Sunday, July 27, 2008

Oh, the Humanity

1. Oh, the Humanity:

2. Leftwing Fascism on the March again:
(Wall St Journal)

The Far Left's War on Direct Democracy
July 26, 2008; Page A9
A total of 24 states allow voters to change laws on their own by
collecting signatures and putting initiatives on the ballot. It's healthy
that the entrenched political class should face some real legislative
competition from initiative-toting citizens. Unfortunately, some special
interests have declared war on the initiative process, using tactics
ranging from restrictive laws to outright thuggery.

David G. Klein
The initiative is a reform born out of the Progressive Era, when there was
general agreement that powerful interests had too much influence over
legislators. It was adopted by most states in the Midwest and West,
including Ohio and California. It was largely rejected by Eastern states,
which were dominated by political machines, and in the South, where Jim
Crow legislators feared giving more power to ordinary people.
But more power to ordinary people remains unpopular in some quarters, and
nothing illustrates the war on the initiative more than the reaction to
Ward Connerly's measures to ban racial quotas and preferences. The former
University of California regent has convinced three liberal states --
California, Washington and Michigan -- to approve race-neutral government
policies in public hiring, contracting and university admissions. He also
prodded Florida lawmakers into passing such a law. This year his American
Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) aimed to make the ballot in five more
states. But thanks to strong-arm tactics, the initiative has only made the
ballot in Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.
"The key to defeating the initiative is to keep it off the ballot in the
first place," says Donna Stern, Midwest director for the Detroit-based By
Any Means Necessary (BAMN). "That's the only way we're going to win." Her
group's name certainly describes the tactics that are being used to thwart
Mr. Connerly.
Aggressive legal challenges have bordered on the absurd, going so far as
to claim that a blank line on one petition was a "duplicate" of another
blank line on another petition and thus evidence of fraud. In Missouri,
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan completely rewrote the initiative's
ballot summary to portray it in a negative light. By the time courts ruled
she had overstepped her authority, there wasn't enough time to collect
sufficient signatures.
Those who did circulate petitions faced bizarre obstacles. In Kansas City,
a petitioner was arrested for collecting signatures outside of a public
library. Officials finally allowed petitioners a table inside the library
but forbade them to talk. In Nebraska, a group in favor of racial
preferences ran a radio ad that warned that those who signed the
"deceptive" petition "could be at risk for identity theft, robbery, and
much worse."
Mr. Connerly says that it's ironic that those who claim to believe in
"people power" want to keep people from voting on his proposal: "Their
tactics challenge the legitimacy of our system."
He's not alone. Liberal columnist Anne Denogean of the Tucson Citizen
opposes the Connerly initiative, but last month she wrote that BAMN "is
showing a disgusting lack of respect for the democratic process and the
right of all Arizonans to participate in it." She detailed how members of
this organization harass petitioners and film people who sign the
petition, while telling them they are backing a racist measure.
The police had to be called when BAMN blocked the entrance of a Phoenix
office where circulators had to deliver their petitions. "BAMN's tactics,"
she concluded, "resemble those used by anti-abortion activists to prevent
women from entering abortion clinics."
But BAMN proudly posts videos on its success in scaring away voters, or
convincing circulators to hand over their petitions to its shock troops.
"If you give me your signatures, we'll leave you alone," says a BAMN
volunteer on one tape to someone who's earning money by circulating
several different petitions.
What about voters' rights to sign ACRI's petitions? BAMN organizer Monica
Smith equates race-neutral laws with Jim-Crow segregation laws and
slavery. She told Tuscon columnist Denogean that voters are simply being
educated that ACRI is "trying to end affirmative action . . . We let them
know it's up on the KKK's Web site." Mr. Connerly has repudiated any
support from racists.
Other opponents of Mr. Connerly deplore the blocking and name-calling.
Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema told me that initiatives have been used
to pass ideas such as campaign finance and redistricting reform often
opposed by entrenched legislators. "People have a right to sign a
petition, hear the arguments and then vote," she says. Ms. Sinema thinks
Arizonans can be persuaded to vote down ACRI's measure, much as they voted
down a ban on gay marriage in 2006.
The war against citizen initiatives has other fronts. This year in
Michigan, taxpayer groups tried to recall House Speaker Andy Dillon after
he pushed through a 12% increase in the state income tax. But petitioners
collecting the necessary 8,724 signatures in his suburban Detroit district
were set upon. In Redford, police union members held a rally backing Mr.
Dillon and would alert blockers to the location of recall petitioners.
Outsiders would then surround petitioners and potential signers, using
threatening language.
Mr. Dillon denied organizing such activity. Then it was revealed two of
the harassers were state employees working directly for him. Another
"voter educator" hired by the state's Democratic Party had been convicted
of armed robbery. After 2,000 signatures were thrown out on technical
grounds, the recall effort fell 700 signatures short.
Ever since voters in virtually every state with direct democracy passed
term limits in the 1990s, state legislators have been hostile to the
process. Now Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado have all passed
legislation to prohibit people from out-of-state from circulating a
petition, and also to ban payment to circulators on a per-signature basis.
To his credit, Colorado's Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter vetoed such curbs.
In March, a Sixth Circuit federal appeals court panel unanimously ruled
that an Ohio law barring per-signature payment violated the First
Amendment. Similarly, a Ninth Circuit panel just voted unanimously to
strike down Arizona's residency law for circulators.
Some judges think the "blocking" of signature gatherers has gone too far.
In 2006, Nevada Judge Sally Loehrers decreed a "civility zone" that barred
opposing sides from coming within arms' length of each other at petition
signing sites. "The blockers were off the streets within two days," says
Paul Jacob, the head of Citizens in Charge, which promotes the initiative
Last year, Mr. Jacob was charged with conspiracy to defraud the state of
Oklahoma in a bizarre prosecution that claimed he brought in out-of-state
signature gatherers in violation of the state's residency requirement. Yet
local public sector unions opposed to Mr. Jacob hired out-of-state outfits
such as the Voter Education Project, an AFL-CIO offshoot that specializes
in harassing signature drives.
Representative government will remain the enduring feature of American
democracy, but the initiative process is a valuable safety valve. So long
as elected officials gerrymander their districts and otherwise make it
nearly impossible for voters to oust them, direct lawmaking will be
popular. That's why attempts to arbitrarily curb the initiative, or to
intimidate people from exercising their right to participate, must be
resisted. It's a civil liberties issue that should unite people of good
will on both the right and left.
Mr. Fund is a columnist for
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on
Opinion Journal.

3. Really Nice Web Site:

4. Dumb but Equal
When we saw the Associated Press headline--"Math Study Finds Girls Are
Just as Good as Boys"--our first thought was: Talk about setting a low
bar! When we read the article, it turned out to be worse than we'd
[Janet] Hyde and her colleagues looked at annual math tests required by
the No Child Left Behind education law in 2002. . . .
The researchers found no difference in the scores of boys versus
girls--not even in high school. Studies 20 years ago showed girls and boys
did equally well on math in elementary school, but girls fell behind in
high school.
"Girls have now achieved gender parity in performance on standardized math
tests," Hyde said. . . .
As Hyde and her colleagues looked across the data for states' testing,
they found something they didn't expect: In most states they reviewed, and
at most grade levels, there weren't any questions that involved complex
problem-solving, an ability needed to succeed in high levels of science
and math. . . .
That might be a glaring omission, said Stephen Camarata, a Vanderbilt
University professor who has researched the issue but was not involved in
the study.
"We need to know that, if our measures aren't capturing some aspect of
math that's important," Camarata said. "Then we can decide whether there's
an actual male or female advantage."
Math, as Charles Murray explained in a 2005 Commentary essay, is "the most
abstract field" in the sciences, and also the one in which the achievement
gap between the sexes is greatest: "The number of great female
mathematicians is approximately two (Emmy Noether definitely, Sonya
Kovalevskaya maybe)."
Thus, as it turns out, the findings of the study are entirely consistent
with the hypothesis that boys and men tend to be better at math than their
female counterparts. No child left behind--equal ignorance for all!

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