Oh hey there’s an election coming up

In contrast to 2008, I have not kept up with the daily changes and controversies of the presidential race. I have some thoughts about it but I prefer to take a more low key approach this time around.

I have enjoyed watching Real Clear Politics however and think they provide a nice service and up to date polling information. Unless something newsworthy comes up or I change my mind, I won’t be posting much until the election since  most other things will get lost until it is over.


Uganda’s Parliament Speaker Resolved to Bring Anti-Gay Bill to a Vote

From the Ugandan Parliament website:

Parliament will soon debate Anti Homosexuality Bill – Speaker

Parliament will soon debate Anti Homosexuality Bill – SpeakerParliament will soon consider the Anti Homosexuality Bill, the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, has said.

The Speaker, who was addressing a cross section of religious leaders upon her return from Canada where she attended the 127th Inter Parliamentary Union Assembly, said she would not be intimidated by any western power about her position on homosexuality.

“I will instruct the Chair of the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to bring the report on the Anti Homosexuality Bill, so that we can consider it,” she said, Monday night.

The Anti Homosexuality Bill, a private Members draft law was moved by Hon. David Bahati during the Eighth Parliament. It seeks to establish a comprehensive legislation to protect the traditional family by prohibiting any form of sexual relations between people of the same sex; and the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions as healthy, normal or an acceptable lifestyle, including in the public schools, through or with the support of any government entity in Uganda or any non- governmental organization inside or outside the country.

During the IPU Assembly held in Quebec, Canada, Hon. Kadaga protested assertions by the Canadian Foreign Minister that Uganda was intolerant to homosexuals.

“If homosexuality is a value for the people of Canada, they should not seek to force Uganda to embrace it. We are not a colony or a protectorate of Canada,” she said while in Canada.

Upon her return, the Speaker said that delegates from several other countries were happy with her statement but were afraid to speak out.

“I did not realize I was speaking for the entire world; Africa, the Arab world, Latin America and western countries; delegates told me ‘you were speaking for all of us.’ They had no courage to respond to (the Canadian Foreign Minister),” she said.

She added, “I will not accept to be intimidated or directed by any government in the world. If the price of aid is accepting homosexuality, we can reject the aid.”

The welcome ceremony included Parliament Commissioners, MPs, the former Minister of Ethics, Dr. James Nsaba Buturo, advocates against homosexuality and several students, who carried placards in support of the Speaker’s position and urging Parliament to urgently approve the Anti Homosexuality Bill.

Committee chair Tashobya was quoted in a newspaper article this week that he would have it to the floor before Christmas. Let’s remember that the order paper of Parliament will reflect the second reading of the bill. At that time a committee report will be heard and debate occur. It is highly likely that the third reading will happen that same day. If so, the bill could become law rapidly once introduced to the floor. The President can send it back to Parliament with suggestions but according to current practice and the Constitution, he cannot stop the bill from becoming law.

Texas does not use third grade reading levels to project future prison population

On his October 24 Wallbuilders Live program, David Barton made a claim (at about 24:00 into the program) that that Texas prison officials use third grade reading levels as the best indicator of the need for prison beds in the future. Barton told co-host Rick Green that the government officials in Texas came to some church people and asked them to mentor young kids in reading. The objective was to get kids reading on grade level by the third grade. Why is this important? Barton said that the Texas Department of Corrections asks school officials every year how many third grade kids are not reading at grade level. According to Barton’s source:

…based on the numbers we give them, that’s how many beds they get ready for the next 15 years for the future. Because kids that are not reading at grade level in the third grade, they’re the kids that end up in prison. That’s the best indicator they have found is where these kids are in third grade.

As Right Wing Watch reported, this claim has been debunked in other states. However, Texas is not mentioned in the article cited there. To check out how Barton’s home state projects the future prison population, I called the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. An official there directed me to the Texas Legislative Budget Board. On the LBB website, I clicked the Public Safety and Criminal Justice link to find numerous reports, one of which included yearly prison population projections (see projections from 2012-2017).

The title of the report is “Adult and Juvenile Correctional Population Projections Fiscal Years 2012—2017.” In it, the methods for projecting the future are spelled out on pages 12-28. You won’t find anything in these pages about reading levels at the third grade or at anytime. Instead, the reports says:

The adult incarceration population projection for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is based on a discrete-event simulation modeling approach resulting from the movement of individual offenders into, through, and out of TDCJ. Discrete-event simulation focuses on the modeling of a system as it evolves over time as a dynamic process. The model simulates offender movement based on offense type, sentence length, and time credited to current sentence.

The LBB considers convictions, revocations of the community placements (community placement does not always work), and a host of factors relating to parole practices. The crime rate and the unemployment rate in Texas are considered “if major shifts occur from the latest trends.” I looked at the most recent and the oldest reports and I saw nothing about reading levels.

This claim was made in the context of a program criticizing teachers’ unions and the perceived state of public education in Louisiana. The message is that parents need to have school choice to provide competition to motivate bad schools to be better. To ramp up the urgency, Barton comes along with this unsupported claim about the long term consequences of low reading levels.

Of course reading levels are important. However, one can be for better education and even favor some school choice programs without having to spread fictions. Whether it be current events or historical events, you just have to check everything out.