Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Short Fused

To: Honorable United States of America
Re: Helicopter Batteries

Thank you so much for your recent shipment of helicopter batteries. We noticed that a few of them didn't seem to be of the same type that we normally receive. We understand that you know your helicopters better than we do, but would you check for us to make sure we got the right ones? We would appreciate that very much.

Sincerely yours,


To: Taiwan
Re: Helicopter Batteries

Our technicians assure us that we shipped batteries of the right type for your model. Let us know if this becomes any sort of problem and we will work to resolve any outstanding issues.


United States of America

To: United States
Re: Batteries

We apologize for the delay in getting back to you on this issue. We worked through our stock of batteries until we came down to the last four. For some reason, they didn't seem to fit in their proper place. Our mechanics went through your manuals step by step, but of course there may be some language difficulties. They don't seem to translate well into Chinese. The part nomenclature says "FUSE" on it, instead of "BATTERY" as the manual suggests. We are probably not reading things correctly. Perhaps you could send an advisor to help us?



To: Air Force
From: State
Re: Fuses, Not Batteries?

Okay, guys, why is Taiwan writing to us about helicopter batteries labelled "FUSE" instead of "BATTERY?" Is this another one of those jokes that's gonna blow up in our faces, like when you marked those missile launchers "TOASTER?" Let's get some facts together and put a report on the Secretary of State's desk by Monday next.

To: The Honorable Secretary of State
From: The Honorable Secretary of the Air Force
Re: Mistaken Shipment to Taiwan


Darned if I know how it happened. (How do these things ever happen, right?) We appear to have shipped four (4) nuclear missile fuses to Taiwan a year and a half ago or so. No radioactive stuff in 'em, so far as we know. (You know engineers... never tell you anything straight out. Makes you wanna waterboard 'em all!) Anyway, they still think they're trying to install bad batteries in their Hueys. Can we sweep this under the rug somehow? Hate to see this one go viral on the internet, y'know?



P.S. Let's do lunch next week. Your turn to treat. - MW

From: SoS
Re: Trouble

Mr. President, the wing-wipers messed up again, and we have four missile fuses over in Taiwan with no missiles to put them in. We need to get them back before the Chinese understand what they have over there. Any suggestions?


To: Rice
From: CiC

Hey, no problemo, Condi. Just use the Dell model. Can't go wrong with a Texas solution, right?



To: Michael Wynne
From: Secretary of State
Re: Operation "Halfbaked Hueys"

President authorizes execution of Dell Global Solution. Execute is Charlie, Echo, Tango. Repeat: Execute is Charlie, Echo, Tango.

P.S. Lunch is no joy. Got Reuters snooping around. Take care of it. -C

To: Taiwanese Government
From: Dell Customer Service (on behalf of the United States of America)
Re: Mistaken Battery Shipment

Dear Taiwan,

Customer service is our number one goal. If you're not happy, neither are we! We understand that your shipment of:
36 Batteries, Huey-type

may have had some irregularities. We would ask you to return the defective merchandise using the return labels included with this letter. If you have any questions, please contact our 24 hour Customer Service hotline. Be sure to speak slowly as they have some slight trouble understanding English.

Thanks again for your order!

Sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Chicago or Denver (Hint - It's Not About Football)

The closer I get to age fifty, the more I realize that I had it easy. The election of 1968 was the first time I ever got interested in national politics, largely because I was sick. When I get sick, my tendency is toward insomnia, and I just happened to get sick during the Republican National Convention in that year. As a nearly ten-year old boy I was fascinated with all this talk of the presidential "race," "former Vice President Nixon," and something called a "Republican platform." I had no idea what these things really meant, and I was pretty much on my own throughout the convention. I watched, I think, a couple of nights' worth by myself because my parents had long since gone to bed. I remember Nixon winning the nomination, and being introduced to someone with the weirdest name I'd ever heard: Spiro Agnew. "Spiro is a name?" I remember thinking. "Weeeeeird!"

I do not, however, remember watching any of the Democratic convention that year. I remember reading about it in the paper. I remember seeing reports of it on the national news broadcasts, and I remember — vividly — being scared out of my young wits. The riots and the "Chicago 7" all colored my perceptions of American politics forever, and planted in my mind the notion that anarchists are creatures to be feared.

Anarchists were the first people I ever saw as a group that seemed to have no reason to live. Not any valid one, at any rate. As a youngster I was still struggling with the concept that I could one day become someone like Dad. I would grow up, work in an "office," make money, and have a family. At church I was learning that if I was good, I could ultimately return to heaven. This was my simplified perspective of life. Anarchists seemed to be trying very hard to not do any of those things. They didn't seem to want to be like my Dad. They had no desires to work in an office, make money, or raise a family. They certainly had no desire to be good. Heaven didn't seem to be on their priority list.

And so there were riots. We in Los Angeles knew something of riots and the thought of them made me every bit as anxious as the possibility that I might one day be drafted to fight in a war somewhere when I got older. This was war being waged just a few miles — or states — away. The anarchists tried somewhat to make a noble argument out of it. They were "standing" for their rights, whatever those were, and trying to make their "voices heard." Whatever that meant. Mostly what I saw was a bunch of spittle-emitting lunatics that belonged in a sanitarium somewhere. That was my impression.

As I have aged, time has not been kind to the anarchists. Their arguments are neither well-composed, nor are they original in any way. In fact, the only logical aspect of this current incarnation is its chosen name: "Re-create 68" is a perfect name for these people that time forgot. It's as if they have been locked away in cryogenic freeze, only to be thawed out forty years later to find that nothing has changed. Instead of Vietnam, it's Iraq. Instead of Nixon, it's Bush. Instead of a Humphrey or McGovern, it's Clinton or Obama. Instead of the Chicago 7, we have Re-create 68. Spittle-emitting lunatics who probably belong in a sanitarium somewhere.

This statement is, perhaps, most indicative of the circular logic employed by the anarchists as their means of justifying their actions:
"When things blow up because the police have to enforce a permit that the Democrats got, don’t blame us for that," said Glenn Spagnuolo, an organizer for the Re-create 68 Alliance.

"Blame the Democrats for trying to silence dissent in the city of Denver."
Threat: we will make your lives a living hell because we're not getting our way. Fact: This was not the Democrats, this was the City of Denver. Democrats are only guilty by association.
...when Jenny Anderson, event planner for the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee, won the permit for Civic Center for a kick-off Aug. 24, Spagnuolo accused the committee of creating a "very serious, dangerous situation . . . for everybody."
Really? Or should we rephrase your statement of intent:
"We actually hoped someone would deny us our permit because it gives us a chance to show you cowards what happens to those who stand in our way."
This is the message I'm picking up, I'm afraid. Anarchy is not about peace. Anarchy is about imposing their desires on the rest of us by violent means if possible. Not "if necessary," but rather "if possible." They want this fight. If enough of them have the guts — and the pharmaceuticals — they may just get their wish.

Not to change the subject, but Denver's mayor is named John Hickenlooper.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sadness in the State of the Union

I am a product of Southern California. I was born here nearly fifty years ago. I have lived here, with one brief exception, for nearly that entire fifty years. I admittedly spent most of my early years living in what many would call a "white bread" suburb near (but not too near) Los Angeles. By the time I reached high school, however, I think it's safe to say that I lived in as culturally diverse a community as you could hope to find.

I have never had a skin-color prejudice. I have recognized cultural differences between skin colors, certainly; but whatever opinions I harbor of people do not generally begin with what color they happen to be.

With that in mind, I found myself driving past our community center this evening and assuming it was Bingo night. Then I saw a small bus parked near our mailboxes and realized it belonged to a mariachi band. Ah. A party.

Then the current state of the union kicked in and I caught myself wondering if someone should notify INS.

It never used to be this way. Not growing up, anyway. Sure there were times that the INS might raid one of the communities on the outskirts of town. They'd net 10, maybe 20 people and it would be big news in the next day's paper. We were never conscious of an "immigration problem" in those days. Back then, illegal aliens were talked about in whispers, or demonized in the press when speaking of Cesar Chavez and his workers' rights protests and boycotts. There would be some "extreme" events, and the issue would just as quickly subside.

Now, however, between the war on terror and the immigration issue (no matter on which side of those issues you may stand), I am no longer allowed to pass by what was very likely a huge family party — perhaps a wedding or a quinceañera — without having to think what some people apparently consider to be arrogantly superior thoughts. In the eyes of some that automatically lumps me in the same class as a white supremacist, and I hate it.

I lived for two years as a legal alien among the people of Guatemala many years ago. I was definitely in the minority in this country of multiple minorities. Being a gringo was bad enough; I was also working among the poorest class of people in their society, and was believed by many to be merely an exploiter. I was accused of being a spy for Jimmy Carter (one of the only charges that ever made me bristle with indignation), or working for the CIA. These were common problems for young men who wore white shirts and ties in an area of the world where such attire was patently absurd to most observers. Easier to take were the reactions of those same poor people who watched suspiciously as we walked down their dirt roads. Mothers would gather their children hurriedly around them and push them into their huts whenever we passed.

One incident that still brings a smile to my face even now: a mother and her two children saw us coming a good 100 yards or so down the road. She quickly gathered her children to her; two youngsters of between 3 and 5 years. As we passed by I heard her tell them in their Mayan dialect that we were monsters from another land who would steal children so we could eat them. At first I thought to merely ignore the comment. The actor in me, however, could never let such a great cue alone. I turned my face in their direction and gave them a very child-eating menacing grimace. The kids shrieked and hid behind their mother. To her I merely smiled and winked. She gave me a very guilty and sheepish grin in return, and I believe she fully understood that I had no intention of ever stealing her precious babies.

Thirty full years forward and things in this land have deteriorated. It's no longer a simple matter of false impressions or misguided beliefs. We are torn between two very competitive needs. On the one hand we desire to be friendly with our neighbors, both domestic and foreign. We want to be members of the international "community" and contribute to the common good of all people. On the other hand we fear for our national security and welfare. Our communities are overflowing with welfare families who place increasing burdens on our infrastructure, both economically and socially. Basically thirty years (probably only because these are the years that I've actually been aware of the problem) of nearly unchecked immigration, coupled with increasing levels of mutual suspicion and antagonism.

Shame on me for having even a fleeting thought of calling in INS on a party just because they happened to be playing mariachi music tonight. (For the record: Woody can only handle just so much mariachi music, thanks primarily to those very missionary experiences I mentioned above. Two years of "Aaaaah-haaaaaaaah!" in falsetto and accompanied by accordians have driven me to classify mariachi music right along with grunge, punk, and rap combined. About one "Aaaaah-haaaaaaah!" is enough to last me for at least five years nowadays. If that qualifies as a prejudice, then call me a bigot.)

That thought, as temporary as it was, made me feel somehow dirty. It gave me the sense of being someone whose outlook had become so polarized as to be unreasoning in nature. And that is not who I am. For all our rhetoric about immigration and national security, this is not who we as a nation are. We are a nation of immigrants. We always have been and we always will be. Somewhere along the line, however, we created an atmosphere where immigrants needed a voice to declare to them that it was somehow acceptable to be in this land without ever being of this land. We enabled those who claim that a cultural (read: non-American) identity is the only acceptable identity, and that automatically puts us on a war footing with those with whom we would otherwise be neighbors.

Such is the sadness of the state of our union. I pray we can somehow push through this conflict and return to idea of building America, rather than being mutually exclusive clusters of semi-American citizens.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Politics. Money. Why I Refuse.

I have never given money to a political cause. I may be a middle-aged skin-flint of a curmudgeon, but I have my reasons. In the case of the RNC, it's largely a long-held belief of mine that they have never used the money they get for anything useful.

Call me the ultimate PAC skeptic.

I patently refuse to buy into any — repeat: ANY — political advertising. It's all a load of hogwash, and carefully crafted to incite whatever emotional response the Committee hopes will attract money and/or votes.

I have never seen anything approaching a cohesive campaign organization. Every candidate has a machine, but they are filled with every type of analyst and strategist possible, none of whom have ANY clue what I the Voter desire from my candidate. Whatever you're paying them, candidates, it's too much.

My reflexes are now honed to automatically throw any snail mail from any elected official, candidate, or PAC directly into the shredder.

I reserve the right to complain bitterly about the fact that politicians never communicate with me.

No, I have never sent any money to any political cause, and now you know why.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spitzer, Clinton, and the New Political Morality

Hugh Hewitt has a new column up on whether Spitzer's or Clinton's conduct was more reprehensible. He based his analysis on opinions garnered from his listening audience, who apparently voted 60-40 that Clinton, not Spitzer, was Heel Numero Uno.

Spitzer's only saving grace, if one may call it that, was the fact that he resigned; something the former President would never do. In fact, Clinton never really even tried to show any contrition about the entire episode. He would spend the remainder of his time in office blasting right-wing conservatives and the media for making him the subject of a "witch-hunt." Any contrition, we were given to understand, was directed toward Hillary, who was probably more furious that he got caught than that he was somehow unfaithful.

Depending on whom you believe, Hillary had long since understood that Clinton was trying to cast himself in the same vein as his political hero, John F. Kennedy. Faithlessness in a political marriage was implied in the contract. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it was stated in the wedding ceremony. "Do you take this woman (not necessarily exclusively)...?" Kennedy's womanizing, however, didn't really come under the public's scrutiny until years after his assassination. Those closest to him, especially the women, never talked and the Kennedy-idolizing press were complicit in their non-reporting of the late President's clandestine activities.

Clinton, on the other hand, was hounded by allegations of inappropriate behavior while still on the campaign trail. The exposure of his liaison with Lewinsky was gleefully exposed and reported by Matt Drudge, and Web-Exclusive-Chic became the order of the day. But Hillary, as had Jacqueline Kennedy before her, had accepted the idea that power had its price, and she was willing to ante up. Somehow, the ideas were more important than the vessel in which they were kept.

This, then, becomes the latest version of Political Morality (or, more correctly, Political Amorality). Its practice is as old as politics itself. We are taught, from our youth, that politicians will say one thing and do another. A classic case of the hypocracies of those who seek to lead. I knew, before leaving junior high school, that politicians were never to be fully trusted.

Even those who may be considered "honorable" are only acceptable to humankind if they support humanity's pet issues. If not, then no matter how honorable the politician, they are useless to those with whom they do not agree. Nor will the public ever condescend to recognize the honorable among the opposition, except in case of death. When an honorable politician (perhaps one of the last great oxymorons) dies, then we honor their memory with recognition of their integrity or willingness to see both sides of an argument. But while that politician lives, so long as they continue to support an issue with which you vehemently disagree, they may as well book their seat on Charon's ferry across the river Styx.

At some point in the reporting of Spitzer's downfall, a comment was made that there was consideration of attempting to stay on as Governor because the issues he supported were still important, as were his plans for pursuing them. Reference, again, to the ideas being more important than the vessel. But the problem is that, whatever his personal morals, Spitzer became tainted goods for flaunting the very laws for which he himself had prosecuted (and ruined) countless others. Perhaps he did not have a legion of women who complained about his treatment of them, as Clinton did. Who knows? It's early yet, and the media are just getting revved up on this story. Perhaps information will magically "leak out" about past philanderings and stories of molest or abuse. Even if that proves not to be the case, however, Spitzer has committed one of the cardinal sins of politicians: Thou shalt not get caught committing the same crimes on which you have based your career in prosecuting others.

Clinton's sins were based entirely on the arrogance of his political self-image. Whatever other shady dealings he may have participated in (anyone remember Whitewater?), his peccadilloes were well known to the entire electorate by his second term in office. He did not sin ignorantly; he sinned to scratch an itch, then shrugged it off in that "good ol' boy" way that was uniquely his.

Spitzer's problem was that he had carefully packaged himself as a titan prosecutor; the Elliott Ness of the new millenium who would fearlessly confront vice and corruption in any form. To be ultimately found guilty of vice and corruption himself means that his punishments — and there are no guarantees that he may somehow avoid them — will be that much more poignant and exquisite. Can you imagine Spitzer ending up in the same prison with any former power-brokers whose lives he may have ruined? I'm guessing Mr. Spitzer can, and I'm guessing it will keep him up nights for awhile to come.

The notion that ideas somehow must survive the bearers tends to create a form of rationalization that endangers all of our political entities. The media, although theoretically apolitical (hah!), is not above the definition of a political entity. Witness Dan Rather and CBS News' fall from grace. The idea that falsification of evidence to "prove" President Bush's alleged past indiscretions was somehow justified was a theme on which Rather and his producers based their entire defense. The message was correct! It was only the evidence that was false! We must be believed because we are the bearers of the truth in this process! Their demise was inevitable.

The lesson is here to be learned. One wonders if any other career political apologists are watching and modifying their strategies for survival even now. They must be realizing that someone, somewhere, is catching on to their duplicitous activities and are just waiting for the proper moment to spring the trap.

Please note that I do not confine myself to Democrats in this indictment. Certainly there have been plenty of those on the right side of the political spectrum who have failed the "idea is more important than the vessel" test. Spectacularly. Religious leaders. Politicians. Athletes. Educators. There may yet be heroes on both sides of the aisle, but we also know that there are still villains aplenty.

Beware the modern vessel of the social or political mandate. It might just shatter.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Clarification, If I May

I need to apologize if my recent posts have caused any level of confusion among those who homeschool or are interested in homeschool as an issue. There is much that troubles me these days, and two of those troublesome items have come in back-to-back incidents that have potentially grave consequences both for homeschoolers and those who may wish to homeschool.

Let me attempt to draw up a scorecard of sorts as a way of keeping things straight — if only in my own head.

Item 1: Senate Bill 777. SB 777 was introduced by state senator Sheila Kuehl as a means of forcing public schools to "not discriminate" against any sexual practice or orientation that may be displayed by school children (or anyone else, for that matter). But this "non-discrimination" goes beyond merely not speaking ill of someone's sexual preferences. It creates an atmosphere of indoctrination that will allow educators to establish principles in the minds of our children that are, in many instances, in direct conflict with the spiritual guidance parents strive to provide for those children at home.

Rather than ironic, it is in fact the aim of the supporters of this legislation to not only subject our children to this form of indoctrination, but to deny them any ability to learn opposing perspectives. Especially and particularly if those perspectives are based in faith. This is a deliberate attempt to not only strip God out of the classroom, which they have already managed to do quite effectively, but in fact to teach children to trust not in God (and, by extension, their own parents) but in the misguided philosophies of the political left.

This illustrates one of the primary reasons why we chose to homeschool before our children were born.

Item 2: Hot on the heels of this legislated educational lobotomy is the recent ruling of the 2nd District Court of Appeals. The statement by this court that parents do not, in fact, have a constitutional right to homeschool their children has clearly marked a battleground of educational idealogues. On the one side are parents who have a grave concern over the direction of public education in this state. On the other, those who have created this state's educational direction and wish to deny parents of their rights to decide what is best for their children. No war in history was ever fought over clearer demarcations. A line has been drawn in the sand, and those who wish to school their children have been dared — triple-dog dared, to quote from "A Christmas Story" — to cross over and fight.

And so we will. Whatever your opinions of homeschoolers, Christians, or children in general, you cannot come into this fight as a neutral observer. There can be no such animal. Those who consider themselves neutral do not have children. Those who have children will make a choice; either directly or passively. If you choose to fight, pick your side and your weapon. (This is a metaphorical weapon, of course. I am not advocating violent resistance by any means!) If you choose to ignore, then you have passively chosen to accept whatever the natural consequences of this fight happen to be.

So those are my feelings in a highly compressed nutshell. We who homeschool will not let these issues drop off the radar, because we can't afford to. When a court declares us to be violators of the law, we must fight to change that law at any and all costs. If we lose, then we must find a place in society where our rights are respected. If that place cannot be found in the state of California, then it becomes the Golden State's loss.

If Governor Schwarzenegger is serious about supporting a parent's right to decide how best to educate their child, then more power to him (and us). If this is just another politically expedient aphorism, then his political soul will rot in hell.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Time to Fight the Fascists

It's an image straight out of the romanticized visions of the French Resistance: a family gathers around the wireless, listening to news of the downfall of everything they hold dear, and wondering when they themselves may be arrested and incarcerated. Or worse.

Such is the image projected today by numerous homeschooling families in the state of California following a disastrous ruling by an appellate court a few days ago. H. Walter Croskey, writing for the majority, dictated to a Los Angeles family that they not only had to put two of their children in public school, but further stated that "parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children."

So now the battle is engaged. On the one side are parents who wish to have control over their childrens' educations. On the other, those who do not trust parents to be able to make those decisions on behalf of their own children. If you are a parent there is no middle road. You cannot sit on the fence in this fight. You either support your own parental rights, or you abdicate them. If you abdicate, then you reap what you sow. If you somehow believe that the state of California is better equipped to judge what is best for your child's welfare, then you expect that child to be indoctrinated in the same vein as a Nancy Pelosi, a Barbara Boxer, or a Sheila Kuehl. In other words, you want the government teaching your child about every possible sexual practice and orientation that our twisted society has ever conceived, and you are willing to accept whatever consequences come from this teaching.

This travesty, tied indirectly to the topic at hand, is the result of another assault on our families in the guise of SB 777, recently signed into law by Governator Schwarzennbody. Make no mistake, this teaching will occur. California's professional educators are mostly (with a few exceptions) beside themselves with glee over being allowed to unleash this indoctrination on our impressionable children. No less a personage than A. J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles was reported to support the court's decision. According to the LA Times, Duffy said, "What's best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher." Of course he believes that. I'm just wondering how he's going to incorporate transgender and homosexual discussions in his special ed classes.

There is irony in the intersection of these two issues. The Governor "worked with legislators" to create and sign SB 777, yet decries the issue of parents not having control over their childrens' education. So why create a law that will provoke the ire of countless parents who still have their moral compasses installed, then get huffy over an appellate court decision that effectively criminalizes a not insignificant portion of your population simply because they don't agree with the law you just created? It makes no sense, but this is what we've come to expect from our RINO governor.

In the meantime, homeschool families are hunkering down. I haven't quite gotten to the point where I'm ready to dig a bomb shelter in my backyard (I don't think our HOA would approve), but sandbagging is not out of the question. We're keeping a close eye on the legal ramifications of this decision. We will join ourselves to the cause because we must if we wish to stay in California and continue to educate our children properly. We will voice our opinions until the right people understand that laws must be changed, they must be clear, and they must support a parent's right to homeschool. If not, we will find that support and work to get them elected. Ballot initiatives may be required. This is a legal, political, social, and religious issue. It crosses all races and genders. It affects rich and poor alike. It matters not whether you're Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian. You could potentially fall under this ruling.

It is a fight. Parents are either for it, or against it. Those without children may not care, but it I wouldn't expect them to. Parents of school-age children have no excuses, however. Watch this issue; make informed choices; make your opinions known. Vote.

It's important.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Devil is in the Details - UPDATED

(H/T: My Lovely Bride!)

UPDATE: It's worse than I feared. California's socialist appellate courts are already weighing in.

California has committed the unpardonable sin of elevating sexual orientation to the level of "discrimination." That they have chosen our public schools as the vehicle from which to launch this mockery makes the sin that much more unpalatable.

The mechanism for this debacle was California Senate Bill 777, introduced by notoriously gay activist and legislator Sheila Kuehl. It codifies the language that now makes sexual orientation subject to anti-discrimination laws in the state, and allows public schools to openly endorse and teach alternative lifestyles to our impressionable children.

Now, many will look at the language of the bill and wonder what on earth the problem is. All it does is add sexual orientation to a list of personal attributes against which we cannot "discriminate." In other words, it levels the playing field (the progressive movement's favorite phrase, by the way) and tries to get us to be more tolerant of those who believe or act differently from ourselves.

That's the politically correct discussion, and probably the reason why Gov. Schwarzennidiot signed it.

What it really does is open the flood-gates for ACLU-like challenges that will ultimately see to it that our children are force-fed a steady diet of politically correct sexual education. It will no longer be adequate (if, indeed, it ever was) to merely teach our children how to avoid getting pregnant or prevent sexually transmitted diseases. No, now we get to teach them how to get in touch with feelings that they themselves probably never knew they had, and will wonder why on earth Mom and Dad never told them about.

This op-ed piece that appeared recently in the Salt Lake Tribune is a nice summary of a growing movement among Christians to remove their kids from California public schools. In fact, the movement is national, but the column focuses on the California branch, headed by a pastor in Yorba Linda. The idea espoused by this so-called "Exodus Mandate" is to encourage parents to remove their children from public schools before the anti-family forces have a chance to activate their agenda in the classroom. In some schools it may already be too late.

The idea is admirable, but I'm afraid it's also probably impractical for many, many families. Here in Orange County we have a unique problem. It takes money — lots of money — to live in this neck of the woods. Hacienda Woody is a manufactured home, for heaven's sake, and we're paying nearly as much per month as we did in our townhouse in Ventura County seven years ago. So much of a given family's disposable income is, in fact, dedicated merely to living expenses that there isn't really much left over for anything like private education for any but the wealthiest of our citizenry. Maintaining this kind of lifestyle also generally means dual incomes. Mom and Dad both have to work, usually outside of the home, in order to keep up with their expenditures every month. Those of us with single incomes are even more strapped.

One idea fronted by the Mandate is that a family might find another family who is, for example, homeschooling, and ask if their child could join them for studies. That idea, while it may have some merit, is also not without its difficulties. For one thing, moving a child from a public school environment to a homeschool situation is often difficult and carries with it a longish learning curve for both the parents and the child. Secondly, there are no guarantees that a child from another home will be a good fit in another family's homeschool. This kind of decision would have to be researched long and hard, and most families don't have that kind of time right now.

I suspect the better course is to challenge SB 777 in court. It needs to be done, really, because there have to be constitutional challenges that will be generated by passage of this legislation. For one thing, there is no provision for parents to indicate whether their student should be subjected to this kind of teaching. There are, of course, exemptions for things like religious academies, especially if this bill seeks to impose anything that would run counter to what that religion teaches. But religious academies are private and would have been exempt anyway. Likewise homeschools are exempt, as they should be. Heck, I could easily qualify my homeschool as a "religious private school" if push came to absolute shove, but I'd rather not have to bother.

[I say "easily," but let's get serious: The minute you declare yourself to the State of Califoria as a private or parochial school, you are suddenly subject to more regulations than you ever dreamed existed. Additionally, the paperwork to qualify for that designation alone would just about kill you. Hence, I amend my original statement to say, "Heck, I could, if held at gunpoint, qualify my homeschool..." Yeah, that sounds more realistic.]

Public school families, unfortunately, have no such safeguards, and the bombardment will be intense and overwhelming at some point in the near future. This is one of those times when I wish I had better solutions to offer, but I don't. I do wish those families Godspeed, however. They'll need all the blessings they can get.

Now Then, John, About Education...

So now that the dust has settled and McCain's path to St. Paul is clear, I decided it was time to take a closer look at the Candidate Presumptive. In particular, I wanted to know what McCain may have said with regards to homeschool. Does he support it? Will he leave it alone? What, exactly, are his views?

Education has been a fairly passive issue throughout this election cycle. It's barely made a ripple in any candidate's pond, Democrat or Republican, and gets only token attention paid to it by the press. McCain's own website (http://www.johnmccain.com) has an "Issues" section, as you would expect, and the section for education seems to be a sort of "No Child Left Behind is working, so let's not rock the boat" blandness. Fine; I'm no fan of NCLB, but I can live with it since it doesn't really affect my kids anyway.

A few short paragraphs down the page I found this statement:
The deplorable status of preparation for our children, particularly in comparison with the rest of the industrialized world, does not allow us the luxury of eliminating options in our educational repertoire. John McCain will fight for the ability of all students to have access to all schools of demonstrated excellence, including their own homes.
Now, on first blush, this appears to be supportive of homeschooling. Indeed, the only other reference I can find on topic is from an interview McCain gave in December where he mentioned that charters, homeschooling and vouchers are "keys to success." Not terribly sure just what he meant by that, but it sounds supportive.

Then I re-read that paragraph on McCain's website one more time, because it really was the only reference to homeschooling I could find that was anything approaching an authoritative statement from the candidate. Then it hit me: "demonstrated excellence."

Now, given the bland nature of the entire education statement, I'd like to believe this was merely staffed out to some communications wank who in turn churned out this bit of pablum. It's phrased in such a way as to be easily digestible for most readers. Great; no changes to NCLB. I guess I can vote for him. McCain's entire senate career has, I believe, avoided any more than token contact with education as an issue, so it's safe to say that he probably doesn't have terribly strong views on the subject beyond the motherhood-and-apple-pie statements about our need for an educated populace.

But that phrase... I dunno.

"Demonstrated excellence" is something I expect from our public schools. Public schools are funded by taxpayer monies. Even though I homeschool, as I've mentioned numerous times before, I still support public education as a taxpayer. It's both my duty and my privilege to do so. The reasons why I homeschool also have been documented (albeit in fragmentary form) throughout this blog. It's no secret that while I feel honor-bound to support public education, I do not trust it. It's really as simple as that. I cannot rest assured that my daughters will either receive the full benefits of highly skilled and trained teachers, or that their safety is guaranteed when I send them to a public school. Anecdotal evidence gets worse by the day. My wife left that profession under a cloud of confusion and resentment; confusion over the state of education, particularly in California, and resentment that her once-noble profession has turned into a circus of new-wave teaching methods that manage to completely obfuscate perfectly simple educational principles. That, and an unhealthy dose of arrogant administrators, pompous parents who abdicate the care and raising of their kids to the schools, and kids who have been raised to flaunt their disdain for authority figures of any kind, but particularly their teachers. I do NOT want my daughters being subjected to this nonsense. So, yes, I think it fair to say that public schools need to demonstrate whatever "excellence" they may possess.

But not my little homeschool. In fact, in what may sound to some like the views of separatist, the United States government is not welcome in the hallowed halls of our small academy. Nor, for that matter, is the Great State of California. The county of Orange should not bother knocking on our door, and the City of Anaheim can keep their noses out of our business as well. I'm sure they're all wonderful people, but if their intent is to dictate to my family in any way, shape or form as to how we may or may not teach our children, then they're not getting their foot in my front door.

Now, that may sound a little testy. Granted. It's also extreme in the sense that such an invasion is not likely ever to happen. We're not some fringe-of-reality family who homeschool in order to hide some institutionalized form of abuse. We are a loving family who enjoy the experience of helping young minds to stretch and grow. We have a wonderful teacher-to-student ratio of 1:2 (1:3 if Daddy gets involved... Mommy still has me to raise!). We go on field trips at the drop of a hat. We recite the Pledge of Allegiance ("under God"). We have a support group that we see once a week and where the girls have made some wonderful friends. We attend church regularly. We live, work, and shop in the same community with all of the public school kids and their families. They get my tax money, and I never ask for any in return. I'm not interested in vouchers; save that money for the kids who need it. I simply want to be left alone to teach my children as I see fit.

Which is why that statement about "demonstrated excellence" is troublesome. I have sent McCain's campaign an email asking for enlargement and explanation. We'll see if I get a response. If it turns out that McCain's views are as bland and passive as the rest of his educational codice, then I have nothing to worry about. But if the senator believes that homeschoolers will, somehow, be accountable to anyone other than themselves, then he's in for the fight of his life.

We will see to that.

Your move, Senator.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

News You'll Never See

This is not out of the question:
Nashville, TN

Al Gore today angrily lashed out at what he termed a "Republican dirty trick" to demonstrate a full year's worth of global cooling according to at least four different sources. "President Bush is clearly trying to discredit my Nobel-winning work in preparation for the November election," he told a crowd of three supporters outside his carbon-neutral mansion. "NASA I can understand, since they constantly need more budget," Gore was reported to say. "But how he managed to get Hadley Climate Research, Remote Sensing Systems, and the University of Alabama in his pocket is beyond me."

The former vice president was reported to be waving his Oscar statuette throughout the interview.

Mr. Gore was reportedly reacting to news of a climate conference being held in New York. "They're taking the name of the Goracle in vain, and I simply won't stand for it!" At this point Mr. Gore nearly sideswiped Tipper, who had evidently forgotten just how large her husband's carbon footprint had gotten in recent years and was standing too close. "I will fight back, and I will sell the global warming crisis to the highest bi... to anyone who will listen!" he ranted.

Gore is now threatening to convene a new, more powerful panel to discuss rationally and scientifically just how correct Gore's views are. "This panel will consist of some of the most carbon-correct celebrities I've come to know and love in Hollywood. Michael Moore, Barbra Streisand, and even Alec Baldwin, if he'll agree not to punch anyone, just to name a few." Mr. Gore then declared, "If that doesn't convince those clueless conservatives, nothing will!"
All this by way of sympathizing with my mother, who reported three inches or more of snow on the ground in northern Texas yesterday. Bundle up, Ma! Looks like a few more weeks of winter, yet!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Boeing Tanker Deal Tanked - UPDATED

[Major news out of Washington on Wednesday. Scroll down for the update.]

Official Woundup Step-Dad ZeeMeister® emails:

Help me out, please.....the Pentagon should be looking for a proven vehicle, capable of landing on existing runways, that offers reduced operating cost to replace its aging tanker fleet, and it wouldn't be a bad thing if it were made in the USA, either.

So they give the contract to Northrup for a bunch of fuel-hogging A330's that will demand expensive strengthened runways, and be built everywhere but here? I can't see one plus in the whole basket, unles we want to talk about some streamlining in the cockpit.....oh yeah, that'll make the pilots happy!

There's gotta be something I'm missing here....how does this happen? Is there a pony here, or does this whole thing smell like it looks?
All too true, I'm afraid. But there are reasons, and I'm sure none of them are lost on Boeing.

While it is true that the proposed vehicle — a variant of the successful 767 — is proven, the A330 isn't all as bad as its press. Airbus doesn't build bad products, really; they're just more arrogant about it than Boeing. (This is an arguable point of course, since anywhere outside of the United States and for nearly half of our own citizenry, it is always presumed that the United States is more arrogant. Else we cannot be enablers of the tremendous victim culture here and in Europe.) Yes, some runways might require some strengthening; but that was because of Airbus's ginormous A380 double-decker monstrosity. The A330 is a peanut compared to that particular behemoth. Also, I have spoken with pilots, including a member of my old ward in Moorpark, who really like Airbus planes. They like the simplified flight deck, and their flight decks are similar between all their models. This means an overall smaller learning curve from one model to another for Airbus-qualified jockeys.

(Of course, since these planes are targeted for military use, it's more likely that their flight decks will be stripped down of anything convenient, and loaded up with enough avionics to make any engineer froth at the mouth. That's the military way!)

Other commenters on other blogs have also pointed out that the Government rarely buys anything wholesale from any foreign supplier. What I mean by that is that there are always guarantees that a healthy percentage of parts and assembly will be based in the United States. That's why Northrup was the front-man for the project. Since they're the lead system integrator, they have to ensure that a percentage (not sure how large, but they advertise to the tune of 25,000 American "jobs") of that work remains in-house, so to speak. Not sure if final assembly will be in Toulouse or Alabama, but U.S. suppliers aren't going out of business any time soon.

No, the real problem for Boeing was the political climate, partly of their own making. Boeing's notorious ethical lapses up through 2001 cost the company dearly, and they're still paying for it in some ways. They've only just recently (a couple of years ago) been cleared for launching government-sponsored payloads on their rockets again, for example, after the illicit documents debacle with Lockheed. Then there was that nasty business with their then-CFO working with a Pentagon procurement officer and offering her a job while she was still in a position to influence buying decisions involving Boeing. That one involved jail time (apparently decisions were influenced) and ensured that employees of the company will have to take annual ethics training ad infinitum for the rest of their natural careers.

John McCain has been no friend of Boeing, either. He's been against this tanker deal from the beginning, and was one of the voices who insisted on re-competing the entire purchase. Now that he's running for president — and actually has a shot at it this time — the visibility of this project has been raised to uncomfortable political heights. The Pentagon, in particular, is becoming over-sensitive to any implied favoritism towards Boeing at this time, even though they've said over and over that Boeing appears to have effectively "cleaned its ethical house" and that they are glad to have them back in favor as a major defense supplier.

The fact that France is actively trying to improve relations with the U. S. also doesn't help Boeing. Although Airbus is a European conglomerate, it's main factories are in Toulouse and the company is constantly perceived as being French. Now that Sarkozy is trying to get comfy with Washington, it's entirely possible (even though the Pentagon will strenuously deny this) that some amount of diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on the decision.

I suspect that the Pentagon procurement types were keeping a wary eye on public opinion throughout the entire course of the re-competition. Especially in an election year, it does them no good to make anything like a controversial decision that will draw instant ire and wrath from all major candidates of either party. McCain would have screamed bloody murder if they'd chosen Boeing simply because he doesn't like the company. Obama and Clinton would prefer having the Europeans build the plane because it smacks of internationalism — the very sort of thing that John Kerry would have loved to see had he not torpedoed his own campaign four years ago. For Pentagon buyers, it was probably a no-brainer. The fact that a few legislators from Washington state are up in arms is meaningless; they haven't had the guts to defend Boeing in the past, and I see no reason to believe that this is anything but political grandstanding today.

Of course, there's always the old story that defense chiefs didn't even want new tankers to begin with. They were all for upgrading the existing fleet and using the savings to fund other projects. But that's life in the military. Sometimes the hand that feeds you slips you a mickey.

As for me: my new mantra is, "15 years to retirement... 15 years to retirement..." I kinda like how that sounds. Aerospace is for the birds.

UPDATE: So the protest worked for Boeing. Interesting in light of the fact that many, many pundits (even usually pro-Boeing writers) excoriated the company for daring to whine to the government about how the competition was handled by the Air Force. Turns out Boeing was right. The Air Force, perhaps for the very reasons outlined above (although this will never be known for certain) appears to have tipped the scales unfairly in Northup's direction during critical phases of the competition while sending Boeing down a couple of sizeable bunny trails. Naughty, naughty. Given the Air Force's recent blunders in their handling of nuclear materials, one wonders if firing a few department heads is really sufficient to help them pull their heads out of their assets.

(When Woody says "Air Force" in this context, Woody is really talking about department heads. Woody still has the utmost respect for rank and file wing-wipers who do their best to defend our interests throughout the world.)

One thing this protest is not: it is no guarantee that Boeing will yet win the competition. The Air Force has not yet said that they will accept the GAO's report, nor that it will re-compete the tanker procurement. Assuming they do, they still have to write up the specs (which could still easily be slanted in favor of the A330), and the entire process could still take a year or more to complete.

In the meantime, the military procurement types have taken what should have been a fairly straight-forward solicitation and turned it into an unqualified SNAFU. The wild blue yonder is looking a tad anaemic of late.