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HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: A Tale of ‘Too Big to Fail’ in Higher Education: City College of San Francisco Survives.

While accreditors can issue a variety of stern warnings — more than half of California’s community colleges have received one since 2003 — the only accrediting punishment of real consequence is the death penalty. That puts accreditors in a very difficult position: allow a low-performing college to continue serving students badly, or face a political firestorm in shuttering a major public institution while throwing tens of thousands of students on to the street with no guarantee of another affordable college in which to enroll.

Accreditors are also financed and managed as membership organizations of colleges. Other colleges contribute volunteers to conduct site visits and evaluations, and college administrators are generally loath to condemn peers at other institutions publicly, particularly since their turn for review will eventually come. As a result, only the absolute worst-case colleges even approach facing meaningful sanctions. Simple mediocrity is ignored. . . .

Politicians generally take a hands-off approach to higher education. While many big-city mayors have staked their careers on turning around troubled K-12 school systems, it is rare to see a major political effort focused on fixing dysfunctional local community college. Slots on public university boards of trustees, which are ostensibly charged with protecting the public interest, are often given as political favors to donors and alumni.

Private nonprofit colleges are subject to little, if any, direct oversight, even though many of them receive a vast majority of their revenue from federal financial aid. For-profit higher education corporations have received greater scrutiny in recent years, including Corinthian Colleges, which is in the process of closing down in the face of declining enrollment and multiple government investigations into its marketing practices and job placement rates. But Corinthian’s shutdown is happening in spite of the accreditation system. All of its campuses remain accredited today. And federal regulators are far less likely to scrutinize a public institution like City College.

It’s Potemkin Villages all the way down.

THE SCANDAL ISN’T GOING AWAY. IT’S GETTING WORSE. The surprising thing Veterans Affairs admitted while asking Congress for $18 billion more.

Even the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot trust its own numbers on delivering health care and processing disability claims, the acting secretary of the agency said as he asked for $17.6 billion in new funding Wednesday.

Sloan Gibson repeatedly acknowledged during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing that serious problems with “data integrity” have been revealed though a series of investigations into falsified patient wait times at VA medical facilities.

Gibson also acknowledged similar concerns about the reliability of agency numbers that track backlogs and errors in claims for disability benefits, which were challenged recently in reports from the agency’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office.

It seems that nowhere in this government can you trust the numbers. It’s Potemkin Villages all the way down.

IT’S POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: The Strange Leak of the New Exposé ‘Clinton, Inc.’ “Sure, hotly anticipated books leak all the time. But 10 days early? And by a tipster who seems to be posing as a Tea Partier—but who one source suspects is affiliated with the Clintons?”

POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN, TWITTER EDITION: Politico: “The @BarackObama account, now managed by Organizing for Action, leads the political pack in fake followers, according to Barracuda’s analysis. In fact, of the more than 43 million followers when the data were studied last month, just 36.6 percent were deemed ‘good’ under its metrics, while 46.8 percent count as ‘fake.’ An additional 16.6 percent of the @BarackObama followers are labeled ‘uncertain.’”

IT’S POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: The Hill: GOP again accuses Sebelius of misleading ObamaCare testimony.

IT’S ONLY EVIDENCE OF BIAS IF THEY DONATE TO REPUBLICANS: Byron York: Four of five FCC study authors gave to Obama.

A significant problem with the now-suspended Federal Communications Commission plan to have government contractors question journalists about editorial decisions and practices was that it was a partisan exercise. The plan originated among Democrats on the FCC; the commission’s two Republican members didn’t even learn about it until it was well under way.

There was also a one-sidedness in the research behind the project. The FCC enlisted scholars from two big journalism schools, the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Communication and Democracy, to determine the “critical information needs” about which journalists would be questioned. The study, delivered in July 2012, listed five authors: Ernest J. Wilson III, Carola Weil, and Katya Ognyanova from USC, Lewis Friedland from Wisconsin, and Philip Napoli from Fordham University. (Weil is now with American University.) Four of the five, it turns out, contributed to President Obama’s campaigns.

It’s partisan Potemkin villages all the way down.

IT’S POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: Wendy Davis autobiography underwent some … revisions. “Other missing details have included: her second husband paid her way through law school and she divorced him the day after the last payment was made; her ex-husband accused her in initial court filings of adultery, and was awarded custody of their two daughters; and she first ran for city council in Fort Worth as a Republican.”

Related: Wendy Davis Gave A Different Story About Her Divorce Under Oath In 2012.

Meanwhile, Emily Zanotti is not amused. “At the core, she’s a woman in power because she used a man’s money and influence to get her there.”

“YOU LIE:” Dallas Morning News: As Wendy Davis touts life story in race for governor, key facts blurred. This “strong independent woman” had her education paid for by a man. Then she divorced him when her education was paid off. It’s Potemkin villages all the way down with these people.

UPDATE: Reader Chuck Allen writes: “You also have to love that Davis’ first marriage was to ‘Frank Underwood.’ I am sure the producers of ‘House of Cards’ could work this into a script somehow….” Yeah, I noticed that. Heh.

POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: Obama lied about meeting his own brother.

IT’S POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: No, 2.1 million haven’t enrolled in Obamacare plans.

With President Obama’s health care law scheduled to begin in earnest when the new year kicks off, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius claimed on a Tuesday conference call that as of Dec. 28, “2.1 million people have enrolled in a private insurance plan” through the program.

Later in the call, Sebelius emphasized that enrollments wouldn’t be completed until individuals paid their first month’s premiums.

But HHS officials still won’t disclose how many of the 2.1 million they claim enrolled through the federal healthcare.gov website or one of the state-based exchanges actually paid for coverage.

Though Sebelius left the call before the question-and-answer session, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille declined several times to provide payment information. . . .

Later in the call, CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Bataille if she could at least say with confidence that a “very high percentage” of those 2.1 million had paid.

Instead of answering in the affirmative, Bataille said, “We are confident that those consumers have selected a plan and know what the next steps are for them in terms of securing coverage.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that: “As of Monday, however, only about half of enrollees billed for plans offered by more than 100 insurers in 17 states had paid their first month’s premium, said Mark Waterstraat, chief strategy officer at Benaissance, a third-party billing firm that works for those insurers.”

It isn’t clear whether that figure is indicative of the story nationwide, and it’s true that insurers have opted to give individuals until at least Jan. 10 (in some cases longer) to pay their premiums for coverage beginning on Jan. 1.

But there’s no reason to believe Sebelius’s claims that 2.1 million have enrolled as of Dec. 28, and journalists shouldn’t report that 2.1 million enrolled until HHS releases data showing that 2.1 million paid for their plans.

During the call, Bataille also declined to provide a demographic breakdown of those who have selected a plan so far or say how many of the 2.1 million signing up for insurance were previously uninsured.

Demographic information is important, because it is vital for the exchanges to attract a critical mass of young and healthy enrollees to offset the costs of covering older and sicker participants in the program.

Also, because millions of Americans have received cancellation notices from insurers, analysts want to know whether the law resulted in a net gain of those who have private insurance. Knowing how many of the 2.1 million signing up were previously uninsured could help provide insight into the question.

If the numbers were good, they’d be telling us.

IT’S POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: NPR: Colleges Use Photoshop to Paint Faux Diversity. “Pippert and his researchers looked at more than 10,000 images from college brochures, comparing the racial breakdown of students in the pictures to the colleges’ actual demographics. They found that, overall, the whiter the school, the more diversity depicted in the brochures, especially for certain groups.” My Nigerian sister-in-law appeared a couple of dozen times in her college’s bulletin, though to be fair, she’s uncommonly attractive.

POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: ‘Fake’ sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela memorial provokes anger.

JAMES TARANTO: The Time Thief: Obama steals past the Nov. 30 deadline.

NBC’s Michael O’Brien had some fun yesterday paraphrasing President Obama’s latest infliction on the ears of America: “Obama said his signature health care reform law is going nowhere as long as he’s in office.”

“Going nowhere” could mean either “here to stay” or “unable to progress.” A look at the text of the president’s remarks makes clear, as if you have any doubt, that he means it in the former sense: “We’re not repealing it as long as I’m president, and I want everybody to be clear about that. . . . We’re not going to walk away from it.” I’m not a crook. I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

At least in the very short term, he appears to be right. National Journal reports that although “House Democrats are hardly ready to pop the champagne for HealthCare.gov . . . tensions eased Tuesday after White House officials briefed them on the site’s progress.” Party leaders “said they were ‘pleased’ with improvements in the site’s user experience, and declared that they were back on offense over the Affordable Care Act.”

The Nov. 30 deadline was followed by a spate of news stories, editorials and columns attesting that the “website”–which, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg that is ObamaCare’s computer system–had been “fixed,” or at least “improved.” The former is plainly not true; even the latter, highly dubious.

Charles Ornstein of ProPublica.org watched “a glowing news conference” Sunday, and on Monday “decided to log . . . and take the Web site for a test drive.” It wasn’t going anywhere: Ornstein experienced “long delays loading pages, an endless circle of tasks (some already completed) and ultimately an error message.” He supplies screen shots and a transcript of a live-chat help session that goes on for nine minutes before a customer-service rep called “Kassie” tells him to try back later. When he does, “I couldn’t even log on.”

It’s Potemkin villages all the way down.

SHOCKER: That Viral “Poverty Thoughts” Essay Is Totally Ridiculous.

You see, Linda Walther Tirado, or “KillerMartinis,” as she’s known on her Kinja screen name, wrote this brain-grating essay, and it’s all about being subjected to the pitfalls of poverty. Linda’s not actually poor, though, nor was she raised in what most would describe as poverty. Unless you consider a boarding school education as a marker for poverty, anyway.

The inferences on what it’s like to be poor — from the roach-infested living quarters to the lack of wholesome food — would almost be laughable, if they weren’t such freakin’ gross stereotypes written by a person who has never experienced true poverty. That little fact takes it from laughable to infuriating.

What’s also infuriating is that Linda — who is panhandling for $100,000 worth of donations on GoFundMe — wrote this piece, and the comments and rebuttals to it, while masquerading as a “poor person,” but has now decided to clean up the mess by copping to her past as a person from a much different background.

It’s Potemkin villages all the way down. But hey, there’s good money in telling lefties what they want to hear.

JAMES TARANTO: Susan Rice for HHS: A YouTube video caused the next ObamaCare failure.

“We’re probably heading for a turning point in the health reform discussion,” writes former Enron adviser Paul Krugman. No, he doesn’t see congressional Democrats as revolting imminently against ObamaCare. Quite the opposite: “The facts on the ground are getting better by the day, and Obamacare will turn into a Benghazi-type affair where Republicans are screaming about a scandal nobody else cares about.”

One is tempted to observe that if Benghazi is the standard of success, ObamaCare must be an even worse disaster than its harshest critics imagine. But that’s not Krugman’s meaning. His analogy has nothing to do with “the facts on the ground,” and it reveals more about Krugman’s values than about either Benghazi or ObamaCare.

In neither the above-quoted post nor the earlier one in which he first put forth the analogy does the erstwhile adviser make any reference to what happened at Benghazi. To him, Benghazi is purely a phenomenon of partisan politics: “The [Republican] party has convinced itself that there must be a . . . winning issue hidden in there somewhere, and that if only it keeps flogging the thing, long after the public has moved on, it will eventually score big.”

The analogy is flawed even if you accept Krugman’s amoral partisan terms. Krugman may shrug off four murdered Americans, but he can’t claim the Obama administration accomplished anything at Benghazi. The administration’s success consisted only in a propaganda effort in which a designated liar, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, created enough confusion to neutralize the attack as a potential threat to Obama’s re-election and set the stage for the administration, at least so far, to evade accountability (though Rice herself perhaps paid the price of not being nominated secretary of state, a position requiring Senate confirmation).

Well, maybe Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should swap jobs with Rice, who could then be sent out to blame ObamaCare’s failure on a YouTube video.

You may think that’s a joke, but even our wit isn’t always quick enough to keep up with this crowd. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and Organizing for Action, the nonprofit organization that sells access to the president, has produced a YouTube video titled “Health Care for the Holidays.” The completely functional OFA website urges Obama supporters to spend the holidays urging their kin to buy ObamaCare insurance.

In all but a handful of states, of course, that’s not even possible, given the failure of HHS and some states even to build functional exchanges.

It’s Potemkin villages all the way down.

IT’S POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: ‘Non-partisan’ group paid $1 million to produce positive Obamacare stories.

PHONY “ENROLLEES” FROM A PHONY ADMINISTRATION’S PHONY INSURANCE PLAN:

Who counts as an Obamacare enrollee?

Health insurance plans only count subscribers as enrolled in a health plan once they’ve submited a payment. That is when the carrier sends out a member card and begins paying doctor bills.

When the Obama administration releases health law enrollment figures later this week, though, it will use a more expansive definition. It will count people who have purchased a plan as well as those who have a plan sitting in their online shopping cart but have not yet paid.

It’s Potemkin villages all the way down.

JAMES TARANTO: Delaying From Behind: Bowing to the inevitable, Democrats think the unthinkable.

Our younger readers–those who were born yesterday–may not remember when delaying ObamaCare was considered a wild idea, its exponents limited to crazy right-wing terrorists. Times have certainly changed since–oh, the beginning of this week. “Democrats facing difficult reelection campaigns in 2014–Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Begich of Alaska–came out on Wednesday evening in support of extending the open enrollment period of the law, as first proposed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who is also up for reelection in 2014,” Politico reports. All these senators were elected or re-elected in 2008, when Barack Obama topped the ticket.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia isn’t up for re-election until 2018, but he is proposing a bill “to delay for a year the individual mandate’s enforcement mechanism–a $95 fine for anyone who doesn’t enroll in health insurance by March 31.” (That’s an incomplete description, for reasons we’ll get to below.)

The Obama administration itself “confirmed to The Washington Post a little bit ago that it is indeed tweaking the way the individual mandate works,” writes Sarah Kliff of the Post’s Wonkblog. This change amounts to a six-week delay: People who’ve enrolled in a health-insurance plan by March 31 won’t be subject to the mandate tax. The previous requirement was that one had to be covered by March 31, which as a practical matter meant the deadline for enrollment was Feb. 15.

“It’s not quite right to describe this as a delay of the individual mandate, or an extension of open enrollment,” Kliff writes. She’s correct on the latter point–enrollment still ends March 31–but mistaken on the former. Because of Chief Justice John Roberts’s convoluted construction of the law, the “mandate” is nothing more than the tax on noncompliance–a tax that will now be imposed six weeks later than had been the administration’s intent.

A six-week delay, or even a year’s delay, isn’t much. But it is something, which makes it a significant change from the Democrats’ previous position, which was to insist that no concessions were acceptable. Of course it’s easier to hold out when the party demanding concessions is a political adversary as opposed to reality itself.

But it’s also easy to lose sight of reality when focused on political adversity. A quote in today’s New York Times illustrates that point beautifully. It seems that in the days immediately before HealthCare.gov’s disastrous launch, “top White House officials were excitedly briefing lawmakers, reporters, Capitol Hill staff members and Washington pundits” about the “shiny new Web site that was elegantly designed, simple to use and ready.”

It’s Potemkin villages all the way down.

JAMES TARANTO: ‘The Site Was Very Easy to Use:’ The Obama administration draws a red line and defies reality to intrude.

The Obama administration is even deeper in denial about the ObamaCare fiasco than the president’s shockingly bewildered speech yesterday indicated. Witness the new ad touting HealthCare.gov, the nonfunctioning website (don’t worry, they put it on YouTube). “The site was very easy to use,” declares Deborah Lielasus, a self-employed quinquagenarian New Hampshire woman, who, according to the YouTube blurb, “will save hundreds of dollars each month” and “has better coverage, lower deductibles, and lower co-pays.”

Did she really find the site “very easy to use”? We suppose this is subjective, and maybe she has preternatural patience or is some kind of computer savant. But National Review’s Sterling Beard managed to track her down, and she “said it actually took her three days to enroll.” The ad would be deceptive if it weren’t so unbelievable to begin with.

There’s another problem here: Lielasus is purportedly getting a free lunch: better coverage with lower premiums, deductibles and copayments than someone with her risk profile would be able to negotiate absent price controls. But people can get a free lunch only if other people pick up the tab. The technical term for those other people is “suckers.” In the case of ObamaCare the suckers are young and healthy people who normally would be cheaper to insure.

Another ObamaCare ad suggests that they’ve found at least one sucker. Meet Daniel McNaughton, 22, a Florida college student who was able to buy insurance from the federal exchange.

According to NR’s Beard, however, McNaughton is not a typical 22-year-old. He has served as “the webmaster of his local Democratic party,” as “the chairman of the Young Democrats of Lee County and as a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.” In other words, he has a political motivation to participate in ObamaCare. If he’s a sucker, he’s like the sucker who joins a religious cult and gives it all his money.

But it turns out he isn’t a sucker after all, for his lunch is, if not free, at least highly discounted. He says in the ad: “Getting coverage this good at this price, I’m thrilled.” Beard reports McNaughton is receiving a $200-a-month subsidy from taxpayers on a $270 insurance plan. His premium may be enough to balance out some older person’s price-controlled one, but it’s paid for in part with money borrowed from the Chinese.

It’s Potemkin villages all the way down.

POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: Neighbors: Newark Mayor Cory Booker never lived in Newark. “Multiple residents of Newark told The Daily Caller that the longtime mayor doesn’t live at any of the addresses he has claimed as home. The mayor is believed to live in New York even though he is registered to run for New Jersey’s special senate election.”

IT’S POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: Obamacare Poster Boy Chad Henderson and His Dad Haven’t Signed Up for Obamacare, Says His Father.

IT’S POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: Sorry Ladies: Bobby Riggs Threw His Match Against Billie Jean King.

IT’S POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: Former Ron Wyden aide challenges Obama’s surveillance claims.

IT’S POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: Fake Villages Will Greet President Obama And Other G8 World Leaders. “According to Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE, local councils have hired workers to paint fake shop fronts stocked with attractive but illusory produce. They have also been contracted to cover derelict buildings with colorful billboards, the better to hide the real economic hardship being felt in towns and villages close to the five star golf resort where G8 leaders will meet this month.”

IT’S POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: IRS Official Lois Lerner Called Lawyer To Plant Targeting Question.

IT’S POTEMKIN VILLAGES ALL THE WAY DOWN: Democratic front group hyped as hunters by media in gun-control fight.

See also this piece by Mark Tapscott.