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

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

Let’s Raise a Glass to John J. Blaine!

Saturday marks the 83rd anniversary of the passage of the Blaine Act, which initiated the repeal of Prohibition in the United States. It makes for a fitting time to recognize that our government is not the appropriate arbiter of morals, no matter how agreed upon those morals may be.

Prohibition came to pass as a result of the crusading Women’s Christian Temperance Union and others who sought to cure society’s ills, not through appealing to the better angels of its nature, but through the long arm of the law, and, as a result, largely failed. It was part of a larger movement by Progressives to end all sort of “abuses” like gambling and drug abuse. It’s no wonder that the Progressive movement of today seeks to combat their preconceived societal ills in much the same fashion, be they the internal combustion engine, guns, or 32 oz. sodas.

But surely, you protest, we cannot devolve into anarchy, letting everyone do as they please, no law to live by, only subtle persuasion. No, we cannot. Anarchy, like totalitarianism has been proven not to work everywhere it has been tried. So where do we draw the line between which morals to enforce with force and which to enforce with appeal? The answer, as is usually the case, rests in the first lines of our Declaration of Independence, which decree that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (also known as estate or property, if the Lockean origins of the Declaration are to be believed).

This means that my rights to do whatever I want end where the tips of my fingers touch the tip of your nose or whatever the tips of your fingers have created. So murder then, clearly, is an act which government has the duty to prevent. So, too, is theft, rape, and slavery. But drinking? Hardly, but I understand the motivations of the temperance movement and, to an extent, agree with them. Here we were in the footloose and fancy free teens. Men were gallivanting around, prone to the ills of the bottle, and leaving their wives and children to fend for themselves. This is not the basis of a good society.

So, just as today’s Progressives blame murder not on the man who pulls the trigger but on the trigger itself, Progressives of that era blamed broken families and broken vows on broken bottles of gin. It’s much easier that way, actually, for guns and gin can’t fight back and become easy targets for our wrath. But this approach doesn’t solve the problem. Just as murders continue to be committed by people who don’t legally have access to guns, public drunkenness and truant fathers continued to happen long after the 18th Amendment was passed.

The correct means of curbing society’s ills, then, is to appeal to the better angels of our nature. Let’s take seat belt laws. They are in place because seat belts prevent injury. This is proven. Yet a small percentage of folks refuse to comply with the law. And this is, or at least should be, their right. After all, if they go through the windshield they’re only hurting themselves. (Yes, if they don’t have insurance we’re all going to have to pay for their stupidity, but that’s a different argument for a different day.) And whether it’s seat belts, alcohol, or even murder, we need to realize that, no matter how many laws we pass, certain people will never comply.

And for those who don’t we have two options. We can, and should, ignore them when they seek to punish causal offenses, i.e., actions that are not harmful in and of themselves but can lead to actions that are; and we should punish the offenders severely when they break a law that actually does cause harm. Case in point of the first would be drinking and driving.

“What?! What?!” you say? “Surely drinking and driving should be a primary offense. Drunk drivers kill thousands of people per year!” Yes, but how many people successfully have a few pints down at the local pub and drive a few miles back home with nary a scratch? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that people drink and drive because they “drive better when they’re drunk” or some of the other nonsense I’ve heard. I’m just saying that, logically, drunk driving is a secondary offense. If you actually do drive better when you’re drunk and can manage to get all the way home without causing an accident or swerving about enough to gain the attention of the police, congratulations, you win. Like they say, nothing’s illegal unless you get caught. Of course I say that in jest, yet there’s more truth to it than we like to admit.

So all of this is to say that we, by all means, need to encourage and educate people to be safe, smart, and moral in their actions. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t go on a bender and gamble away next month’s mortgage or leave your wife and kids for Ashley Madison. But, more importantly for the purpose of this article, I don’t want government, which is already hard pressed to do the things we’ve asked it to do, to take on enforcing laws that it can’t enforce while walking ever closer toward that line of nanny-stateism (or father past it, as the case may be). After all, while the vast majority of us can agree on not drinking and driving, how many of us really agree on the morality of eating fois gras or driving a Ford F-350?

So let’s raise a toast to Mr. Blaine and thank him for allowing us to, once again, make our own decisions, at least in the part of America that doesn’t include a large part of Arkansas.

Cross posted at

End lobbying? Might as well ban pencils to prevent misspelling words

It seems that, of all things political, lobbying and campaign finance raise the most ire among “the American people.”  They point out that “if we could just get money out of politics,” problems of corruption and the new “golden rule” would largely vanish.  They might be right, but the solution, in this case, is worse than the problem.

The U.S. Supreme Court rightly ruled in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and later Citizens United (2010) that money is a form of political speech and thus protected by the First Amendment.  The case is even clearer with lobbying.

The main problem with lobbying is that most people have no idea what it is.  They envision K Street folks dressed in $2,000 Brooks Brothers suits, pitching ideas that benefit only Wall Street over $200 lunches at Charlie Palmer Steak.  Certainly this happens, and certainly it is a bit grotesque.  But what those beating the anti-lobbying drum the loudest always forget is that they themselves are lobbyists, too.  Or at least they are any time they send an email, make a phone call, or march on the Capitol steps.

The widespread use of term “lobbying” dates back to the Grant administration, when Grant, oftentimes enjoying a cigar and brandy in the lobby of the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., would be approached by people asking him to push forward this or that policy and often “helping” him in the decision-making process by buying him additional cigars and snifters of brandy.  It seems, in many ways, we haven’t evolved much from those days.  That can be discouraging – that is, until one really begins to think about it.  Gaining access to our elected officials is easier than ever, what with technology the way it is.  And it bears repeating: every time we send an email, we’re lobbying.  Sure, some will say that’s different from the paid lobbyist representing the “special interest” group or corporation.  But it’s different only in orders of magnitude.

And these “special interest” groups wouldn’t even form if it wasn’t for the widespread interests of the people behind them.  Health care is a massive lobby, but only because most people in America are concerned by rising health care costs.  And while lobbying in some areas has become a way to make money off the taxpayer by taking advantage of loopholes, is it really the fault of the corporation?  If someone was handing out hundred-dollar bills and you knew someone was going to get them, wouldn’t you stand in line, regardless of how those bills were acquired, and especially if the person handing them out said it was all legit and not only your right, but your duty to accept them?  It’s a game, to be sure, but these days, sadly, you either play the game or get left behind.

So there’s a problem.  I assume those calling for the end to lobbying aren’t calling for the end of all citizen interaction with their legislators so I’ll give them that.  But if that’s the case, where do we draw the line?  The problem with creating more and more rules is that they almost always create more and more loopholes.  Do we say no one is allowed to be paid for lobbying efforts?  Well, then, only the truly rich would be able to lobby, for even a group of working mothers getting together to encourage lawmakers to strengthen drunken driving laws would be at a loss.  They could send emails, sure, and many of them do.  But if they wanted to devote their full time to it, or even just one person’s full time to it, they’d have to start raising money.  Everyone’s got to eat, after all.

Truly, the biggest reason lobbying has become such a massive industry is because of the massiveness of government.  Up until the federal government went after Microsoft with an anti-trust lawsuit, Microsoft didn’t have a government affairs division and spent little, if any, money lobbying government.  After being targeted by the Clinton Justice Department, Microsoft quickly realized that government isn’t just going to leave you alone.  No one is allowed to sit the game out.  So they ponied up and went into the lobbying business.

So what to do?  The answer, as it almost always is, lies in less government, not more.  The only reason corporations employ teams of lawyers to navigate the legislative waters is that these waters are so treacherous and hard to navigate.  Let’s take Indian Reservations as an example.  Tribes spend millions of dollars lobbying all levels of government for all sorts of things.  Maybe they want to run a casino or hunt whales in an area where it is otherwise illegal.  Maybe they want to mine for natural resources.  Maybe they’ve started a tribal business and want tax breaks.  Of course, there are other groups that don’t want to see this happen.  Maybe they are anti-gambling, or wish to protect sea mammals or trees.  Maybe they’re business owners who believe they should be receiving the same tax breaks as the Indians.  Now, instead of creating the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a massive Reservation system across the nation to pay attention to this particular “special interest,” why not just remove government from the decision making process altogether?  Make gambling either completely legal or completely illegal.  Institute a flat tax for every person or corporation.  Quit fiddling around the edges of the law to carve out special favors for your lobbyist friends, and watch how quickly those “friends” disappear.

We shouldn’t be blaming the lobbyists for showing up to the trough every time Senator So-and-So dumps a fresh load of slop into it.  They’re just doing what any of us would do.  No, instead, we should be blaming Senator So-and-So for taking our money and giving it to those we feel don’t deserve it.  (And funny how those we feel don’t deserve it are usually the ones whose policies we disagree with.)

Lobbying is nothing other than our freedom to ask our legislators to do something we think will benefit the nation (or us personally if we are short on morals).  Giving money to those legislators who we think are doing the most good in order to ensure that others hear about their acts and thus re-elect them is also nothing other than our freedom to do with our earnings what we see fit.  If our legislators are not acting in the best interest of the nation, then it is the fault not of the system we’ve instituted, but of the legislators themselves.  Outlawing lobbying to prevent corruption makes as much sense as outlawing guns to prevent murder or pencils to prevent spelling errors.

Cross posted at

We Learn from our Mistakes

The Washington State Legislature is back in session and that means one thing: time once again for government to ignore the things they should be doing, like making sure they’re not releasing rapists and murders before their prison terms have been fully served; and butting in to things they shouldn’t, like raising the legal age for smoking to 21.
I’m not a smoker, Scotch and a good Tuscan Red are my poisons, so I don’t have a dog in this fight other than the dog I like best; the dog named freedom. Yeah, yeah, that’s trite, but it’s true. And it is so because our society has slowly but surely, like that proverbial frog in boiling water, given away many of our freedoms already, however small they may be. Is smoking as important as voting, criticizing government, or owning a gun? I’d hope not, although for some I’m sure it is. The most important thing is that it’s not for me to decide. Am I okay with limited restrictions on certain behaviors where those behaviors may impose restrictions on the rights of others? Sure. (And banning smoking in a private bar, where people can choose to go or not, is not one of those restrictions. It’s a violation of private property rights.) But beyond those very limited instances where the risk to others’ safety is beyond dispute, say in the case of drinking and driving, government needs to leave the citizenry alone. (And, no, I’m sorry, but if you think walking past a smoker 20 feet away is going to induce vomiting, an asthma attack, or early onset emphysema, you have a serious health issue, and your respiratory system is not it. Or, if it is, you need to be living inside an actual bubble.)
So why is government pushing to raise the legal age for smoking to 21? They think 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds don’t have enough sense to make an informed decision on whether to smoke. Okay, that makes sense on some level. I do agree that a lot 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds are pretty foolish. Heck, I sure did a lot of dumb things at that age. But here’s the thing; I’m wiser now than I was then not so much because I’ve aged but because I’ve made mistakes. It’s absolutely true that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. And if we continue to raise the age to do this and that, relying on government to, quite literally become our parents’ nannies, then the age of wisdom will just continue to increase along with it. Lawmakers championing this bill point out that 90% of daily smokers started before turning 19. (I’ll go one further and bet that the large majority of those started before they were 16, which is partly why this proposed law is rather pointless.) So, okay, raise it to 21. You may detract a fair amount of kids from smoking. But then you might as well raise the age to 25, or 30, or 99, as one person commented on the article. And I actually agree with this sentiment more than I agree with those just wanting to raise it to 21. If tobacco is really as dangerous as Chicken Little is saying it is, then, yes, ban it completely. But then we might as well ban a whole host of other things and all go live in those bubbles, where nothing can hurt us. To throw out another cliché, what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. So I, for one, want a little risk in my life; or at least the opportunity to legally choose which risks I’m going to take and which ones I’m not.
Of course the other logical argument that many pose around issues of the age of legality is that anyone who can die for this country should be able to smoke, drink and do anything else that is legal in the general sense, so set a limit and make that a limit for everything. I fully support that, but instead of making it 21 (or 30, as a few folks opined on the article) because “kids don’t know enough to make sound decisions”, let’s keep it at 18, or maybe even lower it to 16 or 14, or 12.
This is what scares me far more than cigarette smoke; the age or reason continues to march upward. We have become a nation of infants. College kids now need “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”; they fear “micro-agressions” and “hate speech”. And way too many people are bringing “emotional support turkeys” on board airplanes. I wonder how our youth would do today if they had to walk to school uphill, both ways, in the snow. No one can know because if you so much as let your child walk more than a few blocks away from your house unaccompanied you’re visited by CPS.
Now don’t get me wrong, some lessons are too painfully learned to be taught by the school of hard knocks. I don’t advocate giving an eight-year-old a shotgun, at least not unsupervised. I don’t think twelve-year-olds should be hitting up nightclubs and “cruising for chicks” (an activity, regardless of how it turns out, that is far more dangerous than smoking, by the way). But here’s what else I don’t advocate; government raising my children. I have two small boys, three and one. When they are old enough to understand basic logic I will sit them down and explain the benefits and downfalls of life’s various risks, drawing on, guess what, my own mistakes made in youth to guide them. And you might as well call CPS now, because I also plan on letting them sample a glass of Sangiovese before their 21st birthday (and maybe even a glass of Glen Livet if they’re good). Why? Mostly because I don’t want them turning 21 and buying a six-pack of Budweiser. (An uncultured palate is the real crime of under aged drinking.)
Jews mark the gateway to adulthood with the mitzvah at the age of 12 or 13. At this point the young man or woman becomes responsible for his or her actions. Back in the Revolutionary War, kids this young were even marching off to war with a drum or bugle in their hands and during World War II it was relatively common for young men to lie about their age just to have the chance to kill some Nazis. How far we’ve come. Now a kid that age who brings a GI Joe to class gets suspended. Our children are too old and our adults too young. It’s time to reclaim the mantle of responsibility. It’s time for us all to grow up. It’s time for us to take risks, for when we do, we fail; and when we fail, we learn. And only through learning do we mature. (Of course, the other argument for keeping the legal age for smoking at 18 is perhaps even more valid and was offered to me by an 18-year-old girl I knew my first year of college: “Live fast. Die young. Leave a good looking corpse.”)

Cross posted at

Reagan was a RINO!

This latest piece of mine was posted at yesterday. In reading the comments there, I realize that either AT readers have a very poor grasp of sarcasm (and blind loyalty to Trump) or I was not clear enough about the title of the article being sarcastic. Make no mistake; I do not believe Reagan was a RINO. I believe knee-jerk purists that would rather cut off their noses to spite their faces than win an election would call Reagan a RINO were he running for president today.

Various groups across our great nation have many traditions. Latino families may celebrate their daughters’ quinceañera. Marathoners may travel to Boston or New York. Hippies may attend a myriad of outdoor festivals, from Burning Man to Banaroo. And Republicans, or should I say a subset of Republicans, engage in a quadrennial event referred to by some as the conservative litmus test, or the circular firing squad, in which they enjoy comparing their chosen Republican presidential candidate to Ronald Reagan and comparing every other Republican candidate to Karl Marx (or possibly Groucho Marx). The length of this festival of futility usually runs from late November in the year preceding a presidential election and can end as late as the first Wednesday in November of the following year if the Democrat ends up winning the general election.

Republicans did this in 2008, when the party nominated “that RINO” John McCain (Lifetime ACU rating of 82.13) instead of the “true conservative” Mitt Romney. They did it again in 2012, when the party nominated “that RINO” Mitt Romney instead of the “true conservative” Rick Santorum (or maybe it was Rick Perry; the consensus among firing squad members is still out). And Republicans have trotted out the tradition once again. This year the “Establishment” candidate (aka the “RINO foisted upon us by the RNC”) seems to be either Marco Rubio (who, along with Ted Cruz, is the only candidate beating presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the one beating her by the greatest margin) or Jeb Bush.

Besides citing things like the “Gang of Eight,” “RomneyCare,” and “McCain-Feingold” during this period, these “true conservatives” pine over their memories of the 1980s and that gold standard of conservatism, President Ronald Reagan.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge Reagan fan. I don’t know any self-proclaimed Republican who isn’t. And, by and large, Reagan was quite conservative. But, were he to run today, it’s quite possible he’d have already gone the way of Lindsey Graham and George Pataki. Why? Well, let’s just imagine some of the things today’s “true conservatives” may bring up about Reagan were he making the rounds:

“Reagan is pro-gay-rights!” He vigorously opposed the 1978 Briggs initiative [CA Proposition 6], which would have banned homosexuals from teaching in public schools.
“Reagan is pro-abortion!” Six months into his term as governor, he signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act, which led to a rise in abortions in California from 518 a year to an average of 100,000 during his last two years in office.
“Reagan is pro-tax!” He raised taxes more than $1 billion during his term as governor.
“Reagan is pro-illegal immigration!” He signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act while president, which led to a rise in illegal immigration.
Reagan is a RINO (Republican in Name Only). He didn’t join the Republican Party until 1962, before then being an ardent supporter of FDR and the “New Deal.”
I raise these points about Reagan not to sully his good name and memory, but simply to point out that you can take nearly anyone and cherry-pick from his record to make him look liberal.

Besides being just poor form and inaccurate, chastising one Republican candidate over another is just bad politics, for when the nominee is eventually named, it leaves him open to attack not just from the jaundiced views of the Democratic nominee herself, but through the proxy of his supposed ally, maybe even his VP nominee. (Anyone remember all that footage of Biden commenting on Obama’s shortcomings?)

So Republicans should keep their eyes on the prize. Any one of their candidates would be vastly better for the conservative cause than Clinton or Sanders (with the possible exception of Donald Trump). Any Republican who doesn’t believe that needs to take an honest look in the mirror and ask himself: what would Hillary do with ISIS and Iran? What would she do with taxes? (Even if you believe that Rubio would be feckless in the face of a proposed tax-hike bill from a Democrat-controlled Congress, isn’t it logical to assume that Clinton would do even worse?) Whom will she appoint to the Supreme Court?

The choice is clear. As conservative activist and founder of the Leadership Institute Morton Blackwell is quick to point out, “Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.”

And if Reagan were alive today, I am fairly certain he’d pull out at least one of his old standards. “That person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally, not a 20-percent traitor.”

Form a Committee!

Oilman T. Boone Pickens has jumped into the political fray once again.  Like many of us, he’s fed up with the current political climate and dearth of “qualified” candidates for president.  So he’s got a revolutionary new idea.  We (he?) should put together a “bipartisan screening committee that vets presidential candidates like we do anyone else applying for a job.”  Capital idea, T.  (Or do you prefer to be called Boone?)  As you point out, the current system of picking a leader is more akin to Reality TV than the hallowed system our forefathers envisioned.  (Or is it?  I’d have to double check but it seems it’s been quite some time since we had politicians literally shooting each other or beating each other with their canes on the floor of Congress.)


But I do have to ask, who gets to serve on this brilliant committee of yours? Who elects the electors, so to speak?  And I will assume that, by “recommend” you actually mean “recommend” and that the decisions of this committee are in no way binding on the electorate as a whole so I’ll leave that dystopian thought alone.

And therein lays the rub.  Like I said, capital idea.  The only thing is, you’re about 227 years too late to the game.  Sure, your ideal committee may be considerably smaller than the committee known as the registered voters of the United States, but the fact remains, we have a vetting process.  And our vetting process, unlike many other nations, is more thorough than most.  We all like to bemoan the seemingly endless campaign season but would a two-week campaign like they have in France, or even a three-month campaign like they recently had in Canada (it’s usually shorter than that) really be more preferable?  Maybe folks would pay more attention, but I doubt it.  If the press and the people can’t properly vet a candidate in two years, I don’t see how they’re going to do it in two months.  Politicians are masters at obfuscation and the less time they have to obfuscate the better for them and the worse for us.

And as to your smaller committee, provided its decision is not legally binding, we already have those too.  Sure, most of them are not bi-partisan like you call for, but what the heck does bi-partisan even mean anymore?  People tend to coalesce around single issues; tax policy, foreign policy, guns, “family values”, the environment, etc.  I’d like to think most of us are intelligent enough not to be single-issue voters but most of us also tend to hold one issue above all others regardless of party.  So we join forces and form committees like the League of Women Voters or the Conservative Political Action Committee or the Americans for Tax Reform.  Then most of us tend to coalesce around the two biggest committees; the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee.

So maybe I shouldn’t call it such a capital idea after all, Boone.  Or perhaps it is best to quote Winston Churchill’s famous line about democracy being “the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Pickens ends his idea with a challenge for readers to come up with something better.  What have I got?  Well, like Reagan said in his landmark speech of 1964, “there is a simple answer – not an easy answer – but simple.”  And that answer is education, both in reason and in morality.  Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying the founders gave us “a republic, if you can keep it.”  John Adams stated that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The apparent decay of our nation rests at no one’s feet but our own.  We cannot blame our politicians.  We cannot blame the faceless bureaucracy as comforting and convenient as those scapegoats may be.  We turn out the first Tuesday of November every year to elect leaders from among us.  Any of us can run and because of this “experiment” started more than two centuries ago we alone are responsible not only for the triumphs we face, but also for the failures.

So I agree.  Form a committee, but not one to recommend a president.  Instead, form a committee to raise our children up with knowledge, wisdom, and morality.  Form a committee to help the struggling family buy groceries, then invite them over to your home for Christmas Dinner and share something so much more important than food; your table and your love.  Form a committee to help the kid struggling with his civics homework and tutor him after school every Tuesday.  Form a committee to plant a tree or clean up a park.  Form a committee with your neighbors and promise to watch over each other’s homes when you are away.  Form a committee to be that shining city on a hill that Christ spoke of in his Sermon on the Mount.  Be an example; for change happens not from pontificating and the passage of laws, but from example.  We will never legislate our way to peace and prosperity.  The only way to reach these hallowed ends is through personal action.  We do this, we form not just committees but communities that serve as moral and reasonable examples for the rest, it won’t matter much who our president or other political leaders are for we will be the leaders of our own destinies.  And we need not even wait until next November for our election is today.

Cross posted at

Bugs Bunny vs. Kim Jong Un


Sony has canceled the release of The Interview.  Par for the course in a nation that has lost its backbone.

America has surrendered to a stupid little country with a dictator better cast for an Austin Powers film than reality, and nary a shot has been fired.  LAME!  Now, of course, it isn’t the United States Armed Forces surrendering to North Korea, but if one of Hollywood’s biggest movie studios is throwing away a $43-million investment two weeks before it is set to start paying dividends, can the rest of society really be that far off?  After all, truth is stranger than fiction, and life imitates art imitating life all the time.

I blame Obama.  Yes, yes I do.  It sounds trite, but it’s true, because Obama, if he stands for nothing else, if he has failed at nothing else, he has failed at executing his paramount duty as president: protecting this nation from foreign threat.

Sure, Obamacare is a disaster.  Our national debt is spiraling out of control.  There’s the Lois Lerner thing, the Fast and Furious thing, the amnesty thing.  The list can go on and on, with major failures by Obama and his pals in Congress, but at the very least, those things are largely internal, and Congress is equally complicit.  Protecting our homeland from foreign threat, though, really falls under the purview of the commander-in-chief.

Of course, people are flipping out because he’s recommitting troops to the Middle East to combat ISIS (as he should) without any sort of congressional oversight, so there’s that whole War Powers Act thing.  But I’m not talking about direct action; I’m talking about setting the tone of the nation.  I’m a big believer in the separation of powers and a limited executive.  But one thing the president can do without any sort of legislation or executive order is use the bully pulpit.  Teddy Roosevelt understood this when he talked about speaking softly and carrying a big stick.  Reagan understood it when he told Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”  George W. Bush understood it.  Even Clinton understood it to some extent.

There’s a reason why most big guys you meet don’t go throwing their weight around.  They don’t need to.  But even more important than one’s size is how one carries oneself.  The Duchy of Grand Fenwick comes to mind, and isn’t it sadly ironic that a Peter Sellers comedy is now reality.

Obama has the bully pulpit.  So far he’s used it to tell Putin’s puppet that he’d have more flexibility after the election (indeed), drawn fake red lines in the Syrian sand, called ISIS the JV team (one instance where he should have used less hubris), and apologized to a bunch of other enemies while throwing our allies under the bus.  To his credit, he did say we should all go to the movies on Christmas.  (I could probably make a joke about the War on Christmas here, but I won’t.)

Sorry, Barry.  It’s too little, too late.  You did say you were going to fundamentally transform America.  Well, congratulations.  We’re a nation of cowards now.  A vague threat from a couple of guys sitting in their underwear in their mothers’ basements eating North Korea’s answer to the cheesy-poofs have now completely derailed a major motion picture release.  I just hope Seth Rogen and James Franco didn’t take the majority of their pay in box office percentages.  And that’s really something.

As I said, we’re cowering in fear of a kid who’d probably still be carded were he to go to The Interview if it had been released.  We’re cowering to a nation that levels threats on a regular basis and so far has managed to launch only a few missiles into the ocean miles off their intended course.  (Yeah, they killed a few South Koreans, and as tragic as that was, it really doesn’t amount to much in the way of threats.  Walking down the street in Detroit is more dangerous.)

I’m sure there was plenty of chatter from the jihadis (and the North Koreans) when Team America: World Police was released.  Same goes for Zero Dark Thirty.  Heck, there was a legitimate bomb scare outside Comedy Central after South Park did an episode making fun of Muhammad.  And probably the granddaddy of them all: during World War II, Warner Brothers turned out plenty of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons making fun of a couple of dictators that were actively killing millions of people.  When a cartoon rabbit and a cartoon waterfowl have more backbone than you do, it’s time to take a serious look behind you to see if your spine is still there.

But I guess this is par for the course (with no apologies to the Golfer-in-Chief).  We pulled out of Iraq because they wanted to play a little footsie during Status of Forces negotiations.  We threw a no-talent hack with a camcorder under the bus when we couldn’t heed warnings and common sense to protect our consulate in Benghazi.  We let Putin mow over half of Ukraine while setting eyes on the rest of Eastern Europe.  The only “threat” we seem to take seriously these days is a Canadian oil pipeline.  Maybe Sony should release a film lampooning Stephen Harper next.

 Cross posted at