Saturday, September 29, 2012

New Sangren Hall

On Friday, Western held the official opening ceremony for new Sangren Hall.

$60-million Sangren Hall completion celebrated by Western Michigan University and political leaders

The building is certainly nice.  It cost $60 million, which was not without some controversy.

It has four floors, all of which have classrooms.  There are lecture halls on the bottom floor.  The education library is on the second floor.  There are offices for various education departments on floors 2-4.

As far as I noticed, there were only two elevators in the middle of the building.  There were an oddly large number of emergency-only exits.

There are bulletin boards, but they are not easy to spot, as they look like walls and are not the usual color.

Overall, new Sangren is a very nice replacement for the dumpy old Sangren.  HHS is still the nicest building on campus, though.

The expanded Lee Honors College and pedestrian mall also look good.  I still have concerns about traffic flow though.

Campus Improvements Obstructing Traffic

Decline of the Herald

The Gazette reports that the Herald is reducing its publication schedule even further.

Western Herald, WMU student newspaper, switches to monthly print cycle, goes web-first

The schedule has been:
1991-2009: Monday-Thursday
2009-spring 2012: Twice a week
Spring 2012-now: Once a week
Now: Once a month

A journalism professor relates:
“When I started, I would arrive to an entire classroom of students with Heralds; every student read the newspaper,” said Junger, who has been a professor in the journalism department since 1996. “Now I have to make them read it. It’s a challenge to keep up with the times."
This is absolutely true.  You used to see students reading the Herald all the time.  Now you never do.

The Herald is trying to ramp up its website.  But getting students to actively seek out a website is a lot harder than getting them to pick up a physical paper right in front of them.

The same thing is happening throughout the newspaper industry.  The Gazette has reduced its size and publishing schedule significantly.

This blog has had a lot of fun attacking the Herald for its poor quality and absurd leftism.  Still, it's sad to see it go.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Nullification by Thomas Woods

Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century
by Thomas Woods

The Constitution was established to create a federal government that would unite the several states while limiting its powers. But this immediately leads to the problem of how violations of the Constitution by the federal government can be resisted. In this book, Thomas Woods argues for the obscure but storied principle of Nullification.

The basic idea of nullification is that the states should formally resist unconstitutional laws. They are the partners that created the federal government, so if the federal government violates the restrictions on its actions, the states have no duty to comply.  Indeed, they must resist.  The federal judiciary could not be the appropriate remedy since it is part of the federal government and so naturally biased toward it.

Thomas Jefferson is primarily responsible for developing the principle of nullification.  It dates to the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.  The acts were designed by the Federalists to weaken the Democrats.  The Sedition Act was definitely unconstitutional, and the Democrats believed that the Alien Acts were as well.

In Response, Jefferson drafted the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of 1798.  These resolutions laid out the basic principles of nullification.  These resolutions were passed by the Democrat-dominated legislatures of these states.  They succeeded in helping to resist these acts, which came to an end when the Democrats came to power in Washington in 1800.  These resolutions became known as the Principles of '98.

Woods lays out the case that the Constitution really does limit federal power.  He refutes expansive interpretations based on the general welfare clause, commerce clause, necessary and proper clause, and the "living constitution".  This material should be familiar to well-read conservatives.

After explaining the origin of the Principles of '98, Woods explains their relevance throughout the 1800s. Ironically, New England cited the principles against President Jefferson due to his poorly conceived trade embargo protesting the seizure of American ships during the Napoleonic Wars.  They were favorably referenced by Northern states in the subsequent years. They were used by South Carolina in 1832-33 to help resist restrictive tariff policies backed by President Jackson. They were used by Wisconsin in 1859 to resist the Fugitive Slave Law.  Woods is pained to point out that they were never used to defend slavery.

Woods then explains the origin of America, advocating the compact view that the states began as separate colonies, then separate countries, which united with the Articles of Confederation and then the Constitution.  He refutes the nationalist theory that the states were somehow united from the beginning, implying that the federal government is the supreme authority over the entire country.

Woods explains how nullification is used today, from medical marijuana to the REAL ID act and firearms freedom acts.  In the final chapter, he discusses various ways of officially enshrining nullification in the Constitution.  These include a constitutional amendment (not going to happen) and constitutional convention (extremely dangerous).  This is the weakest section of the book.

Readers should be aware that about half the book consists of historical documents.  These begin with the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions themselves and include later resolutions and commentaries on nullification.

Overall, this is an important, if somewhat basic book on a little-explored but vital issue.  It is recommended to interested readers.

Who Killed the Constitution?
Meltdown by Thomas Woods
Questioning History
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bad Ideas Never Go Away

You just have to keep beating them. At least that's how it seems.

The Gazette has an article on the downtown arena project, which has been in limbo since 2010. There was a big push in 2009-10 by Ken Miller, Bill Johnston, and other local bigshots to impose an $80 million restaurant tax to pay for their arena project.  It collapsed due to public opposition.

Miller tries to convince readers that the project is in a "holding pattern", though not very successfully.  The comments are very unsympathetic.

Downtown Kalamazoo arena: 'It's not dead, it's in a holding pattern'

Snyder Appoints Democrat WMU Trustee
No Arena, for Now
Rejecting the Arena
Kitchens' Tossed Salad
Mackinac Center on the Arena
Dome of Deceit
Arena of Conflict
Forum of Discontent

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Snyder Stalling Gun Rights Bill?

This alert from the NRA says that Governor Rick Snyder is stalling the bill to repeal handgun registration in Michigan. The bill passed the state house 74-36 in June.

This bill is long past due. Only six states require any form of gun registration. Michigan, California, Hawaii, and New York register handguns, and New Jersey and Connecticut register "assault weapons". The other five are all considerably more liberal than Michigan.

Here is the complete NRA alert.

Michigan: Your Immediate Help Needed- NRA's Top Agenda Item in Jeopardy!

Please contact your state Senator and Governor Snyder TODAY to get registration repealed before it is too late!

House Bill 5225, legislation that would eliminate the state handgun “permit-to-purchase” and registration requirements, is currently stalled in the Michigan Senate. The reason for this delay stems from opposition by the Michigan State Police and Governor Rick Snyder’s office asking the state Senate leadership to "hold" H.B. 5225. H.B. 5225, introduced by state Representative Paul Opsommer (R-93), would abolish the bureaucratic “permit-to-purchase” for handguns. This system became obsolete when the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) took effect in 1998. Under the current state system, gun buyers must apply with their local law enforcement agency before being authorized to buy a handgun. This “permit” is valid for only one gun and it expires after ten days. Since 1998, federal law has required a national criminal records check for the purchase of any firearm from any licensed gun dealer in every state. Accordingly, the state-required "permit" is duplicative, wasteful and antiquated. This legislative package includes two companion bills House Bill 5498, sponsored by state Representative Richard LeBlanc (D-18), and House Bill 5499, sponsored by state Representative Ray Franz (R-101).

In June, this package of bills passed in the Michigan House of Representatives by an overwhelming 74 to 36 vote. It has also passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee and now awaits consideration by the state Senate. All indications are that H.B. 5225 enjoys supermajority support in the Senate. There is no doubt that the state Senate will pass H.B. 5225 by a wide margin when they vote on it. However, Michigan's first-term Governor has now asked leaders in the Senate to hold this bill, delaying and preventing critical and final action on this important Second Amendment legislation. Because the Michigan Legislature has few remaining working days before the election, this stall tactic will almost guarantee the bill's demise.

It is extremely urgent that you contact your state Senator and especially Governor Rick Snyder today and respectfully ask them to end Michigan's costly and unnecessary gun registration scheme as well as the onerous handgun purchase process. This is an historic opportunity to repeal longstanding gun control which only the most restrictive, anti-gun states currently have. Please act today to ensure that Governor Snyder does not ignore Michigan gun owners. In 2010, gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder did not answer NRA's state candidate questionnaire, so his position on this vital legislation is unknown.

To e-mail Governor Snyder, please click here.
To find your state Senator please click here.
Governor Rick Snyder (517) 373-3400 (517) 335-7858

Michigan House Repeals Handgun Registration
NRA Alert
Gun Bills in Michigan
New Gun Law
Ending Registration

Monday, September 10, 2012

Is Mitt Romney Repeating Dick DeVos' Mistakes?

This column by Nolan Finley of the Detroit News draws some uncomfortable parallels between the current presidential race and Michigan's 2006 gubernatorial race between Jennifer Granholm and Dick DeVos.

Finley: Obama using Granholm's playbook

In both races, there was a charismatic but incompetent democrat incumbent running against a Republican rich businessman challenger. In both cases, the democrats blamed the preceding Republican for the poor state of the economy and claimed that it would otherwise be worse. They attacked the Republican challengers for being rich and falsely claimed they outsourced jobs.

Of course, there are some differences as well. Romney has actually won an election before, and he has a much broader fundraising base. 2006 was an anti-republican wave, which 2012 shows no signs of being.

The strategy of letting a bad economy sink an incumbent certainly can work. But it can also fail if the incumbent is clever enough about blaming others for the economic problems and insisting that "it would have been worse otherwise" (which cannot be conclusively disproven, after all).

So what did Dick DeVos do wrong? As I wrote at the time,
More seriously, DeVos never made a compelling case for why he should be governor. He pointed out Michigan's uniquely bad economy and blamed the governor. But he never really explained why it was her fault or what he would do differently. Meanwhile, after years of promising government miracles, Granholm eventually more accurately blamed systematic factors like the bad state of the auto industry. I don't doubt that Granholm contributed to the state's problems, or that DeVos would have been a better governor. But government cannot make the economy do well.

DeVos also completely ignored social issues in his campaign. He gave up many valuable opportunities to hammer the Governor on her record. She vetoed the partial birth abortion ban, opposed the concealed carry law when it was passed, opposed the state marriage amendment, and opposed limiting the expansion of gambling. On all these issues, a clear majority of Michiganders were on the opposite side of the governor.

Instead, he focused solely on Michigan's bad economy, hoping to ride it to victory without having to talk about "divisive" social issues. In a better year, with a different opponent, that might have worked. But he gave up the opportunity to peel voters away from Granholm on all these issues.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that DeVos should have focused exclusively or mainly on these issues. The economy was definitely the number one issue. But it was not the only issue.
DeVos's biggest mistake was opposing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which passed by a large margin despite the opposition of top Republicans. He could have done a lot better if he had supported it.
If Republican gubernatorial nominee Dick DeVOS had received the votes of the Republicans, ticket splitters and only 5 percent of the Democrats who voted yes on the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) and for Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM, he would have won the 2006 election, a recent report concluded.
So what does this have to do with Mitt Romney? While the economy should be his main focus, it shouldn't be the only issue. He needs to connect to white working class voters skeptical of a big business guy.
  • He should attack Obama's illegal executive order granting amnesty to many illegal aliens. This ties back to the economy as well, since illegal aliens take jobs that could be filled by Americans.
  • Romney could certainly pledge to end affirmative action as president. This is certainly an important economic issue to many Americans.
  • Romney should attack Obama's disastrous gunwalker program, which attacked the Second Amendment rights of American. It is a scandal far worse than Watergate.
These issues all poll better than the budget-cutting that Romney has been hinting at.

Will Romney make the necessary corrections in time? If not, in five years, you're gonna be blown away.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Congratulations, Melanie Kurdys!

Congratulations to Melanie Kurdys, who won the Republican nomination for state Board of Education at the Republican convention in Grand Rapids today. She and Todd Courser defeated incumbent Nancy Danhoff. They will compete against the democrat nominees in November.

Melanie Kurdys, former Portage school board member, gets Republican nomination for Michigan Board of Education

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Julie Rogers Supports Corporate Welfare

Julie Rogers, a candidate for Kalamazoo County Commission in the 5th district, is on the board of the county Economic Development Corporation. Apparently, this is yet another government organization that is designed to subsidize private businesses with subsidized loans and giveaways of taxpayers' dollars. Select businesses get free money, and politicians get good press for 'creating jobs', even though the actual number of jobs created is a small fraction of what was promised. Julie Rogers is all for this form of corporate welfare.

Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners delays vote on suspending economic development fund
There are currently talks, however, of a $250,000 loan from the fund to the Portage Brewing Company, Julie Rogers, a member of the Economic Development Corporation, said Tuesday night during citizen’s time. Rogers is also running for county board in the 5th District as a Democrat.

Rogers said it would be a “mistake” to get rid of the fund. “There are certain things a government agency can do that Southwest Michigan First can't do," she said, referring to the regional economic development agency.

She said while Southwest Michigan First tries to bring bigger companies into the region, “we see our role in the EDC a little different, to provide some of that gap financing to smaller business.”

There is currently just under $700,000 in the fund. In July, the county board approved giving $250,000 of that to Hark Orchid, a German company that plans to open offices at MidLink Business Park in Comstock Township. The loan will be forgiven if the company creates 80 jobs by 2017.

The loan to the brewery would be different, she said, because the company would pay the full loan back.
Worthams v Rogers
Julie Rogers Already Wasted Your Money
Julie Rogers' Office for Nobody

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Elites Control Both Parties

Gary North has an interesting article on how political parties work. The elites control the higher levels of both parties. There are real differences between the two, but within bounds policed by the elites. The elites select the presidential nominees of both parties by providing the funding necessary for nationwide campaigns when few average folks are paying attention. The only way to beat them is for grassroots conservatives to unite around a candidate before the race begins, as happened in 1964 and 1980. Grassroots conservatives and libertarians need to stay involved in the GOP to gradually change the system over time.

How the Council on Foreign Relations Controls Conservative Republicans

Monday, September 03, 2012

Why is Southwest Michigan More Republican at the Local Level?

When you examine election data for Kalamazoo County, one of the things you notice is that Republicans do much better in local races and democrats do better in statewide races. For statewide races, Michigan has voted for the statewide (President, Senate, Governor, SOS, AG) winner in every election since 2000. The most recent exceptions are Spence Abraham in 2000 and John Smietanka in 1998. For local countywide offices, Kalamazoo has voted Republican for everything for decades except Drain Commissioner (2000, 2008) and Sheriff (2008).

A similar pattern holds for other counties in the region. Why?

Southwest Michigan is historically Republican. The GOP has dominated this area since at least the Great Depression, maybe even earlier. Even the city of Kalamazoo used to be Republican until busing in the 70s. In most townships and many counties, anyone who wants to run for office does so as a Republican. People are used to voting for Republicans for those offices.

Locally, democrat candidates usually come from democrat areas, such as Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor. But many local citizens have negative views of these cities due to the extreme dysfunction of Benton Harbor and the moderate dysfunction of Kalamazoo. Local democrats are identified with the problems of these areas. Former democrat state representative Ed LaForge agrees with this theory.
“There is nothing but hidden animosity outside of the city of Kalamazoo for Kalamazoo,” said LaForge, who believes that the city is perceived as too liberal by those who live farther out in the county.
In contrast, people do not identify Obama with the Daley political machine of Chicago, or Granholm with the McNamara machine of Wayne County because they are not familiar with the politics of these areas. They ran as blank slates without the negative baggage that local democrats have.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

2016: Obama's America

2016: Obama's America has recently become the most successful conservative documentary film in history. That is a good enough reason to see it.

The movie is produced, written by, and stars Dinesh D'Souza, a longtime conservative activist and writer who spoke at Western in 2004. It is based on his books The Roots of Obama's Rage and Obama's America.

Steve Sailer: Dream Job?

First it should be noted that this documentary is very well produced, with lots of beautiful backdrops and nice graphics. It moves along nicely; as an 'entertaining' documentary, it doesn't get too deep, but covers the subject well given the restrictions of the medium.

2016 traces some of the ideological influences on Obama, beginning with Obama's book
Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Who was Obama's father, and what was his dream?

Barack Hussein Obama Sr. was a Kenyan anti-colonialist racial socialist. He was also a terrible person aside from his political views--a bigamist, wife-beater, and drunk driver who knocked up Obama's mother (Stanley Ann) and quickly abandoned her. As described in Dreams, his absence deeply affected young Barack, who created an idealized version of his father in his mind and resolved to be true to his ideals.

D'Souza travels to Hawaii, Indonesia, and Kenya to learn about Obama's childhood. He interviews a number of friends of the Obama family and documents Obama Sr.'s radical views. He shows how Obama was exposed to many leftist anti-American views, but never experienced America growing up (he first visited the American mainland at 18).

Along the way he interviews Barack's half-brother George Obama (who famously lives in a shack). George's surprisingly conservative views made this the highlight of the film for me. D'Souza contrasts Obama's upbringing with his own history of growing up in India and immigrating to America.

Obama consciously associated with radical leftists throughout his career. D'Souza briefly covers Obama's 20-year pastor Jeremiah Wright, an advocate of black liberation theology. He also profiles communist mentor Frank Marshall Davis, communist terrorist Bill Ayers, anti-colonialist Edward Said, and others.

Ever since Obama announced his campaign for President, conservatives have been trying to figure out what makes him tick. The biggest dichotomy is between those who believe he is well-meaning but pursuing bad policies and/or incompetent, and those who believe he is malevolently trying to damage America. After seeing the evidence of Obama's long association with radical leftists as documented in 2016 and elsewhere, the former view lacks plausibility.

That leaves the question of exactly what Obama's real views are. The best-known alternative views on Obama are the "birther" belief that he was really born in Kenya and the notion that he is secretly a Muslim. Both of these views lack support and contradict known facts about Obama. They have been promoted by the liberal media as a way of discrediting more serious criticisms of Obama, even though most conservatives (including D'Souza) reject them.

However, a number of serious conservative researchers, such as D'Souza, Stanley Kurtz, Steve Sailer, and Paul Kengor have offered more compelling insights into Obama. D'Souza believes that anti-colonialism is the key to understanding Obama. In his view, Obama wants to impoverish America and redistribute wealth to the Third World, while dismantling America's military influence abroad.

He cites as evidence Obama's returning of Winston Churchill's bust, denying offshore drilling in America while subsidizing it in Brazil, dismantling America's nuclear arsenal, hostility to Israel, and massive increases in government spending.

I think that D'Souza is right that anti-colonialism is a part of Obama's thinking, but I am not convinced that it is the key factor. For one thing, Obama seems much more focused on domestic policy than foreign policy. He seems to have taken the path of least resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan, far from pulling out immediately. He reversed course on Gitmo and public terror trials. And he killed Osama, though he reportedly canceled the mission three times prior and drafted a letter blaming the military if it failed. While Obama has not drastically changed America's foreign policy, he has nonetheless pursued leftist goals on the margins.

Domestically, it is true that Obama has drastically increased government spending and debt. But as Gary North points out, George W. Bush also significantly increased spending and debt (though less so than Obama), and pushed through Medicare Part D. And Congress was mostly happy to go along with the spending and debt increases. While Obama is clearly a radical leftist, he is also pragmatic, content to get what he can in bits and pieces. Obamacare is the one 'great leap forward' for his leftist vision.

D'Souza argues, plausibly enough, that if Obama is reelected, he will pursue his leftist vision more openly, without having to worry about ever running for office again.

Conservatives can reasonably disagree about what specific philosophy Obama holds. Is it the anti-colonialism of his father, the Marxism of Bill Ayers, the black liberation theology of Jeremiah Wright, the community organizing of Saul Alinsky, or some hybrid of all of them? We don't know for sure, but we do know that he has it in for America.

What's So Great About Christianity