Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Kill [the] Bill

McCain-Kennedy deserves the longest, slowest political death possible. As if the entire conversation held in this nation for the last year and a half never took place, the Senate "crafts" legislation that effectively widens the holes in our national sieve. Expect the next 12 million "immigrants" just as soon as the coyotes can scalp them the $2,000 each (or whatever the black market supports these days).

Hey, I'm no legal expert. I leave analysis of this stuff to people much smarter than I am. But I can and do have opinions as a regular voter, and here are mine for whatever they're worth (certainly not $2,000):

1. Like many other pundits and analysts, I'm not at all opposed to allowing many of the current immigrants to remain in the United States. For one thing, many of them have long since proven their desire and ability to be productive members of our society. Sure, there are those elements who make me want to rent a few hundred busses so we can haul their sorry hind-quarters out of the country, but there are more than a few legal life-long citizens that I wish would join them, too.

That said, there's also the tremendous expense (and you know who gets to foot the bill!) and extreme logistical nightmare involved in deportation of that many people. Taken altogether, I say keep the good guys, deport the bad guys, and make sure we can tell the difference. But this leads me to...

2. Border security. I don't know how or why the MSM continues to tout "stronger" border security in their reporting of this fiasco. This is the same tired old ambiguous reference to a "fence" that we've been hearing about for months now. Yet border patrol agents have been telling anyone who would listen (apparently this doesn't include the administration) that fences alone are wholly inadequate to the task. A much larger border patrol presence is also required, as are other measures that make falsifying indentification (among other things) a tougher thing to do.

Here's what I think really happened: I think McCain and his buddies probably thought that one solid bi-partisan piece of compromise was just what the voters really wanted in this run-up to an election year. They probably counted on being hailed as conquering heroes across the country for tackling a problem in a fashion that made Republicans, Democrats, and even the President all very happy.

The problem, of course, is that none of those happy faces are seen outside of Capitol Hill.

It used to be easier, they sigh to themselves. Once upon a time, people would cheer bi-partisanship as a triumph of the American political system. Not anymore, though. With the advent of instantaneous information and data analysis being freely shared among common, ordinary voters like ourselves, politicians find their sheen being stripped thin far more rapidly than ever before in our history. They used to be able to take advantage of the time lag to get things pushed through to the president's desk before anyone really understood what was happening.

But the Internet proves itself to be a sort of instant opinion poll on steroids. We can amass public opinion so quickly now, that politicians are beginning to understand that they ignore that opinion at their peril. Want to know why John McCain is so cranky these days? He just asked if he could take his girl out in Dad's car tonight, and got told "No!" in no uncertain terms. He's having a temper tantrum, and it's likely to cost him the nomination.

So kill the bill. Please. It's useless legislation, filled with all the requisite loopholes and amendments that will ensure its impotence for generations to come. Put it out of our misery, and go draw up something that will work.

Otherwise, quit wasting our time.

Monday, May 14, 2007

But Does He Have a Strong Downbeat?

Who says being President of the United States is all about wearing serious suits, destroying smallish countries and making determined faces during speeches?

One of my favorite escapist movies is "Dave," where Kevin Kline plays an impersonator who gets roped into a scheme to portray the President permanently. Dave, being a fun-loving guy (for a liberal), becomes the sort of playful president everyone wishes our Chief Executives would be in real life, culminating in his throwing out the first pitch at a ball game. Go, Chief! Way to go! Such antics ensure that the President isn't doing something dangerous, like cutting taxes.

No one expects George W. to be a "fun" president, even if he is from "y'all by gosh" Texas.

So imagine my shock to hear this item from PlaybillArts being read on our local classical radio station while I was doing errands this afternoon:
JoAnn Falletta was conducting a 400-piece orchestra in The Stars and Stripes Forever yesterday in Jamestown, Virginia when she noticed someone standing behind her gesturing for a turn on the podium.

It was George W. Bush — "smiling at me kind of devilishly," as she told the Associated Press.

So she gave him a turn, and he conducted the Sousa march for about two minutes — rather successfully, by all reports.
As I listened in shock (He took the baton? From JoAnn Falletta??), it reminded me that most of us, even Presidents of the United States, must have unfulfilled ambitions or fantasies in life. While Bill Clinton may have had little trouble indulging in his, George W. hasn't had a lot of fun on his watch. If it isn't those pesky Islamist fundamentalists stirring up trouble over thar in Whatchycallit... Iraq, then it's most certainly that shrill little filly who keeps slammin' that gavel down in the Capitol.

So, what with one thing and another, I can readily imagine Dubya walking past the podium during his exit music and thinking to himself, "Hey. I'm Prezdent of the U-Nited States. If'n I wanna conduct me an orchestra, there ain't no better time."

(This blog imagines that, had it been Al Sharpton, he wouldn't have bothered unless the orchestra were playing "Jump Down, Turn Around.")

Call me a conservative shill if you must, but I think it would have been très cool to have been there. By some accounts, it was very cool for some of the participants. UPI picks up another angle on the story (courtesy EARTHtimes.org):
"I wish you could have seen the expressions of everyone in the symphony, especially some of the young people," said Falletta. "As soon as the music ended, they were all on their cell phones telling their parents they had been conducted by the president of the United States."
I can just bet. Of course, this also brings up three very significant questions in the mind of this blog:

1. These kids had cell phones on stage?

2. Were they all set on Manner Mode?

3. Didn't the Secret Service sweep for just that sort of thing before the performance?

Egregious breaches in Homeland Security aside, I'm betting this was one of those unforgettable moments in the lives of those youngsters.

By all accounts, Dubya not only kept the beat but managed to cue the proper sections at the right times. Of course, as many times as he must have heard "Stars and Stripes Forever" by now, I shouldn't really be surprised. He's probably memorized the movements of every conductor who ever performed it for some inspection or state dinner or something over the years.

Knowing of my lefty friends' need for Bush Outrage, there was a reported bit of scandal attached to the incident. PlaybillArts ends with this tantalizing bit of gossip:
Shortly before the march was over, he turned to the maestro, kissed the top of her head, stepped off the podium and left.
One can only imagine what Laura must have felt.

As If We Needed Another Reason...

Murfreesboro, Tennessee gives us reason number... number... oh, heck, we've long since lost count. (H/T: Michelle Malkin)

We homeschool precisely so our children aren't subjected to this kind of rank stupitidy from public education "professionals."
Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables. The mock attack Thursday night was intended as a learning experience and lasted five minutes during the weeklong trip to a state park, said Scales Elementary School Assistant Principal Don Bartch, who led the trip.
As a kid I was one of those impressionable youths who listened to the evening news with ever-increasing trepidation. The world was clearly involved in disaster after disaster, and worst of all was the violence in our own neighborhoods. At the time we lived uncomfortably close to Los Angeles where race riots were the order of the day. Political assassinations were in vogue. My nightmares always involved people with guns (one reason, perhaps, why I've never owned one myself), and I can remember more than one night where Mom had to comfort me back to sleep. I think you get the gist of my objection with this criminal act.
During the last night of the trip, staff members convinced the 69 students that there was a gunman on the loose. They were told to lie on the floor or hide underneath tables and stay quiet. A teacher, disguised in a hooded sweat shirt, even pulled on [the] locked door. After the lights went out, about 20 kids started to cry, 11-year-old Shay Naylor said. "I was like, 'Oh My God,' " she said. "At first I thought I was going to die. We flipped out."
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: This kind of thoughtless approach to teaching is nothing short of criminal child abuse. Well intentioned? Maybe. Even if, however, I were to give these "educators" the benefit of this very considerable doubt, they should still be, at an absolute minimum, fired. Goodbye — thanks for service rendered and all that — but get out.

In a perfect world, though, this Don Bartch character would be tried for inflicting emotional distress on the children. I can only imagine how I personally would have reacted as a child, being on a school trip without my parents there to protect me (like I'd trust my teachers and assistant principal?) and then be told that a gunman was "on the loose." Absolutely criminal on the part of these people.

Nearly-as-criminal understatement of the article:
Principal Catherine Stephens declined to say whether the staff members involved would face disciplinary action, but said the situation "involved poor judgment."
Ya think?

Says Michelle:
No wonder homeschooling is so popular.
You know it, sister.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Socialism in the Classroom

One has to be careful when discussing socialism in this country. My junior high and high school years encompassed the 70's (the Nixon years... I bailed in time to vote against Jimmy Carter). A more permissive — some called it "progressive" (a term I've come to hate over time) — attitude was seen in local education. Hippies, or hippie-wannabes, were becoming teachers and trying hard to push the socialist agenda into the classroom. I was therefore duly indoctrinated by history teachers, debate coaches, drama and music teachers, and even one health teacher who had this terrific lesson about influenza involving a long rubber worm and his nose (grossed the girls out, but the guys loved it).

This "indoctrination" typically involved demonstrating that social justice meant a complete ideological levelling of the playing field. They much preferred the term "socialism" to "communism" because it sounded softer; somehow more palatable. "Communists" were the avowed bad guys in those days. When the mysoginistic McCarthy days had finally blown over, most folks at least agreed that the Soviet brand of communism was indeed the evil that our leaders had always claimed it was. Only hard-core leftist-Marxists found anything good to say about the communist system, and we were still able, even in 1974, to dismiss them as lunatics.

Socialism, on the other hand, was being preached to our impressionable minds as the "soft" alternative to communism. No need to hand totalitarian control over to a communist dictator, they said, so long as we make sure the needs of the "people" come first. A country as rich as the United States surely must be able to give (emphasis on "give") everyone everything they need (read: "want") so that no one is lacking.

As a youngster, I have to admit that sounded pretty good. I mean, if someone in my neighborhood is out of work, we should give them some money to help them. Maybe even give them some food. You know, just until they get back on their feet.

Then Dad explained to me what a "welfare state" was all about.

Dad used to like to take me on walks around the block. I generally enjoyed these opportunities, because Dad was not an overtly affectionate chap. He taught me some great lessons about life on those walks because Dad, it turned out, was a teacher at heart.

Just down the street lived a Latino family. Dad had to phrase his statements to me carefully so as not to prejudice me against Latinos, but rather to make me aware that there were always people willing to "game the system." This family was what Dad referred to as a "professional welfare family." The father had not worked a day in years. The mother and one or two of the older siblings apparently had jobs, but not full-time jobs. At least, not based on how frequently they seemed to be home during the work week. What they had, though, were vehicles. At least seven at one count. Three of them were trucks, including one huge International of the type that eventually became known as SUVs. They were either new or close to new. One of the teenage boys sported a rather classic Chevy Vega that was heavily modified and on which he was constantly working. This family was forever going camping.

Since the father was constantly working on one or more of his seven vehicles, it was hard to determine just what, exactly, his disability was that prevented him from working. Eventually, of course, they sold their house and retired. Based on how long they were there, and knowing how property values increased during that time, I'm guessing he made enough on balance to pay cash for a new home in almost any location other than Southern California.

Lest we somehow overreact to this story, let me quickly point out that they were not the only welfare cheats with which I was familiar. Sometime later I became acquainted with a family in our church that moved into the area and immediately required assistance. This is not altogether that unusual. Our neighborhood was one of the older ones in Simi Valley, and less affluent families came and went. Dad was Elders Quorum president at the time, and he was involved initially in helping them get assistance from the church. Latter-day Saints have probably the most exemplary welfare program in the nation as it provides assistance, yet encourages the recipient to become self-sufficient as soon as possible. This family, though, was unique. This family kept receiving assistance for as long as they could convince the Bishop they needed it. Finally, when the Bishop began asking harder questions about why this gentleman was not actively seeking work, the family moved once again. Professional LDS welfare families. Never knew they existed. I doubt whether they stayed in any ward longer than six months.

The Latter-day Saint theology includes something called the United Order. On its surface it actually sounds socialist, but with one very important distinction. Socialism is simply that: a social order. It attempts to tear down class distinctions (albeit in completely the wrong way) and is more politically motivated. The United Order makes all things in common, but requires the absolute faith of the participants in order to be successful. The early Saints tried and failed; petty jealousies and greed caused the Lord to retract the United Order until such time as the Saints demonstrate their willingness to live it properly. The distinction between the United Order and socialism, then, is spiritual. As with all aspects of the Gospel, everything has its counterfeit. In this case, socialism is a worldly counterfeit for the United Order. Socialism fails because it lacks a spiritual foundation. It attempts to make things common without appreciating the commonality. It forces the commonality, if you will. The United Order, on the other hand, is voluntary. It requires faith in the Gospel. It focuses our minds and hearts on acheiving the same spiritual goals.

Socialism, as defined by its promoters, is also counterfeit to the Constitution of the United States, a document which has not yet outlived its usefulness. In the Constitution the framers remind us that we are entitled by right to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness. It also specifies how liberty is maintained. Freedoms spelled out in the Bill of Rights are frequently misinterpreted as meaning that we are free to act without consequence, or that we can somehow force one ideology over another simply because it uses words like "social justice."

Those who tout socialism as a great leveller choose not to mention the fact that one of our most basic freedoms — freedom to worship as we may choose — would be quashed by the constant indoctrination of people against the very tenets of that worship. In other words, religion becomes anaethemic to the practice of socialism, because religion tends to temper the anger and sense of complete injustice required to make socialism necessary to begin with. Human suffering should be dealt with by caring neighbors who give willingly and encourage the sufferer to return to a productive way of life. Religion in its purest form would enable this. Socialism would enforce this. Socialism can only succeed when it is legislated and becomes the law of the land. Every law passed that supports a socialist agenda only serves to weaken the Constitution that made such things possible in the first place.

This very long-winded sermon was made necessary (in my mind, at least) by knowledge of a movement afoot in public education today. A group calling themselves Radical Math tout something they call "Social Justice in the Math Classroom." They have just recently wrapped up a conference, attended by roughly 500 educators in New York City, who learned the many different ways to teach "social justice" at the same time they're supposed to be teaching times tables and algebraic reasoning. The "Welcome Message" in the conference program reads:
There is no such thing as a neutral education process.
Education either functions as an instrument which is
used to . . . bring about conformity, or it becomes the
practice of freedom, the means by which men and women
deal critically and creatively with reality and discover
how to participate in the transformation of our world.”
- Paulo Freire (emphasis theirs)
Socialism is the agenda here. Entitlement is the religion. Civil rights leaders become the gods. The altars are built upon intolerance of those who disagree with their perspectives.

If there is a true separation of church and state, this sort of thing should never be allowed in a public classroom. It is instead encouraged by the leaders of those schools.

Reason #247 why we homeschool.

Happy Mother's Day, Amy!

To my sister Amy. One good "neener" deserves another:

We note for the record that between all the sibs, only Amy has boys to raise*.

Neener, indeed.

*Caveat: Woody does, indeed, have a boy, but he is raised. Also, Woody didn't get much hands-on time with said boy after the divorce. Thus, the damage is already done, and only Amy has it to look forward to with, I am certain, much anticipation.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Why Is Everyone Leaving?

My brother has been guest-blogging over at Junkyard Blog this week, and I've actually added the JB to my blogroll. Fond as I am of my brother, I'm never certain just where his editorial whims will take him next. In this post he comments on an article written by Michael Barone of the OpinionJournal.

Barone's basic premise is that people are leaving the major coastal cities by droves and moving to the less crowded areas of the so-called "fly over" zones of America. Meanwhile, immigrants surge into those coastal cities to replace those who have left. The overall effect is one of having precisely the sort of two-tiered society against which the Democrats continuously campaign. Unfortunately, those same cities are the ones that provide the largest support base for Democratic policy and power today. It's a delicate tightrope for pols like Feinstein and Pelosi to have to berate the very societies that gave them birth, so to speak.

(Yes, yes... sweeping generalizations. That's what we do, here at the Woundup.)

Cam argues that it's not necessarily a cause and effect sort of situation, and I agree with him. I'm not altogether sure that's where Barone was heading with his numbers game, but I'll stick to Cam's extrapolation. The main reason why people leave cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco and move to Fuhgedabahdit, Colorado is... money.

I live in Orange County, California. Orange County has, for decades, been touted as one of the richest plums in a state full of plum trees, if you get my drift. I happen to live in an area right smack between two of the snootiest-per-capita areas of the county, Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills. When I say there's gold in them thar hills, I'm not really kidding. There is a lot of money here, old and new, which is why Yorba Linda's self-absorbed statement is "Land of Gracious Living." I don't think Anaheim Hills has any such statement, but they don't really need one. You don't find a dwelling under $1.5 million unless it's a condo. Maybe only $1.1 mil for a condo. At those prices I couldn't afford to rent one of their bathrooms, let alone a room with kitchen privileges.

But Cam also got me to thinking about our own situation and why we're still here in California, and why we won't be as soon as we're able to retire. Money is part of it, yes. But we also have some health considerations that will deeply narrow the choices of retirement communities when we're ready to make that plunge in about 15 years. Give or take.

Mrs. Woody and I both have arthritis. Actually, not to alarm those who happen to be my mother (not that this would come as any real shock to said mother), but my own arthritis is still only suspected, not diagnosed. And, of course, it's nowhere near as bad as Mrs. Woody's. But all this joint trouble means that we're probably going to be looking for places with nice, moderate temps for as much of the year as we can get away with. So, nice, moderate temperatures at nice, moderate prices. Any ideas out there in Woundupland? (Hands down, Mom and Bob. You, too, Matt and Amy. You'd be at the top of the list if it weren't for all those doggoned TORNADOS you keep running into.)

Therein lies the rub, alas. You see, we've basically grown up here in Southern California. We know what this weather is like from year to year and from El Niño to La Niña. We know all about earthquakes. Pound for pound, we tend to prefer temblors to tornados. Call us biased, but we don't care. If not for the fact that our biggest customers at work are various agencies of the United States government, I could honestly say that I'd much rather not have to deal with that much wind.

Believe it or not, the immigration "problem" (regular readers of this blog know what I mean by that) is nowhere on the list of reasons why we feel compelled to leave Southern California at some point. Immigrants don't generally bother me, unless they refuse to control their kids in public. In this part of the world, if my home were to be burglarized, it's about even money whether the perp would be an illegal, or dark-skinned, or some bored brat kid of some local politician.

Cam mentions the skyrocketing crime rates in places I used to live (Lancaster and Quartz Hill among 'em) and he's absolutely correct: I don't miss them. Not one iota. Housing was much cheaper "up there" than "down below," which meant that poor families were settling in those places and bringing their gang-indoctrinated kids with them. By the time I left, I was living just outside the boundaries of what was quickly becoming just another South Central LA slum, only about 75 miles to the north. We began calling our neighborhoods "Bloods and Crips, North."

So crime is a constant worry here. But I don't worry about (or fear) immigrants largely because I know quite a bit about where they come from. I lived in Guatemala for nearly two years, speaking their language and living in the same conditions they lived in, only with more money to spend in a month than they would see in a whole year of work. I can tell you what circumstances south of the border compel these people to risk everything to try for a better life in the hated United States. Politics may make for stange bedfellows, as the saying goes, but scrabbling for an existence can make them even stranger.

I dunno... maybe I'm over-simplifying the situation. I refuse to live too close to areas where illegal immigration causes the most trouble, so I'm removed from that dynamic. The people I know who are not native to this country are, for the most part, genuine people. I have them for neighbors. I count some of them as friends. I work with many of them. I find them to be honorable, hard working, decent people. They are not among the reasons why I need to leave this place. Eventually.

No, I leave because I won't be able to afford to stay here. I'm a middle-class guy living in an area that requires us to be either one strata up, or two strata down. I can't afford the one, and I really don't want the other. So we'll leave. We will move to a place where the cost of living will hopefully stay within our means until we pass into the next life, and hope the weather won't cause our inflamed joints to throb painfully for too many weeks out of the year. It will need to have relatively easy access to wherever our children are living by that time with their own families so we can do the Grandma-and-Grandpa-come-for-(SHORT)-visits routine. It will, if Michael Barone is correct, likely have immigrant families living there.

So long as I have Mrs. Woody there with me, it will be perfect.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

An Ocean of Memories

[I meant to post this on Inner Dad. I don't generally post schmaltzy stuff like this on the Woundup. The Woundup is my mosh pit, for corn's sake. You know the kinds of commenters I get over here... why would I subject family stuff to that atmosphere?

On the other hand, since when did I ever do or say anything that made sense?

Vive le blog!

[UPDATE: Okay, I couldn't do it. This sort of post is just too innocent for the Woundup. You'll have to link over to Inner Dad if you want to read this one. Sorry!]

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Dying Newspaper is a Wonder to Behold

The Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune is dying. At least, that's what we presume from Lilek's announcement that he's being "reassigned" to work a straight news beat rather than provide his excellent commentaries via his wonderful "Quirk" column. Several folks, including Dave Barry and my brother, have indicated their support of Lileks, and I thought I'd do my part. This is what I sent to the STrib's "reader rep:"
I am writing to ask what in the heck the STrib was thinking when they "reassigned" James Lileks to a news beat. Lileks has a deep following that reaches far beyond the meager influences of your paper. If the STrib has more than a local following, you can thank James for most of it.

Lileks has a writing style and point of view that makes him a very refreshing counter-balance to Minnesota's other "celebrity" writer, Mr. Keillor. Don't get me wrong; I used to be a fan of Garrison's. Over the years, however, he's become simply too bombastic in his denunciations of roughly half of this nation's populace to be at all enjoyable as a writer of folksy wit and humor. Lileks, on the other hand, has never yet failed me.

If one had to guess, one could easily envision the editorial staff at the STrib wondering just how they might stanch the bleeding subscriptions from a paper that is merely symptomatic of the industry as a whole. Well, you could do just what big guns like the Los Angeles Times have done; fire your competent staff writers and columnists and streamline the rest. That'll bring in the subs for sure! Corporate arrogance is an awesome thing, indeed.

You people worry me.

For the record, the primary reason that poseurs like myself pretend to write today is that people like Lileks helped pioneer the way. He remains one of the most effective voices of the northern mid-West, and you're about to muffle that voice so as to make it nearly soto voce.

What a tragedy.

The day that Lileks ceases to write insightful columns (NOT insightful, over-edited news soundbites) is the day my interest in your organization also ceases.


Woody (real name sent to the rep)
Writer Wannabe
Anaheim, CA
Do your part! Support Lileks! We tried, as a blogospheric joke, to get him to run for Senate two years ago, but this is serious. We need writers like Lileks to do what they do best; not what the editorial bosses think is best.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Historic Veto

In exercising his right and executing his duty, President Bush has rightly vetoed the defeatist Democrat-induced bill that would have established a dangerous timeline for withdrawal of our troops.

Key disingenuous quote:
Democrats accused Bush of ignoring American's desire to stop the war, which has claimed the lives of more than 3,350 members of the military.
That may be, but you might think they'd remember the niggling little factoid that Democrats only speak for roughly half of this nation's voters.

Make no mistake: I'm no fan of the war in Iraq. I personally think it has indeed become the very "quagmire" that many people feared it would become over time. I just don't appreciate the violence involved, no matter who's doing the shooting.


I also believe — and have stated before — that the War on Terror is the Cold War of this generation. There are differences, certainly, and I'm not suggesting for a minute that you can draw a direct parallel between the two. Yet the War on Terror has already lasted long enough that children who were born at the beginning of it are now entering the classroom and have known only a world where we are at war with a hideous enemy. For as long as we are engaged there, these children will have the fight in Iraq shaping their world views and their vocabularies.

Yet the statement that President Bush's veto ignores "American's desire" to "end the war" is misleading. I don't care what the polls say: even those of us who don't like this war continue to support the President's decisions to support his commanders in the field.

Harry Reid is not a commander in the field. Neither is Nancy Pelosi. For that matter, neither is George W. Bush, but there is a key difference. Bush wants to listen to his commanders. Reid and Pelosi will shout over those commanders so that they, in effect, can say, "Not listening! La, la, la!"

Of course the veto means a long, drawn-out, messy in-house fight over the war effort. That's what vetos do. And far from making Bush look like a weak-minded war-monger, it instead shows Congressional Democrats for what they really are: defeatists.

As I said before, when the Dems find themselves in the Commander-in-Chief's chair, they can bring the troops home just as soon as they like. Then see how many terrorist attacks they will have "prevented."

Leaving Iraq now will only be an enabler of the jihadists' blood-lust.