No Matter How Cynical You Get… Betsy DeVos Edition

Per Politico:

President Donald Trump’s efforts to bolster relations with historically black colleges erupted in controversy Tuesday after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released a statement equating the history of the schools — founded during an era of racial segregation — to “school choice” policies.

“HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” DeVos said in the statement, released Monday night in advance of Trump’s planned signing of an executive order giving the schools more clout. “They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”

The executive order, which Trump signed Tuesday afternoon, was supposed be an easy bit of outreach on the final day of Black History Month to the black community that soundly rejected Trump on Election Day. It moves a federal initiative focused on the colleges from the Education Department to the White House — a move the schools had asked for, hoping it will give them better access to the president.

But the goodwill was quickly overshadowed by DeVos’ statement, which came on the heels of a Monday meeting between Trump and presidents of the schools that left some dissatisfied. Some experts on historically black institutions panned the statement as ignorant, while others said she was inadvertently praising segregation…

“Inadvertently”. Of course.

DeVos also seemed to reject one thing the schools are really hoping to get from the administration: More money. One school president told POLITICO that the colleges had asked the White House to back a $25 billion investment in infrastructure improvements on their campuses in their meeting with DeVos Monday. They also advocated for year-round Pell grants and to maintain or increase funding that goes to schools that serve low-income students.

“Rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential,” DeVos said in her statement…



Don’t Know Much About History

Hoo boy, Betsy DeVos is a real winner. If you are a c-list blogger with a potty mouth or a writer for a comedian/comedy show, her hearing yesterday was fucking amazing. If you care about education policy or have children, well, you know, sorry about that.

There were so much fail it’s hard to just limit it to one blog post, but here goes. First, she has no idea the difference between proficiency and growth or the existence of the debate, which is to education what evolution/creationism is to hard sciences:

I’m pretty sure any undergraduate at ANY college in America with at least ONE education course could answer that better.

Next up, she seems completely unaware that IDEA exists:

Again, she is so ignorant of everything around here, I sort of hoped that Franken and Hassan would start making up federal laws that don’t exist and asking her position on them, just to see what she would say.

And then finally, there was this:

Just so we are clear, there is no no grizzly infestation menacing Wyoming public schools:

Audra Morrow, a teacher at Wyoming’s Valley Elementary School in Cody from 2004 to 2006, explained to Mic that no guns were necessary to ward off ursids, and that the fence and bear spray were “absolutely” sufficient measures on their own.

“No firearms in our schools!” Morrow wrote. “We do have bear spray but have never had a problem that would require using it.”

And I’m not joking that I am just scratching the surface here- she also stated she did not support standards for every school that receives federal money and on and on and on.

Welcome to the United States of Dumbfuckistan.



Open Thread: Georgetown Starts Its Atonement

Good for the Jesuits, who understand how atonement works. From NBC:

Georgetown will offer an admissions edge to descendants of slaves as part of a comprehensive atonement for the university’s historical ties to slavery, its president announced Thursday.

Those ties go back nearly two centuries, when the Washington, D.C., school sold 272 slaves and used the proceeds to pay off debt.

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia offered a public apology Thursday afternoon for the 1838 sale and outlined what the university plans to do to acknowledge racism in its past…

In addition to offering descendants the same preferential status in admissions that Georgetown currently offers children of alumni, the university will develop a memorial to the enslaved and will rename two buildings — one after Isaac Hall, a slave whose name is the first mentioned in the 1839 sale documents, and another in honor of Anne Marie Becraft, an African-American who founded a school for black girls in Georgetown’s neighborhood in 1827.

The moves come a year after DeGioia asked a group comprised of faculty, students, alums and staff with coming up with ways to address the university’s history of slavery… A couple months after the group started its research, the need to address Georgetown’s history became more apparent: Students staged a sit-in last November outside DeGioia’s office calling for a dialogue about how the school benefited from slavery.

“The most appropriate ways for us to redress the participation of our predecessors in the institution of slavery is to address the manifestations of the legacy of slavery in our time,” DeGioia, who met with descendants over the summer, said in Thursday’s press release…

None of the usual ‘we’re sorry if anyone might have been offended by actions which may have taken place a long time ago’ boilerplate. Acknowledge terrible things were done (human beings were sold ‘down the river’ to save the university from bankruptcy), work with the victims (the families of those slaves) to take concrete steps towards reparation, and remember it’s a process not a single action.

Wish I could’ve found the clip from the evening news where DeGioia announced that the African-American families who’d first broght this history to national attention “were as much a part of the Georgetown family as any of our most storied alumni”



Data Classification and Data Spillage or Please Stop Asking Me Classification Questions at 2 AM EDT

A lot of folks here at Balloon Juice, just as a lot of folks everywhere, seem to have a lot of interest in the unauthorized release of classified information and briefings these days. This seems to be due to the current presidential election cycle. Since there are so many questions, I figured it was easier just to point everyone in the right directions.

Lets start with what, exactly, is classified information as defined by the US government. Executive Order 13526/Classified National Security Information defines the terms:

Sec. 1.4.  Classification Categories.  Information shall not be considered for classification unless its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security in accordance with section 1.2 of this order, and it pertains to one or more of the following:

(a)  military plans, weapons systems, or operations;

(b)  foreign government information;

(c)  intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology;

(d)  foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources;

(e)  scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to the national security;

(f)  United States Government programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities;

(g)  vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, infrastructures, projects, plans, or protection services relating to the national security; or

(h)  the development, production, or use of weapons of mass destruction.

And the actual classification levels are:

Sec. 1.2.  Classification Levels.  (a)  Information may be classified at one of the following three levels:

(1)  “Top Secret” shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.

(2)  “Secret” shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.

(3)  “Confidential” shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.

(b)  Except as otherwise provided by statute, no other terms shall be used to identify United States classified information.

(c)  If there is significant doubt about the appropriate level of classification, it shall be classified at the lower level.

The people authorized to classify are:

Sec. 1.3.  Classification Authority.  (a)  The authority to classify information originally may be exercised only by:

(1)  the President and the Vice President;

(2)  agency heads and officials designated by the President; and

(3)  United States Government officials delegated this authority pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section.

(b)  Officials authorized to classify information at a specified level are also authorized to classify information at a lower level.

(c)  Delegation of original classification authority.

(1)  Delegations of original classification authority shall be limited to the minimum required to administer this order.  Agency heads are responsible for ensuring that designated subordinate officials have a demonstrable and continuing need to exercise this authority.

(2)  “Top Secret” original classification authority may be delegated only by the President, the Vice President, or an agency head or official designated pursuant to paragraph (a)(2) of this section.

(3)  “Secret” or “Confidential” original classification authority may be delegated only by the President, the Vice President, an agency head or official designated pursuant to paragraph (a)(2) of this section, or the senior agency official designated  under section 5.4(d) of this order, provided that official has been delegated “Top Secret” original classification authority by the agency head.

(4)  Each delegation of original classification authority shall be in writing and the authority shall not be redelegated except as provided in this order.  Each delegation shall identify the official by name or position.

(5)  Delegations of original classification authority shall be reported or made available by name or position to the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office.

(d)  All original classification authorities must receive training in proper classification (including the avoidance of over-classification) and declassification as provided in this order and its implementing directives at least once a calendar year.  Such training must include instruction on the proper safeguarding of classified information and on the sanctions in section 5.5 of this order that may be brought against an individual who fails to classify information properly or protect classified information from unauthorized disclosure.  Original classification authorities who do not receive such mandatory training at least once within a calendar year shall have their classification authority suspended by the agency head or the senior agency official designated under section 5.4(d) of this order until such training has taken place.  A waiver may be granted by the agency head, the deputy agency head, or the senior agency official if an individual is unable to receive such training due to unavoidable circumstances.  Whenever a waiver is granted, the individual shall receive such training as soon as practicable.

(e)  Exceptional cases.  When an employee, government contractor, licensee, certificate holder, or grantee of an agency who does not have original classification authority originates information believed by that person to require classification, the information shall be protected in a manner consistent with this order and its implementing directives.  The information shall be transmitted promptly as provided under this order or its implementing directives to the agency that has appropriate subject matter interest and classification authority with respect to this information.  That agency shall decide within 30 days whether to classify this information.

So that’s the basic terminology, but if you really want to understand this, then you need to click on across and read the whole policy statement.

What a lot of the questions I’ve been getting are actually about is what happens if something is reported on that’s classified and then someone with a clearance remarks on it. Given news reporting on US governmental activities, it is often possible to find classified information in newspapers, online news and commentary sites, and on TV and radio news broadcasts. The DOD and other government agencies put out warnings to their employees when this happens. For instance:

“Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites, disclosed to the media, or otherwise in the public domain remains classified and must be treated as such until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority,” wrote Timothy A. Davis, Director of Security in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence), in a June 7 memorandum.

“DoD employees and contractors shall not, while accessing the web on unclassified government systems, access or download documents that are known or suspected to contain classified information.”

“DoD employees or contractors who seek out classified information in the public domain, acknowledge its accuracy or existence, or proliferate the information in any way will be subject to sanctions,” the memorandum said.

Finally, we have spillage of classified information. Spillage, in this context, is defined as:

Classified (or sensitive) data spills occur when classified data is introduced onto an unclassified information system, to an information system with a lower level of classification, or to a system not accredited to process data of that restrictive category, according to DoD Manual 5200.01-v3, Protection of Classified Information. Although it is possible that no actual unauthorized disclosure occurred, classified data spills are considered and handled as a possible compromise of classified information involving information systems, networks and computer equipment until the inquiry determines whether an unauthorized disclosure did or did not occur.

If you want a more comprehensive understanding of classification and how the US government deals with it, here’s some unclassified links for you all.

Department of Defense Manual 5200.01/Marking of Classified Material

Department of State Classification Guide/DSCG 11-01 (Declassified After Review per FOIA Request)

US Government Publication Office Publishing Guidelines Pertaining to Classified Information

The EPA’s Information Procedure for Dealing with Spillage of Classified Information onto Unclassified Systems

The FAA’s Procedure for Dealing with Spillage of Classified Information onto Unclassified Systems

The Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy

The Center for Development of Security Excellence’s Primer on Original Classification Authority

Update at 2:35 PM EDT

Here’s the link to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s page containing the Intelligence Community’s Directives. You’ll find anything and everything you can think you might be interested in regarding this stuff there.








Open Thread: Michelle Obama’s CCNY Commencement Speech

FLOTUS is getting well-deserved plaudits for this speech. The PoliticsUSA version starts partway through, at the most immediately political portion:

… Some folks out there today seem to have a very different perspective. They seem to view our diversity as a threat to be contained rather than as a resource to be tapped. They tell us to be afraid of those who are different, to be suspicious of those with whom we disagree. They act as if name-calling is an acceptable substitute for thoughtful debate. As if anger and intolerance should be our default state rather than optimism and openness that have always been the engine of our progress.

But graduates, I can tell you that as First Lady, I have had the privilege of traveling around the world, and visiting dozens of different countries, and I have seen what happens when ideas like these take hold. I have seen how leaders rule by intimidation, leaders who demonize and dehumanize entire groups of people often do so because they have nothing else to offer. And I have seen how places that stifle the voices and dismiss the potential of their citizens are diminished, how they are less vital, less hopeful, less free.

Graduates that is not who we are. That is not what this country stands for. No, no, here in America, we don’t let our differences tear us apart. Not here. Because we know that our greatness comes from when we appreciate each other’s strengths, when we learn from each other, when we lean on each other, because in this country, it’s never been each person for themselves, no we’re all in this together. We always have been. And here in America, we don’t give in to our fears. We don’t up walls to keep people out because we know that our greatness has always depended on contributions from people who were born elsewhere…

But it’s also heartening to listen to the whole speech, through Mrs. Obama’s congratulations to the various speakers and honorees, because the City College of New York is the best of the American dream made real, a place where wealth and race and birthplace mean less than brains, hard work, and big dreams. We are not a ‘melting pot’, but a rich stew, where every ingredient adds new depth and richness to the mix.



Lift Off! Donovan Livingston Inspires

Text of his spoken word poem:

Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin,
Is a great equalizer of the conditions of men.” – Horace Mann, 1848.
At the time of his remarks I couldn’t read — couldn’t write.
Any attempt to do so, punishable by death.
For generations we have known of knowledge’s infinite power.
Yet somehow, we’ve never questioned the keeper of the keys —
The guardians of information.

Note to self, NEVER read the comments at YouTube.

I was in the 7th grade, when Ms. Parker told me,
“Donovan, we can put your excess energy to good use!”
And she introduced me to the sound of my own voice.
She gave me a stage. A platform.
She told me that our stories are ladders
That make it easier for us to touch the stars.
So climb and grab them.
Keep climbing. Grab them.
Spill your emotions in the big dipper and pour out your soul.
Light up the world with your luminous allure.

To educate requires Galileo-like patience.
Today, when I look my students in the eyes, all I see are constellations.
If you take the time to connect the dots,
You can plot the true shape of their genius —
Shining in their darkest hour.

We were born to be comets…. (full text here)

I thought we could use a little inspiration to go into the weekend.

Open thread.

ETA: Regarding Authors In Our Midst, I have enough for one more post, but as I was reading through the previous posts there were quite a few others who mentioned their projects in the comments. It was too overwhelming to pull them from the comments, but if anyone wants to be highlighted in the next post, send me cover art, blurb of your work and link to where we can find it. Email is Whats4DinnerSolutions (at) live (dot) com.



Sort of Maybe a Bit Like Friday Recipe Exchange on Monday: Do NOT Try This at Home Edition!!!!!

Alton Brown has been tinkering again. He’s invented a way to make ice cream in under 10 seconds. The video is below. Whatever you do, do not try this at home!

Bon appetit! And open thread.