On Saturday, the United States Senate said, “No, thanks.”
In the matter of the judicial nomination of outgoing Monroe County District Attorney Mike Green, he got the polite thumbs down. His nomination, like that of an agency head and seven other potential judges, was sent back to the White House.
The message is clear.
These people aren’t going to be confirmed.
And, in the case of Mike Green at least, that is wrong.
Decency, common sense, political fairness, and any reading of the matter shout out that he is an honorable, capable nominee, and that he should be confirmed. He would make an excellent federal judge.
On behalf of the judicial district he would serve, I ask that the president renominate him and that the Senate confirm him. I am a conservative Republican supporting the nomination of a non-partisan centrist by a liberal-Democrat president.
When Barack Obama picked Mike Green, he got it right. When somewhere behind closed doors a Republican senator blackballed Mike Green, he got it wrong.
And I politely ask that things be set right.
First, the background on Mike Green.
In his heart, he’s a Republican. He is a traditional, short-haired, individual-responsibility, up-by-your-bootstraps conservative who believes in law and order and doing what is right. I know this by professional observation of almost his entire career, and by personal contact with the man.
Yes, he was elected district attorney as a Democrat, but that was only after the Republican Party rebuffed him, and that was only because of the personal animus of the Monroe County Conservative Party chairman, who has great influence in local Republican politics. Were it not for the bitter feelings of the Conservative Party chairman, Mike Green would have run and served as a Republican.
It is almost something of a surprise that Sen. Chuck Schumer and President Barack Obama supported and nominated Mike Green. It is a credit to them and their occasional ability to overlook politics that they did. It is unfortunate that that spirit has not been returned in this matter by the Republican half of the Senate.
Mike Green is a conservative who has spent his life locking up criminals, believes in following the letter of the Constitution and believes that judges should be neither activists nor legislators. In short, he is exactly the sort of person Republicans and conservatives want on the federal bench.
He is also esteemed across the legal profession of his region. He enjoys very high public approval and is both humble and personable.
And yet in the Senate Judiciary Committee, freshman Utah Sen. Mike Lee voted against him. The only public opponent of Mike Green, it is hard to see how Senator Lee could have either concern about or interest in this far-distant and low-level judgeship. That is particularly true given the presumed gratitude Senator Lee might feel toward President Obama, the Democrat having nominated the Republican’s aide to be United States attorney for Utah.
I hope that my support of Mike Green has not been an irritant to Senator Lee – I having endorsed Mike Lee’s opponent in the Republican primary.
Rumor has been that the Monroe County Republican Party chairman has asked Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley to block Mike Green’s nomination. The chairman has emphatically denied this. When I pressed him, he publicly said that he supported the nomination and thought that Mike Green would be an excellent federal judge.
Let me repeat that for the Republicans in the Senate: The chairman of the Monroe County Republican Party said on a 50,000-watt radio station that he supported Mike Green and thought that he should be confirmed.
On the subject of rumors, there have also been rumors that the FBI background investigation turned up matters which disqualified Mike Green. Those rumors are malicious and, if they had been true, the White House would have long ago yanked the nomination or told Mike Green to withdraw from consideration.
Having been nominated, Mike Green declined to run for re-election as district attorney. He has given up a career to accept this judgeship. It is wrong to now deny him.
It is wrong to deny the community and the cause of justice.
Mike Green is a good man. He is also capable and qualified. He is the sort of person we need on the federal bench.
He should remain the president’s nominee, and he should be confirmed by the Senate.
And whoever is keeping that from happening should stop. Be it a senator, or the chairman of one party or another, politics should be placed second to principle. This is not about spite, it is about service.
And Mike Green will render true service.
I hope that the president and the Senate understand that.
This is an open letter to anybody who has the honor of publicly performing the Star Spangled Banner.
Just sing the song.
Don’t disrespect it, or your country, by turning a moment to honor the United States into an opportunity for you to show off.
Because when you sing this song, it’s not about you, it’s about the song.
Don’t ever forget that.
And don’t go along with the current trend of turning the National Anthem into a glitzy star vehicle for so-called artists trying to get publicity and sell records.
Because it’s become embarrassing. You tune in the Super Bowl or some other major sports event, even concerts honoring America, and you get some pop star with a bad case of look-at-me howling through what’s supposed to be our national song.
And that’s what it is.
Weird sort of yodeling modulations that have been popular for about a decade too long. Which is all cool if you’re smacking your bitch up or glorifying Lady Marmalade. But if you’re singing the song that speaks for this Republic and the men who have died to keep it free, you’ve crossed the line.
And you should keep it simple.
You should sing the notes that are on the paper and you shouldn’t add any more of your own. There are plenty of vehicles of self-expression, but this doesn’t happen to be one of them.
Because this isn’t your song.
This is your country’s song.
And it’s not about the performer and his or her ability or style. It’s about a ritual of the Republic.
People who hear this song stand to honor it. And the people who sing it should also pay it respect. They should treat it like the precious event it is. They should show it reverence and deference.
And they must realize that stylistic interpretations of the Star Spangled Banner are not art, they are desecration. They do not inspire the audience, they offend it.
And when we stand together to hear the National Anthem we do not want it to be the product of one heart or vision, we want it to be what it is – the statement of us all. The shared love and devotion of one nation and one people.
So sing it the way it’s written.
And recognize it for what it is, a song different from all others. A song enshrined in law and tradition, and in the hearts of the American people.
And realize how jarring it is to those people when abstract and unrecognizable versions of the song are belted out on national television or at the beginning of sporting events.
Sadly, the Whitney Houston Super Bowl anthem of 20 years ago has inspired half a generation of less-talented vocalists to ever greater extremes. They have seen that performance’s lasting appeal not in her great ability, but in the arranger’s minor deviation from the traditional melody.
So, unable to match her talent, they have sought to out-do her aberrations. And the result is that, now, public anthems are odd and ugly warblings up and down the scale, with audiences standing at attention forced to endure renditions that seem to spit in the face of the traditional anthem.
The more extreme the deviation from the tune of the Star Spangled Banner, the prouder and more self-satisfied the singer seems.
Which is part of the problem. Too many of the people called upon to sing our National Anthem seem to be wildly egocentric. Instead of seeing the invitation as a great and humbling honor, they see it as some chance to strut, to show how good they are, and how deserving of the worship of the crowd.
And they confuse the reception given the song with the reception of their version of the song.
When the Star Spangled Banner is presented, people stand. When it is completed, they cheer wildly.
Whether it’s performed by some huge star of by the local high school band.
People respond that way because they love the song and the Republic for which it stands.
But too many performers interpret ovations and applause as being for them and their tortured presentation of the anthem. People applaud the anthem not because of there performers, but in spite of them.
Just as modern art has abandoned true beauty in a quest for ugly abstraction, modern singers sometimes turn this simple and pure song into a disjointed and nightmarish parody of itself. Their lack of ability teams with their runaway ego to push them further and further into bad taste. Hendrix had his anthem and Houston had her anthem and, dammit, they insist on having theirs as well.
But it’s not theirs.
It’s all of ours.
So it should be sung the way it plays in the American heart. Simple and sweet.
The obvious lesson is that when the cops tell you to move, you should move.
I’m talking about the pepper spray at UC Davis. Over the weekend, some liberal-arts majors decided to occupy the sidewalk.
They did this to fight world capitalism.
Or the fact that people who do their homework get better grades.
Anyway, they ended up, sitting on their arses, linked arm in arm, blocking a sidewalk.
The police told them to move.
The police tried to pull them out of the way.
They wouldn’t budge.
That’s when the fiesta in a can was broken out. Pepper spray, baby.
And those young Obama supporters got a regular hosing. Officer Friendly walked up and down the line with his giant family size can of pepper spray just letting these hippies have it.
For that, he and another officer and the department chief and the college chancellor are about to be out of a job. The faculty senate has called for the firing of the chancellor and everybody else has called for the firing of the cops and the entire 10-campus University of California system is going to have a review of the role and tactics of campus police.
The video has gone viral – kind of like the reproductive tracts of some of these young communists – and newscaster after newscaster is aghast. It’s almost as if Joe Paterno had murdered Natalie Wood all over again. Any number of breathless lectures about the First Amendment and peaceable assembly have been given.
All of which is crap.
The Young Democrats have a right to protest, but they don’t have the right to shut down a campus or a sidewalk. Other people want to walk down the sidewalk, and they have the right.
Which gets back to my point: If the cop tells you to move, move.
The cops did nothing wrong. The officer with the spray simply used the technology and tool his employer provided. He was trying to enforce a lawful order to clear the sidewalk.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.
What I wanted to talk about is the obvious lesson this incident teaches. When I look at the photos and video that came out of this event, there is one thing that no one, regardless of his politics, can deny.
Namely, that pepper spray doesn’t work.
Think about it.
You have about 20 young Californians. All they have in common is a liberal disdain for the American way. They are of both genders and represent a general sample of the college-age population. Some of this type, some of that type, some of every type.
All sitting there, demanding that banks and corporations be burned and looted and that we all go live on collective farms.
My point is, these aren’t Green Berets. These aren’t rugby players. At least not all of them. They are just punk protesters
And they took a bath in pepper spray.
And they didn’t flinch.
The purpose of pepper spray is to create such unpleasantness for a person that they stop doing what you want them to stop doing. The goal is to overcome their will. The unpleasantness must trump their determination. Their commitment to hating George W. Bush and Republicans must be less than their discomfort at being sprayed.
When discomfort is greater than determination, they yield.
But these kids didn’t yield.
Not a one of them.
About 20 young people, of different backgrounds and fortitudes, and not a one of them bolted. They were getting a repeated dowsing with police-grade, crowd-control pepper spray and they not only held their ground, they didn’t cry out, writhe in pain or even flinch.
They stood their ground.
Which, in fairness, is a credit to their grit.
But it is also, in fairness, an indictment of pepper spray.
The stuff just doesn’t work.
At least it didn’t work on 20 political protesters.
Which begs a serious question.
If it doesn’t work then, when the stakes aren’t very high, how can anybody rely on it to work at other times, when the stakes are high?
I would think this demonstrates that pepper spray is an ineffective tool for law enforcement. It did not force compliance. It did not work.
And that raises serious questions about officer safety.
It also raises questions about the safety of any number of private citizens who rely on pepper spray for personal protection.
To be blunt, how many women walk through dark parking lots clutching a tiny, key chain pepper spray can? How possibly could that small quantity and delivery mechanism deter a determined attacker?
If political protesters aren’t dissuaded by high-strength police pepper spray, is a rapist or a robber or a murderer going to be deterred by a civilian with a can of pepper spray?
And that’s a big deal.
Because a great many Americans rely on personal pepper spray for self-defense.
After this video, anyone would be foolish to believe that pepper spray will do them any good whatsoever.
I disagree with the students, and I’m supporting the cops, and I hope this thing blows over soon. But the biggest thing I take away from this isn’t about the First Amendment, it’s about the Second.
If you want to defend yourself, don’t take pepper spray.
This year’s book is titled “Santa Monica Christmas.”
I’m almost embarrassed to mention it.
After years of thinking I was a writer, I’ve just about come to the conclusion that writers are nothing but vainglorious fools, engaged in an activity of indiscernible use. The bringing forth of a piece of writing strikes me as something akin to a pre-schooler showing his scribblings to mama. The product has no real worth or purpose, and exists merely to feed the juvenile ego of the scribbler.
I’m not sure which is the more bracing discovery, that I’m not much of a writer, or that I’m childishly immature and egocentric.
I’m not a writer, I’m not an author, and this is not a book.
Nonetheless, it’s called “Santa Monica Christmas” and you can buy it for $8. And I wish you would. Not just because it was last year’s book that kept our family in the black through 2011, but because it may actually have something useful to say.
And it may not suck as bad as prior efforts.
For years – for almost 30 years – I have quietly felt that someday I would be a writer of literature. Newspapering was a stepping stone, I thought, but it led to talk radio instead of novels, and lack of time has kept me from actually doing any substantive writing.
Or at least that’s what I’ve told myself.
More realistically, it is probably a lack of talent and ability.
Several years ago, an opportunity came up to write a Christmas novella. I didn’t know such things existed until I was asked. But having made a pledge that I would take every professional opportunity that presented itself – that I would say “no” to nothing – I threw together a short fiction book. It was religious in nature, and didn’t have much to recommend it.
But it gave me a chance to meet radio listeners at book signings, and I really liked that. So did my bosses.
So in succeeding years I wrote more books, little works of fiction, and went to scores of book signings up and down the Wasatch Front in Utah. I loved the signings.
And last year I wrote a book for the Rochester audience, “Joseph Avenue Christmas.” Like the others, it was short – about 70 pages – and light – another essentially religious book. The book wasn’t much, but the chance to meet people at book signings, and start that tradition in Rochester, was something I enjoyed.
Which brings us to this year.
“Santa Monica Christmas” isn’t fiction, and it isn’t religious. It is a memoir of my first-grade Christmas and of the circumstances in my life surrounding it.
I wrote it for two reasons.
The first is personal.
I have three siblings – two brothers and a sister. They are the children of my mother and step-father. Because of some reversals in our lives – including the early death of the step-father – and because of the difference in our ages, they have few if any memories of their parents together. The world that created them is a world they don’t really know. Their dad, stolen by death, is a stranger to them.
So I thought I would write something that would introduce them to their parents, at a certain stage of their parents’ lives.
This book is meant to show my brothers and sister what their mom and dad went through, and hopefully give them a better appreciation of these people and their goodness.
The second reason is professional.
Given the state of the economy, and the seeming likelihood that we may yet face years of hardship as a country, I wanted to write something about seeing the good in the midst of the bad. I wanted to write something of encouragement and appreciation. Something that reflected our day and the best way to approach our day. I hope in some small way that this book does that.
It is, in parts, a sad book. But life, in parts, is sad. It is not, however, a depressing book. It is a book of hope.
For years on the radio at Christmas time, I have told the story of my first-grade Christmas. “Santa Monica Christmas” is a putting of that story in context, a context that ads meaning.
As the title indicates, it takes place in southern California, where I lived from the first- through fourth-grades. Though I may be the only person to recognize the details, they are correct in every regard. I want to hunt down some people who lived in Los Angeles in the 1960s and see if material in the book rings any bells.
An ironic aspect of the project is that as I wrote about being a first-grader, I am currently the father of a first-grader, a little boy who looks a lot like me. It has been interesting to look back on these days, and cobble together my memories, while watching him skip around in boyish fashion, imagining that at the time I was just the same.
Writing this book was hard in a way because I don’t really think about this part of my life. When you’re 52, the first-grade was a long time ago. I am the only person who took part in these incidents who is still alive. We don’t get together as a family and tell these stories. It is an era of my life that is essentially dead and gone, sealed up and forgotten by the passing of time and the passing of people.
It was also, on the whole, not a pleasant or stable time in my life, and sealing it off behind a wall of forgetfulness has been protective.
Writing it left me with two feelings. First, I miss my dead mother, and I wish during the relatively short overlap of our adult lives that we had been closer. Second, I want someday again to go to the Santa Monica pier and fish with a handline over its top railing.
Sadly, time does what it does and the past is lost. But it can still teach us.
And that’s what I hope this book does.
I’m not much of a writer, and this isn’t much of a story, but it is heartfelt and true. And I think it says weakly what we must all understand completely – that you never quit, and you never despair, and you always hope for the best.
So please read the book.
If you can’t afford it, borrow it from a friend.
It is short, and can be read in an hour, and if you don’t like it, you’re not out much time. But if it has something to say to you, it will be a worthwhile investment.
The book is for sale over the Internet, as well as at Wegman’s stores throughout the Rochester region, at Seagull Books in Utah, and at various independent stores and WHAM radio sponsors. I will be doing signings at several Wegman’s stores, and at various radio sponsors. At this point, no Utah signings have been scheduled, though I have been tempted to talk somebody into letting my son Lee and daughter Sophie – who are in Utah – host a book-selling event.
It is a family project. I wrote it, my wife laid it out, designed the cover and published it.
And that’s about all there is to it.
It isn’t much, but it will do.
And I would be honored if you’d consider reading it, and giving it as a Christmas gift.
He should resign as mayor of Utah’s second-largest city, and he should be fired from his job at a leading Utah public-relations company.
Because he has, through dishonesty, violated the ethics of his office and his profession.
Over a period of several months, Mayor Mike Winder created a fake identity he used as a “citizen journalist” to get several articles in newspapers and online. These articles prominently featured: People and businesses which were his political supporters and donors; a bond issue he supported; a client of his employer’s PR company; and a politician he supported for office.
Mayor Mike Winder wrote for KSL.com as well as the “Deseret News” and a suburban weekly newspaper. He did this using a fake identity – backed up by the real picture of someone he found online – and by lying to editors who tried to verify that he was who he said he was.
He claims he did this to get more “positive” news out about West Valley City, and that he stopped doing it because his conscience got the better of him. Neither of those claims is credible.
In the first place, the stories he snuck into the paper seemed less focused on the “positive” and more focused on getting publicity for his cronies. And in the latter, for a man feeling remorse, he went public in a flip, dismissive and defensive manner. Initially characterizing himself as no different than the authors of the “Federalist Papers,” who used obviously false pen names, Mayor Mike Winder presented himself as a humble defender of his city against the negative, liberal media.
He did not initially apologize. He instead attacked the statewide paper that had been the victim of his dishonesty – the “Deseret News.” He criticized its economy-driven staff cuts and threw out some seemingly bogus numbers contrasting coverage of “positive” news with crime coverage. He said that failings at the newspaper made his city look crime ridden.
He was wrong.
It’s not biased newspaper coverage that makes West Valley City look like one of the most crime-ridden cities in the state.
It’s crime stats.
West Valley City, in fact, is one of Utah’s most crime-plagued cities. Possibly as mayor, the public official ultimately responsible for public safety, he might better have addressed this by fighting crime than by lying.
Mayor Mike Winder, like many Utah Republicans, loves to cite the Constitution. Unfortunately, in this instance, he chose not to follow it. The First Amendment guarantee of a free press gives the news media the write to function unfettered by government restraint. It also guarantees that the news media can function unfettered by government manipulation. In our society, we are keenly aware of the evils of government control of news media content. Under our law, the government cannot infiltrate the media and the government cannot directly use the press to influence public thinking.
Yet, as mayor of West Valley City, Mike Winder is unavoidably an agent of government. Anything he writes is not reporting, it is manipulation. It is propaganda. It is innately biased, and by hiding that bias through a fake identity, he conned readers.
This is not clever, it is conniving.
He laid his plan over months, almost as if it was an exercise in punking the new media. That raises serious questions about his basic integrity, and his professional honesty. Public relations is the science of influencing public thought, but the ethics of that field forbid being dishonest to do it. And this is as dishonest as the day is long.
There is no possible way that Mayor Mike Winder did not know this was wrong.
His months-long effort to conceal his deception prove that.
As an oft-published author, as someone who has spent most of his adult life in public relations – first for a family milk business and now for a PR firm – and as an elected official, every step of this man’s professional life taught him that this was wrong.
So did his upbringing.
“Thou shalt not lie” is pretty unequivocal.
But lie is exactly what he did. And only after seeing that some prominent Utahns were upset at his dishonesty did Mayor Mike Winder express any remorse.
He set the story of his fraud to come out on Veterans Day, going into a three-day weekend. He posted a Facebook update in which he thanked veterans for fighting to give him the right to use a pen name. He assailed his media victims. And he gathered to himself Internet supporters who saw him as a martyr in the fight against the media. Otherwise righteous folks asserted across the blogosphere that he had done nothing wrong.
But then he had to pay three full-year scholarships to an Indian school to buy peace with the man whose picture he had stolen. And the learned heads at the university were quoted disapprovingly. Then Mayor Mike Winder decided to go penitent, and play the misguided youth who had seen the error of his ways.
None of which is believable.
Because there is one thing this has taught us about Mike Winder.
He is a liar.
Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.
He should resign and be fired.
Because one thing is certain.
Nobody with any sense is ever again going to believe a single word he says.