Sunday, May 28, 2017

Barack and Bad Optics

By Suzanne Eovaldi, staff writer

Did former President Obama try to co-opt media coverage of President Donald Trump's international trip by making Italy his first stop in an all-expenses paid trip around the world?  Isn't this the first time that a former president traveled a route nearly parallel with that of the new President?

Obama departed for Italy on Friday, one day before the People's President embarked for Saudi Arabia.  The Obama private jet was encircled by six Eurofighter Fourth Wing fighter jets en route to Italy for his five day stay at the $15,000 a night Borgo Finocchieto, thirteenth century restored village, owned by Obama friend, former US Ambassador to Italy, John Phillips.  

The Obama entourage consisted of a 13 car motorcade which included an armored Chevrolet to protect the former Commander in Chief.  President Trump flew into Saudi Arabia on Air Force One, accompanied by The Beast--the president's very own, specially made, armored transport vehicle which was safely stored in the back of his plane! 
Trumps land in Saudi Arabia

Obama stayed in the once owned Borghese family villa just 45 minutes south of Florence. He’s about a one hour flight from President Trump who will be staying at the US Air Force Signorella military base in Taormina, Sicily.  "Taormina's roads are too narrow and bendy for the US President's car; his motorcade is longer than the distances it would have to cover during the G7summit," reports Italy's La Repubblica.  Because of the security nightmare, President Trump's overnight accommodations while in Italy have been changed from the Hotel Timeo, where Germany's Angel Merkel and Japan's Shinzo Abe were booked during their visits, to the Signorello base. 

Flying over the tiny towns and roads in the Mount Etna region to the summit, President Trump will look down from his vantage point aboard his military helicopter.  This decision to change overnight reservations was made by the Secret Service which said the base stay was "the lesser of two evils…potential eruptions from Mount Etna and the risk of damage to the copter was deemed preferable to driving through tight streets with no escape routes."  (From personal observation, yes, the roads are tiny, making navigation of the tourista buses nearly impossible.)
Signorella Air Base

Comparing the Obama Italian villa stay with the Palm Beach opulence of Trump's Mar-a-Lago illustrates each man's fascination with the beauty of gold décor.  Both estates have gold dining rooms, gold formal rooms, gold colored wallpaper and furnishings.  Concierge, executive chefs and wait staff cater to the guests' every whim.  However, the Trump formal dining room table has gorgeous candelabra, lit by actual candles, whereas the restored Borghese estate's dining room table is lit by battery operated candles-- nice, but still not authentic.  (The gold amenities in Mar-a-Lago are beyond beautiful!)

While the title of the Tuscan town means Village of Fennel Fields, the Trump Palm Beach estate means "Sea and Lake" in Latin.  While Obama played golf at the World Heritage Site private golf course Castiglion del Bosco, Trump owns one of the world's ten top private clubs.  Again, the optics carry the day here and Obama's pre-Trump overseas trip just looks bad.

Though President Trump did not bow to him, the Saudi king presented the Order of Abdulaziz al-Saud medal, his nation’s highest medal of honor, to the president at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh. The red carpet upon which the President walked was groomed so meticulously that some attendants swept the beautiful rug in their bare feet! While Obama angered many Americans when pictures of his deep bow to the Muslim king began to circulate stateside, the pictures of President Trump showed him holding a sword. 
Trump and Sheik

Michelle Obama flew in to accompany her husband on their trip, but not before Barack went sightseeing in Italy, just prior to the President landing. Note here the obvious PR factor of Obama being seen first.  Obama spoke to a full house at the climate change "Seeds and Chips" Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan, prior to the Trump speech before the G-7 Summit.

First Lady Melania Trump flew with her husband, along with his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law.  Both of the Trump women were impeccably dressed and looked drop-dead gorgeous.  Of course, the Obama loving US media tried to start a no head-scarf flap with Melania's beautiful cascade of hair. But attempts to find a similar media flap about a non-scarf wearing, former first lady in the Middle East came up empty. Not exactly a surprise.

Something about Obama's Italian interlude just does not feel quite right.  Wouldn’t Obama have been more gracious to have stayed at home, out of sight, in deference to the new President's first overseas trip? Didn’t former President George W. Bush stay out of the public eye in order to show deference to the newly elected Obama?
Taormina ancient theatre

Obama had eight years of America's pomp and circumstance and he and his family spent ridiculous amounts of taxpayer dollars on vacations.  He might have come across as a classier, better mannered former president had he shown deference to the new president.  But Barack Obama’s behavior will never be mistaken for class.

Obama and his globalist handlers sought to cast far too large a shadow across the path of President Trump. If anything, it’s an incident which adds more credence to the meme that the Left has set up a soft coup against the new President and Obama, living a mere few miles from the White House, certainly seems to be in the vanguard of this unfortunate endeavor.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

70 colleges send the cops after people who trigger ‘bias incidents’ report finds

The following article appeared on May 25th on website

Some ‘stonewalled, hid records, deleted websites’ or demanded big payments

Having to justify your supposedly offensively curriculum to a campus administrator is bad enough, as a former University of Northern Colorado professor has explained.

But having to defend yourself when a cop shows up in response to a “bias incident”? That’s a whole other thing.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education released its first annual report on bias incident response teams today, and it’s even worse than we thought:

42% report speech to members of law enforcement or campus security officers, even though the teams deliberately solicit reports of a wide variety of non-criminal speech and activity.

12% of teams include at least one administrator dedicated to media relations, suggesting that part of the purpose of such teams is to deter and respond to controversies that might embarrass the institution.

Fewer than a third of teams included faculty members, whose absence diminishes the likelihood that the team will have a meaningful understanding of academic freedom.

That works out to 70 schools that use the cops to warn or threat students, staff and faculty when they offend someone.

And these are just the teams whose composition is made public.

FIRE identified 232 public and private schools with such teams – encompassing 2.28 million students – but only 167 identified their members to any degree. Another several dozen schools could have law enforcement going after protected speech – they won’t say.

Consider what counts as “bias”:

Almost all use categories widely found in discrimination statutes (race, sex, sexual orientation, etc.), while others investigate bias against obscure categories, such as “smoker status,” “shape,” and “intellectual perspective.” A significant minority include political affiliation or speech as a potential bias, inviting reports of and investigations into political speech by law enforcement and student conduct administrators. 

There is an unavoidable tension between promoting free speech and academic freedom and working to combat the presence of “bias” (however defined) on campus. Yet only 85 (50.9%) of the teams surveyed acknowledged a tension with freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry, or academic freedom on their websites or in their policies.

Also consider a subset of categories that virtually no school considers for bias:
Anti-Semitism: 0.50% (U. Vermont)
National Guard Status: 0.50% (SUNY Potsdam)
Childbirth: 0.50% (Grinnell College)
Smoker Status: 0.50% (U. Kentucky)

FIRE said that while many institutions complied with their requests for information on bias response teams:

Others stonewalled, hid records, deleted websites, or demanded thousands of dollars to view records, claiming that knowing how Bias Response Teams operate is not in the public interest.

It has only identified one school that includes “substantive training on First Amendment issues” for its bias response team members: Louisiana State.

And a shocking minority of schools – 28 percent – don’t even say who reviews bias reports:

If universities are unwilling to publicly identify who is responsible for reviewing and responding to reports, then students, faculty, and the public will be hindered in holding public servants accountable. Similarly, a refusal to identify Bias Response Team members does not instill confidence that schools take complaints seriously by devoting capable people to overseeing them.

In a footnote, FIRE gives an “honorable mention” to one school, Washington’s Evergreen State College (which counts Simpsons creator Matt Groening as an alum), for handing over more than 7,000 pages of “thorough records on a timely basis”:

Contrast this with the University of California, which produced scant records after months of delay and obfuscation.

There’s much to see in the report, so read the whole thing. For a summary, see FIRE’s press release.

The crime not being investigated

By Jim Emerson, staff writer

Obama’s National Security Agency (NSA) routinely collected communications of American citizens since 2001 yet failed to disclose the extent of White House spying; spying which continued unabated until a few days before Donald Trump was elected President.'s Sara Carter reviewed once top-secret documents that chronicle some of the most serious constitutional abuses to date by the U.S. intelligence community.  

In declassified documents made public by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA), Obama’s NSA admitted that its analysts were violating surveillance rules on a regular basis. This pattern of Executive branch overreach, coupled with the timing of the government’s disclosure, resulted in an unusually harsh rebuke of the Obama administration’s practices and principles. 

Upstream surveillance was first disclosed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden and “involves the NSA’s bulk interception and searching of Americans’ international internet communications — including emails, chats, and web-browsing traffic.”

The once dependably friendly FISA Court censured administration officials, saying “… the failure to disclose the extent of the violations earlier amounted to an “institutional lack of candor.” “The improper searches constituted a very serious Fourth Amendment issue,” continued the Court in an unsealed document dated April 26, 2017.

From a report by the NSA’s Inspector General: “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 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.”

In an attempt to justify its actions the NSA cited the so-called Section 702 database which, “allows the intelligence community to conduct surveillance on only specific foreign targets located outside the United States to collect foreign intelligence, including intelligence needed in the fight against international terrorism and cyber threats."  

Circa reported that since Obama loosened the Intelligence collection privacy rules in 2011, the Intelligence Agency increased data searches of Americans and revealed the identities of those American targets in intelligence reports. Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice stated that the activities were legal under Obama’s minimization rule changes and claimed that the intelligence agencies were strictly monitored to avoid abuses.

So who was monitoring the administration and the Intelligence agencies during this time? Certainly not the squeamish members of House or Senate oversite committees.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A disturbing truth about medical school--and America’s future doctors

Hat Tip Michael Bruno

The following article appeared on on May 8.

You may be surprised to learn that medical students at many of the best schools in the country aren’t given grades during the first two years of their medical education. They either pass their coursework or they fail. And then, they take one high-stakes test that affects their medical future.

While the effort to allow medical students to take two years of course work on a pass-fail basis was driven by an effort to make the notoriously difficult life of medical students easier, the high-stakes testing consequence creates problems of its own.

In this post, Brenda Sirovich, a physician and professor at Dartmouth College’s medical school, writes about how this approach threatens to compromise both the community of medicine and the quality of patients’ care. She is a 2017 Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd Project, a social venture with both a nonprofit and for-profit arm that is aimed at increasing the range of voices and quality of ideas contributing to national and international debate.

News that a federal educational experiment failed to supply evidence in favor of  Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s school choice agenda has undoubtedly elicited schadenfreude in some Democratic circles. Somewhat lost in the story, however, is scrutiny of how students’ educational success or failure is measured.

The trend toward near-exclusive reliance on standardized testing to measure educational achievement now extends all the way to medical school. Many may not realize that the readiness of aspiring doctors to enter the world of clinical medicine is now based overwhelmingly on a single, standardized, closed-book, multiple choice test.

Scores on the test — the U.S. Medical Licensing Step 1 Exam (a.k.a. the Boards) — taken after two intense years of classroom education, will overwhelmingly determine where students do their residency training. And their professional futures.

But a decade or so ago, residency programs suddenly started caring, a lot, about Board scores — an unintended consequence of a well-intentioned move by medical schools to grade the first two years pass-fail, to foster student wellness.

Residency programs abruptly found themselves in desperate need of a yardstick by which to measure and compare student applicants. Board scores were suddenly paramount.

Behold the mismatch: We aim to prepare students for a career characterized by collaboration, complexity, nuance and uncertainty; yet, we evaluate them on their ability to select — autonomously and without research — among radio buttons representing a discrete range of right-or-wrong responses.

After 20-odd years in practice, I have yet to see a patient come in with a list of four or five possible diagnoses, and ask that I select the most appropriate response.  

Nor have I, while searching online for current evidence or recommendations, heard a patient cry out, “Stop!  This is a closed book appointment!”

Here’s the thing: Students understand how they’re assessed — they’re all quite brilliant in this way, whether they’re in medical school or high school or third grade. They figure out with lightning speed what they need to do to maximize their performance on the assessment that matters.

As a result, here is my students’ To Do list:
1.       Do not attend class, unless attendance is specifically required.
2.       Complain about the (modest) number of class hours requiring attendance.
3.       Resist discretionary learning opportunities, no matter how interesting.

Their logic is impeccable. Each student’s sweet spot for MCQ mastery involves some combination of lecture videos at double speed, late nights, ear buds, coffee and little human interaction.

It works beautifully in achieving the desired outcome of a good Board score.

But what is the desired outcome?

My students — and others like them — are the doctors of tomorrow. They’ll care for me — and you — as we age. For our parents facing life threatening illness and difficult decisions at the end of life. For the children we haven’t yet contemplated.

The desired outcome should not be about test scores.

We should hope students will have learned how to find, evaluate and apply knowledge; how to work collaboratively; how to tolerate and manage uncertainty; how to reason; how to walk in someone else’s shoes; how to relentlessly pursue what’s best for each patient; how to debate, be wrong, fail — and embrace and learn from it, each time; how to become who they want to be.