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    Sunday, June 20, 2010

    A Day for Charity

    On Saturday, I spent the day at two separate charity events in Tallahassee. The first involved playing in a charity tennis tournament that benefits
    Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida. Each year, this charity, among its many programs, has a Christmas Connection drive, where it provides gifts and services to those in need. The tennis tournament that was held Saturday at Forest Meadows tennis center in Tallahassee raises money for the Christmas Connection drive. It was a round robin style tennis tournament.

    I played in the 8.5 men's doubles draw with my friend and JMI member John Brooks and I played in the 8.5 mixed doubles draw with my colleague Laura Ward. I also participated in a serving target contest. All the funds from the tournament registration fees and associated contests go towards the charity. There was a very good turnout and the day started with a blessing by Father Will Ganci, who also played in one of the men's doubles brackets.

    It was a scorching hot day, and after playing men's doubles in the morning and mixed doubles in the afternoon, I had to spend a few hours at home rehydrating and relaxing, before I was to take to the dance floor for another charity event Saturday night.

    I attended the 6th annual Party4Purpose 80's prom in Tallahassee. Each year, this event is held to raise money for one of many competing charities. The 80s themed event was held at three downtown establishments: Paradigm, Clyde's and Andrews. There were live bands playing cover songs from the 80s, a video screen showing music videos and other clips from 80s movies, as well as DJ's spinning 80s music. And the best part: attendees dress up in costumes as if we were living in the 80s. It was a lot of fun. The cover charge of $10 and part of the drinks consumed go to charity. When attendees enter, they are shown a board of the 7 "competing" charities and they cast a vote for one of them. The one who wins gets all the money that was raised at the event - a winner take all.

    This year, the seven local competing charities included: (1) Big Bend Hospice, (2) Big Brothers & Big Sisters of the Big Bend, (3) Capital City Youth Services, (4) Guardian ad Litem, (5) Magnolia School, (6) Ovarian Cancer Alliance of North Florida, and (7) Special Olympics of Leon County.

    I personally got a lot out of these two events. They were fun ways to learn about the charitable causes going on right here in Tallahassee. I applaud these two organizations for bringing awareness to these causes by hosting meaningful events to raise money for these great charitable organizations. The organizers of these events put a lot of time and effort into making sure every detail was covered - and the time they devoted to pulling off such successful events is much more than any of us could possibly give. They also showed that when people come together as a community for causes worth supporting, private charity often fulfills the greatest needs in our communities - and they are causes worth supporting with our time, talents, and treasures. For centuries, American civil society has been built through voluntary associations that these charities represent. The tennis tournament and the 80s prom are unique ways in which members of our own community here in Tallahassee came together voluntarily to be a part of this American tradition.

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    My weekend in Hotlanta!

    Last weekend I took a trip to Atlanta. Although I always like to call it Hotlanta! One, it's usually hot there this time of year. But two, it's a city that's getting more vibrant each time I go. It's literally HUGE. Over the course of more than 2 days I found myself all over the city. What's odd is that all of a sudden I have a lot of friends and acquaintances in Atlanta. Maybe it's the connections of living in the Florida panhandle the past two plus years combined with the travels I did for ISI and working in the conservative movement.

    I got up there on Friday night and my first stop was to get some chili burgers at the famous Atlanta joint, The Varsity. It's very conveniently located right off I-75 in the heart of Atlanta. The food there is absolutely gross, but delicious. And well, I had to have it. I'm in Atlanta.

    From there I stopped in to see Matt Kabus play some live music at his mother's art show, which was part of a larger art show taking place in the historic Castleberry Hill neighborhood in southwest Atlanta. I first met Matt on The Rock Boat. He played a few acoustic sets on there, but I would have never known. He was one of the many people I met and hung out with on the Promenade deck, listening to other musicians play late into the night. We've kept in touch and before this trip I've only listened to his recorded music via my iPod. This was the first time I got to here a few tunes live and he is a very talented musician, who is still working on finishing college. Meanwhile, as I walked around the art gallery, I couldn't tell who was more talented, Matt or his mother, Lisa Kabus. The art work was incredible. I guess creativity runs in the family.

    Well I didn't know anyone there but Matt, and he was kind of busy playing music. Plus I needed to get over to RiRa Irish Pub in midtown Atlanta to see my friends Sam Thacker, Michael Westbrook, and Mike Reddick. They played a couple sets of cover songs. My friend Dom, who just moved to Atlanta from Tallahassee six months ago, also met up with me there and we got the chance to catch up. It's too bad we didn't get a chance to play tennis. Dom is a teaching tennis pro in Atlanta - and he's also a drummer. More on that later.

    I stayed to the end of the night at RiRa and then crashed at Sam's place. The next morning watched the first World Cup game with him and his girlfriend Melissa. Then, I was off to go pick up my friend Ezra, who was flying into the Atlanta airport from Miami for a dinner we both were in town to attend that night at Capital City Grille in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. After picking him up we went back to our friend Stan's place, who put us up that night in his house. But he was also hosting a big afternoon party to watch the USA-England game. About 30 people came over and we all just had a blast. I've never seen such a large and boisterous gathering of Americans at a house party for SOCCER! Will World Cup fever finally get Americans into soccer? Or will it forever remain America's future sport? ha

    After the game and the party, Stan, his girlfriend, Ezra, and I went to the Capital City Grille to meet up with a few other folks that are part of this emerging social network of young conservatives. I'd tell you more, but... it's kind of a conspiracy. Ok not really, but just an exchange of intellectual ideas with top conservative young adults from around the country who are beginning to make their way in the world. After a dinner in a private dining room with an amazing view from the 8th floor (a dinner which lasted more than 3 hours!) we all walked down the street to East Andrews where my friend Sam was playing a solo set.

    While there, we snuck off to a back room where there is a secret bar (seriously, I'm not making this up) called Prohibition. You have to know someone to get in because you walk in through an old style telephone booth. You have to dial the right number on the phone (and apparently the number changes every night or every week or something). We went in there. It was a very nice traditional looking bar that was more like a cigar bar. After a drink and some good conversation, I had to dip out. It was hot and smoky and I can only take that so long. Plus, had to go hear Sam play a few more songs before we dipped out.

    Another odd thing - since we all had a few drinks... my friend Stan didn't want anyone to drive home, a mere 10 minutes away. They have this neat service in Atlanta called Zingo. You pay a driver to drive you home. He puts a very small scooter (which disassembles) in the back of the trunk (in this case, the back of Stan's SUV). Once we got home, the driver then rides his scooter back. I think the service cost about $20 (plus tip) for the distance we traveled. Better than taking a cab because you don't have to find a ride back to the bar in the morning to get your car. And you don't need to get a DUI.

    Well the next morning, watched a little more World Cup with Stan and Ezra. Then I headed out to meet my cousin Joey for lunch. He is a student at Georgia Tech, getting a second bachelor's degree there. I picked him up there and we ate at a local pizza joint next to campus. It was great to see him and catch up. He's studying away in a mechanical engineering program.

    After lunch, I headed east across town barely leaving the city limits to go to an art show/music festival at the Alcove art gallery in Decatur where my friend Dom's band, The Son Red, was playing that afternoon. Boy it was hot! As I waited for Dom's band to get on, I walked around to the many booths where people were selling all sorts of neat art. I happened to be wearing my "Enjoy Capitalism" t-shirt and I had so many people make positive comments about it. One of the vendors even had a 10 minute conversation with me about the future of capitalism and the prospects of drilling after the DeepWater Horizon oil leak. Was I back at my think tank? I was wondering why - at an art show - where most of these folks would appear to be pretty politically liberal - why I would get so many positive comments. Then I thought: of course! They are all participating in the free market at this very moment, selling goods to turn a profit. They are all entrepreneurs! Of course they loved my shirt.

    After listening to Dom's band (which was very good - kind of a grunge feel to them) I headed out and swung up to the north side of Atlanta, near Johns Creek, GA in Gwinnett County to see my friends Esther and Seth Weathers. They just got married back in November. I first met Esther at least 4 years ago when I worked for ISI. I met Seth about 2 years ago. I was introduced to him via another mutual friend, and what do you know, he married Esther. Small world. Small conservative world. Through their companies, Weathers Corporation and Wildfire, they build websites and social networking experiences for companies and for political candidates in Atlanta and are tied into the political conservative world of this vibrant and growing metropolis. My visit to see them was short, but at least I got it in.

    I eventually had to head out and put a close on a fun weekend. Leaving Atlanta about 6:30 PM, I ventured back south and got back home to Tallahassee about 11:00 PM, only stopping once to get some quick fast food. It was a whirlwind of a weekend. But I got to see so many amazing friends and even made some new ones. It was really neat to spend time in so many different and unique parts of this city - from the southwest historic district, to the heart of midtown, the Georgia Tech campus, to Buckhead, Decatur, and the growing areas of Gwinnett County to the north. A lot of cool things are going to come out of this city - and who knows, they might all come from my eclectic group of friends there. Musically, politically, academically, and socially - Atlanta is a place worth watching - and visiting again, for sure.

    Wednesday, June 02, 2010


    Over the past 6 weeks, since the Deep Water Horizon oil leak, many have been pointing fingers at those they deem responsible. BP? Transocean? Halliburton? They were the companies involved in this freak accident. But as the oil keeps gushing from the sea floor without any success of plugging the leak, many have been looking to President Obama and the federal government to take action and use the power of the federal government to stop the oil leak and prevent oil from reaching the shores of Gulf Coast states like Louisiana, Mississippi, and my beloved home state of Florida.

    Some are even saying this is "Obama's Katrina." And that's where I say, let's hold our horses. Just as I do not believe George W. Bush and the federal government were to blame for a hurricane hitting the city of New Orleans and causing damage in other states like Mississippi, I also don't think Obama or the federal government are to blame for an explosion on an oil rig miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, which has caused a leak 5,000 feet down on the sea floor.

    First and foremost, the responsibility rests with the companies operating the rig. Yes, in this case, this conservative will first blame private companies over the federal government. Some will then say, well the government should have had more regulations in place. Really? Is that what we need? More government regulation?

    Private companies have the incentive to regulate themselves and create industry standards. And they are motivated mostly by profit. Let's change the subject for a moment to the airline industry. Airlines are also motivated by profit. They know that no matter how successful they are, one plane crash could put them out of business. Consider the airline industry's record: There are relatively very few commercial plane accidents. They are so rare that when one happens, it's usually in the news for months.

    Ok, back to drilling for oil...with that same concept applied. Oil companies are motivated by profit. They know that one accident may not only put them out of business, but could also disrupt the entire oil industry from being allowed to drill further. In the past six weeks, BP has already dished out tens of millions of dollars, are losing hundreds of millions of dollars daily since the spill, and are being seriously damaged in the public relations battle. There's a good chance the many lawsuits already piling up against them will force them to go completely out of business because of this one accident. Even if they do survive as a company, the regulations that will hit them and the entire oil drilling industry will be a severe punishment to their future profits.

    With all this in mind, it is plain as daylight to see why the oil drilling industry has an almost perfect record when it comes to safety and almost nonexistent accidents. They have a profit incentive not to spill any oil. The last time something this big happened near the United States was with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in the 1980s. That's more than 20 years ago. Private companies have a profit motive to regulate themselves. And despite this once in a generation accident, that incentive has proven to work pretty well.

    So back to Obama and the federal government. Are they to blame? No.

    Some will say, "This proves Obama is incompetent." Perhaps this is true. But maybe those who were so quick to judge Bush will rethink this. Why do those in government always look so incompetent? It's not because they are (ok, maybe some are). It's mostly just the nature of how government works. It has no profit incentive. The only incentive elected officials have are to make things look good (whether they are or not) in the public relations battle so they aren't damaged from the events that happen to occur on their watch, in order that they might still be electable in the future. But most people in government aren't elected officials - most are appointed or hired bureaucrats. Their incentives are much less than elected officials - and much, much less than private companies.

    The lesson learned here: let the free-market work. Don't blame those in government for things they don't (and shouldn't) control. And don't overreact by giving them more power to regulate the things they should be far, far away from.

    The government's role in this case is simply one of being the mediator of the litigations that will follow between the private parties who caused the damage and who were victims of the damage. If those parties involve individuals, communities, towns, or entire states, then we'll see this all played out in the courtroom - and ultimately the private companies who bear the responsibility for this damage will pay and other private entities involved in this industry will take note and impose stricter safety standards on themselves. It would be good for business.