Monday, April 30, 2007

One of the (Innumerable) Reasons Why We Homeschool

[Welcome, Junkyardblogites! Glad to have you browse the Woundup.]

[Welcome, also, to Susie-Q&A readers! Most of my homeschool stuff resides at The Inner Dad, but the really brainless stuff generally finds its way over here. Enjoy!]

Mrs. Woody tossed another one my way that instantly drove my blood pressure right off the scale. "Listen to this," she intoned. "Kindergartners in Pennsylvania are in school from 8:40 in the morning to 3:10 in the afternoon with no recess!"

I beg your pardon?

"Kindergartners?" I asked, certain I'd not heard her correctly.

"Kindergartners!" she affirmed. "Kids have to play! It's part of how they learn!"

There was a lot more to this discussion, but these were the salient points.

Mrs. Woody and I homeschool for a multitude of reasons. At the top of that very long list is the incompetence of education "professionals" to provide anything remotely resembling a true education to the children of this nation. I say that with all affection towards those dedicated people for whom education is a way of life and a cause to which they have sworn undying allegiance.

The rest of that industry are the biggest morons I've ever encountered. Including most members of Congress.

1. I have never in my adult life heard persuasive evidence that children — especially small children — must be cooped up in class for longer hours every day with less play time. How is this in any way justified? I'm sorry, but as both a parent and a former child (keep your opinions of "former" to yourselves, please) I refuse to buy into this hysteria. Children are children, and must be allowed to burn off their incredible reserves of energy throughout the day. For heaven's sake, have none of these so-called "experts" ever heard of metabolism? My own, as a child, was ridiculous. I burned off calories while I was eating, and still had energy to spare when I got home so I could build entire forts out of the bricks that Dad had earmarked for the steps leading up to our do-it-yourself gazebo that ultimately blew down in Santa Ana winds approximately two weeks after we finished cementing those same bricks in place. That's the kind of metabolism I had, and it stayed with me, right up until I married a half-Latina, half-Italian (She-Who-Is-NOT-Mrs.-Woody) whose mother thought I had rickets. At that point my metabolism finally surrendered, but I was well into my twenties by that time.

Children must play, and they need to do it rather frequently throughout the day. Insisting that they spend that precious childhood play time in a classroom with their little minds wandering everywhere but on the chalkboard is criminal.

The activists-with-very-little-brain who promote mandatory preschool will not be far behind.

2. Perhaps Pennsylvania school officials in Woodland Hills think it's a boat-load of fun, sitting in one of those stuffy, overcrowded schools for seven and a half hours with only a break for lunch and no recess. Perhaps they feel that the kids are getting the state's money's worth by saving them that $47 million for 15 minutes' worth of recess time.

Perhaps Pennsylvania school officials are idiots.

Tell you what, I propose a compromise: Let's make it mandatory for anyone wishing to be a Pennsylvania school official — elected or otherwise — to sit in those same stuffy schools for twelve hours a day (because, you know, they're adults and everything) and see how long it takes before the district psychologist diagnoses them as being ADD or ADHD. About one month, would be my guess.

3. Speaking of ADD, I have to tell you another reason why we homeschool. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that my incredibly bright, eager, sensitive, and exceptionally intelligent elder Woodyette would by now have been identified as an ADD child by whatever school shrink she might have seen. The fact is that her imagination, which has spawned entire universes, would have long since gotten her into all kinds of trouble with conventional educators by this time. She can't help it. Fantasy is important to this young lady, and she thrives on being master of her many environments. Does this mean she is in any way dysfunctional? Of course not. But no teacher who is held to lesson plans, increasingly restrictive curriculum choices, and pressure to teach to the tests could possibly have the patience to deal with such a child without playing the Attention Deficit card.

Because this child is frighteningly like her Dad was at that age, I also know that she will all too soon grow out of this fantasy stage of her young life. It will be a sad thing to watch as parents. Another one of those "our little girl is growing up!" mixed blessings that mark every milestone along the path. My baby sister may crow about never having to buy another diaper in her life, but the cockiness won't last. All too soon those sweet little boys of hers won't want quite so many hugs anymore, and will really really wish that she wouldn't walk with them everywhere they have to go. It just happens.

But teachers nowadays don't — can't, really — have the kind of patience that recognizes the true needs of those kids as they achieve those less definable milestones; the ones you won't find in any lesson plan.

That's all I really wanted to say about this issue. I know that, somewhere deep down in the lumps of coal that serve as their hearts, professional educators everywhere really want only what's best for kids in this country. I just wish to heck they'd take a few moments and remember what it was like to be kids themselves, and quit punishing our kids for it.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Scandal of the Week... So Far

So the new darling of the MSM — the so-called "D. C. Madam" — has claimed her first victim.

I hold no sympathy for former Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias. He admittedly used an "escort service" (what he chose to do with these "escorts" is immaterial at this point) and must now pay the piper, so to speak. There are, of course, a couple of questions that now spring to mind:

1. How does it enter into the mind of any public figure, but especially a politician, that they are somehow immune to the potential consequences of such activity? Here we have a man in a position of no small power and authority who represents the interests of the United States to the world. At what point did he decide that calling in a few "Central American gals" for "massage" work would be harmless? (Okay... technically two questions asked, but closely enough related that I count them as one.)

2. Now that ABC has pulled down a Bush administration official, how long will it be before we hear the name of the first prominent Democrat to have imbibed from the Madam's seemingly exhaustive fountain?

As I say, I don't really care two figs for Tobias' fate. He made his choice, and he gets to suffer those consequences. Period. I would expect no less if it transpired that Bush himself were on that list of clients.

I will, however, be absolutely incensed if ABC targets only Bush administration officials (or any other prominent Republicans) and leaves the Democrats unscathed. I say this because, thanks to Clinton the Philanderer, I find it impossible to believe that there are no Democrats on those lists. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that Bubba himself was a benefactor of her services, except for the fact that he studiously avoids the D. C. area since leaving office, and Palfrey wasn't in operation during his term. But there are still a lot of Democrats in Washington these days. An awful lot of them.

ABC, of course, has a dilemma on their hands. Republicans, it goes without saying, are open season. But even if ABC begins leaking names of Democrats, they have to be careful to only leak those names that wouldn't potentially damage the campaigns of their candidate(s) of choice. So the real question becomes, are Obama, Clinton, or any of the others sacred enough cows that ABC won't pour any negative spotlights on their campaigns?

Only time will tell. In the meantime, good luck (and good riddance) to Mr. Tobias. Take your dirty laundry and your pending family troubles with you. On to the next "victim."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dang It

I despise having to agree with someone whom I consider to have intelligence on a scale ranking between carbon atoms and paramecia. In this case, Howard Dean (one of the most useless suit-stuffers in this country today) actually says a few things about media coverage of politics and politicians with which I agree.

Not that I'm getting soft on ol' Howard the Duck.

He was responding to a query by a banker who was attending a Mortgage Bankers Association conference. (Pardon me whilst I attempt to imagine anything more desperately dull than a Mortgage Bankers Association conference.) This banker was frustrated with candidates who "only talk in sound bites."
"I suggest you have candidates in to meetings like this and bar the press," Dean said.
Which sounds great, but significantly reduces the possibility that I'd ever hear whether the candidates said anything of which I need to be aware. Still, Dean summarizes the primary difficulty with modern media this way:
"The media has been reduced to info-tainment," Dean said. "Info-tainment sells, the problem is they reach the lowest common denominator instead of forcing a little education down our throats, which we are probably in need of from time to time."
I guess I blame the whole thing on our reduced attention spans.

"Info-tainment" (as with "edu-tainment") is a double-edged sword. Our time is precious to us as consumers; we feel a need to digest things quickly, make more snap decisions. In business we are constantly under pressure to do more, faster, with fewer resources (read: headcount) than ever before. My email inbox at work is my haunting spectre; it reminds me of all the demands on my time and attention.

Modern media has rushed to fill available time by shrinking itself into bite-sized chunks that we obviously can digest more quickly, but is rather light on caloric content. In other words, as with a certain brand of "light beer" (of which I, personally, have absolutely no knowledge!), it may taste great, but it's less filling. And that's not necessarily a good thing.

Oh, we try. We bloggers delude ourselves into thinking we're providing the bridge between a jaded ADD public and increasingly heavy political and social commentary. But mostly we just point to some other guy (or gal) and say, "Hey, look at what he (or she) said! Go read that!"

Along the way we attempt to provide our own analysis of the issues that most concern us, but in the end, we all turn to Fox, CNN, or even Tiffany to tell us what the flamin' candidates are up to today. Have they embarrassed themselves? Have they made tremendous strides in the looming issues of presidential hair grooming? Or are they trying to re-invent themselves by learning second languages?

Then we harumph at the obvious bias with which the network serves up our desired sound bites, and start the process all over again. We are hopelessly addicted.

Of course, Dean has been on the receiving end of some rather unfavorable press himself on occasion:
Dean said politicians live in fear that their words will be twisted for the sake of headlines.

"Politicians are incredibly careful not to say anything if they can possibly help it, except if it is exactly scripted. And if you want to hear anybody's true views, you cannot do it in the same room as the press," Dean said. "If you want to hear the truth from them, you have to exclude the press."
But, of course, you really can't.

For one thing, the Mortgage Bankers Association is so desperate to have someone — anyone — notice them, that they have to invite the press to report that Howard Dean, Lord High Democrat, came to speak with them. I guess you're likely to be desperate if you're willing to publicize that.

On the other hand, do we really want our candidates being too careful with what they say? Isn't that, after all, how Howard found himself as a former candidate for President of the United States?

I guess, to that extent, I'm forced to agree with Howard. We need our candidates to be able to speak their unscripted minds from time to time. There's always time for another scripted speech somewhere or other, but those candid shots are worth far more than a thousand words.

Right, Howard?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

There is no need to link to stories. No need to point to reactions around the blogosphere. The Virginia Tech tragedy is now firmly a part of our American psyche, and there it will remain for months to come.

We've seen this before. Colorado. Washington. Wisconsin. Our nation's capital. Senseless taking of lives through violence that seemingly accomplishes nothing.

Here in my home I feel somewhat safe. In some ways that's just an illusion. Safety always means steps that we take to avoid being acted upon by others. I lock my doors every night to prevent break-ins. I lock my cars everywhere I go so they'll be there when I need to go somewhere. I wish I could safely lock up my kids, but they're human and locking them up is cruelty in the extreme. The older they get, the more I have to let go. I don't want to.

I'm a dad. I've worked long and hard to become one. I'm still working on it. I want to be a better dad tomorrow than I am today. I'm sure my kids want that, too. Being a dad means watching these little copies of yourself — and your wife and a smattering of other assorted relations down through time — grow up and away. It is a bittersweet process.

We want them to succeed. We try to give them tools to help them along their journey. We teach them about strangers and how to avoid them. We teach them about friends and how to cultivate them. We try to teach them the difference. We know that one day, much sooner than we care to think about, they will leave our home and make their own way in this world. This very large, very cruel, increasingly violent world.

One day my kids will go to college. When I was their age, we were hearing about protests and violence at many of our campuses across the country. The Vietnam war was the purported reason, although I have long suspected that so many of those kids protested just because it was "cool" to protest. Everyone else was doing it, and it was a chance to become an anarchist for awhile without suffering any real consequences. But if you asked them why they were doing it, they could point to the war and "the Man," and everyone else sort of understood what that meant.

I didn't want to become a part of that. I suspect that I was so jaded by these stories, especially Kent State, that they became part of my rationalization for never completing a four-year degree. College was just too dangerous.

This is silly, of course. My sweet wife got her degree from BYU. Several years later she completed her Masters at ASU. I think she suffered one broken finger during her entire school career. Certainly she never felt compelled to "protest" anything but the occasionally boring class.

Then we hear about a Columbine or a Virginia Tech and my old rationalizations pop back into my head. I don't want my kids becoming another tragic statistic.

So far the girls are cooperating. The older one wants to do community college before deciding on a university. The younger one says she'll do her degree online. Daddy likes that idea; but the girls are only 7 and 9 now, and they have plenty of time to decide what they really want to do when it really matters. The heck of it is that I can only serve as an advisor. They'll have to decide for themselves where they want to go, and all I can do is support them.

Which, of course, I intend to do. I have plenty of precedent to support sending them wherever they choose to go. One Perfect Soul supported his Begotten Son as the Savior came to the earth and was subjected to every kind of trial and persecution imaginable. As God must have wept while watching his Son suffer as he did, so also do we weep when we see tragedy of this scale. We imagine those grieving loved ones who now must wrestle with the cosmic questions of Why. Why my little boy or girl? Why would this monster do such a thing? Why me? Why now? Why? Why? Why?

I have my own answers to these questions. My spiritual perspective helps me make some limited sense out of events such as these. I have to trust that, at some point in my eternal progression, the true answers will finally be known and understood. Then, and only then, will we have true "closure."

Until then, God bless the families, friends, and loved ones of the victims and the shooter. May they all find rest and peace in a coming day.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Cranky Reviewer™ Strikes Again

Oh, does he ever.

The intended target is a book entitled "The Jesus Mystery." Needless to say, this tome will not find its way into the library of Hacienda Woody. If your name is Lena Einhorn, be afraid (if strictly in the way that authors fear critics of my brother's ilk), be very afraid.

Friday, April 13, 2007

My Final (I Promise!) on Don Imus

Okay, I lied. I have to toss out one more thought about the Don Imus affair.

I have a few cleaning aids in my house. They reside under the sink, for the most part. Clearly labelled containers of chemicals that use words like "poisonous," "caustic," or "dangerous" in plain sight. They serve a purpose in my house, and that purpose is to clean surfaces in my kitchen and bathrooms. It's a wonderful combination. The cleansing properties of the chemicals coupled with my elbow grease in liberal proportions has a magical effect. My counters gleam, my floors shine, and my family feels protected. (When, of course, I actually do these things. Lately my family has not benefitted tremendously from my elbow grease.)

Naturally there are inappropriate uses for these chemicals. Says so right in the directions. I need to avoid contact with skin and - especially - eyes. Do not drink them. Ever. Aside from cleaning my house, they serve no other useful purpose.

This is precisely why I choose not to listen to people like Don Imus or Michael Savage. Their reputations precede them. They practice a brand of public commentary that is carefully calculated to incite, rather than inform. It matters not that they happen to hold similar views to my own on critical issues. They are firebrands, and I have better things to do with my diminishing time.

I'm not a big fan of Pat Buchanan. He's more of a raspberry seed under the gums than a firebrand, but I still find him to be pushier than I'm comfortable with. I guess this is how you become a public commentator; write a few speeches for dead presidents, torque off large sectors of the populace, and whammo! You're a commentator. Anyway, I followed a link from Drudge to Buchanan's thoughts on why, precisely, this whole affair smacks of "hypocrisy." Buchanan is, it turns out, a big fan of Imus. Listens to him every morning. Enjoys the whole show. In his view, the idea of firing Imus for this egregious insult is hypocritical in the extreme so long as people fail to demand apologies from everyone who excoriated the entire Duke lacrosse team when they were, in fact, innocent.

But Buchanan's argument falls flat. Imus is a public figure who has made a considerable living out of insulting people. It may or may not be true that he is very well read on current events and has a solid understanding of the issues. He may or may not be one of the better interviewers on the air today (in Buchanan's opinion, anyway). All of this is immaterial to the primary issue: Imus is a commodity. Imus, Buchanan, Coulter, Malkin, and countless other media personalities are commodities to be employed, traded, bought or sold at the will and whim of the outlets that employ them. In other words, the issue here is not whether what Imus did was insulting and demeaning. This has been accepted by all but the dimmist of wits across the country. But MSNBC and CBS have responsibilities. Certainly we want them to provide insightful and meaningful access to news and commentary to keep us informed, but that is not their primary responsibility. Their first and most significant responsibility is to provide value (money) to their shareholders. For this reason, and this reason alone, they are more than justified in firing Imus and anyone who looks like him.

Hey, I sympathize with Imus. I really do. I've said more than my fair share of stupid things in my life, and I've only been fired for them once. Once was enough, and I like to think I've learned my lesson. I no longer say stupid things to the people who can fire me for them. But when your primary job is talking, you might be a bit more careful about what you say in which forum. I think it's all to the good that Imus seems genuinely contrite about what he said. However, that doesn't seem to have mellowed his nature in any way, nor does he seem repentant enough that we can expect him never to repeat himself at some point. I suspect the bosses at CBS read him exactly the same way. He might well do it again, and in the current politically-charged arena, that just isn't smart business.

We can complain all we want about MSNBC firing Imus but holding on stubbornly to Matthews and Olbermann. But I think they understand their audience, and that's their business decision to make. I don't have to agree with it, but I'm not the CEO and I don't answer to MSNBC shareholders.

I hope Imus lands on his feet. There is a place and an audience out there for Imus and everything he stands for. I'm just not one of them, and I hope never to feel a need to become such.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Around the Web in 80 Minutes

There are times I wish I stayed a little more out of touch with current stories. Headliners of the day today bring that feeling into sharper focus. For example, Don Imus. Never once heard the man; never intended to. He smacks of being the kind of firebrand that brings absolutely nothing original to the table by way of thought process or philosophy. Yet he's a (former) national personality who managed in a (not, apparently, isolated) moment of stupidity to bring his career crashing down around his ears.

Then, of course, there's the Duke story. Three members of the Lacrosse team for Duke University have a wild night with an exotic dancer, who then apparently fabricates a rape story. Later this same woman is found to have some history of mental problems, and has been in and out of trouble with the law for several years. The zealot who tried to string the Duke players up by their unmentionables both in court and in the media has himself been forced to issue an apology over his handling of the case. You can bet there will be reprisals in the form of large amounts of money and civil suits.

It almost goes without saying that both of these stories have a common thread: Al Sharpton. Back in the days of the wild west (or modern Los Angeles; take your pick) the phrase was "shoot first and ask questions later." Sharpton and his thuggish band of activists have modernized that phrase to read "march, protest, and destroy reputations first and ask questions after we die." I say that because you can bet that the MSM will never get Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, or any other race-card-playing bigot to admit they were wrong when they forced an entire town to castigate these young men. I'm sure some lunatics on the left still crow about how, even though they didn't actually do anything of which they were accused, they sure would have eventually. Probably meant to, and just didn't get around to it.

Finally there's this bit of human mockery. This is a clear case of science doing something merely because they can, and not because there's any sort of life-saving benefit in doing it. Allowing women to reproduce in an essentially asexual manner is not - repeat: NOT - going to be the tremendous shot in the arm that some lesbians may hope it will be. Our only saving grace so far is that a) it's still a theory; not a proven process, and b) they need stem cells that are limited in supply and that other scientists are not going to want to share right now. So, this "breakthrough" will likely have to wait for another day. The bit I found most amusing was the statement that they needed to get "ethical" approval to proceed. This is like saying that Santa Claus needs greed before he can deliver toys. Come on... who, exactly, determines whether a procedure of this nature is "ethical?" Other scientists? Some dysfunctional United Nations committee? (UPDATE: Apparently there's an "ethics committee," presumably attached to the university where these scientists do their research. Who knew? Still, this is a little like asking Torquemada is there's any objection to putting another heretic on the rack. Académia and social ethics? Oil and water.)

I'm sorry if I sound cynical this afternoon. I don't usually like to be this gloomy. News days like this just bring it out, I suppose, and I use this blog as a form of therapy. Having said what I've said, I probably won't feel a need to revisit any of these stories for months to come.

And that's probably a good thing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

MySpace - Keep out of the reach of children!

(H/T: Joanne Jacobs)

Every once in awhile we come across something that makes us ask what this world is coming to. Joanne Jacobs points to this article regarding four students who smeared a principal's reputation on MySpace. After being portrayed by these kids as being a pot-smoking, woman-battering alcoholic, the principal is now fighting back by suing those responsible.

One of the participants had already sued the principal. Shortly after the fake MySpace profiles appeared, the school offices contacted MySpace and had them removed. Further actions were taken, and one student (the one suing the principal) was suspended and subsequently moved to an alternative education program. He was carrying a 3.3 GPA at the time.
That complaint argues the school's actions were excessive, violated Layshock's First Amendment free-speech rights, and interfered with his parents' freedom to judge how best to raise and educate their son.
An interesting argument, inasmuch as his parents hadn't exactly been demonstrating a firm grasp of the problem at that time.

I have often spoken out against the evils of a permissive society. It is ridiculous, of course, to try to make this a First Amendment argument. While the First Amendment protects speech, it does not remove natural and legal consequences from that speech. I picked this up from the Law Dictionary at
n. the act of making untrue statements about another which damages his/her reputation. If the defamatory statement is printed or broadcast over the media it is libel and, if only oral, it is slander. Public figures, including officeholders and candidates, have to show that the defamation was made with malicious intent and was not just fair comment.
Strictly speaking (and without a personal knowledge of the facts in evidence) this sure sounds like libel to me. The deeper damage, though, is even more pernicious.

When I was still a lad, my father made it crystal clear to me that if I did something stupid, he fully expected me to take my lumps. (The setting for this discussion was a ticket I'd received for rolling through a stop sign as a new driver. In those days, the first offense was an automatic appearance in traffic court. The judge's first question was, quote: "How do you spell 'stop,' young man?" As if he questioned my public education, or something.) He included in this expectation any jail time I might somehow deserve for such stupidity. I took his meaning to heart, and have tried to follow that guidance throughout my adult career.

These kids were doing something that, to them at that time, seemed like quite a lark. "Hey, ol Mr. Trosch is a pain in the fanny. Let's ruin his career." Actually, their thought processes probably didn't even carry them quite that far. More likely they were only parroting something they'd already seen done, either on TV or by some other kids. I don't think they were knowledgeable enough to think to themselves, "I know, we'll create phony profiles on this dude on MySpace, smear his reputation, and make it hard for him to shake the stigma of what we say for the rest of his career." I know that runs counter to my belief that this really is libel, but I'm not altogether certain that these kids were that smart. For one thing, I doubt whether they've ever used "stigma" in a sentence before. They merely thought it was funny. It probably never occurred to them that it was libelous. I'm hoping it occurs to them now.

More disturbing, from my perspective, is the idea that these kids would have thought something like this was funny in the first place. It isn't. Those who happen to think it is will be the ones to complain the loudest when they find their own lives turned upside down with no power to do anything but live through it. That's where these kids (and their principal) are today; they're trying to live through a nightmare, caused by this relatively simple but unthinking act.

The fact that one of the perpetrators sued because he was made to suffer a consequence would seem to indicate that this particular lesson has not yet been learned. Either by him or by his freedom-seeking parents.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

While We Stay Wrapped Around the Immigration Axle...

...the realities of everyday business dictate a course of action.

I'm all for this plan. Yeah, okay, there's probably a hit to the taxpayer. Sure, there's still a question about whether non-residents who are here illegally should even be offered this opportunity. But while we continue burning Rome to cinders, at least someone is hedging their bets.

Keep in mind that many Latinos who are here legally still can't communicate in English effectively. I talk to people like that from time to time. I'd much rather see them able to communicate effectively in their adopted country than remain silent in their suffering. Helps to avoid certain problems downstream.

It's a start.

Monday, April 09, 2007

It's a Brave New World Out There

Someone should tell the Democratic candidates.

John Edwards having already cut and run from the second proposed Fox News debate now stands merely as first among "equals." Hot on his lead, Barack Obama decides that cowardice is the better part of valor and also decides not to participate in the Fox debate. A debate, one might add, co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus of which Obama is presumably a member.

Not to be outdone, Hillary Clinton apparently becomes now the third major Democratic candidate to suffer from vulpeserophobia in just a few short days. Clinton's mouthpiece goes so far as to say that they will only participate in Democratic National Committee sponsored debates.

This is no longer a case of merely trying to avoid potentially uncomfortable questions from a Fox moderator. This is now a concerted, orchestrated effort by the DNC to attempt to discredit a legitimate news agency during a time when candidates need all the exposure they can get. Yes, we freely admit that Fox correspondents and editors are no friends of the Democratic party. But when - when - was CNN or PBS ever a friend to the Republican party? Do you mean to tell us (with a straight face) that CBS provides "fair and balanced" coverage of any Republican?

Thus it is that we mere nobodies (I believe we are cynically referred to as "voters" every couple of years) are left to wonder just what it is that these Democratic powerhouses are hiding. Or, perhaps more appropriately, hiding from.

Of course, I try to ignore the DNC even more than I try to ignore the RNC. But I caught this on some obscure news program earlier today, and it reminded me just how much of a liability Howard "The Duck" Dean has truly become to the Dems:
2008 Democratic Candidates
John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton announce that they will not be participating in the second proposed debate co-sponsored by Fox News

Howard Dean, DNC ChairmanHoward "The Duck" Dean defends the decision to participate in DNC-sanctioned debates exclusively: "Hey, if we want to take our ball and bat and go home, that's our Constitutionally guaranteed right."

Not sure about you, but somehow all of this fails to surprise me.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I'm Sure He Has Excellent Reasons...

...but I have only one comment to make about John Edwards and declining to participate in a Fox News debate for the second time:

Do I really want a man in charge of my country's military who is this afraid of a news network?

I mean, c'mon; so Fox has a decidedly conservative bent. How is it that Republicans have never been so afraid of CNN (or PBS, or NBC, or even the Letterman Show) that they wouldn't go a-whoring after votes on any of those venues? Reagan was certainly never afraid of "liberal agendas" when he debated Carter back in '80. Can you imagine McCain passing up an opportunity to pimp himself to any network that'll give him the benefit of his "war hero" status? Of course not!

Yet here we have a man who really, really wants to lead our nation as Commander-in-Chief, Lord High Muckity Muck, and High Priest of the Sacred Roundish Office that can't stand the thought of Fox exercising their right to free speech.


Michigan House Democrats Finally Certifiable

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. The constant brain-freezing cold (what global warming??) has finally reduced Michigan Democratic legislators to tax-and-spend-spewing zombies, rising up out of whatever ancient peat bogs formed Michigan a million years ago to terrorize their state's already over-burdened budget.

In a scathing editorial published yesterday, The Detroit News ( had this to say:
An iPod for every kid? Are they !#$!ing idiots? (Note: their use of upper-case, not mine)

We have come to the conclusion that the crisis Michigan faces is not a shortage of revenue, but an excess of idiocy. Facing a budget deficit that has passed the $1 billion mark, House Democrats Thursday offered a spending plan that would buy a MP3 player or iPod for every school child in Michigan.
Wow. An iPod for every kid. What a deal.

I did some quick and dirty research and came up with the following numbers:

Total K-12 Public School Enrollment (1999-2000): 1,685,952
Current Price of Apple's iPod Shuffle® (1 GB): $79

So let's see. Even with a price break (hey, stranger things have come from Apple), let's say 10% for a government customer, that's still 1.69 million kids times $71, which works out to a budget allocation of $119,702,592.00, more or less.

Now, taken as a number in and of itself, $120 million is not generally a big hairy deal. Not in California, anyway. The Governator regularly goes through that much in Bowflex® machines for the mansion. However, if Michigan's budget deficit has only just passed the $1 billion mark, $120 million is, what, 12% of that total? And that makes the proposed iPod purchase all the more significant for its blatant stupidity. Which, I suppose, is Detroit News' point:
No cost estimate was attached to their hare-brained idea to "invest" in education. Details, we are promised, will follow.

The Democrats, led by their increasingly erratic speaker Andy Dillon of Redford Township, also pledge $100 million to make better downtowns.

Their plan goes beyond cluelessness. Democrats are either entirely indifferent to the idea that extreme hard times demand extreme belt tightening, or they are bone stupid. We lean toward the latter.

We say that because the House plan also keeps alive, again without specifics, the promise of tax hikes.
My goodness. These same legislators probably would have excoriated Reagan a couple of decades ago for practicing "voodoo economics." If this iPod plan wasn't created by some shaman in the bayous of Louisiana, I'd sure like to know where it came from.

Of course, I can almost hear the rationalizations now. "But if we don't, then Michigan kids will be the only kids in the nation who don't have iPods! What will they listen to instead of listening to their teachers?" Based on the critical thinking skills of the Michigan House of Representatives, I'd say this makes perfect sense. What were they listening to back then, one wonders?

It also cracks me up to realize that the total iPod budget (my numbers, remember; I'm absolutely certain that Michigan legislators will slash that amount considerably when they spin the budget numbers in session) could end up being equal to or greater than their proposed downtown improvements. If that isn't proactive politics, then I don't know what would qualify. Opines the Detroit News: "We wonder how financially strained Michigan residents will feel about paying higher taxes to buy someone else's kid an iPod." Or, I imagine, how they might feel about paying more for iPods than for renovated downtowns.

Finally, the editorial (author unknown) concludes:
Stop the stupidity. Michigan can't tax or spend its way out of this economic catastrophe.

The only responsible option is to bring spending in line with current revenues. The mission must be to expand the tax base, rather than to expand taxes, by crafting a budget that encourages growth.

We won't get there by wasting money on early Christmas presents for Michigan kids.
This is the crux of the argument. It is a wonderful indictment of the Entitlement Movement as irresponsible politics at best, and criminal misconduct at worst. Desperate for cash? Go ask Alan Mullaly for a loan. That iPod money, whether it's the $120 million I calculated, or even only $50 million (the actual numbers have yet to be revealed) needs to go elsewhere.

It does not need to be plugged into the ears of youngsters with already severe attention-span deficits.

DISCLAIMER: Woody readily acknowledges that he has not seen the actual proposed legislation, and that he is not now nor has ever claimed to be an expert in such matters. He also does not live in Michigan, although his beloved grandfather was born and raised there. However, Woody reserves the right to make fun of Michigan (or California, or any other doggoned state) merely because he feels like it. This is why Woody blogs, for heaven's sake.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Anti-Christian Jihad Continues

(H/T: Mrs. Woody)

From the StatesmanJournal in Salem, Oregon we find this column by Michelle Malkin. The column details attempts by two different school districts to hold "terrorism drills" as part of a commendable effort to prepare their students against the possibility of an attack. Most unfortunately, they chose to use "Christians" in their portrayals of terrorists who would threaten the lives of their students in these drills.

I well remember the first incident. In Muskegon County, Michigan, administrators chose to have their terrorists be "crazed Christian homeschoolers." (I could have sworn I'd written something about it at the time, but an exhaustive search of this blog fails to find any evidence of such a post.) Being a Christian homeschooler I was, of course, incensed. What could these idiot administrators have been thinking? The obvious inference, naturally, is that the local NEA affiliate likely has "Christian Homeschoolers" at the top of a list of subversive elements that may well organize to attack a public school.

Speaking as a Christian homeschooler let me be the first to say, "Are you OUT OF YOUR MINDS?" Homeschoolers, as a whole, are the most disorganized bunch of people I've ever met. You ever try to coordinate more than three families to have a Play Day at a park? And you think we're suddenly going to burst into a public school and start taking hostages? The far more likely threat is that one family might wander onto your campus, find an open classroom (because the air conditioning isn't working. Again.) and embarrass the class by winning their own spelling bee.

So the idea that Muskegon even considered using homeschoolers (and not just any homeschoolers, but those dreaded Christian homeschoolers) as their prototypical terrorists is painfully ludicrous. If this clumsy attempt at appeasement is laughable, those of us who homeschool are not laughing.

Moving on, then, we find another incident as recent as last month. In New Jersey, one high school chose to use a "right-wing fundamentalist" group - fictional, one assumes - who "don't believe in the separation of Church and state." "Right-wing" always equates to "Christian" it goes without saying. Just as "polygamist" always equates to "Mormon." So this right-wing fundamentalist organization - which was probably long since disavowed by any reputable Christian faith - becomes the bad guy in this exercise. All done in the interests of not offending Muslims who have been feeling the heat ever since 9/11.

I do have to admit that the second scenario is somewhat more likely than the first. Certainly we've seen our fair share of "fundamentalist" whack-jobs over the years who have chosen to take vigilantism to the next level. Cults abound in this country, and many people who have very loose grips on reality claim that God has told them to do some reprehensible act in his name. Whether we should consider these people to be "terrorists" is really just a matter of semantics. I myself would be more likely to use gangs - all of whom I personally consider to be terrorists - if I were organizing a terrorism drill for my school. They tend to be just as well armed as your basic fundamentalist, and most of them are battle-hardened veterans of the turf wars.

The point is, I'm sure that there are many, many examples of violent subcultures that these school administrators could have used to represent the evil terrorists. But they chose to use Christians, or those who are identified as Christians, rather than risk offending some other belief system. Which begs the question: If it's not acceptable to offend Muslims in this way, why should it be any more acceptable to offend Christians?

The answer is that they just didn't think about it that way. Really. The fact is that we in this country have a long-standing tradition of making fun of religious people. This tradition has mutated over time into a sort of ironic cultural jihad against organized religion of any kind. This is the only explanation for such phenomena as "The Simpsons," "South Park," and "Congress."

Well, Burlington Township, I'm offended. Truly, truly offended. So offended, in fact, that I may have to protest in front of our local public school district offices. Taking a point from Seattle anarchists, maybe I'll even burn an NEA union leader in effigy. Surely that wouldn't offend anyone?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"Flag" "Montebello" "Hoax"

(This was NOT a hoax. I know many of you who visit this article were searching on "Montebello hoax" or some similar string. Hence the title. Sorry if I misled you, but this was not a hoax. I'm sure you were hoping to find proof that we poor, silly conservatives were merely overreacting to a collosal joke, but it happened. If you still want to read about it, forge ahead. If not, sorry I wasted your time. - Woody)

When this incident took place last year, I wrote a post concerning the whole anti-America sentiment currently being tolerated by so many politicians in this country. What disturbs me most, however, is that deniers are already spreading the idea that this very recent history was, somehow, a hoax. Never happened. Just more overreaction by right-wing conspiracy nuts. This is indicated by the frequent appearance of those words in a search string that leads people to the post I wrote last May.

How I wish it was a hoax.

But the unfortunate fact is that it happened. High school students exercised their rights to free speech by deliberately placing our flag underneath the Mexican flag, and compounded the insult by hanging it upside down; a clear violation of flag etiquette, and a sure indicator of the political allegiances held by this coming generation of youth in this country. A slap in the faces of those who pledge allegiance to this country willingly and with meaning.

Setting aside for a moment the idea that these kids may or may not be in this country legally, I feel a little background may be useful in examining their protest. Most of these kids are probably third or fourth generation latinos whose roots lie in Mexico or any of the Central American nations. Statistically, their families probably entered this country illegally. Legal immigration has always been difficult, and one must generally be at least somewhat affluent before even attempting the process to enter the United States with our blessing. So their ancestors entered this country at a risk, willing to make whatever sacrifices may have been necessary in order to provde a better life for their families and their descendants.

Even today, most who risk everything to enter this country do so because anything - even living here illegally and risking deportation (or worse) - has to be better than whatever awaits them back "home." Sure, there are always opportunists and gamblers, but of the people I've come to know over the years they represent a relative minority. I still believe these protestors do not represent the vast majority of latinos who live, work, raise their families, and contribute to society in this part of the country.

Over time, having lived here for at least a couple of generations, the children and grandchildren of those pioneers become naturalized by default. These second and third (or fourth, or fifth) generation youngsters are in little, if any, danger of ever being deported. Most of them have birth certificates and social security numbers declaring them to be citizens of the United States. That their citizenship came to them through the extreme sacrifices of their ancestors seems to be lost on them. Because they feel that we're not somehow making their lives carefree and easy, they feel the need to strike back. We'll show 'em! We'll take "our" country back, and declare ourselves to be Mexicans. Not Americans.

It is, I suspect, an attitude that would embarrass their ancestors. As it is, it brings no honor to their cause today.

And so they protest. We (and I suspect my white skin places me permanently in that classification) are discriminating against latino peoples in this country. (I guess discrimination is a full time occupation for a white male in America; I apparently discriminate against latinos, blacks, gays, women, and liberals. How I ever find time to work, raise my family, attend to my church responsibilities, and sing in a chorale is quite beyond my ability to comprehend. I just do it.) We are somehow refusing to make life better for latino people by wanting our borders to be more secure than they are today. We discriminate by only allowing them to work in jobs that no one else - certainly not us! - wants. (Someone better tell that to my niece, the newly-hired burger-flipper!) (Although, to be fair, she's only working the register at the moment, according to her Mom.)

But the protest is a bankrupt one, morally. These protests have nothing to do with discrimination in America. This is about anarchy and their desire to live ungoverned lives of freedom and entitlement. Give us the money, no strings attached, and no one gets hurt! When you set foot in East Los Angeles, bro, you're on our turf. You play by our rules. That's the message these kids really wanted us to hear.

The flag flew upside-down. It was no hoax, and neither was the sentiment behind it.