Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Western Loves Gays

Fabulous news!

Western Michigan University No. 21 on Daily Beast list of gay friendly colleges
KALAMAZOO – Western Michigan University is among the most gay friendly universities in the country, according to a list published this week by the Daily Beast and Newsweek Magazine.

WMU is No. 21 on the list of the top 25 gay friendly schools. WMU was ranked on factors including the college's prowler diversity grade (B), a campus climate index score of 4.5 and because 75 percent of students surveyed said campus is "very accepting" of minority students. The rankings note that WMU offers a LGBT campus center.

The campus climate score is based on Campus Pride's ranking system that looks at how inclusive college campuses are of LGBT students. A high college prowler diversity grade indicates that different minority groups are well represented on campus and accepted by students.
Apparently they didn't hear about the imaginary crime wave that struck the campus gay community in 2007.

"Queer students say harassment has increased"
Axis of Queers

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Case for a Creator

The Case for a Creator
Lee Strobel

This is the third in a series of apologetic books by Lee Strobel, who was an atheist and a journalist before converting to Christianity and becoming a pastor. He previously wrote The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith.

This book focuses on issues of creation and evolution. Strobel approaches the issue from an intelligent design perspective. He uses the same format as in his previous books. He begins with a personal story about the issue, this time being asked to cover a creation/evolution school curriculum controversy in West Virginia while he was a reporter. He then proceeds to interview a number of experts associated with the intelligent design movement.

The interviews cover the subjects of icons of evolution, science and faith, cosmology, physics, astronomy, biochemistry, biological information, and consciousness. All are worthwhile, but I found the interview on consciousness particularly interesting.

The one problem that I have with the book regards the mathematics of infinity. William Lane Craig argues that the existence of an infinite number of objects or an infinite period of time is impossible. While he may be right about the underlying question, his arguments are unconvincing. He points out that ∞-∞ is not well-defined, and that ∞+1=∞. However, I don't see why this would rule out the existence of infinity in the the real world.

Overall, Case for a Creator is a worthwhile book.

Summer Reading
Godless: A Review
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization
The Victory of Reason
The Privileged Planet
What's So Great About Christianity
Evidence That Demands a Verdict

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Weapons of Mass Instruction

Weapons of Mass Instruction
John Taylor Gatto

The author of this book is famous for being New York state teacher of the year who quit, convinced that government schools are bad for children.

This book contains lots of interesting material, but it is so disorganized that it is hard to recommend. It feels as though it consists of material that was cut from another book.

Gatto argues that the real purpose of government ("public") schools is not to help students learn and flourish. Instead, it is to make them submit to authority, make them alike, determine proper social roles, sort them accordingly, disadvantage those deemed less fit, and select the next generation of the elite. He cites a number of quotes from the architects of the modern government school system to support this.

Gatto adds several personal stories of his battles with the school system including an attempt to fire him on false pretenses and a principle who called the police to interrupt his school assembly speech.

He cites a number of examples of people with little formal education inventing products, building large businesses, and otherwise achieving great things. While the examples are interesting, these may well be the exception, rather than a reliable model.

Gatto is an advocate of 'unschooling', in which students are basically left free to explore their interests, and there is no formal curriculum. While there merit to encouraging students to follow their interests, I am skeptical that you can do without any curriculum.

Gatto inveighs against standardized testing, and advocates that students refuse to take them.

Gatto believes that most students are capable of much, and their abilities are being suppressed by the system. He is on the political right, but his views contrast sharply with another segment of the (paleoconservative) right, which argues that intelligence and genes largely determine academic outcomes, and there is relatively little room for improvement. It would be interesting to see each discuss the others' views.

Weapons of Mass Instruction is interesting, but often frustrating due to its lack of organization.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No Means Try Again

Voters in the Mattawan school district shot down an 88 million dollar bond issue in May. Naturally, Mattawan schools aren't about to take no for an answer.

Mattawan going back to voters for $59M for new elementary schools

Voters need to say no again in November.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Upton, Camp named to "SuperCongress"

Michigan Congressmen Fred Upton and Dave Camp have been named by Speaker John Boehner to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, which has been nicknamed the "SuperCongress". The third Republican House member is Jeb Hensarling of Texas.

Republicans Fill Out Deficit Committee Roster

Their American Conservative Union (ACU) ratings are as follows.
Upton 73%
Camp 89%
Hensarling 99%

Upton is a well-known moderate with a long history of un-conservative votes. He has voted more conservative since surviving a strong Tea Party challenge in 2010. (His 2010 rating was 92%). Camp is an establishment Republican. Hensarling is a staunch conservative who previously headed the Republican Study Committee before being elected to house leadership.

On the senate side, the Republicans are
John Kyl 96%
Pat Toomey 97% (house)
Rob Portman 89% (house)

Kyl is in the leadership and is retiring. Toomey is a Tea Party favorite elected in 2010, while Portman is an establishment candidate elected in 2010.

The ACLU vs America

The ACLU vs America
By Alan Sears and Craig Osten

This book chronicles the history and activities of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a leftist legal activist group that purports to defend civil liberties. Sears and Osten are the leaders of the rival conservative legal group Allaince Defence Fund (ADF), which has battled the ACLU in court many times in recent years. At times, the book reads like a commercial for the ADF.

They lay out the history of the of the ACLU, which was founded as a communist organization. Founder Roger Baldwin proclaimed
We are for Socialism, disarmament, and ultimately for abolishing the state itself. We seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class, and the sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal.
Even after the communists were purged following the Hitler/Stalin pact, the ACLU continued its war against Christians and religious liberty. ACLU vs. America cites case after case to document its agenda. In particular, it debunks the false notion that the ACLU fights for civil liberties. For example, they oppose the rights of the Boy Scouts to determine its own membership.

The book has chapters on marriage, mom and dad, children, human life, religion, Christmas, and American sovereignty.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Paul Scott Faces Recall Election

For months now, we've seen news of possible recall elections against Republican legislators. Basically, filing a recall petition is a cheap way to say that you don't like a politician. It gets media attention in a way that a press release doesn't. Then a couple people hear about it and decide to so the same thing elsewhere. But getting signatures is much harder.

After all the hype, only one recall campaign filed signatures for a November election. Republican Paul Scott of southern Genesee County is the target.

The campaign against him has yet to file its campaign finances and seems to be trying to hide them. Nonetheless, it seems clear that it is being run by the MEA, which has paid handsomely to collect the necessary signatures. Scott is being targeted due to the fact that he is chairman of the house education committee, which has passed modest teacher tenure reforms.

Scott has a lean republican district, which is where I would initially rate the recall election, assuming it makes the ballot. If Scott were recalled, there would have to be a special election to replace him.

Interestingly, Scott's district is basically chopped in half in the new redistricting plan. Half becomes part of a new lean dem district and the other half becomes part of an open safe republican district. If Scott were recalled, he could just run there next year.

Other recall campaigns were notably unsuccessful. Signatures have been collected against Al Pscholka (N Berrien), Kurt Damrow (Tuscola/Huron), and Jeff Farrington (Sterling Heights), but none were filed.

Meanwhile in Lenawee County, organizers claimed to have enough signatures. However, the person with the signatures disappeared under mysterious circumstances and they were not filed. There are rumors of a car accident involving him or a family member.

No November recall of state Rep. Nancy Jenkins as petitions fail to appear

As Jack Lessenberry argues, the recall threat has proved overrated.

Recall Threat Proves Overrated

Alumni News

I missed this at the time.


State Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, and former staffer having baby

GRAND BLANC, Michigan — State Rep. Paul Scott said today he's going to be a father soon.

Scott, R-Grand Blanc, said he and a former staff member will be welcoming a son together in a couple weeks.

Scott was most recently re-elected to the 51st state House seat, which represents southern Genesee County, referring to himself as a conservative "21st century Republican."

"This is the greatest thing that's ever happened to me," he said of the baby.

Scott said he and the mother, Amanda Grove, are in a strong relationship. She left his legislative office in May before working on his campaign for secretary of state, he said, which ended in August when he lost the five-way race for the Republican nomination.

There are no plans for marriage at this point, but Scott said "you never know what's going to happen in the future."

Scott said the baby will have two "loving parents."

"This has been an incredible experience," he said.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Michigan Redistricting

Thus blog extensively covered the 2010's Michigan redistricting that occurred in 2011. I drew my own plans and analyzed the plans that were eventually passed by the Michgan legislature. Many of these articles were cross-posted at Right Michigan and Red Racing Horses.

Maps proposed by me:
Michigan Redistricting: Two Possible Congressional Maps
Michigan Redistricting: Two Possible State Senate Maps
Michigan Redistricting: State House Part I: Wayne County
Michigan Redistricting: State House Part II: Oakland and Genesee
Michigan Redistricting: State House Part III: Macomb and the Thumb
Michigan Redistricting: State House Part IV: The Rest of the State
Michigan Redistricting: Alternative State House Map

Republican and Democrat Proposals:
Michigan Redistricting: Analysis of Democrats State Senate Plan
Michigan Redistricting: Official Republican State Senate Map Released
Michigan Redistricting: Official Republican State House Map Released

Official maps that passed the legislature:
Michigan Redistricting: Republican State Senate Map Passed
Michigan Redistricting: Republican State House Map Passed
Michigan Redistricting: Congressional Map Passed
Michigan Redistricting: Court of Appeals

County Commission Redistricting:
Michigan Redistricting: County Commission Roundup
Kalamazoo County Commission Redistricting Plan Adopted
Calhoun County Commission Redistricting Plan Adopted

The debate over redistricting:
Analysis and Rebuttal of the Center for Michigan Redistricting Study
The Center for Michigan Redistricting 'Study' Has Data Errors, Too
Washington Post Misleading on Michigan Redistricting

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Michigan 5th Congressional District Election Preview

Michigan’s 5th district Congressman Dale Kildee has announced his retirement after 36 years in Congress. Kildee is a liberal union democrat based in Flint. His lifetime American Conservative Union (ACU) rating is 12%. He has identified himself as pro-life and until 2010 was endorsed by Michigan Right to Life, but nonetheless voted for Obamacare. He is anti-gun, with a rating of F from Gun Owners of America.

Michigan’s current 5th district consists of Genesee, Tuscola, and parts of Saginaw and Bay counties. It was drawn in 2001 to merge the districts of Kildee and then-congressman Jim Barcia of Bay City. The Republicans who drew the district successfully packed the most democrat areas of both districts into one, along with a small piece of Congressman Mike Rogers’ district in SW Genesee. Even though he represented more of the new district, Barcia stepped aside in favor of Kildee, and ran for state senate instead.

The new 5th, in which the next election will be held (assuming Rick Snyder signs the new redistricting maps) expands a bit. It consists of Genesee, Bay, Arenac, Iosco, and parts of Saginaw and Tuscola counties. The population of the district breaks down as follows.

60.3% Genesee
15.3% Bay
14.8% Saginaw
2.4% Tuscola
2.3% Arenac
3.9% Iosco

A number of candidates have expressed interest in running to replace Kildee. As this is a democrat district, most of the action so far is on that side.

Former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee, who is the nephew of the current congressman, has announced that he is running. Kildee was treasurer from 1996 until he resigned in 2009 to become the head “of the Center for Community Progress, which promotes the reuse of vacant, abandoned and problem properties in cities and towns across the country.” He very briefly ran for Governor in 2010 before dropping out.

Former Congressman and state senator Jim Barcia has said that he is “highly likely” to run. Barcia was a state rep 1976-82, state senator 1982-92, and congressman 1992-2002. After stepping aside for Kildee, he returned to the state senate from 2002 to 2010, when he was term-limited. Barcia is a genuine moderate democrat who has an ACU life rating of 54%. He is pro-life and a hunter who opposes gun control. For conservatives, he would be a big improvement over Kildee.

State senator John Gleason has said that he is very serious about running. Gleason was a state rep from Flushing before being elected to the state senate in 2006. He is now in his second term, and would be term-limited in 2014. Gleason is pro-life and has been endorsed by the NRA.

State Rep. Woodrow Stanley is “very interested” in running. Stanley, who is black, was mayor of Flint from 1991 until he was recalled from office in 2002 due to fiscal mismanagement. A state-appointed emergency financial manager was appointed afterwards. Stanley was then elected to the Genesee county commission 2004-08. In 2008 he was elected a state representative, and is now in his second term. He would be term-limited in 2014.

Former lieutenant governor John Cherry has been mentioned as a possible candidate but has not yet expressed interest in running. He was a state senator 1986-2002, rising to senator democrat minority leader before becoming lieutenant governor under Jennifer Granholm 2002-10. He represented the suburbs of Flint. Cherry is a liberal with strong union ties but is also pro-gun.

Genesee county treasurer Deb Cherry is the sister of John Cherry. She also has been mentioned as a potential candidate but has not expressed interest in running. She was a state rep before succeeding her brother as a state senator 2002-10 representing suburban Flint. She was term-limited and was elected county treasurer in 2010, succeeding Dan Kildee. Her political positions are similar to those of her brother.

There are plenty of other current and former legislators and county officials who could also run.

Here is the percentage of the new district that they have represented.

60.3% Dan Kildee
52.4% Jim Barcia (congress)
36.3% John Gleason
24% Deb Cherry (state senate)
14.5% Woodrow Stanley (mayor)

While this is a democrat district, it is possible for Republicans to win it under ideal circumstances. For example, Rick Snyder won it in 2010. Before that, John Engler and Candice Miller won it in 1998. Against Kildee, Barcia, Gleason, or either of the Cherrys, Republicans would have no chance. On the other hand, Republicans would have a good chance of winning if Woodrow Stanley were the nominee. Even in majority-black Flint, he was recalled as mayor, and he is not likely to play well outside the city.

Republicans should have a credible candidate in case circumstances line up their way. There are several Republican state legislators who represent significant portions of the district. They are state senators Dave Robertson, Mike Green, and Roger Khan and state rep Paul Scott. The portions of the district that they have represented are as follows.

31.6% Dave Robertson
20% Mike Green
14.8% Roger Kahn
15.2% Paul Scott

Robertson would be the strongest possible Republican candidate if he were to run. This isn’t very likely, though, as he was just elected to the state senate in 2010. Green was also just elected in 2010 and lives in the part of Tuscola county that is outside the district. Kahn is in his second term and would be term-limited in 2014. He is from Saginaw township, which is split between congressional districts. Scott is currently facing a recall campaign due to his efforts to reform teacher tenure rules in Michigan and doesn’t seem likely to run.

Republican’s best choice may be John Kupiec, who held Dale Kildee to only 53% of the vote in 2010, despite receiving very little attention. He is considering running again.

The 5th district promises to have a very interesting congressional race.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Concealed Carry: We Were Right, They Were Wrong

Michigan's concealed carry law went into effect roughly ten years ago. The Free Press has an article that admits that the fears of the opponents of the law were nonsense. Several opponents who were interviewed, including various prosecutors and police, admit obliquely that what they said would happen didn't.

10 years after concealed weapons law, unclear why many in state were gun-shy

Of course, it didn't take a genius to see that they were wrong. You only needed to look at every other state that has a concealed carry law.

Western's "Weak" Education College

Julie Mack reports on the poor ranking of Western's education program.

Julie Mack blog: Does Western Michigan University have a 'weak' program for training teachers?
The National Council on Teacher Quality issued a report last week critical of U.S. teacher-training programs, based on a study of student-teacher programs at 134 colleges nationwide.

One of the programs included in the study was Western Michigan University, whose student-teacher program was listed in the report as "weak."
She had previously interviewed former Western President Judy Bailey about the issue.
When Judith Bailey was still WMU president, I once asked her point-blank about the College of Education's mediocre reputation. Without missing a beat, she smoothly changed the topic. ("Do you know what program of ours is really underrated? College of Fine Arts.")
Typical Bailey. Diether Haenicke gave an honest answer.
Before his death in 2009, I l recounted that conversation to former WMU President Diether Haenicke. I figured Haenicke would stoutly defended the College of Education. Instead, he shook his head and said his own failure to reform that particular program was one of his greatest frustrations and regrets. "I tried and tried," but there were too many people in the department resistant to change, he said.
What's wrong with the program?
Certainly, in the local K-12 community, school officials take a lukewarm view of WMU's program. The standard critique: Too many professors teaching outdated theories; too few instructors with actual experience in K-12 classrooms; too little focus on skills such as classroom management and the challenges of educating low-income students.

"When we get kids from Western, we have to retrain them," a former superintendent once told me.
Shockingly, the best way to learn how to teach is to actually do it. In some of Western's departments, graduate students can be put in the classroom teaching college classes with only a couple days of training.

I have talked to numerous College of Education students who describe sitting through endless busywork classes en route to their degrees.

As explained by Thomas Sowell in America's Education Disaster, colleges of education serve as negative filters to screen out bright and knowledgeable people who be good teachers but are unwilling to sit through years of busywork classes. Such people present a threat to the mediocre teachers who staff our classrooms. Teachers' unions and their allies use licensing to restrict the supply of teachers and hence increase their pay.


This update focuses on the culture war.

Allan Wall: Don’t Expect “Hispanic Family Values” To Counter Gay Agenda
Pat Buchanan: Demography And Debt Are Both Destiny—We're All Greeks Now
Gary North: Cars 2 Isn't a Lemon. It's a Saab.
Gary North: Never Say Retire
Ann Coulter: Casey Anthony -- Single Mom of the Year!
Phyllis Schlafly: Court Wraps Video Games in First Amendment

POLITICAL UPDATES are archived here.