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 AmericanThinker.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bugs Bunny vs. Kim Jong Un

bugs-hitler

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 AmericanThinker.com.

Music to Inspire!

Music is one of the greatest forms of art there is. There’s something visceral and primeval about it. Just an arrangement of sounds, but it can move men to tears. Some of the best, some of the most emotional scores, are those composed for cinema. They may remind us of the film but even on their own, to someone who may never have seen the film for which they were written, they can stir up great emotion. What follows are some of the great musical scores of cinema as well as a few others, all of which might serve as a soundtrack for the more inspired or inspiring moments of your life. So do battle, fight dragons and climb mountains! And while you do, listen to some Williams, Silvestri or Holst!

  1. Forrest Gump Suite by Alan Silvestri (from the film Forrest Gump) – Heroes are ordinary people who answer the call during extraordinary times, usually unaware of their greatness. This score is a fanfare for the common man living an uncommon life. It starts simply; includes movements of sadness, joy and sentimentality, as all life does;  crescendoes epically; and ends as simply as it began, like an old man peacefully reflecting on a full life.
  2. Main Theme by Michael Kamen (from the TV series Band of Brothers)  – A haunting and humbly heroic score, perhaps not tear-worthy on its own but certainly when accompanied by the emotional and humbly heroic subject matter of the series. By the middle of the series it only took but a few notes and seconds of the opening credits for me to be overcome.
  3. Roll Tide by Hans Zimmer (from the film Crimson Tide) – A most serious theme for a film that deals with the most serious of themes. Definitely one to prepare you for battle.
  4. Take Us Out by Jerry Goldsmith (from the film Rudy) – I was late to the game (pardon the pun) as the first time I actually heard this score was at the introduction of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, so every time I hear it I can’t help but think of her. And despite of what you may think of her politics, she, like the eponymous film character, is a great example of the American Dream of the common man (or woman) rising to greatness and the notion that greatness doesn’t always have to be defined by epic heroism – the aforementioned slaying of dragons or the actual battle – but is, instead, often defined by simply rising from adversity to achieve the goals we set for ourselves. Take Us Out, like Forrest Gump Suite, is a fanfare to the common man. After all, what’s so great about a kid from Joliet, Illinois wanting to play for the Fighting Irish and succeeding through endless perseverance? The better question is, what isn’t? The Main Title from the film is also excellent, expressive of the innocence of Rudy.
  5. West Wing Main Title by Snuffy Walden (from the TV series West Wing) – A quaintly patriotic score for a brilliantly patriotic series.

More to come!

Fashion Police vs. P.C. Police

An article posted on U.S. News’ Washington Whispers blog yesterday reports on a fashion briefing at the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. entitled “How to Dress for Success.”

Judging by many of the comments that follow, there seems to be a misunderstanding about the DIA, which was only exacerbated by the author’s first sentence: A week after women were cleared to serve in combat, Defense Intelligence Agency employees got a different message.” So, to clear up any confusion, most employees at the DIA are civilians and, therefore, do not wear uniforms. Now that that has been dealt with…

The crux of my problem with this “incident” is DIA director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s response, calling the briefing an “unnecessary and serious distraction” and “highly offensive.” Lighten up, General.

First of all, knowing the Defense bureaucracy, I’ll bet a Vera Wang* that the briefing was cleared by at least a half a dozen folks before it was given. Second, it was voluntary and I’m guessing it was probably given during a lunch hour. Third, presentations on dressing for success are a staple in the corporate world and, although I couldn’t find any figures on this, I’ll bet a closet full of Jimmy Choos that personal fashion consulting is a billion-dollar industry. So why is it so highly offensive to pass these tips on during a DIA employee’s down time but not in the boardroom of a Fortune 500 company? Heck, even a  quick search revealed that this image consultant has worked with the military “to establish appropriate levels of dress and grooming critical to business relations.”

Of course, I wasn’t at this briefing so I can only go by the descriptions in the article and had I sat in on it maybe I’d come away with a different opinion, but I’ll bet a genuine Prada handbag that it all comes down to political correctness. The P.C. crowd has convinced some of us that there are no differences between men and women, especially on the outside. Now I’m a pretty liberated guy. While I’m not sure having women on the front-lines is such a great idea from an operational standpoint (upper-body strength being one of those differences between men and women that could get in the way), I fully concede that there are plenty of women who kick some serious butt (Grace Jones comes to mind), so I’m okay with it if said woman is able to function properly and able to carry a 200-pound wounded soldier out of harm’s way, not to mention her 70 pounds of gear. I also don’t think women need to wear makeup to be beautiful. I don’t, however, buy in to one US News commenter’s quip that she “would be furious if I was told that I wasn’t good enough being made in God’s image. Did God wear makeup, heels, and nail polish?” As someone else aptly responded, “Does God wear clothes? Do you think he takes a shower and uses soap? Just curious as to where the line is when we start thinking like this.”

A fashion consultant friend of mine likes to talk about inside-out transformation, and when she gives fashion advice to her clients it’s all about helping them to feel better about themselves in a very deep and transformational way. She rightly believes that all people are created beautifully in God’s image but that doesn’t mean we can’t accentuate our appearances with style. And we all know this is true. Is someone less of a person because they choose to go out in public with messy hair; a grease-stained, ill-fitting t-shirt; and a pair of thread-bare sweats? In a way, and at that particular moment, yes, because he is not living up to his full potential. If a friend of yours was constantly showing up looking like that you’d probably be a bit worried that his outward appearance was reflecting an inner struggle that was keeping him from being the most he could be.

So back to the DIA briefing, I suppose some of the comments could be considered mildly offensive. Certainly “Makeup makes you more attractive” said as a blanket statement to all in attendance is not good fashion advice because it doesn’t fit everyone’s personal style. But I’ll bet a full day at the NARS counter that many of those type statements were taken out of context. Others, like “brunettes have more leeway with vibrant colors than blondes or redheads” are just the facts. You can take offense, but it doesn’t change the reality that some color combinations are just better than others. Is it the end of the world if you’re not complementing your natural skin-tone? No, but it might be fashion advice worth considering; just as you’d probably consider combing your hair and brushing your teeth before you went out the door.

So General Flynn doesn’t need to apologize for the briefing and no one needs counseling (at least in this case) on “what it means to think before you act” except, maybe, the good General and his public affairs officer. (Although, I’ll bet a few hours in Nick Arrojo’s chair that any response from the DIA is just part of standard CYA operations and that the person who will probably get a talking to is the busybody employee who chose to air his dirty Levis to the Washington Press Corp.)

*Special thanks to my wife for making What Not to Wear a staple in our house so I could pepper this post with a bunch of haute couture references. To my male readers, I promise the next post will contain at least as many references to RPGs, ICBMs and APCs.

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.”

Brought to you by the free market

I joined some friends for dinner in Seattle on Saturday evening. Afterwards, the sun having decided to make an appearance, I decided to take a stroll around Downtown and was drawn to Westlake Park by the boisterous sounds of Seattle’s own Titanium Sporkestra, who bill themselves as a renegade marching band playing anything from Black Sabbath to gypsy anthems. They had attracted quite the crowd and young and old alike were having a great time.

I make it a habit of not giving money to people on the street (I prefer to give food) but I gladly make exceptions for street performers as I did on Saturday. I don’t know whether they had a permit to play (considering the size of their band I assume they did), but I really don’t care. I see performers like the Titanium Sporkestra, the a capella group, A Moment in Time, who perform in front of the original Starbucks, or the sadly passed “Tuba Man” as performing a service in the free market. I was able to stand there and listen to a few songs all for the bargain price of a couple bucks (or even free, had I so chosen) and they were able to rake in hundreds of bucks (I even spotted a $100 bill in the jar they passed around to great reception after each song) to pay for their jaunts to events like Austin’s SXSW, their latte’s or maybe even Obama’s re-election campaign. (I suspect, despite their capitalist pursuits, a fair number of them probably aren’t Republicans.) Even better, their performance was brought to you by the free-market (and, yes, you can argue that the park was provided by government and it’s possible they’ve even received a government grant in their day, but just go with me on this). Nick Licata didn’t have to direct several thousand dollars of taxes to a program to get them to play. Sally Clark didn’t have to go around town handing out flyers and putting up posters announcing the event. It all just happened thanks to the independent and entrepreneurial spirit that exists even here and would, no doubt, exist in an even greater capacity if government would just get out of the way. There’s absolutely zero need for a government appointed Arts Commission or Office of Cultural Affairs. Not only is it not necessary, but by relegating some of the arts to the purview of the bureaucracy, a strong argument can be made that the creativity of the artists is being stifled.

As a juxtaposition, on the other side of Pine Street, Key Bank has set up a nice little area with tables and chairs for people to enjoy the rare sunny weekend. Again, this brought to you by the free market.

And the wonders of the free market don’t stop there. Also gracing the intersection of Fourth & Pine were two wildly different religious groups, a Christian Evangelical handing out tracts about the love of Christ and a group of Black “Hebrews” spreading a racist message (think “Nation of Islam” except they’re wearing Stars of David). At least they were doing it passively. Neither group was state mandated or forcing their ideology on anyone. The free market will direct people toward the best ideology.

Farewell, Sam, and Thanks for Your Service

Secretary of State Sam Reed announced his intentions not to run for a third term next year and, in doing so, enters the coda of a 35-year career as an elected official.

I’m not big on career politicians. In fact, I think we need to impose term-limits on all offices. The propensity for corruption or lack of commitment to the values one held when they first entered the snake pit that is elective politics seems to be just too great for many and they end up compromising too easily. Sam, however, is the all too rare exception and I think the fact that he’s been skewered by members of his own party as often as he has by the opposition is a good indicator of that.

I first befriended Sam in 2004 when he was running a relatively easy campaign for reelection and I was running a quixotic one in the Heartland of Liberalism, Seattle’s 43rd Legislative District. I was a bit more liberal back then, tepidly supporting things that many “Seattle Republicans” tend to and I suppose that may have helped to forge my admiration of Sam. But even as I have become significantly more conservative in my views while Sam’s have remained the same, I’ve continued to admire him and the service he has performed to this state. Do we agree on everything? No. But I will always jump to Sam’s defense because, throughout his career, he’s always been a beacon of civility, largely above the partisan fray, and more importantly, honest in upholding the law even when it meant allowing outcomes he would rather have seen reversed.

During that famous saga which was the aftermath of the 2004 gubernatorial race, Sam was nearly burned in effigy for certifying the results despite the shady business that went on in King County. While us Rossi supporters were greatly upset by the eventual outcome of that contest and all the shenanigans that helped elect Gregoire, Sam’s decision was not among them. Unfortunately, because of the way state law was written, it wasn’t his place to second guess, in a legal sense, what went on at King County Elections. It was simply to certify the results he was given, a rubber-stamp operation if you will. His hands were tied. And if the tables had been turned, if a Democratic Secretary of State had refused to certify an closely contested election with a Republican victor on the second recount, I’m sure quite a few Republicans would have been calling for him to “do his job”.

And if Sam hadn’t chosen to follow the law, the courts would have still ended up making the same decision but, in addition to not having Rossi as governor, the Republican party would have been embroiled in a scandal the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades (even if that scandal may have been largely trumped up on partisan grounds). No, Sam did the right thing. If we choose to play dirty then we are no better than those who we detest for doing so. A victory won at the cost of dishonesty is not a victory at all. If Nixon taught us nothing else he taught us that.

But not only did Sam do his job on that occasion despite a strong outcry from within his own party, before the dust had even settled he sought to make sure that the Dino Debacle wouldn’t happened again and introduced several pieces of legislation which alleviated many of the problems that had occurred.

And that is but a single example of countless good deeds he’s accomplished in the areas of elections, charity regulation and trade during his three and a half decades in public service.

We need more folks like Sam who realize that, ultimately, honesty and civility will rule the day. (And, incidentally, from what I’ve heard about the woman who seeks to fill his shoes, Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman, I’d say we’re in good hands.)

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t live in fantasyland (I wouldn’t be the political stripe I am if I did). Partisan sniping and mudslinging have been a mainstay of American politics since before we were a nation. My own ancestor, Congressman Roger Griswold, is famous for being the first legislator to engage in a physical altercation while on the floor of Congress, beating Congressman Matthew Lyon with his cane after the latter spit on him, a scene replicated in varying degrees and often during the early days of our nation and which make disagreements of today look downright innocent. But all of that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t applaud people like Sam for being the pillar of civility that he has been and seek to encourage our other elected officials, pundits and political operatives to do the same.

Good luck to you in your remaining year and a half in the corner office, Sam, and for the many years after during which I have no doubt you will continue to champion civility and good government in a more private role.

The Excellence of Private Sector Solutions

The school year is coming to an end and at Bellevue’s Eastside Academy a group of eleven teenagers is preparing to graduate. But these kids are not like most graduating Seniors in America. When they don their cap and gown in a few weeks it will be an accomplishment far greater than that of the majority of their peers, for these students are part of a relatively new school, founded just nine years ago, that reaches out to teens that have been rejected by nearly everyone else, including, in some cases, themselves. Before coming to Eastside Academy most of these kids had problems with drugs, alcohol and the law. They’d already been expelled from the public school district and some hadn’t attended class in years. But through the great attention paid to them by Executive Director Toni Esparza and her staff at Eastside Academy these bright young minds, once destined for a prison cell or even a life cut short, now have a new chance at life and that renewed sense we all shared in our early years, that anything is possible. Amongst the graduating class at Eastside Academy this year are future attorneys, airline pilots, teachers and doctors.

One such student, Lyric Hammond, will also be honored next week by the Rotary Club of Seattle Skyline with a $500 scholarship toward her higher education expenses. She was chosen for this award in part because of the moving essay that she submitted in which she writes of her journey from drug addict to aspiring neurosurgeon.

Several more inspiring stories of success from Eastside Academy students are here.

Eastside Academy has helped its students achieve amazing results; students who the government had already given up on. It achieved these results in no small part because of its whole person approach to education. It holds classes at First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue and, while not a religious school –anyone can attend Eastside Academy regardless of his faith or lack of it– the school does bring in an outside speaker on a regular basis to talk about issues of faith, civility or other topics that would almost certainly be shunned in our public schools. This approach, along with programs like the Student of the Month, which honors student by inviting them to lunch at the Rotary Club of Seattle Skyline, and giving them an award, has inspired these great kids to reach for goals that just a few years ago they would never have even dreamed.

Eastside Academy is proof that, to achieve the dreams we all hold of great success for even the least among us, we don’t need to continue sending more and more money to Washington, D.C. or Olympia for education programs that have continued to fail us. Americans are the most generous people on Earth and also posses an incredible drive, ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Eastside Academy’s annual budget is modest, raised by donations from the private sector; and their bureaucracy is small. This wonderful school has the flexibility and ingenuity to bring about the change that so many politicians speak but seldom deliver. Why not give the private sector a chance? We’ll be pleased with the results.

Amanda Knox found guilty

I haven’t been following every moment of the Amanda Knox trial but I’ve followed it enough to be of the opinion that what happened in Perugia today was a tragedy.

Yes, there was some evidence that indicated Knox may have been involved. Chances are she isn’t completely innocent but anyone accused of a crime rarely is. The travesty in my mind is that she and her boyfriend appear far from guilty and, even in Italy, the accused must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Furthermore, there has been so much that has gone wrong with this trial that, had it been held in the US a mistrial would have been declared long ago. From the charges of abuse of power leveled against the prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, to the contaminated evidence, there was just too much that didn’t make sense.

Knox’s defense attorney, Luciano Ghirga, referring to the fact that Knox could have been sentenced to life, said it well. “I am not at peace. They didn’t have the courage to go all the way. It is a judicial compromise.”

Our own Maria Cantwell also offered a theory that I considered as well. “I have serious questions about the Italian justice system and whether anti-Americanism tainted this trial.”

I commend Senator Cantwell for having the courage to say what a lot of folks might not consider politically correct and for pledging to follow up through diplomatic channels so all that is possible may be done to resolve this in a way preferable to Knox.

And speaking of American political response to the verdict, I actually feel for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton here. They will have a fine line to walk.

If they do nothing they’re allowing the justice system of an ally to take its course. Considering the way Obama has dealt with the world (bowing to foreign leaders, etc.) this past year, this may be what happens. Maybe a good idea if they don’t want to appear to be forcing America’s will on Italy. A bad idea because they’d be allowing a US citizen to go to prison for 25 years for a crime it’s uncertain she committed.

Of course, if they do intervene, the opposite is true. They’ll be coming to the rescue of Knox but Italians might accuse America of trying to push its weight around and being conceited.

The best idea, no joke, would be to send someone like Bill Clinton (or maybe, and I say this with tongue-in-cheek, Jesse Jackson). He did well freeing the Americans in North Korea.

But let’s hope that it doesn’t need to come to this. Let’s hope that Knox will be found not guilty on appeal and allowed to return to the United States by next Christmas.