January 2010

The unexpected victory by Scott Brown in last week’s Massachusetts special election to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy last year has cast a pall for the Democrats over tonight’s State of the Union address.

Just a few weeks ago the White House was preparing for what they thought was the guaranteed passage of the president’s health care reform package and the retention of a Senate seat that has been in Democrat hands since 1952.

Well what a difference a few weeks make.

The Democrats not only lost the Kennedy seat but in doing so they may have lost the health care battle.  Scott Brown campaigned on the fact he would be the 41st vote against health care and there is no doubt that he will keep his promise.  In the meantime the Democrats who have been trying to work some back room deals in order to get a bill to the president have been bickering over what to do leaving the president little choice but to go ahead with his first State of the Union speech without the benefit of his key prop.

Now the president is left with trying t convince the American public that we are on the right track despite an unemployment rate that has risen to a twenty-six year high throwing another four million people out of work that has contributed to a rising tide of home foreclosures despite the administration having thrown billions of dollars at the industry in an effort to stem the flow.

Obama will also have to defend his $787 billion stimulus program which has failed to create the jobs or stimulate the economy as promised while running up a deficit that topped $1 trillion last year and will do so again in the current fiscal year.

So what is Obama’s answer to the deficit?  It is to freeze spending except for certain areas that are deemed essential.  This is from a man who previously said that spending freeze’s don’t work.  That’s one thing he has right.  With all the exceptions to the freeze and working from inflated baseline figures the budget will grow while tax revenues continue to lag.

We don’t need a spending freeze, we need spending cuts combined with tax cuts to stimulate the economy.

The Democrats who just a year ago were brimming with confidence and optimism that the 2008 election results would cement their power for decades to come thanks to Obama’s promises of bipartisanship and transparency are now fighting amongst themselves as they watch their health care bill die an ignominious death and face the prospect that they will lose control of the House in November.

For Barack Obama a night that was supposed to be a celebration of his first year in office has turned into a fight to regain the public’s confidence in him and his party.

In less than one month after the much hyped U.N. Climate Change Conference much of Europe and parts of the U.S. were hit by a series of snowstorms and cold weather that has frayed nerves and cost businesses thousands of dollars in lost business and productivity and in the case of  farmers in Ireland over $20 million at last count in ruined potatoes and produce.

How bad has this winter been so far?  According to the New York Times Grenoble France received almost a foot of snow, something they haven’t seen in 20 years,  Spain was forced to bring in the Army to clear roads, 100,000 people in Poland lost power and the Eurostar train that runs from Paris to London was forced to run only one train in each direction  due to harsh weather conditions.

Germany which hailed Obama during his presidential campaign and has been quick to endorse the cutting of carbon emissions now finds itself facing up to $3 billion of losses due to snow and cold temperatures.

But does all this cold weather mean that global warming or climate change is a hoax as conservatives charge?  Yes and no.  For me a cold winter is no more an example that global warming is a hoax as a very hot summer means that the earth’s temperature is warming and that we are headed for disaster.

What it does prove is that temperatures and climate are cyclical.  Remember we get El Nino bringing in especially hot weather in some years and La Nina is accompanied by cooler weather in others.

That is what the left though fails to recognize as they constantly preach their message that we have to take drastic and costly action now otherwise we will face as Al Gore said a twenty foot wall of water coming down on us.

And what about David Viner a senior research scientist at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Britain who predicted this in 2000.

Britain’s winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain’s culture, as warmer winters – which scientists are attributing to global climate change – produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

He also added that “Children won’t know what snow is.”  Well they certainly do now.

But we shouldn’t be too surprised at Viner’s  prediction since it came from the same outfit that is behind the Climategate e-mail scandal which has rocked the scientific world and thrown into doubt that global warming exists or that there is a consensus on the issue.

Al Gore and his ilk have been strangely silent during this latest cold snap but you can bet we will hear from them as soon as the thermometer begins to rise.

Pennsylvania became the latest state to require high school students to pass exit exams in order to graduate in an effort to ensure that students will be better prepared for college and the workplace.

At least that is the goal of educators in Pennsylvania but they are likely to find as have the other 26 states that also require some sort of exit exam that a large number of students would fail the tests and they too will have to lower the standards in order for students to graduate.

The students that are most affected by the exams tend to be minorities who are either in poor performing schools or those that are poor students themselves and have barely been getting by to begin with.

Yet rather than try and improve the quality of teaching (i.e. firing underperforming teachers) or hold back poor students until they can achieve basic proficiency in core subjects administrators have chosen to water down the tests so that graduation rates don’t plummet and tarnish their reputation.

Granted that other political forces are also at play here.  Minority advocates along with those of students with disabilities complain that the tests are unfair and have threatened to sue adding further pressure to educators efforts to make needed changes.

This is the same argument these people made about college entrance exams.  Guess what?  If you can’t pass a high school exit exam then you aren’t likely to do well on the SAT or ACT either.  This is nothing more than the remnants of outcome based education which was widely endorsed by the NEA that treated all students as if they had equal abilities and therefore they should progess at the same rate.  That meant that the smarter students were forced to slow down until the slower students could catch up which would rarely happen.  Combine this with the need to be politically correct and you have  a recipe for disaster.

Also it’s not like the students don’t have several opportunities to pass the exit exams either.  During my daughter’s senior year of high school in Maryland I was struck by how many times the exit exam was given.  Despite the very basic nature of the exam my daughter knew of several students who took the exam three to four times before they passed.  Minorities represented a majority of the student body but that didn’t mean they were stupid or disadvantaged as many of the graduates that year were going to Ivy league schools or other elite institutions.

Maryland went one step further though by creating a Bridge Plan where students who were unable to pass the exam would be given an alternative project to complete.

Rather than prepare students for college or the workplace by dumbing down the tests and therefore the diploma educators only make students feel that the world will adjust to their abilities instead of challenging them to adjust to the world.