Tuesday, July 4, 2017

DeVos and Defrauding

“D’ye think th’ colledges has much to do with th’ progress iv th’ wurruld?” Asked Mr. Hennessey.
“D’ ye think ,” said Mr. Dooley, “tis the mill that makes th’ wather run?”
— Finley Peter Dunne [Mr. Dooley], Colleges and Degrees

The good news is that the DJT administration has finally come up with a plan to help businesses that does not benefit one of DJT’s enterprises and, therefore, does not represent a conflict of interest for DJT. That comes as a welcome surprise for those who have marveled at how DJT has transformed the White House from a policy center to a profit center. This was most recently demonstrated when the Republican National Committee selected the Trump International Hotel in Washington, to host a $10 million re-election fund raiser in that venue. According to the hotel, the Republican National Committee that put on the event paid “regular prices” for all the services and space provided by the hotel. That blatant conflict of interest made it all the more important to alert the public to the fact that, appearances notwithstanding, the most recent political decision made by the administration does not benefit DJT in any way. That is because, as far as can be determined, DJT no longer has any financial interest in making money by defrauding students. That was not always the case.

A while back, DJT was the poster child for an unethical enterprise that purported to offer training to its victims in get rich schemes. His fraud was called Trump University. It was a complete scam. It had no campus or classrooms. Although it touted the qualifications of its faculty when recruiting students, its faculty lacked academic credentials, the university granted no degrees, and most of its students discovered that promises of lucrative careers in the real estate world following completion of the program were illusory. Because of its palpable fraudulent conduct, it was subject to a class action lawsuit from those who had paid large sums of money in exchange for nothing of value, and the lawsuit was settled, following DJT’s election, for $25 million.

Even though DJT had a different fraud model from those for-profit colleges that are run unethically, there was a great sense of relief among all for-profit colleges, the good and the bad , when DJT was elected. The relief was palpable. The day following DJT’s election, the stock in Strayer Education, Inc. that owns the for-profit Strayer University, jumped almost 20%. Stock in other for-profit colleges also saw the value of their shares increase. There was a reason for the jump in stock prices. Those institutions had reason to hope that DJT, who had run a complete scam, might have residual sympathy for for-profit colleges that were subject to regulations that were destined to go into effect on July 1, 2017. They hoped that some of the Obama proposals that were directed at fraudulent for-profit colleges might go away or, at least, be delayed. The Trump administration did not disappoint.

Among the regulations imposed by the Obama administration that had been scheduled to be implemented on July 1, 2017, were two that were especially troubling to the for-profit colleges. One was a proposal that would expand and speed up a system that had been created to erase the student federal loan debt incurred by students who were cheated by for-profit colleges that engaged in fraudulent conduct. The other change was to the regulation known as the “gainful employment mandate.” That mandate provided that for-profit colleges whose students are unable to find jobs that pay them enough to retire their student debt, may, if the pattern continues for three years, be removed from the student loan program. (The actual rule is more complex but that description is adequate for our purposes.) The regulations that were to take effect on July 1 were imposed after many for-profit schools collapsed before their students graduated, leaving students with no degrees and no means to repay the student loans they’d incurred to attend them. Although the regulations were needed, thanks to the actions of Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, they may never become effective.

On June 14, 2017, Betsy’s Education Department announced that the proposed changes would not take place on July 1 as planned. The department said it would form a committee to examine the proposed rule changes, and would not implement them until the review was completed. The delay does not, however, suggest that Betsy DeVos is in favor of fraud. She made that plain when, in commenting on the delay, she said: “Fraud, especially fraud committed by a school, is simply unacceptable.” That was very reassuring. The rest of her remarks less so. She said the rules were produced as a “result of a muddled process that’s unfair to students and schools, and puts taxpayers on the hook for significant costs.” What she overlooked, of course, was that the fraudulent for-profit colleges put the students “on the hook for significant costs.” Not surprisingly, in this administration, if a choice has to be made between taking steps to help the needy, in this case students, or the taxpayer, the taxpayer wins. So sad for the students. Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com


Thursday, June 22, 2017

What Goes Around . . . .

What’s all the shootin’ for?
— George Michael Cohan, The Tavern

It was one of nine mass shootings that occurred that week. It might have surprised some people to see how much publicity it got. None of the others got even a fraction of that. It was, of course, noteworthy, since it involved members of Congress and members of their staff. It took place on June 14, 2017, on a ball field in Alexandria, Virginia, and was prominently featured in news stories around the country. No one was killed. Rep. Steve Scalise (R. La.) was seriously wounded. That same day there was another group shooting in the United States. (Although shootings with only a few victims are referred to as “mass” shootings, it seems to this writer that that word should be reserved for shootings like those at Newtown or Orlando.) That group shooting took place in San Francisco in a United Parcel Service facility and got almost no media coverage. Three of the workers in that facility were killed. The shooting was briefly noted in the Wall Street Journal. Names of the victims were not included in the description. They were not well known, except to their families. The day preceding the shooting in Alexandria, there were two group shootings in Baltimore. Two people were killed in one shooting and two others injured, and two people were injured in the second. There were many more “mass” or “group” shootings in June but none received the coverage given Rep. Scalise’s shooting. It attracted attention because of the prominence of its victims.

The Alexandria shooting was the 153d mass shooting in the first 165 days of 2017. Of all the victims of the shootings who were killed or seriously injured, only one of them was in a position to have done anything about it-Steve Scalise. Here’s what he had done.

In the 112th Congress that ended on January 2, 2013, Rep. Scalise introduced H.R. 58. It was called the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act and would have updated certain procedures applicable to commerce in firearms and remove certain Federal restriction on interstate firearms transactions. In that same session he cosponsored H.R. 645, a bill to restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia, thus promoting the presence of guns in the District. On the Congressional website that lists “Legislation Sponsored or Co-sponsored by Steve Scalise,” he is listed as one of the sponsors or cosponsors of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Acts of 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013, none of which became law. Those bills would have ensured that a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon in his home state, could carry that weapon when travelling in other states that permitted concealed carry. On January 3, 2017, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 was introduced, and although Rep. Scalise is not listed as a sponsor, that may have been an oversight. (His office did not respond to a request for a reason for the non-sponsorship.) In addition to permitting a “qualified individual” to carry a concealed weapon into another state that permits “concealed carry,” it also specifies that “a qualified individual who lawfully carries or possesses a concealed handgun in another state: (1) is not subject to the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm in a school zone, and (2) may carry or possess the concealed handgun in federally owned lands that are open to the public.” I leave it to others to explain the reasons for (1) and (2) in the preceding sentence.

The man who shot Rep. Scalise and his colleagues came from Illinois. He was James T. Hodgkinson. On his trip from Illinois to Virginia he was accompanied by a rifle and a handgun. He had a valid firearms identification card issued by Illinois. He did not need a permit to bring his weapon from Illinois to Virginia. He had a history of violence and police encounters

Rep Scalise’s support for guns has garnered him an A+ from the National Rifle Association. He is a member of the Congressional Second Amendment Task Force. Commenting on the shooting his colleague, Rep. Tom Garrett (R. Va.) observed that had it not been for the presence of a member of the House leadership at the Alexandria event, there would have been no police present, and the shooting could have been far more disastrous. He has introduced legislation to eliminate the D.C. prohibition on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and to make it easier for residents and visitors to carry concealed firearms. Rep. Mo Brooks (R. Al.) said of the Alexandria shooting: “As with any constitutional provision in the Bill of Rights, there are adverse aspects to each of those rights that we enjoy as people. And what we just saw here is one of the bad side effects of someone not exercising those rights properly.” Thus far in 2017, there have been 206 bad side effects, aka mass shootings, resulting in 290 deaths and 713 injuries. None of those occurred because of the prevalence of guns in our society. They all happened because a few people did not exercise their Second Amendment rights properly. What we obviously need is more instruction on the proper use of guns. At least that’s what Rep. Brooks would have us believe. Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com
What’s all the shootin’ for?
George Michael Cohan, The Tavern

It was one of nine mass shootings that occurred that week. It might have surprised some people to see how much publicity it got. None of the others got even a fraction of that. It was, of course, noteworthy, since it involved members of Congress and members of their staff. It took place on June 14, 2017, on a ball field in Alexandria, Virginia, and was prominently featured in news stories around the country. No one was killed. Rep. Steve Scalise (R. La.) was seriously wounded. That same day there was another group shooting in the United States. (Although shootings with only a few victims are referred to as “mass” shootings, it seems to this writer that that word should be reserved for shootings like those at Newtown or Orlando.) That group shooting took place in San Francisco in a United Parcel Service facility and got almost no media coverage. Three of the workers in that facility were killed. The shooting was briefly noted in the Wall Street Journal. Names of the victims were not included in the description. They were not well known, except to their families. The day preceding the shooting in Alexandria, there were two group shootings in Baltimore. Two people were killed in one shooting and two others injured, and two people were injured in the second. There were many more “mass” or “group” shootings in June but none received the coverage given Rep. Scalise’s shooting. It attracted attention because of the prominence of its victims.

The Alexandria shooting was the 153d mass shooting in the first 165 days of 2017. Of all the victims of the shootings who were killed or seriously injured, only one of them was in a position to have done anything about it-Steve Scalise. Here’s what he had done.

In the 112th Congress that ended on January 2, 2013, Rep. Scalise introduced H.R. 58. It was called the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act and would have updated certain procedures applicable to commerce in firearms and remove certain Federal restriction on interstate firearms transactions. In that same session he cosponsored H.R. 645, a bill to restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia, thus promoting the presence of guns in the District. On the Congressional website that lists “Legislation Sponsored or Co-sponsored by Steve Scalise,” he is listed as one of the sponsors or cosponsors of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Acts of 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013, none of which became law. Those bills would have ensured that a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon in his home state, could carry that weapon when travelling in other states that permitted concealed carry. On January 3, 2017, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 was introduced, and although Rep. Scalise is not listed as a sponsor, that may have been an oversight. (His office did not respond to a request for a reason for the non-sponsorship.) In addition to permitting a “qualified individual” to carry a concealed weapon into another state that permits “concealed carry,” it also specifies that “a qualified individual who lawfully carries or possesses a concealed handgun in another state: (1) is not subject to the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm in a school zone, and (2) may carry or possess the concealed handgun in federally owned lands that are open to the public.” I leave it to others to explain the reasons for (1) and (2) in the preceding sentence.

The man who shot Rep. Scalise and his colleagues came from Illinois. He was James T. Hodgkinson. On his trip from Illinois to Virginia he was accompanied by a rifle and a handgun. He had a valid firearms identification card issued by Illinois. He did not need a permit to bring his weapon from Illinois to Virginia. He had a history of violence and police encounters

Rep Scalise’s support for guns has garnered him an A+ from the National Rifle Association. He is a member of the Congressional Second Amendment Task Force. Commenting on the shooting his colleague, Rep. Tom Garrett (R. Va.) observed that had it not been for the presence of a member of the House leadership at the Alexandria event, there would have been no police present, and the shooting could have been far more disastrous. He has introduced legislation to eliminate the D.C. prohibition on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and to make it easier for residents and visitors to carry concealed firearms. Rep. Mo Brooks (R. Al.) said of the Alexandria shooting: “As with any constitutional provision in the Bill of Rights, there are adverse aspects to each of those rights that we enjoy as people. And what we just saw here is one of the bad side effects of someone not exercising those rights properly.” Thus far in 2017, there have been 206 bad side effects, aka mass shootings, resulting in 290 deaths and 713 injuries. None of those occurred because of the prevalence of guns in our society. They all happened because a few people did not exercise their Second Amendment rights properly. What we obviously need is more instruction on the proper use of guns. At least that’s what Rep. Brooks would have us believe.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Humpty Trumpty

“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master-that’s all.’” — Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

It does not take a serious student of the English language to recognize the similarity between the discussion that Alice and Humpty Dumpty had about the meaning of words used by Humpty Dumpty, to recognize that as ill-educated and ill-read as Humpty TRUmpty obviously is, in all probability someone read Through the Looking Glass to him when he was a child, and the idea of using words to mean what he wanted them to mean, rather than what they are generally accepted to mean, appealed to him has become an effective means of communicating with many of his supporters. It has also made life easy for him because it is not necessary for him to clutter up his mind with the actual meaning of words, since he, like Humpty Dumpty, is their master. Examples abound, but a few suffice to make the point.

One of DJT’s favorite uses of words is to pick a word to describe a situation that has no relevance to the situation. Notwithstanding its irrelevance, he broadcasts it widely by tweet, so those not sophisticated conclude that it means what DJT would have it mean, rather than what it would mean if appropriately used. If it is a big word, it gets additional weight and redounds to the credit of DJT. An example of this was given following James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. That testimony neither supporters of DJT, nor his critics, would describe as revealing DJT in a favorable light. Nonetheless, at its conclusion, DJT tweeted: “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication. . . and WOW, Comey is a leaker.” Whatever one thinks of Mr. Comey’s testimony, no one knowledgeable in the use of language would use the word “vindicate,” to describe its effect on DJT or his reputation.

Another use of the Humpty TRUmpty rule is to take a word out of a sentence used by a third party, and put it in a completely new sentence that has no relevance to the sentence from which it came and attribute the new sentence to the author of the original sentence. That occurred with something the Mayor of London said following the terrorist attack in London on June 2, 2016. Acknowledging the distress of the community, and wanting to reassure those in London that they would be safe, the mayor said that there would be a heavy police presence in the days ahead in London to protect the public, and that there was: “No need to be alarmed” because of their presence. DJT took the word “alarmed” from the mayor’s statement and put it in a tweet attacking the author of the statement, tweeting: “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed.’”

Another application of the Humpty TRUmpty rule is to take a word and apply it to a situation, simply because it feels good to say, it even though taken in the context in which it is placed by DJT, it is meaningless. When DJT is confronted with a news story of which he disapproves, he describes it as a “fake” news story, even though the word “fake” has no commonly accepted use that would make it meaningful in the situation being described, nor does any definition found in a dictionary suggest that that usage is correct.

When the media discovers things that DJT had hoped to keep secret, he has a ready response. He refers to the “Lying Media” even though there is nothing in a story that comports with the accepted definition of “lying.” When the New York Times comes up with a story that displeases Humpty Trumpty, he uses the word “failing” to describe the newspaper even though that paper’s circulation has increased greatly since DJT was elected, and by no accepted definition of the word, could “failing” properly be applied to describe the New York Times.

The foregoing are just a few of hundreds of examples of the misuse of the language by DJT. It makes us wish we could follow in Alice’s footsteps after her conversation with Humpty Dumpty drew to a close: “Alice waited a minute to see if he [Humpty Dumpty] would speak again, but as he never opened his eyes or took any further notice of her, she said ‘Good-bye!’ once more, and, getting no answer to this, she quietly walked away: but she couldn’t help saying to herself as she went, ‘Of all the unsatisfactory —’ (she repeated this aloud, as it was a great comfort to have such a long word to say) ‘of all the unsatisfactory people I ever met —’ She never finished the sentence, for at this moment a heavy crash shook the forest from end to end.” Humpty Dumpty had fallen from the wall. We should be so lucky.