Freedom Prevails As Officials Scrap Texas School System’s RFID Student Monitoring Program

A pilot program at a massive San Antonio school district that required students to wear microchipped IDs and submit to on-campus location tracking at all times has been canned — in part due to students’ staunch resistance and the support of freedom-minded Texans who vehemently campaigned against it.

Students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School — both part of the city’s Northside Independent School District (NSID) — had been asked to carry the cards, which housed radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips so that administrators could know their locations. The test program had been in place at the two schools — affecting a combined student population of 4,200 — since the start of the 2012-2013 academic year. There are about 100,000 students in the district as a whole. A representative for the pilot program insinuated late last year that the goal was to expand RFID tagging to all students.

John Jay sophomore Andrea Hernandez spearheaded a student effort to stand up to the district for attempting to track and herd students as if they were cattle, and she did so early and often. The Board of Education attempted to shun the negative publicity, omitting any mention of a huge protest at its Aug. 28 meeting from its public distillation of the minutes.

Hernandez never wore her RFID badge. She persuaded other students not to wear theirs. She was kicked out of John Jay High School in January, but by then, the logistical task of enforcing the program’s “requirements” in the face of so much resistance — as well as the negative publicity and public outcry engendered from national coverage of the swelling controversy — had begun to stack the odds against Big Brother.

Despite legal defeats and disappointment with efforts to persuade the Texas State Legislature, Hernandez and her family had helped foster broad participation among students and parents within the district, as well as out-of-State residents concerned that their own school districts would attempt RFID monitoring. Hernandez’ father said he has spoken with parents in Florida, Louisiana and Pennsylvania who are preparing to resist similar programs.

In announcing the end of the ID tagging ploy, NSID Superintendent Brian Woods said, “When we looked at the attendance rates, surveys of parents… how much effort it took to track down students and make them wear the badges, and to a lesser degree, the court case and negative publicity, we decided not to [continue] it.”

The pilot program cost half a million dollars to set up at the two schools, and would have required $140,000 annually for maintenance at the two locations. San Antonio-based Wade Garcia & Associates was originally hired to implement and maintain the program.

ACLU: Government’s Empty Promise To Tell Defendants They’ve Been Spied On

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) celebrated a small court victory — really, more of a concession — in a Tuesday article, lauding the government’s decision to honor a pledge it had made before the Supreme Court to notify criminal defendants if evidence obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is brought against them in court.

Watching United States v. Qazi, an obscure Florida case, the ACLU observed that the government had admitted it is obligated to inform defendants of any evidence prosecutors had gained through surveillance conducted under provisions in the FISA Amendments Act (FAA).

ACLU called that admission an important concession. But the ACLU noted the government was essentially admitting it would, from now on, police itself and act on faith. The idea of relying on the government’s self-restraint illustrates “several significant qualifiers that highlight a larger problem,” the civil liberties group noted.

Because only the government has the power to prosecute, it ultimately controls which defendants — if any — have the opportunity to challenge the FAA. Thus, the government can continue to avoid court review of the statute by choosing not to use FAA-derived evidence at trial, by offering impossible-to-turn-down plea bargains or, in the extreme case, by abandoning prosecutions that risk an adverse ruling. In our legal system, judicial review should not occur only at the grace of the executive branch.

An even more troubling possibility exists. Reuters reported yesterday that law enforcement agents may be actively seeking to conceal the source of evidence derived from NSA surveillance, in order to avoid court challenges.

It’s a relatively safe bet that any amount of forthcoming contrition or self-policing on the part of the Feds over the extent to which law enforcement can unConstitutionally and furtively deploy its massive panopticon machine is momentary — a pre-emptive damage control measure to demonstrate that, amid spy scandal after spay scandal, it can be trusted. People’s eyes are focused on Big Data and Big Brother right now, so now’s the time for Big Brother to throw the media a bone. It won’t last. In fact, it’s meaningless in the present context of every other extraordinary Federal abuse of due process.

ACLU points out that, for every tiny step forward, there’s an enormous leap backward:

Another report indicates that the NSA may have referred as many as 30 non-terrorism criminal cases to the Department of Justice based on information it obtained through electronic surveillance. Yet, to date, not a single defendant has received notice of prosecutors’ intent to use FAA-derived evidence.

If law enforcement agencies are manufacturing an “independent” basis for their criminal investigations in order to conceal their reliance on NSA surveillance, that practice violates both the letter and the spirit of the law. Criminal defendants have the right to know when the government’s evidence is derived from the NSA’s interception of their communications, so that they can test the lawfulness of that surveillance. Judicial review of the government’s warrantless wiretapping program should be more than a hypothetical promise to the Supreme Court.

Low-Information Voters; Low-Information President: Obama Geography Puts Savannah, Charleston, Jacksonville On Gulf Coast

President Barack Obama get plenty of heat for his gaffes and denials on Tuesday’s “Tonight Show” interview with Jay Leno. He told Leno the government doesn’t have a domestic spying program and appeared to insinuate terrorism deaths “unfortunately” haven’t yet surpassed automobile deaths in the U.S.

Obama also heartily embraced improving the Nation’s infrastructure, using the example of deepening several ports to make the U.S. competitive with Latin America. He wants to deepen the ports in places like Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga. And Jacksonville, Fla. – you know, those towns all along the…Gulf of Mexico?!

Here’s the exchange, transcribed by The Blaze:

LENO:  You mentioned infrastructure.  Why is that a partisan issue?  I live in a town, the bridge is falling apart, it’s not safe.  How does that become Republican or Democrat?  How do you not just fix the bridge?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t know.  As you know, for the last three years, I’ve said, let’s work together.  Let’s find a financing mechanism and let’s go ahead and fix our bridges, fix our roads, sewer systems, our ports.  ..The Panama [Canal] is being widened so that these big supertankers can come in.  Now, that will be finished in 2015.  If we don’t deepen our ports all along the Gulf — places like Charleston, South Carolina, or Savannah, Georgia, or Jacksonville, Florida — if we don’t do that, those ships are going to go someplace else.  And we’ll lose jobs.  Businesses won’t locate here.

Remember when liberals couldn’t stop talking about Dan Quayle’s potatoe?

Hopefully, if Obama deepens these “Gulf” ports, it will at least be done in a fashion consistent with George W. Bush’s quixotic dream of man coexisting peacefully wish fishkind:

HuffPo: Rangel Should ‘Absolutely Not’ Apologize

Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) raised a big stink last week when he said the Tea Party is the same “white crackers” civil rights activists overcame in the 1960s and said the House GOP is worse than Muslim terrorists.

Your comments on the Rangel story revealed every fallacious permutation of Rangel’s race-baiting, fallacious liberal tactic, highlighting the difference between men like Rangel and his civil rights-era betters – men like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – who’d be shamed by the manner in which the censured Congressman continues to fan the flames of a nonexistent race war for political benefit.

Now comes Huffington Post columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson to beat on the racial embers some more, penning an opinion piece this week explaining why Rangel should “absolutely not” apologize for comparing today’s Constitutional conservatives with dead racist Southern Democrats.

The piece is essentially a conjecture exercise in which Hutchinson explains what he thinks would have happened if Tea Party types had been running the show in the 1960s. He also pauses to castigate a couple of examples of Tea Party racism (no mention of Rangel’s own racism, or of other Democrat hypocrite apostates like sexists Anthony Weiner, Elliott Spitzer and Bob Filner).

Here’s the pith:

It requires no leap of imagination to connect the racial dots from the past to the present within the Tea Party ranks. One doesn’t have to shout a racial pejorative at them as Rangel did to figure that if the titanic civil rights bills of the past were on the nation’s legislative table today they’d again rush to the barricades to battle against them. For saying that, Rangel need offer no apology.

Keep fanning the flames, racist parasites. You’re defrauding the very people whom you claim to defend. It’s not like Rangel has much to be sorry for anyway.

Illinois Bill To Pay Businesses That Hire Ex-Cons; Democratic Sponsor Says Felons Are ‘40 Percent’ Of State Population

Over the weekend, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed off on a set of new laws intended to curb the State’s soaring rate of recidivism for ex-felons.

One, sponsored by State Senator Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins (D-Chicago) and State Representative Arthur Turner (D-Chicago), raises the income tax credit for businesses that hire ex-felons from $600 to a new maximum of $1,500 per employee. Employers can receive the credit for five years, and they are eligible if they hire a qualifying ex-con within three years of release from prison.

While it’s true that well-intentioned ex-cons face tremendous legal and societal hurdles that often make the task of integrating into a fruitful post-prison role monumentally difficult, the trend must be an all-out epidemic in Illinois. CBS Chicago reports that Watkins touted the tax credit by observing it would benefit the State’s 4 million ex-felons; that’s 40 percent of the adult population.

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“They know they are not going to get a job, they know they can’t get in school, they can’t even volunteer in a children’s school if you have a criminal record,” Watkins said.

An Illinois retail industry advocate told the Chicago Tribune the tax credit “really doesn’t have cost to the state. In fact, it will pay the state back in the long run because these ex-offenders aren’t being hired today.”

RNC Chair To Networks: Axe Hillary Biopics, Or We Won’t Debate On Your Channels For 2016

The Republican National Committee (RNC) is planning to effectively exclude NBC and CNN from hosting the 2016 Presidential primary debates if the two networks go forward with plans to air major productions that commemorate the career of Hillary Clinton.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus released open letters to both networks Monday, claiming the lionizing of an active career politician represents an “in-kind donation” that (further) jeopardizes their journalistic credibility.

The two letters are similar in content, but Priebus amplifies his NBC version with this extra salvo:

There’s ample cause for concern. Executives and employees of Comcast, NBC’s parent company, have been generous supporters of Democrats and Secretary Clinton. David Cohen, Comcast’s EVP, raised over $1.4 million from President Obama’s reelection efforts and hosted a fundraiser for the president. Comcast Corp. employees have donated $522,996 to the president and donated $161,640 to Secretary Clinton’s previous campaigns.

Your company has expressly stated that your choice to air the miniseries in the near future would avoid concerns of running afoul of equal time election laws. This suggests a deliberate attempt at influencing American political opinion in favor of a preferred candidate, not to mention a guilty conscience.

…I find this disturbing and disappointing. NBC cannot purport to be a neutral party in American politics, and the credibility of NBC News, already damaged by the partisanship of MSNBC, will be further undermined by the actions of NBC Universal executives who have taken it upon themselves to produce an extended commercial for Secretary Clinton’s nascent campaign.

NBC has announced it will cast Diane Lane in a miniseries portraying Clinton; CNN has a feature-length Clinton documentary in the works. Clinton herself has remained coy about her 2016 ambitions, though it’s easy to envision a scenario in which she could time her campaign announcements to capitalize on the airing of a national television event in her honor.

Priebus gave the two networks until Aug. 14 to pull the Clinton shows, pledging to call for a binding vote at the RNC’s summer meeting late next week to “neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates with your sponsor.”

Army Loyal To Contractors With Al-Qaida Ties As Embassies Close In Fear Of Al-Qaida

Amid news that 19 U.S. embassies were being shuttered this week, thanks to an alert that Al-Qaida may be mobilizing an attack, comes a report to Congress from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that condemns the U.S. Army for refusing to drop contracts with people and companies that have been linked to the Al-Qaida supply chain.

Special Inspector General John Sopko said in his report that, despite his recommendation that the Army cut ties with at least 43 contractors – “including supporters of the Taliban, the Haqqani network and al Qaeda” – the Army refused in every case.

From the report:

…[C]ontract oversight must become a top priority to policy planners or else we will repeat the mistakes of the past and waste taxpayer money.

…The Army Suspension and Debarment Office appears to believe that suspension or debarment of these individuals and companies would be a violation of their due process rights if based on classified information or if based on findings by the Department of Commerce.

I am deeply troubled that the U.S. military can pursue, attack, and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the U.S. government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract. I feel such a position is not only legally wrong, it is contrary to good public policy and contrary to our national security goals in Afghanistan. I continue to urge you to change this faulty policy and enforce the rule of common sense in the Army’s suspension and debarment program.

In other words, Sopko has a fundamental problem with the Army going after terrorists while simultaneously propping them up with remunerative contracts for goods and services. So why doesn’t the government?

Fox News reported Monday that Congress has responded to the report by introducing a bill that would restrict U.S. agencies from handing out contracts to companies that support extremists in Afghanistan. The bill also seeks to give the Inspector General the power to suspend such contracts if they fail to meet that requirement.

How National Review Journalist Jillian Melchior Got Three Obamaphones

National Review Franklin Fellow Jillian Kay Melchior published a piece last week detailing how she, a comfortably affluent New Yorker with a white collar job, was able to qualify for three free government-paid cell phones through the Lifeline program – a public service established in the pre-cell phone Reagan era to ensure impoverished or geographically-isolated people could call 911 in the event of emergencies.

Like every other government subsidy President Barack Obama inherited from previous administrations, the Lifeline program has exploded into an entitlement bazaar. “Obamaphones” aren’t supposed to be available to people who don’t qualify for at least one other government welfare subsidy (such as Food Stamps), and they’re limited, in principle at least, to one phone per recipient.

But Melchior explained to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren how, through the abuses of privatized implementation and the ever-sinking welfare threshold under Obama, she was able to receive three Obamaphones – two from the same provider.

Surveillance Monday! FBI Eavesdrops; DOJ Wants iTunes; DEA Dishes Data To LEOs; Obamacare’s Cadillac Tax; Late Night Laughs At Dems – Monday Morning News Roundup 8-5-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

 

  • CNET has learned the FBI has developed custom “port reader” software to intercept Internet metadata in real time. And, in some cases, it wants to force Internet providers to use the software. The government is quietly pressuring telecommunications providers to install the eavesdropping technology deep inside companies’ internal networks to facilitate surveillance efforts. Source: CNET…

 

  • After winning last month an e-books antitrust suit against Apple, the Justice Department on Friday asked a Federal judge to limit Apple’s influence in the publishing market and give the government oversight of the iTunes Store and App Store. Source: The Wall Street Journal… 

 

  • A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the Nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. Source: Reuters… 

 

  • Cities across the country are pushing municipal unions to accept cheaper health benefits in anticipation of a component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that will tax expensive plans starting in 2018. The so-called Cadillac tax was inserted into the law at the advice of economists who argued that expensive health insurance with the employee bearing little cost made people insensitive to the cost of care. Source: The New York Times… 

 

  • A study of gags by late-night comics during the first half of the year found an abrupt change from 2012. Now President Barack Obama and Democrats are providing the lion’s share of punchlines. Source: Fox News… 

 

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Record Number Of Young Adults Living With Parents

A Pew study released late last week reveals more young adults — 21.6 million — are living at home with their parents than at any time in America’s history.

Perhaps that’s to be expected, since the Nation’s overall population continues, gradually, to grow. But the study also found that a higher proportion of the young adult population is living back at home than at any time immediately before, during or after the 2008 recession.

In fact, the 36 percent of young “millennials” living with parents represents the highest ratio in more than 40 years, when the culture of the nuclear family in the United States was far more dominant. Live-at-home data reaching farther into the past than 1968 doesn’t exist, so there’s no way to know if today’s statistics reflect a true all-time high for the Nation.

The study, which analyzed information drawn from a March follow-up survey augmenting the 2010 census, found that 32 percent of millennial adults lived with parents in 2007. That’s a number that had remained relatively consistent since 1968.

By the “official” end of the recession in 2009, the number had risen to 34 percent. In 2012, despite repeated chirpy proclamations from the White House that the economy is in recovery mode, the number had climbed past 36 percent.

The economy heads a list of three key factors the Pew researchers credit for fueling the “crash-with-mom” trend.

The steady rise in the share of young adults who live in their parents’ home appears to be driven by a combination of economic, educational and cultural factors. Among them:

  • Declining employment. In 2012, 63% of 18- to 31-year-olds had jobs, down from the 70% of their same-aged counterparts who had jobs in 2007. In 2012, unemployed Millennials were much more likely than employed Millennials to be living with their parents (45% versus 29%).
  • Rising college enrollment. In March 2012, 39% of 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college, up from 35% in March 2007. Among 18 to 24 year olds, those enrolled in college were much more likely than those not in college to be living at home – 66% versus 50%.
  • Declining marriage. In 2012 just 25% of Millennials were married, down from the 30% of 18- to 31-year-olds who were married in 2007. Today’s unmarried Millennials are much more likely than married Millennials to be living with their parents (47% versus 3%).

Comparing today’s family demographic trends with those of 1968 also revealed that singles with children and cohabitation between unmarried partners are both way up (from 5.5 percent to 26 percent), and the number of married spouses sharing a home is way down (from 56 percent to 27 percent).

See the survey overview here. The full report is here.