Remembering John McCain

By Montecito Journal   |   September 6, 2018
Here I am in my House reader-head page uniform; gotta love that red polyester blazer
Dan Seibert (left) and then-U.S. Senate candidate John McCain, way back when

My first job after college was in the Arizona House of Representatives as the House reader: the guy who sits just below the Speaker of the House on the floor and reads the bills, tabulates the votes using a computer, runs the microphones, that kind of stuff. It was a front-row seat in the debate and passing of laws. That was in 1983 and 1984. In 1985, I switched jobs to be the head page, overseeing 15 college-age pages in their duties serving House members. 

That was coming to an end in April, and I set my sights on a paid summer internship with then Congressman John McCain. McCain was good friends with Burton Barr, the House Majority leader. Burt wrote a letter of recommendation for me (actually, it was Shirley his secretary who had taken a liking to me over the couple years I was there).

The internship lasted from June to July; I lived in a dorm on the campus of George Washington University with other summer interns. This dorm was five blocks from the White House and five blocks to the [National] Mall. I shipped my bicycle out on a Greyhound bus – that turned out to be a terrific idea. I rode it everywhere and saw much of the District of Columbia and Alexandria, Virginia.

My father had a childhood friend who lived outside Annapolis and worked at the Pentagon. Twice he picked me up and I spent the night at his family’s house. We ate fresh blue crabs caught off of his dock, went canoeing on the Chesapeake Bay, and they took me to the Naval Academy for a visit. Pure magic for a young man coming from the desert of Arizona.

Cindy and John McCain announce his candidacy for the Senate with Burton Barr and former Arizona governor Jack Williams observing
The six of us were the summer interns; most of us worked in the “Annex,” just down the hall in the Longworth House office building

Among many concerts on the mall, one high point was the Boston Pops 100-year anniversary with guest John Denver. It was broadcast live on PBS. Another moment was the July Fourth concert on the steps of the Capitol; that orchestra was conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

When I returned to Phoenix and people asked me what it was like, I would say, “I’ve never seen another human swear so much.” It was a fact; McCain had mouth like a sailor, and a wicked sense of humor. In the last photo, we stood in his office and he picked up the sheet of paper, upside-down. Then said something like, “The goddamn Democrats, what the hell is this thing I’m supposed to read?” I could barely suppress laughing out loud.

In Phoenix, I worked on McCain’s Senate campaign, doing opposition research and volunteer work. In November, all my close friends who were in a band said they were moving to Santa Barbara, to use it as a base and to work in L.A. I made the choice to quit McCain the same week they offered me a paid position.

I’ve never regretted my decision to move here and become a gardener.

Dan Seibert
Santa Barbara

Best of Both Won’t Work

I firstly want to thank Robert Bernstein of Goleta for reading my article “Bernienomics” in the July issue of our sister publication, the Santa Barbara Sentinel (Vol. 7, Issue 8), and secondly, I thank him for his well-written response published in last week’s Montecito Journal (“Why Not the Best of Both?” MJ #24/35). 

In my article, I decried the rise of the appeal of “socialism” thanks to politicians like Bernie Sanders. I laid out an argument of why socialism is a bad way to run a country. You disagreed with my views and say that government contributes much to the economy and that we should embrace the best of socialism and capitalism.

The quick answer to your best-of-both-worlds proposition is that the negative outcomes of socialism far outweigh any positive benefits. And history proves me right.

You say that we already have “socialism” to the extent we have things like public roads, public education, public fire and police services, Medicare, and Social Security. As I said in my article, Bernie’s programs are more welfare statist than socialist. Socialism is where the government runs the economy from the top down. Welfare states redistribute income but largely let businesses run themselves.

While government-run schools and public safety districts are beneficial, they are mostly run at the local level and users more or less pay for these services through taxes. They also face competition. Many public schools are not doing a very good job educating our kids (Montecito Union and Cold Spring being outstanding exceptions) and voucher systems, charter schools, and private schools provide effective alternatives. Police have “competition” in that private companies provide tandem security services and private ambulances operate alongside our fire departments.

In other words, we have choices.

Aside from these local services, there are no programs run by the federal government that operate efficiently, effectively, or without political interference. It is these welfare statist programs that I oppose. I oppose them not because they provide some benefits to certain folks; I am against them because they will break the bank while doing a bad job. And in every case, there are better alternatives.

You cite Medicare and Social Security as good “socialist” programs. Medicare is running huge deficits while driving doctors away from serving older patients. ObamaCare is an ill-conceived failure. Social Security will go broke because it operates politically, not on market and actuarial principles, as do competing private pension funds. You and Bernie want to double down on failure by having things like universal health care and free college education.

What galls me about liberals and progressives is that they completely ignore the laws of economics and the historical record. Like you, they argue with “facts” that aren’t facts, they cite “history” that isn’t history, and they ignore the unseen consequences of their policies.

The history of government-run programs in welfare states is that they become too expensive and wasteful and provide inferior services. Canadians say they love their health care system – but if they can afford it, they jump the queues and come here for surgery and treatment. The reason these government-run programs fail is precisely because they are monopolies with little or no competition and are not run for profit. 

You mention Amtrak and properly point out that they operate poorly because of political considerations. That should give you a clue as to how all government welfare programs operate. The United States Postal Service is a better example of how the government fails to efficiently operate a delivery service. Somehow, UPS and FedEx manage to do the same thing profitably.

Bernie’s solution for paying for all his “free stuff” is to increase taxes on the rich and corporations. You could tax away all the income of the rich and there still wouldn’t be enough to pay for them. Progressives and Democratic Socialists like Bernie Sanders ignore our huge and growing national debt generated by these programs. It will burden our children and grandchildren for many generations.

Who is speaking for them?

Why aren’t you willing to consider effective alternatives to government-run programs? There are free market fixes that offer choice, stability, and long-term durability without increasing taxes. Instead, you scorn free markets as being “amoral” when it is the most moral system ever conceived. Free markets, private property, and a just and impartial legal system based on natural law have brought about the greatest rise in wealth, health, and happiness in all of human history.

Socialism has done the opposite.

What I don’t understand is why you would put faith in politicians and bureaucrats, the same folks you disparage as being greedy and amoral in the private sector, yet when they are in the public sector you would give them great power and expect them to act nobly for the “public benefit.” They don’t. 

Your solution to take the best of socialism and capitalism will fail, because the socialism side of your equation will eventually fail. To fix those failures, politicians inevitably pass more laws restricting capitalism, enlarge welfare programs, and increase taxes. These are dead ends, as Sweden and the U.K. have discovered. In many cases, it has led to tyranny.

There are too many errors of economics, history, and data in your letter to address here. It would be nice to think that we could sit down and rationally discuss things, but my experience with progressives is that would not be productive.

I just don’t believe in utopia.

[Readers may find my original article, “Bernienomics” at my blog:] 

Jeffrey Harding

Pardonable Offenses

Given that President Trump styled himself the “law and order” president, it’s bizarre to hear him refer to John Dean as a “rat.” That’s what Mafia dons call people who tell the truth to the cops.

Trump thinks Paul Manafort is being “treated very unfairly” for money laundering and tax fraud. “I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad… I think it’s a very sad day for our country,” Trump said. Is it sad that tax cheats are prosecuted? I’m not sad, and people who pay their taxes in our country are rather happy when tax cheats are found guilty.

When the FBI served a search warrant on Michael Cohen’s premises, Trump characterized it as a “break-in,” implying something akin to a burglary. Bizarre. Cohen himself later said that “the FBI agents that conducted the search and seizure were all extremely professional, courteous, and respectful. And I thanked them at the conclusion.” Trump said it was “an attack on our country… it’s an attack on all we stand for.” Really? Don’t we stand for the rule of law? 

Maybe in Trump’s country, equal justice under the law should not apply to the “best people” Trump employs. We shouldn’t be surprised if Trump considers tax and bank fraud worthy of a pardon.

Brett Adams

(Editor’s note: Can’t disagree with anything you’ve written. My guess is that President Trump’s career as a New York builder brought him into contact regularly with “mob bosses” who generally ran most NYC unions at the time and may still do. Such contacts no doubt added a rough edge to Donald Trump’s language and outlook. But, it is unsettling nevertheless and you are correct in pointing it out. I suggest, though, you look up President Clinton’s record of pardons, particularly that of tax cheat Marc Rich, to see if other presidents considered “tax and bank fraud worthy of a pardon,” particularly when the wife of the tax cheat is a major donor to one’s campaign and foundation. – J.B.)

Back of the Bus

Your response to letter writer “Liberal and Proud” was a typical condescending sarcastic missive (your term) to a well-thought-out letter. What’s also typical about it, you never give the liberal credit for their beliefs, bringing up Jim Crow just skirted the issues that Mr. [Leoncio] Martins talked about. I’m surprised you didn’t bring up Robert KKK Byrd to attention on your talking point.

Why don’t you live in the 2000s with the rest of us and try to achieve fairness for all people? I’ll give you credit for running the letter, albeit for your own nefarious reasons.

The liberal letters always end up in the back of the bus… er, paper.

Thomas Carlisle
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: The letters that end up in the back of the bus… er, paper, are those that mostly are so long they take away from shorter letters. That’s pretty much the only criteria involved. – J.B.)

All for Brian

I was very pleased to read your recent article on the Montecito and Summerland Water Security Team. I got to know one of the candidates – Brian Goebel – through our active involvement in Parents for Summerland School. It is great to have someone running for Montecito Water District [MWD] who has strong ties to Summerland and surrounding areas. Brian is a strategic thinker with a can-do approach to taking on challenges. I and other active community members often seek out his advice and opinions on tackling local issues. He is passionate about building strong community. This is evidenced though his varied activities – from coaching a championship youth baseball team to encouraging civic engagement via his frequent op-eds in various publications, to his work to promote environmental stewardship.

We need someone with Brian’s proven track record of solving public-policy problems and collaborating with other agencies to move the MWD forward. I look forward to supporting Brian and learning more about the other two candidates and how they can drive needed change on the board.

Jaclyn Fabre

Move on Wastewater

It must be over five years since Bob Hazard took up his mighty pen and described with great accuracy and objectivity the water crisis facing Montecito and Santa Barbara County. Since then, progress has been made: Santa Barbara’s RO (Reverse Osmosis) plant has been activated and is now operating, although apparently at an investment double the original estimate. The wastewater recycling companies have each developed plans for the increased recovery and reuse of the wastewater. However, each of these initiatives is being taken independently by the four or five individual water companies supplying the Santa Barbara communities.

These entities should be merged into one overall water authority, at a minimum for Montecito, but ideally for all of Santa Barbara County. This would prevent the ludicrous nine-month negotiations between Santa Barbara and Montecito water boards debating who should pay for what and incurring needless costs of executive time and presumably outside advisors. There are many interrelationships that need to be managed to provide an optimum solution. Santa Barbara and Montecito draw their water from common reserves; there are trade-offs in investments in wastewater recovery and investment for new potable water sources; greater investments in wastewater recovery could reduce the need for new potable water sources; recharging of aquifers affects well supplies; and government financing will be required for all the programs.

All these issues could be resolved more effectively and at a lower cost under one executive management.

Bob has implied the need for a strong executive control in most of his analyses. The unanswered key question is “How do we move these independent self-perpetuating entities into a rational management structure?” Does it require legislation? Can it be put up for vote? The management teams during last year’s [and January’s] fire and mud disasters demonstrated that they could work effectively together. Let’s put them together and move ahead more rapidly on solving the water problem.

How do we do it? 

Roger Morrison

(Bob Hazard replies: Roger Morrison is a problem solver who spent years at McKinsey advising clients all over the world on how to address and solve problems. Too often the lack of success is attributable, not to technology, but to discord between well-meaning people satisfied with the status quo and those who seek a better way – in this case, delivering a reliable supply of water at an affordable price, regardless of rainfall or climate change.

The first step is to elect progressive people who share a commitment to work together to achieve the desired result. The three incumbent directors running for re-election at the Montecito Water and Sanitary districts have had a collective 29 years to solve the problem of water security and have not done so. The second step is to conclude negotiations with reliable partner agencies to serve the entire community, not the individual districts. The real answer to long-term water security is a mix of desalination, wastewater recycling, groundwater management, and conservation. Assuming a successful election of newcomers to both boards this fall, step three is for the two boards to begin collaboration and determine what savings can be derived from a community service district that might include Montecito Sanitary, Montecito Water, and possibly Summerland Sanitary. That solution might involve additional partnerships or agreements with additional agencies to achieve broader regional cooperation. – B.H.)

Confetti Ready

Things are turning around faster for President Trump and Republicans than most of the mainstream media wants to report.

I’m not interested in whistling in the graveyard. If things weren’t looking rosier for Republicans, I’d say so.

The primary force of late-boosting Republican chances in November comes from factors which make voting for Democrats less appealing to the general electorate.

What is driving the Democrat Party base is exactly what makes the Democrat brand less attractive to a broad swath of voters Democrats need in November to generate a “Blue Wave.”

Throughout the recent primary season, left-wing Democrat voters have selected the “socialist purist” candidates within their pantheon, instead of establishment Democrat types, who may not sound a whole lot different from the “purists,” but who realize that the wealth they wish to redistribute in one way or another must be created and produced first of all by some type of “capitalist” economy. 

The purists can go on to victory in communist bastions within places like New York but will become a major drag to party interests in races throughout most of the rest of America. The selection of a black socialist from Tallahassee to run for governor on the Democrat line in Florida is literally the kiss of death in the Sunshine State. Even Mr. Black Socialist was “surprised” he won.

To muster up momentum for a “Blue Wave” requires holding your own while invading the castles of your adversaries. “Purists” winning in New York State and Queens, for example, isn’t an “invasion”. They are simply replacing establishment Democrats with another brand of Democrat. It doesn’t move the needle, or expand the Party. 

You can’t “invade” the enemy camp very successfully if you’re spending an inordinate amount of limited cash resources on “holding your own.” A number of “safe” Democrat races have recently come into play for Republicans because of a number of local ingredients, as well as the national factors flooding the fruited plain due to positive economic programs affecting large numbers of people. 

Democrats must use up time and burn through assets shoring up candidates and races in New Jersey, Minnesota, Missouri, and Montana, which under a Blue Wave scenario should be slam-dunks. Even if the party succeeds in “saving” these seats for Democrats, it detracts from their efforts to overwhelm Republican areas where they need to “flip” seats from red to blue. 

If Democrats are losing net margins in friendly territories, this means Republican areas are becoming less amenable to Democrat overtures to invade their territories and win. The only people these days talking about California Democrats gaining a net five seats from Republican congressmen are a few isolated political reporters for the Los Angeles Times.

If Democrats don’t produce a “Blue Wave” in November, there aren’t many “next times” for them. 

If Democrats lose two already blue U.S. Senate seats, there’s a 100% chance Republicans retain control of that august body, and a 70% chance Republicans gain three-or-more net seats.

As for the U.S. House, Republicans have a lot of seats to play with. It’s hard to call something a “Blue Wave” if Republicans lose a net 12 seats but still retain control of the House; this would prove absolutely disastrous for Democrats.

Democrats have predicated their politics to these last 20 months on the unspoken notion that they don’t acknowledge or respect Trump’s occupancy of the Oval Office because they believe his presidency is illegitimate and thus illegal. 

Whether Democrats like it or not, they are counting on voters to put their stamp of approval on their policy of disavowing the legitimacy of Trump’s administration. And they can do that by changing the House or Senate from Republican-control to Democrat-control. 

Trump’s name’s not on the ballot, so Democrats must nationalize this election in order that a Democrat victory translates as a mandate to “Dump Trump.”

There’s only one little “problem” with this strategy for Democrats. If voters return Republican-control to Capitol Hill for another two years, it would pose a major rejection of Democrat policies, criticisms, and leadership, a huge rebuff and repudiation of everything Democrats have done and stood for since 2016.

My idea of a “Red Wave” in November is a net gain of six seats in the Senate, and a loss of five seats, or less, for Republicans in the House.

Either way, Democrats lose moral authority and a bully pulpit, and Donald Trump will be unleashed onto America.

I’m stocking up balloons and confetti for a huge party on Wednesday, November 7, 2018.

David S. McCalmont
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: While I do believe your prognostication is likely to come close to fruition on Tuesday, November 6, I’d wait to stock up on balloons and confetti. Hillary got a little ahead of herself a couple years ago, if you’ll remember, and we really don’t want a repeat of that. – J.B.)


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