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True North Archives - January 20, 2009
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Featured Articles

Predictions of Things to Come
By Martin Harris

If you conceive of the present fuel tax as a sort of user fee; if you recognize that funds need to come from somewhere for highway maintenance; if you don’t want all roads to become toll roads; and if you agree with the concept of user fees being more "fair" and logical than broad-based taxes; you should welcome rather than oppose a highway trust fund revenue source based on measured vehicle miles-usage rather than, say, another grasping hand molesting the income tax treasure-chest.

There are, of course, potholes in the road to user fees, as illustrated by Montpelier’s previous dips into what was supposed to be a lock-box highway trust fund dedicated solely to specific highway spending targets; but such misbehaviors with revenues are always possible under Vermont’s Golden Dome. Assuming such grabs can be kept in check, (and that user fees substitute for, and don’t add onto, general taxes) a policy move towards user fees for essential government services should be welcomed by taxpayers rather than resisted. I wouldn’t go so far as to argue that jail residents should be nominally billed for room and board (although I can conceive of a means-test compromise) but I would suggest that the user fee approach be extended into another tax-heavy area: public education.

The Blame Game
By Linda Haslam

Once again, there is warfare in the Gaza Strip. Once again, Israel is being criticized for using undue force as a means of protecting herself. I ask you, what would be a proper response if your neighbor began firing rockets at you just twelve days before Christmas? Could you wait for two weeks to respond? Could you hunker down and take the abuse from 200 rockets so that Christians making a pilgrimage to the West Bank city of Bethlehem would be safe?

How did Hamas get to be seen as the "underdog?" Almost two years ago, Hamas was killing Palestinian members of the Fatah party. Palestinian civilians were forced to flee for their lives as Hamas seized power in Gaza. Many of these refugees owe their lives to help from the Israelis. Still the media reminds us over and over again that Israel uses modern weapons while Hamas has to rely primarily on homemade bombs...

"Scribblings" - An Occasional Newsletter from the Legislature
By Rep. Thomas F. Koch Barre Town

Once again this week, I return to the talk of the Statehouse—the potential federal stimulus package and its effect on Vermont’s fiscal crisis.  On Tuesday, the state economists predicted a continuing recession, an additional revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year of $10 million, and a projected deficit for FY 2010 of $150 million.  Clearly, these are extremely serious times, and help from any source is welcome.  However, one must also be wary of the pitfalls.

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"The public expects too much from teachers because educationists have led it to believe teachers could be substitute parents, psychotherapists, cops, social workers, dieticians, nursemaids, babysitters, and nose wipers and still do a decent job teaching kids to read, write, and do math. Instead of saying no, educationists have added courses in environmental education, death education, personal hygiene, self-esteem, driver's ed, job readiness, sexual harassment, radon studies, yoga, yogurt awareness, and god-knows-what-else."

-- Charles Sykes, Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Iowa lures IBM and creates 1,300 jobs ... Why can't Vermont do this?
From The Burlington Free Press Blog

The Des Moines Register and the Wall Street Journal are reporting IBM will create 1,300 high-tech jobs in Dubuque over the next year and a half with a new technology service delivery center.

The news comes two days after the economist for Vermont's governor forecast 2,000 layoffs at IBM's Essex Junction, Vt. microelectronics plant over the next five years (400 job cuts a year).  About 5,300 people work at the plant now.  IBM spokesman Jeff Couture has cast doubt on the validity of that forecast.

Vermonters are, no doubt, wondering: Why couldn't this deal have been crafted in Vermont?

Related: Getting Vermont into the Running

A Perfect Storm Over Property Taxes Brewing
From The Caledonia Record January 15, 2009

A perfect storm over property taxes is brewing all over the country. Just as the wind grows to howling strength as the barometer plunges, property owners are outraged at property taxes rising while the value of their homes is plummeting, and they have reached the howling stage. In addition to the states that already have caps on property tax increases, New York, Georgia, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Indiana are actively discussing variations on similar caps. In Montana, Nevada and Arizona, citizen groups have organized to put property tax relief before the electorate.

The general collapse of the economy is forcing municipal and state officials to resort to higher property taxes to pay their bills. The worst bete noir in this financial legerdemain is to raise property value assessments. They, in turn, automatically hike the tax bills of property owners without any kind of public review.

More Scare Tactics
From Vermont Tiger, January 17, 2009

More talk of destroying our schools.  Harming our children.  Threatening the future of our democracy and our economic well being. A proposed state freeze and the renewed talk of replacing Act 60/68 have spurred more of the same scare rhetoric that we've been subject to with Act 82.

This from Rep. David Sharpe of Bristol:  "This leads to the ultimate question. Do we believe that public education is important to the survival of our democracy and the success of our economy?"

No, Rep. Sharpe, that's not the question.  The question is, how can the education bureaucracy more efficiently deliver a high quality education?

Related: Two-Vote Provision Keeps School Budgets Tight

Vermont Yankee, Carbon Credits, And Electricity Rates
From The Caledonia Record, January 13, 2009

In one of those paradoxes of the law, Vermont gets millions and millions of dollars a year for not doing something, in this case not producing carbon emissions in the production of electricity, 100 million tons since 1972. The money comes from neighboring states' utilities that do produce such carbon emissions and must pay for the privilege: we have carbon credits to sell; they have to buy them.

We didn't produce those carbon emissions quite simply because Vermont Yankee, our nuclear power plant, produces 40 percent of our power, and nuclear power plants don't emit carbon pollutants. Hence, we can sell our credits to others, and the proceeds, again in the millions of dollars annually, lower our electricity rates dramatically.

Protecting Vermont's Young Victims
From WCAX-TV, Jan 16, 2009

A key part of the sex crime bill that passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday aims to protect young victims from pretrial interrogation and pretrial depositions. And that part of the bill is triggering some controversy.

Economist forecasts IBM layoffs
From The Burlington Free Press, January 14th 2009

When economist Jeff Carr builds his economic forecast for the state, he estimates how many jobs the state will lose. Carr makes a special estimate for Vermont’s largest manufacturer, IBM.??

He projects the Essex Junction semiconductor plant will lay off 400 workers a year over the next five years. "I don’t know if that’s enough. That was before the latest rumors," he cautioned Tuesday.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

The Real Mid-East Conflict is Between Arab Nationalists and Islamists
By Barry Rubin, The Australian, January 16, 2009

Welcome to the new Middle East, characterised not just by the Arab-Israeli conflict, but by Arab nationalists versus Islamists. Recognising this reality, the Palestinian Authority and virtually all the Arab countries other than Iran's ally Syria, want to see Hamas defeated in the Gaza Strip.

Given their strong interest in thwarting Islamist revolutionary groups, especially those aligned with Iran, the Arab states are not inclined to listen to the "Arab street", which is far quieter than it was during previous conflicts, such as the 1991 war in Kuwait, the 2000-04 Palestinian uprising or the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.

Today's Middle East is very different from the old one in many significant ways. First, the internal politics of every Arab country revolves around a battle between Arab nationalist rulers and a radical Islamist opposition.

'Iranians Are Pro-Israel' - Part I
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, Israeli National News, January 12, 2009

An Iranian pro-democracy activist tells Israel National News that the image of Persians as fanatical fundamentalist Muslims is, for the most part, incorrect. However, he warns, the people of Iran will most likely join together in opposing any attack on their country out of a deep sense of patriotism. ...

The day before Khamenei's televised appearance, a communique came out of Iran from a previously unknown organization called the Iranian Student Movement for Freedom claiming that Iranian students are not signing up for the Gazan jihad. "Claiming that the Iranian students are signing up to become martyrs is yet another attempt by the Iranian regime to force the world into believing that the Iranian people support the Islamic regime's global terror," says the communique.

Israel National News turned to Amil Imani, an Iranian-born pro-democracy activist currently living in the United States, for an insight into the true picture within Iran at this critical time. Imani is a widely published columnist, with articles appearing in the popular New Media Journal, American Thinker, Faith Freedom International, and this publication as well. He has also been on hundreds of radio talk shows across the world, including BBC World News.

Four Traps for Obama
By James Lewis, American Thinker, January 14, 2009

Obama wants to make his mark domestically, and keep foreign policy stable and at a distance, at least in the first few years. That's why he brought in Hillary and her merry band to run foreign policy. But this won't work. Foreign challenges started to emerge as soon as Obama was elected. Vladimir Putin is threatening Ukraine's gas supplies. He has no compunction about invading neighboring countries, as he did with Georgia. The Europeans, in their usual shameful and cowardly way, will immediately call on the US to respond.

Ahmadinejad will explode his first nuke in the next two years. The Arabs oil countries will look to the US to protect them. Add the North Koreans and lots of pressure from Arabs who have apparently invested money in the Obama campaign.

How Seriously Should We Take the Mexican Crisis?
By Douglas Farah, Family Security Matters, January 15, 2009

In looking at potential developments, the report concludes: In terms of worst-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico.

That is an interesting juxtaposition for Mexico, and one that, surprisingly, has not risen to the top of the foreign policy agenda. Although President-elect Obama met with Mexican president Calderón to discuss the drug war, it is unlikely the stark terms of this issue were discussed.

Mexico is at a crucial juncture. The Calderón government has gambled that it can take on the criminal enterprises of drugs, illegal smuggling, extortion and kidnapping while having a non-functional judicial system and without diminishing the culture of impunity that allows the cartel sicarios kill the best and brightest with impunity.

U.S. Army War College Professor Says Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas are Moderates
From Family Security Matters, January 17, 2009

Sherifa Zuhur, Research Professor of Islamic and Regional Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) at the U.S. Army War College, recently authored a study for SSI that labels Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood as moderates, asserting that Hamas has no interest in "global Jihad." …

Dr. Zuhur is one in a line of academics who have asserted that the Muslim Brotherhood and/or Hamas are moderate organizations, usually basing their arguments on the notion that the Brotherhood and Hamas reject violence and the global Jihad of al Qaeda. One of the earliest and best known of these academics was Robert Leiken who argued in an article for Foreign Affairs that the U.S. should change its policy and "engage" with the Muslim Brotherhood. However, as discussed in a previous post, an Israeli analyst summarized the differences and similarities between the Brotherhood and al Qaeda arguing that the distinction is one of tactics but not strategy:

Iran Snags UN Plum
By Ed Lasky, American Thinker, January 15, 2009

Late last year, Claudia Rosett wrote an article detailing the way Iran has come to occupy key positions of power and influence within various agencies of the United Nations. She follows up with an update: Iran will chair the UN’s "flagship" agency: The United Nations Development Program, a position which will afford it greater influence within the lesser-developed world. …

This pattern of abuse at the United Nations Development Program occurred before Iran was in charge of the agency. Imagine the problems yet to come. Imagine you may have to since the media-with rare exceptions such as Claudia Rosett seem very incurious about your tax dollars being used to fund terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

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From Elsewhere

Cosmos and Taxis
By William R. Luckey, The Acton Institute for Religion and Liberty, January 14, 2009

Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek used the Greek terms "cosmos" and "taxis" to describe the difference of worldview between those who see the spontaneous order of society and the market and those who do not. Cosmos indicates the self-governing order of things--like the universe. Did you know that the Andromeda galaxy and our Milky Way galaxy are on a collision course and there is nothing we can do about it? This is an example of cosmos in the area of space. Think of taxis in the sense of hailing a taxi cab, and then telling the driver where to take you. In the first instance, the cosmos is self-directing; in the latter, you are directing the cab.

Society and the market conform to the cosmos rather than the taxis. Both are self-generating, a function of billions of interactions between thinking human beings all over the globe -- and those interactions are based on the interactions yesterday, and those are based on the interactions on the day before that. No one controls this.

Is There a Backbone in the House?
By Bobby Eberle, GOPUSA, January 16, 2009

Apparently not, and Republicans don't have one in the Senate either.

Come on... I know the Obama love-fest is about to begin, but can't Republicans show just a tiny amount of political courage? Where's the backbone??? Just look at today's news for more examples of Republicans rolling over to play nice with Democrats. Do they really expect the same in return? Has that EVER happened?

Warmest October Claim Was Wrong, NASA Admits
By James M. Taylor, Environment & Climate News, January 2009

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies—known as GISS—was forced to admit it committed an egregious error when it publicly claimed October 2008 was the warmest October in history.

It turns out October 2008 was nowhere near a record. Global temperature measurements of the Earth’s lower atmosphere by NASA satellite instruments show it was fairly typical compared to temperatures over the past 30 years and significantly cooler than average temperatures over the past seven years.

The Power Grid America Needs
By Michael G. Morris, New York Post, January 15, 2009

IMAGINE if the nation's transportation infrastructure had been designed to serve only small regions, with wheat from Iowa easily reaching bakeries in Des Moines but not New York or computer products from the Silicon Valley easily reaching stores in Los Angeles but not Chicago. Costs of goods would vary widely among regions, and the economy would suffer.

Welcome to the world of electricity, where separate transmission systems - the "transportation" infrastructure of electricity - built by local utilities for local customers now serve as a national network.

While not a "third-world transmission system," as some said after the huge East Coast blackout in 2003, the US transmission network is far from being an efficient national-delivery system. It hasn't seen significant investment for more than 30 years, wasn't designed to support today's electricity markets and isn't adequate to meet the expected growth in demand.

"Shipping Jobs Overseas" or Reaching New Customers?
Why Congress Should Not Tax Reinvested Earnings Abroad
By Daniel T. Griswold, Free Trade Bulletin, January 13, 2009

To demonize U.S. multinationals operating production facilities abroad is to indict virtually every major American company. At latest count more than 2,500 U.S. corporations own and operate a total of 23,853 affiliates in other countries. In 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, majority-owned foreign affiliates of U.S. companies posted $4.1 trillion in sales, created just under $1 trillion in value added, employed 9.5 million foreign workers, and earned $644 billion in net income for their U.S.-based parent companies.

The primary reason why U.S. companies invest in affiliates abroad is to sell more products to foreign customers. Certain services can only be delivered on the spot, where the provider must have a physical presence in the same location as its customers. Operating affiliates abroad allows U.S. companies to maintain control over their brand name and intellectual property such as trademarks, patents, and engineering expertise. U.S. companies also establish foreign affiliates because of certain advantages in the host country— lower-cost labor, ready access to raw materials and other inputs, reduced transportation costs and proximity to their ultimate customers. Yes, the motivations can include access to "cheap labor," but labor costs are not the principal motivation for most U.S. direct investment abroad.

Top TV Networks Spread False Arctic Sea Ice Scare
By Dan Gainor, Environment & Climate News, January 2009

High-profile media reports predicting the North Pole would lose its ice cover failed to materialize in 2008, as less Arctic sea ice melted than in 2007 and open water came nowhere near the North Pole.

   Forecasts Way Off

On the July 28, 2008 NBC Nightly News, reporter Anne Thompson warned ominously of ice loss in the Arctic. "This summer, some scientists say that ice could retreat so dramatically that open water covers the North Pole, so much so that you could sail across it."

Both the ice and the hype are still with us—according to a September 16 National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) report, such predictions were off by 1.74 million square miles.

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