Thursday, January 31, 2008

When RINOs Dance...

...conservatives get hurt.

Arnold the Governator wasn't going to endorse anyone in this primary. "It doesn't help me, and it doesn't help the state of California," he said. Ah, but that was back when pal Rudy Giuliani was still in the race. Now that Rudy has dropped out and thrown his support to McCain, Arnie appears to be ready to do the same.

I have noted before that Schwarzenegger's status as a Republican is ephemeral at best. He ran as a Republican, but he's really a centrist. In fact, on many issues — notably including support for huge government — the Governor is more of a right-leaning Democrat than a centrist Republican. Perhaps it was marrying into the Kennedy dynasty that started that slide, or perhaps he's always been there and sticks with the Republicans because he likes their money.

Whatever the case, this pending announcement should surprise no one. Schwarzenegger is a power player, and the higher up the contacts, the better he mingles. Rudy was Mayor of a near city-state, and there is mutual admiration there. McCain is a RINO who sees himself as this generation's Henry Clay. The more compromises he makes, the better the independents and left-leaning GOPers like him.

So where does this leave conservatives? Right where we've been left for several years now: fending for ourselves without a single high-powered crusader for our cause to act as our voice in the political arena. Seemingly we have that voice in Romney, but who will act as his second? Who among the Republican power elite is willing to pull for this relative outsider?

No one. Oh, he has his supporters, to be sure. Hugh Hewitt is doing his level best to sound Romney's trumpet at every opportunity. Conservative analysts and publications such as National Review are talking in terms of Romney being the only "real" conservative candidate we have in this field. But the influential endorsements and glad-handing have thus far eluded Romney.

This can be a dual-edged sword. While it doesn't help Romney to be largely ignored by powerful Republican voices, he does have one thing going for him in this race. He has kept up. Try as the mainstreamers might, they can only anoint McCain the "front-runner" by virtue of his lead in votes and delegates thus far. But they can't crown him. Not yet, and not by a long shot.

Romney and McCain have merely exchanged positions in the race so far. With Florida awarding all 57 of its delegates to McCain, the Arizona Maverick (Side note: anyone remember Ford's Maverick cars? Were they lousy, or what?) assumes roughly the same leading margin over Romney that Romney enjoyed over McCain until this past Tuesday. But that's not saying much at this stage of the race. Whether the lead is 50-something to 30-something, or 97 to 74 (CNN's numbers), we're still a long way off from the 1,191 needed to capture the nomination.

It comes to this: Romney will do well if those who consider themselves conservatives take a hard look at McCain's record. The man is no friend of the base. Yes, he may vote "conservative" 80% of the time, but on critical issues of immigration and the economy, McCain isn't even interested in throwing us a lifeline. He'd rather cut deals with his liberal buddies in Congress. So conservative Republicans need to do their best to keep this man from attaining any office higher than the one he currently possesses.

If anyone doubt's Schwarzenegger's RINO status, by the way, just look at the ballot initiatives he's supporting.

We are not impressed.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin compiled a sample of comments she's received from people who say they'd rather stay home or vote contrarian in the event of a McCain nomination. Not me. No, I don't plan to vote for McCain, but whatever happened to write-in ballots? That's still allowed in this country, isn't it? I'd much rather exercise my right to vote by writing in a viable candidate's name than toss that vote on the ground. I believe I said once that I'd even consider voting for the other side (this was in the event of a Huckabee nod), but I've come to my senses. Yes, I believe I like the write-in concept...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Conservatives to McCain: Shut Up, Sir

John McCain does not speak for conservatives, he speaks at them. We have long since stopped listening. Hence, his statement to AP that he is the "candidate who can unite the party" is the sort of self-deluded fantasy that this party can do without.

You may have won the delegates, but you did not capture a "unifying" amount of the vote. There's still a long battle ahead, and you've chosen to fight your base. What a waste of campaign breath.

On to February 5. Have your game on, McCain. You'll need it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

There's Flipping - and There's Flopping

This entire campaign has seen plenty of shifting views and "flip-flops." Romney's own abortion stance has shifted from a support of Roe v. Wade to a more pro-life position. He freely admits to having "evolved" his views, although his personal views of abortion have likely not changed. As a Latter-day Saint the sanctity of life is paramount, but it's a personal thing. The Church makes no official political statement on this issue other than to urge support for that sanctity. Romney, as a political creature, has had to walk that tightrope between what he knows to be true, and what the people he would represent want to be true. It's not an easy path, and there will be that inevitable moment when you need to define yourself in one camp or another. On an issue like abortion, there's little room (or forgiveness) for waffling. Romney has made his statements, and it now remains to be seen whether he will stay true to them. If not, political retribution will be swift.

Contrasting with this "definition" of Romney is McCain's own flip-flop on "benchmarks" for withdrawal from Iraq. No one, not even the more staunch supporters of the Iraq war and larger fight against terrorism, want the United States to stay in Iraq longer than is absolutely necessary. The primary disagreement, however, is over how best to extricate our troops from this highly volatile region. Some extremists want a timetable — now — that will begin bringing our troops home immediately. Other moderate voices want to establish measurements, or "benchmarks," that establish success criteria under which we can withdraw without thrusting Iraq into irretrievable chaos (as opposed to the potentially retrievable chaos that reigns today, I suppose).

Romney has made statements recently that indicate his support of the benchmark idea. He says — correctly — that such benchmarks should not be publicized as this gives the enemy a timeframe that they can then manipulate to their own advantage. As he loses traction in the polls, McCain has now seized upon this Romney position and placed it in his attack machine. Romney, he says, supports a defeatist position. Benchmarks, he claims, are akin to withdrawal timetables which means leaving Iraq before success is assured.

Unfortunately for McCain, he makes these statements in the age of instant information retrieval and fact-checking. Within hours of his attack on Romney, two things happened: First, Romney's campaign published an immediate rebuttal showing exactly what Romney means when he says "benchmarks," and how they cannot be misconstrued by any reasonable person as support for "timetables." McCain, however, is not a reasonable person, especially when his poll numbers are slipping in a critical state for his campaign. Secondly, fact-checking has been swift and unkind to McCain. Of primary interest is McCain's own alleged support for benchmarks as reported by a year ago. While he hadn't yet decided just what those benchmarks should be, he did state that they should be "specific" and that Iraq government officials "would have to meet them."

Sounds like support for benchmarking to me.

So the issue here is not really about benchmarks in Iraq. The issue here is what happens to a candidate who needs to resort to such low-level attacks in order to bolster his poll numbers. At this point in the race, McCain needs a lot of bolstering. The base of the party to which he has attached himself has largely deserted him. Can anyone wonder why? Consider:

  • His campaign director of "Hispanic Outreach" is an open borders panderer of the most dangerous sort. Dr. Juan Hernandez has no respect for the sovereignty of the United States, and openly advocates the elimination of borders of any kind. This does not sit well with Republican conservatives. Period.

  • McCain's work with Ted Kennedy to ram amnesty down our collective throats means that he has alienated himself from conservatives forever. In fact, on this issue alone, as a Republican he makes a better Democrat. They can have him.

  • Both McCain's "Gang of 14" and the disastrous McCain-Feingold legislation that makes a mockery of the First Amendment show McCain's willingness to kow-tow to the left side of the political spectrum. He can cloak it as "bipartisanship" all he wants. Bipartisanship is only valid in war, my friend, and is to be mistrusted in nearly all other instances.

McCain's campaign is struggling now, and it's precisely because many Republicans are trying to revive their conservative credentials. Today, more than ever before, there is a polarization between conservative and liberal voices. Those who claim centrist or moderate beliefs are more and more coming across as merely being willing to compromise their own beliefs in the name of political cooperation. There are still many of us who are unwilling to compromise those beliefs.

It may be too late for McCain to learn, or benefit, from this hardest of all political lessons.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Politics and the "Noble Argument"

I've mentioned the noble argument in politics before (see my discussion of Proposition 92 at that link). Just the other day we received our "Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Ballot Proposition Voter Guide." It's actually written and backed by the California Republican Party, but Arnie is acting very "Republican" today, so his is the iconic image plastered on front.

He stands at a podium, surrounded by images of the Seal of the Great State of California. In the margin areas we see the California flag, images of the sea, hills, citrus fruit. A couple (very white, but what does that matter?) are obviously enjoying the bounties of California's natural wonders on a little day hike. And, of course, a highly visible admonition at the bottom to "Vote Tuesday, February 5th." Because, of course, what really matters is that people participate in the process.

The Governor himself is looking extremely noble. He stands as erect as an Olympian god, with a look on his face of a man who sees the far off future, and it is a glorious sight. This is what people like to refer to as a "presidential" look. "Arnie is looking very presidential today, isn't he?" is what people might be tempted to say when looking at this pamphlet.

And there, in large bold type, we see the same vision that Arnie is apparently seeing with that look:
"Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97 will give California more than $9 billion for public safety, education and other vital services without any additional taxes or any new debt. I urge you to join me in voting YES for California." [Emphasis apparently Arnie's]
That's a lot of noble argument in one sentence. But it reminds me of something. Wait a minute... it'll come to me... where have I heard this sort of thing before... ?

Oh, yes. I remember now. I see this in my email's SPAM folder all the time. "You can be rich if you'll only help me repatriate this money that belonged to some poor (I'm sorry, did I say "poor?" I meant "rich!") dead man in Nigeria!" And many a wise soul (including my Dad) raised me to believe that whenever something sounds too good to be true, it generally is.

With that expertise at hand, I decided to dig a little deeper into Arnie's claim. After all, $9 billion is a pretty huge chunk of change, and it would indeed help California solve a lot of problems. Nice of the Governor, really, to mention education in his nobility argument, since he's never repaid the $2 billion that he "borrowed" when he first took office several years ago. Or if he has, the teacher unions have certainly pretended that he hasn't. Anyway, I'm assuming that with $9 billion coming into state coffers, education would be the first to benefit from all this free money coming in from four or five (count' em!) tribes.

My quest begins — and ends, really — with the state's web site. Here we can find the information that they publish in our official voter information guides. Here's a sample that covers Proposition 97. Here is what the supposedly non-partisan Legislative Analyst (boy, wouldn't that be a fun job!) has to say regarding the "ESTIMATE OF NET STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL IMPACT:"
  • Net increase in annual state government revenues probably in the tens of millions of dollars, growing over time through 2030.
  • For local governments in Riverside County, potential net increase of revenues due to economic growth and potential increased payments from the tribe to offset higher costs.
Hmm. "...tens of millions of dollars, growing over time..." Each of the four propositions have the same statement. "Tens of millions." Not "billions" — "tens of millions."

So it would appear that Governor Schwarzenegger's statement of $9 billion swelling the state's treasury may be just a shade overstated. In fact, if reports are correct, Schwarzenegger is referring to the gaming industry as a whole in California, not the state of California itself. From these reports and others, plus my own analysis of the propositions in question, California taxpayers may expect to see somewhere in the vicinity of $500 million in increased state revenue, plus whatever the local governments may expect to see from the increase in slot machines should these initiatives pass.

$500 million is a long, long way from the $9 billion Governor Schwarzenegger would have us believe we can expect to see. In a state that at one point had the world's 7th largest economy, $500 million is still pocket change. Yes, that money would help, but I still insist that these revenues must be offset by the costs associated with gambling that no one ever wants to discuss: the ruined lives of addicted gamblers and their families; the tribal members who get nothing — not one red cent, so to speak — from the tribe's revenues; not to mention perpetuating the idea that gambling is somehow not only acceptable, but also a desirable way to spend one's hard-earned money. Come on... dig deep. Can you honestly tell me how many of your gambling friends ever come home from the casinos more than a few dollars ahead of where they started? Me, neither.

There's more to the pamphlet (remember the pamphlet?) as well. This is an eight page, full color extravaganza complete with a tear-out "POCKET VOTER GUIDE" that will help you remember on February 5th to join Arnie in voting YES. Inside, we hear from taxpayers organizations, business leaders, and public safety associations that all happen to agree with the Governor. All of them, it goes without saying, stand to receive a chunk of that money. I suspect they're all happy to get whatever comes their way. Whether it's a piece of $9 billion or $500 million, it's still money.

Saddest of all for me is the endorsement of Tom McClintock, the most conservative voice in the California Senate. It tells me something I already knew but have long wanted to ignore in the hopes it would one day disappear. Conservative politicians are moving away from their long-held beliefs in smaller government. By endorsing this kind of socially destructive behavior merely to get their hands on a few million dollars, they have sold out on their implied promises to streamline government and decrease our need to spend hard-earned tax money. This, in my mind, is the ultimate betrayal of the Governor's message. Reading between the lines, here's what I see:
Join me on February 5th in voting for my ability to retain as much fiscal power as I can possibly muster so that I can finally deliver on some of the "noble" promises I've been making — and breaking — since running for this office several years ago.
Nice try, guys. Uncle Woody still votes NO on Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97. You should, too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Troubling Report

Elder Bruce R. McConkie was a fearless defender of truth as an apostle of the Church. His ultimate testimony, given in General Conference shortly before his death of cancer, is unparalleled as to his witness of the Savior. Elder McConkie was also a gospel scholar of impressive lineage and learning. In General Conference of April, 1979, Elder McConkie gave a talk that impacted me deeply. The talk was titled "Stand Independent above All Other Creatures" and it gave Elder McConkie's views of the apocalyptic world immediately preceding the Second Coming. Among other things, Elder McConkie warned of "atomic holocausts that surely shall be."

To a young man who was on the cusp of adulthood and beginning his own family, while still attempting to control his childhood fears, this statement pierced my soul. It reminded me that our mortal existence is always tenuous. We likely knew exactly what dangers and challenges we would face here in this life while still safely ensconced with our heavenly parents in the pre-existence. Yet still we chose to come here, deal with the challenges, and ultimately return to live in glory with our Heavenly Father. That perspective, more than anything else, helps me deal with the horrors that this life presents on a continual basis. Natural disasters, murder (and worse), wars and rumors of wars, all tucked away in deep parts of my psyche so that I can concentrate on living the gospel. I crave world peace as much or more than any vacuous beauty pageant contestant, but I realize that "world peace" is a goal that will probably elude us until the Savior comes to reign in power and majesty.

That may sound somewhat defeatist, but I never use this worldy condition as an excuse to glory in war or war-mongering. I believe that conflict will exist so long as fanatics live on this earth. I further believe that we delude ourselves that the mantra of "can't we all just get along?" will ever resolve these increasingly global conflicts. I still hope for peace, and try my best not to further the conflict, but I also recognize the need to defend ourselves and our liberties to the best of our collective abilities.

Hence, you may understand my feelings at seeing this report as linked by Drudge today. Five former NATO senior officers, one each from the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom, have generated a proposed manifesto to help NATO redefine itself in the new century. Chief among its statements is the insistence that
a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" since there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world"
In other words, nuclear proliferation is not only real, but still a military and political hot-button. These men, one our former U. S. Chief of Staff, believe that our free-world military needs to keep this option open; actually use it on a hostile nation that threatens the same toward any of us.

To say that my old Cold War-era feelings have resurfaced suddenly would be an understatement. We still live under a threat that I once had allowed myself to believe had died with the Soviet Union. Yes, I knew that North Korea was still a loose cannon in the world. I quite agree that we can never take our eyes off of Pakistan. We should never get too cozy with the idea that Israel may develop its own arsenal. But the harshest of realities in today's world is that Iran — complete with its demogogue president — is now a player.

If my anecdotal memories are at all accurate, someone had once taught that if a nuclear holocaust comes, it would most likely be centered in the Middle East. You don't get much more "Middle" in that region than in Iran.

Heaven help us.

Fred! Exits Stage Right

(H/T: Wizbang)

Fred! drops out. A move not entirely surprising to some of us in the conservative hemisphere of the blogosphere.

I never got the impression that Fred! was ever serious enough about the campaign to make a viable candidate, and the early returns from the primaries and caucuses bore that out.

One telling development is his unwillingness to endorse anyone else at this point. If true, it makes McCain's political life that much more tenuous.

I still think Fred! wouldn't mind riding shotgun on someone else's ticket come September. The question right now is: would Fred! be comfortable in a VP role with any of the current front-runners? (Seems funny at this stage to still be talking of multiple front-runners.) Would Fred! be willing to serve with, say, a Huckabee? I can't quite see that, even with common Southern roots. Romney? Don't quite see that, either. I think Fred! regards Romney as a kid who's a little too wet behind the ears to make a serious enough president. I can see Fred! in Rudy's camp, though. They've both been prosecutors and politicians long enough that they would know how to play the game together. His non-endorsement of McCain, with whom he served in the Senate, is interesting. Does he not feel McCain has the ability to pull it off this year? Or is he just biding his time and waiting until Super-Tuesday before making any announcements?

Of course, all of this presumes that any current candidate would even consider asking Fred! to join him on the eventual ticket. Everyone who's anyone is already developing their long lists of potential running-mates, and Rudy may even be working on his short list by this time. If he doesn't win Florida then all bets are off.

This whole thing reminds me of second-guessing changes in the mission field. You could predict all you wanted, but unless you had a direct link to the same spirit of prophecy your mission president was channeling, you'd still end up surprised.

I plan to be surprised.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

McCain Does Just Okay

So the magic of the Michigan results is not so much that Romney won — certainly this is important to those of us who support him — but the fact that McCain tanked among rank and file Republicans.

This is exactly what Hugh Hewitt and other conservative analysts have been saying for months now. McCain simply cannot count on any amount of support from the conservative base of the GOP. Try as he might, he cannot shake the fact that he has thrown in far too many times with the liberal factions of the Senate. He has joined with Ted Kennedy so many times, the two should just move in together. His Gang of 14 kept judicial appointments emptier than Kos's political threats. McCain-Feingold is seriously bad legislation that makes a mockery of the First Amendment. His nearly Gore-like fanaticism with global warming means that this theme will be harped upon in stump after stump, and his track record on the economy sounds more like progressive defeatism than capitalistic optimism. If we refuse to find ways to stimulate the economy in this country, we may as well go socialist. This would be McCain's Nirvana.

It then boils down to this: unless McCain can galvanize the moderate and independent votes in the next few states, his race is over. Ditto his future as a persuasive voice in American politics. He will always appeal to the moderate Republicans, and especially the RINOs, whose king he has become. But the right-leaning conservative base that has always been the dominant voice of the Republican party is beginning to show its impatience with this candidate.

Time to concentrate on Rudy.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Curmudgeon's Guide for Young Conservative Voters (California Edition)

If you're looking for the CGFYCV for the General Election of 2008, here ya go.

© 2008 - Woody's Woundup


Gather 'round, kids. It's time once again for Uncle Woody's "Curmudgeon's Guide for Young Conservative Voters (California Edition)" This Guide will cover the February 5th Presidential Primary election, in which the Great State of California deludes its collective self into believing that it is somehow relevant to the outcome of the national primary campaign. California hasn't been "relevant" to the national primaries, Young Conservatives, since 1849. That's when California became a state and immediately informed the approximately 15 million Mexican nationals still living in California that they were now "illegal aliens," all of whom voted in the next election.

Perhaps you are here because you searched for "Conservative Voter Guide" in California. Uncle Woody did the first "Curmudgeon's Guide" back in 2006, and you popped in to take a look. Uncle Woody is thrilled that there are so many gullible and lazy politically active Young Conservatives in California, willing to read the rantings of a middle-aged, card-carrying curmudgeon.

Having been thus forewarned, let's get on with Uncle Woody's discussion of California's ballot initiatives for February 5, 2008.

Proposition 91 - Transportation Funds.

Call this the "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul" initiative. The Governator, who hates those girly men in the California legislature, has decided that he needs "emergency budget powers" to move money from one fund to another. The problem is, he still hasn't repented for stealing $2 billion from the education fund when he first took office, and the chances of his moving money from the Transportation Fund to the Governator Humvee Fund will increase exponentially if this proposition passes.

Uncle Woody votes "Fat Chance" on Proposition 91.

Proposition 92 - Community Colleges. Funding. Governance. Fees.

For every proposition that we consider, there is always the "noble" argument. In this case, the noble argument is that since California raised it's per-unit cost from $15 to $20, fewer students have been signing up at our community colleges. So someone with letters after their name needs to explain to Uncle Woody how dropping the fee from $20 back to $15 will save the state money when in the same breath they want to increase the bureaucracy supporting the community colleges. Really. The "noble" argument is only a cover for creating "independent" community college "districts" with equally independent boards of governors. Uncle Woody smells more red tape, Young Conservatives. If California is really interested in helping financially disadvantaged students to attend their CCs, Uncle Woody suggests beefing up the grants and loans available to them.

Uncle Woody votes "No Way" on Proposition 92.

Proposition 93 - Limits on Legislators' Terms in Office.

The only good term limits, Young Conservatives, are no limits. Uncle Woody apologizes, but I've never really bought into the whole term limits philosophy anyway. Yes, it's possible to get stuck with a Willie Brown that gets in the way of everything and votes down every piece of legislation that ever makes sense. But it's a shame when we force good legislators out of office. Good legislators are those who somehow manage to find compromise in the face of political adversity, and this skill — in Uncle Woody's opinion — takes time, Young Conservatives. Three terms as an assemblyperson, and two as a state senator is simply not enough.

The real problem with this initiative is not that it limits a legislator's overall service to 12 years (from 14? Give Uncle Woody a break!). The real problem is that this is just a way for legislators now serving to actually extend their overall service because of a loophole that allows currently serving legislators to "restart the clock" so to speak.

Uncle Woody strongly recommends that voters vote Nope on Proposition 93. Uncle Woody also recommends that Prop 93 supporters change their meds.

UPDATE: The Governator buys the bilge (H/T: FlashReport). Key quotes:
I am endorsing Proposition 93, which would lower the total number of years a member could serve to 12, but also allows him or her to divide them between the houses as they choose. I am convinced that this would result in the people of California getting a more experienced, more independent Legislature.
Huh? "more experienced?" By going from 14 years to 12 years? Methinks el Gobernador has taken a few too many hits from movie bad guys. Here's another chestnut:
Former Republican leader Jim Brulte had the right idea when he said he was endorsing Proposition 93 because it will give legislators the confidence to say "no" to special interests.
Here's the "noble" argument I mentioned before. Prop 93 will shackle the oppressive special interests, reverse global warming, and eliminate world hunger. Perhaps there's a reason why Jim Brulte is a former Republican leader. I have absolutely no idea how limiting (or not, as I've noted above) their terms gives these legislators the confidence to say "no" to anyone, much less the special interests that got them elected in the first place. Ahnuld's steroids are catching up with him. Final fantasy:
When Proposition 93 was first introduced, I said I would not support it without a companion redistricting measure. Though some progress was made last year on that issue, we have not been able to agree on a redistricting measure in the Legislature; I'm supporting a proposal that was drafted by reform allies including AARP, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters. But Proposition 93 is good public policy irrespective of redistricting, and on its own, it will go a long way toward improving the quality of state government in California.
Of course, neither the AARP, Common Cause, or the League of Women Voters would ever be considered "special interests."

Now, pay attention, Arnie, because I'm only going to say this once: The primary reason why you haven't arrived at an agreement on redistricting is because it can't be done to everyone's satisfaction. Hasn't this question been around for, what, decades now? You think you'll resolve it before you leave office?

Yeesh. We return you to the Curmudgeon's Guide, now in progress...

Propositions 94, 95, 96, 97 - Referendum on Amendment to Indian Gaming Compact.

Oh, boy. Here we go. Uncle Woody thinks the Indian Gaming people need a new motto. Something like, "Indian Gaming - Creating a More Expensive Welfare State with Your Addiction." Uncle Woody has never been a fan of Indian Gaming (or, truth be told, any form of "gaming" that involves anything even remotely resembling "gambling"). These referenda include the ability for at least four tribes to 1) significantly increase the number of slot machines they operate, 2) set aside certain provisions of the "California Environmental Quality Act" (Uncle Woody had no idea such a thing even existed), and 3) presumably increase revenue into the General Fund by tens of millions of dollars for each tribe.

Uncle Woody sees a billboard nearly every day when he drives home from work. It's for the Morongo Casino. Uncle Woody (who apparently has too much time on his hands lately) has come up with a catchy slogan for this casino: "When Moron get money, Moron go Casino." Call it a cheap shot if you will, but this is to my mind the essence of gambling. Yet here again we find the "noble" argument. The tribes are beginning to advertise, although they do not reference these propositions; the commercials are romanticized notions of how gaming is strengthening the tribes by giving them self respect. What they leave out is that the gaming industry is replete with ruined lives. Gamblers become hopelessly addicted; families are torn apart; gaming workers are underpaid; only a handful of people associated with the casinos ever get rich.

Ask a public educator how much money he or she sees from California's Lotto. Go ahead... I'll wait.

Not very much, you say? Then you can understand why Uncle Woody is less than impressed with the argument that Indian Gaming pumps millions of dollars into California's economy. When you factor in all the costs associated with gambling and its effects on the average family, that revenue pales by comparison.

Uncle Woody votes a very politically incorrect Ugh! on Propositions 94 through 97.

Measure A - Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District

For you Young Conservatives that hang in the north OC (dude!), Measure A is a $200 million bond measure that would raise funds for updating this district's aging infrastructure. Oversight committees are to make sure that the money gets where it's supposed to. It may surprise you to hear that Uncle Woody supports this particular measure. First, Uncle Woody, although a dedicated homeschooler, supports public education. One might argue that Uncle Woody is forced to support it through taxation, but I also support the idea of public education. I hold with Jefferson's argument that an educated populace is a prosperous one. Educated people make (theoretically) better citizens. Beyond that, Uncle Woody is all for local control of education. Hence the bond measure is a good one, and should be supported.

Uncle Woody votes Thumbs Up for Measure A.

So, Uncle Woody, where do you stand on the candidates?

I stand for change, which, according to noted American political expert Dave Barry, means that I can vote for virtually anyone in either party. Well, the Woundup has already come out in favor of Mitt Romney, and Uncle Woody is still hopeful that he can unseat the other pretenders to Bush's throne. It'll be a long slow slog, but Mitt keeps stating that he's in it right through February 5. Uncle Woody plans to throw his vote that way, and keep his fingers crossed.

By the way, the move to hold our Presidential Primary in February rather than June really frosts Uncle Woody's shorts. Not only do we now have to have TWO elections to cover what we used to handle in ONE, but moving the Presidential Primary to February really only points out that California fails to have any real impact on the outcome of the nomination that much sooner. This will have only one salutary effect: Candidates will have to run through California much quicker than they otherwise would. California voters, who have ridiculously short memories, elected Governator Ahnuld Schwarzenstein in the vain hope of saving California taxpayers money. Now, we not only get to pay for three elections this year, but we're still fighting to keep our thermostats under our own taxpayer control in the foreseeable future. Nice work, California voters!

Uncle Woody's Bottom Line

So, Young Conservatives, I hope you're making this Guide only a small part of your own research. Uncle Woody does not pretend to be any sort of expert, political or otherwise, and understands that your opinions may vary widely from his own. This is part of what makes this country great. Rather than take Uncle Woody's word for it, Uncle Woody would much rather you simply participate in the process. Be informed, but make your own decisions.

That would make Uncle Woody happy indeed.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Not-So-Cranky Reviewer Reviews a Film

So I don't normally write movie reviews. This is primarily because I'm not a true student of the genre. I do not know all the ins and outs of filmmaking, nor do I really care to. I much prefer to be a consumer, and any review I write needs to begin with that caveat.

That said, we just watched the latest LDS film to hit the big screen: "Passage to Zarahemla." It was, in fact, a free preview offered up by the writer and director of the film, Chris Heimerdinger. Chris himself hosted the event this evening, and he presented himself as a fairly affable guy. We'd gotten there quite early since we can't ever accurately predict traffic in this town, so we had a chance to chat with him informally while we waited for more guests to show up. I've enjoyed Chris's "Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites" series of novels, and after meeting the man in person I decided I wanted this film to do well.

So. The film.

"Passage" is a good yarn, if you enjoy any of Heimerdinger's books. He freely admits that the primary difference between this story and his "Tennis Shoes" series is that it relies on inter-dimensional travel between time periods, rather than a portal in a cave. Otherwise, he's on familiar ground here. The story revolves around a young teen who'd had what she thought was an imaginary friend as a child. In the story she finds that not only is he real, but his existence may hold the key to the disappearance of her father several years before.

The back story is built around the conflict between the Nephites of Zarahemla as they defended themselves from the Gadianton bands in the years encompassing the mortal life of the Savior. In fact, the inter-dimensional "rift" brings ancient Zarahemla and modern-day Utah into dangerous proximity.

There are plenty of scary Gadiantons, Los Angeles gangstas, and youngsters running away from it all to keep the drama of the story in the forefront. The role of Kerra is played admirably by newcomer Summer Naomi. She holds the threads of the plot together in a way that keeps it from going over the top. Going over the top is something this film wants to do — frequently — but always manages to bring itself back down to a more believable level.

Heimerdinger tosses in plenty of chuckles and Mormon insider references and jokes along the way. I'd once read criticism levelled at LDS filmmakers for doing precisely that; instilling their movies with references that only Mormon audiences would appreciate, thus alienating potentially larger films. My response to that criticism (I haven't actually heard it in reference to this particular film, but it was used against "God's Army" and "Brigham City." A lot.) is that Mormon audiences need more entertainment that target their own life experiences. Heimerdinger himself stated — correctly, I believe — that Southern California LDS audiences in particular haven't had an LDS film play here since Work and the Glory 3. He also stated that, over the years, the "shine is off the apple" in LDS cinema, and the quality of films of the past few years has been declining. I find this observation to be mostly true. From my perspective as an admittedly older LDS consumer, too many recent LDS offerings have had a nearly moronic "MTV" flavor to them. Just not my cup of, well, Postum I guess.

Chris's tale appeals to the adventurer in me. This is why I enjoy being a consumer rather than a critic. I lost myself in "Passage" this evening, and was happy to do so. I've been equally happy to lose myself in the "Tennis Shoes" tales over the past few years. Mrs. Woody and I love to listen to them on CD in the car on long trips. Unfortunately, we haven't taken that many long trips since Mrs. Woody's illness last summer. We were just remarking that we'll need to listen to them at night after the kids go to bed. They're still stuck on volume 1.

If you like a decent adventure yarn, go see "Passage." Keep an eye on the younger kids (my younger Woodyette had her face buried for, she estimates, "50%" of the film), but by all means take the family. We're already looking forward to getting the DVD when it comes out, perhaps as early as May.

One side note: Since this was a preview and Chris was on hand, my 'tweenie daughter really, really wanted to get his autograph. He was, of course, more than happy to oblige. We also bought a copy of the CD that has songs from the film (not really a "soundtrack," says Chris, but he wrote 9 songs and performs on most of them for the film), and he was happy to autograph that as well. Also appearing at the preview tonight was one Alex Petrovich, who played one of the heavies in the film. He was accompanied by his fetching young girlfriend who wanted a photo of my 'tweenie asking Alex for his autograph. So she actually got two autographs that way, and shared one with her younger sister. What a kid.

"Passage" runs for 105 minutes, but I felt they were minutes well spent with my loved ones tonight.

For what it's worth.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Woody's Woundup for (Surprise!) Romney

Like no one saw this coming.

Ol' Woody has been sitting back on his haunches throughout the entire 2007 campaign season, primarily because the so-called "debates" to which we've been thus far subjected were little more than playground smackdowns in expensive Italian suits. We've finally gotten to the point where I've been able to hear some intelligent discourse from candidates in these "debates." That is, I've been able to more accurately gauge the intelligence of the discourse generated by the candidates, and that has helped me whittle down the choices considerably. Based on the various statements of each candidate on critical issues of immigration, national security, and the economy, I now am comfortable supporting Romney's bid to take the Oval Office next year.

I'm sure this will be a crushing blow to McCain who clearly needs the votes of as many curmudgeons as he can muster in order to capture the requisite number of delegates. However, nothing torques off a curmudgeon more than finding a candidate who curmudges better than he does. Thus McCain, who has gotten grouchier by the day, is out.

Likewise Huckabee. Ol' Huck just don't have a dog in this hunt, from my vaunted perspective. His arguments have a "well, gooooooolleeeeee!" quality to them (gratuitous reference to Jim Nabors' "Gomer Pyle" character) and he needs better fact-checking of his own record as Ruler of Clintonstan.

For reasons I've already posited, Giuliani would be acceptable if I didn't worry about his "coming out" as a RINO/closet liberal once he took command of the Executive branch.

With his finishes in Iowa, Wyoming, and now New Hampshire, Romney has finally demonstrated to my satisfaction that he has the legs to go the distance. I am not foolish enough to predict that he will ultimately capture the nomination. I am merely hoping out loud (so to speak) that he will. I intend to vote for Romney in February, if only so I can somehow add to his delegate count and give him a larger voice in the Republican convention later this year. I would be thrilled if he ended up on a ticket even as VP, unless the P-portion of that ticket is filled by McCain. Or Huckabee.

Anyway, there it is. The least important endorsement Romney will receive in this election.

Don't spend it all in one place, Mitt.

Open Letter to the California Energy Commission

Were you people born this stupid? Or did you have to work at it?

Rather than implement the simple expedient of raising prices during crisis times, you would rather implement a far costlier program of installing new controllable thermostats in every California home, not to mention the infrastructure costs of enforcing the mandate while punishing everyone who figures out how to circumvent the program by disabling the FM transceivers that would make this thing work. Oh, and probably big bonuses to you morons for thinking this up in the first place.

Socialist idiots.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Gee, Thanks, Iowa...

Not quite the results I was hoping for in Iowa, I must admit. I'm still not ready to come out as a Romney guy, but I had hoped to see Huck come in 2nd to — well — just about anyone else. Including Ron Paul.

Along with Mr. Hewitt, I am astonished that Huck's career as governor of Arkansas was almost completely ignored. It also verifies the election year principle that dirty politics are not only alive and well, but a politically acceptable practice. So long as you're not the front-runner and/or they're not aimed at you personally, that is. With Ed Rollins calling the shots for Huck, though, Huckabee had better be prepared for worse tricks to be played on him if he somehow manages to derail the GOP's only chance to re-establish itself as the voice of conservatives in this country.

In fact, if you look at the current field, my brand of conservatism is in serious danger of being hugely under-represented in this fight. McCain has completely sold us out on the immigration question. His dalliances with the ancient Sen. Kennedy have torpedoed him, and the damage is fatal. Anyone with any desire to control our borders will not under any circumstances support McCain. He's stuck it to us far too often.

Giuliani is a mockery from the social angle. His is a conservatism of convenience. In other words, he's a conservative only because he needs their support if he has any hope of making it into the Oval Office a year from now. Socially he's about as conservative as the California Witch Triumvirate (Pelosi, Feinstein and Boxer, if you must know). We who consider ourselves to be "true" social conservatives can never trust Giuliani as our figurehead.

Fred Thompson comes a little closer to the ideal, but Thompson is an enigma as a candidate. He's far too casual for my taste. I know he's smarter than he comes across, and heaven knows he can make with the straight talk when called for. The problem is that it needs to be called for, for some reason. He just isn't pushing this race forward, and that makes me think what he's looking for is to ride shotgun in 2008. He'd be thrilled if McCain managed to garner the nomination and asked his buddy from Tennessee to join him on the ticket. I, on the other hand, would be less than impressed.

The others are also-rans now, and I expect drop-outs to occur soon. Ron Paul, Tancredo, Hunter. Interesting for their views and entertainment value, but taking up valuable space at the debate podiums. They need to back out, and soon. I fear that Ron Paul may try to take his 10% showing in Iowa on the road and try to raise the bar a bit, but ultimately he will fail. Too many negatives in his column to balance the one or two positives.

This leaves Huckabee and Romney for across-the-board conservatives like Woody. My problems are now two-fold:

1. Huckabee has a very sketchy record as governor, and the Republicans who suffered through his terms in office are no fans of his. His penchant for rewarding deep-pocket supporters, raising "fees" (a euphemism for "taxes") while lowering a few "taxes" (probably a euphemism for "fees"), and sneering at the beliefs of a few million potential voters does not endear the man to me. He may very well have the "correct" views I would expect from a social conservative, and he claims to have the fiscal legs as well. However, he is shockingly naive with regard to world affairs, and this is a critical piece of the political puzzle these days.

2. This leaves Romney. From just about any view point I would consider myself a Romney "supporter." He's got the social background (yes, I buy into his "abortion repentence" schtick... heaven knows I've changed my own mind on a few topics over the years) and I suspect he would defend the critical issues to my liking. He's smart; he stays abreast of issues that are critical from both a domestic and a foreign perspective and he has well-defined views on how to handle most of them. Additionally, he has a fiscal record that is truly conservative in nature. People may not like being laid off when a company is re-organized, but stockholders love — and need — to see that happen if the economy is to grow. Long gone are the days when people can reasonably expect to be doing the same thing for the same company throughout their entire careers. I not only don't work for the same company I started with over twenty years ago, but I've had to learn new ways of doing what I do over and over again; all without ever cleaning out my desk. That's just the nature of business nowadays. Get used to it.

The problem with Romney is his electability. That, unfortunately, boils down to his religion. Constitutionally (and reasonably) there can never be a religious test for the President of the United States, but that doesn't stop voters from creating one. It certainly doesn't stop the press from keeping it in front of us ad nauseum. Fair? No, but neither is the press' desire to keep "inherent racism" at the forefront of the Democrats' run for office. Theoretically both issues should be dead. Non-issues, if you will. Obama has already shown that a black candidate can hold his own against a slate of white political-establishment candidates, so the "racism" issue should be dead. Ditto the religious one. But the press will continue to harp on both topics for as long as they think they're selling papers. (Given the press' ability to recognize that their own industry is slowly bleeding to death, this will last pretty much for as long as they do.)

I want to be a Romney guy. If the choice for California's primary comes down to Huck or Romney, Romney gets my vote. Should Thompson or Giuliani be the nominee, I could probably choke it down and vote their way. McCain simply won't be on the ticket. He's betrayed the party faithful too many times to ever be forgiven, no matter how strong he may show in New Hampshire. But if Huck becomes the party's candidate this year, look for Woody to vote independent in 2008, even if it means giving the election to the Democrat.

It's the only way I can vote with a clear conscience.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

To Huckabee and (Particularly) His Supporters

You do NOT know or understand what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You only make yourselves look foolish when you attempt to talk authoritatively on the subject.

At this stage of my life, if no one has successfully shaken my faith by now, no one ever will.

Give it a rest. We're not choosing a president because we somehow believe that this person will attempt to convert huge chunks of America to whatever they happen to believe. We want to choose a president who will do what we think is best for the country. If this election were about religion — and only about religion — I would never vote for a man who claims to love Jesus but clearly refuses to accept his fellow man as Jesus would have him do, simply because that man chooses to believe something different.

Until the Huckabites understand that, their arguments are empty.

Commenters who wish to disparage my post will kindly leave links to advertising or interviews where Romney has directly spoken against Huckabee's personal beliefs. Thank you.