Monday, April 30, 2012

What To Do About Gay Bullying?

A few days ago, we made comment on the issue of bullying. We questioned what was the actual impetus behind the fact that so many celebrities and athletes, local Detroit Tiger hurler Phil Coke, and even pro wrestlers, for crying out loud, have been speaking out against bullying. An astute reader wrote to us saying that it was in fact a cover for the acceptance of homosexuality. He makes a good point, especially considering the context of several initiatives involved in the anti-bullying crusade.

The WWE, or World Wrestling Federation, promotes the be a Star campaign: Show Tolerance and Respect. STAR is supported by several organizations, many of whom are of the liberal bent. Further, in their promotions for STAR, WWE wrestlers such as John Cena encourages kids 'not to change who you are' because who you are is okay. Granted, bullying anyone is wrong, certainly children. But telling them them to stay who they are is dangerous, if we are not allowed to question who they are. For they are, after all, kids, and the whole point of parenting and education and having a stable, moral society requires a degree of coercion. There are things about children, even things about adults, which we should want to change for their own good as well as the good of society.

All of this is before we look at who supports Be a STAR: The Creative Coalition, GLAAD, for starters. Not exactly impartial contributors to the cause. The rest of the list is devoted to various bandwagon types, most of which are sports related or self declared educators. Even a few purported human rights groups make the list.

It all makes us wonder how seriously we may take their stance. We wonder, for example, whether they will roundly condemn one Dan Savage, the founder with his significant other of It Gets Better, an organization formed specifically to combat the bullying of gays. FOX News reports that, in a profanity laced attack on Christianity and the Bible, he basically bullied Christians out of the auditorium where he was speaking, displaying no serious desire to understand Christians or the Bible. He was content to mock them and it based solely on his own preconceptions. Mr. Savage clearly has not taken any serious study of theology in his life.

You will find the video here: http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/video-shows-it-gets-better-founder-cursing-christian-teens.html

Will the anti-bullying people censure him? We doubt it, because when it has come to bullying, it's okay to attack the seriously religious.

Never minds calls about the close minded religious. There are plenty of close minded homosexuals to counter them.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Could Conyers Lose?

There is a fear amongst the local Democrats that, horror of horrors, there may not be a Detroiter in Congress after this fall's elections for the first time since 1887! It appears as though long time liberal Congressman John Conyers may actually have to pay attention to the primary election in his district. The newly formed 13th, though heavily Democratic, cuts a swath through Detroit and several western and southwestern suburbs to the point where it is almost two-thirds suburban. It contains only about 50% of Conyers' old district.

What this means is that he has to deal with suburban Democrats in the August primary, notably State Senator Glenn Anderson, who hails from Westland. Further, there are several black candidates, including Sen. Bert Johnson of Highland Park and state Rep. Shanelle Jackson of Detroit. Should the minority vote be split and suburban Democrats fear Conyers' virtual socialism, he may lose.

That doesn't seem likely. Name recognition is so very important in today's elections that it is hard to see Conyers lose. But what can we gather from this scenario?

Some folks blame the situation on the way in which Republicans drew up the electoral maps. But what was the GOP to do? Conyers new district, just like the one of fellow Democrat Hansen Clarke, are solidly Democratic. With Detroit having lost the population it had between the 2000 and 2010 Censuses (censuses?) there wasn't much way to guarantee one minority seat in the House of Representatives, let alone two. The City of Detroit only barely has enough people to guarantee one Congressman on its own; without a certain amount of gerrymandering the requirements of the Voting Rights Act could not possibly be attained. They would not even be in sight.

The real lesson here is that social engineering is a difficult task. As the voting population moves about and diversifies, a good thing on the whole (and isn't diversity what we want, left wingers?), it becomes harder and harder to engineer elections to the satisfaction of the powers that be. Conyers, like perhaps Hansen Clarke, may become a victim of the numbers game. There may no longer be areas where the minority vote alone can guarantee minority representation on Congress. There's no one to blame for that except increasing affluence, and poor leadership in cities such as Detroit, which drives its own citizens out of town.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Compassion or Insult?

It is a story which tugs at your heartstrings, unless you have no heart. An Ishpeming father has appealed to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, or MHSAA, to allow his son to play high schools ports past the age of 18. His son has Down’s Syndrome, and started school a year late because of it. MHSAA bylaws do not permit anyone who will be 19 before September 1st of a school year to participate in sports. The student, Eric Dompierre, is already a 19 year old junior at Ishpeming High School.

It would be very easy to say that he should be allowed on the school’s football and basketball teams just so that he could be part of a team. That’s essentially what his father Dean, the Ishpeming schools, and free Press sportswriter Mick McCabe want. Yet Eric is only to actually be on the field or court during extra point attempts in football, or when the game safely decided in basketball. It leaves us with the question: is the young man being treated as an equal, or is he being patronized?

With all due respect to the situation, allowing him to be on a team but only allowing him in the games when nothing is at stake does exactly that. While we can appreciate his desire to be part of a team, what are we saying about his personal integrity when he is only to play when the game doesn’t matter? Aren’t we in fact insulting his dignity him rather than defending it?

This is not to say that we ought not have compassion for him or anyone who struggles with disabilities. But if part of mainstreaming those who deal with such mental and/or physical issues is to make exceptions for them within rules that apply equally to everybody else (and as such it becomes difficult to call them unfair) then it seems right to ask about whether they and their supporters really want mainstreaming. Or, again, whether they in truth patronize such individuals.

Compassion is a fine and good thing. Yet if it leads us to harm rather than uphold someone’s dignity, even the dignity of someone who may not realize his dignity is being harmed, then we need to take a step back and ask about the real meaning of our compassion. We help no one’s dignity when we patronize. We may actually be insulting it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cyber Charter Schools

The Michigan State House approved the expansion of Cyber Charter Schools by a narrow vote of 56-54. This does not automatically open the doors to expansion, however, as the version passed by the State Senate last year is different. So the bill goes to the Senate, where it will meet its ultimate fate, at least for the current legislative session.

Traditional publicly funded schools oppose the cyber schools. This is no surprise, as they would presumably cut into their class sizes and, in the end, their revenue. That doesn't mean that their concerns are wholly illegitimate, though. They are worried that there are aren't enough assurances within the current proposal to see that the education cyber schools might offer would be adequate. State Schools Superintendent Michael Flanagan believes that we need more data on the current cyber academies (there are two operating in Michigan as of now) before he could support their expansion.

This is all right so far as it goes. Yet as with many other education issues, the entrenched education establishment speaks with something of a forked tongue. It doesn't like cyber schools because they would cut into its domain (a domain it arrogantly has asserted for itself, we hasten to add). Yet all cyber schools do is allow students to do their coursework online. It is interesting to note that several public school districts have in the past and do currently offer what are in effect cyber schools in allowing their students to make up coursework as it is. Warren Consolidated Schools have done this, for one, and there are others. Rochester, Ann Arbor, Algonac; Dearborn, Wayne-Westland, Plymouth and several other school districts have also used cyber education. So with cyber education the rule apparently is that they can do it, but you better not allow kids to do it in their own homes on their own time.

Which leads to the second important point. What really is the difference between cyber schools and home schooling? If parents want to home school their progeny, a right as inviolate as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, why shouldn't they have options in how they do it? It would appear that Lansing is merely attempting to expand upon their rights as parents. That it wants to do so along the lines of what many public school districts are already offering to their charges should not be an issue. If anything, it ought to lend support to the cause of cyber education.

When all gets said and done, this is about control. Does the public school establishment have the right to control education, or do parents? Framed that simply and, we will argue until we are blue in the face, correctly, the answer is easy and obvious. Power to the people!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Toddlers and Tiaras: Disgusting Television

A report on today's Huffington Post asks the question: has the show Toddlers & Tiaras gone too far? The answer ought to be so obvious as to make the question unnecessary. That show had gone too far once it was even being seriously discussed in brainstorming sessions. Let's face it: beauty pageants for 6 and 8 year olds, well, let's just say that what happens with them could be construed as child porn, at least arguably. There's something genuinely sick about dolling up toddlers as though they're college age beauty queens. But when we institutionalize it with TV shows such as the aforementioned Toddlers & Tiaras, we should not be shocked when young contestants blithely state (what can be safely taken as) ugly kids better not be put on display because they're losers. This says something about America today, and what it says isn't anything to be proud of. People who subject their own kids to such scrutiny need parenting classes. People who watch these shows need psychiatric care. To be fair, part of the interest is probably like watching the proverbial train wreck. At times, things are so outlandish that we can't believe our eyes, and that does make it a challenge to avert them. Still, what have we become as a nation when such drivel passes as entertainment on any level for any reason? The so-minded among us will comment that no one makes them do this, it's a free country, blah, blah, blah, none of which makes what's actually happening in this or any other arena right. The only reason to oppose censorship of such nonsense is the fear of what might happen if the wrong people control the censorship panels, because in a better world pageants for kids and television shows about them would be scornfully dismissed as the dangerous tripe they are. The whole thing is just sad. But that's the downside of the almost absolute freedom of expression which plagues the United States these days: it allows the ghouls as well as the sane their day in the sun.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Democrats and Race

Well, well, well. In a new Congressional district which in theory was supposed to insure that Michigan would keep two minority representatives in Congress, it looks as though Gary Peters may take the day. At least, on the Democratic side of the aisle. Peters has garnered an impressive array of supporters. His endorsements include the UAW, the SEIU, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the Teamsters, the Michigan Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. In short, all the traditionally Democratic forces have lined up behind him. His main opponent, Rep. Hansen Clarke, says bravely that he is more interested in serving the people. That's a courageous stand, and indeed something which we need more of in American politics. Unfortunately, it doesn't reflect reality. Clarke is way behind in fundraising as well as endorsements. Factor in that the minority vote will likely be split between himself and rivals Mary Waters and Brenda Lawrence, and his campaign for a second term in the House is doomed. That's too bad, in a way. Hansen Clarke is a genuinely likeable and forthright individual. But what does this say about the champions of minority representation? Should not Gary Peters and his entourage of backers and lifelong Democrats have valiantly stepped aside in the cause of civil rights? Or are civil rights merely a rallying call when the bad old GOP is in play? The same GOP which effectively passed all the great civil rights legislation when the vaunted Democrats balked? To be sure, the left will and has complained that the District was drawn to pit two Democrats against each other. But that's simply sour grapes; they would have done it to the GOP had they the chance. The district was drawn in compliance with the Voting Rights Act, being 58% minority and heavily Democratic to boot. Further, Peters has the endorsement of the Wayne County Democratic Black Caucus. So any talk about racist Republicans on the matter must fall on deaf ears. Yep, yep, yep, race matters to the left. Until it comes to power. Then, minority issues are out the window. Even among minority leaders.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Are Bullying Fears Overblown?

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Phil Coke has spoken out against bullying. Coke said he was bullied as a child because of his lack of size and his last name. He joins a long list of sports stars, celebrities, and WWE wrestlers who are speaking out against bullying.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. Nobody except possibly the bullies themselves are in favor of bullying, and even they would probably try to deny what they did. In that light, the whole issue is a little like education, peace and the like, only inverted. Everyone is for education and peace. Everyone's against bullying.

So, then, why it does it feel like the cause of the moment? Quite frankly, we have a hard time believing that so many of these sports personalities were bullied all that much. Seeing as many of them were athletes of one kind or another when growing up, a group which is generally revered even as kids, it strikes us as unlikely that the John Cenas of the world grew up under awful conditions. But to the point: no one was talking about bullies 10, 20 years ago. Now the concern is everywhere.

No doubt that much of it springs from concern for our youth. That's okay. Few news stories tug at the heartstrings more than a tragedy involving a youngster or teen. But we wonder whether it's still an overblown issue. It's to imagine that anybody has not felt pressured by other kids at school. It's also true that the vast majority of us turned out okay anyway.

We walk a fine line sometimes when we highlight what may be little more than natural if unfortunate childhood issues. If we aren't careful, we actually become counterproductive. We might encourage extreme actions which become justified because, 'Well, I'm the victim of bullying or I wouldn't be doing this.' Perhaps the better response is to do what we can to keep kids out of bullying situations, but teach that some people are just jerks and what they say and do means nothing to who we are.

Our best guess is that all this ballyhoo will mean nothing in a year or two. They'll be another worse cause to fight for or against. We hope that this current cause isn't simply public relations.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day Birthdays

Today is Earth Day, and perhaps not coincidentally my birthday. I point this out not in search of salutations, or condolences as the case may be, but as an example of the irony found everywhere in our wild little universe. The Wayne County (MI) Conservative Examiner's birthday is Earth Day; even I appreciate the humor of it. In light of that, I hope that the folks at Examiner.com will forgive my speaking in the first person today. Why else would the powers that be (likely greeting card companies who were looking for yet another way of encouraging the buying public to purchase prepackaged, smarmy, and shallow goodwill) honor the birthday of a rabid and aging conservative with what seems at first glance an incongruent alignment of ideals? Somebody is surely laughing somewhere. I can't blame them for that. Many of those somebodies will take the opportunity to point this out to me as they wish me happy birthday, hardy har har, yes I get it. Still, I don't understand why so many folks out there believe that conservatives have no respect for the planet or her environment. The very fact that we refer to Mother Earth in the feminine demonstrates the great respect we have for her. We readily acknowledge that good stewardship is right and proper, not only as God has given us this gift of a place to live and we should honor it on that point alone, but because our own interests command it. We cannot continue as a race without maintaining our world properly. So plant a tree today if you so desire. Cultivate a field, or begin using cleaner burning fuels if that is your mission in life. I certainly won't stop you. So long as you don't make it into a cause which puts Earth ahead of people, living, breathing people with eternal souls that matter much more than dirt and leaves, we can coexist happily. In the meantime, I'll burn charcoal as I roast bratwurst and Italian Sausage and hoist a brew or two in the back yard. Yessiree, I'll pollute the atmosphere with charcoal fumes as I prepare a birthday feast. Hey, I'm a conservative. I have to do something that fits the stereotype.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Immigration has become something of a political football these days. But it is no less of religious and moral issue as well. The Archdiocese of Detroit has recognized as much, to the point where it is participating in an event today where immigration is the focus. From 10 AM until 2PM this afternoon there will be a conference at Holy Redeemer Church in southwest Detroit which will focus on immigration issues, particularly considering what outreach programs the Church might offer in helping immigrants become accepted into American society as well as make the Church accessible for them. This is as it should be. The Church ought to be at the forefront of immigrant rights. But of course, the Church should be at the forefront of any and all calls for the respect of proper human rights. Especially in areas such as metro Detroit, which has a growing Hispanic population, we need to be aware of and willing to aid our fellow human beings in their search for a better life. We as a nation ought to be willing to accept anyone who wishes to become American become American. It's an old saw that we are a nation of immigrants, and the fact is that we became a great nation in no small way by allowing those who want to live and work in the United States to enter and become citizens. We ought to have relatively liberal immigration laws. Anyone who wants to be here and is no threat to our nation or our way of life should be allowed within our borders. This makes the question of illegal immigration a tough one. It is not unfair to ask whether we ought to deport illegals or simply make them citizens. Yet it is also not fair to ask those who come in legally to wait in line while others who came in illegally are naturalized by a stroke of a pen. The best way to deal with the whole immigration issue is to have reasonably open borders. That way, those who are here can be documented and begin to fully participate in the American system. That may require certain things which, on the surface, appear silly. But we could live with deporting illegal immigrants as a matter of principle, while afterwards allowing those same people back in via the proper routes. Everyone who is no threat to us and are willing to work above board within the United States ought to be accepted here. Only come in the front door, friends. That is not a xenophobic request. It is simply common decency.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Post Office to Close

The little town of Elwell, Michigan will lose its Post Office. The Postal Regulatory Commission in Washington has voted to not review the town's petition to keep it open. The Elwell Post Office did very little business and only 24 people have post office boxes there. This is a perfect example of where government spending ought to be cut. We can say all we want about the government serving the people, but it's hard to justify spending for so few for so little. Particularly considering that the Elwell Post Office is merely one of hundreds throughout the United States which do little business, it becomes easy to see how much money can be saved through the elimination of such offices. And no, money isn't everything. But the folks who want to keep all the Elwells open like to ignore the fact that it is still something. It is a finite resource, a tool, and like any tool it must be used well in order to gain the most benefit for the most people. After that, when you factor in that it is other people who are supporting the Elwells and have been keeping them afloat for years, well, it sounds rather demanding that every small town in America believes they ought to be subsidized for their own purposes. Yes, the closing may well be a hardship on certain folks. But we've always believed that rural America more than any other part of America has been the quickest to help itself and its neighbors. Rather than bemoan the loss of the the local Post Office, we would be more impressed if the locals rose up to the challenged and did what they could for themselves and their friends. Someone pointed out that Elwell has had a Post Office since the 1880s. Unfortunately longevity is no reason in itself to maintain anything. There has to be more, and that includes need and cost. And the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, generally speaking (there are exceptions, of course). And further, if we are going to get a handle on our spending, well, some folks are subject to be inconvenienced by it, sometimes even for decent enough reasons in themselves. Yet we can't let that keep us from necessary pruning. Indeed, it is the idea that we can't cut anything which has led us to our current predicament in Washington. Do we really want to continue down that road? If we do, it won't be merely our postal service which is threatened. It will be our national defense, our local police and fire protection, and all the way down to our garbage pickup. All because we would refuse to make the small but necessary budget cuts. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay, even morally decent, to feel bad for those who are hurt by the process. But that cannot keep us from doing what we must to forestall even worse calamities for even greater numbers of people. Trying to be everything for everybody only hurts, well, everybody. it is no way to run a postal service, let alone a government.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

This and That on a Thursday

President Barack Obama appeared in the metro Detroit area yesterday, asking for money. For him, that is, and not to trim the exploding federal deficits. It's all about priorities, you know. He needs to get reelected so that he can do something about the monster he's created. Anybody see the irony here? We note with sadness the passing of the legendary Dick Clark, who died yesterday of a heart attack at the age of 82. The effect he had upon American culture and rock and roll music simply cannot be quantified. It was too high and too significant. He translated that into many other activities, game shows and what not, and somehow manged to become an icon in an entirely different area: he became the symbol of New Year's Eve. God Bless, Dick Clark. December 31, 2012 simply won't be the same without you. The President's Detroit trip wasn't all pomp and circumstance. A group of about 100 people calling themselves '100% fed up' protested outside of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, one of the President's stops for the day. The group was headed by a conservative activist, Dr. David Janda, who said he will quit his practice is Obamacare isn't somehow overturned. Others at the protest included housewife Patty McMurray, who asserted that she understood economics despite that career choice. You go, girl. Don't let the Democrats and the left insult your intelligence. An Ingham County judge has ruled that the state's Emergency Manager Law violates the Headlee Amendment because it forces added costs to local government. Maybe so, maybe no; but as irony is the word of the day here, let's apply it one more time. We have a judge acting as a judicial activist essentially arguing that a conservative law approved by voters prohibits a conservative law passed by the state legislature. Further, the case was brought about through a man now accused of misusing public funds. Robert Davis, who hates state oversight measures such as the Emergency Manger law, has been indicted for allegedly running a scam on the government which cost $380,000 in public funds. That's a double layer of irony there, friends. But public officials (Davis is a Highland Park school board member) demanding public dollars is nothing new. It's how they seed their lawns. Ah well. Enough for today. With a government like ours, irony will return. All too often.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Buying Elections

Mitt Romney has garnered more money out of Michigan than President Barack Obama. The Michigan native and son of former Governor George Romney has raised around $2 million, whereas the President has picked up $1.6 million himself. Nationally, however, it is a different story. The President has raised in the area of a whopping $157 million dollars. It makes Romney's total of $74 million appear almost meager. And it leaves a fascinating question.

Where are all the liberals who want presidential campaigns, indeed most any campaign for any political office, publicly funded?

They are strangely silent over an issue which so often in the past drawn their ire. We don't want anybody to buy an election, do we?

But as we have so often said here, liberals want what they want because it suits them. We cannot have evil rich Republican corporate types buying an election. But Hollywood hot shots and limousine liberals can buy whatever office they want.

That's pretty much what happened in 2008. Republican John McCain, who accepted federal election money, was outspent 4 to 1 by Barack Obama between September and November 2008. Still, he only won the popular vote by 53 to 47 percent in a year of rout by other Democratic candidates. If that doesn't qualify as a bought election, it certainly creases the envelope. And the President is trying to do the same thing in 2012.

We can demographics, if you like, and point out than Romney's contributors in Michigan tend to be wealthier while Obama has more total donors. Or even than contributions from Ann Arbor, the President's biggest local supporting city, came from an awful lot of University of Michigan employees. Academics tend to be among the richer liberals. But the demographics don't matter, if buying and selling elections is the moral evil the left until recently wanted us to believe.

It's simply more liberal hypocrisy. Keep that in mind when you consider your vote this November.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

MIchigan Senate Race 2012

Has anybody noticed that the race for the Republican nomination for the US Senate is getting just about no coverage? Since the to-do over Pete Hoekstra's Super Bowl ads, next to nothing has been said about the race.

That's likely because the race is as over as the one for the GOP Presidential slot. Most polls show Hoekstra so far in front that a serious challenge to him is unlikely, outside of his doing something patently catastrophic or incredibly stupid. He has the support of about half the Republicans in the race. That's considerable, when you realize that there are 11 people vying for the chance to run against Debbie Stabenow. Of course, it appears that approximately 40% of potential voters are undecided. But unless all those uncertain voters swing to one candidate, Hoekstra's got the thing tied up.

A further reason for the general disinterest may be in that Stabenow will be difficult to beat. Most polling shows her beating any GOP challenger, although not by tremendous margins. A lot of that may well not play out until the November elections, when we see how the big picture is developing. Will there be Presidential coattails or Republican triumphs for the respective Parties' more local candidates to take advantage of?

But the most likely reason there's little attention to the race here is that it's only April, the Presidential nominations are a foregone conclusion, and we're simply in a lull in the election cycle. And that's good. It shows that Americans aren't all political wonks who thrive on watching and predicting election outcomes. It shows that Americans have lives outside the voting booth.

Well, some of us anyway.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Whole Foods in Detroit's Midtown

Whole Foods, a national chain of organic grocery stores, is soon to announce that it will open a store in the Midtown area of Detroit. It seems that Midtown is hip and trendy enough to warrant a store. This is a good thing.

Midtown Detroit is basically the area on Woodward Avenue between downtown Detroit and the New Center area, which is where the Fisher Building sit. Midtown contains the Detroit Medical Center, Wayne State University, the museum district and the main Detroit Library. It is a pleasant part of Detroit which will only be strengthened with the addition of Whole Foods.

Some residents are concerned, however. Though they welcome the idea of a major chain locating a store in Midtown, they do fear that the attention might attract other large stores and chase out the smaller, local businesses which have helped the area thrive. A large scale invasion of national chains might also hurt residents by ratcheting up property values, thus driving them out.

How do we respond to such fears? If you want a growing, stable community, then you have to grow, and that growth and stability is going to attract investors. To be sure, we don't want to belittle the issues which come with growth. But we are better off with growing pains than stagnation, or, worse, decay. Yes, some local businesses and residents may well be pained. But remember the old saw that no one misses whale oil salesmen. Things change, and so long as the change is for the better it needs community support.

Besides, the large chains are already in Midtown. There are Rite Aid and CVS drug stores, a Radio Shack, and a Starbucks; a Biggby's Coffee too, if that counts. These are just off the top of our heads this morning. A walk down Woodward would likely show us more. At this point, one more large company surely doesn't matter. We're beyond concerns about what growth will do. It's doing it.

Detroit's Midtown is a bright spot in the urban wasteland which covers so much of the city. It is better to celebrate that, than worry over things which have already happened. Welcome, Whole Foods.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Importance of Jury Duty

The Detroit Free Press reports this morning that many people are not showing up for jury duty in and around Detroit. Indeed, only around 68% of jury duty questionnaires are filled out and returned to local courts. Within the City of Detroit, almost 32% of questionnaires are not mailed back.

What does that all mean? The main problem which many in the judicial system have with it is the practical result which goes along with the ignoring of jury questionnaires and jury summons: a lack of a diverse jury pool. Minorities tend to be underrepresented on juries. Jury pools in southeast Michigan tend to be overwhelmingly white.

There are two things wrong with this. The underlying presumption is that whites are not necessarily capable of serving as impartial jurors on cases involving minorities. That is simply insulting; one can be quite sure that if the implication were turned upside down, there would be all sorts of objections raised, undoubtedly leading up to a visit to Michigan by Al Sharpton.

But more than that. This is an example of yet another issue being painted with the brush of diversity where diversity, particularly the shallow diversity of mere skin color or ethnicity, is being forced into a question where it ought not be applied. If we have the right to a jury of our peers, and we are all fellow citizens, then the diversity of the jury pool should not matter. If we really trust the system and our neighbors.

When we start to view juries in terms of their diversity, we begin to forget (if not outright ignore) the purpose of juries and the right to trial by jury. That right is perhaps the most important right we have which is little thought about and little promoted. Juries can decide a case however they want. They can let circumstance enter into their decision despite the law. To be sure, they are instructed to follow the law in their deliberations. But once inside that jury room, they are really free to decide as they wish. As such, jury duty should be encouraged as the supreme forum through which our rights are protected.

Enter the judges of Michigan, who assert that their attempts at diverse pools of juries are constitutional (so says federal Judge Gerald Rosen of the Eastern District of Michigan District Courts). But that isn't the real point of jury service, nor should it be. When the courts and court officials themselves are fretting over what are at best minor points involved in the process (and at worst, ugly visages of a shallow view of juries), it is easy to wonder how much respect they themselves have for the right to a jury trial.

If any given group or individual elects to not participate in the system, then same on them. If as a result the system doesn't work for them, if they don't receive a just verdict for whatever reason, then that's on them. If jury service is to become just another political and social football, if justice is to be nothing more than a game matching my wits against yours, for whatever reason but all the worse if jury selection simply means being able to select people who will side with me (for that is essentially what is being asked of juries these days and with worries over such as the diversity of the selection pool), then we will have no justice. And if you don't show up for jury duty, then your opinion on the question is irrelevant.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Macomb Rejects DIA Support

Macomb County Commissioners have effectively voted against a proposal which would have county residents vote on a tax to help fund the Detroit Institute of Arts. The vote was a tie, but ties don't get things done. It is seen as a blow to the DIA, which wanted to create an endowment payed for by voters of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties. Wayne County has approved an 'arts authority' to manage a millage question to be put before her voters. Oakland County has yet to act.

We have nothing against the Detroit Institute of Arts, nor against art in general. But it strikes us that any overt government support of the arts, whatever they may be, is, at the least, a tricky issue. This next question is going to rankle the supporters of the arts, again, whatever they may be, but it is fair to ask why taxpayers ought to support whatever the patrons of the arts call art. Especially when you consider the amount of taxpayer cash given out over the years for 'art' of dubious value, it doesn't seem right to ask for support for the 'arts' without asking what art is.

It also calls to mind the age old problem inherent in taxes: all that it takes for me to force you to fund my pet project is to have fifty percent plus one of the voters (or, more rightly, fifty percent plus one of those who bother to vote) decide to make you help me pay for it. Not that such is always wrong: some things need to be paid for out of the public coffers no matter what any given individual may think, and many necessary things would not get done without the democratic process to some degree making citizens ante up no matter what.

Yet it strikes us that there is a significant difference between, say, asking others to pay taxes for police and fire protection and asking them to pay for an art museum. Think what you will, it is better to have cops on the street than paintings on the the wall, even very good and exceptional paintings. Beyond that, consider what a given individual might think of as art compared to what an 'arts authority' may think art. That 'authority' may believe art what is in fact tripe. We've all seen things called art which we know are not: avant garde paintings and sculptures and displays which are little more than pretentious, or worse.

Further, we don't even see where it is wise of the arts community to want government of any kind at any level determining what art is or can be. A simple look at what government has determined about other things demonstrates readily what it might do to art. The City of Detroit cannot run its basic services; can it really defend or define good art?

This is not to say that we are against art, though we will be charged with that. But it is to say that some things should be left to the private sector, to the market and the forces which drive it. Art is one of them.

We cannot imagine any serious, rational person who does not appreciate Michaelangelo or Renoir. We do not see many serious, rational people in government or on arts authorities.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Santorum Drops Out

Rick Santorum has suspended his presidential campaign, leaving Mitt Romney the sure Republican nominee. Sorry, Newt Gingrich, you never had a chance anyway.

But far more important than the GOP race now becoming the foregone conclusion which it really already was, in reality if not in actual fact, is the reason Santorum is dropping out. His young daughter Bella has been having health issues, and he wants to be able to see to them.

It is exactly that sort of fatherly compassion which has set him apart from Romney and Gingrich. Santorum is the kind of conservative who cares about the whole person, even in areas where some person would say his concerns are not part of their personal vision. It came out in his speeches and campaign appearances, and it resonated with right wing Republicans in ways which Gingrich's bravado and Romney's slickness did not. Gingrich may be one of us, but he's too brash and divisive. Romney is probably not one of us, appealing to conservative values only to win a nomination. But Rick Santorum was the real deal, not unlike the great Ronald Reagan. Conservatives saw and could relate to that.

The cynics will say that the decision was prompted by recent poll numbers suggesting Santorum was headed towards defeat in his home state of Pennsylvania, whose primary is upcoming. Let them say it. They are the kind of people you cannot influence anyway. As to the rest of us, we owe Mr. Santorum thanks for allowing us to believe that a real Republican could express conservative passionately and literately, and to see that there is still hope for American even today. Even though the election has now become between Obama and Obama lite.

Good luck and Godspeed for your family and your future, Senator.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Terror and Detroit and Windsor

Border delays have become part of our lives since that infamous September day now sadly immoratlized as 9/11. We are also seeing a lot of analysis of the long term effect the wait times have upon ourselves and Canada, our nearest neighbor.

Border delays, while they seem to be lessening on the whole, are being both praised and despised. Many criminals are being caught, thanks to an increase in border guards and an increase in the technology which allows for more criminal activity to be caught. Yet American travel to Canada has dropped, as it is becoming more difficult for Americans to get back into their own country from our neighbor to the north.

This should be expected when law abiding American citizens are treated as criminals when all they are trying to do is get back home after visiting friends or taking what ought to be a simple day excursion into Windsor. They should not be subjected to the insulting types of questions they are asked, such as, "When was the last time you were in prison?" If the record shows no evidence of any given person's presumed incarceration, then Homeland Security has no right to ask it. If it has the right at all; aren't American citizens entitled to be in America regardless?

Even question such as, "How much money do you have on you?", are inherently insulting. "None of your business", which is the best and correct answer to that, would only delay a US citizen's return all the more. We have been told of a person who belonged to a Canadian curling club being asked, 'Why do you curl in Canada?' Because he wants to and is violating no laws or normss in so doing? The fact is that any questions beyond 'How long were you in Canada?' or 'Do you have anything to declare?' are out of bounds, unless the border guard has good reason to believe otherwise that you aren't who you say you are.

We have said it before, yet it remains true: if we have to change the way we live because of the terrorist threat, then the terrorists have won anyway and 9/11 has simply made us into a boot camp. Until law abiding Detroiters can cross reasonably freely into Canada, then maybe it's time to stop the War on Terror, because we've clearly lost it.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter 2012

On this Easter morning, we are reminded that this great Holy Day seems to play second fiddle to the other greatest Christian feast, Christmas. Not that Christmas is a lowly event, either; far from it! Yet w cannot help but conclude, in reconciling the levels of attention paid to each, that we ought to focus more of our efforts, if even only slightly, on Easter.

We do not pretend to be theologians, but as wonderful as December 25th is, it is something of a precursor to our salvation: Christ comes into the world as all the rest of us have, as a child. His is the promise: for God so loved the world that He sent His only Son for our redemption. Christmas is hope. The celebration of it demonstrates trust in the future which Our Lord has set before us.

Easter fulfills that hope and promise. Though we grieve so deeply and so rightly at the misery and death which Christ took upon Himself for us, it is not His Death but His glorious Resurrection which redeems us. Who else has come back from the dead? Who else has defeated that last obstacle to secure the possibility of our everlasting joy?

So while we tread lightly in making such comparisons we have to believe that Easter should be felt more profoundly than any other Christian celebration. He is Risen. Our Heavenly destiny is opened to us should we accept. Let us rise with Him to the level for which we were created, made possible by His love for us. Made possible through the Resurrection.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

We're Still Losing People

Michigan was one of three states which experienced a population drop between April of 2010 and July of 2011. It doesn't seem much, about 0.1%. Yet it raises questions about the direction we're heading.

It appears to be a larger proportional drop than what happened between the 2000 and 2010 Census readings, which showed Michigan losing about 55,000 residents. So long as our numbers keep dropping, it makes us wonder what perception the rest of the country might have for our state, or even what Michigan citizens themselves think about Michigan. It might open eyes to note that that drop of 0.1% equals around 7,000 people. That rate, if it continues, would result in a larger population loss between 2010 and 2020 than in the prior Census period.

If people are still leaving, then we still haven't gotten back to the point where there's enough here to merit staying. Similarly, if people aren't moving in, then we aren't where we need to be in order to attract them.

Michigan has always been a bit off the beaten path. When the nation was expanding many settlers blew by us, preferring to move more directly west. That's why so many states farther west than Michigan became states ahead of us. Part of the trouble then was the perception that Michigan was little more than a swampland. How was that overcome? The discovery of copper, the logging industry, and more recently, the automotive industry. What do all those have in common? They are single industries.

And that's where Michigan needs to improve. We need a diverse economy. We've needed it for a long time. We cannot be so dependent on any one thing. To be sure, there have been efforts to do this, and they have borne fruit. But we're clearly behind the curve, and have some catching up to do.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Today is perhaps the day of the greatest irony on our calendar. It is Good Friday, the day we Christians remember the crucifixion of out Lord Jesus Christ.

It doesn't seem that it should be called good. On the surface, the celebration (perhaps veneration is a better word) of someone's death, particularly a rather gruesome one, seems odd to say the least. Yet that is an interpretation based solely on earthly terms. When you consider that the great Divinity was involved, it casts an entirely different light on the situation.

God sent His only Son to be humiliated, to suffer and die horribly, for us. Such a great act cannot be seen except as fantastic. How could a sacrifice of that magnitude be seen in other than a positive light?

We cannot rightly see it any other way. Remember what Aquinas teaches: Christ is either lunatic, liar, or Lord. He Himself gives us no option but to answer the question in that frame. He claimed He could forgive others' sins: sins committed (on the surface) against other people by other people. That itself is effrontery or lunacy or even diabolical if He is not part of the Godhead. If He cannot actually do that, if He does not really have that power, then He lies or is insane. If He lies or is insane, then we cannot trust anything else He may say or teach or do. It's that simple.

Yet if we choose the example which faith recommends, if we see Him as Lord of all based on His actions in life and death as well as through the testimony of his trusted companions, then we see the need for praise and holy fear which His death illustrates to us. We understand what that death means: that the God of all humanity will not forsake humanity to her own selfish desires. He will give us an out, if you will, by living the greatest love of all: to give one's life for one's friends.

When the greatest One does that, what choice do we have but to call it Good?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Baseball is Back for 2012

What could be more American than baseball? And today is Opening Day, that feast of baseball excess which leads us into spring and summer days of sun and fun.

The Detroit Tigers take on the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park this afternoon at 1:05, officially inaugurating the 2012 season locally. The sun is expected to be shining and, although it will be on the chilly side, the hearts of Detroiters will be warmed by the glow of the National Pastime.

Let the fans of the other major sports, especially the footballers, say what they will; baseball is the game of Americans. It was played as recreation during lulls in the Civil War. It was played in earlier forms during the colonial and revolutionary periods of our history. It is provincial, and that is one of its key strengths. So more people may watch the Super Bowl; that's merely because it is one game, and many if not most watchers are more concerned with the party than the athletic event anyway. But baseball fans watch the World Series more intently when their team is involved. No fair weather fans there. No false fans untrue to their locale as with so many Super Bowl and even BCS 'fans'.

What's more, it's the game which best displays the natural conservatism of Americans. Everyone plays as a team but also has to go out there as an individual; you field, where your prowess depends upon your skill but also your teammates positioning and anticipation. You bat or pitch, which gives you the chance to produce on your own. It's Americana at its best.

Welcome, baseball! Welcome, harbinger of the bright days of summer! Welcome back, National Pastime! We have the summer to ourselves, unspoiled by those other games, those pretenders to our hearts. Baseball is America, baseball is back, and go Detroit Tigers!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Recall Snyder Again?

There is another effort in the works to recall Governor Rick Snyder. That's not surprising; there are groups of far left radicals who simply don't like the democratic process and will do anything to undermine it. In this case, it's really the same group but with a different name.

They were originally the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder. Now they're called Michigan Rising. But call them what you like, or let them call themselves what they like; the bottom line is that they're simply trying to disrupt the business of the state for no useful purpose.

Why try again, after their first initiative fell far short of the necessary signatures? Because you have to 'chop the head off the beast to slay the dragon', says Marty Townsend, the head of her own beast. What has that other beat been up to, the beast she's fighting? Cuts to education, and the emergency manager law, among other things.

It's interesting hat there were no such efforts to recall then Governor Jennifer Granholm while she too was cutting education budgets. This is important, because this recall group, reorganized into Michigan Rising, claims to be non-partisan. But a look at their website shows that they are anything but. The charges against Rick Snyder dominate the site, and they argue that there are 80 anti-union bills before the legislature. In short, their non-partisanship is fully anti-Republican.

Their leadership is dominated by community activists, social justice seekers, and worriers about corporate politicians (whatever they are). And interestingly enough, their CEO, one Julius Muller, doesn't even live in Michigan. He lives in Florida. But he lived here for eight years, so apparently he's qualified to keep his hat in the Michigan ring.

This effort is as doomed as the first. Those wanting to recall Snyder are simply a group of dissatisfied liberals who eat at the slops of the government trough and are seen by the voting public as such. Michigan Rising is doomed to fall hard.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Is Recycling worth the effort?

Today is the day that we take our recyclables to the recycling center. As we've mentioned before, we're not fans of recycling. That does not, however, mean we are diametrically opposed to it.

The conservative position on recycling is akin to the conservative position on almost everything else: if it's necessary, truly useful, advances the safety of human beings or, quite frankly, if it pays without violating any moral norms, we are open to it. This list by no means exhausts the questions we might have about recycling or any other issue. It merely sets the table for discussion.

We are not, no matter what liberals may say about us, obstinately opposed to change. We only ask that the change is genuinely worthwhile or serves a greater purpose than what we were doing before. There's no point being fools about it: if recycling is what we have to do to keep planet Earth habitable for us, then we should do it. We are not convinced that it saves the planet all that much wear and tear. We are merely stating that if it can be reliably demonstrated that without recycling we, or our heirs, will die out due to our lack of proper stewardship, then we ought to recycle heavily.

The trouble is that that the case, and the burden of proof must lie on the shoulders of those who think it is rather than on those of us don't. It is fair to ask: why must anyone change their habits because someone thinks it good? Give us something concrete and we'll talk. Otherwise, individuals am well within their rights to wonder whether anything projected over a large scale is actually predictable. Claiming that without recycling we'll be piled with trash or run over with landfills within a couple hundred years is nonsense on its own face. Scare tactics merely scare. How about a little rationality, a little perspective? If you're right, the sanity of your cause will come through.

Why shouldn't the individual ask whether the process will pay me? It seems that we give away paper, plastic, glass jars and so on, solely for someone else to benefit from it. If it pays, why can't the donors get paid for it? The answer, essentially, is that these products don't really pay anyone unless given to them. They must be had in large quantities or they aren't worth handling; the true value of those products are virtually nil. Yet people can and do get cold hard cash for their scrap iron, aluminum, and copper. Why? Because they hold a decent value even after their initial use. Even now we are willing to concede that if there is a greater necessity, something beyond monetary value which ought to be considered, then we should consider it. If we will die out by about 2025, or especially by next Tuesday, without recycling, then let's do it and forget about who gets paid what. Otherwise, it's just scare tactics again.

Is recycling truly useful? Certainly for a few, but for the general society? You're asking that a lot of people go to a significant effort to turn in garbage; again, where is the empirical proof or practical reason for it? We are not all that interested in how recyclables are used outside of that context. So there are playgrounds where shredded old tires can soften a kid's fall: would there be no other ways of doing this, ways perhaps better, with new materials? We don't know the answer. We're only asking. But we are within our rights to expect a good answer.

As it stands now, our attitude is live and let live. If you want to recycle, then recycle. Only don't force your preferences upon the rest of us without just cause. Your say so, no matter how heartfelt, is not good enough.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Douglass Academy Redux

Last week we spoke about an incident at the Frederick Douglass Academy, an all boys school in Detroit, where many of the students walked out during class time to protest conditions at the school. It turns out that about 50 of the protesters were suspended for their actions.

The suspensions are right and just. Schools need order as much as the general society or they cannot function, and we stand by what we said last week. We doubt that all involved really believed in what they were doing. But that doesn't mean that we cannot or should not have a certain sympathy for the students over their concerns, either. If their complaints are legitimate, then something needs to be done to rectify the situation.

Among their issues are teachers supposedly abusing sick time, a lack of textbooks, and the reassignment of a former principal. One parent asserted that her son received an A in a class where the teacher was absent 68 days and gave no final exam; he was graded high for simply showing up, she alleged. If true, these matters are irresponsible and unprofessional and should be dealt with severely.

The Detroit Public Schools assured the community, through their spokesman Steven Wasko, that any teacher who abuses sick leave with be reprimanded. But the troubles with the DPS go much farther than such rather simple abuses of privilege such as that. One of the seniors who participated in the walkout laments that he could not answer a single question on the placement exam for Bowling Green State University in Ohio (although he's been accepted there just the same). But if that's the case, it surely seems unfair to act as though the Douglass Academy, itself and alone, is to blame for his academic struggles. By your senior year, if you can't "answer a question on there", as the student says, on a college placement test, then there's more problems than only the ones you've faced in your high school years.

Which isn't to say that his academic issues are entirely his own fault. While we have a difficult time believing that any given student could not have learned anything at all no matter what schools he's attended (it seems doubtful that after 12 years of education he could not answer any question on the BGSU exam), the troubles at the Frederick Douglass Academy seem to demonstrate a problem far deeper than anyone's senior year of high school can illustrate by itself. The problems likely reflect long term and deep seated issues within the Detroit Public Schools, along with the urban social issues inherent in cities such as Detroit. The Detroit Public Schools are in a bind not entirely of their own design. They are trying to educate in, well, not the best environment. This is only made worse when they mismanage what they have, academically and economically.

So it appears that the troubles at Douglass Academy are little more than a dot on the map. They run deeper than a first glance may tell. It leaves us to wonder what, if anything, can really be done in the short term. The current students at Douglass Academy may simply and unfortunately be stuck. What that bodes for the DPS and her students in the long run remains to be seen. But the forecast is certainly cloudy.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Preserving a Treasured Detroit Landmark

Detroit has a lot of vacant land. Most of it will never be used, at least, not anytime soon. The situation is a burden on the city in many ways. Upkeep is costly and difficult, and no tax dollars come in off unused land. No one really knows what to do with it all.

Well, one group does, with one parcel anyway But the city doesn't want them to act. That group is the Navin Field Grounds Crew. All they want to do is keep the site of Old Tiger Stadium in reasonably good condition, and maybe toss the ball around the old ball yard a bit when they're done. The city calls them trespassers and doesn't want them setting foot on The Corner. It has even placed No Trespassing signs on the fences which surround it.

This is precisely the kind of asinine attitude which hurts Detroit in the long run. When the citizenry of their own volition want to do something as benign as mow a lawn and pick up the trash on a lot nobody else wants yet are told they cannot do so legally, well, you begin to think that Detroit deserves its fate. What possible harm can be done?

The reason the city gives is that, because a city owned building once sat there, there are liability issues. If someone gets hurts while on the grounds, they could sue Detroit. While it is pitifully obvious that too many people are too quick to sue these days, that surely would not be so with a dedicated bunch who loved the old stadium and simply want to keep the venue clean and available. Why not take the chance and let them work and play ball? That's what the space was for for well over a hundred years.

But, of course, ridiculous. And Detroit wonders why the rest of the state thinks it vain and, well, stupid. Locking out the Navin Field Grounds Crew simply displays, in microcosm, the troubles Detroit has with itself.

Change comes generally in small increments. This would be an easy first step for Detroit if she is serious about returning to her former glory. Let the people who want to maintain the Tiger Stadium grounds alone. It will solve at least one vacant lot issue and show a decent pliability on the part of city leadership. Short of that, maybe the Emergency Manager will step in and allow it. It's not as though Detroit is willing to act in any positive manner these days.