Category Archives: Obama

Harvard Needs to Come Clean

Talk about a ‘hall pass’.
WSJ 8/6/2018

The Trump Administration in July withdrew Obama-era guidance that gave colleges a wink and a nod to racially discriminate. This means that colleges like Harvard that use racial preferences in admissions will receive more legal scrutiny, and the examination should be instructive.

Between 2011 and 2016, the Obama Education Department issued seven notices advising colleges how they may legally promote racial diversity. The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination by institutions receiving federal funds. But the Supreme Court has held that colleges may consider race in admissions as long it isn’t the “decisive” factor. Quotas and point systems are forbidden.

The Obama department advised colleges to consider race as part of what it called an “individualized, holistic review of all applicants.” Colleges also were urged to consider race-neutral alternatives, but that they need not be adopted if they are “unworkable.” In other words, it’s the thought that counts. Many colleges took the guidance as cover to discriminate.

Harvard’s practices will be the first to be examined under this new spotlight. Students for Fair Admissions has sued the school for discriminating against Asian-American applicants and unconstitutionally favoring other minority groups. The case hasn’t gone to trial, but the plaintiff group’s legal filings based on discovery and depositions are revealing the secrets of Harvard’s use of race.

Consider Harvard’s “holistic” admissions review. Applicants are rated on a scale of one to six on academics, extracurricular activities, athletics and highly subjective “personal” criteria. Admissions officers also assign applicants an overall score.

According to Students for Fair Admissions, Asian-Americans boasted higher extracurricular and academic ratings than all other racial groups. They also received higher scores from alumni interviewers. But they were rated disproportionately lower on personal criteria. Only about one in five Asian-Americans in the top 10% of academic performers received a “2” personal rating. Yet blacks and Hispanics with much lower grades and SAT scores received high personal ratings.

Asian-Americans also disproportionately received lower composite scores. Blacks in the top 10% of academic performers were three times more likely than Asian-Americans to receive a “2” overall rating (“1” is the best). A sample of applicant summary sheets disproportionately refer to Asian-Americans as “busy and bright” and “standard strong”—labels that liberals might call micro-aggressions.

Following complaints of discrimination, Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research (OIR) in 2013 produced three internal reports showing its admissions process was biased against Asian-Americans. Harvard disclosed the reports during discovery in the lawsuit. One report found that purely “demographic” factors reduced the share of admitted Asian Americans by 30% while increasing the proportion of admitted Latinos by about 140% and blacks by 370%.

OIR shared its studies with Harvard administrators who did not ask the researchers questions, suggest further investigation or publish the findings. Were administrators unperturbed or merely uninterested?

By contrast, Harvard published a prescriptive report in 2015 to improve diversity on campus that suggested, among other things, changing objects in a classroom “from those that are conventionally associated with the dominant group to objects that minoritized subjects can better relate to.” Minoritized?

The university also formed what appears to have been a Potemkin committee in 2017 to investigate “race neutral” alternatives. Its conclusion: Race-neutral alternatives were not “workable.” The committee said Harvard “could not significantly increase its financial aid budget” to attract more minority applicants “without detracting from other commitments.” If Harvard’s $37 billion endowment is insufficient, maybe it should stop wasting money on perfunctory studies.

Harvard denies that it discriminates and in a legal filing 10 days ago called the statistical analysis by Students for Fair Admissions “deeply flawed.” Harvard said that “the work done by OIR employees was not intended to address whether Asian-American applicants were experiencing discrimination and did not answer that question.” The school has so far resisted producing student essays and teacher recommendations that may shed more light.

The Supreme Court said in Village of Arlington Heights (1976) that an “invidious discriminatory purpose” may be gleaned from facially neutral policies—i.e., policies that don’t discriminate explicitly—based on “the degree of disproportionate racial effect, if any, of the policy” and “the justification, or lack thereof” for the effect, among other things. And under the Court’s Fisher decision (2013), colleges must demonstrate that their use of racial preferences is narrowly tailored to achieving the benefits of a diverse student body. On the evidence so far, Harvard has not done so.

Fisher is a constitutional muddle and a future Supreme Court should overturn it, but in the meantime it’s the law. Harvard and other schools are now on notice that they may not discriminate on the sly.


Make Iran Great Again!

Only one post for tonight. This one should be enough…

WSJ 1/4/2018

Iran erupted last Thursday. By Friday, the protests against the government, which began in Mashhad near the Afghan border, had spread to dozens of cities. So when we traveled on Saturday to a movie theater on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to see “Darkest Hour,” Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill, imagine the jarring dislocation when the theater’s previews included a trailer for an admiring documentary of Barack Obama’s foreign-policy making, “The Final Year.”

The preview screen filled with expressions of earnest intent from Mr. Obama, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes and the Iran nuclear deal’s handmaiden, John Kerry. About 100 minutes later, we were watching Churchill shout at his war cabinet that you cannot do deals with dictators. That would have been about the time this weekend that protesters in Iran were shouting “Death to Khamenei!” It’s nice to see the Iranian people have a sense of humor.

Producing the past week’s protests against the Iranian regime was not the goal of the six-party Iran nuclear deal. Back then, the Khamenei-Rouhani regime was represented as America’s partner in a good cause. Now the governments of the U.S., U.K., France and Germany (Russia is a Khamenei ally, and China only supports crackdowns) have to decide whether their Iranian partner is the people in the streets or the government that is shooting them.

In the preview of “The Final Year,” the Obama team members convey confidence in the rightness of everything they did. But as we learned in November 2016, there was one big thing the Obama people never understood: how a real economy works. By real economy, I mean the private economy, not the economy of public spending.

A central element of the nuclear deal was that it would “help” the Iranian people by lifting sanctions and injecting $100 billion of unfrozen assets into Iran’s economy. This was much the same economic theory behind the Obama administration’s 2009 injection of $832 billion into the U.S. economy. Both flopped because both made the real economy essentially a bystander to state guidance.

The Obama $832 billion went up the government’s fireplace flue. The Iranian $100 billion went into ballistic missile production and for Iran’s proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

The moment has arrived for invidious comparisons.

Donald Trump is president because the Obama-Clinton Democrats forgot about hardpressed voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. The Khamenei-Rouhani regime is under assault because working- class Iranians began this week’s revolt in cities beyond the capital.

Come to think of it, isn’t that disconnect between the people running governments and the people trying to make a living in the real economy the core reason behind the worldwide burst of populism?

It’s the reason France’s working-class voters and young, underemployed college graduates sent Emmanuel Macron and a heretofore nonexistent party into the French presidency. It’s the reason workingclass Brits lunged for Brexit. This new global reality—perform or get shoved aside—is the reason Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman imposed reforms. The Iranians shouting, “Leave Syria, think of us!” are the West Virginia coal miners shouting, “Make America Great Again.” That’s not yahooism. It is anxiety directed at incumbent elites who tell the public that reduced levels of economic growth are the new normal. The world’s populations will not accept that.

Iran—like North Korea— has taken its best and brightest and stuck them inside a mountain to build atomic bombs, leaving the economy in the hands of Brussels-grade technocrats.

Besides calling for higher taxes in its recent budget, even as prices have spiked for basic foodstuff, Hassan Rouhani’s government has pursued import- substitution policies by imposing high tariffs on many imported goods. Needless to say, Iranians can’t get the clothing, appliances and electronics they want.

To combat a massive cellphone- smuggling operation, Iran recently slapped a 5% duty on them atop the 9% valueadded tax and required registration with Iran’s telecom user database. Now, millions of smuggled phones will make it harder for the ayatollahs to kill texting among protesters. The bazaar may prove stronger than the theocracy.

A theme now emerging in Western media is that if Europe’s leaders support President Trump’s “aggressive” posture toward Tehran, that will undermine both the sanctified Obama nuclear deal and support for “liberals” in the Rouhani government. This is where we came in, watching Winston Churchill convince a timid British establishment that an outward– moving dictatorship won’t stop at anyone’s border.

The moment has arrived to admit that Iran’s missiles, nuclear technology and armies won’t stay inside its borders until the people getting shot in the streets are recognized and supported by a too-timid world.


Student Loan Scam

Scam is a very good word for it.
WSJ 12/27/2017

After nationalizing student lending, the Obama Administration sought to reduce the government’s $1.3 trillion loan portfolio by allowing disgruntled borrowers to discharge their debt. Last week Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ended this fraud against taxpayers.

After driving Corinthian Colleges out of business in 2014, the Education Department implemented a haphazard process to forgive loans of students who claimed to have been ripped off by the defunct for-profit. Tens of thousands of claims poured in, overwhelming department staff.

The backlog of claims ballooned after predatory regulators forced the closure of ITT Technical Institute in 2016. Liberal groups urged the Obama Administration to forgive loans of borrowers who had attended other for-profits, spurring the department to initiate a “borrower defense” rule-making to allow students who purported misrepresentations by their colleges to discharge their loans. The midnight rule, finalized last November, authorized the Education Department to discharge debts on a class-wide basis—for instance, all borrowers who had attended a certain college within the last five years.

The Obama Administration approved roughly 15,000 claims between June 25, 2015 and January 1, 2017. During President Obama’s final three weeks in office, the department hurried out 16,000 approvals. No claims were denied. The total taxpayer tab for discharges: $450 million.

Obama officials left a backlog of 48,000 claims, many of which were flagged for rejection. But the Education Department had not developed a process for denying claims or a system to prevent fraud—to wit, borrowers who alleged misrepresentations by colleges despite suffering no apparent injury.

Enter the Trump Administration, which suspended claim approvals while the Inspector General reviewed the department’s procedures for discharging debt. In June Mrs. DeVos put the borrower-defense rule on ice and convened a committee of stakeholders to consider changes. The IG in a report this month describes systemic problems with the loan-forgiveness process. For instance, claim data was maintained on more than a thousand spreadsheets with “no controls to prevent or detect problems with the integrity.” This is an invitation to hackers. The Inspector General also found that “information on the status of loan discharges was not readily available” and that “it took [Federal Student Aid] at least 3 weeks to produce outcome data on the status of claims.” This is ironic because the Education Department cut off federal student aid to Corinthian—thus precipitating its bankruptcy—because of the college’s alleged slowness in responding to document requests.

Mrs. DeVos identified a bigger problem: The department was discharging debt carte blanche without accounting for the value students received from their education. Before awarding damages, judges are supposed to consider whether plaintiffs are harmed by alleged misrepresentations and then weigh the severity of their injury. Department adjudicators were doing neither.

A new department directive scales student loan relief based on college employment data. Borrowers who enrolled in programs whose grads earn less than the average of peer institutions will receive 100% debt relief. But those who attended programs with higher earnings will only be able to discharge some debt.

Education officials say this change will save taxpayers billions of dollars. Yet liberals are outraged that Mrs. DeVos is using earnings data that the department collected to punish forprofits to curb dubious claims for debt relief. The Trump Administration deserves credit for restoring due process and protecting taxpayers from another Obama-era student-loan scam.


Syrian Chemical Repeat

Ops, can’t bring that up…
WSJ 4/5/2017

Just when Western leaders think they can forget about the Syrian civil war, Bashar Assad drags them back in. A suspected poison gas attack widely blamed on the Syrian regime killed at least 58 people in opposition-held territory Tuesday, including 11 children.

Syria’s army denied using chemical weapons, but then that’s what the regime said in 2013 when it used them against civilians in opposition territory in a Damascus suburb. This time bombs dropped by warplanes hit the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northwestern Syria, spreading an unknown gas that caused people to faint, foam at the mouth and suffocate, according to doctors and rescue workers.

“All pieces of evidence indicate that the raid was carried out by the regime,” said Raed Saleh, director of the White Helmets civil-defense organization that operates in rebel-controlled Syria. As far as we know, the Syrian opposition doesn’t have warplanes.

Such an attack isn’t supposed to be possible now because President Obama, John Kerry and Vladimir Putin claimed to have rid Syria of its chemical-weapons stockpiles. Mr. Obama took up the Russian strongman’s arms-control offer in 2013 after Mr. Obama flinched on a military strike to enforce his famous “red line” against Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

The two nations and the United Nations then made a great show of destroying the stockpiles that Mr. Assad claimed not to have. But U.S. intelligence believed the regime was holding some weapons in reserve, and the use of chlorine gas has become almost routine. Tuesday’s attack seems to have been a deadlier gas, perhaps sarin that was used in 2013. The Russian defense ministry, which is Mr. Assad’s military patron, dismissed reports of the attack as “absolutely fake,” but the victims on video from Syria look real enough. The attack again shows the folly of relying on arms-control promises from men like Messrs. Assad or Putin. The Russian is violating the 1988 INF treaty by introducing new missiles in Europe, so why would he fret about more poison gas in Syria?

A State Department official said the facts suggest the attack is a war crime, and White House spokesman Sean Spicer said “these heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence” of the Obama Administration’s “weakness and irresolution.” He’s right, but Donald Trump is now the President. The attack comes after the Administration has been publicly signaling that deposing Mr. Assad is no longer a goal of U.S. policy. It’s possible the regime took those comments as license to unleash more hell.

Mr. Trump inherited a mess in Syria, but if he doesn’t want to preside over endless civil war and more war crimes, he’ll need a better strategy than Mr. Obama’s default of moral denunciation and trusting Russia.