Reject discord, embrace love

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Last night we held a truly historic election with many firsts, some of which we should celebrate, some which we should lament, and some that just are. The first female candidate of a major party is a first we should celebrate, regardless of who that woman may be or what she may represent. The first president to be elected without prior service in either government or the military is something which may be cause for celebration, lamentation, or neither. Only time can tell. And while far from being the most divisive election in history it has been a rough road these past many months. (For more on the history of divisiveness in politics, read up on the elections of 1800, 1828, 1860, 1884, and 1928; the feud between Vice President Aaron Burr and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton which ended in the death of one; or the tumult of the 1960s, when political assassinations were all too commonplace.)

For many, this election did not go the way they had hoped, but for all of us, whether enjoying victory, grieving loss, or just wondering what happened, we should all remember that politics is still local. The president is still just one man and while that man may be, in many ways, the most powerful on Earth, his power still pales in comparison to the power you have over your own life and even the power you have over your community. If you seek change, let it begin with you.

And I plead most dearly to what I hope is a tiny minority so filled with anger that you are willing to lash out with violence, be it physical or even just verbal; resist that urge. Many, whether rightly or wrongly I will not judge, opposed our next president on the grounds that he would promote hate and violence. This may or may not be the case, but know that, whether he will or will not, you alone have the ultimate power over your own actions. You do not have to give in to your own desires to be hateful or divisive. Meet hate with love. Meet violence with peace.

In the history of the world, the men and women we admire most are the ones who have risen above the fray; Jesus Christ, Susan B Anthony, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela. Be like these men and women. Continue to fight for what you believe in and fight hard, for it is spirited debate that makes us all better. But fight civilly. Fight graciously. Fight respectfully. Fight peacefully.

Perhaps my greatest joy is that President-Elect Trump, Secretary Clinton, and President Obama all delivered some of the best speeches of this campaign season the day after the election. They were messages filled with magnanimity, unity, and support made all the more powerful because of the rancor that existed over the past many months between them. We should all take heed of their call.

And know that, whether you “won” or “lost” last night, things are not going to be as great or as dire as you hoped or feared. The sun will come up tomorrow and the day after that. Our nation will get through the next four years, and in the decades to come, this day will be largely forgotten. I promise you there are more important things happening today than what the news is reporting on; things so wonderful they give me great hope for our nation and our world. Children are being born. Young love is blossoming. Mothers and fathers are celebrating a child’s first steps of the final moments together before their child goes off to start a life of their own. And people are rejecting violence. Blacks and Whites, men and women, immigrant and native born are setting aside what are truly paltry differences and working together to better their communities with deeds as large as million dollar fundraising campaigns and as small, but equally important, as a smile or a door held open. These are the things that truly impact our lives. Let these be the things you build your memories upon. Let these be the things you celebrate today and in the weeks and months to come.

And for those of you who are in despair, know that I grieve with you, not because I despair over the outcome of last night or even the future, but that, simply, you despair and the fact that you suffer, regardless of wthe reason, grieves my heart. To be sure, we are in trying times and the divisiveness which we have thus far experienced and the uncertainty many have about the future serves as a catalyst for fear. And while that fear is not for all the same reasons – some may fear what measures President-Elect Trump and our new congress will pass and how those measures will directly impact their lives while others may fear whether those who have already called for violence against our next president are truly serious or simply venting as they process what was a shock to their expectations – I urge you all to join with me in choosing not to give in to that fear and its resultant divisiveness.

Tangibly, seek out a friend who differs with you and let him know that, despite your differences, you know that there is far more that unites you in friendship than could ever divide you in opposition. Tell her that, regardless of how she views our collective path forward, you understand that, like you, she only has the best of intentions and that, regardless of who may be in power, his power will never have the power to overcome your bond of friendship or the power of love.

Finally, take heart for the future, for I know that our best days are ahead. I know this because, while presidents, kings, and even capitals may come and go, Jesus was, is, and always will be Lord and as long as that is the case, we never have reason to despair.

May God bless you all and may He bless this nation and this world, for it is His blessing that has charted us through the past 400 years of our history and His blessing which will chart us through the coming four.

An Update on Belize

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My wife, son, and I in front of our property in Belize.

 

Twenty miles off shore, Sanctuary Belize's private island, Sanctuary Caye
Twenty miles off shore, Sanctuary Belize’s private island, Sanctuary CayeFriends,

Friends,

A couple of year ago I wrote about why my wife and I decided to invest in real estate in the nation of Belize. With these two years of hindsight I now realize that this was… a GREAT decision! In fact, our investment is turning out to be much better than expected.

When we first reserved our lots in 2011, the Kanatik/Palmaya development was slated to be about 400 acres and include very few amenities (some tennis courts, walking trails and a clubhouse/beach club). Since that time, the development has exploded to 5300 acres and rivals Eco-Futures first development, the nearby Sanctuary Belize, already Belize’s premier development and one of the best developments in the Caribbean.

Kanantik/Palmaya will have the nation of Belize’s only PGA-championship level golf course, a health spa, a greatly expanded beach club, its own private island located a 20-minute water taxi ride away, restaurants, a culinary institute (a joint venture with the government of Belize to train the locals in hospitality and restaurant management, etc.), and several more opportunities for small, retail businesses now that the development has expanded in size and crosses Belize’s Southern Highway, a main road that provides access to the town of Placencia. Outside of Palmaya/Kanantik, more amazing developments, which were only rumors a few years ago, are now nearly completed or well underway including a major hospital, a new international airport that will open to commercial traffic by the end of the year and a new port of call for a major cruise line in nearby Placencia.

All of this means that, not only will Kanantik/Palmaya be an even better place to call a second home/retirement home/investment property, it also means that, as one of the original 25 investors, our property values have already risen by 700-800%! And because Kanantik/Palmaya hasn’t even begun its big marketing push, this number really should go nowhere but up.

Now, friends, if all of this sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, whether as a future resident or just as an investor, give me a call or send me an email. Thanks to my early investment into Kanantik/Palmaya, I actually have an amazing opportunity that I might be able to share with you.

Don’t stop Belizein’!

Mark

Our Best Days Are Ahead

English: An American flag located at the Natio...
English: An American flag located at the National World War II Memorial entrance with the Washington Monument in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My fellow Americans, today our nation celebrates her 237th birthday. As in years past, some are of the opinion that it may be her last. Certainly this is a possibility, for we, simple mortals upon this earth, know not what tomorrow brings, let alone the year ahead. And times may be dark. But we’ve faced even darker moments in the past.

America was born out of the fire. The first seven years of her existence were not. We were still then but a renegade group of colonists battling against the greatest military might the world had ever known. And what’s more, lest we forget, we were far from united. It was but a relatively small group of men who were willing to pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for a cause that, absent the backward gaze of history, one would call foolhardy at best. Perhaps an equal number were as fiercely committed to the Crown, with the remainder, the largest percentage of the population, but leaves of grass, blowing in the wind, thinking their influence unimportant, much like the uninterested and uninvolved of today.

And even after victory had been won, our new nation wasn’t fully united. Not for nearly five years more would we ratify a constitution and become these United States of America.

And even then, one of the great unsettled blights upon the new nation would remain for another 76 years, washed clean only with the blood of more than 200,000 men.

And we’ve faced other, perhaps lesser threats to our existence, but threats of seemingly insurmountable odds nonetheless.

In 1814, death was not only at our doorstep but fully inside our home as the British set fire to Washington, burning the White House nearly to the ground.

In World War II, a surprise attack killed 2000 and crippled our naval forces. Before all was decided, nearly 300,000 American souls had perished, more than in any other conflict before or since. Victory over the Nazi menace and the Empire of Japan was anything but sure.

And just a decade ago, our home soil was attacked, our buildings razed, and nearly 3000 men, women and children, the vast majority civilians, were murdered, becoming the first official victims of the War on Terror.

And, of course, there have been economic crises far worse than what we face today; seemingly unending natural disasters like the Dust Bowl of the 1930s; scores of riots; and another war so unpopular with some that it lead to defeat even though our forces in that theater of war were generally victorious in battle.

As long as this great nation has been, many of her own citizens have been actively calling for her demise with glee while many more have predicted it with sorrow.

But I say no! Never surrender! Never give up! Our best days can be ahead of us but only if we carry that desire in our hearts. It is only when we admit defeat prematurely that we bring about its manifestation. It is only when we give up the fight that we concede victory to our foes.

So today, as America celebrates her 237th birthday, be grateful for the freedom and prosperity that we have! Be grateful for the trials and tribulations that we have faced, for it is those that have given us the character and strength to carry on with resolve, confident of victory even in what is our darkest hour.

America is still the greatest nation on earth and there’s no where most of us would rather be.

And to those who think differently, the world is your oyster. We show you no disdain. No rancor exists in our spirit. But we certainly wish not to keep you few who desire differently. We certainly wish not to hold you imprisoned; for that is not what America is. Our doors are open; most of all for those from far off shores who yearn for the freedoms that only America can provide, but also for those amongst us who yearn for a different path. It is not for us to decide the individual merits of their desires as those desires affect them personally, especially when so much opportunity for those desires exists in other nations. The great marketplace of ideas will decide.

And for those of us who do remain, may we continue to work steadfastly to make this nation greater, freer, more prosperous; all the while being ever vigilant of those who are working to make it less.

America will never fade away. It will never die. America will shine on, even though her light may grow dimmer at times, because America is not a place; America is not a people or even a flag. America is an ideal. And as long as even a few resolute souls carry America in their hearts as those few resolute souls did 237 years ago today, that ideal, that shining city on a hill, will remain.

May God continue to watch over us even when our numbers seem small, our days short, and our future dim. May God keep that fire of freedom burning inside us, sustaining us, even when the cold wind of tyranny blows fierce upon our face. And may God bless America!

Why We Invested in Belize

Friends,

My wife, Rosie, son, Andrew, and I just returned from a trip to Belize where we visited some investment/vacation property we purchased a year and a half ago in a development called Kanantik Belize. We knew it was a smart investment when we made it but after touring the development and seeing, first hand, the progress the developers continue to make on their first development, Sanctuary Belize, located adjacent to Kanantik, we’re even more confident in our decision; so confident, in fact, had we not just purchased a home here in Renton, we would have purchased a third lot in Kanantik.

I’m writing to let you know about this because I know you share some of my reservations about where this nation is headed financially and may, like I was, be looking for another place to invest some of your assets. Of course, this opportunity isn’t for everyone and I certainly wouldn’t advise you to invest everything in Belize – we still hold the majority of our investments here in the U.S. – but if you believe that not putting all your eggs in one basket is a wise investment strategy then this might be for you.

If, after reading, you’d like to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

WHY WE INVESTED IN KANANTIK

The Financial Crisis Hits

Before investing in Kanantik Belize I did extensive research. In the fall of 2008, when many of us began to see the writing on the wall what with the financial crisis and such, I knew it was time to explore other investment options outside the U.S., a place that, should the U.S. banking system continue to falter as it has, would be a safe haven for at least some of our assets.

A Wonderful Nation Called Belize

Without a doubt, Belize rose to the top. It has been a stable nation since gaining a peaceful independence from the U.K. in 1981; it has a low crime rate; it still maintains banking confidentiality (something we can no longer say for Switzerland); it’s just a few hours’ flight from the southern U.S.; and, oh, it has a beautiful climate, maintaining 75-85 degrees year round!

A Wonderful Development Called Kanantik Belize

After settling on Belize I began researching real estate opportunities there and came across Sanctuary Belize, a development of Eco-Futures Belize Limited, a partnership headed by Americans, Belizeans and Australians, that has already won several awards and been recognized by the Belizean government for its care for the environment and wise development strategies. In fact, the Belizean government recently gave the development an US$80 million tax and duty concession!

When a friend of mine who is an investment adviser here in Washington purchased in Sanctuary Belize, raved about it, and then invited me to meet with the developers in August 2011, Rosie and I were sold.

A Low Risk Development Strategy

Sanctuary and Kanantik stand out for many reasons. They operate on a no-debt model meaning that there is not risk that the developers are going to skip out and leave investors holding a worthless piece of land and, as I mentioned above, some of the developers are locals, including the Chairman and Managing Director of Sanctuary Belize, a jovial and welcoming man who has many years of experience in business and real estate development, Johnny Usher. If something were to happen he and the other locals would  have no place to go so they’re more committed than anyone to its success. And Sanctuary Belize, the largest development in Belize at 14,000 acres, continues to remain on track with its development goals. Last fall it flooded the 250 slip marina and many owners have begun building on their lots. At least one couple has already moved there full-time.

First-Class Development Plan

Sanctuary and Kanantik are also doing things first class. Although Belize is a safe nation, none of us would ever think of leaving our homes unattended for a long period of time so one of the most important things about the development is that it will have full-time security. And for those people looking to use their property as a vacation rental when they’re not in residence, the developers have recently acquired the Caldwell Bank Real Estate franchise for the nation of Belize and will be able to provide rental as well as resale services to owners.

Amenities

Sanctuary and Kanantik will have some of the greatest amenities in the whole country. The 250 slip marina I mentioned above will be the only deep water marina in the nation, meaning that sailors from around the Caribbean will come to moor, making it a vibrant place to visit.

The Sanctuary development is situated on 14,000 acres of savanna, jungle, river and beach. Only 4000 acres has been set aside for development though meaning that the area will remain lush and beautiful, an important feature that draws many people to this beautiful nation.

The Marina Village in Sanctuary will feature a hotel, condos, a restaurant as well as other shops. Including some of the best gelato this side of Milan, which we sampled on a day trip to Placencia where the current gelato shop, which is owned by a Milanese woman, is located. It will move or expand to Sanctuary Belize once development of the Marina Village is complete.)

Sanctuary Belize also owns a private caye about 20 miles off shore (water taxi service will be provided for those who don’t own a boat). Our day out there was postcard perfect.

Twenty miles off shore, Sanctuary Belize’s private island, Sanctuary Caye

A golf course and many other amenities are also either under construction or are planned for development during the next few years.

Kanantik

Sanctuary Belize is wonderful but because its development is well underway and it has been so popular, many of the less expensive lots have already been snatched up. While there is still great opportunity there, the developers realized the growing demand and recently began a second development, Kanantik. This is where Rosie and I chose to purchase two lots simply because we were able to get in on the ground floor (we’re investor number 16 in this development). The developers haven’t yet opened up Kanantik to more investors but they will soon and I have no doubt it will follow the same trend as Sanctuary Belize.

Kanantik borders Sanctuary Belize to the south. Originally it was planned as a much smaller, 400 acre development with few amenities but the developers were able to purchase another 5400 acres and add amenities rivaling, if not surpassing those in Sanctuary, including a golf course, restaurants, and private cay.

Belize is a beautiful nation full of friendly and vibrant people and a wealth of opportunity. Sanctuary Belize and Kanantik Belize are Belize’s premier developments. I’d love to share more about this opportunity and maybe even count you as a neighbor there in the future. If this interests you or you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call or email me. If enough people are interested, the developers have agreed to make another visit up to the Seattle area to go over things in more detail and answer questions that I may not be able to.

Love Actually Is All Around

One of our Christmas traditions is watching the movie Love Actually. We watched it on Saturday, the day after the horrible massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The opening lines of the film struck me more than usual with the news fresh in my mind.

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around.”

As horrible as the massacre at Sandy Hook was – and make no mistake, nothing is more tragic than the brutal murder of so many young children – tragedy befalls this nation everyday. When a mother loses her infant to SIDS does she grieve any less? When a husband loses his wife to a drunk driver crossing the center line is his world not turned upside down? No, yet these moments are rarely covered in the media and certainly not on a national level. And this isn’t to say that the media shouldn’t have covered Sandy Hook or that they should cover the more “everyday” occurrences of tragedy. News is news because it is novel; something out of the ordinary. But as we watch these tragedies unfold we should be mindful that the novelty which brought their coverage is a reminder that “love actually is all around.” If the world really was filled with hatred and greed instead of love and charity these tragedies would be more commonplace, we’d be desensitized to them, and the media would be covering something else.

So grieve the children of Sandy Hook. But at the same time, and perhaps to a greater extent, celebrate the heroism of people like teacher Victoria Soto and therapist Rachel Davino, who were so full of love for their first grade students that they gave their lives protecting them. Celebrate six-year old Jack Pinto who was, in the words of his family, an “inspiration to all those who knew him.” His family also added that they would not dwell “on the loss but instead on the gift that we were given and will forever cherish in our hearts forever.”

Life is short no matter how long we live and every day should be cherished as a gift. Those days or moments that are extraordinarily good we should celebrate even more. And these moments don’t have to be newsworthy, although perhaps they should be. They can be the smile that lifts someone’s spirits on a dreary day. They can be the latte purchased by the person in front of you at the drive-thru. Many times they even rise to the level of newsworthiness, as did this story about a cop giving a motorist much more than a citation.

We may never truly know all the motives behind the tragedies that befall society but one hypothesis is fame. Even though these monsters often turn the gun on themselves in the end, perhaps realizing the magnitude of their act, it seems some do it for the attention they will receive. A Facebook post originally attributed to Morgan Freeman, despite being a hoax in some sense, nonetheless speaks the truth. The post ends by encouraging readers to “help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim… You can help by turning off the news.”

I’ll go one further. We should encourage and spread good news, if we choose to make famous not the cowards hiding behind an arsenal of guns but the heroes that step in front of them perhaps our young people will grow up aspiring to this kind of fame instead. And I’ll say it, we could certainly benefit from some more solid morality in society. As a friend quipped, “some people ask how God could allow something so tragic to happen in a grade school; perhaps it is because God is no longer allowed in schools.”

Hurricane Obama

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Clearwater Beach looking out at the Gulf of Mexico. A week ago it seemed everyone in the media was chomping at the bit to declare that the worst storm since Katrina would make landfall right here and cancel everything. As late as 11 this morning I received an email alert from the National Journal, which serves as a sort of Convention newspaper, stating that the Convention, which has already been truncated by a day, could be truncated to mere hours; just time enough for a roll call vote and a brief acceptance speech from Romney in which he’d declare the emergency of Class 25 Hurricane Isaac too important and summarily call the convention to a close, suspend the campaign and tell everyone to vote for Obama or something.

The height of irony is that less than 20 minutes later I got another alert from National Journal saying that the Tropical Storm warning (wait, I thought this was supposed to be a hurricane) has been cancelled for everyone on Florida’s Gulf Coast and that it will make landfall in Louisiana barely strong enough to register as a Class 1 hurricane. From talking with several locals down here I’ve learned that a Class 1 hurricane is pretty much a non-event.

(As a frame of reference, Hurricane Katrina was a Class 5 that was downgraded to a Class 4 by the time it hit New Orleans. And New Orleans only got ravaged to such a horrible extent because the city founders thought it would be a good idea to build a city (“You didn’t build that!”) below sea level (forgive them; they were French) and the contemporary city government, led by Mayor Ray “Chocolate City” Nagin, thought it would be a good idea to spend federal emergency management funds on Mardi Gras instead of repairing the levees. (But it’s all Bush’s fault and he actually sent Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney down on a secret mission to blow up the levees right after Halliburton actually seeded Hurricane Katrina. True story.)

Yes, the media loves to create a story where there is none. It it bleeds it leads. And what could be better than a cancelled GOP Convention? So disappointing that it didn’t come to pass and now the adults have a chance to do some work.

And so it is on the political scale at large. The media enjoys whipping up a non-story on behalf of then Candidate, now President Obama. “Hope and Change!” “We’re gonna spread happiness. We’re gonna spread freedom. Obama’s gonna change it. Obama’s gonna lead.” (Sung to the tune of Mao, Mao, Our Dear Leader) “The oceans will begin to recede.” The world will love us and there’ll be a vegetable medley from the White House garden in every pot and dozens of Chevy Volts in every parking lot. And if we don’t elect him things will just get worse. We need to pass the bill to find out what’s in it. We need to re-elect Obama to find out what he’ll do in the second term.

Well, sorry to disappoint, but the Great Hope of 2008 didn’t seem to pan out. Instead we got Hurricane Obama, far more destructive than a score of Katrinas and, to anyone who’s studied even a bit of history, economics or the Chicago Way, far more predictable. In an effort to create a great story the media failed to properly vet their candidate. Four years ago it wasn’t “if it bleeds, it leads”. Instead, it quickly became “He leads and the nation’s bank account bleeds.”

This time, I hope enough people will realize that too many in the media care more about a good story than they do about what is likely to happen. Today’s scheduled events have been cancelled but the rest of the Convention will proceed. The past four years have been cancelled and, if enough of us choose who will lead us during the next four years based on facts and reason instead of hype and hope, this nation can proceed as well.

Keeping it simple

“They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer- not an easy answer- but simple.”

– A Time for ChoosingOct 27, 1964, Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States (1911-2011)

President Reagan made this particular statement in reference to the conflict in Vietnam. He knew the simple answer was to do the right thing and fight the ever-growing threat of Communist expansion in Southeast Asia (and Eastern Europe). It’s never easy to go to war, risking life and limb in defense of liberty, but once the decision is made it is quite a simple proposition, especially with right on our side not to mention a superior arsenal. This simple strategy of war is best summed up in another quote from Reagan, “Here’s my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.” Until the day the Berlin Wall fell and greater freedom was granted to millions of people living behind the Iron Curtain there were plenty of critics of this simplistic philosophy, but on November 9, 1989 Reagan was vindicated and totalitarianism was largely relegated to the ash heap of history. (Or so many thought but no, to answer Francis Fukuyama, there is never an end of history, for, as the quote erroneously attributed to Scottish Historian Alexander Tytler states,

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always vote for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.”)

And just as the strategy for winning the Cold War was one of simplicity so, too, is the strategy for addressing all other problems that we face as a society. Contrary to what ivory towered intellectuals would like us to believe, Occam’s razor (lex parsimoniae) is correct; things are black & white. It may appear that the solution lies in that grey area for it may be difficult for some to discern the answer but in all probability this difficulty arises out of an over-complication of the problem.

In general, the solution to most of the problems being addressed by public policy is to do the exact opposite: make it private policy, eliminate the government program created to “solve” it and let the private sector take over. Privatize education. Privatize health care. Privatize welfare. As Albert Einstein said, “The only justifiable purpose of political institutions is to assure the unhindered development of the individual.” In other words, the government’s only job is to protect our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (also known as property); to ensure equal access, not equal results. Beyond that it is up to the charity of the community to ensure that the poor and enfeebled not go hungry, for the government cannot give assistance to one citizen without first taking it from another (and skimming a fairly sizable portion off the top in the form of bureaucratic inefficiency).

To this philosophy I devote the majority of this blog. These are my rants and ramblings on public policy, politics and pop-culture. And because I am a devoted Christian I will, from time to time, weigh in on matters of faith and religion as the Spirit leads me. I may throw in the occasional post on food, travel or some other truly enjoyable pastime, for as John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife Abigail,

“I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”


Is it time for state funding of media to go?

The Washington News Council ruled on a disagreement between the Vitae Foundation and KUOW regarding a story that KUOW ran last April. It should be well noted that this is only the fifth time in its 14 year history that the WNC has had to make a ruling, the vast majority of the disagreements brought before it being mediated.

In five out of six complaints brought before the council it ruled in favor of Vitae, deciding that KUOW did have the responsibility to get a response from Vitae before running the story and that, having made some factual errors in the original story, KUOW should have corrected those errors on-air, not just online. The only complaint that went in KUOW’s favor was that of wanting them to run a full, on-air story on Vitae. In regards to this, Joel Kaplan of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting puts it best “A credible and responsible news organization promptly corrects its mistakes,” Mr. Kaplan said. “It does not trade its most valuable commodity — its airtime — as a way to apologize by promoting a story on an organization that does not pass the newsworthy test.” () And I think Vitae’s request for a full story had more to do with the fact that KUOW chose not to get a response or make timely and appropriate corrections to the original story, not that they wanted a full on story just because.

One thing that is absent in all of this though (and not without reason, since WNC should remain apolitical and like any good judiciary, rule only on the cases before it, not the greater themes those cases depict), is the fact that both KUOW and Planned Parenthood receive government funding. Does this make them more likely to air biased stories portraying other organizations that receive government funding in a kinder light? There are certainly critiques of private news sources airing preferential stories about organizations from which they may benefit and regardless of the legitimacy of those critiques, these organizations always quick to point out a potential conflict of interest (i.e. in a story about GE, NBC will point out that they are owned by them). Should KUOW at least point these facts out as well? Maybe not. The connection, after all, isn’t quite as close; Planned Parenthood doesn’t own KUOW. But the whole arrangement of government funded media is just a bit too Pravda-esque. And why continue with it anyway?

Norm Arkans, the Associate VP of Media Relations and Communications for the University of Washington told me his office is the one that lobbies for funding from the University for KUOW and said that the only funding KUOW receives from the University goes to cover most of the station manager’s salary. All the other operating expenses of the station come from listener support and underwriting. Of course, not included in the station manager’s salary or in the operating budget as a whole are all the benefits an employee of KUOW receives: pension, health care, etc.

News Director Guy Nelson says differently, stating that “KUOW gets no state funding (not even from the UW, though we are considered UW staff) and only a small amount of CPB funding.”

According to their website, KUOW receives 89% of its funding from individuals and business support. The important question is, how much of the remaining 11% comes from the tooth fairy?

In regards to government funding in general he adds, “while decreasing federal funding wouldn’t change much for KUOW, it could really hurt small stations around the country who are much more dependent, leaving their listeners with no alternative to commercially owned radio and news. So for that reason, independent public radio is very important and government funding is a necessary part of that.”

For what it’s worth, Arkans said KUOW is “a good news organization” with “a strong commitment to fairness.” Okay. Is that “strong commitment” sort of like the “serious consideration” that KUOW said during mediation it would give to running an on-air story about Vitae? Words are nice but they ring hollow when confronted with actions such as these.

Nelson states that “every news organization makes occasional errors. Neither the WNC or CPB said or implied that KUOW is biased in its coverage or lacking in professionalism. Anyone who alleges a conflict needs to come up with evidence to support their claims.” Hmm, does not owning up to your mistakes immediately following their happening and having to go before the Washington News Council where you’re ruled against not constitute evidence? Well, certainly not the level of evidence required to convict beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law but not reaching that level of evidence has never seemed to stop the media (and I refer to all media, not just KUOW or NPR). Maybe NPR’s firing of Juan Williams because he dared to answer a question truthfully instead of politically-correct constitutes evidence.

For the record, Planned Parenthood and the reporter of the original story, Meghan Walker, declined to comment on this story.

And while we’re exploring government funding of the media let’s take a gander at Voice of America. Since the passage of the Smith-Mundt Act in 1948 VOA has been prohibited from broadcasting within the US (although, thanks to the interwebs you can listen to streaming audio online). Why? Evil, scary propaganda, like, you know, a recent story about Algae as Fuel. Wait. What? You mean like this story on NPR: “Could Algae Be Milked Like A Cow?” Maybe not like a cow but certainly like a grant from the CPB! So if VOA is not allowed to broadcast stories about algae because they receive government funding how is it that NPR, who also receives government funding can?

Reflections on 10 Years Past

Like most people of a certain age I remember it as if it were yesterday. Back then I was working in the travel industry, as a call-center reservations agent for Princess Cruises. I was on the 10am-7pm shift and usually only woke in time to quickly get ready and walk to the bus stop; not enough time to turn on the TV or radio.

It’s funny how the little things stick with you. A friend once told me in high school that, if you’re studying for a big test, after you’re done you should do something really memorable like go skydiving because then you’ll remember everything you did surrounding that event. While I was walking up the hill to the bus stop I passed a guy speaking frantically into his cell phone, “Next they’ll be dropping bombs on us!” Since I had no idea of what had just happened I figured he was some sort of mildly crazy person. I’m not sure if most of the passengers had already heard the news and were living in a daze like so many of us did that day or it was just a coincidence, but the bus ride was particularly quiet that day. When I arrived at work it was anything but.

“The Air Force has just shot down a plane in California!”
“What?! Why?!”
“It refused to land!”
“What do you mean, it refused to land?! The Air Force doesn’t just shoot down planes because they refuse to land!”
“The FAA has grounded all flights! The Twin Towers are gone!”
“What do you mean, they’re gone?! Buildings don’t just disappear!”

It was still early enough in the day that rumors were running rampant. The plane allegedly shot down in California was, as we all now know, United Flight 93, taken over by a group of brave passengers and crashed into a field near Shanksville, PA, saving untold lives and our nation’s capital from destruction. Thank God for small miracles and thank God for those heroic passengers.

After answering a few frantic calls from cruise passengers who were stranded in Alaska or Florida, kept from reaching their homes and loved ones at a time when they must have most wanted to be with them, I took a break and went over to my supervisor’s desk, determined to get answers. As she explained the facts of the day’s unfolding events the gravity of the situation hit me hard, like those planes had hit the towers. I’d been pretty broken up about the bombing of the USS Cole nearly a year before but this paled in comparison. Seventeen officers and seamen in a foreign and somewhat hostile port who’d sworn to uphold our freedoms knowing full well that commitment might result in death compared to thousands of civilian men, women and children who were flying home to see their families or turning on their computers and pouring their first cups of coffee for the day. Things like this were not supposed to happen. We were supposed to be safe here. Sure, we’d faced Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center bombing of 1993. Those were bad enough but still somewhat bearable. Planes crashing into buildings that then collapsed to the ground?! People jumping to their deaths, preferring a quick impact to the agony of being burned alive?! This didn’t even happen in the movies. Wasn’t the hero always supposed to stop the tragedy at the last minute? It’s ironic that so many people who recall what they were doing on that day speak of glancing at a TV in a shop window or above a bar and mentioning that they’d “seen this movie before, I think it stars Bruce Willis.” But this wasn’t Die Hard or The Towering Inferno. This was real life.

I returned to my desk but I didn’t stay long. It only took one call from a surly travel agent who remarked that the fact that “we” couldn’t get her passengers to their cruise in time “would be bad for publicity and possibly end in a lawsuit.” I had a few very choice words for her to be sure and then realized I wasn’t in a place, mentally, to be handling any calls of a such a petty nature that day. I wished I was in New York so I could help with the rescue effort. I even considered hopping a Greyhound Bus in the ensuing days but didn’t end up doing so. I still wish I had. It’s hard for me to sit idly by, even if it’s from 3000 miles away, and watch calamity unfold.

So I walked the few miles to my church. One of our members was considerably more distraught. She worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, the company that lost most of its workforce that day. Because of that enormous loss she was promoted to a VP position, everyone else in her department having lost their lives. Something like that isn’t even bittersweet. It’s just bitter.

After the service I walked to a nearby hotel restaurant and ordered a cup of clam chowder. I didn’t hunger for food but for information and knew there’d be a TV there. Newscasters, out of their normal stoic character for once, fought back tears as they described the day’s events while the terrible images of that day played in loops.

After a bit I’d regained my composure enough so that I decided to return to the office. On the way I picked up the Seattle Times’ Extra Edition that I still hold to this day.

When I returned home that day I went to the roof of my apartment building and lowered the flag to half-mast then spent the rest of the evening watching the news and speaking to a few friends and relatives. I remember one conversation with some Canadian friends. I remember how grateful I was to them, to their nation, that they’d allowed many of our passenger jets to land at their airports. It seems like such a small gesture, so easy to accommodate, but on that day even the smallest gestures seemed like the world to us.

And during the next days and weeks the feelings that would grip me most would not be sadness, although that surely came and went throughout that time and sticks with me even today as I write this. No, the feeling I remember and cherish the most is one of joy and pride. The terrorists, as their moniker denotes, tried to terrorize us that day. They wanted us to live in fear. They wanted us to feel their hate. And while, just as with sadness, the emotions of fear and hate did grip many of us and, again, like sadness, may still grip some of us today, the emotions that won out were those of joy, thankfulness, pride, bravery and love. As one poster that made its rounds in the coming months and years and depicted a dust covered New York Firefighter said, “When others ran out, he ran in.” Another one of my favorite commercials showed a typical American scene, a row of houses on a quiet residential street. Words superimposed stated that, “on September 11th, the terrorists tried to change America. They succeeded.” The picture then changed to show every one of those houses flying an American flag. And it wasn’t just on TV. Even here in Seattle, a place that rarely wears its national patriotism on its sleeve, the Stars and Stripes flew from seemingly every awning, rooftop and car, more ubiquitous than even a Starbuck’s Grande Half-Caf Latte. Two and a half weeks later I attended the ballet, the furthest thing one could imagine from unabashed patriotism, at least here in Seattle. But even there, before the curtain came up, the entire hall joined in singing the national anthem and the final piece of the evening was set to Stars and Stripes Forever. And people cared, genuinely. They asked stranger and neighbor alike, “how are you doing” and really meant it. Estranged friends and long forgotten relatives reconnected for the first time in years. For a short period it seemed that even gang members had come to a truce as former foes dropped their pettiness and became friends.

As with all things, I may be remembering some of the zeitgeist of those days through a bit of rose colored patina, but surely we were more civil, caring and united in the months that followed September 11th, 2001 than we are today. And I suppose that’s to be expected but it’s still, nonetheless, disheartening. In time, sadly, many of us will forget and a century from now it may only be but a footnote in the broader history of the 21st century. And that’s why it’s important that we take the time to remember that day and those that followed with a little extra clarity. In the days and even weeks and months to come, while we continue to look forward to what will surely be a brighter future (we must hope for no less), we must take the occasional moment not only to remember where we were when we first heard the news, but the feelings that unfolded from it. Remember the warm embrace of a love one that you held extra close that evening. Remember the genuine smile and authenticity of that “how are you doing” you received from the barista as you picked up your coffee the following mornings. Remember the extra feeling of national pride you got whenever you glimpsed a swatch of red, white and blue or heard the first few bars of our national anthem. And take those memories and try, at least for the next few weeks, to incorporate them back into your character. Smile a little bigger at that person behind the counter, show a little more understanding to that driver who just cut you off, put a little more sincerity behind that “how are you doing” and maybe, just maybe, we can regain a bit of the positive change we all experienced in the days that followed.

And for my part, to those who I’ve sometimes sparred with on this blog or elsewhere, my apologies for the times when it got a bit too heated, a bit too personal. We can disagree about the path to prosperity and peace. We can disagree about whether the Affordable Care Act is the right way to bring health care to those who are currently without. But in those disagreements let’s remember that we are allies in freedom, united in the belief that there can be a better tomorrow, that there can be peace and prosperity and that the only way we can grant victory to our enemy is when we forget that there truly is more that unites us than divides us.

God bless the men and women who gave their lives on 9/11. God bless those who continue to give their lives in the cause for freedom and God bless America!

Cross posted at SoundPolitics.com.

State GOP Chair Kirby Wilbur: Passionate and Pragmatic

This past January, Kirby Wilbur was swept into the office of Washington State Republican Party Chairman on a wave of Tea Party support. But unlike many tea-partiers, Kirby has been a fixture in Washington State Republican politics for decades.

Maybe that’s because it’s in his blood. He was born in Washington, D.C., moving to the other side of the country when he was only eight. He first took notice of politics, however, during the 1964 election. His parents weren’t especially political. They voted for Kennedy in 1960 but felt Johnson was the wrong choice in 1964. Wilbur, like most kids that age, threw his support behind the same candidate as his parents, Barry Goldwater. Unlike many, though, he was very passionate about that choice and was one of only six in his class to wear a Goldwater button. The majority of the others supported Johnson.

His first real involvement, and the first time he got his name in the Seattle Times, came a few years later in High School when he and a friend decided to rip down a “Che Guevara” flag that a group of SDS students had put up in place of the US flag in one of the classrooms. After grabbing it and running out of the room, he and his friend planned to hold a public burning of the flag.

“If they were going to go around burning my flag I was going to burn theirs,” Wilbur says.

When the leader of his school’s SDS movement confronted him, demanding that he give him his flag back, Wilbur questioned the student’s communist philosophy. “You’re flag? I thought you believed in collectivism. This flag belongs as much to me and as it does to you.”

The following day he was able to gather his fellow conservatives, the media and a couple hundred other students, most of whom, while not as passionate about politics as Wilbur, weren’t big fans of the SDS. When his rival showed up and threatened to call the police Wilbur again questioned his philosophy. “You mean the same police who you were calling ‘pigs’ just the other day? Now that you need something you’re going to call them?” In the end, Wilbur, showing some of the pragmatism and diplomacy he carries with him today, chose not to burn the flag. Instead he returned it but only under the condition that it wouldn’t be displayed again unless a majority of the Queen Anne High School student body voted for it. There was never an election.

Today he’s not as confrontational as he was in those days. In fact, he finds the personal nature of politics to be its ugliest side. He has many liberal friends who he enjoys discussing politics with but believes the personal and sometimes violent nature of things, like name calling and the keying of cars because someone has a bumper sticker you disagree with, have no place in politics.

He doesn’t expect the negativity of politics will ever go away, though, and points to the fact that we’ve come a long way as a nation in becoming more civil despite what some may claim from the podium or the press. He blames much of the misconception on our 24/7 news cycle.

He also believes negative politics are here to stay because, despite what people may say to pollsters about how much they hate the negativity, negative politicking works. And of course, he adds, one person’s truth may be another one’s negativity. “At least we’re not holding duels in Lafayette Park anymore!”

An avid historian, Wilbur also shares a story about the 1800 presidential campaign, during which Jefferson was accused of being an atheist and opponents spread rumors that he’d seize everyone’s Bible’s if elected. (Ed. – Something those who through out claims about Perry and Bachmann wanting to take away their religious freedoms might take note of.)

He does feel that the Republican Party could spend more time on promoting its issues though.

“If you look at the last few elections in Washington State you’ll notice that even heavily Democratic areas like Grays Harbor County voted overwhelmingly for anti-tax initiatives. In fact, during the 2010 election, there was a double-digit spread in 30 out of 39 counties between Democratic victories and anti-tax initiative victories. Sure, there are some Patty Murray Democrats who are anti-tax, but not that many. I think that shows there’s a disconnect between what the Republican Party actually stands for and what many voters feel the Republican Party might stand for.”

On the issue of political parties he’s clear. While Washington warned his successors against forming parties, he believes Washington was a strict constitutionalist and therefore didn’t see the need for parties.

“If we were to follow the letter of the constitution, which gives government a very defined role, there would be no need for parties.” But Wilbur also realizes that the debate between strict constitutionalism and a broader view of government’s role has been going on since the time of Jefferson and Hamilton and, as long as it does, there will always be a need for political parties. Furthermore, he believes in the two-party system.

“The only perfect candidate for me is me and the only perfect candidate for you is you. Having multiple parties brings chaos,” he says, referencing the nature of multi-party, parliamentary systems like the United Kingdom.

And because he believes in the efficacy of a two-party system, he also believes in the idea of the “big tent.”

“The Republican Party’s core values are basically economic.” He welcomes libertarian minded people into the fold because they basically believe in a limited roll of government.

“Our differences on issues like abortion basically come down to where we believe life begins.” He adds that, although he welcomes pro-choice libertarians into the party, he will continue to fight for the pro-life stance in the Republican Party’s platform.

What three things would he like to see done to reform election and campaign law?

1. He’d like to see registration by party; Republican, Democrat, Independent. “It’s about the primary. Parties are like a club and only members of the club should be allowed to select their own representatives. Having an open primary is like having the Elk’s Club President being elected by Rotarians.” He thinks one way around this would be to return to the days when we had party conventions but he’d also be okay with a traditional closed primary.

2. He’d like to see us return to poll-only voting with no absentee ballots unless there’s a legitimate reason. “I may have a Norman Rockwell view but I just like the idea of everyone going to the polls; people being able to interact with their neighbors.”

3. He’d like to see campaign donation limits lifted but have immediate reporting. “Donations are a form of speech and should not be restricted be they from individuals, corporations or unions. If I want to give a candidate a million dollars I should be able to do that. He will then, of course, have to weigh the impact of taking that donation.” He doesn’t believe that money is as big an influence on politics as some think. “Politicians don’t sell their votes. When people give to a candidate they’re doing so because of that person’s ideology.”

When it comes to the issue of term limits he believes politicians should limit themselves but ultimately let the voters decide. “Term limits lead to lazy voters. If they know the guy in office is going to be out at the end of that term they don’t worry as much about what he’s doing.”

He does like the idea of limiting the terms of congressional staffers or at least rotating them around since they often have much more knowledge and, therefore power, than the senators and representatives they serve.

Ultimately though, he believes the only way to limit the corruption that comes along with things like big money donations, lobbyists and lifetime congressmen is to limit the size and scope of government. “Lobbyists are just doing their job. If politicians had no ability to hand out all those favors there’d be no reason for there to be as many lobbyists.”

As for Wilbur’s “best” moment of his political career, “meeting Reagan at the White House in 1983. We were looking at a collection of plates on a shelf inside the Oval Office when he walked in. Before we even heard or saw him we felt his presence.”