AP NEWS

California Editorial Rdp

April 4, 2018

April 3

The Fresno Bee on rolling back progress toward cleaner cars:

For decades California has used its market power and its policy innovation to push America toward a cleaner energy future. But the Trump administration seems just as determined to drag America backward to more dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

While expected, the official announcement Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency is rolling back landmark fuel economy rules is still sweeping in its significance — and stunning in its stupidity.

Copying a 2002 California law, President Barack Obama in 2011 announced a deal with U.S. and foreign automakers (including some that had just received a federal bailout) to have cars and light trucks average 54.5 miles a gallon by 2025. That would save drivers money at the pump, reduce carbon emissions and push automakers to build cleaner vehicles.

The fuel standards represent the most sweeping action the federal government has taken to reduce greenhouse gases, and they are essential for California to meet its goals on reducing carbon emissions.

Now, the EPA — which under Scott Pruitt is fast becoming an oxymoron — plans to come up with lower fuel standards. As usual, President Donald Trump and his cabinet are paying far more attention to the complaints of corporate CEOs, who want to sell more profitable gas-guzzlers, than the best interests of those “forgotten” average Americans to whom they give so much lip service, who just want breathable air and commutes they can afford.

This is the administration that pulled the U.S. out of the historic Paris climate change accord, that wants to allow drilling offshore and that seeks to reopen unneeded coal mines.

Just as on so many other big issues of the day, this will end up in court — particularly if, as expected, the EPA seeks to rescind the waiver that lets California impose stricter fuel standards under the Clean Air Act. A dozen other states followed California’s lead, but automakers want only one national standard.

Gov. Jerry Brown and Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, quickly made clear that the state will defend its clean vehicle standards. This is a legal battle that California must do all it can to win.

The stakes could hardly be higher, as pointed out in a joint statement from Brown, the governors of Oregon and Washington and the mayors of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland and Seattle.

“Our job as governors and mayors is to boost our region’s economic opportunities and to make our cities and states cleaner and healthier for our residents and businesses,” they said. “This decision does the exact opposite, making America more dependent on oil while putting more lives at risk from pollution and shortchanging consumers at the pump.”

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April 3

Los Angeles Times on it taking more than Trump’s ranting and tweet attack to fix immigration:

President Trump has spent part of the last three days issuing blustery tweets over an annual caravan of mostly Central American migrants moving northward through Mexico, many of them heading for the U.S. border. The caravan, which dates back a decade, was designed to create something of a herd approach to safety — traveling in large numbers makes it harder for criminal predators and immigration enforcers to act. But it also was conceived by the organizers, Pueblo sin Fronteras (People Without Borders) to draw attention to the plight of people fleeing violence in places such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Now President Trump has helped make their protest for them by drawing global attention to what otherwise likely would have been a minor story, while incoherently savaging Mexico and Honduras (where most of the caravan marchers reportedly are from), threatening aid programs and, again, vowing to end the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border, had better be stopped before it gets there,” Trump posted Tuesday morning. “Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen.”

Had the president paused to think about the ramifications of reducing aid to Honduras, he might have realized that it would only serve to further destabilize the country, adding more impetus for people to flee. Meanwhile, the Mexican government appears to have intercepted the main part of the caravan, turning some members around and discussing humanitarian visas for others.

Mexico has stepped up its efforts in recent years to slow the flow of migrants across its country. During the humanitarian crisis that began in 2014 of unaccompanied minors traversing Mexico from Central America to seek asylum in the United States, President Obama sent trainers and equipment to help Mexico beef up enforcement at its southern border with Guatemala. Last year alone Mexico stopped 82,000 Central Americans from moving north, and from October 2014 to May 2015, Mexico detained more Central Americans than the U.S. Border Patrol caught crossing in from Mexico.

Trump’s string of hyperbolic tweets about the caravan fits the president’s pattern of recklessly disregarding the truth to score political points. Here, his goal seems to be to turn a larger-than-usual, but utterly manageable, protest into an unprecedented border crisis. Witness his comment at the White House on Monday about possibly sending troops to the southern border, as if we were about to be overrun by Mongol invaders.

The number of migrants may seem large — estimates of the size of the caravan have run from 1,200 to 1,500 people — but many of its members say they intend to seek asylum in Mexico. In fact, by Tuesday morning, the group was already starting to splinter. And even the original number is no more than what border agents might see coming into the United States on a typical day. The Border Patrol reported detaining nearly 37,000 people just in February along the Southwest border. Adding a few hundred more people seeking asylum is hardly a flood.

Ultimately, Trump’s tirade amounts to little more than a bit of showboating for his nativist loyalists and an attempt to divert the rest of the public’s attention from the latest ration of scandals and missteps, from the ongoing Mueller investigation to the costly tariffs China just imposed on U.S. pork, fruit and other exports in retaliation for Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. But the president’s bluster won’t get him anywhere on immigration reform. Trump announced the death of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program (prematurely; it continues while a legal challenge proceeds) and again blamed the Democrats in Congress, even though he rejected serious legislative proposals to grant relief to immigrants who have lived here without permission after arriving as children.

Immigration is vital to the country’s future, but the system has been dysfunctional for years, leaving some 11 million immigrants living and working in the shadows. It’s a thorny issue freighted with ethnic and class politics, one that will take a knowledgeable and savvy leader trusted by the left and the right to fix. Here’s hoping such a person runs for president in 2020, because such leadership clearly is beyond Trump’s skill set.

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April 3

The San Diego Union-Tribune on why tech giants’ privacy problem could get bigger — and haunt them:

Public anger over how tech giants stockpile and cash in on users’ information exploded last month with the revelation that the data firm hired by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign — Cambridge Analytica — was able to access and evaluate the Facebook user data of an estimated 50 million people without their permission. Criticized over the fact that this improperly accessed information was mined to get votes for Donald Trump and to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Facebook’s initial response was tone-deaf. Executives minimized what had happened and objected to the Guardian’s use of the term “data breach,” reinforcing the view that Facebook and other tech giants don’t take privacy protections seriously enough.

Given the risk of an even bigger public backlash, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s advice to tech giants is as good as it gets. On Monday, she told a Silicon Valley audience that Facebook and other social media platforms had better “fix” their scandalous behavior or face government intervention. As a starting point for change, Feinstein said, these tech media firms need to stop depicting themselves as providers of “benign” tools and stop saying they shouldn’t be held responsible for nefarious uses of the tools, such as by the Russian operatives who spread misinformation about U.S. elections.

There are indications that some tech leaders are already willing to accept big changes for having access to big data. First, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said privacy tools would be easier to access as part of a multipronged effort to restore trust. Tuesday, he said Facebook had deleted hundreds of accounts associated with Russian hackers.

But the immense problem for these social media giants is that in the 17 days since the Cambridge Analytica story broke, still more news has come out that underlines the companies’ rapaciousness and their determination to monetize every scrap of information they can stockpile on anyone.

The first scoop came March 24, when Ars Technica reported that until October of last year, Facebook had been surreptitiously tracking phone calls and text messages by users of Android phones. Facebook, as always, downplayed what had been done and suggested the data scraping was OK because it had been authorized by users of its Messenger Android application. But as Ars Technica detailed, there’s little evidence users understood this. In a world with 2 billion-plus Android phones — it’s by far the world’s most popular phone operating system — and tens of millions of Android Messenger downloads, this is another immense data breach, no matter how Facebook defines the term.

The second scoop came March 31, when The New York Times detailed the audacity of Amazon’s and Google’s plans to use digital assistants and other devices to gather mass troves of information on what goes on inside the homes of users. An Amazon patent application described how an overheard “phone call between two friends could result in one receiving an offer for the San Diego Zoo and the other seeing an ad for a Wine of the Month Club membership.” A Google patent application described how browsing, audio and visual clues — including a T-shirt on a floor of the user’s closet depicting Will Smith — could lead to recommendations about the actor’s new movie playing locally.

This may sound OK to some people looking for tailored recommendations on how to lead their lives. But it doesn’t take a paranoid imagination to see that an immense database of personal information could be used for bad causes as well as good — and that the wholesale death of individual privacy is a high price to pay for tech tools, no matter how much we love them. If companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google don’t heed Feinstein and adopt better consumer safeguards, they invite more distrust from users and politicians — and risk regulators limiting their independence.

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April 2

Chico Enterprise-Record on Pacific Gas and Electric’s wildfire plan:

Whipped by the wine country’s wildfires in 2017 and the California Public Utilities Commission’s orders, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company is revamping its efforts during fire season.

Last month the utility proposed dramatic steps in front of California’s never-ending wildfire season.

Not fully in place, the steps still have an eye-opening impact. Certainly the most alarming is the idea of cutting power to regions “during extreme fire conditions.”

The idea is that if a fire downs a nonelectrified pole, the lines can’t ignite another fire.

The year 2017 was devastating for wildfires in California, most notably in the wine country with nearly 8,900 homes and structures, including wineries, destroyed.

Butte County suffered as well, but not to that extent. We lost 240 homes and structures, along with roughly 25,000 acres charred.

Wildfires are frequently caused by downed power lines. Without details, PG&E unveiled new strategies, explaining that power poles would be covered in retardant or replaced with metal, among other actions. Then there’s the idea of cutting power during red flag conditions.

The public would be told in advance of any such action, PG&E said.

Pushed by the CPUC, PG&E has rushed to get strategies in place for this year, but maybe it’s created too much ambiguity.

That announcement caused deep concern among some Butte County residents, especially older ones who feared losing power during a critical time and not getting enough advance notice of it.

What constitutes “extreme fire conditions”?

And if necessary, residents would be evacuated to safety centers. What prompts an evacuation and who decides whether to evacuate?

Cutting off power during a wildfire is not without controversy. San Diego Gas and Electric Co. cut power to 17,000 residents during the Lilac Fire in December. San Diego County supervisors demanded a post-fire investigation, saying that residents on wells could not pump water to fight their fires or provide water to their farm animals.

In a letter to the CPUC, one county supervisor noted that the utility’s customers were still charged during the power outage, according to a news report. In response, the power company said bills would be adjusted.

The utility has the right to cut power, but in the case of the Lilac Fire, residents may not have anticipated the action and could not prepare alternatives.

We’re anxious to hear more of the plans, especially in the areas where there are critical gaps of information, like how long the power could be out. That’s why we hope PG&E will be forthcoming with that information.

The more time that residents are given to prepare before an emergency, the better.

This also is a wake-up call to those living in the fire-prone foothills to start thinking about what this could mean to them.

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March 30

San Francisco Chronicle on Marshall Tuck being best fit for California state superintendent:

Nothing is more important to the future of California than our children. Nothing is more important than ensuring the next generation is well educated to take our state into the new economy. This makes the voters’ decision on the next state superintendent of public instruction, who oversees the day-to-day experiences in our public schools, absolutely crucial.

The next superintendent must have the skills to identify the problems that keep too many students from accessing the on-ramp to success, the vision of how to address those problems and the tenacity to bring about much-needed change.

In other words, California needs a committed reformer at the helm.

Truancy, chronic absenteeism among students and high turnover among teachers and administrators are derailing effective learning in our elementary and high schools. The status quo is failing too many of our kids.

The three active candidates in the June primary acknowledge these problems.

Marshall Tuck is the clearest and most emphatic voice for reform in the field. We endorsed him for this office in 2014, when he narrowly lost to Tom Torlakson, and we are glad to see him return to the fight to take on a system that “just doesn’t work for kids.”

Tuck made a name for himself in Los Angeles turning around high-poverty, low-performing charter schools before then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recruited him to improve schools within the conventional public school system. He spent two years with the New Teacher Center, a national organization in Santa Cruz that works to improve student learning by training new teachers and school leaders to be more effective. He says California needs to invest more in in education and that educators need to share with the governor and legislators how state policies are affecting kids.

Social worker Tony Thurmond served as trustee on the West Contra Costa County School Board before being elected to the state Assembly. The son of a Panamanian immigrant mother who died when he was 6, he landed in foster care and went through school with the assistance of a slew of government programs.

Thurmond has a compelling personal story, and there is no doubt about the depth of his knowledge of the issues or the sincerity of his belief that “education saves lives.”

Where Thurmond falls short, however, is evidence of his willingness to take on the status quo when its comfort zone conflicts with the interests of students. A prime example was legislation last year (AB1220) that would have extended the number of years required for teachers to earn tenure from two to three. It must be emphasized that this was not an assault by right-wingers contemptuous of public education. It was a Democratic proposal (by Shirley Weber of San Diego) that would have put California in line with 42 states that keep new teachers on probation from three to five years.

Even this watered-down bill was opposed by the California Teachers Association.

Thurmond told us he supports a longer probationary period, but when it came time to vote, he was nowhere to be found. He failed to vote on AB1220 in both his Education Committee and on the Assembly floor on a tenure-reform bill that passed 60-5, then was killed by parliamentary games from legislators doing the union’s bidding.

A legislator who won’t stand up to the status quo when it counts does not belong in charge of the state Department of Education.

Former Solano Community College administrator Lily Ploski brings impressive academic credentials to the job but does not have the track record of Tuck in turning around challenged schools. Her austere campaign also is unlikely to make her competitive in a statewide race.

Tuck has demonstrated the skills and vision to bring about needed change. He gets our endorsement.

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