Saturday, December 24, 2005

#220 - Resolved

This one slipped quietly by. On December 15, the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 579 as follows:

H. Res. 579

In the House of Representatives, U.S.,

December 15, 2005.

Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and

Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States would prohibit the establishment of religion, not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;

(2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and

(3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions, for those who celebrate Christmas.

Well said.

And yet... something bothers me about this resolution. It's not the language, certainly. I agree with everything it says. I myself would have voted for it enthusiastically.

It could be the final count. It had what you might call an unprecedented level of bipartisan support. 401 representatives voted in the affirmative. There were only 22 negative votes - all of them Democrats. 5 congresspersons merely answered, "present." 5 more did not vote for whatever reasons. Interestingly, one of our primary California Atheists sorry, Democrats, Jane Harman, was among the "nay" votes. In fact, at least 4 of the 22 nay votes were California Democrats. How inspiring.

Yet as interesting as was the final vote, it pales in comparison to the reason for the resolution.

How on earth have we arrived at a place where the symbols and traditions of Christmas need the support of the House of Representatives? Is it possible that Christmas is in danger of disappearing altogether from the public arena?

Perhaps. Some folks have sure done their level best to make sure that the word "Christmas" is instantly associated with some sort of counter-diversity movement. Stores now fear retribution from atheists and civil libertarians who somehow feel that public recognition of the Savior's birth is anaethema to the nation's well-being. Bell-ringers? Not in front of my store. No, sir. We support diversity!

And so it goes.

Still, one phrase of the resolution is most meaningful: "reference to God in civic dialog." Ah. Civic dialog. The ability to freely express our thoughts, worship as we please, and pay tribute to any and all religious observances. All guaranteed by the First Amendment. We the people have this right, and we need to exercise it.

Let the atheists, ACLU barristers, civil libertarians, and even Jesse Jackson believe (or not) any way that they choose. Those who might take offense need to remember that it cuts both ways. To those who believe that public prayer is somehow offensive, let me remind you that to oppose prayer is equally offensive to me and my family. To hear you belittle and degrade our celebrations is highly offensive. But that same First Amendment even guarantees you that right, and I certainly cannot stop you.

Neither can you stop us.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

#219 - Looking Ahead

The Woundup has been in operation for a whole year and a half now, and in that time we have been referring to ourselves (frequently, if not consistently) in the first person plural. We enjoy doing that on occasion because it sounds so deliciously pompous, and we can also create the illusion that the Woundup is some sort of underground syndicate with a staff full of bitter, street-tough researchers. On the other hand, that would make Woody just another figurehead; a Dan Rather of the blogosphere who stands by the accuracy of every story whether or not they have any actual facts involved. So we're not sure the imperial "we" is the way to go. It may work for Dave Barry (who does have a bitter and street-tough researcher named judi), but we just don't have that kind of budget. In fact, we don't budget well at all, which is why Mrs. Woody is our finance department.

Anyway, back a few weeks ago we approached fellow blogger (and full-time brother) Cameron of "Way Off Bass" notoriety. We had commented on his recent blog-dearth and he happily admitted that his heart just isn't in it anymore. He is a recovering blogoholic, and we respect that. We also don't buy it. Not that he isn't sincere, by any means. I (oops, I mean we) believe his contrition is genuine and worthy of our support. But we also know our brother, perhaps better than he cares to admit. He has a disease for which, frankly, there is no known cure: he has Male Answer Syndrome. MAS means that, one day, Cameron will be driving to or from work and will be listening to talk radio and will hear some outrageous statement by some left-leaning nutcase who will propose - we don't know - perhaps that the answer to global warming would be eliminating all drilling for oil RIGHT NOW and Cameron will find himself driving directly to Kinko's where his connectivity currently resides and he will log on and BLOG HIS EYES RIGHT OUT OF HIS HEAD. He won't be able to help it. Also, mid-term elections are coming up next year and he will find himself in a target-rich environment.

In fact, we're counting on just this sort of reaction. It means that our conversation with The Bass a few weeks back, which ended with our inviting Way Off Bass to make appearances on the Woundup, did not go to waste. So, you may see an occasional post here from my brother. This means that now, whenever I use the term "we," I won't be referring to any schizoid personalities that I (we?) may possess.

So we roll out the Welcome mat for Way Off Bass, and hope he'll find fresh meat with which to satiate his blogging appetite. He has been sorely missed.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

#218 - Ann Coulter Demands Equal Rights!

Conservative gun moll Ann Coulter complains that, for all the damage she inflicts on poor downtrodden liberals, she can't seem to get indicted.

Money quote:
Can't we rustle up a right-wing prosecutor to indict Teddy Kennedy for Mary Jo Kopechne's drowning? Unlike the cases against Limbaugh and DeLay, Mary Jo's death was arguably a crime, and we could probably prove it in court.

I'm afraid, Ann, that you can't be indicted until Pat Oliphant and Ted Rall have completed their initial investigations and handed their findings over to the syndicateGrand Jury. They do speak for the "people," after all.

Specifically, they speak for the Pod People.

Monday, December 12, 2005

#217 - Out on a Limb Prediction

Should M'sieur Schwarzenegger grant clemency to that apparent paragon of virtue, Tookie Williams, I predict this will be the governor's last term in office. As a Republican, anyway.

Let's review the facts:

• Major loss of support base during the Special Election.

• Appointment of Democratic hired gun as Chief of Staff.

• Seemingly increased influence from traditionally hardcore Democratic wife.

Woody's prediction: Arnie will either jump ship before the next election, or will run as the Republican equivalent of a Howard Dean, trying to galvanize the moderates (read: left-leaners) in the party.

It won't work. He can no longer even sell himself as a fiscal conservative, and any signs of social conversatism disappeared when he appointed Ms. Kennedy to such an important staff position.

Fare thee well, Ahnold.

UPDATE: Well, I'll be... he still has a backbone after all. Still not sure it's enough to get him a second term, but at least this won't be one of the reasons conservatives abandon him.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Thursday, December 01, 2005

#215 - Oh, Arnold...

Question:

What do Tookie Williams, Susan Kennedy, and Joan Borucki all have in common?

Answer:

A Republican governor who can't seem to remember he's a Republican.

Without debating the death penalty on its merits (I support it. End of discussion.), it seems that Schwarzenegger's recent special election debaucle has not only rattled his political agenda, it has also completely unleashed his Inner Kennedy.

Signs of his incipient demhood surfaced last year when he attempted (and, fortunately, failed) to install a tax-and-spend Democrat as head of California's Department of Motor Vehicles. Joan Borucki was widely panned by conservatives a year ago when she first floated her plan to tax California drivers by the mile. This was supposed to alleviate tax shortfalls created by more and more people switching to environmentally-friendly hybrid vehicles and spending less on our already over-taxed gas. That her appointment was not confirmed by a Democrat-controlled legislature only confirms that even liberal California pols can get it right on occasion, if only by accident.

The decision to hold a special election in the first place was nothing short of desperation on Arnie's part. That he not only lost, but lost every single initiative did two things: It made his "special election" basically a very expensive non-event, and it ruined his credibility among the right-leaning elements (myself included) of the party. So what is our surprise to find, weeks later, that he has appointed another Democrat to an important staff position? Not only that, but this particular Democrat was one of Gray Davis's (remember Gray? The guy Arnie wanted so badly to replace? The one he basically accused of being incompetent?) chief architects of some of his more spectacular political failures. Can you say, "Oracle?" Susan Kennedy (please, let her not be any relation!) was absolutely clueless about the ramifications of that Oracle contract, and I can't imagine her acumen having improved since then.

Finally, now that poor ol' Tookie has lost his battle in court, it's up to Ahnold to yea or nay his execution this month. The fact that he's already "agonizing" over this decision does not bode well for those of us who prefer justice over entitlement. Williams helped found one of the most dangerous, deadly gangs in Los Angeles. Whether or not he pulled the trigger that killed the four people he's been convicted of murdering, he has at the very least been indirectly responsible for the deaths of dozens more in the three decades since the gang was founded. This man has been found guilty, has refused to accept responsibility, and needs to die. But now it's in Schwarzenegger's hands. Hands that no longer seem to know what to do. Hands that shake with indecision now.

I've seen that shake before. Where have I seen it...? Oh. Of course.

Another Kennedy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

#214 - One More Reason to Avoid Flying

If you're a man, that is.

Mark Worsley boarded a plane, took his seat, and then was asked to move. The airline needed to seat an unaccompanied eight year old boy, and airline policy dictates that they cannot be seated next to men. So Worsley, who after all is sensitive to post 9-11 delicacies, promptly moved. He spent the remainder of his flight stewing about it. It was embarrassing, he reasoned, to be singled out as a potential pedophile just because he would be seated next to a young boy. He confronted the flight attendants after the flight and was told that this was, indeed, company policy.

There are two problems with this scenario:

1. It would have to be a pretty desperate individual to attempt to engage in any sort of "inappropriate" behavior on an airplane. For one thing, an airplane cabin is hardly the kind of place you can invoke the sort of privacy I'm imagining it would require. Especially after 9-11. Flight attendants are trained to watch passengers like a hawk, and unaccompanied youth most of all. The airline assumes special liability by allowing such children to fly alone, and the potential for lawsuits means those kids are under continual scrutiny. In the United States, I'm guessing that an Air Marshall would make pretty short work of any perv who tried to get cozy with a kid like that.

2. The airlines (Qantas and Air New Zealand) who implemented this policy obviously haven't been watching the news lately. 'Nuff said.

Giving the airlines the benefit of the doubt, I will agree that on its face this seems like a genuine attempt to protect the rights and safety of a child. I have no problem with that. However, if an airline knows that an unaccompanied child is going to be on a given flight, special care should be taken to avoid the embarrassment of singling someone out. Call that seat number before boarding and talk to that individual privately. Or, if the seats aren't pre-assigned, put a sign on that seat stating that the seat cannot be taken without consent of a flight attendant. There must be better ways of handling it than to essentially shame a passenger by labelling him a potential molester.

Remember, "politically correct" is no replacement for courtesy and respect.

Monday, November 28, 2005

#213 - The Lone What State?

So my new step-Dad and I were enjoying a nice chat at the dinner table yesterday afternoon, when the topic of ID's came up. Grandma Woody and her new hubby have only recently (just a few months ago) relocated to Texas and have been going through the process of getting their new Texas photo ID's. Two interesting stories came out of this discussion.

First, the process for getting a driver's license in Texas is nothing short of hilarious. I mean ironic, of course, but it's the sort of thing that makes people involuntarily snort their milk if they're unprepared. Turns out (I'm cutting to the bottom line here) that one must "surrender" their current driver's license before getting a new one. Bob, having been a fairly regular reader of the Woundup since hooking up with my mother, was gauging my reaction. I don't think I disappointed:

"Let me get this straight. A state that cannot control their own border with Mexico doesn't trust people who come from other states?"

"Exactly!" he replied with glee. Guess I nailed that one.

He then related a story about someone (I was tanked up on pumpkin pie and my memory is getting fuzzier) who needed to see the expiration date on his new license to enter as part of a transaction. The clerk looked at his license and was completely stymied. Bob then showed me what his license says next to "Expiration."

"INDEF"

To a programmer, that also is nothing short of hilarious. Keep in mind that I was part of the dreaded and probably over-rated "Y2K" problem, and was one of those lucky guys who had to scrub countless lines of code to make sure that my apps could handle the new millenium. As I have worked with various systems as part of my work in aerospace, one thing that continually amazes me is programmers who leave date fields as open text. In other words, you could probably type in something like "INDEF" in that field and it would be accepted. Unfortunately, the other end of a database is the reporting that managers and customers require, and they always want things sorted by date. How on earth do you sort by "INDEF?" So your more anal programmers - like me - tend to force date fields to only accept actual dates.

This clerk had no idea how to handle putting a non-date entry into a field that would only accept a true date. Finally a supervisor was consulted, and he said, "Oh, just put this day next year in there." End of problem.

So, in Texas, it's possible to have a license that never expires, assuming you can get them to admit that you really are a U.S. citizen who won't give your old license to one of the thousands of illegal immigrants who flow through our open borders every single day.

Texas - the Lone Brain Cell State.

P.S. Note to my friends in Texas, assuming I have any left: I realize that California is no better. We have Hollyweird, for cripes' sake, and Nancy Pelosi. We are properly ashamed.

On the other hand, you have Cindy Sheehan. You may keep her.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

#212 - The Idiot's Guide to Intelligent Design

There are always extremists in any given argument. When one side believes itself to be correct, no amount of discussion or presentation of evidence will do much to convince that side to change its thinking. We see much of that same dynamic in the on-going fight over "intelligent design."

On the one hand, you have the scientific community, currently represented by the humanists who believe that everything that has ever happened has been the result of some gigantic cosmic accident. They try to peel back the layers of our terrestrial onion to uncover the secrets of where we came from and why we exist. God becomes an excuse created by man to make up for his lack of knowledge.

On the other hand are the theologians. These are represented by those who believe that none of what we experience could possibly be anything but the design of an all-powerful deity who has carefully controlled every facet of our physical life. To understand everything about creation requires faith as much as (or perhaps more than) knowledge, because so much of what we lack remains hidden to our natural eyes.

This debate intrigues me because, while I come down pretty firmly on the side of the theologians, I feel that there is value in something that the great philosopher, James Tiberius Kirk, once said: "You and I are both extremists," he once told Spock. "The truth is probably somewhere in the middle."

To understand my own position, of course, it's important to tell you what I believe. And why I don't necessarily buy completely into the "intelligent design" meme, even if I believe most of it.

In LDS scripture, we have the statement of Alma on which I base all of my scientific (such as it is) research. While debating an anti-Christ about the existence of God, Alma said, "The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." (Alma 30:44)

In other words, Alma points out to Korihor that creation itself is evidence of the existence of God. The entire spectrum of physical life, our very solar system, and the entire known (and speculated) universe are all evidences that God not only exists, but that he has power to set and keep all these things in motion. The scientific world - bless their little knowledge-thirsting hearts! - have done little to "prove" that God does not exist. All they can do is gain an increasingly better understanding of how or why things work the way they do, but how many of them have been able to do more than postulate on what made the Big Bang go "bang?"

Still, I also don't buy into the argument that God is so controlling that we aren't given considerable leeway to live according to our own consciences. And I don't necessarily believe that Darwinism is the great evil protrayed by many religious apologists.

There's simply too much empirical evidence to dismiss Darwin's theories out of hand. Certainly it has been proven, time and again, that many species have adapted and evolved over time. I have yet, of course, to see where it has been proven that man derived from any anthropoid thus far discovered. As far as I'm concerned, Adam appeared in the garden, and it's all been down-hill from there. But I also know that the biblical account of the creation is far more allegory than scientific fact, so I have no problem accepting that the earth could very well be four-plus billion years old. That would be plenty of time to form life gradually, enact a few extinctions, and shake up the landscape enough to prepare the earth for its most significant inhabitant.

Me.

[ahem]

All lack of modesty aside, there is still more than enough hidden knowledge awaiting discovery. God himself is subject to the laws on which our creation is based, and science has yet to fully comprehend the true glue that keeps the universe growing within its sphere.

In the meantime, the debate rages on. Until both communities get comfortable with the idea that there is room at the table for both perspectives, the debate will remain contentious. Someday, I hope, there will be a meeting of mind and spirit. Until then...

... semper fi.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

#211 - The Arrogance of Harvard

(H/T: Mrs. Woody, as usual!)

Oh, to have the clarity of vision and nobility of purpose of an old Ivy League school. Harvard University (pronounced "hahvahd" by the cogniscenti) is not only accepting homeschooled students, but is willing to help assimilate them into "normal" society during their first year at the school.

On behalf of homeschooling families across the country, let me just thank Harvard for having the guts to admit that higher education is more about having sex than taking classes. Also, in a marvel of investigative reporting that only Mary Mapes could fully appreciate, your Woundup Weporter has uncovered evidence that Harvard University now considers homeschooling to be another form of compulsive substance abuse, similar to alcoholism. More on that later.

First, one must be grateful that truly visionary university administrators like Kathy Kushner dedicate their professional lives to making sure our backward children are properly introduced to the party-hearty life of a college student in the United States. At approximately $27,000 a year, parents want to know that their youngsters are well versed in the art of wasting time and money. It's a full package, really, that includes learning how not to appear smarter than your fellow classmates (or, no doubt, your professors), how not to appear awkward at your average pharm party, and how to increase your personal focus on sex. Perhaps Ms. Kushner hopes that the students will try to get it out of their systems earlier so they can buckle down to work by the time they reach their senior year.

It's unfortunate, if not unexpected, that so many homeschooled youths rebel at the thought of having such a prestigious institution treat them like inmates at a local juvenile detention center. Along with the socialization experiments, they are made to live in the same dorms as other homeschoolers. While not yet in evidence, it would not be unreasonable to believe that in the near future, homeschool freshmen will be required to wear striped uniforms and have stylized "H" emblems tattooed across their foreheads. The emblems would always be visible because the students' heads would be shaved prior to beginning their studies. Some university staffers are rumored to have been given "SS" pins to wear on their lapels.

Such segregation is unsurprising given Harvard dean James Muesten's opinion of homeschool families:
"Homeschooled children tend to come from white, evangelical families, and frankly, those people — I don't want to call them rubes — have a lot to learn about broader culture." He later retracted the comments, saying they were made "in the spirit of the interview" which was free-wheeling and "not entirely serious." He said he thought the Vermont newspaper was satirical and he had tried to "make a joke that turned out not to be funny." He apologized, but affirmed that the homeschool dorm was a good idea that would prove itself over the years.

"Fitting In is a great program," he said. "If you're homeschooled and you're coming to Harvard, this is the way it is."

At the same time freshmen are subjected to the school's "Fitting In" program, they also have an opportunity to recant their mistaken beliefs in such an obviously right-wing extremist form of education. Listed among the university's many associations and organizations is one entitled "Homeschoolers Anonymous." The official website for this group is disappointing, to say the least. I had expected to find at least a link to the 12 step program they must have designed to purge their initiates of all traces of homeschooled superiority. Instead, they offer the following mission statement:
Homeschoolers Anonymous is an organization dedicated to ensuring an active community that promotes the facilitation of a healthy transition from homeschooling to Harvard student life. We believe that by creating a network of support through this community of individuals who understand the issues surrounding this transition, we can foster the development of a positive foundation upon which a rich educational and social experience within the ivy walls of this hallowed institution that is Harvard University can be made. In addition, we also believe that it is our solemn duty to heighten awareness of homeschooling and the surrounding issues on our campus.

I work for a huge multinational aerospace corporation, and even we couldn't come up with such a convoluted and self-important collection of double talk. And we get paid to write this tripe!

So there you have it, homeschoolers of America. The halls of upper education are well represented by the arrogance of the king of Ivy League campuses. If Harvard is so accepting of homeschooled students, you can only imagine how the others will react. Perhaps they'd like to call a summit meeting to discuss the issue.

I plan to bring my pitchfork.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

#210 - Don't Let the Door Hit You...

Nearly everyone's common blogological ancestor, Glenn Reynolds, serves up this WaPo article regarding Nissan's relocation of its headquarters and over 1,300 jobs from Gardena, California, to a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. There is talk about this being another "blow" to Governor Ahnold, but that just doesn't wash. As one of Glenn's readers pointed out, it's not like the Republicans haven't been trying for decades to make California more business friendly. The simple truth is, it's just awfully expensive to do business here in California, particularly in the larger metropolitan areas where housing generally exceeds $360,000 (for a shack with plumbing), and a tax structure that should have bankrupted nearly everyone.

Even Hollywood, for whom I hold no love, feels this pinch. They keep imploring the state to cut them some slack so they can keep more production in the local area, but to no avail. This is surprising insofar as Hollywood is a hotbed of liberalism, and they just can't seem to get any relief from their liberal buddies in the legislature. I mean, they donate millions to Democratic coffers as a community, and this is the thanks they get. Hmph. Maybe if Warren runs... nah! He'd only confuse things.

Anyway, Nissan's move is just the latest salvo in this ongoing battle. Other companies have pulled similar maneuvers without raising so much as an embarrassing question or two from the MSM operatives. Faced with burgeoning costs on the Space Station project, Boeing moved 1,100 engineers and other technical professionals to Houston and other locations. Their reasons generally revolved around making the engineers more "accessible" to their government customers, but you just know a healthy part of that decision had to involve Boeing's negotiated administrative rates with NASA. Those rates take into account the taxes and fees the company must pay to do business in California, and it's just getting too expensive to justify any longer. When you tell this to state pols, they will pull the standard "I Feel Your Pain" frowny face, but they don't really understand the problem. They get their pension whether your company stays in California or not.

Woody, of course, has his opinions on this topic. Personally, I'd like to see about two or three thousand more companies of varying sizes leave California for good. Let's lose, say, about 20 to 50 thousand more jobs. Most of them would have to come from Los Angeles and the Silicon Valley, of course, but they need to go. What we need here is a solid glut of cheap housing. Primarily, we need about a 30% foreclosure rate in every state politician's neighborhood, so they get the idea that their current policies are choking the local economy.

I recognize that this is likely never to occur, but I can dream. In the meantime, California will continue to be more about speculation than about real productivity, and companies like Nissan will continue to recognize that there are greener (and more economically friendly) pastures elsewhere in the country.

I'll be shopping for a house.

#209 - Ahnold's Boat Forgot to Float

Poor Ahnold. What's a seemingly disgraced soon-to-be-ex-Governor to do? Every single one of his reasons for having an expensive special election have been shot down before his eyes and, worse yet, no one seems to care very much.

I mean no one.

Interestingly enough, even the political pundits of the MSM seem to have dropped California's election results like a bad breakfast burrito. There's been maybe two days of political commentary and, suddenly, it's all disappeared. There has been an almost eerie silence from Sacramento since the election. Seems the entire executive and legislative branches have chosen to leave town rather than discuss what's just happened.

This could be because what's really just happened is: nothing.

As far as the Democrats are concerned, the election was a walk. Oh, sure, they outspent the Governor by nearly a two to one margin, but then they always outspend their opponents. That's what soft money is for. You have to make people think it's scary to vote against them. But the Democrats probably knew something that Ahnold didn't: the Republicans just weren't engaged in this campaign.

Take a look at the list of initiatives. Begin with the "Big Four;" those initiatives personally sponsored and backed by the Governor himself. The issues of teacher tenure, labor union money, forcing a balanced budget, and even redistricting are four of the most complicated (and, therefore, most boring) issues currently infesting state government. Each one is so deeply entrenched in the law books that no single initiative - even a well designed one - will solve the problem. As for the others, well, how many times have we tried to reform prescription drug policies, utility price controls, and even (shudder) teenage abortion laws?

Apparently, one too many times to suit most Republicans. Take the issue of teenagers requiring parental consent before getting an abortion. While it may sound noble to require parents to be informed that their children are asking for an abortion, what's the reality here? What savvy parent who truly cares about their daughter would be completely unaware that their child was having sex, got pregnant, and is now seeking an "easy" way out? The ones who actually communicate with their children and stay actively involved in their lives probably (I'm sure there are exceptions) don't have to deal with that. So it's the kids who feel a need to "play" the system and stay just under the parental radar that this law would have captured, and they are the most likely ones to get the abortions, legal or otherwise. Another near-useless law.

Teacher tenure? Pshaw. Nothing we've tried in the last thirty years has ever had any effect - positive or negative - on producing quality teachers who in turn produce quality students. The pressures our kids face are societal, not legal. It's in the family that a kid either excels or disintegrates. School is merely the most visible component of a child's life, because that's where we "test" the kids. If the test scores are bad (and they almost always are), then the kids must be failing. And if the kids are failing, the schools certainly are. Unless you talk to the teachers, who for years have claimed that moneyovercrowded classrooms, moneylack of materials, and moneycorrupt administrators are to blame, along with every Republican who ever registered to vote. Either way, Proposition 74 would have had little effect. I voted yes, but (as I said before) unenthusiastically.

Any initiative to reign in the organized labor unions must be met with utter contempt by the voting public. As I mentioned in my previous post, the unions have become the very things they fought against over a hundred years ago. They have become the corrupt bureaucracies that use heavy-handed scare tactics to control their memberships, and are not above the use of occasional violence or threats to enforce their image of victimization. They are the very definition of the Entitlement Mentality. Efforts to correct their corruption through legal means are always doomed to fail. Why should Republicans get passionate about something they know won't go away without a highly organized national effort?

I'm not as old as some people think, so when I say I cannot remember the last time Sacramento passed a budget on time, you'll have to take my word for it. Maybe they have, and I was busy that year. Still, the more deeply divided the legislature becomes over basic issues, the longer this process is going to take. At some point, some genius will figure out that we have to start passing budgets five years in advance in order to have them approved on time. Until that happens, you can legislate the process all you want. They'll still never get it done when they're supposed to. The Governor will always have to resort to unusual means to get money to the places he needs it, and the opposing party will always be hacked off about it. Another no-win situation.

And on, and on, and on.

So, here's the lessons Ahnold should have learned this year:

1. If you want to have a special election, make sure you've earned it first.

2. Ballot initiatives need to capture the attention and interest of the minor players. "Voters," I think you call them. Without their interest, you have no chance.

3. If you absolutely must raise an issue that's never been successfully challenged before, make sure your vision is worthy of deep analysis and discussion by all sides. Don't assume your constituents "get it" just because they elected you in the first place. And, finally,

4. Never let the President come to your state during the election to raise money for himself. Looking like a beggar at the table is bad politics.

Monday, November 07, 2005

#208 - Woody's Voter's Guide for Curmudgeons®

It's time to take a curmudgeonly look at the various ballot initiatives on which we will be voting tomorrow and provide my reasons (such as they are) for the positions I've taken. If you're looking for in-depth analysis of any of these measures, look elsewhere. I may joke about some of what is discussed here, but my votes will be serious. If I say yea or nay, I mean it. You may have to read between the lines to find out exactly why.

[A tip of the ol' hat to Boi from Troy who neatly summarized his own views on these propositions and included invaluable links to background data on all the props!]

Proposition 73
The so-called "parental notification" amendment will require notifying a parent before performing an abortion for any underaged girl.

As a parent, the idea that either of my little girls could one day find themselves pregnant before they come of age is extremely worrisome. Rest assured that Mrs. Woody and I are doing everything we can to preach, exhort, encourage, and otherwise enforce abstinence for the Woodyettes. I've got the cardboard boxes with breathing holes ready to go the minute I detect any incipient male gender interest, and duct tape to seal the holes when they turn 16. (You always thought that was just a joke, didn't you?) I also have my brother-in-law-the-deputy-sheriff on speed dial.

Beyond those reasonable measures, I have to learn to trust my little girls. I dearly hope that, when they reach those critical years of adolescence, they will be able to confide everything in their Mom and Dad, even if some things might cause pain and heartache initially. I believe Mrs. Woody and I are mature and stable enough to be able to deal with such things in a reasonable and loving manner.

Then and only then will I put the boy that did it in the hospital. Count me as a YES on 73.

Proposition 74
This one increases a new teacher's probation period from two to five years, and modifies a school board's ability to dismiss a less-than-qualified teacher.

Ho hum. Another attempt to "fix" public education in the great (whoopee) state of California. I have no real feelings for this one in either direction, primarily because we homeschool, and "teacher quality" is not an issue in our academy. My kids have the best, and they're thriving.

In this case, one more attempt to reign in the madness can't really hurt, and certainly won't further flush a system that's already in the u-bend. Woody votes YES, if somewhat unenthusiastically.

Proposition 75
In simple terms (and we have to keep it simple for union leadership, right?), this proposition prohibits the use of union dues for political purposes without prior consent of the members.

The advertising for this one kills me. While the leftist unions try to show it as an attempt to "silence" their voice, one wonders just how much membership money was spent to create and air the campaign in the first place. Mrs. Woody, who was an active educator for several years, assures me that, contrary to the adverts, union members do not already have "protections" in place to prevent their dues and fees being used politically. Not unless you're on the board of that union, at any rate.

Put another way: the unions have become exactly what they fought against over a hundred years ago - corrupt bureaucracies with little regard for those they're supposed to protect.

Woody's take: Shut up and show us your cooked books, guys. We're voting YES on 75.

Proposition 76
Ah, yes. Schwarzenegger's "grab the money and run" initiative. This one imposes limits on state spending (current year plus some reasonable adjustments based on three year averages), and revamps provisions of Proposition 98. Also allows the governor to reduce budget appropriations under certain circumstances.

This one is being lambasted as nothing short of a political "power grab," which is - let's be honest - redundant. There's no such thing in politics as a "powerless" grab, no matter what you choose to call it. When I was a pup in high school, my American Gov teacher delineated the difference between Democrat and Republican. "They both want to spend money. The difference is how they want to spend it." I have found that to be more and more true in the ensuing years.

It's real title should be the "What to Do When the Legislature Refuses to Pass a Budget" act. That's really the only way the governor can "grab" the money, and there are no guarantees on either side that the governor would do anything more stupid than Sacramento does today. At least with this initiative the governor can look like he's doing something constructive. All he can do today is hurl sexist insults at them. Color me YES on 76.

Proposition 77
The notorious "Redistricting" initiative. This one scares the heck out of the libs, and with good reason.

Imagine that your two terms as Assemblyman are up and it's time to either run for State Senate or cut bait. What's a poor legislator to do? Redraw the lines! Sure! That'll work! I'll just create a new district and guarantee myself a shot at two more terms!

In the "Desperate Enough to Hire Living Fossils as Spokespersons" category, the No on 77 forces have made retired Judge Wapner their figurehead for this campaign. Give me a break. I was never a big Wapner fan when he was newly retired from the bench and farced his way through People's Court. Now I have to watch him try to stand upright and read his copy from cue cards that are the size of Buicks behind the camera. (On the other hand, the commercial showing three "judges" redistricting California into the shape of Texas makes me laugh every time. It's probably the only clever commercial of the entire election!)

Sorry, assemblypersons and senators. You can't do the job you were elected to do in the amount of time we've given you to do it. Go find another ball park to play in. Woody votes YES on 77.

Propositions 78 and 79
Drugs: Who Pays and Who Plays?

Proposals like these spring up about every other election cycle here in California. Democrats always try to make this an issue at a national level during general elections, but tend to fail miserably because free markets abhor working under price controls. Also, any attempt to control pricing of pharmceuticals tends to dilute the ability of drug manufacturers to continue research and development of newer, more potent medications.

Whatever the case, both initiatives are being fought over primarily by the drug companies and the insurance industry. They're both badly written and contain enough loopholes to keep lawyers happy for decades to come.

Want real reform? Update MediCal to include medications that seniors and disadvantaged people really need. Now. And apply pressure to Washington to do the same with Medicare. Then you'll get my attention.

Woody sez NO thanks to 78 and 79. In no particular order.

Proposition 80
"The Affordable Electricity and Preventing Blackouts Act" (according to its proponents).

Pardon me while I snort derisively. Price controls sound nice, but what happens when the providers no longer want to play ball? We will be stuck with a pricing structure that was enacted by ballot, and would then be locked until it could be voted on again, or somehow overridden by the California Supreme Court. In either case, if we somehow create another Enron-like debacle, we'd have Hades' own time undoing it.

Things may not be pretty now, but they'd be worse if 80 passes.

This one gets a NO from Woody.

One Last Thing
Just vote tomorrow. Everyone has an opinion. As long as you've studied it and are clear in your thinking, vote. I'd hate to wake up on Wednesday and discover that the main reason my life got worse overnight is because people decided it wasn't worth fighting over. If I'm gonna lose, I'd rather there had been a fight. Forfeiture just doesn't work in a democracy.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

#207 - Short-Circuited Court of Appeals

(Noted in many places, but especial thanks to Mrs. Woody!)

So it happens that the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals, located in (where else?) San Francisco, has rejected a lawsuit brought by families in Palmdale, California who claim that the local school district violated their rights as parents by surveying their children about sex.

Circuit Judge (and Rocket Scientist) Stephen Reinhardt wrote:

"...no such specific right can be found in the deep roots of the nation's history and tradition or implied in the concept of ordered liberty."

That's probably true, but you will also "not find" reference to any constitutional right or authority - deeply rooted heaven only knows where - of the public schools to assume that responsibility, either. Period.

However, this is San Francisco we're talking about, as well as a Circuit Court that has been overrun by the same liberal think-tank mentality that brought us both Dr. Spock and Berkeley. The ghost of Timothy Leary lives on in the 9th Circuit Court.

Unfortunately, modern society has created a safe-haven for such thinking, and believes more and more that all parents are morons. Our children can only learn these things at the hands of embittered unionized teachers who are becoming increasingly distracted by over-crowded classrooms, spending their union dues on political propaganda, and complaining about Schwarzenegger's failure to pay back the $2 billion he "owes" them. I mean, owes the kids. Furthermore, our rights as parents to determine when and how our children will be taught about these things appears not to exist in the minds of the Court. Or liberal politicians. Or the California Department of Education. Or, no doubt, the ACLU.

Not that we're bitter.

All this by way of expressing gratitude for two things:

1. We homeschool. End of problem.

2. We no longer live anywhere near Palmdale. That's cause for gratitude, just because.

UPDATE: More on this over at Memento Moron.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

#206 - Anonymity vs. False Identity

Very interesting implosion over at Banner of Heaven. Just scroll through various posts and you'll quickly see what I'm talking about. Apparently several of the regulars were posting as characters they had made up, presumably to add a little "spice" to the discussions over on the Bloggernacle. Many of those regulars are now feeling a need to apologize for allowing the schtick to get out of hand, and perhaps discredit one family in particular.

Actually, I've not kept up much with BoH since joining the LDS ring myself. Every once in awhile someone would surf over here from BoH out of curiosity, but I've never had any steady interest from anywhere in the so-called "Bloggernacle." Truth is, I never should have put the Woundup on their lists because I rarely deal with spiritual matters here, except to complain whenever someone pulls a stunt like "designer scriptures." The Inner Dad deals much more with family and religion, but doesn't get much play time on the Bloggernacle. Go figure.

But my primary purpose for this post was to point out that while I never (or, at least, extremely rarely) use my real name, it's only because there's a difference between anonymity and false identity. The bloggers of Banner of Heaven are finding themselves in the awkward position of having to apologize (or at least explain themselves) for having misled their readers and for giving false impressions of the intent of their blog. I would like to hope that I don't have that problem in either of my blogs.

"Woody" is an old nickname that began more or less while I was on my mission. I also went by the moniker of "Dr. Ply," but that's a story for another day. "Woody" is also the name I was using when Mrs. Woody and I found each other - online - after a protracted absence of fifteen years during which I had been married and divorced. Having become addicted to MOOs and MUDs and their chat-room mentalities, I quickly realized the benefit of using an anonymous identity on the internet.

Now, once upon a time, back in the bad ol' telnet days, I did try a false identity or two. I did it mainly to do a little sleuthing at a time when my life was in tremendous upheaval, and I didn't like what I saw. Rather than allow myself to glory in such nonsense, I abandoned the identities before they did any real harm (as far as I know), and returned to the business of trying to get on with my life.

After Mrs. Woody and I married, our life together quickly became a whirl of newlywed activity and preparation for a new family. There was little time for anything but growing together and dealing with all the day-to-day family matters that always occupy large chunks of our time and thought. When I became aware of blogging as a potential outlet for my creative writing abilities, I quickly jumped in and started pounding away on the keyboard, but with a greater sense of purpose than I ever had when I was MOOing or MUDing.

I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating in the wake of Banner of Heaven's growing pains: Both the Woundup and Inner Dad need to be taken with requisite grains of salt. I would like to think that it's relatively easy to tell when I'm being serious (like now) or when I'm pulling everyone's leg. Sort of. I have two blogs so it becomes easier for me to keep my ranting and complaining separate from my family-oriented writings.

I use the anonymous IDs for the obvious benefit of keeping my real life as private as possible. It's not that I'm hiding anything; regular readers of either blog know how I live. They know enough about me that if they ever met me in real life there would be no surprises. I even use my real photo, for Pete's sake. I just don't want identity thieves to get too much info and give me more trouble than already appears occasionally on my credit cards. Also, I have four children and their lives to consider and protect. With all the predators running loose in our increasingly "progressive" society today, that's a concern I will never violate. My girls will always be "Woodyettes" until the day they are ready to announce themselves to the world in whatever manner they choose. And not until they're old enough to handle it. Mrs. Woody and I can look after ourselves.

I feel for the Banner of Heaven writers. It's an uncomfortable thing to have to apologize like that. I applaud them for doing so, and hope they'll continue to contribute to the discussion. For the record, I never once worried about their opinions, except to occasionally clarify my own position on one or two of the thornier questions that were raised. And I always did so by way of comment on their space...

...anonymously, of course.

Friday, October 28, 2005

#205 - Exxon Profits From Creative Management

During the energy crisis of the 70's, Exxon was widely viewed as the Great Satan of corporate profiteers. They were the smelly pirates with bad breath and worse hair who raided our pocketbooks and shoveled our money directly into Swiss bank accounts, all the while refusing to apologize for their lack of corporate citizenship and common decency. When the Valdez dumped so much oil into one of the most pristine ecosystems on earth, their corporate image was lower than President Bush's current approval rating. Throughout the entire crisis the company merely sneered at our whining and carping, and rode out the storm in their plush offices while the rest of us rode it out in line at the gas pump.

Flash ahead to our current crisis where prices dance around either side of $3 a gallon at the pump. Once again Exxon executives refuse to acknowledge that their current record-setting profits are any indication whatsoever that they may be sticking a very sharp implement into very sensitive regions of our national psyche. "Consumers don't get it," they pontificate. "They can whine all they like, but we will continue to make money as long as there's oil in the ground. If they don't like it, they can kiss our balance sheet." Executives from Shell and Chevron could be seen snickering behind the curtains.

Being the dumb consumers that we apparently are, we make the false assumption that their obscene profits have something to do with supply and demand. For most of my adult life I've just assumed that whenever the oil companies wanted to make more money they would blow up a refinery somewhere (or, to throw us off their scent, generate a category 4 hurricane in the Gulf), then sit back and watch us pay through the nose to keep gas in our cars and generators.

What a fool I've been.

Turns out that it is not merely through a calculated reduction in our fuel supply that the oil barons fatten their collective pork (although it certainly helps!), but also through some very creative internal management which drives down their administrative costs and widens their already overlarge margins. In fact, I'm surprised this technique hasn't been widely touted in MBA programs across the country by now.

Actually, I can see how this might have come up in some executive's MBA studies. In any such program there are requisite (read: necessary but excruciatingly dull) courses that deal with internal management. This is where they learn such things as how to save money by reducing the amount of office supplies you have on hand, or cutting back on employee recognition programs so there will be enough money in the budget for executive bonuses at the end of the year. Most executives tend to sleep through these classes because they already instinctively know these things. Look at Michael Ovitz, for crying out loud. You think he got that $140 million by being Employee of the Month?

Just for a joke, one instructor - probably looking to see if any of his students still had a pulse - said something like, "Hey, you know those flu shots that so many companies offer every year? Wouldn't it be a hoot if, instead of flu shots, you gave them injections of saline or something?" Then he laughed to show that he was, after all, just kidding.

Unfortunately, an Exxon exec who was in that class snapped out of his torpor and somehow thought he'd just been given a project to do and report back on later in the class. So, in Baytown, Texas some "fake flu vaccines" were offered to participants in a health fair sponsored by the company. About 1,000 employees participated. Fortunately, no one seems to be permanently injured, and the company is already levelling blame at the doctor who supplied them with the vaccines; but, let's be honest, who's going to believe them after they posted over $25 billion in profits in just the first nine months of the year?

So, I'm guessing that this Exxon exec is now on the company's fast track. He'll score high on his final in the class. He'll get the bonus, the penthouse, the corporate jet, and the Ginsu knives. The employees will be offered free counselling and blood tests. It's another win-win scenario for the world's most successful gentlemen of fortune.

Make that: "Fortune" with a capital "F."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

#204 - Get Rich Or...

In the ever-sarcastic "color me surprised" category, we present the story of a clueless major entertainment studio and its ability to advertise its diverse films with tact and sensitivity.

I don't normally get too worked up over local protests since I rarely know enough about either side of the issue to offer an opinion of my own. In this case, however, I have to side with the protestors.

Paramount has made a film. No big deal, since that's one of Paramount's alleged core competencies. The film is called "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," and it has a decidedly street-violent theme. In fact, nothing I've read about the film so far compels me in any way to go see this one. Having seen some of the advertising for the film I can assure you that neither I nor my family will be subjected to this glorification of gangsta life. But it is the advertising that the protestors are targeting.

Specifically, protestors in South Central Los Angeles - an area especially prone to gangs and their attendant killing lust - are complaining about the presence of a billboard for the movie showing a microphone in one hand and a gun in the other. As I heard it on a local radio report, the billboard is highly visible from a day care center, and in an area where gun-related homicides have occurred recently. The protestors represent those few people still living in South Central who understand all too well that movies like this will do nothing to alleviate the problems they face every hour of every day. They'd like nothing better than to see the gangs go elsewhere, but know they're fighting a seemingly insurmountable evil. The gangs want us to believe that this movie means there's always hope. No one besides the gangs and liberal apologists buys into that argument.

Paramount, being in favor of making money on their projects, has declined to comment thus far on this little hiccup. Needless to say, they see no correllation between the billboard and violence in the streets of Los Angeles. It would only be the tiniest of coincidences that some hood gets tanked up on the substance of the day, sees the billboard, and decides that a shooting spree is just what the doctor ordered to relieve his stress. Yessir, and serves 'em right for being on his turf in the first place. Paramount will argue that the violence is always there, and that in no way was the billboard intended to glorify senseless violence. Except for the fact that the movie fronts the idea that (as most of us have long suspected) many rappers probably get their starts by being gangsta drug pushers before becoming millionaire recording stars, I might agree with them. As it is, I'm not quite convinced in this case.

You see, the movie's appeal will be largely to the hip-hop/rap crowd, not a few of whom seem to find street violence as a perfectly acceptable way to express their inner feelings. Paramount knows that it would be throwing away perfectly good advertising dollars to mount such a billboard in your average conservative community. Any first year marketing student knows that you target your advertising where it's most likely to sell, and the gangstas live in communities like South Central.

That's who's going to see the movie, and that's where I have absolutely no plans to be any time soon. Especially not after this movie opens. In the meantime, I'm hoping Paramount will find some semblance of a clue in the future.

I won't hold my breath.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

#203 - And Now for Something Truly Ineffective...!

By way of a homeschool news list to which we subscribe comes word of a falling out between American Girl™, and conservative activists. Interestingly, the article is published by "The Capital Times" which bills itself as "Wisconsin's Progressive Newspaper." This might explain why the headline reads "Conservatives diss American Girl" (emphasis mine). I would like to think that this is primarily why these "conservative activists" come off as pompous baboons in the article, but there's a fundamental truth that needs to be addressed in any case:

Conservatives make lousy boycotters.

The idea here is that American Girl, which creates and markets a line of dolls and the historical fictions that accompany them, is in league with Girls, Inc., which states that at least part of its objective is to promote the idea that girls should be allowed to choose what's best for their lives (read: abortion and lesbian rights). This, the conservatives say, is unacceptable. They're "not ready" to call for a boycott of American Girl products yet, but they'd sure like us to tell American Girl how displeased we are that they "support" this subversive group by sponsoring some of Girls Inc's worthier pursuits. In other words, American Girl indirectly supports abortion and lesbian rights by sponsoring Girls Inc's math and science programs for girls.

Okay, fine, I'm displeased. At the same time I see very little to get excited about in all this.

While conservatives (and remember, I consider myself to be such) talk themselves into a dither about liberal flag issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc., etc., etc.), they've done relatively little to protect their own positions politically and legally over the past several decades. It forcibly reminds me of a statement made in the play "1776!" when Robert Morris of New York describes a meeting of the New York legislature. "Everyone talks very loud and very fast, and no one listens to anyone else; with the result that nothing ever gets done. Beg the Congress's pardon." This perfectly describes the state of American politics today. Nothing ever gets done.

A prime example of this is every boycott ever called for against Disney and its theme parks. This happens every time the company announces "appreciation days" for diverse groups of people, or refuses to bar entrance to those people at the behest of whatever religious council is calling for it at the time. The council gets its collective noses bent out of shape and immediately calls for a worldwide religious boycott of all Disney theme parks and (by extension, of course) every Disney product ever created. Just as immediately, thousands of people who can't afford to go to the theme parks anyway boycott them, and Disney continues to make money hand over fist.

Think about it: what was the last successful boycott you ever heard about? The only one I personally remember was the boycott called for against California grape growers by Cesar Chavez to protest the working conditions of immigrant farm workers back in the early 70's. That one worked because it had an immediate impact on farmers' bottom lines. The workers were able to force better working conditions (at least in part), and organize themselves against future problems. Some might argue that the fight continues, but at least they won the right and ability to do just that.

Since then, however, I can't think of a single boycott that was called for that actually worked. Conservatives, in particular, just can't pull it off. I think it's because we're far too dedicated to capitalism to allow the flow of money in this country to be disrupted on mere principle. Smacks of anarchy, that does. If we boycott American Girl, we also impact the poor publishers, toy manufacturers, web designers, and other down-stream suppliers that support them. Chaos would ensue, and the terrorists would win. Can't have that!

For my part, I will continue as a parent to supervise my children's education. I will make sure they have a well-rounded understanding of the issues that they will face as adults when it's their turn to run the world. I will help them take full advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. I will continue my own boycott of Carl's Jr. because their advertising continues to be offensive and immature.

I will also continue to buy American Girl books because my girls like them so much. With apologies to the activists.

Friday, October 14, 2005

#202 - Entitlement Amok

Surfing through Joanne Jacobs' wonderful blog this morning yielded this little piece of incredulity. An 18 year old woman in New York moves out of her mother's house because her rules are too restrictive, then turns around and sues her parents for child support.

Why? Because she can.

Apparently, in New York (q'eul surprise!) a young adult is considered old enough to be on their own, yet young enough to still be entitled to support from their parents. I'm guessing the ACLU-happy legal beagles in New York had several field days dreaming this one up.

The daughter had problems with, among other things, a restrictive curfew and a no-tolerance policy of budget for such things as restaurants and a fashionable wardrobe. "Fashionable" isn't defined in the article, but in my mind it would be equated with "expensive." Her mother does not work, according to the article, so I'm guessing that any money she felt was due to her would have come from her father. For his part, he was probably looking forward to her 18th birthday (I know this feeling) so he could put that money to other uses. Finally the girl becomes an "adult," moves out, and is on her own. She lands a part-time job and (my guess here) realizes that living on one's own is expensive fashionable. How to get Mom and Dad to pay for her heart's desires?

Sue 'em.

Ostensibly she wants to use this money to go to college. She's attending a community college, so expenses would be minimal, but her job won't pay for tuition and living expenses. Most kids would deal with that particular pressure by living at home while attending college. But she "didn't feel right" living there, and now feels that her parents should simply shoulder the extra burden of paying both for college and her living expenses while she figures out what being an adult is all about. This, she says, is "only fair."

Assuming the facts in evidence to be essentially correct, this is a powerful demonstration of the entitlement mentality under which so many of our kids are growing. The basic premise of the entitlement mentality is, "you owe me everything I want, or I won't be happy and it will be your fault." All that's lacking in this case is for the girl to stick her head in the oven, a la "Bye-Bye, Birdie!" and claim that her parents never loved her.

If I were her mother I'd offer to turn on the oven for her.

My Dad was a tough old bird, but he loved his kids. His toughness was born of a post-Depression existence being raised by a very strict and thrifty mother and having to make his own way in the world, including two stints in the military. He made no bones that personal integrity was the human value he most treasured both in himself and in others. When I was a newly licensed driver I had an accident. I was so scared of facing Dad's wrath that I hid the fact for several days, until the other guy started calling the house looking for insurance information. Once my cover was blown, Dad went through the anticipated steam-blowing exercise, then sat me down and taught me an important lesson about accountability. The bottom line was covered by this statement: "If you land in jail, kid, you can expect to be there for a few days." The implication being that I would be allowed to suffer the consequences of my stupidity before eventually being bailed out. That thought sobered me up pretty quickly, and I was little more circumspect in my activities from that day on. Oh, I was still a squirrely teenager, to be sure. But I understood Dad and took his meaning.

This new generation I'm not so sure of. They don't seem to get "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit (not the "entitlement") of Happiness."

*sigh*

Monday, October 03, 2005

#201 - Poor Babies!

Kimberly Swygert of Number 2 Pencil neatly summarizes an LA Times article showing that nearly 20% of California high school seniors have failed California's graduation exit exam. Not good by any measure, and the rationalizing is already in full swing. Assuming you can handle the smell of decaying trout, surf on over to the Times and check out the full article.

The key word here is "entitlement." Social and educational apologists seem determined to show that we simply can't expect our kids to pass tests geared to at least two grades lower. We need to give the poor dears their diplomas so they can get into colleges that accept substandard skills. The usual excuses apply:

  • Overcrowding.

  • Inadequate materials.

  • Underqualified teachers.

  • Unmotivated kids.

  • Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.


I really hate to say it (since I'm no fan), but Jack O'Connell has probably the most cogent statement in this article:
"It's important to keep one core principal front and center: awarding a student a diploma without the skills and knowledge to back it up does the student a disservice," said O'Connell, who added that his staff would study the options spelled out in the new report.

(Quick note: Could it possibly be that a Times staff writer goofed on the proper usage of "principal" vs. "principle?" Just askin'.)

The thing that really galls me is that these kids should have been preparing for this test for twelve years. What have they been doing all that time? According to the apologists, they've been sitting in overcrowded classrooms with no materials and underqualified teachers. Which is why they have no motivation. Which explains why we need to give them more money, I guess.

Or not.

Friday, September 30, 2005

#200 - Bibles for Classrooms?

Not quite. Apparently there are those who wish to be able to teach high school kids about the Bible to help them achieve a better understanding of their cultural heritage and the development of their language, among other things. Read the whole article to get a better synopsis. (H/T: Joanne Jacobs)

Color me neutral.

First of all, "Bible as Literature" classes are nothing new. Even in some high schools, some English departments have found a way to introduce the Bible as just another literary work; albeit one with a powerful history and tremendous influence on the lives of millions of people throughout the world. To that end, it's a good thing that students receive at least a working knowledge of the Good Book even if they don't receive much by way of doctrinal understanding.

My problem with this scenario is that this is not what the scriptures were meant for. As a Latter-day Saint, I'm well acquainted with what happens when people take an "academic" approach to sacred writings. The academic approach requires at least an outward showing of some sort of "objectivity." Objectivity by its very nature requires an emotional detachment from the subject, and that is the antithesis of what these scriptures represent.

Even in reviewing the writings of another religion, I could never do it with any objectivity, feigned or otherwise. I am a spiritual creature, and everything I read that deals with that side of me is subject to my spiritual reactions. If, for example, I decided suddenly to take up a study of the Q'uran, I would have to do so on the basis of my own faith. This instantly colors what I read, even when reading directly from the source. This is why you will find two extremes when reading books written about LDS scriptures such as The Book of Mormon. Either the writer wholeheartedly supports the book and its teachings, or will foam at the mouth to explain why even reading the book will lead you directly to hell, or the IRS, whichever is worse. Such reviews are meant to provoke some sort of spiritual response, whether pro or con.

Come to think of it, I don't believe I could ever study the Bible as merely an interesting source of literature. I could study the literary devices of the work, but always there would be that spiritual curiosity.

So, call it what you will. Any study of the Bible as literature at any level just doesn't do anything for me. If it helps convert some soul who finds the doctrine helpful in his or her life, that certainly would count as something of worth.

Better yet, go to church. There we teach scripture as a means to an end. Of sorts.

POSTSCRIPT:

In attempting to post this, Blogger.com gives the following fascinating message:
Blogger is temporarily unavailable due to planned maintenance.
This downtime will last 1 hour from 4:30pm - 5:30pm (PST).

Um... it's only 1:00pm PST by my clock. Does that mean they're early, or does it mean that Blogger will be completely unavailable (a la 404 error unavailable) between 4:30 and 5:30 this afternoon? Is this my three and a half hour warning? That's generous, especially by IT standards! Funnier still, it's now only 1:05pm PST and Blogger just let me log in. Does this mean they were not only early but ended ahead of schedule? Or is the Apocolypse just around the corner?

Questions... questions...

Monday, September 19, 2005

#199 - Elect Me, and I'll Steal Your Stove!

Disasters always bring out extreme versions of those who suffer through them. One who has endured personal disadvantages (too much personal debt, for example) and sees no relief in the immediate future might tend to become one of those opportunists who turn to looting. Others who always cling to their moral compasses become those who think on their feet and find ways to help, no matter how daunting the task.

With that in mind, you need to read a couple of articles. The first one is based on a UPI report as published by Monsters and Critics. Now read an article (may require registration) that enlarges on the UPI report in the Washington Post.

Besides the word count, notice the difference?

The real story here is the ingenuity, fortitude, and desire to serve being demonstrated by a number of local political leaders in the Gulf region in the aftermath of Katrina. These men and women clearly have their priorities straight. They have shown courage in the face of innumerable obstacles, none the least of which appears to be the federal government.

To call any one of them a "crook" needs some serious context.

Mayor Brent Warr was called one in both reports. Granted, the things he did were technically illegal. One does not hijack a fuel truck or steal a stove and expect to get away with it. Not usually, I should say. But when you find yourself the leader of a city without power and thousands of citizens who are suffering, you might need to take extraordinary measures.

Fortunately, the Post added some crucial context to Mayor Warr's situation. Yes, he hijacked a truck. Even got an inmate from the city jail to do it. But that fuel was immediately routed to a local hospital to power their generators and, ultimately, keep patients safe and relatively healthy. Of course he "stole" a stove. When you have over 500 first responders working themselves into oblivion with nothing to eat, you bet you confiscate a stove. You also set it up in the parking lot of City Hall and continue to use it to feed those good samaritans while there's work to be done. You also (the UPI fails to mention this) watch helplessly as your own family business is itself ransacked and looted.

A criminal? Hardly. A visionary leader with the guts to act? All the way. Is he alone? Nope. Able-bodied citizens from around the region are pitching in to lend a hand in any way they can.

It's too bad, really, that we have to hear about the in-fighting and finger-pointing that have apparently paralyzed New Orleans and Louisiana politicos in this crisis. FEMA certainly deserves its black eyes in this mess. But we also need to hear about folks like Warr and other Gulf area leaders who refuse to wait for the paperwork to clear. Get the job done now, whatever it takes, and sort it all out later. Will the owner of that fuel be compensated? Eventually, I'm sure. The owner of that "confiscated" stove? Use it with my blessing, Mayor. Warr and other mayors meet to decide how best to help the people in the cities they love so well. They need help, and they're asking for it, but they're not just sitting on their brains all day with wringing hands waiting for the feds to come through.

Even the Mississippi governor's wife is helping by driving supplies into stricken areas with a pickup truck. It's cynical of me to have a hard time imagining Maria Shriver doing such a thing in California, but one never knows.

As I say, disasters will either bring out the worst, or the best, in just about everyone.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

#198 - Malkin Huffs Over the "HuffMobile"

Michelle Malkin takes the Sierra Club to task for sending an SUV to chauffeur Arianna Huffington to a speaking engagement at the Club's national summit in (where else?) San Francisco. I can only assume that large amounts of money were involved. What else would induce someone to visit San Francisco just to meet with the Sierra Club?

Aside from the fact that I hold no allegiance to the Sierra Club, or the fact that I have been utterly unable to come up with even a smidgeon of curiosity about Huffington, I really could care less about these two eco-nuts who despise everything about SUVs. I mean, sure, it's ironic and everything that the Club used one to ferry The Huffster to one of their Bush-bashing opps, but there's no teeth in that irony.

If you want real hatred for SUVs and most of the people who drive them, ride in my car with me some time.

You may call me a recovering SUV owner if you wish. I know how it is in the Blogosphere... someone makes a statement and the Pajama Brigade are suddenly hacking into every database in the world trying to trip that person up. So, before you get all snarky on me, yes; I did once own what might be termed today an SUV. I don't count it as that personally, however. For one thing, it didn't behave like a typical SUV. I had hoodwinked my then-wife into buying it purely on the basis of my guy-induced lust: It looked cool. It even had a spare tire attached to its rear end! How cool is that?

However, in terms of being an actual muscle-bound, heavily armored, steroid-enhanced, log-hauling piece of manly equipment, it ranked right up there with Richard Simmons.

Those of you veteran (read: anyone older than 30) car owners who understand these things will likely snort into your morning coffee (assuming you drink coffee... I sure don't) when I tell you that my SUV of choice these many years ago was a Chevy Blazer, with the "Tahoe Package."

When you've finished laughing at me, I'll continue.

Yes, I had managed to get my hands on the single most gutless vehicle ever created by General Motors, and I'm including my first car, the ever-popular Vega, in that statement. It had a trailer hitch on it, but if you attempted to tow anything heavier than, say, a bicycle with it, it would go backwards. On level ground. This vehicle was pathetic. It was really just a Chevy S-10 frame with a Blazer body perched precariously on top. I was never happier to be rid of a vehicle when it finally chose to disintegrate rather than face the jeers and taunts of Yugos that were more powerful.

So now I drive sedans. I have become responsible in my second adulthood, and I drive more sedate - less juvenile vehicles. Mrs. Woody drives a Saturn that we picked out as soon as we found out she was pregnant. It has served us well as a family vehicle, although we are leaning toward a mini-van when my bachelor-mobile finally wears out. This may take awhile, because my car is a Honda. It has over 20 years and over 200,000 miles on it, and it's still running. This car will likely still be running when my old Blazer is converted into a Borg-like cube (if it isn't already). I drive this car 45 miles a day for work, and it just hums right along. I'd hum along with it, but it's summer time here in Southern California, and this car has no air conditioning. I'm told by its original owner (Mrs. Woody) that it had air conditioning once upon a time, until Manny, Moe, and Jack got their corporate hands on it.

The point is, neither of my current cars is what you might call a "road hog." They're both small enough that I can fit both of them comfortably in my car port, and we can still squeeze in a visiting vehicle if it's about the same size. When we ride in our Woodymobiles, we are riding relatively close to the ground. If anything larger than a motorcycle is immediately in front of us on the road, we have visibility problems.

That's why I despise SUVs.

The rest of my statements are based on a scientific survey consisting of persons who commute to work with me every day. (That would be me.)

SUVs have huge visibility problems. Let's forget, for the moment, the fact that they have a wonderful bird's-eye perspective on life from their lofty perch. My guess is that they really can't see anything within about a thirty foot radius immediately around the vehicle, which is why they suddenly appear in your lane right next to you, forcing you to slam on your breaks and lean on your horn. They can't hear you, however, because their personal entertainment systems are playing at a volume that would make a Shuttle launch sound like someone sneezing in the backseat. Also, listening for that distinctive bump that means you've just run over a smaller car interferes with the extremely important conversation they're having at that moment on their cell phone. In fact, I have a hard time remembering the last time I saw an SUV driver without a cell phone permanently clamped to their ear. I suspect that these people require occasional surgery to have their hands removed from their ears because the skin will have become fused over time. I can only hope that their insurance doesn't cover that.

So forget the Sierra Club, and pay no attention to Arianna Huffington. If you need someone to come speak at your rally against SUVs, I'm happy to do it. Call it my sense of moral duty. Call it my need to be an environmental hero. Call my agent and make sure my fee is direct deposited.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

#197 - Affirmations

Heh. Gerard at American Digest strikes again with "Daily Affirmations for Bloggers."

I sure hope I'm not that bad!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

#196 - Imperius Barber

Terrific post by La Shawn Barber regarding one of my favorite topics.

Education, more than being a privilege, is a responsibility. I made the comment (scroll waaaaaay down) that we who are citizens share the responsibility for providing an education to all who want or need one. That does not mean that I support mandatory or compulsory education, and also does not mean that I support giving public money to private homeschoolers (or, for that matter, private schoolers, period). I also happen to believe that no matter what nonsense the atheistic NEA throws at our schools, parents who are actively involved in their kids' educations can and do make a difference. I just prefer to make mine at home.

I also do not believe that homeschool is the only answer for any given family. I've seen far too many families that I would actively discourage from homeschooling simply because I don't believe they have the capacity to pull it off. Homeschool requires incredible devotion and patience. Yet another reason I love Mrs. Woody so much! She has patience, devotion, incredible smarts, and loads of talent. My two young firecrackers are well on their way.

Shucks, even ol' Woody can larn a thing or two right along with 'em!

UPDATE: Chris Naaden of neighboring Corona, California, responded to my comment on La Shawn's blog. His comments, in part:
My disagreement comes when Woody comes when he talks about education being a civic duty. Exactly when did that come into the picture? At what point was it figured that the masses are uneducated, and the government needed to step in? I object strongly to my taxes being used to educate someone else. My supposed indirect benefit, that those around me receive an education, is neutered by the amount of spending, which takes more taxes, which kills the benefit. I wish every school was private, and market-driven, but I’m a raging capitalist.

It was never a question of the federal government "stepping in." There's a difference between government interference and public support. Or, at least, there should be. My views on public education mirror those of Thomas Jefferson:
"I... [proposed] three distinct grades of education, reaching all classes. 1. Elementary schools for all children generally, rich and poor. 2. Colleges for a middle degree of instruction, calculated for the common purposes of life and such as should be desirable for all who were in easy circumstances. And 3d. an ultimate grade for teaching the sciences generally and in their highest degree... The expenses of [the elementary] schools should be borne by the inhabitants of the county, every one in proportion to his general tax-rate. This would throw on wealth the education of the poor." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:70

Obviously, we've strayed from the purer faith since this proposal was first considered. Jefferson and several others realized that one of the greatest protections we could have for our unprecedented republic was an equally unprecedented education of the general public. He saw rampant illiteracy as a great danger to our democratic principles, and envisioned publicly supported education as a means for ensuring that our citizens had all the tools at their command to make informed decisions with their votes.

Jefferson, as with all the Founders, was educated privately. He recognized, however, that this was a privilege reserved for the wealthy. What he wanted was a way to provide at least a fundamental education to the rest of our citizenry, and deemed it our civic duty to support those who couldn't otherwise afford it. Those who wished to continue beyond the "elementary" education might be supported by other means, usually involving trusts or donations set up by landowners and others.

I don't disagree that privately run institutions can and often do a better job of educating than the public schools, but the federal government was never supposed to jump into the education arena in the first place. The Dept. of Education leeches their funding from my income taxes. However, I directly support public education in California via my property taxes. That's the civic duty to which I refer. And I'm glad to do it.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

#195 - The Real Body Count

Legacy media types will now be falling over themselves to demonstrate just how insensitive they truly are. Bad enough that they indulge in the sort of grandstanding that we've come to expect from certain celebrities during a crisis of any sort. Now they have pressed for, and won, the opportunity to film dead bodies for their increasingly sensationalistic reports.

This would appear to hearken back to a time when newspapers gleefully published photos of gangster related crime. The bread and butter shots were of those gangsters who themselves were on the receiving end of several automatic rifles. In fact, the gorier the shot, the better it sold. Capitalism at its finest, I suppose. By the time I was growing up, however, the media had implemented a different code. Whether by compulsory or self-inflicted means (I'm no historian on this topic, so I'm not sure) the media had scruples against showing dead bodies in their reports. The closest we ever came to seeing a dead body was when it was completely covered by a blanket while being loaded in the Coroner's van. Crime scenes were verboten unless the body were removed, so that all we ever saw was the chalk outline.

These images - tame though they are by today's standards - were plenty powerful to an impressionable young mind such as mine. I had no need (or, truly, desire) to see an actual body to appreciate the horror associated with whatever shortened that individual's life.

Our consciences have become seared, however, over time. More and more we have become so desensitized to death and destruction, that we (the generic "we") now crave ever more graphic depictions of the violence that surrounds us every day. And the media are the baying hounds who can't wait to unleash that horror into our living rooms.

Two statements stand out in CNN's report of this issue:
CNN's brief argued, "It is not the place of government to replace its own internal judgment for that of a free and independent media."

Perhaps not. But is my right and obligation to exercise discretion as to which media I use to glean my information. That's what free market truly represents, and, I notice, CNN's share is dropping.
Because of controversy about how FEMA and other agencies handled the disaster response, CNN lawyers argued, "it is even more vitally important for the public, Congress and the administration to have an independent view of the conduct of this important phase of the operation."

Or, stated more truthfully, it is vitally important that the news-consuming public have CNN's opinion of the conduct of this important phase of the operation.

I have said it before and I will say it again. What once represented the noble cause of reporting events as they occur has now devolved into a need to shape American political ideology and public opinion using the liberal religion of zero personal accountability.

Is there culpability to be impugned over the fiasco that was Katrina? You bet. Let's start with the media, and work our way up from there.

You certainly can't work any lower.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

#194 - Sierra Missed

I want to like the Sierra Club. I really do. As a young lad, I remember going to Sierra Club-sponsored classes on backpacking and actually getting excited about stepping out into nature and seeing the bigger picture. Until, that is, I hefted my first actual backpack, at which point my excitement evaporated.

I love the environment. That is, I love what it should be: clean, robust, and self-sustaining. I worry constantly about how badly we seem to be managing our resources, and the damage we cause as a part of living in "civilization." And so it's easy for me to sympathize with such groups as the Sierra Club whenever they try to make a stand for those resources. I secretly cheer whenever the Club goes after some corporation and stops them from making parking lots out of the territorial home of some obscure species of bird that only mates once every four years.

Call me a closet environmentalist.

By the same token, I have only one caveat to my latent liberalism: I don't favor protecting nature over the needs and, especially, the safety of our citizens both living and yet-to-live.

Michelle Malkin points to this article in the National Review by John Berlau which outlines attempts by the Club to halt upgrades to stretches of the levee system which, up until a couple of weeks ago, protected much of the developed portions of the Mississippi delta. Berlau makes it clear in his article that we cannot simply level blame for the breaches in those levees on the Club or any other organization. It's just too much of a stretch. So this post is not about blaming the Sierra Club for any part of the disaster that we all are anxious to see resolved.

This post is mostly about why I find myself getting irritated with any organization that seems to think that we somehow are merely adjunct to nature and are therefore intruders on terra firma. PETA, for example, gets more upset about the abuse of animals than they do the destruction of unborn babies in this country. I just don't get that. And (for you who are even now whipping out your snarkiest comments) I never will.

Let's focus on New Orleans as an example. The city is nearly 300 years old. The greater New Orleans area is home to over 1.3 million people. Much of that area, as we all know by now, sits below the water line and is in constant threat of flooding. For that one simple reason alone, I cannot understand why so much opposition would be raised against an initiative to shore up and improve the levee systems that protect that many people. It smacks of weakness in our priorities. Let's first reasonably ensure the safety of our citizens, then worry about whether we're about to upset an ecosystem.

Now, I'm certain that such things can be done concurrently. It must be possible to address both needs without upsetting balances already in place. But if we're told that we have only so much money, and we can either protect people or the environment with it, I tend to side with protecting the people.

This is, I realize, a horribly simplistic perspective on the entire situation. As I say, no one can (yet) adjudicate where blame rightly rests for this disaster. There is, I'm sure, more than enough blame to pass around. The finger-pointing has only just begun, and will end only when no one can think of anything else to say about it. I'd say that, in reality, the finger-pointing will have its own nuclear half-life. I therefore do not blame the Sierra Club for any of this.

But I reserve the right to later on, if they deserve it.

Friday, September 02, 2005

#193 - 1941

The gorgeous Mrs. Woody points me in the direction of this article in Meridian magazine. The author, Steve Farrell, describes the unthinkable: An official position of the National Educators Association that actually espouses God, Christ, and religious principles as saving graces for the United States of America.

I actually had come across something like this not long ago as I was researching the NEA and wondering to myself what, exactly, had happened to embitter them so in what is alleged to be an enlightened age.

Of course, before we get too excited about some sort of "hidden agenda" that the NEA might have tucked away deep in the bowels of their humanist creeds, we need context. This is not the manifesto of a modern, atheistic NEA; this was the God-fearing NEA of 1941.

The context, then, is war. A world having entered a conflict as much about ideology as about dominion. A world waiting breathlessly to see if the United States would join the battle and help those who needed our strength, our industry, and our faith. A world filled with increasing hatred and animosity. This was the NEA's considered response to this dangerous time in our country:
The American concept of … government had its roots in religious belief. This ideal of the brotherhood of man roots down into the fundamentals of religion. The teachings of the Hebrew Prophets and of Jesus Christ inculcate the idea of brotherhood. The growth of the idea gave us the concept of democracy in government. It ennobled home life. It emphasized the sacredness of human personality.

Do tell! And where was the ACLU when American children were being spoon-fed this obvious propaganda?

The source, by the way, was an NEA-published document entitled "American Citizens Handbook." It was created to be a resource for anyone, young or old, citizen or immigrant, to prepare to be productive and responsible contributors to society. A noble idea, and one not destined to survive the twentieth century.

In the face of war the NEA advised, "Is it not plain that what the world needs just now is a new devotion to the great religious ideals?"

It boggles the imagination to think that a handbook that was apparently in use throughout the 50's and beyond has, in just a few decades, become obsolete to the mindset of our so-called "professional" educators.

As I say, I've come across similar ideas in American education before. Many of them come from my own experience. Can you ever imagine today having a teacher stand before your class and announce that a prominent American had just been assassinated, and suggest that all bow their heads in silent prayer? Unthinkable, right? And yet, that's what we were counseled to do when, first, Martin Luther King, Jr., and, later, Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated within months of each other during a turbulent 1968 and I was an impressionable 5th grader. I remember going home to discuss these events with Mom, and I remember Mom doing a lot of comforting. With prayer.

Once again we face war. Disasters, both natural and man-made, are increasing in frequency and intensity. (Events, by the way, that have been foretold in the very scriptures that we no longer allow in our classrooms.) In an age of "inclusion," when so much emphasis is being placed on tolerance towards special interests and sensitivity towards all, does it not make sense to remember (and include) those who still believe in the religious principles on which this country was founded? Must we consider that people of faith are "dangerous extremists" and liable to be the cause of all our country's ills?

Some would have us believe that. There are many - a dangerous many - who believe that religion ought to be vanquished and completely removed from society. This sentiment is no different in its practice than was that of all those who fronted the Communist Manifesto as their basis of government. And this sentiment is currently the basis of all propaganda currently being issued by the NEA and all of its affiliated organizations.

In 1950, teachers could advise us to pray.
In 2005 we can sue teachers for even mentioning prayer.

In 1950, teachers could speak the name of God.
In 2005, God is relegated to literature, if at all.

In 1950, teachers could teach the Golden Rule.
In 2005, schools "reprimand" students for using profanity more than five times.

God bless the NEA...

...of 1941.