Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Says Kevin Drum, on single-sex public high schools:
As with so many issues in education, my first reaction is that experimentation is a good thing. Give it a try and see how it works. If it turns out as badly as Brad suggests, we can always kill it later.
I'm concerned that Brad Plumer is right, and that the goal of the experiment isn't going to be test scores going up or girls becoming scientists. What the authorities in some parts of Louisiana seem to want from single-sex education is character education designed to generate aggressive boys and meek, submissive girls. The Happy Feminist had the goods on this issue a while ago, when she described the theorizing behind some of their single-sex education proposals.
As Amanda said, "the guidelines are so ludicriously opposed to actually educating girls that they suggest that junior high school girls “learn” math by counting petals on flowers, while boys are being taught actual algebra."
47. Mr. Murphy explained that the approaches the Southside Junior High School would utilize were based on the work of Leonard Sax and Michael Gurian, two popular writers on gender differences...
58. In Why Gender Matters, Dr. Sax explains that because of sex differences in the brain, girls need real world applications to understand math, while boys naturally understand math theory. For instance, girls understand number theory better when they can count flower petals or segments of artichokes to make the theory concrete.
This part filled me with a special horror:
62. In Why Gender Matters, Dr. Sax explains that "anomalous males" -- boys who like to read, who don't enjoy competitive sports or rough-and-tumble play, and who don't have a lot of close male friends -- should be firmly disciplined, should spend as much time as possible with "normal males," and should be made to play competitive sports.
And so they will make high school an absolute hell for the smart nerdy boys who will write the software and develop the medicines of the future. Apart from the fact that I had a lot of close male friends with whom I played Magic a lot, I was more or less a paradigm "anomalous male." So was my friend Peter, now a physics grad student at MIT who has been awarded patents on photonic crystals. (I designed a really good blue-white Meekstone deck for him, I'll have you know.) The same for a lot of my male friends at Harvard, who are now populating the math, physics, and computer science graduate departments of the world. Plans like this would be a disaster for smart people of both genders.
Read Happy for more of this stuff. The idea of the states as laboratories in which you should conduct a bunch of experiments, from which wise leaders will pick the strategies that work and set aside the ones that don't, requires the leaders to be right about what counts as successful experiments. But if people out in the states see the perpetuation of ancient and terrible gender roles as a criterion of success, they may evaluate educational policies on that basis, and not on whether they turn out more capable students.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Saturday, October 21, 2006
I want to give a big thank you to everybody who's sent money to deserving Democrats through the Werewolf Political Strategy ActBlue page, or through other channels. First, I'll tell you the good news about the Congressional races we've been focusing on. Then I'll tell you about the crazy exciting race of the week.
Victoria Wulsin, the top recipient of our readers' largesse to date, just saw her race upgraded from "Safe Republican" to "Republican Favored" to "Leans Republican" by Congressional Quarterly in one week. She outraised Jean Schmidt in the third quarter to form a $263K to $224K cash advantage at the end of September -- and that's before the money from Emily's List started coming in! Further help from a werewolf volunteer will arrive on the last week of the campaign. Republican operatives are hereby warned: Sunday, November 5 is the night of the full moon. Any posting of deceptive flyers about the requirements for voting in minority neighborhoods on that date will result in your being eaten.
There's been exciting progress out West, too. In Idaho, Larry Grant won a big newspaper endorsement, and GOP maniac Bill Sali has proven sufficiently unelectable that national Republicans have had to blow $400K to defend the seat. Yeah. In Idaho. Grant is only down $113K to $73K in the money race. In Wyoming, Gary Trauner finished September with a slight financial lead over Barbara Cubin, with both candidates having a little over $300K on hand. Popular Governor Gary Freudenthal has agreed to come out and campaign for him, and we'll get to see Dean's 50 State Project in action with GOTV help. Whether it's burning Republican money (as with Grant) or pushing Democrats in cheap races to financial leads (as with Wulsin and Trauner) donations from good folks like you have been really helpful. Additionally, Washington's Darcy Burner has been hanging tough in a super-tight race, trailing by exactly the margin of error in the last three polls. The national party has started pumping big money into the race.
All of the above candidates are worthy of any extra cash you'd be willing to help them with, as are Virginia's Jim Webb and the three Secretary of State candidates I've listed who are going to keep the 2008 elections fair. But if you're interested in a hot new target for your money, I've got just the man for you.
His name is Larry Kissell, and he's running in North Carolina's 8th district against conservative Republican Robin Hayes, who let the GOP leadership arm-twist him into voting for CAFTA. Hayes won his last election 56-44, so it's not a district that's totally out of reach. Larry has run a brilliant campaign -- take a look at this news segment from August where he protested high gas prices by buying hundreds of people gas at $1.22 a gallon. That's the price of gas when his opponent was first elected in 1998. The voters are saying some wonderful things -- "He's getting a statement made, and we need something done, bad!" They feature the lifelong Republican who owns the gas station, and who plans to vote for Kissell -- "I vote for the man, I don't vote for the party".
As for his views on issues, it's really special to see something like this from a rural North Carolina candidate:
I am a pro-privacy candidate for Congress. The concept of "privacy" means that neither our government, nor any others, can make our most personal decisions for us. I therefore recognize all the prevailing laws of our land as derived from the Constitution, including the reproductive sovereignty of women, the right to bear arms and the fundamental right of religious freedom, including the traditional value of seperation of church and state. We must not legislate any ideology that intrudes on our individual freedoms as Americans.
It's hard to get a read on exactly what the dynamics of the race are. The lone independent poll had Kissell leading by 51-44, the only poll (including Kissell internals) to show him in the lead. Soon afterwards, Hayes released a very small internal poll (400 voters) showing a 49-33 GOP lead. Hayes may have conducted several simultaneous polls of that small size, and released the one that showed him leading by the most. Still, I'd be surprised if Kissell actually has a lead here, and my wild guess is that he's down by a little, maybe 5.
Now for the money situation. You guys know that cheap races and underfunded candidates are our specialty here at Werewolf Political Strategy, largely because of the diminishing returns of campaign cash. Taking candidates from $100K to $200K does a lot more for their competitiveness than taking them from $900K to a million. (Another part of our specialty is the astonishment that fundraising staff must feel when they see where the money came in from. "We got $500 from Werewolf Political Strategy? WTF? Did you make campaign promises to any werewolves?") Anyway, if you're addicted to underfunded candidates, let me just tell you that a little bit of Kissell will get you higher than anything you've tried before. Kissell has been outraised $1917K to $317K over the course of the campaign, and he finished the last quarter with $88 in the bank. No, I don't mean $88K. I mean eighty-eight dollars. He's sort of a long shot, but it's hard to imagine a place where your money will so powerfully affect a race. I'm making my first contribution to him (and dropping an additional $20 on the heroic Victoria Wulsin). As always, your support for Kissell, Wulsin, or any other candidate who strikes your fancy is greatly appreciated.
Friday, October 20, 2006
On November 1, I leave for Southern Ohio to help the wonderful Victoria Wulsin with her Congressional race. About a week afterwards, I'll depart for Ann Arbor. I'll be up there for much of November, doing the Michigan philosophy thing and getting my dissertation into fighting shape. Then back to Texas sometime around Thanksgiving. When exactly? Nobody knows.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Sunday, October 08, 2006
For election reform advocates, people who remember Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, and those who are capable of delaying gratification, I'd like to point out one of the neatest Democratic fundraising efforts out there this year -- the Secretary of State Project. These folks are raising money for Democratic Secretary of State candidates in seven important 2008 presidential battlegrounds. With Democrats controlling these offices, we'll have a lot less to worry about in terms of Republicans trying to intimidate poor voters and impose burdensome requirements on registration and voting, at the time when it'll matter the most.
There's also Minnesota, where progressive leader Mark Ritchie is trying to unseat partisan incumbent Mary Kiffmeyer. Ritchie was the leader of a major voter-registration effort in 2004 that coordinated the work of over a thousand different groups who registered more than 5 million new voters. I'll just copy the SoS project's description of Kiffmeyer for your perusal:
Kiffmeyer is a hard-core religious conservative, having 'told the attendees of a 2004 National Day of Prayer event in Minnesota that the "five words" that are "probably most destructive" in America today are "separation of church and state."' It's important to remember that 2008 will be the year when Norm Coleman, who won the Minnesota Senate seat only after Wellstone's death, comes up for re-election. Kiffmeyer only won re-election by 3 percent in 2002, so the seat isn't out of reach.
Mary Kiffmeyer was first elected in November 1998, and was re-elected in November 2002. In 2004 Kiffmeyer issued election rules that would have prevented Native Americans who lived outside of Minnesota's reservations using tribal ID cards to vote in the general elections. Federal law states that tribal ID cards are an acceptable form of identification.
Some of Kiffmeyer's other controversial actions include using the Secretary of State office as a sponsor for an evangelical event, allowing her office to run out of voter registration forms in the month before the 2004 election, and challenging the right of absentee voters to change their vote in 2002 after Senator Wellstone was killed in a plane accident ten days before the election. She has even opposed Minnesota's election day registration rule, complaining that it made running elections like planning a party without knowing how many people have RSVP'd.
Another tight race is in Nevada, where Ross Miller is facing off against Danny Tarkanian. Miller supports a centralized vote-by-mail system, an extension of voter registration deadlines, and felony penalties for people who intimidate voters or interfere with voter registration. Tarkanian's website, meanwhile, trumpets the support from Michelle Malkin and Bill O'Reilly for his proposed requirement of voter ID and proof of citizenship at the polls. Tarkanian has high name recognition due to being the son of basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, who won a national championship at UNLV (and was sanctioned for NCAA violations at every university where he coached). Polls are weird, with Miller leading Tarkanian 42-33 in one poll and trailing 44-32 in another.
There are a whole bunch of different issues where the Secretary of State's office matters, from requiring a paper trail for electronic voting machines, to distributing voting resources equally, to making sure that poor people aren't required to provide identification that's difficult for them to attain. All of these issues are important for helping Democrats take the White House in 2008, and in general for preventing gruesome offenses against democracy. If you want to look at more of the candidates that the Secretary of State project is promoting, go to their website. Or if you'd like to follow me in donating to Jennifer Brunner, Mark Ritchie, and Ross Miller, you can do so at the Werewolf Political Strategy ActBlue page.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
-It's been a good couple weeks for werewolf-endorsed candidates. (Thanks to everyone who donated! Together we sent well over $2000 to the races where Democrats most need your money.) At the end of September, Gary Trauner and Victoria Wulsin made their first appearances on the National Journal's list of the 50 most competitive House races. Darcy Burner's race moved from "Leans Republican" to "Toss-up" in the Cook Political Report. Larry Grant won a newspaper endorsement in Idaho. Make no mistake, Grant will look sort of like a House version of Ben Nelson. But that's a lot better than Sali, who will look like a House version of Rick Santorum. And every conservative Idaho Democrat in the house is one step closer to John Conyers running the Judiciary Committee, Henry Waxman wielding subpoena power, and Speaker Pelosi passing 100 hours of very popular Democratic legislation.