Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chariots of the Insects

Sometimes it's just weird where memories come from or why they infest our brains. Take, for example, two movies that my brain suddenly became desperately interested in remembering more than thirty five years after I'd seen them.

The year was 1971, and I was very nearly a teenager. It was, in fact, the summer before my 13th birthday if I'm not mistaken. In those days we weren't too hung up about sending our youngsters alone to the theater, and our lone walk-in theater in town was less than a mile from the house. This meant that I alternately walked or cajoled Mom into taking me. Then, for a buck-fifty we got a double feature, and another seventy-five cents got you popcorn.

For purposes of this narrative, I should point out that my mother was and is a voracious reader. She went through phases in her reading, though. One year it was romances, for example. Another year she went all Margaret Mead on us and started buying or checking out books like "Ishi: The Last of His Tribe." She became absolutely fascinated by tribes or races of people that no longer existed. But her most fascinating period for me was the "faux science or explorer" genre of books that were becoming ubiquitous in the late 60's and early 70's. Not to say that there weren't some legitimate scientists or explorers among them. Thor Heyerdahl, for example, had become famous for demonstrating that ancient peoples could very well have navigated across the vast Pacific ocean in boats manufactured entirely of reeds. Mom snapped up all of his books. However, for every legitimate author Mom patronized, there were plenty of supermarket pulp paperbacks to balance them out.

I remember Mom picking up a copy of Erich von Daniken's "Chariots of the Gods," and I decided to read it. I think it was primarily because we Latter-day Saints are fascinated with the whole premise of the Book of Mormon and its depiction of life in ancient America, and von Daniken devoted many chapters to those ancient cultures as part of his "research." It was pretty heady stuff for a young post-Star-Trekian male such as myself.

So you'll understand that, as soon as the movie by the same name was released, I was keen to see it. Back in those days movies would hit the theaters and hang around for absolutely months before disappearing into the void of TV "Movie of the Week" features. So it's not surprising that I didn't get around to seeing "Chariots of the Gods" until nearly a year after it first came out. By that time, it was being paired with a relatively newer film called "The Hellstrom Chronicle," and I decided to see them both.

"The Hellstrom Chronicle" was another faux documentary that was supposed to sound like a scientific treatise on the survivability of insects compared with mankind in a post-apocolyptic world. What it was, really, was a science fiction thriller designed to creep 13 year old boys out by making their skin crawl even faster than the insects were crawling. At least, that's the effect it had on me.

"Chariots" was first in the lineup that day, as I recall. I remember happily chowing down on popcorn during the movie and loving all the footage of ancient artwork that von Daniken kept trying to compare with astronauts or alien beings. The movie was every bit as entertaining as the book, although it may be indirectly responsible for the propogation of every nut-job UFO conspiracist and ET truther that we have out there today. Didn't quite convince me, but I was there for the entertainment value more than anything else.

Then came "Hellstrom." Now, for sheer cinematography, "Hellstrom" was hard to beat. The cameras did a nearly miraculous job of getting up close and personal with several species of insects that I never knew existed and have spent the past 38 years trying to forget. But that's the problem: It's a film I desperately needed to forget. The basic premise was, quite simply, that the earth would devolve back into some sort of tropical rainforest kind of planet (Al Gore had nothing on these people) and that it would be a race for survival between Man and Insects. And Insects (all of which were magnified to the size of industrial construction equipment) would win. (This is where I learned for the first time that cockroaches are pretty much indestructible. Thanks for that, guys.) I can also tell you that, even 38 years later, just thinking about this film can make my skin crawl. Now imagine spending an entire movie that way, and you'll understand why I resolved as a 13 year old boy never to think of that film again.

So why is it, 38 years later, that my brain suddenly, at 1:00 in the stinkin' A.M., decided it needed to remember the name of that film that played as a double-header with "Chariots of the Gods" (a film I don't really mind remembering) just so I could experience that skin-crawling sensation once again? There is no logical or even illogical reason that I can think of, except that it's one of those useless chores in which the brain engages from time to time, like trying to comprehend Congress, or staying awake in staff meeting.

Oh, well. One good thing has come out of this reminiscence. I'm tired enough now to go to bed and get some decent sleep. Assuming I can get these locusts the size of Mack trucks out of my head.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Trying Not to Overreact

It's so easy to overreact to news stories these days, especially when the entire nation has become so polarized over issues ranging from health care to gay marriage and everything in between. Thus when I saw the headline "Aborted fetus cells used in beauty creams" I found myself feeling that gut-wrenching rage almost immediately. All sorts of pre-conceived biases and prejudices came wallowing up from somewhere deep in my digestive tract.

Almost reluctantly I followed the thread from The Jawa Report (a bunch of hyper-reactive bloggists if any such exist), through The Interested Participant (one of the Report's frequent bloggers), and on to the actual article posted yesterday at The Washington Times. All the while I fully expected my blood pressure to skyrocket.

Written by Valerie Richardson, the article seems meant to provoke precisely the kind of strong emotional response one expects from the pro-life movement when it comes to any discussion of abortion. Richardson quotes extensively from Children of God for Life, a watchdog group that apparently "monitors use of fetal material in medical products." The target of their wrath is a company called Neocutis, Inc, and they are said to have used "skin-cell proteins from an aborted fetus" in their anti-aging creams.

So far, so good. This is exactly the sort of thing that gets our pro-life dander up because we 1) hold all human life, even aborted fetuses, to be sacred, and 2) always suspect that the right-to-choicers would stop at nothing to profit from their perfidy. And, I suspect, the Washington Times would love nothing more than to see this issue become a major controversy which, understandably, would sell papers.

Still, the article bears deeper reading.

[DISCLAIMER: I know nothing of either Children of God for Life, or Neocutis, Inc. beyond what I read in this article. This opinion I express here is based solely on the strength of this single article and no other research has been made or attempted.]

The fetus (singular) was that of a 14 week old child who, doctors had determined, would not make it to term.

Now we enter that grayest of areas in the entire abortion debate. It has often been said by pro-life politicians that they only support abortion in the case of medical necessity. With few other details available to us, we may presume that a difficult decision had been made by the parents. Certainly there are strong emotions even for this kind of decision; many parents would choose to carry the baby until the inevitable end, even if that end were a miscarriage. Yet other parents may not be able to face the emotional drain for any longer than is absolutely necessary. This is one of those times that we cannot second guess the participants. This was a personal decision and the reasons are theirs alone.

Next comes another hard decision. Post-mortem organ donations have been commonplace for many years now. Vital organs, skin and bone grafts, even full facial replacements have been made possible by those who decided at some point in their lives to donate their bodies for that purpose upon death. In this case, Neocutis claims that the cells harvested from the skin of this baby were used to develop a treatment for "severe dermatological injuries."

Having nevered suffered a "severe dermatological injury" myself, I can only imagine the pain and emotional stress caused by third degree burns, for example. Were I thus afflicted, I would likely be crying out for any available treatment. The provenance of that treatment would be of lesser import to me at that moment.

So, if the company's statement is in fact true, that makes the headline of this article somewhat misleading. The cells weren't used in mere "beauty creams" as the headline would have us believe, but for something that may well have healing properties for someone in critical need. Beauty creams smack of vanity and the hypocrisy of ever-younger-appearing Hollywood elitists. But a dermatological treatment is something used in healing — whether physical or emotional. But healing nonetheless.

Hence I find that I am not quite ready to jump on the boycott demanded by the watchdogs in this case. Given the circumstances, the choices made, and the outcome, I choose to leave this one be. All I would ask is that all women give such careful, even prayerful, consideration to the young lives entrusted to their care, especially when those young lives have no ability to speak up in their own defense.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Guys and Noise

When I was a kid, I well remember being on longish drives (in kid terms: anything > 1/2 hr = long drive) and trying very hard not to make noise in the back seat. Or, perhaps more accurately, trying very hard for, maybe, the first five minutes. After that, we'd revert to normal Kid Noise Levels (called "kennels" by the cognoscenti). Had I been more of an entrepreneur in those days, I'd have gotten rich off of forming pools to determine when, exactly, Dad would turn his head slightly and yell, "What's that noise?!"

Dad was always hyper-sensitive to car noises on long trips, and with good reason. Our cars were notorious for breaking down for any number of reasons, including rusting while in use. On a trip to San Diego one year, we broke down and had to be towed (oh, the shame!) to a local service station. Remember "service stations?" Me, neither. Anyway, I was mortified for some reason. Dad was just purple in the face.

The funny thing is, Dad wasn't nearly that bad on local trips. He seems to have driven around town pretty much on automatic. Side mirrors could fall off the car while we were driving to Church, for example, and he'd barely register. He was probably more concerned that we (his family) were making him "late," which happened nearly every Sunday.

Anyway, I bring this up because of a story told by Jay Tea over at Wizbang, wherein he has to Google instructions on how to start a Prius so his bosses could leave on a road trip.

Turns out that the Prius starts in "electric mode" which means there's no engine noise to inform the driver that the car is ready to roll. You just hit the "Power" button, put it in gear and roll.

Make that reason number 2 why I will probably never get a Prius.

Reason number 1 is because I am constantly getting behind one of these gutless machines in the HOV lanes out here in California, and I have yet to find the Prius that can reach anywhere close to the speed limit. When Yugos having a 75 to 1 rust-to-viable-steel ratio are passing me in the slow lane, I get a tad upset with the green-hugging driver in front of me.

So I will not likely ever get a Prius. I'd always be afraid that some maniac in a mini-van right behind me is about to deploy his tactical road-obstacle removing laser any minute now.

Guys need noise. This explains everything from making motor noises in the bathtub (BBBBRRRRMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM) to the Space Shuttle. Even the APU's on that baby make noise when you "fire 'em up." And wait until the ARES rocket makes its debut this week. Noise, dude! Noise!!

As a young man, I always envied the teenagers down the street that had those cars that made Dad crazy. They were always doing something with "headers" (removing them, I think), and either losing or heavily modifying their mufflers so that their steet 'rods would have roughly the same decibel level as a 747 at full thrust. And nearly the same horsepower.

(I notice, however, that teenagers don't seem to bother with headers and mufflers anymore. They're too busy installing sound systems in their vehicles that are medically proven to cause sterility. This is probably a good thing because I'm not sure I want these idiots to reproduce.)

I guess this all means that I will, for now, remain among the traditionalists who demand a car noise when I turn on the ignition. Preferably the one that goes "BBBBBRRRRMMMMMMMMMMMM."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Obama's WMDs

I seem to remember that it was not so long ago — months, perhaps? — that liberal backlash against the Bush administration amounted to "where are the WMDs?" Entire blogs and news-gathering sites were devoted to the idea that the whole reason why we were in Iraq, those pesky weapons of mass destruction, were in fact a figment of Bush's overworked imagination. Obama himself campaigned on that very idea, did he not? Certainly the mainstream media (those husky water-carriers for the current president) loudly trumpeted the fact that Bush's intelligence may not only have been incomplete, but had by that time caused the deaths of thousands of American soldiers.

Now it appears that Obama may have his own "weapons of mass destruction" to worry about.

For months now we have listened to this man and his enablers in Congress proclaim to anyone who would listen (and, of course, to those of us who stopped listening a long time ago) that one of the reasons we need a public "option" (which isn't really an option, by the way) is because of the obscene, immoral, illegal, unconstitutional, and even really, really bad profits of the apparently money-bloated health insurance companies. In fact, to hear Pelosi and Reid spin it, these insurers are even more deadly and rapacious than the people who run TARP-bailed companies and dare to award themselves bonuses for their clever work of driving a company into the ground and then receiving government tax money to keep it alive.

So tell me why, please, it is that the Associated Press, of all anti-conservative news organizations that exist in the world today, is the one to report that, on a list of profit-mongerers in this country, health insurance providers are number 35 on the list?

Here's a thought: if the company that owns the Taco Bell brand is running higher profit margins than the health care insurance companies, why not target putting Taco Bell out of business so our fast-food-driven health problems will go away and hence drive our insurance premiums down as well?

On second thought, leave Taco Bell alone. Their food is arguably healthier than most fast-food joints, and our personal favorite at the moment here at Hacienda Woody. Go after Pizza Hut instead. They're expendable.

Also, while trying their level best to drive insurance carriers out of business, I have yet to hear what constructive devices the Democrats in Congress will employ to make sure that those thousands of people who ultimately lose their jobs in the insurance industry will be able to find employment elsewhere. Not to mention paying for all their health care while they are unemployed because they won't be able to afford even the public option.

So profits of the health insurers will, I predict, become Obama's weapons of mass destruction. He will use them to get us into a war that we on the right don't want to fight, all the while assuring us that "levelling the playing field" is the only way to provide coverage to "millions" of Americans who will die unless we ACT NOW. PREFERABLY BEFORE ANYONE HAS A CHANCE TO READ THE ACTUAL LEGISLATION. Then, if Obama follows the Bush defense, he will shrug and say "we acted in good faith based on the facts we had at the time."

Guess what, Mr. President? We aren't any more likely to believe you than you were to believe President Bush.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Inmates Running the Asylum

I defy anyone to give me a reasonable explanation as to why this behavior is in any way considered appropriate. This is something I expect of a marriage about to hit divorce court. If someone can come up with a solid procedural reason for changing the locks on a committee room, I'll shut up about the whole thing.

The only explanation I can come up with is that the only reason why the Democrats complained so bitterly about Gingrich's term as Speaker was because they were itching to prove that they could be every bit as corrupt and scandalous as the Republicans were proving to be.

Congratulations, Pelosi. You've succeeded. Your "transparent Congress" now officially needs a modesty shield.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


John Nolte, writing for Big Hollywood, talks about a press release from the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) outlining "Play your Part America." This is a week-long blitz of TV programming on the four major networks (ironically including FOX in this case) designed to forward Obama's volunteerism and service social agenda.

Political manipulation of the entertainment industry is nothing new. Celebrities have, for decades, fronted for their favorite causes. Some, like Bob Hope, were classy enough to make a tradition out of serving others. As time has passed, however, many others have simply become shills for one cause or another; most notably those who shriekingly support the rights of animals over and above all other living creatures, including unborn children.

Nolte's piece, of course, takes note of the increasingly alarming ease with which Obama has made the media his all-too willing puppet in trumpeting his domestic and foreign agendas to the world. He is the first president, I believe, to have a completely integrated media strategy that relies on willing compliance from Hollywood. That's not to say that previous presidents have not had media strategies, of course. Even Bush, who more often than not wore a large red bullseye on his chest so far as the media were concerned, had strategies for making the Iraq war somewhat more palatable to the public while refusing to play into their hysterical reporting.

But Obama seems to be the first to have this integrated "organic" approach. A cooperative media is, in fact, a keystone to Obama's agenda because without their help he cannot hope to overcome the perceptions that so many of us have of a leader without experience or accomplishment trying to create a socialist utopia in this country. It's a truly disturbing trend.

Oddly enough, his media (and artistic: don't forget his rebranding of the NEA!) manipulations are not all that troubling to me. Not personally, anyway. I'm just not that big of a media consumer to worry about whether I'll be subjected to the latest Obama-ganda whenever I turn on the TV. I actually assume I'll be subjected to it, in fact, which makes it easier to simply be entertained, rather than indoctrinated.

My problem is that I'm pretty sure the government as a whole has absolutely no clue what "volunteerism" or "service" even are. Both activities are deeply personal in nature. You can have entire organizations performing service, such as Habitats for Humanity, but participation in such organizations should always be a personal decision borne of a desire to help others.

It is the desire that is lacking from Obama's perception of a nation full of volunteers providing service to others. The president's agenda is designed to "encourage" citizens to volunteer and provide service, preferably somewhat more than is provided today, to a growing number of those who are considered less fortunate. Unfortunately, insisting on having people volunteer often backfires.

For simplicity, let's assume that there are three basic types of volunteer:

1. The eager volunteer. This is the person who observes a need, feels a strong desire to assist, and does so. The only potential stumbling block for this person is the occasional reluctance of the recipient of this service. No reasonable person, however, would argue with the motives of the eager volunteer.

2. The impressive volunteer. This is the person who answers a call for volunteers, not because they just naturally like to help, but more because the service looks good on a resumé. Beware the impressive volunteer. Often their good intentions are somewhat marred by the sloppy or inept delivery of the service required, which may cause more harm than good. This is what has become of ACORN. They started with the right idea (giving them the benefit of the doubt here), but have become an enabler of thoroughly destructive behaviors.

3. The reluctant volunteer. Here is the person who has been ordered or requested to provide a service that they would not have otherwise provided. They will do so grudgingly, answering the call not because they want to, but because it seems to be expected of them. Akin to a petty criminal who has been ordered to "community service" in order to atone for some crime, these "volunteers" are, in fact, conscripts who will do the bare minimum required of them, and probably not do the best of jobs in the process.

Of course there are many variants of all three basic types. The problem with inducing people to volunteer, as Obama appears to be attempting, is that you more frequently get the impressive or reluctant volunteers to answer the call. The eager volunteers are already serving, happily, and probably expending whatever time they can to their current cause. The impressive volunteers will serve because it looks good to do so, but may not provide the intended results. That leaves the reluctant ones, who won't serve unless given a compelling reason ("we'll throw your fanny in jail unless...") to do so.

I don't know about you, but if I or my family needed service, I'm not altogether sure I'd want any but a truly eager volunteer to provide it. How on earth will Hollywood solve that particular problem?

Let me know if they do. Unless they've infiltrated NCIS next week, I probably won't be watching.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Let's Be Clear

The commissioner of an organization — an organization known primarily for its continual substance abuse problems; star athletes that have trouble staying out of jail; athletes who make more in one season than most of us will see in our lifetimes yet always seem to "need" more; athletes who, in fact, say a lot of outrageous things — is going to deny Rush Limbaugh the opportunity to become part-owner of a franchise because he says some things that make people uncomfortable.

Did I get that right?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Fair "My Fair Lady"

There are problems with tackling iconic roles in theater. Yul Brynner, for example, will always "own" the role of King Mongkut in "The King and I," as he did through the film version and two or three revivals. Ultimately he played the role over 4500 times.

Another iconic role is that of Professor Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady." Rex Harrison, like Brynner, performed the role both on Broadway, on film, and in at least one revival.

(Interesting side note: I never saw Yul Brynner on stage in "The King and I," but heard that even through his revivals he did a marvelous job. The 1981 revival of "My Fair Lady" I did see, and was immediately struck by the fact that here was a man (Harrison) who, in my humble opinion, desperately needed to retire.)

I mention this because those who try to fill such roles often find themselves compared — unfairly, of course — to those icons who gave the role their imprimature. So when we had a chance to see the Downey Civic Light Opera version of "My Fair Lady" yesterday, I wondered how the actors would handle this extra burden.

In a word, they did well. Those who are familiar with the movie version well remember Audrey Hepburn's performance as Eliza Doolittle, along with Harrison as Higgins, Stanley Holloway as the dustman cum "moralist" Alfred P. Doolittle, and Wilfred Hyde-White as Col. Hugh Pickering. I was delighted to see that Downey's main protagonists, while using certain mannerisms created by the film stars, were more than able to find their own characterizations in this delightful, if extremely long show.

Joseph Culliton is nothing like Rex Harrison, thankfully. Whenever Harrison would become at all excitable (which happens more often than not in this Lerner and Leowe production), his voice would take on an edge that reminded me forcefully of fingernails on a chalkboard. Culliton's voice is a much smoother baritone, and, whereas Harrison was no singer and generally spoke through his music, Culliton did the music justice. In fact, this may be the first time I've ever heard anyone actually sing "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." For the rest of his characterization, Culliton relied on the wit contained in the libretto. His delivery was appropriately deadpan as a depiction of the ultimate chauvinist.

His friend Pickering is played with great charm by Richard Gould, who has the good fortune to actually resemble Hyde-White somewhat. His portrayal of the benefactor in this attempt to create a lady of elegance from a girl who had only raw material to start with is compelling. He makes the perfect low-key foil to the mulish Higgins.

Charlotte Carpenter does a delightful job with Eliza. Her opening Cockney is, ironically enough, well articulated in the opening scenes, and she transitions into the proper English accents with sufficient aplomb. She also has the pipes to pull off the job. It is well known that Audrey Hepburn was no singer and had her songs dubbed. Carpenter needs no such assistance. She worked well through the standards of "I Could Have Danced All Night," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" and "The Rain in Spain." In fact, the only criticism I had of the entire show was what seemed to be uneven miking of the principals. I'm not sure if this was because I was in the front row of the orchestra section, but even with mikes it was sometimes hard to hear the leads over the energetic pit orchestra (ably led by Eddy Clement).

George Champion has perhaps the toughest challenge of the neo-icons in this production. Stanley Holloway's performance as Alfred Doolittle is a classic, and his interpretation of a common dustman with uncommon morals has set a rather high standard for all who follow. Champion, however, gives Holloway a run for his money, even winkingly grabbing several of Holloway's signature moves and expressions along the way. He does the role credit, though, and marks himself as a true showman in the process.

One nice surprise was the performance of Jason Marquez as Freddy Eynsford-Hill. It is altogether too easy to make this one of the sappiest roles in all of theater, because the part is basically written as a lovesick tenor, and there is nothing worse in this world than a lovesick tenor. Marquez is something of a warbler, but he commanded the role of the star-struck would-be lover. His singing was never over-the-top, and he still managed to give Freddy that breathless quality of a man out of his mind over a beautiful woman.

Taken altogether it was a wonderful performance. They started a few minutes late, but the show clocks in at just over 3 hours, so you need to be committed to the show in order to truly enjoy it. There's plenty of good choreography and ensemble work, particularly among those who portrayed the long-suffering staff of Prof. Higgins' household. Their work through "Poor Professor Higgins" was simply fun to watch. Equally fun was the male quartet that accompanies Eliza in "Loverly." Throughout the show the cast and chorus showed tremendous energy and focus, and provided us with many memorable moments.

If you're anywhere in the area this weekend or next, give this one your consideration. I believe you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Olympic Fail? Or Just Olympic Loss?

One of the things that surprises me about reaction to Chicago's loss of the 2016 games (to Rio de Janeiro) is that so many people seemed to think it was ours to lose. For all the attention these games got from our Commander in Chief, his wife, and even Oprah Winfrey, you'd think this was a major international policy failure on our part.

Yet, perhaps because I'm not from Chicago and hold no special affection for the city, our loss to Rio is less bothersome to me than the possibility that very soon I may be facing jail time if ever I can't afford to buy health care insurance. In other words, is it just possible that our priorities are a little skewed here?

Worse yet, the recriminations (Bush's fault! No, wait! Obama's fault! No, wait...) change nothing. For heaven's sake, people. Get over it, find the lessons learned, and be better prepared for next time. Also, who ever said these games were in any way inevitable? Jesse Jackson? Since when did he become a bellwether of American domestic policy?

Things we know about hosting the Olympic Games:

1. They always cost more than we plan. The costs go way beyond just dollar figures, too. Reputations are made or broken because of the games, and I'm not just talking about the athletes. The bottom line — the one no one ever wants to discuss except for a few malcontents in the editorial sections of obscure newspapers — is that the taxpayers always get stiffed. Consider this: how many millions of dollars did Chicago spend on their losing bid? Enough, probably, to build a few low-cost housing units would be my guess.

2. The Olympic Games are political. Always have been, always will be. Heads of state of the various participating nations take it as a point of national pride to send their teams to the Games. Thus nationalism, even patriotism, is closely tied to the competition. The athletes may take center stage, but how many of the last several games we watched were distracted by numerous political stunts. Remember the allegations of under-aged gymnasts in China? How about the figure skating judging fiascos of several years ago that have pretty much ruined the sport now? And, of course, how could we ever forget the terrorism of the Munich Games?

3. Not that the athletes are saints themselves. How many doping scandals have we witnessed just in the last three summer events? We want, desperately, to hold our Olympic athletes up as icons, heroes, or even just all-around good people. To have them mock that adoration by doping themselves up for the sake of a disc of medal to hang around their necks is seen as a betrayal by the devotees of the Games. Likewise, we always hope we've learned our lessons about sending primas donna to the Games. The so-called "Dream Team" (ver. 2.0) of several Games ago was a classic case of why narcissists should never be allowed to compete. I got so fed up with the prancing and preening of certain high-powered multi-million dollar talent from the basketball venue that year that I will probably never watch an Olympic basketball game again. Ever.

All of these things make me wonder why on earth we even bother competing to host the Games anymore. Cronyism is rampant in the IOC, and you have to play their game (while appearing not to play their game) in order to have any chance at all of winning. Given the sheer number of Games that this country has hosted over the years, I am not surprised to see other nations be given the chance.

Rio is significant for the fact that these are the first Games to be hosted in a South American nation. Good for them. I wish them well as they struggle now to get their venues built, deal with security concerns, displace all kinds of people in order to have Olympic Villages ready for the athletes, and drive their country into near-bankruptcy in order to pay for it all.

Hey, Rio! Let us know if you need any money, won't you? Chicago apparently has some tax revenue to burn.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The ACORN Never Falls Far from the Media Tree

Disclaimer: Yes, I read Michelle Malkin. I do so not because I particularly enjoy her prose; in fact I find her to be among the harsher voices of the conservative bloggers. Yet she also remains one of those who consistently finds and reports on those stories that mainstreamers either under-report, ignore, or mis-report.

The recent videos showing ACORN representatives encouraging people to lie in order to bilk the government out of housing that might be put to better use (i.e., anything but a house of ill-repute) are case in point.

Now, you know... you just know... that if this were a conservative organization, the networks would not hesitate to plant an undercover reporter in one of their offices if it meant getting their hands on this kind of video. In fact, our local newsies do this all the time. They have "special correspondents" whose sole job it is to track down and embarrass scoff-laws at any cost. They use Michael Moore assault tactics to accost these people at work, at home, or whereever the story leads, so that we get the "truth" of the matter from the horse's mouth.

Michelle finds two ironies here. First, she points to Charlie Gibson's apparent ignorance of the entire ACORN video fiasco. Based on the transcripts of the interview, I find Gibson's remarks that he was "unaware" of this story to be disengenuous at best.

Who for a minute would believe that ABC (along with every other news outlet of any repute) is not completely wired into the internet and keeping a close eye on both sides of the political blogosphere? That's what they have staff for, for crying out loud. This story has been percolating for a couple of weeks now, and this is the first the mighty Charles Gibson has heard of it?

Well, okay, let's give him the benefit of the doubt. In his crystal reporting booth, it's just possible that his staff and editors left him out of the loop on the decision of whether to run with this story, or treat it like a non-issue so their liberal customer base wouldn't roast them over a spit. That would give Gibson "plausible deniability" (a term I've come to completely despise over the years) and allow him to claim that he had no idea that ACORN was putting their collective feet in their over-large mouths.

But I don't buy it.

Malkin then points to a story out of Newsbusters.org wherein Nora O'Donnell of NBC frets that these videos may comprise a form of "entrapment." Oh, brother. ABSCAM could, conceivably, have been classified as "entrapment." The worst these videos could be considered is a violation of wire-tapping laws in certain states (primarily Maryland). Entrapment is a method of enticing or encouraging someone to do something illegal where they show reluctance to proceed. These ACORN representatives were only too happy to show these fake sex traffickers exactly how to lie to the government so they could set up their illicit brothels. Hardly entrapment.

Of course, we might still be waiting for NBC to report on this issue at all were it not for the fact that the Senate voted (finally!) to block ACORN funding last night. Even without a foreknowledge of the ACORN videos, then, this vote by the Senate should have sprung even the laziest mainstreamers into immediate action. Why the amendment in the first place? Why block funding to one of Obama's favorite organizations? What could possibly justify such an action?

Michelle calls this the "ostrich media" and wonders what we think. I think they should be renamed the "convenient-hearing media." Not as catchy, but more appropriate. Their heads aren't in the sand. They're watching those videos on the internet with their fingers in their ears.

"La, la, la! Can't hear you!"

(Corrected to show Gibson working for ABC, not NBC. Like I ever care to watch primetime news.)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Why Late-Night Blogging Never Pays

Two Obama-related items on my mind tonight.

First, the webcast directed at school-aged children across the country, scheduled for September 8.

This to me smacks of severe over-reach on Obama's part. Ostensibly the purpose of this speech is to motivate kids to stay engaged with their education. Not bad as topics go. However, if the intent is to keep kids in school to prevent them from dropping out at some point, does he really believe that anything he says is going to make a difference for more than a handful of kids? Also, I would guess that this will have even less impact on those who have already made the decision to leave school. Kids who have already given up on their education are not likely to change their minds at this point, no matter who delivers this message. If their own parents can't reach them, how is a man sitting in a mansion thousands of miles from their reality going to do the job?

The discussion questions distributed by the Education department are most revealing. Worded in such a way that I strongly suspect more than just staying in school will arise in Obama's speech. I'm guessing there will be pointed references to community service, and requests to convince Mommy and Daddy that Obama "needs" their help in promoting other points of his domestic agenda. Won't know that until the speech is actually given, but I will be surprised if I am much mistaken.

The other mind-waster in front of me tonight is (natch!) health care. I find it amusing that the administration is suddenly back-pedalling on the "public option." For one thing, even though Drudge trumpets its demise, the legislation is not Obama's. He didn't write it, and heaven knows he probably has no idea what's really in it. But assuming the report is correct, and Obama is truly ready to set aside (I don't for a minute believe it won't be resurrected at some point in the future) the public option, how do we know that it will be expunged from HR 3200?

We don't.

I can't see Pelosi or Reid being any too happy about striking any portion of this 1000 page nightmare because Congress seems to feel anymore that they're paid by the word. Also, the more liberal elements of the party will make hay of this should they capitulate on the public option at this point.

What interests me most, however, isn't the decision to take the public option off the table. What I find interesting is a post over at Wizbang that talks about progressive Christians getting into the act. Michael Laprarie talks about this development, and notes the opinions of folks like Father Jake, who says:
I must admit to being simply astounded that anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ would be against providing health care for every child of God.

Unless you cut out the 25th chapter of Matthew, the parable of the Good Samaritan, the year of Jubilee, and various other big swaths of scripture, it is simply impossible to refute the clear message that God has a preferential bias for the poor.
It's one of those yes-and-no statements, really. Yes, the Savior strongly advised His followers with respect to the poor (and the widows, and the sick, and so on). His strict injuncture was to turn them not away, lest the church fall under condemnation.

But (here's the "no") the Savior was also careful to separate the functions of the church (i.e., His followers) from the functions of government. Giving Caesar his due was the Savior's way of reminding us that governments are imperfect, if necessary, and that we should never trust them to do what the church itself must always do. Nowhere in scripture does the Savior say "set ye up an government with power to take from the rich and give to the poor." No, what He specifically says is, "sell that thou hast, and give to the poor" if you want access to the blessings of heaven (Matthew 19:21). He does not instruct Caesar and the government to do this; he gives this commandment to followers who wish to live righteous lives.

It's one of those arguments where you never find big-government proponents on the correct side. They always get it wrong. Only government, they insist, has the "power" to level the playing field and make things fair for all concerned. It's the same philosophy that creates welfare states, demonizes those who dare to profit from their labors, and dismisses any logic presented that does not match their own as so much ephemera. This is how we end up with thousands of home-owners who cannot pay their mortgages. (Remember that the mortgage crisis began not with the economic downturn and massive layoffs, but that the economic downturn and massive layoffs were driven in part by the mortgage crisis.) Forcing banks to restructure loans to make it easier for low-income families to keep their homes for now is no guarantee that these same families will ever be able to actually afford those loans.

Likewise, guaranteeing health insurance coverage for 15 million people (many people strongly dispute Obama's 45 million that he spins as incontrovertible fact) at the expense of those who can and do afford their current coverage makes no sense whatsoever. I'm all for doing my part to care for my neighbors, but let me do so as an act of service, rather than force me to do so through increased taxes that will eventually ensure that I can never retire on my pension. Assuming my company can still support my pension when that time comes.

If Obama's policies are allowed to continue unabated, I'm pretty sure I won't long be one who is able to help pay for these schemes. I will instead be one of the increasing number of those who must beg the government for more handouts, because my company won't be able to afford me any longer.

What a deal.

Monday, August 17, 2009

O Canada New York!

A Democrat from New York, Eric Massa, represents what is considered to be a "predominantly conservative" district in New York. This begs two questions:

1. Conservatives? In NEW YORK?? (No, really. Same question. Just, um, emphasized.)

2. How on earth did he get elected in the first place?

But of course these questions pale in comparison to the flash flood of conservative angst over the fact that this Democratic Congressman dared state that (gasp!) he would vote in favor of a single-payer health care system despite his constituents' wishes.

Big hairy deal.

Like Republicans haven't been doing that over the protests of their own constituents for years now.

No, the sin here isn't in stating a desire to vote contrary to the wishes of the electorate. As far as representation goes, even registered Democrats (including illegal aliens and dead people) are beginning to understand that they didn't necessarily get what they voted for last November. Also, I beg to point out that numerous delegates to both the Second Continental Congress as well as the Constitutional Convention were known to vote in direct opposition to the stated desires of the people who sent them there. It's how this nation got its start, for better or worse.

The sin, as I see it, is in propounding legislation that half of Congress hasn't even read, yet somehow firmly believes will be this wonderful, magical panacea that will suddenly have health care flowing down into the homes of every American (and millions of non-Americans) in this country. The sin is further exacerbated by not allowing each and every element of this "plan" to be dragged out into public and debated in honest, open forums where both sides can present their cases (using quotes from the actual legislation as opposed to talking points) so that we, the public, can make equally honest, open decisions about which elements of the "plan" to take out into the town squares and flog until their backsides look like so much chopped liver. Then subject them to a single-payer health care system such as they have in Canada, which is apparently so bad that the people charged with running it are furiously trying to figure out just how to "fix" it.

So let's not excoriate Rep. Massa just because he chooses to vote against his own constituents. Let's wait until he actually commits the sin, then apply the appropriate punishment.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pelosi and Hoyer Get It Wrong

This is precisely why I can't completely ignore the Woundup. There's simply too much that requires a response, even from know-nothing conservative hacks like myself.

So Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi write together for USA Today and accuse those of us who voice - loudly - our opinions against HR 3200 of being "un-American."

This just drips with irony.

First, Hoyer remarks that Harry Truman once asked Congress to guarantee the "right to adequate medical care and protection from the economic fears of sickness" for all Americans shortly after World War II. An admirable sentiment, and one that seems to resonate with many, many people. But the hard reality of it all is that nowhere in the Constitution of the United States or the Declaration of Independence do they speak to health care being one of our absolute "rights." Life and liberty, certainly, along with the pursuit (not the attainment) of happiness, but not universal health care.

I'd be willing to meet Hoyer half-way on this one: If he could somehow demonstrate to me where a government-mandated solution to anything ever resulted in a more efficient way of doing anything but drive up our national deficit, I'll agree that Congress has at least a prayer of putting together a workable "solution" to a crisis that doesn't exist for most of us.

And by the way, Steny, we're still waiting for companies to start hiring again. How's that stimulus-thingy working out for you?

Next we come to Madam Speaker. Pelosi represents probably the worst Speaker of the House we've had in living memory. Not even Newt Gingrich, who so ineptly destroyed Republican credibility with his ill-fated "Contract with America" can claim that honor. Thus we find her statement that "[d]rowning out opposing views is simply un-American" to be completely laughable.

This from the party that gave us the Chicago Seven. This from the party that harbors professional disrupters like Code Pink and ACORN. And let us not forget their standing militia, the SEIU union thugs who are even now cracking their knuckles at the thought of fresh meat at the next town hall event. "Un-American," Nancy? Surely not.

Of course, it's one thing to accuse the protesters of being nothing more than paid shills of the insurance industry. It's another thing altogether to present actual evidence that this is true. I'm still waiting to see the proof that a majority of those who have gotten "disruptive" (read: vocal) at town hall meetings are, in fact, paid operatives of the insurance magnates. I suppose I'd better not hold my breath.

I also remind Madam Speaker that it was no less a personage than Hillary Rodham Clinton who loudly proclaimed our absolute right to disagree with any administration. Just wanted to point that out.

As for hanging people in effigy, well, the Democrats would know all about that, now, wouldn't they? Haven't they burned enough Bush effigies and American flags between them to make them undeniable experts in that arena?

No, I'm sorry, Madam Speaker and Mr. Hoyer, your arguments have a hollow ring to them. Those who protest your ill-conceived "reform" legislation are merely trying to make sure you know where we stand before you force this travesty on a nation ill-prepared to handle its after-effects.

We will not go quietly.

Friday, August 07, 2009

A Kinda, Sorta, Almost Hiatus

I'm taking a step back from the Woundup for awhile. Evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

I've started a new blogging life elsewhere. I won't link to it from here because I really don't like what the Woundup represents right now. The Woundup, as the name implies, is all about being keyed up about something or other, usually involving the stupidity that is American politics today, and writing about it as if I were some sort of rabid commentator with a point of view worth sharing with the world.

All blogs of a political nature start that way, don't they? We write missive after missive about The State of Things. We spend countless hours trying to find that very clever voice that people will just fall over themselves to read and admire, then sit around wondering why the linkage never happened.

I can't honestly say that it happened exactly that way for me, though. I never really deluded myself with the idea that my writing was of any real interest to more than a handful of my closest friends, family, and a few hangers-on.

However, I can say - with certainty - that I dislike what this experience has brought me. High levels of stress, increased sarcasm and cynicism, and an unhealthy dislike of our modern political process. I saw these aspects of my writing developing over a period of years in the waning days of the Bush administration, and have seen them rise with alarming rapidity in the opening days of the Obama administration.

I can't read about health care reform without getting angry. Nearly violently so. Not that I would ever direct this anger at anyone in the physical world. No, I really am far too pacifistic for that. But I see that anger manifest itself in these posts and feel somehow... not ashamed, but grief-stricken, as if for someone who had come to a tragic end. What a waste, people might say about Woody. He never really had a chance, did he?

Well, that may be true, if one were to judge Woody merely on the totality of these writings. I, more than anyone else including my critics, know that I am not a political analyst of any caliber. I have no legal background. I am not highly placed in corporate America so I cannot drive the market for better or for worse. I can only observe and offer my views.

Which have become angry. So very, very angry.

I despise the direction this country is taking. That's not just the Republican in me speaking. That's the experience of a man who has watched wistfully as his own party slowly but inexorably denied its own roots to become little better than the opposition at keeping America free from its increasingly socialist tendencies. I see now a country in total disarray. People who refuse to kneel at the altar of nationalized health care are branded as Nazis. Unions are mobilizing now to infiltrate the same Town Hall meetings where people asked pointed questions of their elected representatives so they can "punch back twice as hard." The mob mentality was never sharper than it is today, working on behalf of Obamacare.

And as my stress levels rise in response to these stimuli, so also does my spiritual connection with my Creator necessarily decrease. Thus I must make a decision. Continue to cull through so much material about which to write my snarky blog posts, or take a step back and try to preserve my mental and spiritual energies.

There really is no choice. The Woundup must slow to a crawl and stay there for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, as I mentioned before, I blog elsewhere. The Inner Dad will slowly dissipate in favor of the new blog I started over at Wordpress. If you must find me, look for me there. You'll still see references to Woody, but Woody will be much more contemplative in his approach to his writing, at least until these toxins are expelled from my system.

One last thing: I do not and will not apologize for what I've written here. Those opinions were and (mostly) still are valid. They represent what I feel, particularly when pointing out the foibles of politicians and their blatantly unthinking legislation. For that reason alone, I don't believe the Woundup will ever disappear completely. There will come a time when the pen must try to outshout the sword, particularly when Congress and the President try to force socialized health care down our throats.

When that happens, I'm sure I'll have more to say. I can't deny who I am, after all, and I still occasionally get wound up.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Ghost of Joseph McCarthy

I'm not sure if anyone else in the blogosphere has made this connection, but I think it needs to be said:

The White House is channeling the ghost of Joseph McCarthy.

This is especially ironic given that everyone in Obama's party - and not a few on the other side of the aisle - have long decried both McCarthy's philosophies and his methods. Even more ironic (not that this has any direct bearing on this thread of thought) were McCarthy's strange ties to the Kennedy dynasty back in the day.

So here's the question of the day: If it was wrong fifty-plus years ago to rat out people you thought might be sympathetic to communism in this country, how is it any more acceptable today to email the White House with names and information on those who disagree with your pet domestic policy?

After McCarthy's career imploded, Pres. Eisenhower was quoted as saying that "McCarthyism is now McCarthywasm."

I think we're back to ism now.

Open Letter to Lanny Davis

Hey, Lanny. You don't know me, but my pretend name is Woody, and I blog here at Woody's Woundup. (I know, I know... how could a conservative blogger come up with such a clever name? Just lucky, I guess.)

First, just want to thank you for your recent post over at Politico. Very informative, that was. Nice encapsulated syllabus of the entire Democrat worldview these days.

Couple of things for you, Lanny. First of all, I want you to take a good, long look at the photo in the masthead above. See it? Right next to the "Woody's Woundup" title? I want to you know, Lanny, that this is a fairly accurate photographic depiction of yours truly. Now, granted it's been a few years. The face is a bit fuller these days; the glasses are rounder, and the temples are grayer. But that's me.

So let me save you some time and trouble here. You won't find my face at any town hall events where Congresspersons are trying desperately to sell the unsellable. The best facial recognition software available to modern forensics labs won't find my mug at any such public gathering. Go ahead and try. But my name isn't Waldo and you won't find me.

Believe me, it's not that I don't support the protestors. Heavens to Betsy, if I didn't break out in hives whenever I get close to politicians in general, I'd be there. But, really, I'm more the "wait until the next day and read about it" kind of subversive. I don't believe for a minute that you Democrats are telling anything approaching the truth in this entire health care reform movement, and nothing you try to tell me in some glorified "meet the little people" get-together is likely to change my mind. (Which reminds me... that "rat out the dissenters and email us their info" thing the White House started? Nice touch.)

But I do have a few questions for you, and I'll be glad to entertain your answers.

First, can you see any real benefit to our passing legislation that most members of Congress haven't ever (and likely won't ever) read? Honestly, when a self-serving narcissist like Arlen Specter can stand up in front of a crowd and insist that we need to move "quickly" yet refuses to read the bill himself, what does this tell us about the bill? Mostly it tells us that the bill is so toxic that even looking at it will cause various cancers and, probably, sterility. Can you see why a few of us might protest this thing?

Secondly, what's your problem with protests at speeches? I mean, really, aren't you the guys who stood by and said nothing about Code Pink when they disrupted Senate deliberations? Aren't you the same folks who cheered loudly whenever Ann Coulter was attacked with pies (or worse) at her speeches? Let's be honest here, Lanny. How many microseconds would it take for the ACLU to loudly proclaim our absolute right to disagree with this administration if we were liberals hanging Bush in effigy for his Iraq war policies? Yet, where is the ACLU today to support or at least sympathize with our absolute right to declare that Obama's lynchpin domestic policy is a crock of socialism? Crickets chirping, anyone?

Finally, it's obvious you buy into the DNC's delusion that many of our protestors are nothing more than paid hacks supported by the Republican party and numerous insurance lobbies in Washington. Final question, I promise:

Any idea where I can get some of that dollar action? I could really use it since Obama will be raising my taxes at the earliest opportunity.

Hoping to hear from you soon,


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Woundup About Healthcare

As I've said numerous times on the Woundup, I'm no legal expert. I could no more sing you the more salient parts of the House health care overhaul plan than you could recite dialogue from Mozart's "Die Zauberflöt" to me from memory. (No, sorry; I haven't worked that one out in my own head yet.)

But I love watching the general reactions to this proposed legislation, just as I've watched the reactions to the misnamed "stimulus" plan with fascination. Even if this bill is voted into law and signed by the President in some carefully choreographed signing ceremony, possibly involving the Arc de Triomphe, it is doomed to fail. Judging, that is, by some of the signs I've been seeing lately:

1. Obama has hauled out the tired "fear mongering" canard again. If you can't convince 'em, accuse 'em of scaring the heck out of people. And yet, is not his statement that "[d]oing nothing means that you’re going to lose what you have... Because on the current trajectory, your premiums are going to double again over the next five to 10 years" just as much a scare tactic as our contention that nationalized health care will take us inexorably down the road to socialism?

Just asking.

2. Obama himself seems to have no clue as to what the legislation contains. The man campaigned on this issue for a solid year and a half. He made it the top priority of his domestic agenda as soon as he booted Bush's booty out of the Oval Office. Do you honestly mean to say he has no idea whether we'll be able to keep buying private insurance because of this bill? (Answer: Yes and no. Yes, he has no idea. No, insurance companies will soon be regulated out of business.)

3. Obama is seriously deluded about how much this legislation is going to end up costing. It certainly comes as no surprise. This is the same man who assumes that millionaires will willingly bear the brunt of the economic recovery by paying even more taxes than they do now. Would that motivate you to become a millionaire? No? Then why should we assume that bright young people will be willing to jump into an industry where there is little or no incentive to devote eight to twelve years of their lives in graduate and post-graduate schooling only to find that there is no money to be made? And that includes the supporting industries such as pharmacology. Brilliant plan, that.

4. So as not to pick exclusively on the President, let's not forget that Congress still has to sell this plan as well. After all, when it comes crashing down around our ears, they need to be able to make loud speeches from the floor of the House and Senate that this was a plan that the American people were BEGGING for; that we wanted it so much we were writing ELOQUENT letters (often in CRAYON with MISSPELLED WORDS) to our elected MORONS every week so that we could have them pass this legislation and get themselves RE-ELECTED so that they, themselves (and their families and cronies) did not have to PARTICIPATE in their own stupidly conceived SOCIALIZED HEALTH CARE.

Most unfortunately for Congress, the peasants voters AREN'T BUYING IT, as Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) found to his dismay.

5. Ditto Kathleen Sibelius, who could not believe the temerity of the peasants, 'scuse me, voters who appeared to disagree with her statement of (questionable) fact that employers will be allowed to continue their plans (failing to mention at the same time that this only lasts until their plans go out of business in favor of the new matrix). There appears to be just a smidgen of disbelief among the audience.

6. Or there's the other end of the scale where the servant class, sorry, voters can only laugh at Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-St. Louis) as he expounds the "efficiencies" and "surplus" projected to come from the plan. He apparently elects to completely ignore the rather pointed question from the floor: "If it's so great, how come Congress doesn't have to be on it? (see point 4. above)" accompanied by much clapping and cheering from the audience.

(Questioning the timing: the fellow who posed that pointed question, Kevin Jackson, wrote about his experiences at the townhall meeting, only to have that blog account suspended by the hosting service. I'm sure it's just an accounting thing.)

7. Finally, even Obama's team in the House of Representatives seem to be hemming and hawing over this legislation. Can anyone really blame them? Given the overall reaction to this bill by Republicans and Democrats (both electing and elected), it seems that no one is really all that crazy about having this ill-conceived, badly written, and completely irresponsible legislation ram-rodded down our collective throats. Even Mitt Romney, who appears to be going out of his way not to criticize President Obama directly, is telling the man to "for heaven's sake, SLOW DOWN." And, let's face it, whether or not you agree with what Romney accomplished in Massachusetts, he did have buy-in from just about all the stakeholders in that process.

Something that Obama is not even close to achieving.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Biden as Savant

Boy, it's a good thing we got Joltin' Joe Biden as our vice president and not some good-looking, wholesome yahoo from the hinterlands of Alaska. Otherwise we may have been bereft of the brilliance of the Democratic economic philosophy:
“We’re going to go bankrupt as a nation,” Biden said.

“Now, people when I say that look at me and say, ‘What are you talking about, Joe? You’re telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt?’” Biden said. “The answer is yes, that's what I’m telling you.”
Now, why didn't I think of that?

Several years ago in a previous life, I faced the possibility of actually having to declare bankruptcy. Unfortunately, this was during a period where the rules were changing to make it harder for people like me to seek protection from creditors. So bankruptcy wasn't really an option. What happened, ultimately, was that I lost my house.

I see now that I was a fool.

Under the Democratic standard, I should have hung in there, spent money I didn't (and would never) have, declared to my creditors that my "spending Leprechaun gold" plan was working, and sit back to enjoy the ride. This is the administration's plan at the moment, so far as I have been able to discern. It certainly seems so according to Mr. Fountain-of-Wisdom Biden.

So there you have it, little people. Just keep spending money, especially if you don't have any. I'm sure Fearless Leader would approve. Oh, and you won't ever have to worry about making that first million anymore. Congress will see to it that it never reaches your personal pocket.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Obligatory Health Care Post

On a very old mug in my cupboard you find the following bromide:
Bradley's Bromide: If computers get too powerful, we can organize them into a committee — that will do them in.
I have used the committee as a metaphor frequently over the years to denote the dysfunctional qualities of nearly everything the government (taken as a "committee of the whole") puts its hands on.

Welfare. Social Security. Energy. Education. Nothing is immune, and so far as I have been able to discern, there is nothing into which the government has injected itself that is administered in any sort of efficient way. Even something as basic as controlling access to our borders has been handled (if, indeed, someone could use the word "handled" in this regard) in such a way as to make the idea of a border completely laughable. "The border?" one might say. "Sure, we've got one. It's over there somewhere," while waving vaguely in a southerly direction.

But this post isn't about open borders. It's about health care "reform" as currently defined by the President. And therein lies the problem.

It isn't defined.

It's a classic political boondoggle. Obama campaigned on health care "reform" and based his campaign on two pillars:
  1. Health care costs are ridiculously high.
  2. Poor Americans aren't covered by any sort of health insurance.
Unfortunately, it's always the knee-jerk reaction of a politician — and particularly a Democrat — to make the government the vehicle through which these issues will be resolved. I say "unfortunately" because, thus far, the government has shown itself incapable of fixing anything that it gets its overreaching hands on.

It is Obama's reach, more than anything else, that scares me about the man. Because he won (a fact he is eager to keep fresh in everyone's mind) he feels he has a mandate to "do" things, and do them quickly. However, as evidenced by the mislabeled "stimulus" program, not everything lends itself to a rapid solution.

Obama's approach to governing is the very sort of "shock-and-awe" tactic that Democrats so derisively sneer at when describing Bush's "failures" in Iraq. The idea here is to stun the voters into believing that only immediate action will save the health care industry and make coverage freely available to every American, regardless of whether they work or not. Then, while those same voters are reeling with a sense of futility, the government will quickly put together the actual legislation that implements Obama's "plan" (which isn't really a plan in the classic sense), so that they can be seen to be "doing something." By the time they do, the average voter will awaken from their campaign-induced disorientation to find that they have been legislated right into another financial black hole, from which there can be no recovery. Or, in other words, we will have a health care system in this country that accomplishes exactly the same thing that "No Child Left Behind" accomplishes for huge numbers of students in America: nothing.

That's right. What we will end up with is a "system" that costs far more per person than any reasonable health plan currently in existence today, but will be freely available to poor Americans because Congress will simply pump money into it whether that money exists or not. It's the American way.

So Bradley was at least partly correct. If we consider Congress and the President to be a "committee," then someone will be "finished off." I just fear that it will be the average taxpayer that is, at the end of it all, finished off.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

PETA Priorities

I had two thoughts when the President of the United States was caught on tape swatting a fly. My first thought was the obvious (to me and a couple of others) relevance to the story of the Valiant Little Tailor, posted here.

My very next thought, I kid you not, was, "Gee. How long before PETA protests the killing of an innocent fly."

Apparently not long. (H/T: Wizbang)

PETA: Still more concerned about common household pests than aborted fetuses.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Regarding the ABC (All Barack Channel) Fiasco

I have only one thing to say.

Can you imagine the howling we would hear if this were the Bush White House, and the network was FOX?

One Down, Six to Go

(H/T: The Jawa Report)

Over at Hot Air, you can see video of President HopenChange swatting a fly. This reminds me of something... now where have I heard this before...

Ah, of course. The Valiant Little Tailor. In this classic Grimm tale, a tailor kills seven flies with a single swat. He then sets up a life of adventure and eventual leisure by cashing in on his unearned fame. For the most part, the tailor uses deception and parlor tricks to acheive his purposes, and is ultimately rewarded by gaining the King's daughter in marriage.

Obama's claims of "creating and saving jobs" seem to hearken back to this fairy tale. Using little more than smoke and mirrors, he claims that his so-called stimulus program has created and/or saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, even as more and more people find their jobs evaporating into thin air. Unemployment has already hit that danger zone that we were warned would happen without the stimulus, so I'm not sure why his claims continue to be touted by his ever-adoring press corps. Or should that be "press corpse?"

Anyway, our Tailor-in-Chief has a few more flies to swat before anyone will be truly impressed with his abilities. In no particular order, those flies would be:
  • Balancing the budget
  • Healthcare reform rather than socialized medicine
  • Removal of government from private enterprise
  • Abeying and dismantling the nuclear threat in North Korea
  • Making good on his promise to be transparent (in re: the firing of Gerald Walpin), and
  • Understanding the nature of terrorists and their organizations before attempting to deal with them
That should keep him busy for awhile.

Don't Give Up!

This means there's hope for Congress, too!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I'm Not Laughing, David

I actually haven't laughed at Letterman since I was about 26. That's when I finally grew up and realized that being "edgy" was really just an excuse for being rude, vulgar, boorish, and generally piggish and wanting to be praised for it. I lost my taste for it when it cost me my job.

I'd simply refuse to ever watch him, but he is unfortunately heavily advertised on CBS, which is where one of my favorite shows is currently parked. (I sometimes forget to mute the TV when the commercials come on.) They advertise him relentlessly. The clips they show never fail to make me cringe. His "Top Ten" lists, his inane comments, his failed jokes. The man is neither relevant nor funny.

His sense of self-importance was never more in evidence than when he lambasted John McCain for failing to actually appear on his show. How dare he? That McCain later went back and actually apologized to Letterman for not appearing only caused me to think that perhaps he wouldn't have been a much better president than the one we ended up electing. I mean, how weak-willed would you have to be to apologize to Letterman for anything?

Especially when you consider Letterman's own non-apology for joking about having one of Sarah Palin's daughters be raped by a professional ball player.
"These are not jokes made about her 14-year-old daughter. I would never, never make jokes about raping or having sex of any description with a 14-year-old girl. I mean, look at my record. It has never happened. I don't think it's funny. I would never think it was funny. I wouldn't put it in a joke..."
But you did, David. And even if, as you stated, you meant it to be a reference to 18 year old Bristol rather than 14 year old Willow, what's the difference? It was still a cynical, condescending, disgusting, and even irresponsible thing to say. In a classic case of liberal double-standards, had a conservative said something similar about, say, one of Obama's daughters, you would have had the offender raked over the proverbial coals. Instead, you think you get a walk simply because you referenced the wrong daughter.

What a waste of a good suit.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sacramento Table Talk

It happens in households everywhere. Mom and Dad sit at the table and discuss finances.

"That trip to D.C. would be nice this year, but I just don't see how on earth we're going to get there. Until we get those credit cards paid down, we're going to end up a couple thousand short."

"We have six months, right? What if we give up eating out on Fridays, and see if the kids want to take a break from swimming and dancing lessons this summer? That might help..."

It used to be axiomatic that if moms and dads ran their finances the way "the government" did, they would soon find themselves in bankruptcy.

A very large part of what has brought this country to its financial knees today is the fact that many households — far more than when Woody was a young pup — run their finances precisely the way governments do: buy whatever you want; borrow for whatever you can't pay up front; hope it'll sort itself out in the end. Add to that a healthy dose of entitlement (i.e., I am a carbon-based life form and therefore I deserve a house) and you have the makings of a financial collapse.

It will be instructive to watch how Sacramento deals with the fact that voters are tired of fronting their addiction to spending. Many of those voters are, of course, to blame for Sacramento's addiction. For years we've been approving spending measures, bonds, and all manner of budget-shuffling initiatives that have taken whatever surpluses we might have claimed years ago and made them disappear faster than an Obama campaign pledge.

But the voters have finally declared "enough" to Schwarzenegger and the Girly Men. Time to cut bait, folks. Your fishing days are over.

Except that they're not. No, the Governator has already signalled that he feels no compunctions about taking money away from county and city governments. He claims this would be a "worst-case scenario" of course, but we all know what's coming. (His actual words were "I absolutely despise taking money from local government, but...") (And, yes, that's one mighty large "but.")

The bailout has made things worse. Obama's plan to create money where none exists is troublesome in the extreme. There is absolutely nothing of value backing up his monetary projections right now, and he's already indicated that we need to make it easier, not harder, for high-risk borrowers to get home loans in the future. This will set up a never-ending round of loan defaults, blaming everyone but the people responsible, then re-regulating the industry ad infinitum until they go out of business.

So California has tough choices to make now. I don't see them making the truly tough ones. They might make the "tough" decisions to take money from other sources, but will absolutely refuse to slash things like education or health services while calling for massive reforms in those services.

My suggestion would be locking them in a room and not feeding them until they deliver a budget that makes sense. They may as well get used to the idea right now that, no matter what they do, no one is going to like it. Not one little bit. The unions will howl. The voters will gnash their teeth.

But if it brings forward an actual balanced budget, I'll be willing to live with it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Election Post-Mortem

Ah, victory. Mostly.

Uncle Woody was, it goes without saying, one of the voices raised in favor of killing all the initiatives in this election. Nothing about this "special" election had any validity on its merits. It was truly an act of political desperation.

If the writers of these travesties were completely honest, we would find that this wasn't designed to fix our budget deficit. This was an attempt to force dollars into the hands of greedy special interests. They know who they are.

California voters, whatever else our faults may be, were not fooled. Even those who voted for the initiatives appear to have done so largely because they didn't see any better way of getting out of our mess.

The real loser, of course, is Schwarzenegger. Politically and personally, Schwarzenegger is running out of options. His so-called political capital is just about maxed out. He has, truthfully, no creative ideas for fixing anything, budget included. Nor does he have enough influence left with the state legislature to be able to dictate solutions that will garner any serious discussion.

Assuming Arnie has aspirations of serving further as a career politician, this entire budget fiasco is going to become a millstone around his thirty inch neck. Anyone heard from Gray Davis lately?

It's still relatively early, but no one seems to believe that the 1A through 1E initiatives have any life left. Good. May they rest in relative peace. 1F appears to have won, but that doesn't really bother me. For all my huff about "voting the bums out," If we can actually put some teeth behind this initiative that theoretically limits the legislature's ability to raise their own salaries in a deficit year, the current class should be forced into salary laissez faire for the duration of their terms.

California may be dysfunctional, but the voters still have some life left.

Election Day

Californians: Go vote.

Those who would not vote today are left without complaint.

And I have plenty of complaints.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wherein Woody Discusses the Desert

In the Oz series of books by L. Frank Baum, the land of Oz is surrounded by an impassable desert. Although I never read every installment, the books I did read led me to believe that there were very few ways to cross this desert. One was by air. The Wizard himself crossed over via a hot-air balloon, while Dorothy crossed over while kept aloft by the tornado that ripped her house from its foundations. Another way over involved a special carpet owned by the princess Ozma which unrolled itself in front and rolled itself back up again behind as she and her "army" crossed the wasteland.

Baum was obviously acquainted with the Mojave desert, specifically that portion which lies between Las Vegas and San Bernardino.

We have just crossed this bleak landscape on our way home after a tremendous vacation through some truly awe-inspiring patches of terra firma in the vicinity of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Our carpet is our trusty Odyssey minivan. We have plenty of liquid on board. We hesitate to set foot on the surface of the desert lest we find ourselves turned into sand. Even the underpaid staff of the Agricultural Checkpoint can't wait to wave us through without stopping.

Coming back into California is always a let-down.

Not that California is without its charms. The vicinity immediately surrounding our home in Orange County is actually very nice most of the time. Except for those two or three truly brown months of the year, this eastern end of Anaheim with Yorba Linda to the north and Anaheim Hills to the south is quite green most of the time. But head, oh, twenty miles or so to the north and the desert begins to manifest itself in deadly earnest. Where Minnesota and other northerly climes lay claim to seven month winters, we in Southern California can boast (if, indeed, boasting is appropriate) of nearly endless summers. Here in one of the more expensive portions of an already overpriced state it's not so bad. Temperate climate and well-kept greenery keep this place moderately liveable through even the hottest days.

But this is, as has been pointed out to me, a Mediterranean habitat. I actually argued this point with a local docent. My thinking was that a desert, even one with Mediterranean vegetation, was still a desert. I probably lost the debate on points, but I still hold my views firmly.

Believe me, I appreciate the differences. I lived for nearly ten years in California's so-called "Antelope Valley," a desolate collection of dust and Joshua trees north and east of Los Angeles that constitutes the "upper" or "miserably hot and windy" portion of the Mojave desert. I hated it. Still do, as a matter of fact, but I tend to keep this information to myself. I do so only because a part of me — an admittedly microscopic part — feels that the height of disrespect and ingratitude towards one's Creator is to criticize any part of His creation. The rest of me believes that this desert accurately portrays what happens to people who were tasked with tending a garden, and ended up listening to a snake, if you get my drift. "Bit the apple, eh? You know what that means!" "No! Not the Mojave!"

There are ways to avoid the desert in California if you really want to. Or way, I should say. That way is the coastal drive between south and north that skirts the ocean and prevents one from seeing even so much as a jackalope (or a cleverly Photoshopped post-card alleging the same). Ironically, I rarely drive the coast when travelling between south and north these days. A man under the influence of a vacation tends towards mental instability and will actually appreciate driving through desert and endless dust-laden miles of the San Joaquin and Owen valleys in order to shave a few hours off the drive time to get to more bearable destinations north of Sacramento. Aside from the coast, between Sacramento and Los Angeles you will find little of any real value except for truck stops with relatively clean restrooms.

(I realize that there are people who actually live in the desert who claim to appreciate its "beauty" and "lower housing costs." To them I say: you live your delusion, and I'll hold onto mine, thank you very much.)

I have also noticed over the years that, whenever popular causes are taken up by activists with placards and way too much time on their hands, they don't focus a lot of their energy on the desert. There was once, several years ago, an attempt made to limit access to certain desert areas to bikers and ATV enthusiasts, but it ran out of steam after a few rounds in the press. Heck, even the bikers and ATV nuts no longer frequent the desert as much as they used to. I think they burned out, so to speak. When was the last time you heard of some nut at Berkeley climbing up a Joshua tree to mount a protest? Ever wonder why Marine recruiting centers in those cities are never molested? No one wants to block access to any building with working air conditioning up there, that's why.

And so the desert rarely changes. The drive last Saturday between Las Vegas and Barstow was just as dreary and depressing as it always has been. The one rest stop at which we paused was so oppressively hot that I couldn't quite catch my breath. I don't think there was any oxygen in that air. There was one site that has been, at various times, a speedway and a water park. Now it's mostly a decaying collection of misplaced landscaping (palm trees... honestly) and rotting infrastructure. A few more years and it will probably resemble a deserted gold mine from 1849. The billboards will proclaim it as some important historic site, now suitable for tourists with nothing better to do than watch their radiators boil over in the parking lot.

Still, the desert has its use. Personally speaking, I mean. I have no idea what benefits to the ecosystem the desert provides, other than occasionally sand-blasting innocent passers-by from time to time. No, the desert serves to remind me that, all in all, I'm living in relatively good circumstances nowadays. Although my elected representatives have largely abandoned me, my basic rights are still intact. My governor is more interested in saddling taxpayers with his inability to balance a budget, but my own checkbook is under control. For now. At the golden age of fifty I have several more productive years of work ahead, and good prospects for retirement.

In some other state, though. I have my principles, after all. And none of them are guaranteed protection by any politician currently serving this state today. May they all rot live in the desert.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Curmudgeon's Guide for Young Conservative Voters

California Special Election Edition (May 19, 2009)

Here we go again, young conservatives. Uncle Woody was wondering just how long it would take before California politicians ("Spending Your Money So You Don't Get To") came up with a special election to hide the fact that, basically, they're just one big, happy, dysfunctional family up there in Sacramento.

Governor Steroids has already shown that he'd rather put the blame on the voters than try to get those girly men in the legislature to sit down and make tough choices in order to balance our budget. Didn't work last time, either. In fact, Uncle Woody is going to go out on a limb here and say that, pound for pound, special elections in California are about as effective as an Obama cabinet appointee.

Your California politicians were so lazy this time, young conservatives, that they didn't even bother to come up with new numbers for each proposition on the ballot. No, this time we get to decide between 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, and 1F. 4-F is actually what comes to Uncle Woody's mind when he sees this sort of nonsense, and those who once upon a time had to worry about being drafted know what Uncle Woody is talking about. Heaven only knows what we'd be paying for if the legislature ever made it to 2.

So let's make it easy this time around and give you the ENTIRE BALLOT RECOMMENDATION IN ONE WORD, okay, young conservatives? Here it is:


It really is just that simple, young conservatives. Uncle Woody wants you all to march into your polling places on May 19, look at the silly ballot that's already costing taxpayers millions of dollars during an economic downturn (makes sense!) and select "No" for every proposition on the page.

But, of course, you young conservatives have come to rely on Uncle Woody's rapier wit and detailed analyses of these ballot initiatives over the years, so I'll go ahead and chime in:

1A (Boy, this sounds familiar, doesn't it?) In the last election, 1A masqueraded as a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. I think. That was several months ago before we elected Hope and Change to the White House. My memory is already numb. Anyway, 1A has now been rebranded as "State Budget. Changes California Budget Process. Limits State Spending. Increases 'Rainy Day' Budget Stabilization Fund."

Considering the fact that we haven't enjoyed a budget surplus in this state since Pete Wilson was in office, and the fact that RINO-in-Chief Schwarzenburger, or whatever his name is, can't get anyone to agree with any of his spending policies, I can't imagine that it's actually the "process" that needs fixing. In fact, Uncle Woody envisions "fixing" a large number of Sacramento politicians in the veterinary sense of the word.

That Uncle Woody would support.

1B Titled "Education Funding. Payment Plan." It should also be sub-titled "Heavily Sponsored by the Socialist California Teachers Association." This one is a highly transparent attempt by the teachers union in this state to punish the Governator for "borrowing" $2 billion a few years ago and forgetting (you know how it is with taxes) to pay it back. Can't get it back from Arnie? Soak the taxpayers!

In fact, 1A and 1B are being heavily pursued by the CTA, and it's no wonder. They want "their" money back, and they want to prevent state politicos from ever grabbing it again.

I wish them better luck than we taxpayers have had, but they'll get no help from Uncle Woody.

1C "Lottery Modernization Act." Oh, for Pete's sake. We don't "need" a lottery in the first place, and now they think that "modernizing" it is somehow going to generate more money for the state. So, let's see: they'll need to update lottery machines across the state, then figure out a way to recoup the investment. What to do... what to do...? Wait! Of course! The taxpayers will help! They LOVE the lottery!

Just one quick question: How many of those innumerable millionaires you've created with the lottery still live in California? Anyone? Bueller?

1D "Protects Children's Services Funding. Helps Balance State Budget." So, I'm a little surprised that I haven't seen intensive video of starving children a la Ethopian relief agency ads, because that's frankly the way this proposition is written. "Temporarily provides greater flexibility in funding to preserve health and human services for young children" is how this travesty begins. What they leave out is that they're really trying to get funding for all those undocumented children that taxpayers are getting more leery of supporting when they're having a hard time saving up for their own retirements these days.

Also, and let Uncle Woody be crystal clear here, young conservatives: the State General Fund is not a sacred cow. Time and time again, Sacramento has proven itself capable of moving that money around like some legalized Ponzi scheme, and nary a nickel of it ever ends up where it was intended.

1E "Mental Health Services Funding. Temporary Reallocation. Helps Balance State Budget."

Right. Also solves global warming, cures the common cold, and generates cold fusion renewable energy sources.

Or not.

Look, as with 1D, this is just another attempt by special interest lobbies in Sacramento to get their hands on money that we don't have. So, shuffle it around temporarily, then slip it back into the General Fund when no one is looking. Right? What could be easier?

Oh, Uncle Woody doesn't know... how about balancing the actual state budget for a change?

1F "Elected Officials' Salaries. Prevents Pay Increases During Budget Deficit Years." This one actually made Uncle Woody laugh, young conservatives. Not out loud, though. It's after midnight here at Hacienda Woody, and Uncle Woody doesn't want to wake Auntie Woody up. But I'm laughing on the inside.

Hey, we already have safeguards for preventing pay increases for elected officials, but we voters are typically too lazy or too stupid to actually use them. It's called "voting the bums out," and so far as Uncle Woody is concerned, no politician in Sacramento is immune. Or ought to be, anyway. If these idiots in tailored suits actually believe that they deserve to be paid more for wasting our money in the first place, then Uncle Woody thinks it's time to help them with a career adjustment.

So there you have it, young conservatives. Doubtless you're wondering to yourselves, "Gee. How can we possibly repay Uncle Woody for this extremely valuable advice?" Whereupon I reply, "Aw, shucks, young conservatives, it's nothing really. No, really. It's nothing. Put down the pitchforks and torches, young conservatives. Uncle Woody was only kidding! Really! Vote any way you like! Please!!"

I'm nothing if not a patriot.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yes, I Paid My Taxes. Why Wouldn't I?

What with one thing and another I had a dickens of a time getting my taxes done. And before you ask, no, I am not being considered for any cabinet positions in Obama's administration.

No, I just ran out of time, or nearly so. It happened last year, for perhaps the first time in my memory. I'd had to file an extension, and we took advantage of nearly every day of that six month wait. I really didn't want to deal with that again this year.

But today was a busy day. We did not attend any tea parties today. It wasn't that we didn't support the idea — we fully support those who believe the government has taken a sharp left turn toward socialism and are willing to make their voices heard — but today was Field Trip Day.

You remember: we homeschool. Wednesdays, even those that fall on Tax Day, we try to dedicate to our homeschool group. Especially now that Mrs. Woody is its leader. So this morning found us wending our way to San Juan Capistrano to visit their magnificent mission.

Let me just state that, for all the wind and cool weather today, it was absolutely a gorgeous day. Spring brings both swallows ("not as many as we've had in the past") and beautiful foliage in the mission's many planters and gardens ("just wait a few weeks and this whole area will be purple!"). The Woodyettes were duly impressed with the historical displays and museum exhibits liberally (so to speak) sprinkled throughout the buildings. The old Stone Church is still impressive, even sitting in earthquake-induced ruins.

But of course we didn't get home until late afternoon. Also (of course!) I had yet to file our taxes for this year.

It's never a question of actually paying them, you understand. That part is always taken care of for me. The only real question is how much we should be getting back from the increasingly bankrupt government in any given year.

Still, whether I pay or get paid, they still need to be filed. After a long day of field tripping with my family, I was all for simply filing the dratted extension once again and giving myself more breathing room. Then I realized that for all the hassle of "estimating" what I might have had to pay the Feds and the state in order to beg for the extension, it would be infinitely easier to just fill out the silly forms and file on time. So I did.

Then I surfed around to see what happened at the various Tea Parties held around the country today.

Overall, I must say I'm impressed. The tea party spirit has taken hold and given conservatives (and fiscally responsible moderates) something to do short of ripping out copious amounts of hair. Of equal importance to the events themselves, however, is the reaction of liberal pundits and news organizations to the protests today. Sneering contempt, I would have to say. How dare these brainwashed minions of the Evil Fox News perform a feat that is the holy domain of liberals and radicals in this country? Even Nancy Pelosi was reduced to referring to the protests as "astroturfing."

I deem these reactions to be of import precisely because if we're making them that upset, we must be hitting pretty close to the mark. Over at Wizbang (I think... it's late and I'm too lazy to go back and give a proper citation) they mentioned having watched Keith Olbermann, who blustered about how ignorant we stupid conservatives must be of the overwhelming benefits of being taxed into the next three or four generational afterlives. I kid you not: they're trying to attach New Deal optimism to Obama's hardly-original and certainly un-noteworthy tax and spend policies. "Where were you when Bush was spending?" one counter-protestor's sign read today. Well, Junior, I was protesting that Bush had crossed over from fiscal conservative to deficit-spending moderate in his last few years of office. But his spending was (and remains) a mere fraction of what Obama has generated. Legacy, indeed.

So, unlike most of Obama's appointees, I've paid my taxes this year. But I haven't given up on October 15th of this year yet. Something tells me Obama may come calling about then, asking us to ante up a second (or third or fourth) time this year. But he won't find me.

I'll be in the mountains of Idaho with all those right-wing extremist Iraq-war veterans.