‘Nothing Historic’ About Paris Climate Deal

Global WarmingThe energy industry is already saying Saturday’s Paris global warming agreement is “unenforceable, underfunded, and non-binding.”

“There is nothing historic about this deal,” said American Energy Alliance President Thomas Pyle in an email to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The Obama administration clearly doesn’t have the support of Congress or the American people—making the agreement nothing more than a paper tiger. Unfortunately, this won’t stop the president from pursuing a domestic climate agenda that will raise energy prices on American families, but will have no impact on the climate.”

The Obama administration states that the deal will encourage nearly 200 countries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, slowing global warming. Despite the doubt, President Obama is already celebrating the deal, as shown by this Tweet:

This is huge. Almost every country in the world just signed on to the #parisagreement on climate change — thanks to American leadership.

However, members of Obama’s own cabinet disagree. Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. and developed world will not help the environment or even slow down global warming at the Paris summit Wednesday.

Kerry previously stated that the talks would not deliver a “treaty” that legally requires countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions. However, European Union previously asserted that the deal will be a legally binding treaty, contradicting Kerry’s direct statements.

The current deal allows countries to set “non-binding” CO2 emissions targets for themselves, but contains no mechanism to enforce the agreement. The Obama administration seems to have gotten a deal that contains no legally-binding measures and is thus not a “treaty.” This weakens legal arguments that the agreement needs the approval of the hostile U.S. Senate, which must ratify all treaties.

Environmental groups were skeptical of the deal during the negotiation process, as it contains only voluntary, not mandatory, CO2 cuts. Many environmental groups blame the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen Accords on the lack of mandatory CO2 cuts.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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San Bernardino Shooting: Poor Response by Politicians and Press

California has been hit by two terrorists who caused multiple deaths and injuries. So what was the response of our media and political elites when this happened on Wednesday: hysteria over gun laws.

From the beginning it was clear San Bernardino was not just another nut case shooting; the terrorists were dressed military style, they had bombs as well as guns, and a sophisticated plan to escape. One way or another they were well trained in terrorist techniques.

So how did California’s leading newspapers greet all this?  “Another day, another massacre,” writes Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez.  “We’re reminded that no country in the world has the level of gun violence we do.”   Not to be outdone, the Times lead editorial begins with: “Horror in San Bernardino: The U.S. infatuation with guns is bordering on a society-wide suicidal impulse.”

Up north, the Sacramento Bee editorial begins with: “San Bernardino shooting, shocking yet almost normal.  No matter what you call it, the root of the problem is the same: America allows too many guns to fall into the hands of too many people who should not have them.”

Well, how about bombs and guns in the hands of terrorists; the Bee does not have much to say about that.

This Pollyannaish response extended to our political leaders as well. Gov. Jerry Brown, so full of himself over saving the earth from a few more degrees of heat, had nothing to say about terrorism in his own statement.  President Obama called for closing the gun show loophole.

Perhaps the president should be more focused on the terrorist visa loophole, since the Pakistani-born terrorist in San Bernardino came into this country on a “fiancé visa.”

Throughout Wednesday night and all day Thursday the facts have come out on the terrorist couple, showing that they were experts in al-Qaeda style bomb making, that the American-born male terrorist travelled extensively in the Middle East, had some contacts to people on federal terrorist watch lists, and that the attacks were carefully planned and expertly carried out.

Gun laws had nothing to do with them. It is like saying that if France just had stronger gun laws, the Paris attackers would have been deterred. The San Bernardino terrorists bought their guns legally, and this in California that has been passing gun control laws for almost 30 years.  Lots of good they have done. When people are busy making pipe bombs in their apartment, somehow the gun show loophole seems pretty minor.

When the Republican Congress passed legislation to slow down the influx of Syrian refugees because they cannot be vetted to make sure terrorists have not infiltrated them, the California elite just pooh-poohed the threat and condemned the legislation.  Well, now we have a terrorist allowed into this country from Pakistan, a known hotbed of terrorist training, and what do our elites have to say, let’s pass more gun laws.

For far too long, the attitude of the political and media elite in this state to the very real threat of terrorism has been nothing short of brain dead.  Perhaps San Bernardino will be a wake-up call on the need for more visa and other controls at our borders.  But I am not hopeful; Chicken Little hysteria about gun control is a much easier response.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Resist the Urge to Politicize Tragedy

This editorial was originally published by the Orange County Register:

Evil reared itself Wednesday morning at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. That’s when heavily armed husband and wife Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik made their way into Mr. Farook’s office holiday party and unleashed terror.

By the time the shooters fled, 14 were dead and another 17 wounded. It was the most carnage inflicted in the United States since six teachers and 20 children were shot and killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

The mass murder in San Bernardino was predictably sensational, as evidenced by the fact that #SanBernadino was shared on Twitter more than 333,000 times Wednesday – notwithstanding that the city’s name was misspelled.

No less predictable were the remarks of several political figures – both anti-gun advocates and foes of settling Syrian refugees in the U.S. – who apparently couldn’t resist the temptation to exploit Wednesday’s tragedy.

That included President Obama, who ranted to CBS News about the need “for commonsense gun safety laws,” while also urging Congress to enact legislation preventing individuals appearing on the government’s “No Fly List” from purchasing firearms.

But even if Mr. Obama got his wishes, it would not have prevented Wednesday’s carnage. That’s because California already has the nation’s strictest gun laws, based on the latest report card issued by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

As to enacting a law to prohibit those banned from commercial flights from legally obtaining guns, that would not have stopped Mr. Farook and his wife from obtaining their assault rifles and handguns.

That’s because neither of them was on the feds’ No Fly List, otherwise Mr. Farook, a Pakistani-American born in this country, could not have recently flown to Saudi Arabia and returned to the Inland Empire with his wife, Ms. Malik.

The myth promulgated by Mr. Obama and other gun control advocates that stricter gun laws will prevent the kind of mass murder that occurred in San Bernardino ignores an inconvenient truth …

Continue reading this editorial at OCregister.com/opinion

CA Leads Drive to Reverse Focus on Standardized Tests

Standardized TestWhen President Barack Obama declared that “unnecessary testing” is “consuming too much instructional time” and creating “undue stress for educators and students,” it was another sign that the dominant strategy over the past 15 years to use standardized tests to hold children and schools “accountable” in education reform may have reached a tipping point.

California is on course to have a major impact on reshaping the national discourse – and practice – on this issue. The state is in the middle of devising a new accountability system, a massive and complex undertaking in a state as large and diverse as California, that is intended to go far beyond a narrow preoccupation with test scores.

President Obama’s recent anti-testing pronouncements are especially significant because using test scores as the dominant measure of school and student progress has been central to his K-12 education reform agenda.

Arne Duncan, Obama’s departing secretary of education, acknowledged the administration’s contribution to the problem. “It’s important that we’re all honest with ourselves,” he said. “At the federal, state and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation. We can and will work with states, districts and educators to help solve it.”

By contrast, Gov. Jerry Brown has been consistent in challenging the role of testing – and has clashed repeatedly with the Obama administration on this issue, even before he returned to the governorship in 2011.

Brown likes to recount what was apparently a seminal experience while he was a student at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco, when the only question on an exam asked students to give their impressions of a green leaf.

“Still, as I walk by trees, I keep saying, ‘How’s my impression coming? Can I feel anything? Am I dead inside?’ So, this was a very powerful question that has haunted me for 50 years.”

The point, Brown says, is that “you can’t put that on a standardized test. There are important educational encounters that can’t be captured by tests.”

State education leaders have echoed Brown’s deep skepticism about the excessive use of standardized tests.

“We must always be mindful that time spent testing generally comes at the expense of time our students would otherwise have spent gaining the very knowledge and skills that are the goal of education,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson declared three years ago in a report to the state Legislature on Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System.

Torlakson noted that many countries that “lead the world in achievement place little or no emphasis on standardized testing.” When they do test, he said, “they use more open-minded measures, sparingly and strategically, and often sample students rather than testing every child.” He suggested that if the federal government weren’t requiring it, California would do even less testing than it is currently doing.

Other prominent California education leaders have also been at the forefront of questioning how tests have been used in the national education reform agenda. Most significantly they include Linda Darling-Hammond, the president of the Learning Policy Institute, who is also Brown’s appointee as chair of the California Teacher Credentialing Commission. Two-and-a-half years ago Darling-Hammond took aim at what she calls the “test and punish” approach to accountability. “Without major changes, we will, indeed, be testing our nation to death,” she wrote.

But California has done more than talk about the issue.

The state has suspended – and is considering permanently abolishing – the Academic Performance Index, which for 15 years ranked schools based almost entirely on the test score results of students.

This past summer the Legislature suspended the California High School Exit Exam, at least for the next three years – and has even told districts to award diplomas retroactively to students who did not pass the exam and were denied a diploma because of it during the decade the exit exam was in place.

Also gone, for now, are standardized tests in 2nd-, 9th- and 10th-grade math and English language arts, end-of-course math tests in Algebra I, Algebra II, geometry, general math and integrated math; all history tests; and end-of-course tests in high school in biology, chemistry, physics and integrated science. 

One unresolved question is whether California will permanently eliminate these end-of-course standardized tests permanently or whether they will be replaced with ones that are aligned with the Common Core standards.

For now at least, the only standardized tests left that are administered by the state are the Smarter Balanced tests in math and English language arts, which all students in 3rd through 8th grade and 11th grade are expected to take. Students still take a science test in 5th, 8th and 10th grade because they are required to do so under the No Child Left Behind law. (Students with special needs take a variety of tests designed to take into account their specific disabilities.)

What makes what is happening in California especially interesting is that the state is not reflexively against tests in general. In fact, California is a leading backer of the Smarter Balanced assessments aligned with the Common Core – the very same tests that have fueled vehement anti-testing sentiments in some other states, most notably in New York.

That’s because strong backers like Darling-Hammond have argued that the assessments are significantly improved compared to the old multiple-choice tests, measure deeper learning skills, and have the potential to actually drive classroom instruction, not just be used to measure how well or how badly schools or students are doing. California has also prevented Smarter Balanced from becoming a lightning rod for opposition by resisting pressures from the Obama administration to use test scores to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

So rather than being against all tests, the state is moving toward establishing a much broader accountability system, of which tests – improved ones, according to proponents – will comprise just one part. In California, the new accountability system will be based on “multiple measures” rooted in eight “priority areas” established by the state in the 2013 Local Control Funding Formula law championed by Brown.

In addition to scores on the Smarter Balanced tests, these could include measures of middle and high school dropout rates, attendance rates, absenteeism and graduation rates, parent engagement, and “school climate,” as revealed in suspension and expulsion rates and student surveys.

Furthest along in developing a new “multiple measure” accountability system are the six CORE districts, which are  developing a School Quality Improvement Index that could inform what will happen in the state and nationally on this hugely complex task.

By March 2016, Torlakson must present his recommendations for a comprehensive assessment system to the State Board of Education, so the next few months will be crucial in shaping where California as a whole will end up on this issue.

Torlakson is being advised by an “Accountability and Continuous Improvement Task Force” which is mandated by state and is co-chaired by Eric Heins, the president of the California Teachers Association, and Wes Smith, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators. The 29 member task force includes many of the state’s most prominent education leaders.

All this is taking place as Congress, after years of gridlock on the issue, appears to be moving to replace the No Child Left Behind law with one that will move the nation distinctly in the direction California is already going. As task force member David Plank, executive director for Policy Analysis for California Education, said, “There is general agreement that California is in a position to lead, and to set a new course not only for the state but for accountability in general.”

Louis Freedberg is the executive director of EdSource

Originally published by EdSource

Dianne Feinstein helped keep drones with CIA

As reported by Politico:

Nearly two years ago, President Barack Obama called for moving the drone war from the CIA to the Defense Department to give the controversial counterterrorism program greater oversight.

But it hasn’t happened.

Then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein expressed concerns, and intelligence sources say she inserted a classified amendment in a spending bill last year requiring that the administration certify that giving the Pentagon a greater role would not have negative impacts on the war on terrorism.

Feinstein’s office declined to comment on the classified amendment, but the White House, in response to the amendment, has been slow to make any changes.

Click here to read the full article

Net Neutrality = Regulate My Competitor

In a major development in the ongoing debate over net neutrality, President Obama announced his support for a strict regulatory regime to govern the Internet. The President framed the discussion around a good-faith need to protect innovators and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, he has fallen for a cynical ploy that some Silicon Valley companies and advocacy groups are using to push an extreme regulatory agenda for the Internet.

Unfortunately, the innovative companies we take for granted to enrich our lives are not always the altruistic companies we think they are especially when it comes to exerting influence in Washington.

Take for example Netflix, who has transformed from a DVD mail order business to a dominant leader in streaming video. They have mastered the ability to provide almost any digital programming directly to smartphones, tablets, and TVs. What Netflix is not yet known for is the age-old practice many companies have come to rely on, known as “regulate my competitor,” or what economists call “rent-seeking.”

By hijacking the debate over network neutrality and conflating it with a regulatory arbitrage scheme to pad its bottom line, Netflix is putting its interest above all Internet users. The network neutrality debate has always been about treating all content on the Internet the same – no blocking or impeding traffic. Now, Netflix is trying to convince the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to adopt a new proposal that would change the current bipartisan “light-touch” regulatory structure of today. Netflix and now President Obama want to “reclassify” broadband networks under 1930s rotary telephone laws that would make ISPs public utilities under the guise of no blocking or prioritization. However, making ISPs into utilities still won’t prevent prioritization, further revealing the “regulate my competitor” strategy Netflix has embarked on with other advocacy groups.

The Communications Workers of America recently noted that investment by the 11 largest publicly traded broadband companies rose from $56.5 billion in 2010 to $70.1 billion in 2013 while investment by content companies only rose from $9 billion to $13.2 billion in the same time frame. Clearly, the investments made by ISPs to expand Internet service dwarfs that of the content companies. ISP investments translate directly into good, U.S.-based union jobs, a situation not matched by the largely non-unionized global content companies.

It’s also important to remember that Silicon Valley’s giants rely on the investment that creates the robustness of these networks for their success. Public utility regulations will only dry up investment in networks – ultimately hurting the innovators the President and advocates claim to protect.

Analysts have noted that Netflix generates about 1/3 of all Internet traffic at peak times in the US. Traffic is so high it puts significant strain on the ISPs’ networks. To alleviate this strain, ISPs, for years, have made arrangements to connect directly with content companies in order to keep the Internet free from this congestion. These arrangements are a win for content companies, ISPs and consumers.

But these types of traffic routing arrangements, called “paid interconnection,” are not good enough for Netflix’s profit motives. Instead, by using the neutrality debate to try to force ISPs to deliver Netflix traffic for free over ISPs’ networks, subsidizing the delivery of Netflix’s massive content bandwidth. This would ultimately force all Internet users to subsidize Netflix’s bandwidth needs.

Instead of urging the FCC to regulate its competitors as public utilities, Netflix should be doing what many other content companies like Amazon and Google have done – make interconnection arrangements with ISPs or invest in their own networks to bring content closer to the end customer. This strategy will create high paying jobs in California and avoid age-old tactics like “regulate my competitor.”

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

Eric Lindberg is Secretary-Treasurer Local 9423 and Next Generation Lead Activist for Communications Workers of America. Carlos Solórzano-Cuadra is CEO of the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce of San Francisco.

Even Federal Employees Less Happy Under Obama’s Second Term

report released Tuesday reveals that government employees are significantly less satisfied with their job in President Obama’s second term than his first.

Federal employees satisfaction fell for the fourth straight year, dropping to the lowest recorded since the group began performing these reports in 2003.

The report assigned a job satisfaction score peaking at 65 (out of 100) during his first term, but this year that score dropped to 56.9.

“The steady drop in employee satisfaction from 2011 to 2014 may be the result of a number of factors,” the report states. “These include the 2013 across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration; three years of pay freezes; hiring slowdowns; numerous management missteps that garnered negative attention and criticism; and a partial government shutdown that resulted in the furlough of 850,000 employees.”

The study says that effective leadership is the most important factor in employee satisfaction.

The report ranked government agencies based on how much employees enjoyed working there. For comparison, the report separates out large agencies from smaller agencies.

Of the large agencies, NASA, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of State came in as the top three respectively.

The VA came in second to last place with the Department of Homeland Security in last, ranked 19th.

Meanwhile, private sector workers have significantly higher scores. They have a satisfaction score of 72 this year, the highest since the group began recording private sector scores in 2009.

This piece was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation. 

Obama’s Hearing

Obama hearing

Gary McCoy, Cagle Cartoons

Obamacare Stuffing

Obamacare Turkey

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The Democratic Wave

Democratic Wave

Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch