Sunday, July 31, 2016

Political Desk: The Jeff Recommends - Primary


Well, it has been a long trudge for the tens of people who follow this blog for its semi-lucid political posts. I started this years ago and just don't know how to stop.

However, over the course of the writing of these entries, I found myself re-engaging with politics in general and with the two major party conventions in particular. After the crapulence of the GOP convention (exceeding even the worst of the Democratic Party's telethons in the 70s), and the full-court press positivity, professionalism and challenge of the Democrats' version, I am reminded that there is a difference between the big parties, and a reason for pressing forward. And for some reason I am not as grumpy as I once was.

And so we press forward - the nominations, please.

US Senator, State of Washington: Patty Murray
US Representative, 9th District: Adam Smith

Governor: Jay Inslee
Lt. Governor: Cyrus Habib
Secretary of State: Kim Wyman
State Treasurer: John Paul Comerford
State Auditor: Pat (Patrice) McCarthy
Attorney General: Bob Ferguson
Commissioner of Public Lands: Mary Verner
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Erin Jones
Insurance Commissioner: Mike Kriedler

State Senate, 11th District: Bob Hasegawa
State Representative, 11th District, Position 1, Zack Hudgins
State Representative, 11th District, Position 2: Steve Berquist

State Supreme Court, Position 5: Barbara Madsen
State Superior Court, Position 44: Eric Newman

Here are some other endorsing bodies:

The Seattle Times which did a pretty solid job this year and concentrated on K-12 Education

The Stranger Election Board which was giving "Death-Hugs" all over the place, reminding people why they should be mad at the people they recommend.

Voting for Judges which seems to be waiting for the general election before putting all the pieces in place.

The Municipal League of King County which is a good resource if you have more than two people running for office in your district.

I've done my bit - now its time for you to do yours.

Don't boo. Vote.

More later,

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Political Desk: Judges - Supreme and Superior

The Washington State has had some very noisy judges of late. Usually expected to defend the status quo, the current bench has made some waves by actually enforcing the state constitution, pointing out the legislature's criminal behavior in not funding K-12 education and shooting down charter schools as unconstitutional (though the legislature put a patch for that in place which might work, but has to run through the courts again). Such activities do not go unpunished, so each Supreme Court justice up for re-election has at least one challenger.

And there is an interesting article in the Seattle Times about all this. It mentions that these challengers have be rounded up to challenge the incumbents by a conservative-led coalition, but declines to mention who leads that coalition. The article also talks about one candidate has appeared to testify before the legislature at the request of a Republican State Senator, but declines to mention it. Apparently, if you are conservative or Republican, apparently, you are in the Witness Protection Program, as far as the Times is concerned.

And this particular vote is less worrisome than most, in that we've changed how Judge elections work. Previously, a candidate getting more than 50% of the vote in the primary was just re-elected, meaning that low-attendance primaries had more pull than the general. That's gone. So this is a rough draft for most positions, and might explain why Voting For Judges, which I normally rely on for information, is quiet on the challengers at the moment.

For Justice Position No. 5 is Barbara Madsen as the incumbent, and gets good marks down the line. Her secretly-recruited opponent is Greg Zempel, who wants the Supreme Court to be less political. Plus, he adds diversity, since there is only one other member of the court from Eastern Washington. Also in the running is a disbarred lawyer named (Zamboni) John Scanneli (no, that's how it is listed on the ballot) who is not a fan of the Washington State Bar Association at all.

There's a similar situation at Position 1 for incumbent Mary Yu, who gets Exceptional marks down the line, and is facing off against David Dewolf, who is as yet unrated, is from the Eastern Side of the state, and thinks the court is too darn political. But that vote won't be until November.

Ditto Charlie Wiggins at Position 6, incumbent, against Dave Larson, who is NOT from the Eastern side of the state, but yes, feels the court has gone astray by being too political.

Seriously. These folk are running on a platform that, if elected, they should do less at the job than the people currently doing them. Me? I'm going with the Barbara Madsen and the incumbents this time out. It is the legislature that needs to get in line.

Meanwhile, at the Superior Court level, we have one election with more than two candidates. Position #44 has Cathy Moore, Eric Newman, and Jackson Schmidt. All three are qualified according to VFW, with Ms. Moore and Mr. Newman slightly ahead of Mr. Schmidt. All three have strong endorsements, again with Mr. Schmidt only slightly behind. The Stranger likes Ms. Moore. The Times likes Mr. Newman. Mr Schmidt is the one with yard signs and mailers (so far). I'm going with Eric Newman on this one, but I can be easily argued out of it, and this is the weakest of my recommendations this year.

One last thing. Between the rough draft of this entry and the final, THIS article showed up, saying that Ms. Madsen's opponent is getting his heavy-funding from a charter school group (and most of THEIR funding comes from one person, the wife of a former Microsoft CEO). So the mysterious recruiters may not be so mysterious after all.

More later,

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Political Desk: Legislature

Ah, the state legislature. Rivaling the Port Authority recently for and shenanigans, malarky, and entertainment value. Sadly I'm not in the market for entertainment value. I'd like a heaping helping of actual government, please. The Senate is in the hands of a thin GOP coalition, while the House is on a thinner Democratic majority. And they've been stumped for the past couple years for things like how to adequately fund our schools.

And while we have some sane responsible types on the Republican side (shout out to Joe Fain, who will eventually be the first Republican Governor in decades in Washington State), we have the standard collection of wincible moments from the GOP side. Like the Representative who decided it was a good idea to publicly ask teenagers if they were virgins in front of their peers and parents. Like the Representative who kinda exaggerated his service in the military (Mind you, he served, but let his war stories get away from him). Like the Senate Leader who has anger management issues, has made it clear that she is pay-to-play, and is being investigated by the FBI. Now, an investigation is not an indictment is not a conviction, but Ms. Roach's approach to leadership would bring a tear to a Chicago ward heeler's eye.

So what can I do about this? Not a bloody thing. Hence the discontent. Because I'm in a safe democratic district, the 11th, which stretches from my neck of the woods up I-5 to Georgetown. Because my needs as a voter coincide with those of the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field. We have three good effective Democrats in the eleventh who obey my first commandment of politics: They don't embarrass us. Bob Hasegawa is running against a Libertarian. Zach Hudgins is running against a Republican. Steven Berquist is running against Clint Eastwood's empty chair (which had been invited to the Republican National Convention, but begged off because it needed to be revarnished). All of these races will be run again in November.

So let me seethe. We really could stand a return to Democrats, and effective Democrats (yes, there's a difference). But short of recommending you vote out YOUR Republicans, there is little I can do here, other than to give them a good hard look, and consider the options. (Except for Joe Fain - he's actually been pretty damned effective).

(grumble grumble)

More later,

The Poltical Desk - Insurance Commissioner

Finally, I am seeing the light at the end of the State Executive Tunnel. I mean, we run the ENTIRE top tier for re-election every four years. Here's the Insurance Commissioner, which is a short one. As always, I favor the Bold one.

Mike Kreidler, Democrat, it the incumbent. His Voter's Pamphlet writeup points out what he's done in the past four years - saved consumer money, recovered cash on wrongly denied coverage, touts his independence. Yadda yadda. Short form: He's done the job well. Interesting that most of the Democrats I encounter talk about how they're independent, and most of the Republican about the need for working with Democrats. I'm going with Kreidler.

Justin Murta is the Libertarian candidate, and surprisingly has not help any previous positions as a Republican. Concerned that ACA sends people to Social Security sooner, stressing that system. Like market choices. Hates tort law. Not my pipe of tea, but glad to disagree on the issues.

Richard Schrock, Republican, tosses a few bombs at the current administration. He talks about how Seattle Children's filed suit in 2013 to get coverage by insurance plans (not noted is that several insurance plans said "sure" in 2014 and things were sorted out). Also darkly refers to a whistleblower revealing scandalous conduct in the OIC in 2014, of which I can't find anything based on those limited clues. Going to Schrock's website to find out more takes me to a GoDaddy page that tells me the site is available for rent. The sad thing is, despite the lack of effort, Mr. Schrock will likely go on to the general and Mr. Murta will not.

Well, that's out of the way. Now to kick back and... what? I still have the Legislature to do? And Judges?

Well, crud.

More later,

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Political Desk: Superintendent of Public Instruction

Oh my god. Nine candidates for this office, and the Voter's Pamphlet doesn't even give me a clue about their political leanings. I am doomed.

All right, time to be ugly about it. If your voter's write-up does not include a working web site, just see yourself out the door. I am sure that you have very sound ideas, but this is 2016, and you need to come to class prepared. I am sorry, Mr. Blair, Ms. Prouty, and Mr. Runte.

That gets it down to a manageable size. Let me say on behalf of all the candidates that education is important, bipartisanship is vital and the children are our future. Then let's see what they're saying after we cut all that away.

Chris Reykdal promotes equal funding for schools, reducing standardized testing, and more career education programs. Former state legislator. Lots of endorsements, mostly from the Democrat side of the fence. First Superintendent in 30 years to have kids in the system (which is true, but on a technicality).

Ron Higgins is all about the Freedom, and making kids into good citizens for our Constitutional Republic. Supports homeschooling and charter schools, and notes we should treat boys as boys and girls as girls. Recycles. Wants you to get off his lawn. Oddly, no endorsements on his web site.

Robin Fleming comes in from a strong health background, has some modest endorsements on her site, Running against the politicians running for office - of which there are few. Actually, one - Mr. Reykdal. Claims she is the only candidate that with the qualification and experience to improve the life opportunities of the state's children. Not sure she is the only one on that score.

Erin Jones is the choice of the Stranger and the Times, and it always makes me nervous when these guys agree - they're either onto something or taking something. But Ms. Jones also has a long list of other educators, just about every Democrat that Mr. Reykdal missed (and some overlaps) and even a couple smart Republicans. A teacher herself whose kids just graduated, she has some mean chops.

KumRoon (Mr. Mak) Maksirisombat states the problems well, but is lacking on specifics. His site is a bit light on endorsements as well.

David Spring cannot be faulted for not having a plan, and may be the most sweeping of all the candidates. Better teacher pay! Reduced class size! Two years of free college! Homes for homeless children! How to pay for it? Close tag loopholes for corporate welfare! Addresses the other ideas of the candidates but declares they do not go far enough. I didn't expect an old-school rhetorical bomb-thrower in this race. Author of the book Weapons of Mass Deception. No endorsements I found, but you know, I can't say he's wrong. He should be running for Governor on this platform, and he wouldn't be the craziest candidate to do so. Not by a long shot.

And as much as I would like to see Mr. Spring role up to the state house with a tank to demand the legislature pony up the funds to accurately pay for quality education, I lean to both Mr. Reykdal and Ms. Jones. And if faced with the aforementioned tank would give the nod to Erin Jones, and want to know more. Let's go with her.

More later,

The Political Desk: Commissioner of Public Lands

Peter Goldmark is stepping down, which is a pity. I liked him. So we have seven people vying for his position, which oversees the Department of Natural Resources, licenses state-held land for timber harvests, protects wildlife, and deals with increasingly common wildfires. Oh, and landslides. They try to keep that to a minimum as well. There are six folk up for the gig:

Hillary Franz is a Democrat with a lot of experience. Endorsements from the Stranger, Washington Conservation Voters, Dow Constantine. Wants healthy forests, promotes clean energy jobs, and protect working farmlands and forest from the development pressures. As more and more land around here gets put under the developer's plow, that's not a bad thing at all.

Mary Verner, Democrat, is a former mayor of Spokane. Former mayor, you say? Has done a lot of mayoral stuff, but also salmon restoration and is not afraid to say the deadly words "climate change". Most importantly for the current discussion (and something she softpedals in her Voter's Guide writeup), she comes out of the DNR. Knowing what you're managing is a good thing. Mr. Goldmark's success in the position really opens me up to the idea of the office leaning heavily on the other side of the Cascades.

Steven M Neilson is running as a Libertarian, which means he used to be a Republican (yeah, there are former Democrat Libertarians - I just don't know if any of them are running). He puts forward that poor forest management of the past threatens jobs, jeopardizes wildlife, and reduces access to quality education. That last one is may sound weird at first blush, but timber leases are used in part to help fund schools. Cut down some forests, but it's for the kids! Sounds pretty Republican, but pushes hemp development so you know he's Libertarian.

Dave Upthegrove has the Times' endorsement, and comes out of the political end of the experience, King County Councilperson, State Rep, Chair on the House environmental committee. Not afraid to say "climate change". Pushes renewables over coal terminals Slew of endorsements from the powers that be, including Chris Gregoire, Adam Smith, Labor, and more Democrats than you can shake a stick at, if shaking a stick at Democrats is something you wish to do. This is a position that I favor talented amateurs as opposed to old political hands, but DAMN, he's got a resume.

Karen Porterfield, Democrat, also wants to balance preserving the environment with generating revenue for schools (I dunno, can we maybe do ... both?) She wants to take a business approach to our public lands, which sets off all sorts of warning bells for me. Surprised she isn't a Libertarian.

Steve McLaughlin, the lone official Republican in the race, is ex-navy who, after the fires in Twisp and landslides in Oso, realized he could use his experience could help. And in dealing with natural disasters, of that I have no doubt. Of the rest of it, he's talking about balancing the environment and education as well. Such talk does make me a tad nervous.I want him on the response team when the next big one hits.

John Stillings, Democrat and Olympic Medalist (rowing), sounds like a good soul. Big worry is about wildfires and rising sea levels. He's up against some solid competition here.

So, for me, I like Ms.Verner's approach and qualifications, though even I am awed by Mr. Upthegrove's resume and endorsements. I will recommend Mary Verner, and if she has to square off against Upthegrove, I will have to think things through.

More later,

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Political Desk: Attorney General

OK, it is a week to go before the ballots are due, and I haven't even gotten to the judges. I'm starting to double-shot these.

This one's easy, though. Two candidates, no Republicans, both will go onto the general election regardless of the results.

Bob Ferguson is the Democratic incumbent. He's done a good job. He's not being investigated by the Feds. I know, high praise, but after the State Auditor you've got to double-check. Yeah, let's keep him.

Joshua B. Trumbull is the Libertarian. He not only has no political experience, he has "Abolutely no political experience". He is, however, a lawyer, but spends most of his space talking about the dangers of the two party system. And here's a clue for small party candidates - we want to know about you, not your party. How your party thinks should come out of your own experiences and opinions.

We'll see these guys again, but in the meantime, Bob Ferguson. 

More later,

The Political Desk: State Auditor

So you remember I mentioned all the headaches for the executive branch under the Governor write-up? Yeah, this was one of them. Troy Kelley was elected for the position back in 2012, then got himself quickly mired in a mess of his activities before he was elected, resulting in the Feds putting him on trial for money-laundering, among other crimes, which resulted in a mistrial on 14 of 15 counts. The messy pre-trail details are here, for those interested.  Despite this, he refused to step down from his position, but is not running for re-election, which is a pretty good idea.

And this blog did endorse Mr. Kelley despite the fact that he presented himself as a pro-business candidate. I really should learn that this is one of the great warning signs in any campaign - that they will run government like a business.'

So who are the candidates for The New Price Is Right?

Pat (Patrice) McCarthy (Democrat) is an auditor from PiercerCounty. It's always good to have a candidate who already knows the job description. She's worked her way up through the auditor ranks, which is impressive since I didn't know auditors even had ranks. Will restore public confidence in the office of State Auditor, which I would say is both a given for any candidate this year and a pretty low bar. Endorsements by Chris Gregoire, Norm Dicks, and Dow Constantine.

David Golden (no party preference) is a civil engineer. He is not a politician but he believes that he has skills that are easily transferable. I'm a former civil engineer. No, they don't. Not many beams that need to have their forces balanced in auditor's office.

Mark Wilson (Independent) is not a politician. But IS a professional auditor, forensic accountant, and fraud examiner. That's pretty darn impressive. He, too wants to restore public confidence. I don't know if he's a good choice for state office, but after reading his resume I want the Feds to hire him to check into Troy Kelley's activities.

Mark Miloscia (Republican) sounds like he is running against Governor Jay Inslee, and doing a much better job at it than Bill Bryant. Though the auditor's office could not correct all the laundry list of faults that are laid at the governor's doorstep, he does stake out a claim, and I would be happy if he just restored public confidence in his office. He claims to be the only candidate who has audited a variety of institutions, so he might want to compare notes with Mr. Wilson and Ms. McCarthy.

Jeff Sprung (Democrat) is liked. The Times likes him. Current AG Bob Ferguson likes him. The Stranger likes him (without delivering a death-hug). Also is not a career politician. Also claims to be the only candidate is hands-in financial audit and investigations experience (which may very well be true -there are so many factoids in each of these statements that when we get down into the weeds of who has audited what is a bit muddled). Previous Assistant US Attorney.

But you know what? I'm going with someone who has been working in the process for a while, and recommends Pat (Patrice) McCarthy.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Political Desk: State Treasurer

Here's an interesting collection. The current State Treasurer, Jim McIntire, is retiring, and there are five guys (no, not the burger chain) that are vying for the position. And each has endorsements from different areas. Here we go:

John Paul Comerford (Democrat) is at first blush the type of candidate I avoid. He's in a suit, looking like some bank president, and using the words Financial Leader in italics. Yet digging in, oh my gods, he's got the resume - numerous boards and retirement systems, appointed by Carter for President of the National Consumer Economic Cooperative Bank, founder of two community banks, Congressional nominee back in '94. Strong on financial and social issues, the need to transition away from our sales and property taxes to something more progrssive, sustainable, and fair, Endorsed by the King County Democrats and the Washington State Progressive Caucus. So, yeah. I'm on board.

Marko Liias (Also Democrat) has gotten a number of good endorsements, but got a big death hug from the Stranger. A death hug is a announcement of support which, while on the surface, sounds good, but will really remind everyone why they're supposed to be mad at recipient of the hug. The President did this recently for the new GOP Veep nominee, saying how Mr. Pence has supported the ACA, reminding all Republicans how they're supposed to hate anyone who rolled on them and accepted the ACA. The Stranger did the same thing to Mr. Liias, spending most of their space talking about how he sponsored a bill to raise payday loan rates. Mr. Liias mea culpaed on that. Mr Liias wroked on the state transportation package, and has numerous endorsements from legislators and unions. Oddly, his site doesn't mention the Stranger endorsement. Not that I blame him.

Duane Davidson (Republican) has the Seattle Times endorsement. I'd tell you what they said, but I just reached the edge of my free paywall with that group (I think I've said it before, but you REALLY don't want to put you opinions behind a pay wall). His endorsements include the "Sane Republican" branch of the party - Former Governor Dan Evans, former Secretary of State Sam Reed, and current SoS Kim Wyman. He hates income taxes, and seems to feel that to even discuss it is to engage in partisan politics. So I guess we're done here.

Michael Waite (Also Republican) has numbers. Lots of numbers. Scary numbers. None of the other candidates have so many numbers in their write-ups, and all of them point out that we're completely screwed. He doesn't tell us how we're going to get unscrewed, except to say that he will go in a different direction (but not an income tax. That's too different a different direction). Sounds like austerity to me. He's endorsed by the King County Republicans (both of them) and former AG/Governor Candidate Rob McKenna.

Alec Fisken (Still Democrat) is a former Port Commissioner. Hang on, don't run away. Mr. Fisken is one of the GOOD ones, who has fought for transparency over in that neck of the woods. He has dealt with with bond markets and has the endorsement of the the former State Treasurer, Jim McIntire. So yeah, that's a pretty good recommendation right there.

Who do I recommend? Well, while I like Mr. Fisken a great deal and respect his work at the port, I'm coming down with John Paul Comerford.

More later,

The Political Desk: Secretary of State

Now, HERE'S a position where you have to balance partisan demands for the good of the State. Secretary of State is responsible for, among other things, our elections process.

Kim Wyman (Republican) is the incumbent, and has been a good successor to Sam Reed (R), who ran the joint for years. Wyman pushed both for primary selection of Presidential candidates and for an early voting in the primary cycle. She was stymied by both political parties in those attempts. She's also worked to improve tech.

Tina Podlodowski (Democrat) ran against Wyman the last time, and comes against Wyman with her opposition to the Washington Voting Rights Act (a fair cop) and that voting has declined over her tenure (A bit of a stretch, since you're comparing a presidential election year with off-year elections).  She also went public with a request to cancel the presidential primaries, but after everything was set in place, so, no.

Tim Turner (Libertarian) runs on the fact that the two party system creates it own inherent flaws. Honestly, if you're considering a Libertarian for Lt. Governor, the same argument applies here. Mentions his family's tradition of government service a couple times, which sent me to his website, which doesn't fill me in. He is an author, though, and his book is The Profit Bargaining Ratio Theory.

Looking at these guys, I tend to favor Kim Wyman, as she has done the job. I would push for more progressive measures, but have to admit she's been on the right side of several arguments.

More later,

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Political Desk: Lieutenant Governor

Well, the good news is that there is more limited crazy down in Lt. Guv position than for the Governor slot. The position is like that of the Vice Presidency, in that the Lt. fills in when the Governor is out of town and also chairs the legislature. And the nature of what that means is part of the discussion of who you should vote for.

The Lieutant Governor slot has been filled since Moses was a child by Brad Owen. In fact, I think Brad Owen was Moses' first lieutenant governor. He's been a solid Democrat on the conservative side of the spectrum, and I've usually recommended the other guy in these write-ups. But he is finally stepping down, and there are actual good candidates in the mix with not a lot of goofiness. It is almost redemptive.

This time I'm going to wait for the end before throwing a recommendation up in boldface. As always, most of what I know about these guys are from the Voter's Pamphelt

Marty McClendon (Republican) delivers a textbook positive political image - Eagle Scout, religious, lifetime resident, recommends Golden Rule, ends his writeup with a God Bless.  It is so boilerplate that I had to check out his website. I found his leading endorsement is from the Ambassador of Burundi. Also to my surprise, co-hosts a conservative radio program with Doug Basler, Candidate for the 9th (odd how that slipped by in Doug's write-up). He also left out a line in his Voter's Guide entry on his web page, where he declares himself the only Conservative in the race. Well, then.

Mark Greene is a perenial candidate of the Citizens Party, which may be now the Revived Citizens Party. Wants to topple the Two Party Custom in the US, and takes the time out to warn us about Libertarians.

Phillip Yin (Also Republican) also has a strong resume as a journalist for Bloomberg, Q13, and CCTV America (English version of China's state broadcaster). He is anti-tax and supports free markets. The King County Republicans like him (both of them). He does have the winner of the coolest slogan in the campaign - Yin It To Win It!

Steve Hobbs (Democrat) hangs his hat on the not that he "is the only candidate with firsthand experience in emergeny management." Given the state of the legislature, that may be necessary. He comes out of the State Senate as the chief negoitator in the Senate Transportation Commitee. I've got nothing to make fun of her. What, are all the crazy people running for Governor? The Seattle Times likes him.

Karen Fraser (Democrat) is another State Senator, so like Mr. Hobbs knows where the Lieutenant Governor's office is and will not need a map. She has a lot of experince here, and promises not to push for the top job, though Brad Owen never did, either. She told the Times that despite being partisan, she'll be a fair arbiter. And you know, looking at her resume, I believe her.

Bill Penor (Republican) thinks you deserve more from government, and wants to bring common sense there. His writeup really needs a editor, but the, so does this blog, so I'm not really going to call him out on that.

Paul Addis is from the Libertarian Party, and makes that status a sell-point in that, since he is not a major party, he can work as an impartial 'referee' in the Legislature. That actually makes a modicum of sense. While I've been writing up these notes, Stranger Sex Column Writer Dan Savage has gotten in a urinating contest with the Green Party, pointing out that they are always swinging for the bleachers when they should be building up candidates in multiple lower races. The Libertarians (How do we shorten that, anyway?) are doing just that. Pay attention to your Libertarian candidates.

Daniel B., Davies has No Party Preferrence, is a gunshop owner who thinks that manditory sentencing for certain firearm-related crimes would reduce crime (sure, I'm good for that), and of course doesn't want a state income tax (which I disagree with). He doesn't like light rail, because buses are more versatile (and, for some reason, always directly ahead of me in traffic).

Karen Wallace is a Democrat, wants to bring a modern approach in in new thinking to our state government, will work well with both parties (suprisingly, a lot of these write-ups don't get around to specifics of the job they are running for - this one does), eliminating the wage gap, and is pro-choice.

Cyrus Habib. Democrat. He wears dark glasses in his photos because he is blind. He is an attourney. He is, sadly, not Daredevil. He is, however, a fan of palimentary procedure, a State Senator (see joke from above), and a fan of funding schools. He also got Brad Owen mad at him for suggesting that the Lt. Guv should not send up to the Guv bills which he doesn't like. Owen was upset by this, even though he himself has done similar things (Article on that is here, Owen's response is here, for those following this thing. It gets seriously wonky, and you should look at it). Regardless, Mr. Habib would be a very different Lieutenant Governor.

Javier Fiueroa is pretty solid pro-business Republican, endorses business incubators, and wants to bridge different viewpoints. Yeah, he sounds good as well.

And that's the problem with this crop of candidates -they sound good. There isn't a Goodspaceguy in the lot. Moving away the weaker ones, I still end up with Steve Hobbs, Karen Fraser, Paul Addis, and Cyrus Habib. I think it boils down to what you want in a Lieutenant Governor. Mr. Hobbs, and Ms. Fraser push balance and taking opposing views in line. Mr. Addis would be the ultimate outsider in a partisan body and is the only non-Senator of the four. Mr. Habib promises a more active role. . After 20 years of Owen balancing the daycare center of the legislative branch, I'm going to say Cyrus Habib.(Added bonus - Mr. Habib has the nicest robo-call I've ever gotten - I actually felt bad that I was not there to take the call.)

More later,

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Political Desk: Governor

So, it has been a rocky term for the executive branch of the great state of Washington State. We've seen escaped inmates from Western State, hellacious tolls on the 405 HOT lanes, and the state auditor being put on trial by the Feds (more on him later). And the icing on the cake has been a little billet doux that the Viaduct Tunnel (unloved by many Seattlites, pushed hard on the state level) will need three more years and 223 millions more of buckage.

Some of are unforced errors, some are unexpected, and some are leftover from previous bad ideas coming home to roost. The trouble is, they are all coming home to roost right on top of the head of incumbent Jay Inslee. Even if you mumble into your tea how all this is not really his fault, it is his administration, and ultimately he takes the fall. Which is a pity, since Mr. Inslee has been pretty good, having to deal with a legislature that varies between hostile and inert.

And having Democrats at the state level is a pretty good idea. Washington has been solidly blue, and is rocketing up. And you know who else is doing well with Dems in charge? California. That state is ON FIRE and its got a budget surplus. On other other hand, Wisconsin and Kansas, GOP held and led, have been cratering.

But in any other year, Mr. Inslee be vulnerable, and rightly so.But this is not any other year. As mentioned in the PSA, the lack of leadership at the head of the ticket will depress GOP votes more than any disenfranchising effort. Also Mr. Inslee's opponent, Bill Bryant, comes out of my favorite pit of scum and villainy - the port commissioners. Even in the quietest of years, I can look to the Port for a good dose of shennanigans.

Shell kept telling the Port Commission that it was just
a big kayak, and no one would notice.
While Mr. Bryant is running full-page ads in the times about transparency and hugging the environment, his term at the Ports was marked by the secret backroom deal that brought a polluting Shell drill rig into Seattle for a rest-up from despoiling Alaska. You know, the deal that ended up with about a bajillion people in kayaks filling up the waters of Puget Sound in protest? Yeah, THIS is why you don't run Port Commissioners for higher office.

Oh, yeah, Mr. Bryant also refuses to tell anyone if he supports the Presidential candidate for his own party. Republicans should growl at him for not supporting Mr. Trump, Democrats for supporting Mr. Trump, and everyone else gives him the hairy eyeball for not publicly taking a stand.

Yet despite the monkey business of Mr. Bryant's last job and his unwillingness to even comment on the top of his own ticket, he is not the craziest person running for the office. The others vary from well-meaning to endearing to vile. They include:

Goodspaceguy is a perennial candidate who has been running on the issue of minimum wage for years. Unlike practically everyone else, though, he's against it.We will only attain true economic freedom when we are free to pay people the absolute minimum. He is a Republican, but he is not the craziest person running for Governor.

Bill Hirt declares that light rail will not solve all the congestion problems we are facing, so we should not do it at all. He invokes the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, but gets in a little deep assigning all the roles (I am not sure if I am a weaver or a wise man). He is also a Republican, but is also not the craziest person running for Governor.

Mary Martin is from the Socialist Worker Party. As might be expected, she hates war, quotes Malcolm X, and wants to overturn the dictatorship of capital,  She also wants the FBI and Oregon police arrested for the slaying of one of the Malheur NWR protestors/occupiers. OK, I guess that makes sense in a big-picture, all government is bad sorta way, but I doubt the ranchers will be voting for you. Not the craziest person running for Governor.

Steve Rubenstein is a self-declared Independent. Pro State Income Tax and Capital Gains tax. A self-admitted "tree-hugger." I like the cut of his jib, and if Inslee is not the man for you, I would recommend Mr. Rubenstein.

David W. Blomstrom of the Fifth Republic Party wants you to know about the jewarchy, the Seattle Mafia, and Bill Gates' crappy software. If he adds the word jewarchy to your vocabulary, he will consider his campaign as success. Thanks, Dave, but I already know that word from researching George Lincoln Rockwell.

I suppose this is as good a place as any to mention, appropos of nothing, that King County Elections is not authorized to edit statements, nor is it responsible for the contents therein. Don't know why that came to mind. Anyway:

Johnathan Dodds prefers Democrat, thinks well have a great economy no matter whose in charge, and that the issue is how to "manage the social pressures that are derved and suppressed"(derved?). Plus free up the people from the suppressive measures put in place as legislation. Nope, don't know what all that means, either.

Patrick O'Rourke is a Democrat, and supported Bernie Sanders (there are more people on this ballot who will admit to supporting Mr. Sanders than have admitted they like Mr. Trump). Pro-Union, pro-education, pro economic justice. Yeah, that's good. Another good one if Inslee does not float your boat. Also, though it goes without saying, not barking mad.

Christian Pierre Joubert is the Holistic Party, and came in third in the classic Gregroire/Rossi scrum in 2008. He wants to create a new Consciousness movement, restore the people's wholeness, and build a magnificent "New Era" Staue of Holistic Responsiblity. He also wants to treat you to a one week health spa vacation. Not only is not the craziest person running for Governor, I think he's got a good chance.

And finally, James Robert Deal. Democratic Party (OK). Wants to tax the to 10% (OK), Single payer healthcare (Fine). Cut congestion through Uber-style van pools (Ummm, OK). Build gigabyte internet. (That's good). Fight fluoridaition (Wait, what?). Not the craziest person running for Governor.

And yeah, you can see the Summer of my Discontent, distilled down in this one ballot.

More later,

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Political Desk: US House of Representatives

I really wish I was in the 8th, Dave Reichart's district, so I could recommend Santiago Ramos for the position. But they pulled back the borders of Mr. Reichert's district so exclude more people of blue  persuasion (as well as other shades), and so I am in the 9th, the Seattle Arcology which runs from the Tacoma Dome up to Cap Hill, with a spur picking up Bellevue and Mercer Island. In this domain we have Adam Smith.

Adam Smith is pretty darn good. He's the head Dem on the Armed Services Committee, places himself as a progressive and though the House is as woefully unimpressive as the Senate these days, he's been one of the good ones. He's going on to the fall election through sheer inertia, and that's a good thing.

Other than that? Doug Basler ran as the Republican against him last time, and is running against him again. He pushes a lot of moderate positions, and his web site still has this creepy burning US Great Seal of the US. He also has really cool yard signs, which are narrow and thin. Sort of like the guy who gives you the business card that is half the size of the normal ones you collect.

Though Adam Smith pitches himself as a Progressive, there are two guys running to the left of him. Both Jesse Wineberry and Daniel Smith are supporters of Bernie Sanders, so if you're a Dem that can't bear to vote to Mr. Smith because he wasn't a Bernie Sanders supporter, take a look at these two. Daniel Smith would get the edge in the not-Adam-Smith department only because he offers Edward Snowden a job at the NSA if elected. That sounds like a fun job interview.

If everyone is a progressive, what about the rest of us? We have a centrist Republican, a progressive incumbant, and two even more progressive Democratic challengers. Fortunately, to pick up the spare we have Jeary Flener, of No Party Preference, who claims ideas from the Constutionalists, Libertarians, Democrats, Socialists, and Republicans, but believes that the federal government should be the least of our governing bodies. He is apparently legion, for he contains multitudes.

OK, on to the really grisley stuff. More later.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Political Desk: US Senate

Let me not bury the lede: Patty Murray for US Senate.

She was here when we moved out, and she has done nothing to convince me that she's hasn't been effective and positive in her job. Her successes are notable, and this "mom in tennis shoes" has proven to be an effective Senator both for the county and the small chunk she represents. She plays well with others (even those across the aisle) and throws elbows when she has to. Good call.

So this goes against all your griping, right? Well, no.

Right now Ms. Murray, as a Dem, has been in the minority in the Senate. For most of the past eight years, Washington has been divided government, initially between the GOP-held house and the Democratic Senate. And so nothing was really accomplished. Yet with the last Senatorial election, the GOP seized the Senate as well. AHAH! Faced with a lame duck presidency, they will get some things moving, even if it may be in the wrong direction. Activity!

No such luck. If anything, this most recent Congress has been MORE inert than previous ones. There are bright spots, and Ms. Murray is one of them, but for the bulk of her GOP Brethren, they could be Disney Automatronics in desperate need of a upgrade.

So I'll say upgrade. Chase the Dastards out, but keep Ms. Murray.

But who else is running?

On the Republican side, the leading candidate is Chris Vance, who comes out of the State Legislature, another hotbed of stoic inertness in the face of the common good. Odd that his writeup in the Voter's Pamphlet does not mention his work as Chair of the Washington State Republican party. Back during the Dino Rossi for Governor campaign, he was all over the media and remained for years as the go-to guy for a good GOP establishment quote. It is not a question of leaving it off, as he has been one of the high-level Republicans to denounce the current GOP presidential candidate, Mr. Trump. There's a lot of bi-partisanship rolling around in his write-up, and I expect him to be the "other" candidate in the fall.

And over on the Libertarian side, we have one candidate there, and if you're willing to consider the Liberts for the top spot, you should check them all the way down. The candidate is Mike Luke, and to his credit, he actually has positions on his writeup in the Voter's Pamphlet. He is against the TPP, against war, and for marijuana. I'd swear he was a Democrat, but like many Libertarians, he is a former Republican.

And the rest (of which their are many) have write-ups that range from impassioned pleas to personal statements to tone poems. All have a "Preferred Party" (Washington State doesn't officially recognize the part system in the primaries, but there is a wink and a nod at who the establishments want), and some of these parties have their own strange spirit.

Phillip L. Cornell (Prefers Democratic Party) is rocking on economic justice, and also dislikes the TPP.

Sam Wright (Prefers The Human Rights Party) likes universal health care and taxing capital gains.

Uncle Mover (Prefers Republican Party) is perennial candidate Mike the Mover, who uses his space to speak of the importance of marriage and how Congress can't fix divorce, only we can. Sort of a Prairie Home Companion moment, there.

Zach Haller (Prefers Independent Party) provided no information or headshot. Therefore I will provide the information that he is the Lost Prince of Gemworld, and seeking to garner support to return to his homeland and take the throne.

Donna Rae Lands (Prefers Conservative Party) wants you to know that she successfully fought against a government that wanted to put a Sewage Treatment Facility uphill from her home.

Moahammad Said (Prefers Democratic Party) supported Bernie Sanders, has a long list of other things he supports, including traditional marriage, expanded states' rights, and the U.S. Congress to meet in states by rotation. Which are core Sanders values, I guess.

Eric John Makus (Prefers Republican Party) lists being an author in his work history, so naturally I had to scout that down. His own site declares he wrote two reference works, and a check on Amazon indicates two books by Eric J. Markus - The Los Angeles Town Compass and the Seattle and Puget Sound  Town Compass, both of which are phone numbers conveniently arranged. Mr. Makus also has the best second-best campaign slogan this year - Makus Great Again.

Alex Tsimerman (Prefers Standupamerica Party) endorses Donald Trump, which is more than the chosen Republican candidate wants to do. He also wants to "Stop fascism with idiotic face". I never noticed this before, but the header of the Voter's Pamphlet says that "King County Elections is not authorized to edit statements, nor is it responsible for the contents within."

Dr. Pano Churchill (Prefers Lincoln Caucus Party) will take on a slew of "Big" opponents who have been doing bad things to the country, and promises to Reboot Washington. Probably by turning it off and waiting a few seconds, then turning it back on.

Ted Cummings (Prefers Independent Party) also will take on the Big Banks and Wall Street. It is almost like everyone wants to take on the Big Banks these days. It is like playing Pokemon Go.

Thor Amundson (Prefers Democratic Party) says nice things about Washington State (one of the best states of the union) and will not take PAC money. He will "stir the very dredges of the old guard in Washington." I'd buy a ticket to see that.

Scott Nazarino (Prefers Republican Party) has stood up for numerous issues, and understands our economy through his work in the Financial Services Industry.

Chuck Jackson (Prefers Independent Party) declares that we are under a Tyranny of Debt. He also lists his Education as School of Hard Knocks with a major in U of L (I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that's the University of Life).

Jeremy Teuton (Prefers System Reboot Party) also wants to reboot the system. It is the name of the tin. But I've already used by reboot joke for Dr. Churchill.

Most of these candidates are at the highpoint of their electoral arc - they have their 15 minutes of fame and 300 words to get their message out, and maybe sway a couple votes. They are in general against big government and big business, but have a faith that the system is not broken, merely sprained, and needs only bed rest, not walking on it, and chicken soup for the soup to get it up on its feet again.

And people wonder why I'm so grumpy.

More later,

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Political Desk: Public Service Announcement

The big thing about the upcoming primary are candidates who are not even on the ballot. The presidential candidates cast a long shadow over the proceedings. What's going on with them affects what is going to happen downballot. So let's talk about the elephant (and the donkey) in the room, and also warn all as to my political leanings.

First off, I have to come clean and tell you how much I admire the current guy in charge. The past eight years, while a challenge, have been SO much better than the previous eight. Mr. Obama has done a fantastic job. ACA is still alive, Bin Laden is still dead. Economy has recovered well enough to make people worry about the next recession, Armed forces out of the mideast (yet, hang on,going back again), and the administration has been relatively scandal free (though insufficiently transparent). Voted for him. Would vote for him again. Seriously.

Unfortunately, that's not an option. The Democrat choice for president is former Senator, former Secretary of State, former First Lady Hillary Clinton, who is OK. When push came to shove I voted for Mr. Sanders, but I would be happy with Ms. Clinton in the position. I've watched her in debates and listened to her, and while I don't agree with her on all things, I agree with her on more than enough, and think she'd be a fine choice.

And this is not a hold-your-nose vote. This is, however, a hold-their-feet-to-the-fire vote. I'm voting her in, then I'm going to agitate for her to deliver. Even when someone you LIKE gets into office, there's this doubt that they will make good on their promises. I'm willing to push it. This is OK, because if elected, she will be the most watch-dogged presidency ever.

Ms. Clinton comes in with thirty some years of people trying to send her up the river. There is an entire industry dedicated to showing that she is evil, hates America, and rips the tags off mattresses. Yet every one of these scandals always seems to peter out into a fragrant cloud of "Well, she must be up to SOMETHING". But nothing ever sticks, which either means that she's generally OK, or that those who are chasing her are complete incompetents who should never be left near the mechanisms of political power. And I'm good with her administration being the most tightly scrutinized in history - during the debates she literally could not go to the bathroom with it becoming part of the next day's news cycle. Vote for her and keep an eye on the silverware.
OK, she looks good in this one. And yes, this photo has kicked
off another investigation.

Downside? Most of the time she can't take a good picture. Seriously, I watched the debates and she came across as a serious candidate who is knowledgable and interacts well with an audience, and then someone prints a still photo from the same event and it looks like she's about to unleash the flying monkeys. OK, that's going to make things going tough as well.

But, if you cannot stand Ms. Clinton (And I can grok that, though you're wrong), may I recommend presumptive candidate Jill Stein of the Green Party? Strong progressive chops, not as much experience as the Senator from Vermont had, and some wonky views (she's anti-vaxx). Unfortunately, she belongs to a minor party, which means that when the media shows up, it is to interview the guy with a boot on his head, and when the candidate is covered, it is because she's said something outrageous. Take a look beneath the surface, and see if Ms. Stein works for you. Do not operate heavy machinery after considering Ms. Stein. If Ms. Stein causes side effects, sit down until the dizziness passes. Do not taunt Ms. Stein.

Over on the Republican side, it is not so much holding your nose as it's donning a full radiation suit and warming up the decontamination chamber. Mr. Trump is woefully incompetent candidate who would be a woefully incompetent president. I've been listening to the reason people give for his candidacy, and they both hilarious and frightening. "He's getting better." "He's going to learn on the job." "He'll have good people to explain things." and the all-time favorite "How bad could it be?" Sounds like he's getting an employee review after six months working the fryalator at Burger King.

I AM pretty chuffed by the fact that I'm not one of those bloggers who feel obligated to report EVERY stupid thing Mr. Trump says, because I already have a full-time job. It seems that his strategy is to "Flood the Zone." Say SO many stupid things that you can't clear one up before he's five more ahead of you.

I think the biggest thing worrying progressives in all this is that Americans may actually get the leadership they deserve. That would keep me up nights.

OK, let's say you're not a die-hard progressive, Ms Clinton feels more centrist but you don't trust her, and Mr. Trump makes you break out in hives. May I strongly recommend you check out the Libertarians?

Like the Greens, the Libertarians are a minor party that normally shows up on the evening news because one of the delegates performed a strip tease instead of giving a speech at the convention. But they, without much fuss and bother, picked a couple good candidates for President and Veep - Gary Johnson of New Mexico and William Webb of Massachusetts. Both are former Republican Governors, but they are ones that actually fall into the "Sane" category, and failed to completely bankrupt their states when they were in office. Both of them also look like Sam Waterston from Law & Order.

Seriously, this may be the moment to be a Libertarian. I'm not voting for them, because I don't like them on issues, and  "Not as crazy as the GOP" is praising with faint damns, but you should take a look.

And I'll be frank, the other option is none-of-the-above. Usually I'm of the "If you don't vote, you can't complain" school, but this year, I'll give dispensation in this race. Go ahead, DON'T vote for president if you feel the need, but vote from everything else. You can even still complain. I'll still mock you, but you can complain.

OK, I've gotten all THAT off my chest. Let's get down to brass tacks. More later.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Political Desk: Summer of Sixteen

Now is the summer of my discontent, for I fear I face this year's (real) primary and fall election with a inherent grumpiness that rarely extends into the political sphere on this page (hah!). Yet the ballots for the 2 August Primary (the one where your vote actually means something) have gone out, and I am just not feeling it.

The Political Desk's Mascot
Part of this is because the presidential primaries here in Washington State were such a bust. The Democrats chose their candidate in caucuses which ignored the primary, while the Republicans chose their candidate in a primary which their caucus-chosen delegates hated. Also there is the regular low-level irritants of watching politicians in office, which, though not as horrible in Washington State as elsewhere, is often grating enough to make determining rulership with trial by combat an increasingly sound option

But yet I persist. Blame my dogged determination that is my goo-goo nature (That's Chicago shorthand for "good government"). Blame the cynicism that affirms that  Democracy was the worst form of government, second only to all the others (Churchill said it, but claimed he was requoting). Blame it on force of habit. But be warned, this year, you are dealing with a grumpy cat (well, grumpier than normal).

So, then. We have a primary in early August, though that doesn't bother me because here in Washington State it is a mail vote thing. I mean, yeah, expecting people to take off one of the few nice days in Seattle in order to vote in a traditional go-to-the-polls sense will reduce the results. But asking them to take the time one evening to fill out the ballot? Please. I'm not a fan of the earlier vote (because the political parties have more time to irritate us), but it is not a big thing.

And the primary is top-two, which is to say the top two vote-getters go onto the election. And I do miss seeing Mike the Mover and Goodspaceguy and anyone from the Libertarians get on the fall ballot, but I'm willing to go with the flow on this. The online Voter's Pamphlet is here, and I will admit, that for a lot of these guys, that's all I really know about them. [UPDATE: The link I provided only sends you to the King County list, which then just sends you to the various candidates' websites. It's pretty useless. And you wonder why I'm grumpy. Try this one instead, which is more old school, but actually functions.]

But with all that in mind, let me start out by pointing people in the direction of OTHER groups that are making endorsements. These guys have their own bag of stuff, but they are worth paying attention to:

The Seattle Times has decided that the one thing they are going to concentrate on this year is education funding. The legislature has been screwing around with this for a couple years now, such that State Supreme Court has found them in contempt (because, paying for K-12 is, like, in our constitution). Every candidate gets graded on their education policy, and their willingness to work towards a solution. I bag on the Times regularly, but am impressed with their focus this year.

The Stranger Election Board loads up on cocaine and energy drinks and pulls an all-nighter, seeking snarky humor as well as progressive positions. They're always readable, that's the good news, but their concerns seem to end a block south of Safeco Field, and they've really needed to get out to the 'burbs more.

Voting for Judges concentrates on one thing, and does one thing well - that's the elected judges of Washington State. They do a good job.

The Municipal League of King County rates the candidates on their experience and responses to the a survey. They don't do judges, and that makes them a nice complement.

Others will weight in over time - Crosscut and Publicola often show up for the dance, and I'll add them if they have something to say.

So, after a paticularly churlish public service message, we'll get to it. More later,

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Yo, Yeoman

Poster from 1897, re-used for the program here.
The Yeomen of the Guard or The Merryman and His Maid, by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society, Bagley Wright Theater, through July30.

The Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society is a local organization dedicated to the light opera works of Gilbert & Sullivan. They are enthusiasts and amateurs, and produce but one production a year, in the heart of the summer, usually overlapping with the Bite of Seattle (which was also this weekend - I overheard several in the audience complain about the traffic, but I found that a Food festival running at the same day was a perk, not a bug).

The society makes bank on the big three G&S Productions known to all with a passing knowledge of the oeuvre - Pinafore, Penzance, and Mikado. But they also feature works that are not as common or well known. Yeoman of the Guard floats to the top of the general knowledge list in general, particularly those who remember Peter, Paul, and Mary and their cover of "I have a song to sing-o" which appears here.

Very quickly, the production is excellent - the voices range from fair to fantastic, with a heavier number at the upper end of that register. Morgan Duterte as Elise Maynard, a strolling singer, is in particular strong, and Mark Rabe as her jester boyfriend is bright and sarcastic.

The opera itself is a bit odd, though, and it may just be modern sensibilities trying to be applied to older forms. Forgive me if I go on about this, but it leaves me puzzled. Here's the plot (Do spoilers apply to an opera from 1888? Fine, I've giving it all away here):

The initial setup is that brave, handsome Lord Fairfax is in the Tower of London, about to be beheaded on trumped-up charges, guarded by the yeomen. Most of the yeomen think its a darn shame Fairfax will lose his head, including Sergeant Meryll, whose daughter is sweet on Fairfax. Father and daughter conspire to free Fairfax by breaking him out but then passing him off as Meryll's son, Leonard, who had just been appointed to the guard but who no one has seen. Fairfax, though, to keep his money out of the hands of his evil cousin, arranged to get married before his death. A traveling jester and his girlfriend/singer are recruited into the scheme, and the singer, Elsie, is married, blindfolded, to a man who will be dead in an hour.

But Meryll's plot works. Phoebe gets the keys from the love-besotted head jailer/assistant tormentor, and Fairfax escapes, but had to maintain his role as a guardsman looking for himself and pretending to be Pheobe's brother.

Now here's where it goes off the rails a bit for me. The plot suddenly switches from Phoebe's romance with Fairfax to Elsie's. Elsie cannot marry her jester boyfriend, because she is already married to Fairfax, who failed to die. The jester and head jailer cook up a scheme where they claim to have shot Fairfax in the river, which frees up Elsie to marry the jester and removes the jailer's competition for Pheobe. But, Fairfax, having figured out that Elsie is his wife, proceeds to woo her under the jester's nose as Leonard. Elsie must refuse, of course, which endears her to the lord.

And the Meryll's plan starts to fall apart. Pheobe, jealous of Elsie, inadvertently reveals to the jailer that Fairfax still lives, and must agree to marry the jailer to keep his silence. The Sergeant is similarly trapped and forced into agreeing to marry the Tower's housekeeper, the formidable Dame Carruthers. Word comes that Fairfax is pardoned, and Fairfax comes to claim his bride, who is heartbroken because she now loves Leonard. She is delighted to see that Fairfax is her Leonard, and after a reprise of "I have a song to sing - o", takes her place with her husband, and the jester collapses in grief.

And what the hey? I feel like I'm missing something - not in the performance, not in the songs, not in the opera's internal logic (of which, we are informed, we should take the immortal advice " Repeat to yourself its just a show, you really should relax"), but in how it is framed as a story. We're set out with the idea that this is the story of Meryll's family springs the lord who Pheobe is sweet on. But by the end, the play is really about the jester and Elsie, who are parted as Elsie ascends to a new social station, while Meryll and Pheobe are trapped in engagements they do not want.

What happened here? Only Elsie gets a happy ending, but that's a bit wobbly given that her noble husband is more than a bit shallow and a cad - Happy to dally with Phoebe while still officially married to Elsie, and only brought back into the fold by Elsie's loyalty to him. And even then he plays her, wooing her as Leonard and causing her further heartbreak. And the original conspirators, who are not presented as horrible people, are lashed into their own unwanted marriages. The jester falls insensible. None seem to have done anything to deserve their fates.

All this may be in the nature of stage roles for singers. As far as I can tell (in G&S, at least), tenors tend to be the romantic leads, but their characters are rather cloth-headed, vain, and unempathic. Soprano parts also skew to the brainless end of the category. Mezzo's are usually the sidekick/best friend of the Soprano, until they become women of a certain age, where they become a formidable contraltos - marriage hungry and dominating. And the baritones get all the good characters and all the good laughs.

And this is a "serious" Gilbert & Sullivan - lacking the mocking of British customs and politics, much of the normal topsy-turvey legalisms, and, despite the arrival of the pardon at the end, does not feel like a god has been cranked out of a machine. And the music is extremely strong, a step above most. But the framework of the plot, even ignoring the internal logic, leaves me puzzled.

So, excellence performance, which makes me extremely happy to be in a part of the country that has such things. I think I just need to figure out how this comic opera thing is supposed to work.

More later,