Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cruising the Web

As someone who teaches high school students, many of whom are Asian Americans, it's very dispiriting to see this report about how admissions officers at Princeton talk about the race of applicants.
documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show Princeton’s admissions officers repeatedly wrote of Asian-American applicants as being difficult to differentiate, referring to them dismissively as having “very familiar profiles,” calling them “standard premeds,” or “difficult to pluck out.” The comments were noted by civil rights investigators at the Education Department as they probed allegations of racial bias in the school’s admissions system.

Of a Hispanic applicant, an admissions officer wrote, “Tough to see putting her ahead of others. No cultural flavor in app.” Of a black student, another said, “Very few African Americans with verbal scores like this.”

.... documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show Princeton’s admissions officers repeatedly wrote of Asian-American applicants as being difficult to differentiate, referring to them dismissively as having “very familiar profiles,” calling them “standard premeds,” or “difficult to pluck out.” The comments were noted by civil rights investigators at the Education Department as they probed allegations of racial bias in the school’s admissions system.

Of a Hispanic applicant, an admissions officer wrote, “Tough to see putting her ahead of others. No cultural flavor in app.” Of a black student, another said, “Very few African Americans with verbal scores like this.”

....An investigator questioned an admissions officer after an Asian-American student was described eagerly by a another officer as a “first-generation Chinese student whose own life has not been easy, trying to make the lives of others better through service. One of the best we’ll ever see from [high school].”

The second officer was less enthusiastic. “Perfectly able and appealing,” the officer wrote. “Very familiar profile.”

"Bright premed, but like many others," another admissions officer wrote of an Asian-American applicant.

BuzzFeed News obtained a number of documents from the investigation through a Freedom of Information Act request. Princeton has sued the Education Department to prevent the release of many more, in a suit that involves an anti-affirmative action group, Students for Fair Admissions.

The files released show that in brief summaries meant to present applicants to a committee, officers candidly discussed the race of black, Latino, and Native American applicants, often seemingly searching for those who highlighted their racial backgrounds rather than checking off boxes on their Common Applications.

"Nice essays, sweet personality," one admissions officer said of a multiracial applicant. "Bi-racial but not [National Hispanic Recognition Program] and no recognition of her [background] in app by anyone." The National Hispanic Recognition Program recognizes high-performing students who are "at least one-quarter Hispanic/Latino.”

When one reader called an applicant's Native American heritage "appealing," the other noted that the only place the boy had mentioned the heritage was in a checkbox on his Common Application. He called himself "a white boy," the admissions officer noted.
We already knew that admissions committees search for qualified racial minorities. Now we see that they especially want minorities who are themselves focused on their own race. They don't just want a Native American; they want someone who pumps up his race on the application. A mixed-race Hispanic student who is high-performing is not enough. The applicants also need to make sure to write an application about his or her race. And Asian Americans are just out of luck; it's not enough to be high-achieving and involved in community service. That's to be expected. There is something quite despicable about this attitude that students should be so focused on race that they insert racial comments into their applications. I would have thought that students who are focused on academic success and community service without regard to race, theirs or others, would be wonderful students that any university would want. But that's not enough for Princeton. They want young people who are full of racial concerns. We're never going to get to the post-racial society we were told would happen with Obama's election if universities penalize young people who aren't obsessed with race. Once this story gets out, students will know how they have to slant their admissions essays. Expect future applicants to be writing about their racial consciousness whether or not they have such thoughts.

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A new report indicates that the FISA Court sharply criticized the Obama administration for its treatment of the privacy of Americans.
The Obama administration self-disclosed the problems at a closed-door hearing Oct. 26 before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that set off alarm. Trump was elected less than two weeks later.
The normally supportive court censured administration officials, saying the failure to disclose the extent of the violations earlier amounted to an “institutional lack of candor” and that the improper searches constituted a “very serious Fourth Amendment issue,” according to a recently unsealed court document dated April 26, 2017.

The admitted violations undercut one of the primary defenses that the intelligence community and Obama officials have used in recent weeks to justify their snooping into incidental NSA intercepts about Americans.

Circa has reported that there was a three-fold increase in NSA data searches about Americans and a rise in the unmasking of U.S. person’s identities in intelligence reports after Obama loosened the privacy rules in 2011.

Officials like former National Security Adviser Susan Rice have argued their activities were legal under the so-called minimization rule changes Obama made, and that the intelligence agencies were strictly monitored to avoid abuses.

The intelligence court and the NSA’s own internal watchdog found that not to be true.

“Since 2011, NSA’s minimization procedures have prohibited use of U.S.-person identifiers to query the results of upstream Internet collections under Section 702,” the unsealed court ruling declared. “The Oct. 26, 2016 notice informed the court that NSA analysts had been conducting such queries in violation of that prohibition, with much greater frequency than had been previously disclosed to the Court.”
Imagine if it were the George W. Bush administration being criticized by the FISA Court. Do we care anymore if the federal government routinely violates the privacy of American citizens?

Hey, speaking of obstruction of justice.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz threatened the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police with “consequences” for holding equipment that she says belongs to her in order to build a criminal case against a Pakistani staffer suspected of massive cybersecurity breaches involving funneling sensitive congressional data offsite.

The Florida lawmaker used her position on the committee that sets the police force’s budget to press its chief to relinquish the piece of evidence Thursday, in what could be considered using her authority to attempt to interfere with a criminal investigation.

The Capitol Police and outside agencies are pursuing Imran Awan, who has run technology for the Florida lawmaker since 2005 and was banned from the House network in February on suspicion of data breaches and theft.
And here's an interesting detail.
A federal employee with knowledge of the situation and who requested anonymity told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group that as House authorities closed in on Imran Awan and his brothers, a laptop used by Imran was hidden in an unused crevice of the Rayburn House Office Building. Wasserman Schultz’s office is in Longworth House Office Building, a separate structure.

The laptop was later found by Capitol Police and seized because it was relevant to the criminal investigation, the source said.

The investigation is examining members’ data leaving the network and how Awan managed to get Members to place three relatives and a friend into largely no-show positions on their payrolls, billing $4 million since 2010.

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There was a lot of attention on the CBO's report on the House's AHCA plan. I just don't get why we pay so much attention to CBO analyses - they were way off on their Obamacare projections, as Guy Benson points out.

The WSJ is equally skeptical. They point out what is going on in the real world under Obamacare.
First, the Health and Human Services Department released new research showing that average premiums in the individual market have increased 105% since 2013 in the 39 states where the ObamaCare exchanges are federally run. That translates into about $3,000 more a year for the average family. There are limitations to the data, such as separating ObamaCare artifacts from underlying medical cost movements, but the trend doesn’t reflect well on whoever called it the Affordable Care Act.

Also on Wednesday, Blue CrossBlue Shield of Kansas City withdrew its ObamaCare plans for 2018 in Kansas and Missouri. The insurer cited ObamaCare losses of $100 million, which it called “unsustainable for our company.” The decision will leave 77 of Missouri’s 114 counties, including St. Louis, with a single insurer, and some 31,000 Missourians in another 25 counties with no coverage options. By the way, HHS says premiums have increased by 145% on average in Missouri over four years.

This is real news in real markets that affects people’s lives. So, naturally, the speculative CBO report became the day’s major story.
Here is their chart on how the CBO annually overestimated how many people would be covered under Obamacare.

The WSJ points out that the CBO definition of losing coverage includes many people who would make the choice on their own not to buy insurance.
The balance of beneficiaries “losing coverage” would not enroll in insurance, CBO says, “because the penalty for not having insurance would be eliminated.” In other words, without the threat of government to buy insurance or else pay a penalty, some people will conclude that ObamaCare coverage isn’t worth the price even with subsidies. CBO adds that “a few million” people would use the new tax credits to buy insurance that the CBO doesn’t consider adequate.
The CBO has a lot of guesswork in their analysis.
This particular credibility gap is exposed in CBO’s treatment of the House compromise on waivers, which would allow states to apply to opt out of certain ObamaCare regulations like benefit mandates. How many Governors would choose to do so, over what time period, in what political context, and how aggressively would they deregulate markets? “Who knows?” is the only honest answer.

CBO allows that there can be no “single definitive interpretation” of how states would respond to new incentives—before claiming that precisely “one-third of the population would be in states that would choose to make moderate changes to market regulations” and precisely “one-sixth of the population” lives where Governors would “substantially alter” those regulations. This isn’t a quantitative economic judgment but a raw political assumption.
The CBO is always referred to as the "nonpartisan CBO." It may be ostensibly nonpartisan, but that doesn't make it accurate. Its projections on Obamacare were used to pass Obamacare even though they were off and people recognized that at the time. And their projection on the AHCA will be used by Democrats now to slam the plan and by Republicans to argue to the Senate that it can go through reconciliation.

This is what has happened to insurance premiums since Obamacare went into effect.
Obamacare's insurance regulations contributed to premiums doubling over the course of four years, finds a new federal report.

The findings, assembled by the Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, show that since 2013, one year before the Obamacare regulations were fully implemented, premiums have risen from an average of $2,784 in 2013 to $5,712 in 2017 on the federal exchange, This represents an increase of $2,928, or 105 percent.

Premiums tripled in Alaska, Alabama and Oklahoma during the same time period, and the lowest premium increase, 12 percent, was in New Jersey....

Under Obamacare most people who sign up for coverage through the exchanges have not personally felt the premium increases because the law provides tax credits that reduce premium costs. But middle-class individuals and families, who make more than $48,240 or ​$98,400, respectively, often take on the full increases.
Republicans need to remind people of what we're seeing in our bills. If all Democrats want to do is criticize whatever the Republicans end up putting forth, then they should be made to answer what, if anything, they want to do about these increasing premiums.

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This is truly funny.
Many students at Davidson College recently responded in anguish and outrage after some conservative students filmed a video asking people on campus if they would sign a petition to redistribute GPAs for the sake of “education equality.”

Many students refused to sign the petition, saying it wasn’t fair for a variety of reasons, including that people who earned their As should keep their As, and that students who are given good grades without hard work might not be inspired to improve.

But after students discovered later the petition was a hoax played on them by conservative students in an attempt to illustrate the unfairness of wealth distribution, they hastily called a teach-in at the campus union at which they denounced the effort and vented their frustration....

Multiple students at the teach-in also made comments supporting both income redistribution and GPA redistribution, saying “life wasn’t always fair” and it’s “the right thing to do.” Others suggested that not forcibly redistributing income would give rich people the power to decide who lives and dies based off their charitable donation whims.

Ed Morrissey notes this wonderfully ironic story. The California Democrats have been having their state convention, but there are many supporters of Bernie Sanders are not happy with the new chair who defeated their favored candidate for party chair.
Ellis, the former director of Emerge America, a women’s political organization, lost the election by a narrow margin of 62 votes out of 3,000 cast. Her loss immediately set off protests from hundreds of her backers, many of whom charged that there were irregularities that included allowing voters to cast proxy ballots without proper ID.
Party ID? They're upset that people didn't have the proper ID? Oh, the irony! Suddenly, these Democrats are worried about voter fraud. And their solution is voter IDs. Oh, and going to court to challenge the results. That should be fun.Morrissey writes,
The attendees are already screened for entry, largely by ID, and the delegates chosen and identified by their constituents in their districts. If grassroots Democrats believe that another layer of voter-ID is necessary at a state convention to secure the vote — and it might well be — what does that say about elections among the populace as a whole, who aren’t screened and identified before showing up to cast a vote? Perhaps that’s why voter-ID laws draw broad support from Americans across the political spectrum in poll after poll.

This protest probably won’t last too long, as the stakes in California are rather small. What’s the difference between a California “establishment” Democrat these days and a Sanders socialist, other than just how quickly the government should seize all means of production?