Category: Michigan

ENDORSEMENT: Gretchen Whitmer for Governor of Michigan

I proudly endorse Gretchen Whitmer (campaign Twitter page here) for the Democratic nomination for the office of Governor of Michigan! In fact, I’ve probably never been prouder to endorse a political candidate in my entire lifetime.

As a former member of the Michigan State Senate, Whitmer became an internet sensation among progressives for passionately speaking out against bullying, rape culture, union-busting, and many other right-wing ideas and values. Many YouTube videos of her state senate speeches are, to this day, still online, and I encourage Michiganders who are considering whether or not to support Whitmer to view a few of them.

Whitmer is one tough customer. Although it’s a long time until the Michigan gubernatorial primaries, Whitmer has already proven that she’s not going to be bullied by the Trump/DeVos Republican political machine, and she’s not afraid to call out right-wingers like Rick Snyder, Donald Trump, and Betsy DeVos for the damage that they’re doing to America. Whitmer is to politics what the late, great Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was to the sport of automobile racing. Given that the Democratic Party is mostly full of weak politicians and people who have no clue what they’re doing nowadays, we need our own Intimidator to lead the charge for a progressive future in America.

I encourage Michigan Democrats to vote for Whitmer in the 2018 Michigan gubernatorial Democratic primary. You won’t regret it.

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The college football team that could go undefeated and not play in the College Football Playoff

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The College Football Playoff is organized by CFP Administration, LLC. While College Football Playoff games are played under NCAA football rules, the College Football Playoff is not an officially an NCAA-sanctioned national championship.


Tonight, at 6 P.M. Central Time, Western Michigan University (WMU) will face Ohio University (Ohio U; not to be confused with The Ohio State University (Ohio State), which is in a different college athletic conference) for the Mid-American Conference (MAC) college football championship. The game will be played at a neutral site, Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, and television coverage of the game will be provided by ESPN2.

2016 is looking like it could be the first year that the College Football Playoff (CFP), a four-team postseason playoff incorporating two bowl games as semi-final games and a stand-alone championship game designed to determine an unofficial NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I FBS) national champion, could be very controversial. One of the reasons why the CFP could be controversial in its third playing is that WMU could go undefeated and not be selected for one of the four spots in the CFP, which go to the top four teams in the CFP rankings after conference championships are awarded.

WMU has played an incredible college football season this year. In non-conference play, they defeated two teams from the much more prominent Big Ten Conference (specifically, teams from Northwestern University and University of Illinois), and they’ve won every in-conference and non-conference game that they’ve played this season. However, since Western Michigan plays in the Mid-American Conference, which is not considered to be one of the so-called “Power 5” conferences (Southeastern Conference (SEC), Big Ten Conference (Big Ten), Big XII Conference (Big XII), Pac 12 Conference (Pac 12), and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)), they are ranked 17th in the CFP rankings after the 13th week of the college football season. By contrast, the only other undefeated team in Division I FBS football is the University of Alabama (Alabama) team, ranked at the very top of the CFP rankings. While there’s no disputing that Alabama has been the strongest team in top-level college football this year, there are a total of 15 teams with at least one loss ranked above WMU, including one team with four losses (Auburn University). WMU could defeat Ohio U by an obscenely large margin in the MAC title game and go into bowl season undefeated, yet not even come close to getting one of the four CFP spots, with at least three of the four, or, if Alabama loses the SEC title game, all four, teams being selected for the CFP getting playoff spots.

Additionally, it’s very likely that Ohio State, which isn’t playing for the Big Ten title, could get a CFP spot, while both of the teams playing for the Big Ten title on Saturday night (The Penn State University vs. University of Wisconsin; 6 P.M. Central Time on Fox), may not get a CFP spot despite the winner of the championship game between them being the Big Ten champion. Furthermore, if Alabama loses to University of Florida (Florida) in the SEC title game, Florida may not get a CFP spot despite being conference champion, potentially resulting in two or fewer of the CFP teams being conference champions.

If one were to regard the Electoral College as an unfair way to decide a president and a vice president, then the CFP is an even unfairer way to decide a college football national champion. However, it’s the system we have, not the system that I would like to see in place, that is official (in the case of the Electoral College) or generally recognized as determining the champion (in the case of the CFP).

Donald Trump talks about his dealmaker in last night’s GOP debate

If you thought that the race for the Republican presidential nomination couldn’t get any more juvenile and bizarre, Donald Trump had to talk about his dealmaker on national television:

“Look at those hands, are they small hands?” the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination said, raising them for viewers to see. “And, he referred to my hands — ‘if they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

That’s right…the front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination referenced the size of his penis during a nationally-televised Republican presidential debate. Trump’s penis got more airtime at the GOP debate than actual political issues like climate change, paid family leave, equal pay for equal work, mass incarceration, and higher education debt.

If you want to send a loud and clear message that you’re sick and tired of the Republican presidential race resembling a third-grade playground fight, then vote or caucus for Bernie Sanders if your state, federal district, or territory hasn’t voted or held caucuses on a Democratic presidential nominee yet!

Michigan State Senator Marty Knollenberg (R) thinks that public schools fail because black kids attend them

A few days ago, Michigan State Senator Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) made overtly racist remarks about public education in Michigan. To paraphrase Knollenberg, he basically said that he thinks that public schools are failing in Michigan because black children attend them.

You can view a video of Knollenburg’s actual remarks here:

Marty Knollenberg, by opening his racist mouth, single-handedly exposed the fact that the right-wing movement to gut public education in this country by way of charter schools, school vouchers, and other neoliberal/right-wing education policies is entirely motivated by racism against people of color.

The actual blown call in the Packers Hail Mary victory over the Lions

There’s been a considerable amount of talk of a blown call on the last play before time ran out in the 4th quarter of last night’s NFL Thursday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions (won by the Packers by a score of 27-23). That play involved a questionable facemask penalty against Lions defensive end Devin Taylor (#98):

However, since Taylor did move the face mask of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (#12) to one side, although only by his thumb, that was a correct call by the officials. Even though time ran out in regulation, since the penalty was committed by the defensive team (the Lions), the Packers were given one untimed down.

The actual blown call was on the untimed play, which was the Hail Mary pass itself. At a little past 40 seconds into the video below, you will see Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (#17), who was not the player who caught the winning pass, commit an offensive pass interference penalty against Lions linebacker Josh Byrnes (#57) by grabbing the shoulderpad of Byrnes as Byrnes was attempting to intercept a forward pass by Aaron Rodgers:

Had offensive pass interference been called against Adams, that would have ended the game, the Packers touchdown from Aaron Rodgers to tight end Richard Rodgers (#82) would have not counted, and the Lions would have won. Instead, the officials missed the offensive pass interference and allowed the touchdown to stand.

It’s time to abolish charter schools in America

Charter schools are schools that are run with varying levels of autonomy from laws, rules, and regulations that apply to traditional public schools and are granted a charter by either a government entity of some kind (in the U.S., this is either a state-level education authority, a public higher education institution, or a local school district) or a private entity granted charter authorization power by a state or local government entity. In recent decades, charter schools have opened en masse in many U.S. states.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a Wisconsin-based progressive watchdog group, recently conducted research of both a federal program designed to provide funding to charter schools, and they released their report on their findings last month. For supporters of public education and American taxpayers, the findings are not good at all.

At the federal level, there is a little-known federal government program that provides taxpayer-funded grants to charter schools, called the Charter Schools Program State Educational Agencies (CSP SEA). Out of a total of over $3.7 billion in federal funds given out to charter schools since 1995, over $3 billion of that has been given out via the CSP SEA program. Federal charter school grant programs operate with very little accountability or transparency. In fact, the federal government has passed off the primary responsibility of accountability for federal charter school grants to the states, which, in turn, have passed off responsibility for the federal grants to charter school authorizers, some of which are public entities and some of which are private entities. Additionally, there wasn’t anything resembling a public list of charter schools that received CSP SEA funds until CMD repeatedly asked for the federal government to give them a list of such charter schools.

In addition, CMD researched charter school practices in eleven states (California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, New York, Utah, Wisconsin, and Indiana), as well as the District of Columbia. Here’s how federal funding in those jurisdictions was wasted:

  • In California, home to one-fifth of the nation’s charter school students, a total of 13 charter schools closed after receiving a total of over $4.7 million in federal grants.
  • In Indiana, two charter schools that received a total of over $1.4 million in federal grants were closed due to poor student performance, one charter school received a $702,000 federal grant before becoming a private religious school, one charter school that never opened was awarded a $193,000 federal grant, and one charter school that has yet to open was awarded $193,000 federal grant.
  • In Michigan, which provided CMD with the least amount of information regarding charter school funds, nearly $1.75 million in federal grants was paid out to 21 “ghost schools”, or charter schools that never opened.
  • In Ohio, a total of over $4.6 million in federal grants was awarded to a total of 19 charter schools that either closed or never opened.
  • In New York, a nearly $200,000 net discrepancy in 2011-2012 and an over $300,000 net discrepancy in 2012-2013 existed between New York state records on federal charter school grants and federal records on federal charter school grants awarded to New York charter schools.
  • In Texas, a $600,000 federal grant was awarded to a charter school created by the founder of a religious education association.
  • In Utah, the state hasn’t accepted any federal grants for expanding or replicating charter schools, although the state has spent millions in state taxpayer money on charter schools.
  • In Arizona, the federal government has granted roughly $69 million in federal funds for charter schools since 2009, and, from mid-2010 to mid-2014, more than 100 Arizona charter schools closed their doors.
  • In Colorado, the federal government has awarded up to $81 million in federal grants for charter schools. More than a dozen charter schools have closed in Colorado.
  • In Florida, the federal government awarded the state up to $104 million in federal charter school grants to the state in 2011. Since Florida authorized charter schools over a decade ago, more than 120 charter schools have closed down.
  • In Wisconsin, a total of over $2.5 million in federal grants were awarded to a total of 10 charter schools that closed.
  • In the District of Columbia, where charter schools operate a short distance away from the U.S. Department of Education headquarters, the federal district’s charter school authorizer has landed a total of over $37 million in federal charter school grants since 2010, despite the fact that, up until 2013, the federal district saw 30 charter schools close their doors.

That’s just the waste of federal taxpayer dollars on charter schools. There are many more problems with charter schools and agencies responsible for authorizing and regulating them. While problems with charter schools and their regulation vary from state to state, they include the following:

  • lack of government oversight and transparency
  • financial mismanagement
  • charter school supporters getting into positions of government power over charter schools
  • refusing to respond to open records requests in a timely manner
  • poor academic results and learning conditions
  • low enrollment numbers
  • at least in California, unsafe charter school buildings
  • misreporting charter school data, such as enrollment figures, to governmental authorities
  • charter schools violating laws, rules, regulations, and their charters
  • at least in Indiana, racial segregation
  • in Michigan, criminal activity, including felony fraud and tax evasion, by charter school operators
  • religious schools operating as charter schools and receiving taxpayer funding for charter schools
  • for-profit companies running charter schools
  • charter schools that closed or never opened receiving taxpayer funding
  • in Ohio, scrubbing performance data of online charter schools
  • charter school operators having undue political influence over regulators
  • in Colorado, sexual misconduct
  • in Colorado, at least one charter school operator not following multiple federal and state employment laws
  • state legislators and executives advocating for charter schools and implementing pro-charter school legislation
  • lack of efforts by regulators and authorizers to ensure that charter schools are non-religious in nature
  • taxpayer money that should go to traditional public schools going to charter schools instead

While CMD has recommended much stronger accountability measures for charter schools, I think that the problems that are inherent with charter schools are too serious to justify their continuation, and I support completely abolishing charter schools and giving the taxpayer money that would otherwise go to charter schools to traditional public schools instead.