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True North Archives - January 15, 2008
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Religion Resurgent
By Robert Maynard

Last week in an article entitled "A New Dark Age?", I explored the notion presented in Mark Steyn’s book "America Alone: the End of The World As We Know It". According to Mr. Steyn, the combination of a demographically prolific Islam, coupled with their strong cultural confidence, presents a major long term threat to a western civilization that is in demographic decline and is paralyzed by self doubt. He considers the cause already lost in Europe and sees America as standing alone in defending the values of a civilization that brought us the notion of human rights, technological progress and unprecedented economic development. This is a battle of demographic numbers and will, which could result in a coming dark age if America is to lose it. As Steyn points out, while the developed world used to have a 30% to 15% edge in demographic numbers as a percentage of total world population, the numbers are now about equal at 20% each. The trend is tilting even more in favor of radical Islam as time goes by. This picture does tend to look a little bleak until one accounts for other demographic trends not explored my Mr. Steyn.

"Freedom and Unity": Enough of the Latter, More of the Former
By Tom Licata

Having just watched the Governor’s "State of the State" address and the Democrats' response, the coming gridlock in this legislative session will not have the deleterious effect that it may appear to be bringing.  This is because most of the damage has already been done in prior sessions.

Over time, tax revenues are determined by economic and productivity growth.  Most of Vermont's Legislators, while our Governor holds his finger in the dike to temper their tantrums - are like children - in that they will continue to go on kicking and screaming, refusing to accept this reality.  Government fiscal responsibility requires not only compassion and a sense of fairness, but also an understanding of personal responsibility and an acceptance of the human sprit's thirst for freedom.  But, this is anathema to the collectivists’ sprit. Without freedom’s thirst, this government will continue to produce its demoralized dependents.

The Trust-Funder Economy III
By Martin Harris

Rural gentrification also showed its economic power in northern New England: all three States, once solidly conservative, frugal, minimal-governance places with a popular culture of little spending and less talking, are now solidly "Blue" with soaring levels of taxation and regulation, a parallel pattern in property values, and a resulting departure of the less-well-endowed locals in response to the decline in both economic and social factors as the gentrification pattern proceeds. Except for the fact that the houses are a lot farther apart, what has happened in Maine, Vermont, and most recently New Hampshire is indistinguishable from what happened in Georgetown. There, it was at the time openly referred to as a socio-economic revolution: using more recent international language, it might be called a ‘cleansing’. Basic principle: if you have the wherewithal to buy in and raise the cost of living, the locals won’t be able to stay.

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"Attempts to prevent global climate change from occurring are ultimately futile, and constitute a tragic misallocation of resources that would be better spent on humanity’s real and pressing problems."-- Key Quote from Scientists’ Letter to UN – in The National Post, Dec. 13, 2007

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Hide The Silverware ... the Legislature is Back in Session
From, January 08, 2008

It is early and so we hear the usual bromides:

"I am going to work hard, as I have in the past, to find common ground," the governor said.

"We agree on a lot of major priorities," Shumlin said. "I think he is going to find a Legislature willing to work with him to get the job done."

Sure. Meanwhile, back on planet Montpelier, real life will again prevail.  Water will not run uphill and Chuck Norris will not become a pacifist.  Still, to borrow some ecclesiastical language:  Things that should be done, will not be done; and things that should not be done, will be done. Already, Senator Peter Shumlin -- arguably the most powerful Democrat in a heavily Democratic legislature -- is saying that there is no hope for property tax relief or reform of the way the state funds education.

A Stand For Open Government
Caledonian Record Editorial, January 08, 2008

Advocates for secrecy cite Secretary of State Deb Markowitz's argument that, "Decisions should be made outside political influence." Her argument is not persuasive. Secret sessions prevent citizens from judging whether the deliberations are free of political influence. Without outside access to the deliberations, citizens don't know if the deliberative process is free of prejudice.

Red flags fly concerning Campaign Finance bill
By Rob Roper, VT-GOP, January 11, 2007

If the campaign finance bill, S.278, is passed by the Vermont Legislature as it is, a predicted result is a Supreme Court battle that could end with the elimination of all campaign finance regulation whatsoever.

Alan Gilbert of the ACLU and Attorney James Bopp testified before the Senate Government Operations Committee today. Gilbert cautioned, "You always have to consider your chance of winning [another lawsuit]. If you bring a lawsuit and it goes against you, you could actually make the situation worse."

Recent judgments by the Supreme Court that further restrict government regulation in First Amendment cases caused concern that S.278 could ultimately provide the platform for the Court to eliminate governments’ ability to regulate political speech entirely.

Gilbert’s testimony followed that of James Bopp, the attorney who argued and won the landmark First Amendment case, Randall v. Sorrell, striking down Vermont’s previous campaign finance law (Act 64) with its spending and contribution limits. Subsequently, Bopp won another Supreme Court Case, Wisconsin Right to Life v FEC, striking down as unconstitutional limits on electioneering communications. In the case of this latest bill, Bopp told the committee, "S.278 is not complying with the Constitution, but defying the Constitution."

Rob Roper, Chairman of the Vermont Republican Party said, "The Democrats and VPIRG are essentially teeing up another softball for the Roberts Court to knock out of the park."

Look Big Brother: "No Hands!"
From, January 11, 2008

Let’s put Efficiency Vermont in perspective. They are taking after-tax dollars from every Vermonter paying a utility bill and even more from businesses. They then redistribute these dollars in the form of advice, which for the majority of people contributing to their budget consists of: "buy some energy efficient bulbs, clean your furnace filter, and don’t complain about the sneaky way we’re funded." Every once in a while someone with a golden ticket lands the chocolate factory tour and is rewarded with a comprehensive energy audit and solutions to increase efficiency. While I’m certainly an advocate of efficiency, I’m a little chagrined to know that I’m paying for someone else’s energy audit. If a business or individual suspects that their 40 year-old blast freezer needs updating it should be their responsibility to make the necessary changes. We are officially sponsoring energy efficiency welfare in Vermont, the obvious effect of which will be to distort the effect rational consumers have on the market place.

Symington: Moderate Success OK, Too Much Success Bad
Caledonian Record Editorial, January 09, 2008

House Speaker Gaye Symington has decided a little bit of tax revenue from a moderately successful lottery is just fine, but a lot of tax revenue from the lottery would be a very bad thing.

The Prebate Paradox: Wendy Wilton on Who Really Pays
From, January 09, 2008

Property tax adjustments, or prebates, represent more than 10% of the Ed Fund's $1.238 billion expenditure, according to the Ed Fund Outlook from the Joint Fiscal Office. In 2007 this money was sent to Vermont’s municipalities, rather than directly to recipient taxpayers as part of Act 185.  This created a controversy about the privacy of tax bill information as the amount of the subsidy is now printed on the tax bill for those who receive prebates.  In addition to the privacy issue, cost and fairness issues effecting taxpayers should be addressed by the legislature.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

Al Qaeda on the Ropes in Pakistan
By Ray Robison, The American Thinker, January 11, 2008

Open tribal warfare in remote areas of Pakistan has the potential of scoring a major success in the War on Terror. As pointed out here at AT yesterday, indicators point to the beginning of the civil war between Taliban tribes predicted here at the American Thinker. Two prominent leaders, Taliban chiefs find themselves at bloody conflict instigated by al Qaeda operators. The fault line between al Qaeda allied Taliban and MMA/Musharraf allied Taliban has ruptured.

While the outward appearance of a civil war may be gloomy on purely humanistic terms, it is a positive development when viewed for what it is: our enemies killing each other off. If we look a little bit down the road, we can see the pros and cons. ...

The end state I predict by the end of the year is a serious reduction of the power of the jihad block in Pakistan as it tears itself apart, a strong alliance among the democratic reformers and the military block, the serious reduction of the Afghanistan conflict (after an up tick possibly) and the capture of at least a few core al Qaeda leaders. 

Hezbollah's Billion Petrodollars
By Walid Phares, Human Events, January 11, 2008

A few weeks ago, articles published around the world reported that Hezbollah is undergoing two major changes. Both portend greater violence from the Iranian-sponsored global terrorist network. 

The first change is a shift in leadership responsibilities. A report published initially in the Saudi owned Sharq al Awsat said the office of Ayatollah Khomenei appointed deputy secretary general Sheikh Naim Qassim as the new supreme commander of Hezbollah forces and the personal representative of the Ayatollah in Lebanon. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, according to this report remains as secretary general of the organization. Sources said this change in control and command is because of "differences in opinions" between Narsrallah and Qassim...

The second major change according to these reports Hezbollah is a huge increase in annual budget funded by Tehran.  Hezbollah’s funding was elevated from $400 million US to $1 billion. This ballistic leap would enable the organization to crush any opponent inside Lebanon and engage in worldwide operations against Western Democracies and Arab moderates. According to experts in Lebanon, the $400 millions figure was enough to pay for hundreds of social centers and thousands of salaries enough to insure a full control over the Shia community, its representatives in Parliament and buy significant influence inside the Sunni, Druze and particularly Christian community. One hundred million dollars alone, could pay for the activities of movements opposed to the Cedars Revolution and the democratically elected Government of Seniora.

De-Baathification Measure passes Iraqi Parliament
By Rick Moran, The American Thinker, January 12, 2008

A measure designed to allow thousands of Sunni Muslims who served under Saddam Hussein to regain their employment in the Iraqi government has passed the parliament today: ... Without a doubt, this is the most significant political development in Iraq since the invasion. It was always first on the list of demands made by Sunnis before any kind of reconciliation would be talked about. And the American government had been pushing the measure for years. The holdup had always been a lack of trust by Shias that Sunnis wouldn't try to take over the government as well as a belief that those Baathists guilty of war crimes or crimes against Iraqis should not be rewarded.

Ex-Leaders of Islamic Charity Are Convicted
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, January 12, 2008

Three former leaders of an Islamic charity were convicted on federal tax and fraud charges in Boston yesterday for using tax exemptions to hide support for religious militants and alleged terrorists overseas. 

Iraq: We've Penetrated AQI -- But Apparently Not The American Media
From Captain’s Quarters, January 12, 2008

At the same time that the Iraqi National Assembly passed its long-awaited de-Ba'athification reform, the security services have apparently cracked al-Qaeda's organization in the country. Muslim World News, a Muslim news agency in India, reports that the Iraqi Interior Ministry formed a unit recently dedicated to attacking AQI and will shortly take out the entire structure (via AJ Strata): ...

This certainly matches the latest developments in Iraq. The US launched a major offensive this week against AQI with an unprecedented use of airpower. That indicates a confidence in intelligence that had mostly gone unnoticed in most media reports. The US would have relied on infantry had it been less confident of the targeting on AQI assets around Baghdad.

It's interesting that this news got reported by an outfit called Muslim World News. So far, I have not seen this in media outlets named Washington Post or the New York Times. The statement itself seems provocative enough to at least have reported it here in the US, as it seems a lot more relevant here than in India. 

Communists Appease Muslims, Attack Christians in West Bengal (India)
From News Post India, January 12, 2008

The BJP today alleged that the CPI(M) in Kerala was "appeasing" the muslim community while it was "attacking" the Christians. Party National Secretary Balbir Punj lashed out at the CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan for lauding various muslim organisations while flaying the church for not coming to the negotiating table to discuss fears over reglious freedom for muslim students and other provision of Kerala Education Rules (KER) norms.

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From Elsewhere

Why I Am Not Using the R-word This Time
By Alan Reynolds, The Cato Institute

Oil prices were rising before each of those recessions, as Prof Hamilton rightly noted. That, in turn, leads us back to that controversy with Mr Bernanke about whether it was rising oil prices per se that caused recessions, or whether focusing too much on energy prices rather than core inflation may have misled the Fed into keeping interest rates too high for too long in, say, 1991 and 2000. In 2007, by contrast, the Fed stopped chasing higher oil prices with higher interest rates. As a result, the US embarked on a fascinating new experiment in which oil prices and interest rates were moving in different directions for a change.

If the emphasis on oil prices in Prof Hamilton's 1983 study is correct, the US economy is likely to slip into recession because of higher energy costs alone, regardless of what the Fed does. If Mr Bernanke's 1997 study is right, timely reductions in the Fed funds rate should avert such a recession. The bad news is that if oil prices fall sharply this year, as I expect, we may not get a clear answer to that old debate. The good news is that if both oil prices and central bank interest rates are heading down, neither of the academic economists' most reliable predictors will be signalling recession.

The Real McCain Record
Obstacles in the Way of Conservative Support
By Mark R. Levin, National Review, January 11, 2008

There’s a reason some of John McCain's conservative supporters avoid discussing his record. They want to talk about his personal story, his position on the surge, his supposed electability. But whenever the rest of his career comes up, the knee-jerk reply is to characterize the inquiries as attacks.

The McCain domestic record is a disaster. To say he fought spending, most particularly earmarks, is to nibble around the edges and miss the heart of the matter.

Psychology's Anticivilizing Influence on the West
By Reginald Firehammer, The Automist

Society and culture are influenced by the dominant philosophy of any age, but the influence is indirect, and there is always some lag between a dominant philosophical view of the intellectuals and that same philosophical view permeating popular society, and as that philosophy moves from the halls of academia to the popular press and media and into the realm of the public schools and popular entertainment, it is modified in ways that often make its origins difficult to see, which is one reason for this series of articles.

It is my intention to show how the philosophical ideas originating with Hume made their way into popular society through each of these threads and also to show how each of these threads reinforces these ideas in the others. While each of these threads were related in their origin, they have come down to us as separate influences, but have today largely merged. Psychology is used to determine teaching methods, and the subjects being emphasized are mostly sociology and humanism, and humanism uses the language of both sociology and psychology. Postmodernism is taught in every school, only its called critical thinking and deconstruction. All of these are couched in the language of PC Multiculturalism which is just popularized cultural Marxism, and it was the cultural Marxists who planned and foresaw all of this.

The First Broken Promise
New York PostEditorial, January 12, 2008

How about that Hillary Clinton: She's already breaking her campaign promises - and she doesn't even have her party's presidential nomination yet. Clinton yesterday reneged on her vow to explain how she'll "pay for everything" she proposes when she pushed a whopping $110 billion "economic stimulus" package - and offered no fund source to underwrite its cost. ...

"I happen to think in running a disciplined campaign - especially when it comes to fiscal responsibility, which is what I'm trying to do - everything I propose, I have to pay for," she vowed. ...

Well, not every single proposal, it turns out. ... There's a four-letter word for that kind of invisible-money financing: D-E-B-T. (That, or hiking taxes - which she has promised to do in other contexts, but is silent about on this one.) ... Clearly, Hillary's plan is meant as one big pander, a way for her to buy votes, as key primaries - e.g., South Carolina and Nevada - draw near. ... For now, however, consider Clinton a real leader. When it comes to speedy backtracking on campaign vows - even in such critical areas as fiscal responsibility - Hillary now leads the pack.

Unhappy Birthday
By Neal McCluskey, The Cato Institute

Today the No Child Left Behind Act turns six, and even as President Bush and other supporters sing "Happy Birthday," the time has come to blow out the candles on it for good. Since NCLB's enactment in 2002, its supporters have been quick to credit it for anything even resembling improvement in American education, whether upticks in history knowledge (with which the law doesn't deal), or improved math and reading scores. President Bush typified the whole always-declare-success strategy at an NCLB birthday bash Monday in Chicago when, at the outset of his speech, he declared simply, "I know No Child Left Behind has worked."

Like the president, supporters ultimately point to modest overall increases in the mathematics and reading scores of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, as well as decreasing black-white "achievement gap" numbers, to support claims of NCLB's effectiveness. And overall scores on NAEP — the so-called "Nation's Report Card" — have indeed generally inched up under NCLB while achievement gaps have decreased.

However, these superficial statistics in no way prove that NCLB has worked.

For one thing, so many reforms have been implemented at the same time as NCLB — school-choice programs, merit pay, smaller schools — that it's impossible to know how much NCLB has been responsible for anything. But suppose NCLB could get credit. An objective analysis suggests that the law is probably worse than the unimpressive status quo it replaced. NAEP reading and mathematics scores were generally inching up faster in the years immediately prior to NCLB than they have since, and achievement gaps were closing more quickly. In addition, recent results from two international exams — the Program for International Student Assessment and the Program on International Reading Literacy Survey — showed U.S. scores either stagnating or declining. Oh, and spending on NCLB programs has increased by over 40 percent since 2001, rising from $17 billion to over $24 billion.

GOP Candidates Go Supply-Side
Big-bang tax cuts are finally getting their due on the campaign trail
By Larry Kudlow, National Review, January 11, 2008

The New Hampshire primary may not have confirmed who’s going to win the GOP nomination (or the Democratic nomination for that matter). But it just may have told us where voting Republicans stand on the economy and supply-side policy. Exit polls in New Hampshire reveal that the most important issue for Republican voters is the economy at 31 percent, trailed by the war in Iraq at 24 percent, illegal immigration at 23 percent, and terrorism at 18 percent.

Overall, 54 percent of New Hampshire voters said that reducing the budget deficit is the highest priority for the next president, while 44 percent believe in cutting taxes. And it’s from here that an interesting split develops between Sen. John McCain and Gov. Mitt Romney. While McCain leads Romney 41 percent to 21 percent on the economy, McCain is the voters’ deficit-cutter of choice while Romney is the voters’ tax-cutter of choice.

The Democrats' Fairy Tale
By William Kristol, The New York Times, January 14, 2008

When President Bush announced the surge of troops ... Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Democratic Congressional leaders predicted failure. Obama ... told Larry King that he didn't believe additional U.S. troops would "make a significant dent in the sectarian violence that's taking place there." Then in April, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, asserted that "this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything." In September, Clinton told Gen. David Petraeus that his claims of progress in Iraq required a "willing suspension of disbelief."

Yesterday, on "Meet the Press," Hillary Clinton claimed that the Iraqis are changing their ways in part because of the Democratic candidates' "commitment to begin withdrawing our troops in January of 2009." So the Democratic Party, having proclaimed that the war is lost and having sought to withdraw U.S. troops, deserves credit for any progress that may have been achieved in Iraq.

That is truly a fairy tale. ...

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