Saturday, May 31, 2008

What Hath the Rules Wrought?

Most of the buzz now regarding the Democratic race concerns the seating (or not) of the delegates from Florida and Michigan at the convention. There is much following of the fallout now over at blogs like WaPo's "The Fix" where they are watching developments closely. Likewise the Republicans are keeping a sharp eye on what's going on, as are the conservative banner-wavers at such as Hugh Hewitt. Not surprisingly, there is fallout from a source that DNC officials seem willing to ignore for the time being: the voters themselves.

One such voter (presumably, anyway) by the name of Robert Tell writes to the Detroit Free Press:
This is not a partisan issue of support for either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton. It is an outrage that the silly rules artificially imposed by the Democratic National Committee should trump the honest attempt of millions of voters to express their political choice.
This of course doesn't help Howard Dean who must now navigate through this very thorny issue without completely invalidating the entire primary process. Good luck with that.

In the meantime, there is the very real prospect of voter revolt which could still affect the general election in November. Push your voters hard enough and they'll begin to push back.

Assuming Obama gets the party's nod at the convention, it would be a shame (really, I'm saying all of this with a very straight face) to invalidate the will of two complete states just because their state leadership wanted to have their say earlier than party rules allowed. As Mr. Tell said, the "artificially imposed" rules of the DNC have in essence wiped out two state primaries. Way to go.

I'm pretty sure the DNC had no idea that this race would become so pivotal, nor that the votes of two large-ish states would be become so contentious a topic. However, when you make rules that even potentially invalidate the voices of people you may need desperately in the general election, you essentially reap what you sow.

I suppose one could lay blame for this fiasco squarely at the feet of the respective state leaders in Michigan and Florida who insisted on holding their primary elections earlier than party rules allowed and created this political stalemate. However, their own decisions have been influenced by the larger "need" (a perception I still don't agree with) to have states be more "influential" by having their primaries earlier. California was just as guilty of this hysteria and created a situation where we now need three elections to handle the work previously accommodated by two. What a waste of money, among other things. There's also the accelerated pace of the campaign itself. We were inundated with so much information in such a compressed space of time that we weren't allowed to properly formulate our impressions of any given candidate. I believe Romney would have been in a better position to capture more votes were he still looking forward to a June California primary, rather than trying to criss-cross the nation as he was forced to do back in February on "Super Tuesday."

Thus it is that in this election, Republicans are pretty much left with a candidate who has not captured the hearts of the conservative base, while Democrats must sit through several weeks more of a true carnival sideshow. If this is what the general election may look like this November, both parties may need to run their state and national leadership out of town on one very large rail. We need a much cleaner, slower campaign in 2012.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

National No Effect Whatsoever Registry

So we registered our phone number with the so-called National Do Not Call Registry. I, like many Americans, feel that telemarketers are one of those substrates of humanity that are probably most directly responsible for gangs, drugs, oppressive tax codes, global warming, and Michael Moore. Hence they serve absolutely no productive purpose whatsoever, and I have banished them from my phone.


Turns out that there are a couple of loopholes, and certain callers have taken full advantage of them.

Since signing the Registry late last year, Mrs. Woody and I have been perplexed by continuing annoyances in the form of "credit protection." If you have a credit card, you've gotten these calls. It's always a recording.
Hello, we're calling you about your credit accounts. There's no problems...
They always say that. "There's no problems." Which leaves us with the Big But.

We always end the call immediately after that phrase so that the entire conversation goes like this:
Me: Hello?

Unknown Number: "Hello, we're calling you about your credit accounts. There's no problems..."

That's because we've gotten enough of these calls to know that the next paragraph in their script will offer us "credit protection" in the event one or both of us loses our life and the credit company finds itself in very real danger of not receiving any more money from us. Oh, and maybe they can help our survivors while they're at it. How helpful.

Anyway, we'd just about gotten trained to know that whenever our Caller ID flashes "UNKNOWN," we're probably going to get one of those calls. Mrs. Woody had just gotten to the point where the [CLICK] came even sooner than what I depicted above. Then they changed tactics.

This morning we got a call from a "DAVID SMITH" calling from the 904 area code. I always do a quick brain scan to see if an area code resonates. I work for an international corporation, and I get calls from all over the country (although not generally on my home phone) which means that I can identify a fairly hefty number of codes. Ah, 435. Overlay for Utah. Whoops, 314. St. Louis. 410, that's my daughter. And so forth. 904 didn't register. (Florida, it turns out.) Neither did "DAVID SMITH." Nor, I must say, did the caller sound anything like "DAVID SMITH," unless "DAVID SMITH" has been taking copious amounts of "FEMALE HORMONES."
Hello, we're calling about your...
You know the rest.

So it disturbs me that the credit protection racketeers have taken this battle up a notch. Now they're taking individual business numbers and assigning them names in order to defeat our Caller ID defense. I suspect "DAVID SMITH" is a concocted name. It's too generic. I might know a David Smith, after all. Sounds familiar. Maybe he was that gent in Irvine (now what was Irvine's area code again...? Can't remember!) that owed me some information for Church. No, that can't be it... I know that name from somewhere. Better answer it.


So, thanks for next-to-nuthin', FTC. The Mongols have breached the Great Wall and are bearing down on us once again.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Read 'Em and Weep

[WARNING: Long-winded diatribe follows. Proceed at your own risk.]

If you're a registered Republican right now, you're probably wondering whether your party leaders have merely taken momentary leave of their collective senses, or have gone whole-hog certifiable.

I'm afraid it's worse than that.

Behold, the "American Families Agenda."

On its surface — which is, I'm certain, all the deeper the GOP wants us to dig — it sounds wonderful. The Republican party has always been about the family; protecting its "values," defending it from all intruders, keeping it safe from enemies both foreign and domestic. Hurrah for the American family, without whom we wouldn't have anyone left to deceive have enough taxes to spend on meaningless tripe be any better than [insert favorite third-world scapegoat here].

Upon reading it, however, anyone with a functioning brain stem immediately recognizes the complete lack of any substance, the failure to give more than passing mention to many party-base hot buttons, and the utter arrogance of a party leadership who is completely out of touch with the voters who put their pathetic carcasses in office in the first place. In other words, they sound like Democratic leaders.

Even their latest catch-phrase "Change You Deserve" sounds like it was lifted right off the Democratic playbook. It's in their website's URL, for corn's sake:

And therein lies the rub. The change we crave is not in the traditional values of the Republican party. Those we support, and have supported for decades. It is our elected representatives who have long since forgotten what exactly it is they were supposed to represent when they took our votes and parlayed them into lucrative retirement benefits in the House or Senate. Those we need to change.

Gone are the days when a Ronald Reagan would take a copy of the tax code into Congress, thump it down on the podium, and demand they write one that works for all Americans. We don't hear that kind of rhetoric anymore, and I miss it. We no longer hear about reducing the size of the federal government. We no longer hear about making tough choices on such issues as social security, border security, and the welfare state.

Why is that, we wonder? What happened to create a Republican congressional leadership that has somehow lost its backbone? Why are they so afraid to be labelled "conservatives?" One can only guess. I blame global warming.

In the meantime, we have this "agenda" out there that will do absolutely none of what it "promises." Reading through the agenda, one finds at the end of each explanatory paragraph the words "We must:" followed by a short list of To Do's that are apparently supposed to impress us that Our Congress is Working for Us. It is, for lack of a more descriptive (and still family-friendly) phrase, entirely underwhelming. (I must also note that whenever Congress uses the phrase "we must," they really mean "the American taxpayers must." But you probably already knew that.)

Consider just one example of this classic piece of American political boondogglery:
Solution #1: Assuring More Time & Money For America’s Families
One of the biggest struggles families face is how to balance work and family. Caring for a sick child or elderly parent can make the traditional 40-hour work week a challenge. What parents need more than anything is more flexibility and time with their family. Moreover, the government must reduce the burden on America’s family-owned small businesses so they can grow and compete in the global economy. Across the board, it is costing families more and more just to put food on the table or drive to work. In many cases, it costs them more per month to fill their gas tank than it does to make their car payment. We must:
  • Lower gas prices and energy costs
  • Provide for a family-friendly work week
  • Grow our small businesses
Isn't that stirring? Wow. I don't know who wrote that, but it sure sounds like a committee.

Let's start with "balancing work and family." Like I need a Congressperson to tell me how to do that. When was the last time you got the impression that a Congressperson — any Congressperson — had any clue how to balance anything, including their own checkbook? Balancing work and family? Senator Boondoggle? Right.

I don't know about Congress, but I do alright with the "traditional 40-hour work week." I currently put in far more than 40 hours, as it happens, and still find time to spend with my family. I've even been able to work in an emergency or two just to keep myself limber. In fact, except for those few times when they feel a pathological need to fillibuster, I'd like to know when the last time was that Congress put in an honest 40-hour work week. And let's not even get started on how much time off they get during the year. All this for a larger salary than I happen to make nowadays, and with better guaranteed benefits than I'll ever see, especially in my future retirement. Now, if they're ready to guarantee that we get exactly the same flexibility in our work schedules as they have, complete with powers to subpoena whatever cretin Scapegoat-of-the-Week we like, then I'll buy into their little agenda.

Here's another corker: They want to "reduce the burden on America's family-owned small businesses." Most unfortunately, in the New Republican World Order, this means more government regulation, not less. Later in the hit-list they specifically name "Allow workers to take their benefits with them when they change jobs" as one of their "We must:s." Sounds like more regulation to me.

The "We must:" list that follows this first paragraph is also highly amusing. Lower gas and energy costs? Laughable. They have no power over either the supply or the demand, and the oil companies are already regulated to the corporate hilt. Anyone see gas prices dropping? Anyone? Me, neither. Provide for a "family friendly" work week? Now what kind of sense does that make? Whom, precisely, does this help? I already telecommute far more in my career than ever before. In fact, since Mrs. Woody took ill last summer, I've telecommuted more than I've spent working in my office. Was that any doing of the government? It was not. It was a company taking a hard look at the realities of life and realizing that they were gonna bleed to death when people began jumping ship to work for companies that already had "family friendly" work policies. That's like Gore taking credit for inventing the internet. He may have overseen policies to make it easier for people to get hooked up, but the market made that possible. Not Mr. Gore.

Finally there's "growing our small businesses." Right. Just like they've done for the last twenty five years that I've been working in the aerospace industry. I can't tell you how many small businesses started up, tanked up on government incentives, floated for a few years, then bombed out, never to be seen again. The government is incapable of growing anything but our federal debt. Debt they have perfected. They can't handle anything else. They're too dysfunctional.

So, to those Congressional staffers who may end up here on the Woundup reading this tripe, don't take it too hard. Your bosses are just trying to do their jobs, after all.

It's not your fault that they have no idea what their jobs are.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Little Cheese with the Whine - UPDATED

So a sitting president of the country addresses our allies in Israel and makes the following factual statement:
"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along."

"We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
Which, of course, touched off paroxysms of powder-keg politicking on the part of certain candidates and other prominent Democrats.

Obama, who appears to have one whopper of a guilty conscience, immediately assumed the remarks were targeted at him personally, even though the President said no such thing. Clinton, seemingly happy to indulge Obama's guilt complex, fanned the flames further. "I may disagree with the little snoot, "she was heard to say, "but that was out of line, even for Bush." Or words to that effect. Paragon of Virtue Joe Biden weighed in with his alliterative "bulls**t!" just so no one would forget his own countless failed bids for the office he envies Mr. Bush. Pelosi claimed the President's remarks were "beneath the dignity" of the office. That would be devastating, were she one who brought such dignity to her own office at the same time.

So, reading through the words myself, and having watched the video, I can only wonder where and when the President actually accused Mr. Obama specifically (or any Democrat, for that matter) in his remarks. Perhaps I missed that part. I believe he meant those remarks for anyone (hello Robert Gates?) who believes that talking with people like Ahmadinejad accomplishes anything.

I also find it humorous that the Democrats, most of whom have been comparing Bush with Hitler for years now, suddenly get upset to believe themselves accused of being "appeasers." How dare the President suggest that, simply because they want to talk to Ahmadinejad, this makes them somehow guilty of pandering to terrorists?

Could it be partly because the rest of us — those without the bully pulpit that Obama, Clinton, Pelosi and even Bush utilize nowadays — find it incredible that the Democrats want us to backpedal our merry ways out of Iraq so that terrorists will sleep better at night? You mean that kind of appeasement?

Or is it the fact that no one but Democrats are allowed to use the Nazi metaphor? Could this whole thing be simply a petty jealousy?

I tire of leading Democrats' continual whining about what victims they all are. If they're so exhausted by our refusal to take them seriously, they can always move en masse to the Bay area. They'll take any victim seriously, so long as they don't wear a uniform and dare to defend the country.

UPDATE: So I'm sitting in a motel breakfast room this morning (Mrs. Woody and I celebrating our anniversary this weekend!), and I hear this on CNN (Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Victimhood):
President Bush, in remarks obviously directed at Democratic candidate, Barack Obama...
Whine, whine, whine...

Friday, May 09, 2008

Curmudgeon's Guide for Young Conservative Voters (California June 3 Edition) - UPDATED

UPDATE: Latest General Election edition is up here.

[As the primary looms (tomorrow!), I realize that many of you have come here searching for either a Christian or conservative voters guide. You found this instead. My deepest and most sincere apologies. We should probably fire the idiots who came up with the initiatives and/or candidates we have to select from in this election, but we are California Republicans, and we are inherently lazy.]

Uncle Woody isn't sure what to tell you young conservative voters about this coming primary election. It's only a few short weeks away, yet Uncle Woody can't help but feel that this one won't add any value to our process this time around. Uncle Woody thinks we all got so burned out in the February presidential primary that we've nearly forgotten we still had a regular primary election coming up.

"Didn't we just do this?" Uncle Woody can hear you say. Yes, we did, and it garnered us the only Republican candidate who not only won't go out of his way to protect our borders, he very well may help to erase them. But I digress. The point is, you're here because you were looking for a conservative voter guide, and Uncle Woody's is seemingly the only one you could find.

Buena suerte, as we say here in Mexifornia.

Anyway, here's Uncle Woody's curmudgeonly take on the California June 3 Primary. We begin, as always, with the ballot initiatives.

Oddly enough, Uncle Woody was more interested this time around in the initiatives that didn't qualify for inclusion on the ballot. I presume this means they fell short of the required signatures, although a couple of them were "withdrawn." We do NOT have an opportunity to vote for those poor farm animals who are raised primarily so we can eat them later. We also do not get to vote on whether to eliminate "domestic partner benefits." Uncle Woody is pretty sure that Berkeley alone would have registered enough dead voters to make certain that this particular initiative would have dropped like a stone. There was also one that dealt with "coerced sterilization of animals or humans." I had no idea we had a coerced human sterilization problem in California. This may explain Schwarzenegger.

Anyway, only two initiatives qualified in time for this election. Although they share traits in common, they have different purposes and results:

Proposition 98 - Government Acquisition, Regulation of Private Property. Constitutional Amendment.
Proposition 99 - Eminent Domain. Acquisition of Owner-Occupied Residence. Constitutional Amendment.

Uncle Woody smells several rats here. This is obviously in reaction to land-grab headlines of a few years ago that had folks very much up in arms. No problem; Uncle Woody can understand the desire to protect one's property and assets. If Uncle Woody HAD any property or assets, he would definitely want to protect them.

As always, however, one needs to have a far better sense of legal maneuvering to fully understand these initiatives. One bellwether I tend to watch are the Howard Jarvis folks. Jarvis was responsible for Proposition 13 lo these many years ago that limited the state's ability to raise property taxes beyond what Jarvis felt were "reasonable" limits. Whether or not you appreciated Jarvis' stance (Uncle Woody benefitted tremendously from those limitations in his earlier life), he was definitely looking out for taxpayers' interests.

He is, of course, dead.

Still, that doesn't stop other taxpayer protectionists from using his name, and they all have a bunch of legal letters after their names. They all say pretty much the same thing: Proposition 99 is evil, and Proposition 98 is the guy in the white hat riding in to save the day.

Besides all that, Schwarzenegger doesn't like Prop 98 which, by itself, is pretty much all the motivation I need to vote for it. Prop 99 is full of more loopholes than my Grandma's afghan and I wouldn't trust it as far as I could wad it up and throw it.

Proposition 98 = Yes
Proposition 99 = No

There aren't any local ballot initiatives in the part of Orange County where Hacienda Woody is located. This is all to the good as Uncle Woody blew a few fuses trying to muddle through the state ballots.

As for candidates, as always Uncle Woody urges you young conservatives to vote your consciences. Neither of our U. S. Senators is up for re-election this year, so I can't poke fun at California's continuing inability to front a GOP candidate that anyone can take seriously. I suppose there's little chance of getting Mitt Romney to relocate here so he can qualify for one of those seats in a couple of years. Still, hopefully someone will float to the surface that a) is well enough known that folks won't ignore them, and b) will actually be a threat to the Lib Sisters.

In other words, look for pigs to perform activities contrary to established laws of physics before that happens.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Maybe I Should Get a Restraining Order

You might think, what with living next door to a BN&SF mainline and in close proximity to Disneyland and their nightly fireworks, that we have a level of sound saturation here at Hacienda Woody. The trains rumble through at more or less regular intervals, day or night. It's not uncommon for me to look up from my computer and see key pieces of furniture shaking as if we were having a minor temblor. First thing I do anymore is listen for that deep three-octaves-low rumble that tells me whether it's a freight or passenger consist passing by. The Big D, on the other hand, tosses their boomers high in the sky every night on a schedule. "9:30, Dear." "Ayup, thar she blows." The booms last between 15 and 25 minutes depending on season.

Then there's the freeway that sits a mere half mile from here, plus having our park abut one of the more active streets in Orange County at certain parts of the day. We're also in a construction zone at the moment, as they attempt to build an overpass for Imperial Highway on one side of us, and construct a power station across the street on another side.

Sound saturation is putting it mildly.

As noisy as things get around here, though, none of them hold a candle to a rather diminuitive fellow who resides immediately behind us. Every night at just past midnight, this character fills his lungs and begins an all-night serenade that will fade only when the first light of dawn approaches. These gratuitous concerts run for nearly seven hours without intermission or, seemingly, any level of discomfort on the part of the performer.

It used to be mildly annoying when he started this nonsense a year ago. Mrs. Woody and I are not always the best of sleepers, and when the weather is hot enough in the summer months it doesn't take much to wake us. This guy can do that. I used to harbor secret fantasies about getting a pellet gun and letting the guy have it right between the eyes, but a couple of things prevent me:

I don't really want any guns in the house.

My intended victim is probably protected by the Wildlife Protection Act.

When I grew up I harbored certain expectations about wildlife. During the day I figured the more interesting animals were in hiding from predators and rambunctious kids like myself. At night I figured I was safe and snug in my house, and once asleep wouldn't have to give them another thought. This was especially true of the various birds that roamed our neighborhood throughout the day. They were a noisy bunch but always seemed to tone it down at night so the crickets could have their say. And, as I say, I could safely ignore them in any case.

Whatever species of bird this character may be, he is the noisiest neighbor I've ever had. It's probably as much because after midnight sound really seems to carry, but this guy is LOUD. He runs through just about his entire repertoire every night. He may actually run through it multiple times. I don't know, because I've finally gotten to the point where I can generally consign him to that region of white noise that my ears create more and more as I get older. On a night like tonight, though, when everyone with an ounce of sanity is asleep and the other night noises are relatively low, I get the feeling this warbler (or whatever he is) can be heard as far away as Guam.

Not being a birder of any kind, I have absolutely no idea whether this is normal behavior for this bird or not. Don't really care, to be honest. All I know is that he is, above all, a gifted performer. Although, if he's trying to find a mate, I might suggest he try doing this during the day. Keeping the gals awake all night may not be conducive to romance.

The other possibility is that his internal clock is completely out of whack. Unless he's simply drowning everyone else out, I hear no other birds anywhere near here anytime after dark. This is in keeping with my own concept of nature as it applies to darkness, and this guy is like a Flat-Earther trying to convince a bunch of rocket scientists that they're full of hooey. I don't expect he's got much of an audience.

Except for the inhabitants of Hacienda Woody, who desperately need to get some sleep tonight.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Remembering Diversity University

It is with some sadness that I note the passing a couple of years ago of an online environment that once held tremendous significance in my life. I got to thinking about it today as Mrs. Woody and I prepare to celebrate a dozen years of wedded bliss. I quickly found that the environment no longer seems to exist. A library association newsletter explains: Diversity University MOO was taken offline early in 2006 after a run of (depending on whose history you read) between 11 and 14 years. (I'd bumped into the librarian who wrote the article, by the way. A tremendous lady.) DU was the brain-child of Jeanne McWhorter who saw in it the tremendous potential for on-line education, with particular benefits for many with learning disabilities. What it became was a mighty social network that pre-dated Facebook or MySpace by a good many years, and boasted a sophistication that AOL's chat rooms could only dream of.

For the uninitiated, a MOO (MUD, Object Oriented) was an online TELNET technology based on an old text-based gaming platform. An over-simplification, to be sure, but there are numerous articles on Wikipedia and elsewhere that explain the concept more fully.

Diversity University was unique in that it had a definite purpose and theme. Its goal was to provide an online learning environment and was patterned after a typical college campus. You could visit numerous buildings (history, art, library, etc.) and socialize anywhere on campus. I became a programmer there and created some rooms in the US History section.

But for me, the most significant aspect of my experience at DU was bumping into the future Mrs. Woody after a mutual absence of more than a dozen years.

By sheer coincidence (or not, we've since decided) we were both evaluating DU as a technology for potential use in our respective industries (aerospace for me, and educational publishing for her). By the time we bumped into each other, I was well into actually programming my own rooms and controls. Mrs. Woody was just getting her feet wet, so to speak, and saw a character online one day who went by the name of "Woody" (it's always been a nickname of mine) and who claimed to be from a town where she used to live. The fact that this Woody had been a singer and an actor particularly intrigued her. So she asked him about it.

Imagine my shock and surprise to hear from this very pretty blond lady whom I hadn't seen since just after my mission.

The rest, as they say, is history. No mere coincidence can account for our meeting that day. I had by that time decided to separate from my first wife in advance of our inevitable divorce, and it is perhaps fortuitous that she lost her connection information to DU for a couple of weeks after our chance encounter (I hadn't even asked her for her phone number). By the time we met virtually again, I was on my way to bachelorhood. Our friendship was rekindled in due time and blossomed to the point where I knew that here was my eternal soulmate.

So Diversity University holds a very special place in my heart. It was there, for example, that she first called me "Bud." I'd never gone by that name in my life, but was thrilled when she tagged me with it. That was my grandfather's nickname, and I considered it a true honor to be called that by this wonderful woman. It was there also that we consumed many an hour playing virtual Scrabble® (in the days before company lawyers threatened anyone who dared create and play such a game online). We chatted endlessly about anything and everything that popped into our minds. And we continued to build worlds together there and on other MOOs that she joined with me. It became good practice for the worlds we would soon build together in real life.

The last time I was able to log on to DU (apparently more than a couple of years ago) I visited my old virtual office and found everything in order. Nice and neat; not anything at all like my real office. And Mrs. Woody's character sitting in the office with me. We were both asleep, according to the interface. We'd been asleep for many years by that time.

Now it's gone. I'd like to think that whoever retired it kept a copy of it on some archive somewhere. I hate to think that all that creativity just simply vanished into the ether. I had met some wonderful personalities over the months I was active there. One Scottish gent, fresh out of college and with no prospects for work there, came to America to be with a sweet lady he'd met at DU himself. Last I'd heard from them they were planning their life together in West Virginia, I think. There was a young kid from the Netherlands who loved to chat with Mrs. Woody and me over a wide range of topics. His desire to learn about American life was insatiable. There was the passionate young liberal meteorologist who loved to get into political discussions with the campus "token conservative." He tried to tweak me on all sorts of issues, and I generally tweaked him right back. Those were fun conversations. Mrs. Woody and I even had a chance to meet another DU couple who had flown out to Los Angeles to attend a conference, and specifically wanted to meet us. We'd become good friends in the virtual world, and meeting them was a wonderful experience. She had numerous health challenges, though, and I often wonder if she's still okay, or even still with us. If not, I hope she knows that we love her and wish her well.

There were only a couple of personalities that I tried to avoid over that span of time, and in each case they tended to burn out and leave before I got too distracted myself. Otherwise, I have nothing but fond memories of my time spent at DU. I got married to the best part of that experience, and we've lived happily ever after.

Long live Diversity University.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Stephen King Channels John Kerry

Look, I know the man is some sort of literary demi-god. I'm probably too illiterate myself to bother reading one of his books. (Or, maybe, it's just that I don't appreciate his particular genré.) And, sure, he's great friends with Dave Barry. But for an author who (I would hope) reads as much as he writes, this is an ignorant statement.

As John Kerry before him, King makes the crass assumption that only ignorant people end up in the armed forces, serving in Iraq. Once again we see the tolerance of the progressive movement as King insults those who willingly serve their country.

It helped cost Kerry his candidacy. I hope this costs King some sales.

Whatever a person's thoughts or feelings may be about the war with Iraq or the administration in general, insulting our courageous soldiers accomplishes nothing but point out a person's own peculiar prejudices. Man Serves Country = Ignorant Tool of Administration is getting old, people. Too old.

King needs to apologize, quickly, lest he find himself on the receiving end of some less-than-gracious sentiments.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Newsweek Thought Piece

Fareed Zakaria, writing for Newsweek, has created a thought-provoking essay that is sure to have a polarizing effect on its readers. It's called "The Post-American World," and it tries to analyze the socio-political influences of the United States in comparison with the rest of the world.

I say "thought-provoking" because he makes some valid points along the way. It isn't so much that the United States is necessarily declining in influence, but rather that other countries are rising. This is perhaps the central theme of Zakaria's essay and it's meant to demonstrate that the U. S. must "globalize" if it wishes to remain a key player in world affairs.

It also, unfortunately, smacks of the sort of "new world order" thinking that ultimately diminishes our sovereignty as a nation and subjects us to the whims of the rest of the world.

Read it for yourself, though. I suspect reactions will run pretty much along party and ideological lines. As a somewhat moderate conservative, I can see those valid points and agree with much of his analysis. I also believe, however, that some of his base assumptions are incorrect. He points, for example, to U. S. carmakers having more employees in Canada than in the United States, at least partly because Canadian health-care costs are lower. The implication would be that the United States should be adopting a health-care system similar to Canada's if we wish to remain a viable competitor. What he fails to mention, however, is that Canada's socialized health-care system is also fundamentally flawed; the waiting lists to see key specialists alone would sound a death-knell to many who need critical care in a timely manner. It's not that they have bad doctors. It's that they don't have enough doctors who are willing to accept the salaries to which they are mandated by the state. Our doctors are expensive, but there's a market that supports them and enables us to have immediate access to the right care. These are over-simplified arguments, but useful for the discussion at hand.

Zakaria does a pretty good job of pointing out that, dangerous as today's world is, it's somewhat less violent overall than it was a few decades ago. He points out the massive losses of life during conflicts in Vietnam, Iran and Iraq, and Cambodia. With this data he attempts to quell a rising feeling of uneasiness that many Americans (Woody included) have had regarding the continuing states of war and terrorism that permeate today's political landscape. His suggestion is that we need to get along more with our worldly neighbors (NWO thinking) and accept their places at our side as allies. He fears that our political leadership (he specifically mentions McCain in this train of thought) are too willing to buy into the next Cold War. He downplays such things as nuclear proliferation as if to lead us to believe that such things are of no more concern in our world.

Here I disagree vehemently with Zakaria. It is precisely such things as nuclear proliferation and the rise of global terrorism that should make us wary of such powers as North Korea, Russia, and especially China. It's one thing to encourage trade with "neighbors" like these. It is another to simply trust them not to take their aggressions out on us just because we no longer hold the position of "world leader" that Zakaria feels we've lost. From a standpoint of safety and security, we can never take our eyes off of these nations. We do so at our own peril. I have felt this way ever since someone once declared that we had "won" the original Cold War. We "won" nothing. Other nations gained a measure of independence, and many communist regimes fell. But there can be no declared "winner" when the ability to wipe out an enemy is still in the hands of politicians who clearly do not like the United States.

As I say, read the whole thing. Some of it I agree with, some of it I obviously don't. We may not have the largest Ferris wheel in the world, or even the largest mall. We don't need to have these things to be leaders of freedom and democratic thinking in the world today. We just need to have unshakeable standards, and live them.

Friday, May 02, 2008

For Balance - Updated

So after kvetching about whining bloggers in my previous post, here comes one of those feel-good stories that remind us how good people — regardless of political affiliation — can really be: (H/T: Mrs. Woody)

It's one of those magical moments in a young athlete's life. Sara Tucholsky came to the plate near the end of the second game in a college softball doubleheader. At stake was the opportunity to move on to post-season play and a shot at the championship. Sara had never hit a home run in her collegiate career, but she connected with "the sweet spot," as she puts it, and put one over the fence. It was a three run homer. It was also the game winner.

As she rounded first she apparently missed touching the bag. (She was catching a glimpse of her hit as it disappeared behind the fence.) Athletes tend to have quick reflexes, and hers was probably a quick slam of the brakes in order to touch the bag and then continue. Her cleat stopped. Her knee didn't.

As the first base coach urged her to crawl back to first base, the umps were consulted. Rules state that a designated runner can be used, but she forfeits the home run and is credited with only a single. Her teammates cannot help her or they forfeit the run. Then comes the surprise.

Opposing first baseman Mallory Holtman approaches the homeplate ump and asks if there's any rule against the opposing team assisting her around the bases. Apparently not. (Probably whoever wrote the rules never figured on the opposing team wanting to help lose a game.) Holtman and her shortstop teammate Liz Wallace trot out to first, pick up the increduluous Tucholsky and carry her around the bases, allowing her foot to touch each bag along the way.

The girls involved in this heroic show of sportsmanship are a little bewildered at all the fuss. Tucholsky may have had a career-ending injury. "What a way to go out, though," she says. Holtman says they were doing what they assumed anyone in their position would do: putting the needs of another player above those of the game itself.

Unfortunately, according to this USA Today report, not everyone's reaction is positive. One idiot grouses about Holtman's "selfish act" that cost her team the game. Those who deal with Little League parents (and it's certainly not limited to baseball) will understand. Some people just don't understand the "game" part of sports.

For the rest of us, this ranks among those moments that, as parents, make us proud to have kids. Had I been in attendance at that game, even as a Washington supporter, I would have screamed myself hoarse in support of those girls. I hope those who were there did just that.

Sports is all about excellence. These girls — Tucholsky, Holtman and Wallace — are excellent.

UPDATE: Guys, who have a pathological need to be masters of all sports whether they play them or not ("fantasy" leagues, anyone?), have pointed out that the umps messed up. The rules do in fact allow for a pinch runner in this particular situation. (The headline cracks me up: "It was a nice gesture, but...") C'mon, guys. It was a classy move by those girls, and all the deep analysis in the world isn't going to take that away from them. Get over it.

Fraternizing with the Enemy? Oh, Puhleeeeze...

Via Drudge this morning comes this delicious piece of political hypocrisy: Left-leaning bloggers are going ballistic over Democratic candidates and leaders appearing on Fox News.

As a refresher, this is the party that claims to...
  • fully support free speech
  • be tolerant of all peoples everywhere
  • respect the diversity not only of people but of ideas
Unless, of course, you happen to be a conservative. This we cannot tolerate, apparently.

Hence the Kos-ocrats are soiling their collective britches over the thought that their current standard-bearers are kanoodling with the likes of Bill O'Reilly (Public Enemy No. 1 and a half), "Fox News Sunday," and the like.

Get over it, kids. If you really respect diversity, then the opinions of the political right should be every bit as valid as your own. I personally am far more interested in how my candidate handles questions and accusations from CNN, the NY Times, and other liberal flagships (including that most odious of commentators, Keith Olbermann). Fox News should be a cakewalk for a John McCain. I would expect him to ace their questions. All the better if he can hold his own against the leftist bombasts.

Also, don't forget the injunction to "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." There's wisdom in keeping those lines of communication open, and recently failed Democratic candidate John Edwards is case in point. He it was to lead the initial boycotts of Fox News-sponsored Democratic debates, and ultimately his strategy failed him. As the battle for those suddenly all-important "swing votes" heats up, Clinton and Obama are now ready and (it seems) willing to confront the enemy on his turf. That it hasn't turned out so bad does not appease the Kos whiners. They have sinned by speaking directly with the enemy, and this sin is apparently unforgiveable.

[Total Aside Having Little or Nothing to Do with the Main Point: Sheesh. One commenter to the story used one of those precious little quotes that people often tag onto their emails as if to show how progressive and self-improving they are (as opposed to a school motto, which is what Mrs. Woody uses on her emails). It's a quote attributed to John F. Kennedy which says, "Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind." No argument from me. But did this young lady (she calls herself "Red Girl" — youth is assumed on my part) ever stop to research just how much effort Kennedy himself put into "ending war?" Did he not have opportunity to end our involvement in Vietnam? Could he not have encouraged his Vice President and ultimate successor to do the same?]

If "progressives" really want to have a national discussion and debate, they need to get over this exclusivity of party doctrine and engage the battle. Whining about their candidates doing just that is about the most regressive behavior I can think of. Makes it look like they don't have enough confidence in their own positions to allow a few broadsides from enemy cruisers.