Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cruising the Web

Well, at least Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn't pussyfoot around with calling terrorism what it is.

Oh, dear. Kay Hagan seems to have lost Rachel Maddow's respect.

Usually, it's the GOP setting up a circular firing squad, but this year, the Democrats are the ones firing at each other. The Senate Democrats are criticizing the Obama administration while the White House is blaming the Democratic candidates for their own increasingly bleak prospects this election.

John Fund explains why early voting is not the great idea so many people seem to think it is.
How is early voting changing our campaigns? They are increasing their costs and difficulty. Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist and adviser to gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, says of early voting: “Clearly it changes the whole way we campaign. It used to be you would build a whole campaign around Election Day.” Richard Smolka, an American University academic who published a newsletter for election officials for 40 years until his death last year, mourned the fact that early voting had made campaigns more costly and more complicated. Smolka cogently identified one of the main reasons so many state legislatures have approved early voting: “It’s incumbency protection,” he said. “It takes more money and more organization to deal with a longer voting period. It exacerbates their advantages.”
It's amazing how many supposed election reforms amount to being incumbency protection, isn't it? Well, they're the ones making those laws in the first place.

Having written the book on how voting fraud is endangering elections, John Fund knows whereof he speaks.

And then there is Colorado which seems to have created a voting procedure deliberately to invite voting fraud.
All mail-in ballots in Colorado will be ripe for abuse because “ballot harvesters” are allowed to go door-to-door and collect up to ten ballots with no effective enforcement if they collect more and deliver them at other times. Amazingly, these operatives can be paid based on the number of ballots they collect. The potential for harvesters to pressure voters to turn over ballots, open ballot envelopes, alter ballots, or even throw them away is real. “Voters would never hand over their credit card numbers to strangers ringing their doorbell, but they’re allowed to surrender their ballot,” says Marilyn Marks of the Rocky Mountain Foundation, an election-integrity group. She notes that secrecy controls are so lax that election workers who receive mail-in ballots can figure out how individuals voted in many counties.

Secretary of State Gessler says the same-day-registration provisions of HB 1303 create added potential for mischief. “We were told that eleven other states have that system, but during legislative debate, warnings based on the experience of those states were ignored,” he told me.

One of the examples he cites is Wisconsin. In 2008, a 68-page Milwaukee Police Department report confirmed that in the last presidential election, claims that thousands “more ballots [were] cast than voters recorded were found to be true.” The report found that there had been an organized effort by political operatives from out of state to swing the election. It concluded “that the one thing that could eliminate a large percentage of fraud or the appearance of fraudulent voting in any given election is the elimination of the on-site or same-day voter registration system.”

Gessler also point to Minnesota. A statewide watchdog group called Minnesota Majority scoured the 2008 election results and identified 1,099 felons who had voted illegally. Even though violators must essentially admit their crime before they can be charged, prosecutors managed to secure 177 convictions of fraud by felons. Such numbers matter — in 2008, Al Franken won his disputed Senate race by only 312 votes, and a local TV station found that nine out of ten illegal felon voters in that race said they had cast ballots for Franken. The Minnesota Majority report concluded that “while some ineligible felon voters registered in advance of the election and should have been flagged for challenge, the overwhelming majority who evaded detection used Election Day registration, which currently has no mechanism to detect or prevent ineligible voters.”
J. Christian Adams explains why Democrats are so opposed to Voter ID laws. This sounds about right.
Simply, Democrats and civil rights groups spend millions of dollars opposing voter ID because they are trying to scare minority voters into thinking that Jim Crow is back. If Jim Crow is back, then they better go vote in November. This was made starkly clear to me when I learned that a 3rd grade teacher in a government-run school was telling her students that Republicans were trying to take away the right to vote for black people, so they better get their parents to vote against Republicans. (Yes, that’s another story for another day, and yes I know her name and the school where she still teaches.)

Fear mobilizes people to vote better than does logic. If you can scare minorities falsely into thinking that they may lose their right to vote if they don’t vote for Democrats, they will vote for Democrats.

The increasingly confused Wendy Davis doesn't seem to understand the powers of a state governor. She, or her campaign tweeted out that "Texans have a choice between tomorrow & yesterday—between championing equality & opportunity or repealing the Voting Rights Act & DREAM Act." I know she went to Harvard Law School and all, but even my 10th graders understand that a state cannot repeal a federal law. And, as Ian Tuttle reminds us, the DREAM Act never made it through Congress so it cannot be repealed by a governor or anyone else.

Well, what a surprise. The same media that loved covering the potential Democratic electoral success in 2008 isn't so interested in reporting when the news isn't as optimistic for the Democrats.
MRC analysts studied every election story on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from September 1 through October 20 in both 2006 (the midterm election in George W. Bush’s second term) and 2014 (the equivalent election under President Barack Obama). Even in a changing media landscape, Big Three evening newscasts are a principal news source for more than 23 million viewers, beating all of their broadcast and cable competition.

Our analysts found that, when Democrats were feeling good about their election prospects eight years ago, the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and ABC’s World News aired a combined 159 campaign stories (91 full reports and another 68 stories that mentioned the campaign). But during the same time period this year, those same newscasts have offered a paltry 25 stories (16 full reports and 9 mentions), a six-to-one disparity.

Amazingly, since September 1 ABC’s newly-renamed World News Tonight has yet to feature a single mention of this year’s campaign, let alone a full story. In contrast, eight years ago ABC’s World News aired 36 stories that discussed that year’s midterm campaign, including a weekly Thursday night feature that then-anchor Charlie Gibson promised would look at the “critical races.”

This poll result must be the Democrats' worst nightmare.
Women have moved in the GOP's direction since September. In last month's AP-GfK poll, 47 percent of female likely voters said they favored a Democratic-controlled Congress while 40 percent wanted the Republicans to capture control. In the new poll, the two parties are about even among women, 44 percent prefer the Republicans, 42 percent the Democrats.

Now the big report on UNC academic fraud has been delivered and shows that academic counselors spent almost 20 years steering athletes into fake classes that didn't meet and weren't taught by any professors, what excuse is there for not taking away UNC's national championships?
Among the report findings:

• Over the 18-years, the paper classes affected 3,100 out of a total of 97,600 undergraduate students at the university.
• Student-athletes accounted for 47.6 percent of enrollments in the irregular classes.
• Many of the student-athletes were directed to the classes by academic counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes. These counselors saw the paper classes and the artificially high grades they yielded as key to helping some student-athletes remain eligible.
• Advisors in the Office of Academic Advising also directed non-athlete students to these courses.
• Various university personnel were aware of red flags, yet did not ask questions. There was a failure of meaningful oversight by the University.
We now know that quite a few members of that team were taking fake classes in order to get grades that would allow them to be academically eligible. If this news had been released at the time of the championship, the NCAA would have had a hard time allowing those players to play in the tournament. Now that we find out how extensive the fraud was, should the fact that several years have passed since that fraud allow the university to get away with it? Doesn't this fit the classic definition of a university's loss of institutional control? After all, this corruption involved more than one rogue manager in the African American Studies department.
Wainstein called the “paper classes” that Crowder initiated “watered down” and “corrupted” versions of legitimate forms of teaching. Crowder, an administrator, not a professor, assigned high grades to student papers without reading them in full, he said.

At least five academic counselors for athletes leaned heavily on Crowder to help struggling athletes remain academically eligible to play, the report says. Before Crowder retired in 2009, athletics counselors urged athletes to turn in their papers quickly so that she, rather than a professor, could grade them.

....Wainstein said at a news conference that his team found a “glaring” lack of oversight by university administrators. For instance, the performance of Nyang’oro wasn’t reviewed for more than 20 years. Wainstein did say, however, that he found no evidence that coaches were involved in initiating the bogus classes.

Ross said Wainstein’s findings revealed the depth of the problem in both academic and athletics circles.

“From the beginning, I think the university has taken the position that these classes started in an academic department by a person employed in the academic side of the university,” Ross said. “Subsequent to that, athletics took advantage of that.”

It’s a blow to learn that pockets of people around the university knew about the bogus classes for years, Folt said.

“Like everyone who reads it, I feel shocked and very disappointed,” said Folt, who became chancellor in 2013. She said the fake classes should have been detected and stopped much sooner.

Who knew?

Academic and athletics officials had opportunities to stop the bogus classes but took limited action. Bobbi Owen, a senior associate dean for undergraduate education who stepped down to return to teaching this year, learned roughly nine years ago that the department was offering far more independent studies than it could manage, and she told Nyang’oro to reduce them, the report said. But she never investigated why there were so many in the first place.

Meanwhile, John Blanchard, a former senior associate athletics director who supervised the tutoring program, missed an opportunity to expose the depths of the bogus classes after inquiries from faculty about independent studies and athletics in 2002 and 2006 that were related to media reports of problems at other universities. Wainstein’s report suggested Blanchard was not fully informed of what was going on in the tutoring program by the director, Robert Mercer.

Blanchard retired last year, and Mercer left the university after being transferred out of the director’s job.
And this is the sort of communication that was going on with an ethics professor who advised the UNC women's basketball program.
In one email exchange Wainstein uncovered, Deborah Crowder, the department secretary and mastermind of the scheme to set up the no-show classes, responded when Boxill forwarded a paper for a women’s basketball player in 2008.

“Did you say a D will do for (the basketball player)?” Crowder wrote to Boxill. “I’m only asking because 1. no sources, 2, it has absolutely nothing to do with the assignments for that class and 3. it seems to be a recycled paper. She took (another class) in spring of 2007 and that was likely for that class.”

According to the report, Boxill replied: “Yes, a D will be fine; that’s all she needs. I didn’t look at the paper but figured it was a recycled one as well, but I couldn’t figure out from where.”

The report said Crowder and Boxill admitted their collusion about the grade but said it was to help a student cross the finish line to graduation, not maintain her eligibility.

Boxill is a senior lecturer in the philosophy department and was chair of the faculty from 2011 to earlier this year. She directs the university’s Parr Center for Ethics. She has written books on race and gender and sports ethics, and she was a radio announcer for UNC women’s basketball games.
She also drafted portions of papers for some athletes. And tried to whitewash an earlier report on the scandal that named her confederate. And this woman teaches ethics at UNC. Pause for snickers.

Stewart Mandel writes at FoxSports that the NCAA should have little choice but to bring the hammer down on UNC. Think of how hard they came down on Minnesota's basketball program when there was a similar, less egregious scandal.
In October 2000, the NCAA Committee on Infractions handed Minnesota’s men’s basketball program a one-year postseason ban, reduced scholarships and vacated a Final Four appearance because a secretary for longtime coach Clem Haskins had written papers (with his knowledge) for at least 18 players over a five-year period. In its report, the committee described the violations as “among the most serious academic fraud violations to come before it in the past 20 years. The violations were significant, widespread and intentional. More than that, their nature — academic fraud — undermined the bedrock foundation of a university and the operation of its intercollegiate athletics program.”
Mandel continues,
The NCAA has no choice but to deliver a stern punishment to North Carolina or risk losing all credibility whenever Emmert or its leaders talk big about the importance of academics. But what that punishment will be is anyone’s guess.

t’s standard practice these days to mock the NCAA for its antiquated rules and haphazard enforcement of them, but the North Carolina report does not involve tattoos for memorabilia, free hotel stays or agent payments. It details systemic abuse of the one area the NCAA purportedly holds most dear. Its mission statement, according to president Mark Emmert, is “to be an integral part of higher education and to focus on the development of our student-athletes.” Those Enterprise rental car commercials, those “going pro in something other than sports” PSAs, the obsession with APR scores and Graduation Success Rates — all reinforce the NCAA’s stated-though-not-always-followed contention that academics are paramount to the college athlete’s experience.
So today, Emmert and the NCAA face a defining moment. What are they going to do about North Carolina? How do you appropriately reprimand a university whose employees spent 18 years making a mockery of higher education? Who put the competitive needs of athletics above the academic development of students? Who made “the most serious academic fraud violations in 20 years” — Haskins’ 18 cheating basketball players — seem like child’s play when compared with the unfathomable scope of UNC’s “shadow curriculum.”

The NCAA has no choice but to deliver a stern punishment to North Carolina or risk losing all credibility whenever Emmert or its leaders talk big about the importance of academics. But what that punishment will be is anyone’s guess.

Oh, this is just too perfect.
In a setup that would make Jimmy Kimmel green with envy, two Dutch pranksters visited a major culinary convention to show off their new line of delicious, organic food—actually bog standard McDonald's fare, just cut up and skewered with toothpicks.

Predictably, everyone at the food expo in Houten claimed they loved the "new organic meal." The food got positive marks for its complex flavors, with eaters declaring it tastier and much better for you than Mickey D's.
George Will explains why it is imperative to end Harry Reid's obstructive control of the Senate.
Since Republicans won control of the House in 2010, the Democratic-controlled Senate’s function has been obstruction. Reid has prevented bills passed by the Republican House from coming to a vote and has prevented Republicans — and Democrats, too — from proposing amendments to Senate bills that would be awkward for Democrats to oppose or for Obama to veto. Obama has cast only two vetoes, both for technical reasons on minor matters. Since July 2013, McConnell says, there have been only 22 Senate roll-call votes on amendments — and says Mark Begich (D-Alaska) has never in his six Senate years had a roll-call vote on an amendment of his.

Such paralysis of the Senate leaves Obama uninhibited in his use of executive orders and bureaucratic mission-creep to advance goals that should require legislation. In January, in the most statesmanlike Senate speech in years, McConnell explained how, under Republican leadership, the Senate would be restored as the creator of consensus:

“An executive order can’t [create consensus]. The fiat of a nine-person court can’t do it. A raucous and precarious partisan majority in the House can’t do it. The only institution that can make stable and enduring laws is the one we have in which all 50 states are represented equally, and where every single senator has a say in the laws that we pass.”

Beneath McConnell’s chilly exterior burns indignation about the degradation of the institution to which he has devoted much of his life. The repair of it, in the form of robust committee and amendment processes — and an extended workweek — will benefit Democratic members, too.
As an AP Government and Politics teacher responsible for instructing students how our government works, I would love to no longer have to teach students about how the lawmaking process is supposed to work and then tell them how it actually works.

I'm sure everyone is all atwitter at this news:
Maybe Barbara Walters had her fingers crossed when she said last year's "10 Most Fascinating People" telecast would be her last.

In any case, ABC announced Tuesday that Walters will be back with yet another edition of the annual roundup. Among those fascinating people she will interview for the special: Oprah Winfrey, Neil Patrick Harris, Chelsea Handler and Scarlett Johansson.

"Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2014" will air as a two-hour special on December 14, ABC says.

Walters explained the turnabout by saying, "There are just too many fascinating people out there."