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One of the last things Obama did before leaving office: Could this be the source of the leaks?

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 1:51pm

Note that LU’s J.E. Dyer has written two previous posts about this topic, on February 23 and Mar 6.

Her posts traced clearly how the change to the sharing rules for NSA data connected to the leaks campaign against Trump and his administration.

Obama and the intel community’s ‘Leaks against Trump’ campaign

The ‘back door’: How Trump, Clapper, and Comey could all be right about ‘wiretapping’ Trump Tower

In the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of his presidency, Barack Obama made a  change to the way wiretapped intelligence is shared Jan. 12, which may have contributed to the proliferation of leaks plaguing the Trump administration.

Obama changed the way National Security Agency intelligence is shared 8 days before leaving office, which allows globally intercepted communications to be disseminated across the entire intelligence community.

The change was part of a post-9/11 push by the executive branch to increase intelligence sharing, to ensure that NSA analysts do not miss critically important information. The change is “simply widening the aperture for a larger number of analysts, who will be bound by the existing rules,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said at the time.

Obama administration officials also scrambled to spread classified intelligence related to Russian meddling in the 2016 election to as many people within the U.S. government as possible. These officials said they spread the intelligence around to ensure Trump administration officials would not be able to quash the investigation. The officials also fought to keep the related intelligence at a low-classified level, giving more officers access to the raw information.

“We have people spouting off who don’t know the difference between FISA surveillance and a wiretap or a counterintelligence probe versus a special prosecutor criminal case, and it has hurts our ability to get to the truth and has wrongly created the impression that intelligence officials have a political agenda,” a U.S. intelligence official told Circa Wednesday.

These globally-intercepted communications included conversations during the presidential transition between then National Security Advisor-designate Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. These communications were leaked by elements within the intelligence community to the Washington Post, prompting a government scandal and the resignation of Flynn in disgrace.

These leaks also likely constitute communications between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence officials, which were reported by the New York Times. “I think President Obama’s behind it, because his people are certainly behind it,” Trump told Fox News in late February. He continued, “some of the leaks possibly come from that group. You know, some of the leaks, which are really very serious leaks, because they’re very bad in terms of national security, but I also understand that’s politics. And in terms of him being behind things, that’s politics, and it will probably continue.”

More Funding for Government Schools: Throwing Good Money after Bad

Center for Freedom and Prosperity (CF&P) - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 12:30pm

The story of the private sector is that competition generates ever-more output in ways that bring ever-higher living standards to ever-greater numbers of people.

By contrast, the story of the government is inefficiency and waste as interest groups figure out how to grab ever-larger amounts of unmerited goodies, often while doing less and less.

In some cases, where government is doing bad things (stealing property, subsidizing big corporations, fleecing poor people, etc), I actually favor inefficiency.

Sadly, the government seems to be most inefficient in areas where we all hope for good results. Education is a powerful (and sad) example.

A story in the LA Weekly is a perfect illustration of this phenomenon.

A little more than a decade ago, something unexpected happened. The district’s enrollment, which peaked in 2004 at just under 750,000, began to drop. …Today, LAUSD’s enrollment is around 514,000, a number that the district estimates will fall below half a million by 2018.

Anyone want to guess whether this means less spending?

Of course not.

L.A. Unified’s costs have not gone down. They’ve gone up. This year’s $7.59 billion budget is half a billion dollars more than last year’s. …Today, the district has more than 60,000 employees, fewer than half of whom are teachers. …LAUSD’s administrative staff had grown 22 percent over the previous five years. Over that same period of time, the number of teachers had dropped by 9 percent.

If these trends continue, maybe we’ll get an example of “peak bureaucracy,” with a giant workforce that does absolutely nothing!

Based on his famous chart, the late Andrew Coulson probably wouldn’t be too surprised by that outcome.

There’s also lots of waste and inefficiency when Uncle Sam gets involved. With great fanfare, President Obama spent buckets of money to supposedly boost government schools. The results were predictably bad.

It was such a failure than even a story in the Washington Post admitted the money was wasted (in other words, there wasn’t enough lipstick to make the pig look attractive).

One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis. Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not. …The School Improvement Grants program…received an enormous boost under Obama. The administration funneled $7 billion into the program between 2010 and 2015… Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary from 2009 to 2016, said his aim was to turn around 1,000 schools every year for five years. ..The school turnaround effort, he told The Washington Post days before he left office in 2016, was arguably the administration’s “biggest bet.”

It was a “bet,” but he used our money. And he lost. Or, to be more accurate, taxpayers lost. And children lost.

Some education experts say that the administration closed its eyes to mounting evidence about the program’s problems in its own interim evaluations, which were released in the years after the first big infusion of cash. …Smarick said he had never seen such a huge investment produce zero results. …Results from the School Improvement Grants have shored up previous research showing that pouring money into dysfunctional schools and systems does not work.

Indeed, I’ve seen this movie before. Many times. Bush’s no-bureaucrat-left-behind initiative flopped. Obama’s latest initiative flopped. Common Core also failed. Various schemes at the state level to dump more money into government schools also lead to failure. Local initiative to spend more don’t lead to good results, either.

Gee, it’s almost as if a social scientist (or anybody with a greater-than-room-temperature IQ) could draw a logical conclusion from these repeated failures.

And, to be fair, some folks on the left have begun to wake up. Consider this recent study by Jonathan Rothwell, published by Brookings, which has some very sobering findings.

…the productivity of the education sector depends on the relationship between how much it generates in value—learning, in this case—relative to its costs. Unfortunately, productivity is way down. …This weak performance is even more disturbing given that the U.S. spends more on education, on a per student basis, than almost any other country. So what’s going wrong? …In primary and secondary public education, where price increases have been less dramatic, there has been a decline in bureaucratic efficiency. The number of students for every district-level administrator fell from 519 in 1980 to 365 in 2012. Principals and assistant principals managed 382 students in 1980 but only 294 in 2012.

The conclusion is stark.

Declining education productivity disproportionately harms the poor. …unlike their affluent peers, low-income parents lack the resources to overcome weak quality by home-schooling their children or hiring private tutors. Over the last 30 to 40 years, the United States has invested heavily in education, with little to show for it. The result is a society with more inequality and less economic growth; a high price.

Incidentally, even private money is largely wasted when it goes into government schools. Facebook’s founder famously donated $100 million to Newark’s schools back in 2010.

So how did that work out? As a Washington Post columnist explained, the funds that went to government schools was basically money down the toilet.

It is a story of the earnest young billionaire whose conviction that the key to fixing schools is paying the best teachers well collided with the reality of seniority protections not only written into teacher contracts but also embedded in state law.

But there is a bit of good news. Some of the money helped enable charter schools.

there is a more optimistic way to interpret the Newark experience, much of which has to do with the success of the city’s fast-growing charter schools. …The reasons are obvious. Unencumbered by bureaucracy and legacy labor costs, charters can devote far more resources to students, providing the kind of wraparound services that students like Beyah need. An analysis by Advocates for Children of New Jersey noted “a substantial and persistent achievement gap” between students at charter and traditional public schools: “For example, while 71 percent of charter school students in Newark passed third-grade language arts tests in 2013-14 — higher than the state average of 66 percent — only 41 percent of students in Newark traditional public schools passed those tests.”

The Wall Street Journal also opined about this topic.

‘What happened with the $100 million that Newark’s schools got from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg?” asks a recent headline. “Not much” is the short answer. …The Facebook founder negotiated his gift with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and then-Mayor Cory Booker in 2010, and it flowed into Newark’s public-school system shortly thereafter. The bulk of the funds supported consultants and the salaries and pensions of teachers and administrators, so the donation only reinforced the bureaucratic and political ills that have long plagued public education in the Garden State.

The editorial explains that this isn’t the first time a wealthy philanthropist squandered money on government schools.

In 1993, philanthropist Walter Annenberg sought to improve education by awarding $500 million to America’s public schools. …But the $1.1 billion in spending that resulted, thanks to matching grants, accomplished little. An assessment by the Consortium on Chicago School Research on the schools that received funds reached a dismal conclusion: “Findings from large-scale survey analyses, longitudinal field research, and student achievement test score analyses reveal that . . . there is little evidence of an overall Annenberg school improvement effect.” The report did not explain why the campaign failed, but the reason is fairly obvious: The funds wound up in the hands of the unions, administrators and political figures who created the problems in the first place.

Fortunately, not all rich people believe in wasting money. Some of them actually want to help kids succeed.

In 1998, John Walton and Ted Forstmann each gave $50 million to fund scholarships for low-income children to attend private schools. More than 140,000 students have attended schools with graduation and college matriculation rates that exceed 90% instead of going to the failing schools in their neighborhoods. Earlier this summer, hedge-fund manager John Paulson pledged $8.5 million to the Success Academy charter-school network, where 93% of students are proficient in math, compared with 35% of their traditional public-school peers. His gift will allow more such schools to open. The financier Stephen Schwarzman and his wife, Christine, a former attorney, donated $40 million to help endow the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, which provides financial aid to needy children attending Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York.

Which is a good segue into the real lesson for today about the type of reforms that actually could boost education.

I’ve shared in the past very strong evidence about how school choice delivers better education results.

Which is what everyone should expect since competition is superior to monopoly.

Well, as explained in another Wall street Journal editorial, it also generates superior results at lower cost. Especially when you factor in the long-run benefits.

…a study shows that Milwaukee’s landmark voucher program will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. …the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a nonprofit that advocates for limited government and education reform, decided to look at the relative cost and benefits of choice schools. And, what do you know, it found that students participating in Milwaukee’s voucher program will provide the city, state and students nearly $500 million in economic benefits through 2035 thanks to higher graduation and lower crime rates. …More education translates into higher incomes, more tax revenue and a lower likelihood of reliance on government welfare or other payments. Meanwhile, greater economic opportunity also prevents young adults from turning to crime.

Wow. It’s not just that it costs less to educate children in private schools. There’s also a big long-run payoff from having more productive (and law-abiding) citizens.

That’s a real multiplier effect, unlike the nonsense we get from Keynesian stimulus schemes.

P.S. School choice doesn’t automatically mean every child will be an educational success, but evidence from SwedenChile, and the Netherlands shows good results after breaking up state-run education monopolies.

And there’s growing evidence that it also works in the limited cases where it exists in the United States.

P.P.S. Or we can just stick with the status quo, which involves spending more money, per student, than any other nation while getting dismal results.

P.P.P.S. This is a depressing post, so let’s close with a bit of humor showing the evolution of math lessons in government schools.

P.P.P.P.S. If you want some unintentional humor, the New York Times thinks that education spending has been reduced.

What DNI Clapper didn’t say was more revealing than what he did say

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 12:05pm

In Monday’s Morning Jolt, Jim Geraghty usefully outlined some intriguing statements made by former Obama national intelligence director James Clapper regarding the FISA surveillance controversy. Clapper’s remarks, in an interview by NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press on Sunday, are being taken as a blanket denial of the allegations that the Obama administration used the Justice Department and FBI to investigate Trump-campaign figures, potentially including Trump himself.

But what Clapper said is far from a wholesale rejection of the allegations. To be sure, General Clapper’s statements convincingly shoot down the claim that Trump himself was wiretapped by the government. But to my knowledge, no one has made that claim other than President Trump, in a series of controversial tweets on Saturday morning. Clapper’s statements do nothing to undermine the overarching allegation that the Obama Justice Department investigated associates of Trump who had varying connections to his campaign.

I’m going to assume the truth of General Clapper’s statements. Understandably, many commentators stress that, in the past, he has been caught testifying to things that were untrue (denying bulk metadata collection by intelligence agencies) or ridiculous (asserting that the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular”).

Continue reading →

It’s time for a Bluexit

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 11:19am

[Ed. – Agreed. Take a hike.]

Dear Red-State Trump Voter,

Let’s face it, guys: We’re done.

For more than 80 years now, we—the residents of what some people like to call Blue America, but which I prefer to think of as the United States of We Pay Our Own Damn Way—have shelled out far more in federal tax monies than we took in. We have funded massive infrastructure projects in your rural counties, subsidized your schools and your power plants and your nursing homes, sent you entire industries, and simultaneously absorbed the most destitute, unskilled, and oppressed portions of your populations, white and black alike.

All of which, it turns out, only left you more bitter, white, and alt-right than ever.

Some folks here in self-supporting America like to believe that there must be a way to bring you back to your senses and to restore rational government, if not liberal ideals, sometime in the foreseeable future…. Every day another earnest little homily finds its way to me over my internet transom: “Think locally, act globally,” or “Make art and fight the power,” or the old Joe Hill standby—“Don’t mourn. Organize.”

To which I say: Don’t organize. Pack.

Continue reading →

Hawaii challenges Trump’s refugee order … but accepts no refugees

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 11:13am

Hawaii will never be mistaken for the Show Me State. The last state to join the union filed a challenge in federal court to President Donald Trump’s new executive order on refugee and migrant entry to the U.S. Wednesday. though the state has a dismal track record on refugee resettlement.

“If a new order still discriminates against persons based upon national origins, violates our nation’s freedom of religion, or otherwise violates the Constitution, the State of Hawaii and its people must oppose it,” state Attorney General Doug Chin said, in advance of the second order’s promulgation.

It’s commitment to free movement of refugees notwithstanding, during fiscal year 2015, the state accepted all of seven (count ’em, 7) refugees, according to data from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Only one jurisdiction, the District of Columbia, accepted fewer.

During that period, one of the state’s refugees came from Ukraine, one came from China, and five came from Burma. None came from war-torn communities in the Middle East, where migrant resettlement has proved most controversial.

The state did not perform better in other years where data was available. It accepted two refugees during 2014, six in 2013, and only one in 2012.

There are a number of reasons why Hawaii is not an attractive site for refugee resettlement that are unrelated to whatever migrant policies it might wish to pursue. In the first place, it’s geographic isolation makes large-scale resettlement logistically unfeasible. In addition, the state has a comparatively high cost of living, which may make it prohibitively expensive for a migrant family. This, in turn, creates an environment in which poor Hawaiians depend on some of the largest public assistance packages in the country, though studies to this effect have been disputed.

Still, the state leading the legal fight against the president’s revised executive order will almost certainly not play a major role in refugee relocation going forward, and hopes to play a major role in shaping resettlement policy through the legal process.

This report, by Kevin Daley, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Pelosi: Obamacare drafting process ‘one of the most transparent in recent memory’

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 11:03am

[Ed. – Well, there’s your problem. She can’t remember her name these days!]

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) tweeted on Tuesday that the drafting process for the Affordable Care Act was “one of the most transparent in recent memory.”

Pelosi defended the health care law the day after House Republicans unveiled their Obamacare replacement plan on Monday night. Some lawmakers, including Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.), criticized House Republican leaders for drawing up the bill in a secret fashion.

The House’s top Democrat built on this criticism and took to Twitter on Tuesday to argue the Affordable Care Act was crafted in a transparent manner. She cited the number of hearings and meetings that were held before Obamacare was passed.

Pelosi’s comments appear to contradict past statements made by one of Obamacare’s chief architects, MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, who was reportedly paid about $400,000 for his consulting work.

Gruber said in October 2013 that the Affordable Care Act “was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes” because “if CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.”

Continue reading →

Rand Paul says GOP health care proposal is effort to dupe Trump; he may be right

Liberty Unyielding - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 10:49am

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recently sat down with Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle to discuss the bill that he calls “Obamacare-Lite” and outlined his reasons why he thinks Republicans should oppose it it.

GOP leadership has long known that their “plan” for dealing with Obamacare would meet stiff resistance in Congress and on Main Street, which is why they did their best to hide the bill until the last moment possible. Now that it’s been made public, opposition has stiffened as conservatives come to terms with the reality that this bill means that Obamacare will likely never be repealed, only retooled to satiate Republican opposition. How is it that the Republican Party, long opposed to socialized medicine, has now seemingly embraced some aspects of socialism? It’s a tremendous change from the way Republicans have been campaigning for the last 5 or 6 years, with their promises of repeal now giving way to simply offering mild adjustments to Obama’s healthcare disaster.

Paul told Boyle that he believes the establishment may be “pulling the wool” over Donald Trump’s eyes to get him to support this horrendous healthcare bill. When Boyle asked the Senator why it was GOP leadership was pushing so hard to pass the bill when so many Republicans were steadfastly against it, Paul replied that he couldn’t explain their reasoning.

[W]hen I’ve spoken with President Trump, I think he agrees with me that we should repeal and replace but I don’t think he’s stuck on that they have to be in the same bill necessarily. [Speaker] Paul Ryan , I think, is selling it to the White House and telling the White House, ‘Oh, it’s a piece of cake, it’s a done deal.’ And I don’t think that’s an accurate depiction of things. I think from the very beginning combining repeal and replace in one bill makes it very hard because we have different ideas on replace. We are pretty much united on repeal, but we have different ideas on replace. If the House leadership had come forward and talked to conservatives beforehand, I think they would have found out there is a lot of disagreement and they would have just passed what we already passed — what everybody voted for — and we also have a debate on the same day on a variety of replacement strategies. We still could do that. And I think if the House Freedom Caucus and the Senate conservatives stay together, I still think that that’s one possible outcome. It would be better for all of us if we separated it out with clean repeal and had replacement as a separate bill.

That opposition that Senator Paul is speaking of is a more than 70-strong contingent of House conservatives who have already announced that they will not vote for this bill, which many of them believe will simply entrench Obamacare in American law and make it nigh impossible to repeal in the future.

The House Freedom Caucus has said that they are united against the bill, and a host of other more moderate Republicans seem ready to fight the bill as well. Boyle spoke to several Congressional aides who work for Republicans not usually aligned with the most conservative GOP members who said that their bosses are all against the bill and just don’t see how Ryan (R-Wisc) plans to move the bill forward.

For his part, Paul explains that there are four major problems with the healthcare bill:

  1. It creates a new entitlement program.
  2. It does not handle Obamacare taxes, and even keeps the “Cadillac Tax” in place.
  3. It keeps Obamacare’s individual mandate, penalizing those who don’t purchase healthcare.
  4. It keeps Obamacare’s risk corridors in place and just renames them.

Paul also explained that there is a real concern that the bill gives illegal immigrants free access to Medicaid.

Yet, as bleak as things look now, Paul believes it’s too late to toss this bill and move to a full repeal of Obamacare instead. He also believes that as Trump learns more about the bill, and about conservative opposition to the bill, he’ll begin moving toward them in an effort to make a deal that pleases the entire Party and rids the nation of Obamacare forever.

While the GOP may seem fractured now, Paul doesn’t want Republican voters to get too worried because the party is unified on the most important issues we face. The question is whether the Party will still be united once the fight over this new healthcare bill is finished. And, more importantly, will we be free of Obamacare when the dust finally settles?

Cross-posted at Constitution.com

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