art of rhetoric died long ago so, “Look! Gun nut got shot by her kid with her own gun! Ban all guns!” is now a valid argument when, in reality, it’s nothing more than a straw man.

This article in the Guardian is headlined “the macabre truth of gun control in the U.S. is that toddlers kill more people than terrorists do.” Okay, so what?

Anti-gun folks like the author, Lindy West, enjoy trotting out the old canard that the U.S. has too few laws regulating guns so their answer is to pass more laws. (More laws is de rigueur for the Left; it’s the ultimate cure for personal responsibility.) But let’s just explore that in the case of Gilt.

The law preventing children from having access to firearms didn’t work in this case. Maybe we should require gun owners to go through training? That’s fine. I think you’ll find that the vast majority of gun owners are well trained and strongly advocate that anyone using a gun be welled trained as well. But considering that Gilt runs a Facebook Page about gun “sense”, I’d be shocked if she hadn’t gone through training and, clearly, the training failed in this case. Yet, as tragic as the outcome was, let he who is without blame cast the first stone. We’re all guilty of disregarding our training at one point or another. If we weren’t, there wouldn’t be more than 5 million auto accidents per year. And this is key.

We have laws designed to prevent car accidents and they clearly don’t work for some folks. Yet we don’t ban autos. If a law preventing guns from falling in to the hands of four-year-olds doesn’t work and gun safety training doesn’t prevent all accidents, I don’t see any next logical step to prevent gun accidents short of banning guns all together. And, despite what many of them argue otherwise, the end goal of the anti-gun crowd is to ban all guns. Why? I won’t attribute malicious, statist aims to them, even if a large contingent does harbor these desires. No, the majority in the anti-gun crowd, like most on the left, have largely benevolent aims. But like Reagan said, “the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s that they know so much that isn’t so.”

If “common sense” gun regulations (like keeping guns out of the hands of four-year-olds) doesn’t work; is banning guns going to work? Well, in the case of accidents like Gilt’s, maybe. Certainly if law abiding citizens didn’t have guns then there would be no chance of accidental shootings occurring. But the “cure” of banning guns is worse than the disease. It’s trite but true but if guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will have guns.

Accidental shootings are tragic and even one is too many. We need to continue to encourage gun owners to go through gun safety training and continue to drill in to them that leaving your gun within reach of a child, even for a second, is dangerous. In fact, any intelligent gun owner will tell you that your gun should either be in your hand, in a holster, or in a carrying case, preferably a locked one. If Gilt had been following these most important of gun safety tips, this accident would never have happened.

But here’s the really tragic thing about reality. Accidents happen. The fact is, the chances of anyone being accidentally shot by a small child are very small. While exact statistics are hard to come by, we do know that in 2011, 591 gun deaths were declared accidental and 102 of these were victims younger than 18; half of those under 13. In a nation of 320 million people, while the chances of being killed by a terrorist are less, the odds of either are quite small. In fact, if we really want to go around banning “scary” things, we may want to look at stairs, the third leading cause of death in children age 1-4; and swimming pools, which are 100 times more deadly.

Later in her article, West points out that her children “already know of at least one friend-of-a-friend who was killed in a school shooting. Again, tragic, and I obviously have no idea who this person was, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it wasn’t an accidental shooting and, furthermore, the gun was not legally owned by the parent (it clearly wasn’t legally owned by the student). Again, all the laws on the books and any more we can think of short of banning guns all together wouldn’t have done anything to prevent the vast majority of school and other “mass” shootings out there.

West’s entire article is filled with canards and straw men too numerous to address in this article, but I will end with one more; “keeping a gun in your house increases your chances of accidental death by shooting, but does not make you safer.” Simply not true. Firearms are used more than 80 times more often to protect lives than take them and typically, gun “accidents” are far from accidental; more often than not being the result of too much alcohol. (Alcohol also contributes significantly to the cause of suicides and homicides.)

Again, as tragic as any gun death is, statistics don’t back up our fears. West and her anti-gun friends should not fear guns. She should respect them and the people who carry them.

As for terrorists, while they don’t pose much of a threat here in the U.S. (yet), this is due, almost exclusively to, yes, you guessed it, the “good guys with guns” West views as a “fantasy.”

Cross posted at

Show 82 – The Cuisine of Tibet

Apologies for the bad quality connection with China. There’s actually a story behind that. The theme of today’s broadcast was in honor of the anniversary of the Uprising of Tibet. While China is a lot freer than many in the West like to claim and free speech, especially in cities like Beijing, is also freer than one might think, there are certain times of the year, the anniversary of the Uprising of Tibet being one, that the government monitors transmissions more stringently. Besides having to steer clear of the “sensitive” parts of Tibet during my discussion with Jim, the monitoring, apparently, also led to some signal degradation on Skype.

That aside, enjoy! We cover a lot of other things happening in China, as well as a brief recap of what’s happening in another socialist utopia, Venezuela’s “Chavez City”.

Why Jazz Should Be the Genre of Choice of the Conservative Movement

As I was driving home this evening, listening to Art Blakey push out some Moanin’ and thinking about what I wanted to write about this week, it occurred to me that jazz is really a very conservative art form; or, more aptly, a liberal art form in the classical sense of the word, that rooted in liberty and freedom. Jazz, after all, is all about freedom.

Sure, the stereotypical conservative Republican is supposed to listen to country music. And there’s nothing wrong with country music, but the genre of choice of conservatives everywhere should be jazz. Of course, country music has its roots in jazz, as all truly American genres do, but, like so much of modern music, it has become somewhat formulaic; hence, the joke about the country singer’s wife leaving him, his truck breaking down, and his dog dying. (That oft-jested theme, quite ironically when one considers it, is actually the antithesis of what it means to be conservative, at least in the sense Reagan spoke of it; as a brighter tomorrow.)

The Republican Party, which is, theoretically, supposed to be the standard bearer for the conservative cause, was formed chiefly to forward the abolitionist cause in America, which led to the freeing of millions of slaves. Jazz was born to free the souls of African-American slaves even while their bodies remained captive. (Sometimes, too, it was instrumental, no pun intended, in physical freedom as slave songs like Wade in the Water, precursors to jazz, assisted runaway slaves in their flight to freedom.)

Ken Burns’ documentary, Jazz, opens with the great Wynton Marsalis describing the art form.

“Jazz music objectifies America. It’s an art form that can give us a painless way of understanding ourselves. The real power of jazz and the innovation of jazz is that a group of people can come together and create art, improvised art, and can negotiate their agendas with each other and that negotiation is the art.”

Jazz is organic. All art is organic to a point, one could say. People can do whatever they want with their creations, but for most art forms there are certain rules that are generally followed. Not so with jazz, or at least jazz as it was and should be.

Moanin’ actually exemplifies this perfectly. Jazz critic Gary Giddins stated that Moanin’ “set the music world on its ear” and was “part of the funky, back to roots movement that Horace Silver, Mingus, and Ray Charles helped, in different ways, to fan.” Even the creation of Moanin’ was the result of improvisation. Pianist and composer Bobby Timmons, who was a sideman in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, often played the opening eight bars between tunes and only nailed out the rest after some encouragement from fellow band member Benny Golson.

And so it is with classical liberalism, which values the individual above the collective, and freedom above rules set from on high.

Marsalis goes on in his Jazz interview to describe how he could go anywhere, strike up a conversation with some fellow jazz musicians, and create something on the spot, communicating through music. This can only be done if there’s no structure and this lack of structure is the only thing that can create something so completely unique and wonderful. Again, country music has its place, as does classical, pop, and just about anything else (sans heavy metal, which is just ear-splitting racket), but there’s nothing like jazz to make the soul come alive!

And it’s when the soul comes alive that things get done. I’ve long believed that the flaw inherent in statism is that little good can come of people being forced to an end. Feeding the poor is great (teaching the poor to feed themselves is even greater) and something that should be done in a civilized society, but a large scale government program managed from on high isn’t just inefficient, it robs society of what may be the most important part of that act; the humanity. When one is not moved by something within himself but by the point of a spear, the desired outcome will never last. Relating it back to music, how many of us hated piano lessons early on only because it was something we were forced to do but later found a love for once it was something we got to do.

America is referred to as an experiment and the scientists are we the people. Our best ideas come not from a central planner creating a one-sized-fits-all plan or bureaucrat doing something because “those are just the rules”; our best ideas come from the ground up, often from people who were told “you can’t do that” by the establishment. Jazz, too, is an experiment created first by those who were looked down upon as lower than the lowest class and even today boasts of greats that are true rags to riches stories. Now, go and create some jazz in your life, be it musical or otherwise, and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t!

Show 081 – The Cuisine of the Dominican Republic

Tonight your Maitre d’ Mark Griswold and your sommelier Jacques Greer celebrated the cuisine and culture of the Dominican Republic and spent most of the evening debating Trump and whether he would be the better choice over Hillary should it come to that.

Chris Christie, Jeff Sessions and Saruman the White

saruman-christopher-lee-300x159In the epic novel, Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien, there is a group of wizards sent down from on high to combat the forces of evil by inspiring the people of Middle-Earth. They are led by Saruman the White, a good and decent wizard but, like all of us, one with a soul that can be tempted by evil.

In the beginning, Saruman, it can be argued, is just being pragmatic. He seeks power not because he is evil, but to defeat evil itself in the form of the Dark Lord Sauron. But, in the end, the power he seeks is too intoxicating and he is overcome by the very evil he vowed, whether just to others or to himself as well, to destroy. It is a story as old as time and one which will be repeated until the end of time.

Politics is, first and foremost, the study and practice of human interaction and humans, being the imperfect beings that we are, are faced with imperfect choices. We are faced with supporting a bloodthirsty dictator in some far off country, but only because he’s less bloodthirsty than the militant jihadi terrorist he’s keeping at bay. We joke about having to choose between the lesser of two evils when we go to the ballot box every November; a joke we tell ourselves is a joke because the truth can sometimes be far more real than we’d like to admit.

And politicians tell themselves that their choice to support a particular piece of legislation or to join forces with another politician they often disagree with, while on its face may seem abhorrent, is in the end, a choice made for “the greater good.” After all, “if I don’t vote for this bill, a far more harmful bill may be passed or, worse yet, I could lose my bid for re-election and the other guy, who is far worse, will win.”

These rationalizations are just that; rational. In a world of imperfect choices what a wide-eyed idealist sees as irrational is, in fact, the only rational choice. But as the decent among us are forced to make decisions that are increasingly indecent, we continue to rationalize those decisions to the point that we can forget what the decent thing was to begin with. Sometimes the means can justify the ends.  It is an imperfect world after all so there are very few pure actions we can take anymore, if we ever could. But what we must never forget is that those actions are, in fact, impure and we may very well be sacrificing our souls for what many may deem the greater good. (It’s why so many soldiers are haunted by PTSD; the greatest sacrifices they must make are often not physical or even mental, but spiritual.) More importantly, we must not forget that the closer we get to the power we once sought to destroy, the more and more we mirror that power.

I don’t know Chris Christie, Jeff Sessions, or the scores of evangelical preachers who have endorsed Donald Trump. I’ll assume that their motives are pure even if I believe their actions aren’t. Maybe they all believe that the GOP has become so watered down ideologically that the only way to save this country is to “shake things up”. Maybe they think the greatest threat to this nation is an influx of immigrants, be they terrorists or simply folks seeking to “take our jobs.” Maybe they view Trump as the inevitable candidate and believe we must get behind him now so we can take down the greater “evil” that is Hillary Clinton. All of these arguments have at least some merit to them and that’s exactly what makes them so dangerous.

At the end of World War II we dropped a pair of atomic bombs on Japan. All but the most naïve or ideologically stubborn believe that was the best course of action. Had we not, the war would have continued on for months, if not years, and resulted in far more death on the side of not only the Allies but the Japanese as well. Somewhat counterintuitively, dropping “the bomb” was the humane thing to do. But in doing so, the “collateral damage” done to tens of thousands of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have been the least egregious. The Cold War was anything but cold and the nuclear age remains with us, perhaps even more dangerous now with actors like Kim Jong Un and the Ayatollahs on the world stage. Was the Manhattan Project worth it? Probably. After all, if we, the “good guys” hadn’t invented “the bomb” the Communists would have been left to march freely across the rest of Europe and the rest of the world. But despite the threat that we curtailed because we went nuclear first, we must never forget that the genie we let out of the bottle can never be put back again.

And so it is with Trump. Forget that his claims of conservatism or Christianity are laughable (or at least they were until he started winning primaries). The man is just far too dangerous. In our desire to defeat Hillary Clinton or the lukewarm politicians in the Republican Party, we are employing a nuclear option that can never be undone and, hear me now, believe me later, will not defeat the opponents of the true conservatism that we all seek to defeat, but only embolden them after the Republican Party is left decimated by the mockery it has become with Trump at the helm.

So we have a choice. We can refuse to give in to our temptations to seek the “One Ring” that gives us the immense power to destroy the Dark Lord Sauron, whatever threat, real or imagined that may be; or we can stand with the light, however dim it may seem (and I do agree that it pales in comparison to what it once was or should be).

Pragmatism is important. In fact, in the game of politics, it may be the most important. But it is not so important that we must sacrifice our ideals completely in order to “make a deal,” especially a deal with a man like Trump, so utterly devoid of character and full of narcissism that he feels no need to seek forgiveness from God and threatens to sue anyone who dares insult him.

Millenials, Entitlement, and the Living Wage

Judging my the number of responses, this is my most viewed article yet on It also includes the requisite number of responses from the Trumposphere angered over my subtle dig at him. (The AT editors actually removed the other one so they didn’t even get the full effect!)  

By now, most people are probably aware of the latest stupidity trending on social media. If not, to briefly recap, on Friday a spoiled brat named Talia Jane told her boss to f-off via an open letter on and, surprise of surprises, got the ax. This is the kind of thing that should just be ignored (like most of the idiocy hogging the blogosphere and the twittersphere and the Trumposphere) but, then, what would we talk about? (John Locke? Rene Descarte? Heck, I’d even settle for some Robspierre at this point.)

Unfortunately, the idiocy in this nation has reached such a fever pitch that one must address it, and address it daily, before we all wake up one day to find a reality TV star in the White House. (Crap! What’s the date today?)

Talia Jane’s letters are so full of irony, if this wasn’t the year 2016 and millennials weren’t sucking up half the air in this country and supporting, rather unironically, someone who was the 60’s answer to Millennialism that I’d think it was ripped from the pages of the Onion. (Or maybe Talia Jane really is that good and we’ve all been had.)

I won’t even touch on her name being Talia Jane or that her avatar is a crass attempt at being artsy. Those things are pretty much par for the course these days and a sad indication on just how far we’ve come. I will start with her description though. Talia Jane is into “comedy – writing – better at thinking about things than actually doing them.” Mmm. Doesn’t that last bit just encapsulate the millennial generation perfectly. No more honest a phrase has ever been written by anyone. And guess what, Talia Jane, I completely #feelya. See, I love to write too, and writers, by nature, are thinkers, not doers. But one need not look any further than Ernest Hemingway or Ian Fleming to realize that even writers need to “do” if for no other reason than to have something to write about. If not, then they end up like Lenin (or Lennon for that matter) writing about struggles they only think they know, as is the case with our dear Talia Jane.

Talia Jane’s tragic story was doomed almost from the beginning. Firstly, she was using hashtags way back in the 90’s. Secondly, at that impressionable age of eight, she somehow got the notion that “having a car and a credit and my own apartment” were “what it means to be an adult.” Maybe on Friends or Seinfeld, but not in real life.

Let me tell you about being an adult, Talia Jane; it’s not all it’s cracked up to be; except when it is and those are the times they never told you about when you were eight years old, listening to “Spice Girls and owning a pager.” (As an aside, I think the real tragedy in all this is that the poor young Talia Jane only dreamed of owning a pager; her mother clearly being too much of an ogre to give her a cell phone. #QuelleHorreur!)

But I don’t blame Talia Jane so much as I blame her Gen-X parents. And I don’t blame her Gen-X parents so much as I blame their Baby-Boomer parents. And I don’t blame their Baby-Boomer parents so much as I blame the Baby-Boomers’ Greatest Generation parents.

It seems, sadly, that since the end of the Second World War, every generation, in an effort to give their children everything they wanted, gave them everything except what they needed. And who wouldn’t want the very best for their kids? Talia Jane doesn’t know this yet, but none of us take joy in telling our three-year-old that he can’t have a treat because he didn’t have his dinner, or that five minutes (which was probably five minutes more than we should have given in the first place) really means five minutes. But we do it nonetheless because we know, if we don’t, the child will grow up without any respect for himself or anyone else and join the masses of folks “feeling the Bern” or worse, setting fire to their own cities as a way to air their grievances.

You see, Talia Jane was brought up to dream big dreams but not to do the hard work that goes in to achieving them or to realize that some dreams are actually nightmares once reached. (San Francisco isn’t all that hip and trendy when it’s Oakland, is it, Talia Jane?) It’s unfortunate that Talia Jane had to learn the hard way that “a car and a credit card and an apartment would all be symbols of stress, not success” but it’s even more unfortunate that she hasn’t learned that her stress is of her own making. What Talia Jane doesn’t realize yet, is that she can take her grandfather’s beater car and that 10 pound bag of rice and make for somewhere her dollar goes farther (and the government takes less of it in taxes, ironically). Of course, she might have to talk to some Republicans (#QuelleHorreur!), but such is the price of freedom.

Talia Jane also doesn’t realize that the so-called “working poor” of today live better than the middle class of her grandparents’ generation and oftentimes better than some of the middle class in nations most of us would consider first-world.

Talia Jane, before she bit the hand that fed her, had a car, an apartment, a college degree, a job, and all the free coconut water, pistachio nuts, and bread she could eat while at work. Heck, at my job, all we get is coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. And Talia Jane’s job involved sitting on her privileged rear-end answering phone calls from other privileged rear-ends who apparently had to wait more than 30-minutes for their lamb vindaloo. Clean the fryers at the Bombay Grill at midnight then get back to me, Talia Jane.

Now free from her corporate overloards, Talia Jane’s decided she wants to do something constructive with her new found fame (this at the urging of her Rotarian grandfather;” good on ya, pops,” although action without knowledge can be a very dangerous thing, so maybe I should hold off on the praise). Her new raison d’etre? You might have guessed it by now; a “living wage” for all! (Can’t she just get a realty show on E?)

She writes “call me entitled [really, can I?!] but I don’t think you should be barred from growing and exploring and taking risks because your income isn’t in proportion with the cost of living in your area.”

Oh, Talia Jane, I really hate to break this to you, but if life were all unicorns and lollipops then it wouldn’t be a risk. I’ll leave you with this, you want to help the working poor? Get a new job, work your way up in the ranks to a point where you have a little disposable income, then join Rotary like your grandfather and give of your own time and treasure; my guess is Jeremy Stoppelman is already contributing more than his fair share.

Cross posted at