John Y. Brown, III: Joan Rivers

JYB3_homeI was saddened to hear about the passing of comedian and entertainer Joan Rivers.

I was never a great fan but had great respect for her pluck and persistence.

Although none of the eulogies I have read mention it, I consider her an important as a woman who broke through and competed with great success in a profession dominated by men. Women comedians, in my view, have a tough time of it. Audiences like monologues that are raw, sometimes profane, personal and edgy.

But we don’t seem to like it as much when the punch lines are being delivered by a woman.

Joan Rivers didn’t seem to mind about that and did it anyway. Because she was smart and shrewd and richly talented and an indefatigable performer who made a lot of us smile and laugh out loud — and even think –during her 55 year career as one of America’s most prodigious entertainers..


John Y’s Musings from the Middle: A Final Worthy Act

jyb_musingsThere is nothing noble about how Phillip Seymour Hoffman died. Nothing courageous; nothing thoughtful; nothing exemplifying caring for those who relied on him. And there was plenty to suggest deep pain, deceit, secrecy, and recklessness—all flowing effortlessly from a piercing drug addiction.

Professionally, Hoffman left an extraordinary legacy of achievement. But in his personal life, his legacy to his children was cut brutally and inexplicably short. Yet his will, leaving direction but limited resources to his three children showed, in my opinion, that he loved his children devotedly and cared deeply and thoughtfully about their well-being.

And proved again that love is better measured in time and thoughtfulness than dollars and cents.

One can hope, ironically, that this legacy Phillip Seymour Hoffman left to his children in death, may help in some important way to protect the children he loved from meeting the same tragic end that Hoffman himself did.

Jason Grill: JGrill Media One of Kansas City’s Top Companies


Superstar Service: JGrill Media


Whether he’s interviewing local innovators on KMBZ’s “Entrepreneur KC” radio show, writing a piece for The Huffington Post explaining why our burgeoning Midwestern tech hub is “not flyover country,” or helping a tech firm gain exposure through his PR firm JGrill Media, Jason Grill is your quintessential Kansas Citian who keeps his hometown close to his heart.

Through a unique combination of media and government relations, business consulting, and local and national commentary, JGrill Media helps establish mutually beneficial relationships among key players in the community that all want the same thing: “To make Kansas City the best to place to live and do business,” Grill says.

“Whether you need advice, are looking for capital or want to meet with someone at the Kauffman Foundation, people here have a vested interest in seeing other entrepreneurs succeed and will actually help you build your business while building their own,” he continues. “There’s a Midwestern value here that believes that strengthening the community is very important.”


Building relationships and making introductions is one of the key ways Grill does his part. Although he “never would have guessed” he’d someday have his own company—or rather companies, plural, since he’s also one of the owners and cofounders of Sock 101—JGrill Media is basically the culmination of Grill’s illustrious career as an attorney, author, adjunct professor, entrepreneur, political advisor, media correspondent and two-term Missouri state representative.

“I’ve always liked media, politics and connecting people, and all of those things are important for what I do now,” Grill says. “I know who the players are, how to get meetings set up and how to interact with the media. Being a legislator taught me how to campaign and how to fundraise. And as a business owner and startup co-founder, I understand the needs of young companies from a relationship, media and growth perspective.”

Drawing upon his eclectic background, business savvy, legal knowledge and strategic media approach, Grill has a seemingly effortless knack for fostering partnerships that not only help his clients grow and get noticed, but solidifies his own position as a superstar in the community.

His contagious optimism and unwavering civic pride only fuel his popularity. “I just like talking to people and building relationships,” Grill admits. “It keeps you sharp and helps you grow as a person so you can build more relationships.”

It’s hard to predict what this serial entrepreneur will do next. “I don’t think I’ll ever settle into one role,” Grill says. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a football player one year, and then the next year, I wanted to be a baseball player. I think that’s the nature of being an entrepreneur. And I think that’s what makes JGrill Media unique because it works in different verticals to provide services that no other affordable and hands-on KC company can provide.”

– Kathryn Jones

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Wendell Ford

jyb_musingsA very special evening.I attended the annual Wendell Ford dinner tonight.But someone was missing, the honored guest himself, who is home tonight battling lung cancer courageously and magnanimously. Even cancer, as sinsiter and destructive a force as it is, must be ashamed to find itself hosting someone so beloved and beneficient as Wendell Ford. (And, yes, someone also so ornery and determined.)

Wendell may not have been in attendance but no figure has ever– in my experience– been more present in his absence than Sen Ford was at tonight’s event attended by at least 700 friends and political supporters.

Story after story about the iconic Kentucky politician was told by the various speakers, but none were really about politics. The stories all seemed to hew to the personal instead. They were about Wendell Ford the man, who just happened to be a great political leader at the time these memorable and meaningful personal interactions occurred.

The stories could easily have been about great legislative heroics or profiles in political leadership. But each and every one centered instead around little acts of kindness observed and experienced from Wendell Ford when nobody else was watching. Because, it seems, that is what stands out about Wendell Ford’s legacy most profoundly.

I chose this picture of Wendell to post –an action picture of Wendell with sleeves rolled up engaging with others while smiling broadly and contagiously rather than a blow dryed head shot behind his senate desk. The latter would be a picture Wendell just posed for. And Wendell was never a poser himself–or had patience with those who were.

wendell fordHe was, as a friend of the family would say, “The Real McCoy” and “the genuine article.” He is obviously still with us tonight and hopefully for a good while longer. And that is important to note because we may not see another quite like him again. Politics has changed…yet didn’t change Wendell.

Wendell Ford, it is true, is a Kentuckian who has walked with kings. But he is perhaps best described by the elevator man at our nation’s Capitol who proudly boasts that Wendell Ford is “the kindest human being to ever walk these Capitol floors.”

And that is an awfully fine legacy for 700 friends and supporters to celebrate tonight.


Jason Grill on Live with Rink and Laura

Rink-Laura-logoIn this full hour interview, RP Jason Grill discusses JGrill Media, Sock 101, and his political past.



Michael Steele: CPAC — Who Best Articulates Modern Conservatism?

By all accounts the gathering of grassroots conservatives for the American Conservative Union’s CPAC event in Prince George’s County, Maryland offered the right mix of hot rhetoric and new faces; reflection and assessment.

CPAC is often a good way to get a sense of the state of the conservative movement but more important, the state of its relationship with the Republican Party.

For many conservatives, that’s a tenuous relationship on a good day. As Erick Erickson, co-founder of, noted, “I think CPAC is really RPAC these days and is as much, if not more, lobbyist oriented than grass-roots oriented. It is like church homecoming for the Republican Party.”

As the weekend proceedings wrapped up with a rousing call-to-arms by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, some basic questions remain for a movement in transition: Coming into the 2014 elections, are conservatives gaining strength or treading water? And how does any of this really translate to the rest of the country?

Polls show political conservatism is still very healthy despite liberal wailing to the contrary. In terms of electoral politics the conservative base and liberal base basically cancel each other out, with each side striving to reach enough independents in the political center to win nationwide or statewide elections. So, for the most part, it’s a draw.

But some of the polling of the CPAC attendees also reveals some interesting challenges and opportunities for conservatives. For example 41 percent believe marijuana should be legalized and taxed for recreational and medical use (21 percent believe marijuana should be legalized only for medical purposes when prescribed by a doctor) while 31 percent say it should remain illegal.

446px-Michael_SteeleSimilarly, 78 percent cite their most important goal is to promote individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government, while only 12 percent cite promoting traditional values by protecting traditional marriage and protecting the life of the unborn as their most important goal. Such findings are consistent with the libertarian leanings of the participants (46 percent of whom were between the ages of 18-25) but also are a sign of a changing demographic within the conservative movement itself.

While themes of freedom, faith and family were echoed throughout the weekend, speaker after speaker seem to have in mind those changing demographics inside and outside the hall as they came repeatedly back to strategy and what it will take to win in 2014.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich cautioned “we must stop being the opposition movement, and we must become the alternative government movement that will help make the life of every American better so that they understand what we would do that would be right, not just what the left is doing that is wrong.” U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tx), a Tea Party favorite, urged conservatives to stick with core beliefs to win elections. “They say if you stand for principles, you lose elections. That is a false dichotomy.”

Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.), insisted conservatives embrace a governing agenda that would help Republicans succeed this November and beyond. “We don’t get to govern if we don’t win. So please, let us come out of here resolved not only to stand for our principles, but let’s come out of this conference resolved to win elections again.”

And it is winning elections that has proven elusive since 2011. The lack of a cohesive message to voters, struggles over the “conservative brand” with its Tea Party base and the poor standing of the Republican-controlled Congress have all taken their toll (for example, 51 percent of CPAC attendees disapprove of the Republican Congress).

But many conservatives, like Sen. Cruz, feel in the end the failure of 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to effectively draw stark contrasts between his governing policies and the Obama agenda stands as an example of watered-down conservatism. As the Senator would make clear in his speech, “All of us remember President Dole and President McCain and President Romney — now look, those are good men, they’re decent men, but when you don’t stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don’t stand for principle, Democrats celebrate.”

But it would be another Tea Party favorite, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), who would warn against purging centrist Republicans, saying, “we as conservatives have got to be far more engaged in finding converts than in discarding heretics.” Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) drove the point even deeper. “You may think I am talking about electing a Republican. I am not,” Sen. Paul said. “I am talking about electing lovers of liberty. It isn’t good enough to pick the lesser of two evils. We must elect men and women of principle, and conviction and action that will lead us back to greatness.”

Senators Lee and Paul are closer to the truth for both conservatives and the Republican Party: It is a false choice we sometimes make between core principles and good governance.

But many conservatives stand on the precipice of conservatism, ready to throw each other off because of such false choices; feeling they have lost their grip on what conservatism means and who is best positioned to articulate it.

As conservatives and Republicans assess their leadership, their strategy and ultimately the impact they will have on American politics in 2014 and beyond, they would be wise to heed the advice of the late conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr.: “Nominate the most conservative candidate who is electable.”

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: What Would Kanye West Have Done


Most of these wristbands are proactive and preventive in that they urge us to ask ourselves What would a certain person do “before” action is taken.

But let’s be real. We don’t always remember to ask ourselves before we do something and sometimes still make mistakes.

jyb_musingsThen what?

I have a solution. I also wear a second wristband for just such instances. When I screw up, I look at my wrist and ask myself “What Would Kayne West Have Done?”

The question is past tense. And what Kayne would have done is always something much worse and crazier than what I did. And that makes me feel better.

And will make you feel better too!

Watch Jeff Smith Become “Up Against the Clock” All Time Champion

If you are a fellow #upper, particularly a fan of the Steve Kornacki version of MSNBC’s “Up,” you undoubtedly have watched the best political game show on TV — “Up Against the Clock.”  Typically hosted by Kornacki, the all-time leading scorer on the show had been contributing RP (and MSNBC “The Cycle” co-host) Krystal Ball.

Well, this week. Krystal guest hosted for Steve, and the game show featured new contestant, and fellow contributing RP, Jeff Smith.  And who’d have thunk it, but Jeff emerged as the Greatest Of All Time Up Against the Clock contestant.  Watch him stumble over a Judd Gregg question, and then make a miraculous recovery to claim the all-time championship:

BREAKING: John Y. Brown, III Wins HUGE Award — “The Dude Abides”

1476659_10153595340060515_2075612613_nWell….I just got home and went out to the mailbox and found an over-sized envelope I wasn’t expecting. On the front was written my name in big gangly letters all authoritative and award-sounding like. Which turned out to be true.

I opened up the envelope (the over-sized one with my name written in big gangly letters) and found this. It was enough to make me go all soft and warm on the inside and start thinking about a movie I like a lot. Not a movie I would ever base my life on, mind you. Or a movie I’d ever admit in public that I found amusing and comforting. At least not admit it in a public way where grown-ups or anyone I want to impress could find out. But that movie is The Big Lebowski.

Now, if you ask me, “John, do you have the movie poster from The Big Lebowski hanging in your basement? The real crazy looking dream sequence one with The Dude teaching proper bowling form to Julianne Moore’s character who is dressed in Viking garb? That one?”

If you asked me that, I’d say “no.”

But I’d be lying. Because I do. In a dark corner of our basement but it’s there in plain sight (just darkened a bit) for everyone to see. If they really stray and start poking around a room they aren’t supposed to be in. And I’m proud I have that movie poster.

And I’d also be lying a bit if I told you this here award –even if it is a joke or spoof or prank of some sort—didn’t touch me in some way deep down inside that I’ll probably never be able to explain to my wife and kids or the rest of my family. Or most anybody I work with. Not even any of my neighbors, except maybe the one on the far end of our cul-de-sac who is Indian but trying really hard to understand American culture. Even the weird stuff. I think he’d probably appreciate it. But that’s about it. And maybe Will Russell, a friend of mine who does a lot for the Louisville Lebowskifest. But other than Will and my Indian neighbor whose name I don’t even know but I think would like The Big Lebowski, this is a pretty solemn award that I may try to show off to others but only I can truly appreciate the profoundly convoluted meaning behind it.
Let’s just say I think it’s pretty dang cool.

And I don’t use phrases like “pretty dang cool” unless I am feeling something very intensely than I can’t find the words to adequately describe. Maybe it’s best if I just let the movie itself do the talkin’ for me. It sums it up about like I would if I did have the words to describe it.

“Sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero? Sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about the Dude
here…..Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there……Sometimes there’s a man, sometimes, there’s a man. Well, I lost my train of thought here. But… aw, hell…The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there.”

Well…I think that pretty much says it all about as well as it can be said. And if you noticed the movie script didn’t ever have to resort to using the phrase “pretty dang cool.” The movie The Big Lebowski has a language all its own and didn’t need intense-feeling preppy phrases like that one. You just kinda know it without ever having to say it.

Know what I mean?


1454815_10153595344200515_1732996029_nAnd to prove I may be worthy of The Dude Abides award, I am including this photo.

It’s not a selfie. That wouldn’t be Dude-like at all.

It is, however, a picture of a robe I bought myself recently that I like to wear when I am working in my home office.

And if I may say so, ties the whole room together rather nicely.

And I sure hope nobody, especially German nihilists, ever try to urinate on it.


960059_10153595367015515_2021243848_nAnd although there is really very little about me that even remotely resembles The Dude, I have had a few Dude-like moments.

Not many, mind you, but a few.

Including this one when I was about 11 years old on a fishing boat.

I didn’t fish. But I did manage to look pretty Dude-esque, if you ask me anyway.

Kay Hoffman: Seeing Mandela

46664 Concert: In Celebration Of Nelson Mandela's Life - PerformanceIn 1990, when Nelson Mandela first visited the United States, I had the pleasure of seeing him and hearing him speak at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

I bought tickets for my children, Eric and Abby, and the three of us along with thousands of others sat enthralled as we heard him talk about gratitude and of his affinity for Detroiters. There on the podium with him were Detroit icons, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Rosa Parks.

My children and I have talked about this life enhancing experience many times in the ensuing years.

I also visited South Africa just at the end of his Presidency and was inspired and hopeful.

Though his promise isn’t fulfilled, he certainly kept his faith in his people.

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