Monday, February 22, 2010
California vs. the World: Comparing Educational Standards
By Matt Kokkonen

Since children are the future of our society, it is imperative that they are educated well. The global economy is very competitive and if California expects to develop jobs, be a research center, provide manufacturing and have a vibrant economy, our schools and students must be well prepared. How then does California’s high school graduation requirement stack up against the high global standards?
State law requires students in public schools to pass the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) to receive a diploma. The purpose of the CAHSEE is to improve student achievement in high school and make sure students who graduate from high school can demonstrate competency in English language arts and mathematics but not in other subjects. The English language test consists of multiple-choice questions and a writing task. The mathematics test consists of multiple-choice questions that cover number sense, algebra and other basic functions.
Here is one comparison with the 2004 high school graduation exam in Finland. The questions presented are only a small portion of the exam.
While the California language exam tests a student’s use of the correct case of a pronoun that follows a preposition such as “for”, the exam in Finnish language consists of having to read articles and then write an essay, such as, “Based on the article, describe and critique the author’s idea of a perfect society.”
These other sample questions cover the following subjects:
Religious studies: “Explain the problem of the Hindu religion in relation to India’s democracy.”
Philosophy: “Explain utilitarianism as foundation of ethics.”
Psychology: “Evaluate the impact of sleep in relation to concepts of knowledge and emotions.”
History: “The ancient Roman Empire had spread widely during the first centuries. How did Rome’s economy function and why did it subsequently collapse?”
Social Studies: “The nation of Israel was established in 1948. At the same time, a preliminary agreement was made to also form a Palestinian nation. Why has the creation of a Palestinian nation not been successful during the subsequent decades?”
Physics: “ E= -13.6eV/n² represents the total energy of the hydrogen atom.

 A) Graph the energy level diagram of the hydrogen atom, B) A photon collides with a hydrogen atom at rest. What happens, assuming the photon has energy of a) 1.89 eV, b) 3.4 eV, c) 10.2 eV, d) 15.6 eV?“
Chemistry: “How does the structure of hydrocarbon molecules affect its chemical and physical properties?”
Biology: “Discuss the use of microbes in handling waste.”
Geography: “The physical locations of information technology enterprises differ clearly from those of classical steel industry. Explain this in relation to a) raw materials b) workforce c) markets d) transportation of energy sources e) environmental services and entertainment.”
Mathematics: “Define the point of the parabola: y = x² - 2x – 3, whose tangent line has an angle of 45º .”
Students in Finland study several foreign languages, such as Swedish, English, German and sometimes French. The English language test has several sections, one being comprehension. The test requires the student to read three articles and write out answers to questions regarding them. They are from “Newsweek”, “Sunday Times” and a one and half page article from “The Economist.”
There are twenty-five questions on English grammar. A sample question: “Blinded at the age of three in an accident, he would never have any memory of being a) seen b) seeing c) sighted d) in-sight.”
Finally, the exam calls for a short composition of 150 to 200 words in English on the topic: “Prepare a speech to try to sell a Finnish invention – new, old or imaginary, to a group of potential foreign customers at a sales promotion event.”
The failure rate of the students taking the exam was 6.5%. It is given once a year.

Our schools permit very polarized results. On the one hand we have schools and teachers producing excellent results while our system also graduates illiterates. In a schizophrenic manner, we insist on the exit exam measuring students’ English language skills yet we permit the student to get the test instructions in another language. How is this possible? Unfortunately, many students have not only been left behind, but they have been left in the educational gutter. And instead of racing to the top they are sliding to the bottom.
The exit exam is a low beginning. Regrettably, as far as worldwide high school graduation exams go, it will merely draw criticism and derision as being more suitable for junior high graduates.
Finland spends $7,500 per year per student while California spends $11,000. Obviously, money is not the issue. Throwing more money at a broken system might solve some financial problems of the organization but certainly has not solved the educational needs of our students. In spite of California’s much lower educational standards, 97 school districts which educate nearly one-third of California’s public school students have continuously failed to make adequate progress even under Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program. The new slogan from Obama, “Race to the Top” is no different. The Federal government should not be involved with education at all. Parents must assume more responsibility. Our educational system needs to embrace choice and free competition and reduce the power of the unions whose singular goal is the advancement of its own influence and benefits rather than the education of students. The results so far prove this. Our teachers are capable, so leave them alone and let them teach. Set the standards high. The young minds can and will rise to the occasion.
Matt Kokkonen was born in Finland and did graduate studies in philosophy and political science at the University of Helsinki in Finland. He ran against Lois Capps for Congress
in 2008 and received over 80,000 votes. He is currently a candidate for the Republican nomination for the 33rd Assembly District. He can be reached at 805-886-1880.
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Monday, February 22, 2010
Stoker criticizes California Coastal Commission for actions on Goleta Beach Plan

Assembly candidate calls for legislation to remove their jurisdiction over cities and counties with certified Coastal Plans

Date: 2/19/10
(Santa Barbara, CA) - On Tuesday night Santa Barbara County held a workshop to discuss their new Goleta Beach Plan 2.0, generated in response to last July's denial by the California Coastal Commission of a Goleta Beach Plan that had been unanimously approved by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, had taken more than 3 years to develop and cost taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars to generate.

During the Coastal Commission hearings Mike Stoker stood behind the county and recommended immediate approval to assure Goleta Beach would not suffer significant erosion during this winter while his two opponents Das Williams and Susan Jordan took the side of the un-elected and unaccountable California Coastal Commission.

Mr. Stoker on Thursday blasted the Coastal Commission and called for legislation to take their jurisdiction away from deciding any city or county issues where that city or county already has a certified Coastal Plan.

"The California Coastal Commission has become one of the most draconian, out of touch state agencies in California," said Mr. Stoker. "They have established a consistent record of ignoring the pleas of local government in rejecting environmentally balanced plans supported by locally elected officials. In the past they have rejected plans for Oxnard, Ventura Beach, Toro Canyon (Montecito) and most recently the County of Santa Barbara's plan for Goleta Beach. Now their rejection of the Goleta Beach Plan has caused the County to submit a new plan that will take away the parking at the beach, require visitors to use a shuttle bus to gain access and will cost the county at least ten million dollars more than the original plan - all for a County that already has a certified Coastal Plan that the County must follow. Enough is enough. The time has come to strip the Commission of their jurisdiction over cities and counties with certified Coastal Plans. As the Assemblyman for the 35th Assembly District I intend to author legislation doing precisely that next January.

As for his opponents, Stoker said, "This is a good opportunity to show bi-partisan support for our local cities and counties. I ask Mr. Williams and Ms. Jordan to join me and pledge to author the same legislation should they be elected to the Assembly." However, Stoker noted, "Thus far neither Mr. Williams or Ms. Jordan have been willing to take a stand against Coastal Commission. But who understands Goleta Beach better: the Goleta City Council and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors or a political appointees who lives 300 miles away?”

Stoker also said his proposal would help existing cities and counties who have submitted coastal plans and are waiting commission certification of their plan.

Stoker concluded, "Many cities and counties are waiting for coastal plans they have submitted to be certified. In some cases, plans have been with staff for over 3 years with the excuse being they don't have the time or resources to get the plans reviewed and certified. If my proposal were to be enacted, all the time the staff currently spends rejecting locally approved plans, proposals and projects from cities and counties with certified coastal plans would be freed up to help get all the pending coastal plans certified."

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Thursday, February 18, 2010
Arnold and His Boys Deliver Low Blow to Ag

By Andy Caldwell

If only Arnold Schwarzenegger had been a football player instead of a body builder, perhaps he would recognize a regulatory chop block for what it is, blow his whistle, and stop the game before somebody gets irreparably hurt.

For those of you who don’t know what a chop block is, it is basically a low blow delivered to an opponent while, at the same time, your teammate is hitting the opponent on the high side. The high/low combination hit is a recipe for broken legs and irreparable, career-ending knee injuries.

I have previously mentioned that the governor’s appointees on the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have been threatening the economic viability of trucking, construction and farming in our state as a result of diesel-engine rules currently being phased in.

Additionally, CARB is in the process of implementing Arnold’s proudest piece of legislation, AB 32, which will serve to decimate our manufacturing and industrial sectors, ostensibly to save the planet from global warming. These programs will cost the reeling California economy in excess of $200 billion.

While all these main drivers of our economy struggle with CARB, a low blow has been delivered by another group of Arnold’s appointees, who serve on the Regional Water Quality Control Board. Not to be outdone, the water board has embarked on a series of rules that are not just expensive, but impossible to comply with.

In a nutshell, the water board wants new buildings to be built in such a way so that in effect, no rain water leaves the site in a storm. This goal, albeit extremely expensive, is, in some cases, achievable compared to what this same regulatory agency is asking of farmers.

Farmers are being asked to not only control the water quality flowing off their farms from irrigation and rainstorms, they are also being asked to control the temperature of the water and the amount of dirt in the water.

The regulators are in essence demanding that this wastewater be cleansed to drinking water standards and be beneficial to wildlife — the same wildlife that poses a food safety threat to the crops being cultivated.

Further, they are being asked to control the quality of the water that soaks into their fields to recharge the groundwater basin below their property. You would think such a standard is impossible, and you would be right. The bottom line is Mother Nature, in the absence of mankind, does not meet these standards.

The state’s economy is winning the race to the bottom, thanks to mindless politicians and bureaucrats who continue to pass rules that are more stringent than anywhere else in the world. Our economy can’t take it anymore.

The rules are now exceeding the bounds of science, engineering and common sense, and leveling a path of economic mayhem and destruction. If Arnold doesn’t do something soon, there will not be anybody left to put in the game.

The California economy needs immediate relief from these rules affecting land, air and water. It is impossible to keep jobs in the manufacturing, construction, farming and transportation sectors of our economy without having at least a negligible impact upon our environment.

It is the cost of living in a society with an abundance of food, shelter, goods and services. There is no quality of life without these things. There is no quality of life without jobs.

The regulations in the pipeline are ridiculously arbitrary and capricious in their nature. They are prohibitively expensive and, in most cases, impossible to achieve.

No doubt, the board members and/or the staff of these agencies need to be replaced. We need reasonable people to help us in these desperate times.

 Andy Caldwell is executive director of COLAB and a 41-year resident of the Central Coast. For contact information, visit the COLAB website at www.colabsbc.org.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010
Is the “Gay” Fix in on Prop 8?
By J. Matt Barber
Last weekend the San Francisco Chronicle “outed” Proposition 8 Judge Vaughn Walker as an active practitioner of the homosexual lifestyle: “The biggest open secret in the landmark trial over same-sex marriage being heard in San Francisco is that the federal judge who will decide the case, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, is himself gay,” revealed the Chronicle.
Judge Walker has presided over California’s Prop 8 case filed by homosexual extremists who seek to manufacture a constitutional “right” to so-called “same-sex marriage.” The legal odd-couple of former Bush attorney Ted Olson and Gore lawyer David Boies have partnered to represent the activist plaintiffs. 
The revelation that Judge Walker apparently chooses to engage in homosexual conduct, if true, would explain much of his bizarre behavior throughout this trial. At every turn he’s displayed extreme bias in favor of his similarly situated homosexual activist plaintiffs.
These individuals have eschewed the democratic process and seek to employ like-minded judicial activists to radically redefine the millennia-old definition of natural marriage. When it comes to wildly unpopular social engineering schemes such as the imposition of “gay marriage” on the American people, arbitrary edict by way of judicial fiat is the left’s tool of choice.   
Enter Judge Walker. In unprecedented form, and to plaintiffs’ delight, he has created a circus-like atmosphere throughout. He even violated federal rules by deciding to allow the trial to be broadcast worldwide, but was subsequently shot-down and sharply rebuked by the U.S. Supreme Court for doing so.
Unfortunately, the damage was already done. Prop 8 supporters lost around two-thirds of their expert witnesses who, naturally – based on homosexuals’ violent reaction to passage of Prop 8 – feared for their own safety and for that of family members.
Judge Walker then ordered Prop 8 proponents to disclose private communications, work product, emails and campaign strategies to plaintiffs while – in an example of jaw-dropping inequality – permitting plaintiffs to keep the same materials secret.      
He also allowed plaintiffs a parade of “expert” witnesses who viciously maligned Christians and other observers of natural and historic sexual morality as “prejudiced,” “bigoted” and “homophobic.”
This is no different than having an avid gun dealer/collector preside over a Second Amendment case – or a frequent user of medical marijuana deciding the legality of medical marijuana.
Even his fellow judges on the notoriously liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have been forced to step-in and overturn more than one of his inexplicable rulings on the case.
Unfortunately, based on his demonstrated misbehavior, there’s no reason to believe any of that will change. At worst, Judge Walker’s continued involvement with this case presents a textbook conflict of interest. At best, it objectively illustrates the unseemly appearance of a conflict.
The framers of the U.S. Constitution – who referred to homosexuality as “the sin that dare not speak its name” – could not have even conceptualized the ridiculous and oxy moronic notion of “gay marriage,” much less considered it a constitutional right. Still, if Judge Walker miraculously divines from thin air that Patrick Henry had a fundamental “right” to marry Henry Patrick, then who among us will be surprised?
Yes, he could stun the world and place constitutionalism – which he’s sworn to observe – above personal ideology; but, based on his actions throughout this trial, I’m betting the fix is in.  
This much is for sure: Any decision favoring plaintiffs in this case will be permanently marred and universally viewed as stemming from Judge Walker’s personal biases and alleged lifestyle choices.
For these reasons, and in the interest of justice, he should now do the honorable thing and recuse himself.
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Should We Declare War on Terrorism?
Opinion Commentaries by Harris R. Sherline
The latest question being debated in the media is, “Can we kill an American who is working for al Qaeda overseas?”  It may be rhetorical, but it clearly demonstrates the confusion in America today about our status, that is, whether we are at war or not?
The nation is divided over the issue. If we are at war, why aren’t we trying war criminals in military tribunals as opposed to giving them the same rights that our citizens enjoy in civilian courts?
The Bush administration seemed to be clear that we are at war, and that enemy combatants should be tried in military courts.  However, although Guantanamo Bay was established as the place to hold people who were picked up on the battlefield or otherwise captured and known to be terrorists, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, in the eight years following the World Trade Center attack, the government never completed the job of updating our laws to deal with such prisoners.
Most of the public seems to believe we are at war and that it is a war on terrorism.  However, the Obama administration apparently does not agree.
This leads to confusion and weakens our nation’s defenses.  Obama’s position that the word “terrorism” is not to be used by his administration and being unwilling to acknowledge that we are at war is directly at odds with his authorization to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and his approval of attacks by military drones in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The confusion is further exemplified by the administration’s handling of incidents like the Fort Hood shooting, promising to close Gitmo without thoroughly considering the consequences, and moving the trials of Khalid Sheik Mohammad and the Christmas Day bomber to civilian courts.  For the most part, the reasoning behind these decisions is not clear and the public appears to strongly object to them.
Article One, Section Eight of the U.S. Constitution says, “Congress shall have power to…declare War,” so perhaps the question should be, “Why not declare war al Qaeda and any other group that attacks us?”
We seem to be overlooking the fact that Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States in August 1996.  His declaration was published in a London based Arabic language newspaper and followed a long list of attacks on U.S. properties and personnel overseas dating back to 1979, when Iran took U.S. embassy employees hostage.  It continued from there with the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon and a succession of other attacks thereafter, the most notable of which were the attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2001 and the attempt to bomb a Northwest Airlines flight from Copenhagen to Detroit on Christmas day 2009.
So, what’s the problem?  Are we at war or not?  And, if we are, why don’t we formally declare war and move on from there?  The obvious question is, “against whom?”  There is no easy answer to this, but how about starting with al Qaeda and any nation or group that gives them support or allows them to use their territory for training and staging attacks on other nations? 
As for declaring war, that’s the province of Congress, not the president, so why not move the process directly to the legislature where the issue can be openly debated, regardless of what the president may want?  Ultimately, the decision is up to them, not him.
My guess is that the American people would strongly favor debating and settling this issue once and for all.  We should eliminate any confusion about holding enemy combatants until the war ends and trying them in military tribunals or civilian courts, or killing an American who is openly waging war against his own country.
I know it’s a complicated and confusing issue, but no more than many others that are taken up by Congress.  Let them get everything out on the table for all to see and discuss, then decide – so we can go forward with a clear understanding of the alternatives, good and bad, which hopefully would unify the nation behind a single, clear-cut policy.
The problem with the current situation is that it allows our enemies, al Qaeda, Muslim fundamentalists and others, such as Iran, to capitalize on our confusion and adapt their strategy accordingly, while we can’t seem to agree on how to respond.
As long as we continue to allow our enemies to exploit our vacillation and indecision, there are sure to be more attempts to attack our homeland, some of which are bound to succeed.  To succeed, they only have to be right once, while to prevent them we must be right 100% of the time.
I believe we should push Congress to debate the issue and vote up or down for an open declaration of war on our enemies.
© 2010 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Read more of Harris Sherline’s commentaries on his blog at www.opinionfest.com
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