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True North Archives - January 22, 2008
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VPIRG has become a special-interest advocate
By Jack McMullen

The U. S. Supreme Court says elimination of "corruption or the appearance of corruption" is the only legitimate reason for a state to abridge the First Amendment rights of its citizens through campaign finance legislation. Using this standard, the court struck down in June 2006 a 1997 law promoted by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG).

In 2007, VPIRG was back with another campaign finance bill -- different but with comparably strict contribution limits. The Legislature, controlled by Democrats, passed the new law despite expert testimony from the ACLU and the attorney who won the last round of lawsuits that the new bill was likely unconstitutional as well. As the voice of common sense, and probably saving Vermont taxpayers from having to foot the bill for another multimillion-dollar Supreme Court battle, Gov. Douglas vetoed VPIRG's campaign finance law.

Now, VPIRG and its Democratic allies are back again. Why is VPIRG so determined to try to pass a campaign finance law of the type just declared unconstitutional? And why is the Democratic Party so willing to go along with what is an obviously bad bill that unnecessarily puts Vermont taxpayers in legal jeopardy?

The Inevitability of Hillary and Socialized Medicine
By Robert Skinner

What will likely happen is that socialized medicine will descend upon this country quite sometime before the Medicare fund depletes.  But the political stage is not yet prepared for it now.  There will be a time of government attempting to influence our doctors, and the AMA, to commit significant or even dramatic decrease in the cost of health care.  That is not likely. Thus, the citizens will be taxed more heavily and a near true blue tax revolt will emerge as not witnessed before.  Though the insurance companies have been the "fall guy" for the pain, the emphasis and focus will shift to the health care industry and its lobbyist groups - the ones who turned back President Truman and the Clintons.  But the rise in taxes and the rise of health care will simply realign the whole process.  Government will begin new more intense study upon the doctors and hospitals (not like what happened during the Renaissance scandal) and they will be characterized in the most dark, and even scandalous light.  When all this comes to a point of convenience for the politicians - the conclusion will be that more government oversight and management of the health care system is in order.   The prescription to the long, arduous financial suffering to government and citizens alike will be -   Yes, Socialized Medicine.

One of the Gentry-Left Changes His Mind on NCLB
By Martin Harris

Miller’s argument is exactly that which the Right in Congress tried, and failed, to build into the design of No Child Left Behind back in 2001-2. NCLB has been, ever-since, much derided by the Left in general and educators in particular, as its Web site shows, with a section devoted to "Teachers Speak Out Against NCLB". It is the Bush Administration initiative which, among other things, requires that public school students’ test scores actually be used to evaluate the quality of the job those schools are doing. The Right wanted to use a testing protocol which dates back to 1969-70, called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and provides for the testing of carefully selected statistical samples of students in every State in Math, Reading, and a few other subjects. Using the NAEP test results, which are published in the annual National Digest of Educational Statistics but not locally in most states or school districts because, I’d guess, they’re so dismal (typically in the low 200’s out of a possible 500, as I’ve reported frequently in this space) one can make not only state-by-state comparisons for, say, cost or class size against scores, or for score improvement over time (not much) or even for the relative achievement of various ethnic cohorts. In contrast, most states, Vermont included, have taken advantage of the Left’s successful insertion of a states’ rights provision in NCLB authorizing them to purchase, use, and report the results of specially-designed tests on which, miraculously, their students appear to do much better than on the NAEP’s. Vermont, for example, has been through VtDRA, NECAP, and a few other custom-designed tests in search of the privately-designed miracle in which, as in Lake Woebegone, all the students will demonstrate that they are above average, and –additional virtue—none of the test results can be compared with most other states because they aren’t administered there.

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This Week’s Mail Bag

Well, They Did It Again!!

Well, they did it again!! The same tried and true tactics that have worked so well for the education lobby in Vermont for the last 30+ years I've been going to school budget meetings. Pack the meeting with whining teachers, students, their families and friends to predict the end of life as we know it if budget cuts are made Add a sympathetic Times Argus reporter and get out the violins and  crying towels. Let the whiners applaud at the sophomoric statements made by the aforementioned individuals who are so out of touch with the economic realities of life the they discomforted by the Budget Committee trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the SHS Titanic.

 Totally ignore almost anything that was said in support of the cuts.

The plight of those who are left to foot the bills and burden has again been ignored. Who cares if some poor  property tax payer lost their home, their business or their health insurance while paying the outrageous cost of education.

These Eduphiles live in the world of the Great French Queen who said to her elitist associates at the French Court. "Let them eat cake." Marie was really using her head which I believe she later lost on a Tax issue. C'est dommage.

Finally, to those citizens and legislators who sit around and tolerate or condone this taxpayer abuse shame on you for not speaking out. You deserve what you get.

I intend to vote NO on this budget indefinitely and speak out on what part of NO they still don't understand.

--John Gilligan, Barre, VT

Bureaucrats Paid Big Bucks to Bike

I have just learned of one of the most ridiculous bills ever conceived by our fearless leaders up in Montpelier. It's Senate Bill S.339 THE ENERGY INDEPENDENCE AND RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ACT. As you read through the massive text and its new rules regarding what kind of light bulbs can be in ceiling fans, pre-rinse spray valves, greenhouse gas registries, biogas digesters, indeed a whole 41 sections of laws and words aimed at saving the planet and buying our legislators indulgences in enviro-wacko heaven, you'll come to the climactic final section: The State Employees Commuter Challenge.

Here's the deal in nutshell: The state will give each state employee who wants a bicycle, $500 to buy one. If you have one, apparently it's $500 for helmets, special cycling clothes and new bike shoes. And that's not all, if you actually use the bike, or say you will, they'll pay you another $500. That is, if you can manage to pump out a couple of miles a day. The reimbursement rate is a generous 77¢ per mile. If you ride more than 650 miles though, you won't get any more money. It's capped by law to be $1000 total in year number one. So all you bicycle-riding state employees, don't get any big ideas of getting paid to ride around on holidays.

Full funding for the 8000 current state employees will be $8 million. No telling how much it will cost to set up the new bureaucracy in charge of handing out the bike money and to police the actual riding.

Now, I don't know about you, but I don't really want $1000 of my hard-earned tax dollars going to buy a bureaucrat a bike and to pay him to ride it. I'd rather buy my 10 year old a bike. So this April, I think I'm going to enact my own little Energy Independence Act. I'll withhold sending in a $1000 in State Income Tax, buy TWO bikes, and my kid and I will ride around checking on biogas discharge and the more solid bovine emissions that cattle leave behind in the fields. Which, when I think of it, is the only one word description this bill deserves.

--Hunter Melville, Woodstock VT


"Above these [citizens] an immense tutelary power is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate. It is absolute, detailed, far-seeing, and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood; it likes citizens to enjoy themselves provided that they think only of enjoying themselves. It willingly works for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent and sole arbiter of that; it provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances; can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living?  Subjection in small affairs manifests itself every day and makes itself felt without distinction by all citizens. It does not make them desperate, but it constantly thwarts them and brings them to renounce the use of their wills. Thus little by little, it extinguishes their spirits and enervates their souls."

-- Alexis de Tocqueville on the Nanny State, in "Democracy in America"

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Scrap Acts 60 And 68?
Caledonian Record Editorial, 1/15/2008

There is a serious initiative coming from the grass roots in Vermont to scrap Acts 60 and 68 and start over again. They both were hastily conceived and bulldozed through the Legislature to answer the Supreme Court's 10-year-old declaration that what was then our education finance system was unconstitutional. Since 1998, Vermont has floundered from bad to worse in education financing, with taxes skyrocketing, prebates and rebates dissolving any sense of responsibility for containing costs among prebatees, gold towns (those paying premiums to support non-gold towns) proliferating to the point where some of the poorest towns in the state are now gold towns because they are land rich, though cash poor, and local control of schools becoming a joke.

The Vermont Coalition of Municipalities (VCM) recently passed a resolution and sent it to 246 municipalities with their strong recommendation to adopt it. The resolution calls for the Legislature to scrap Acts 60 and 68 and proceed to discuss to consensus two possibilities: have Vermont return to a modification of the old Foundation formula, or have the state take over full financing of education costs in Vermont and pay them with a uniform, statewide property tax. The option to return to the Foundation formula is all about local control. The state takeover option sacrifices local control to achieve more equitable, thus fairer, funding.

Vermont Revenues Fall Flat
From WCAX-TV Montpelier, Vermont - January 15, 2008

Vermont's economic picture is not looking so rosy. For the first time in years, state tax revenues have not been as strong as predicted. While the General Fund is up slightly over expectations, both the transportation fund and education fund are down for the fiscal year so far.

Sometimes, Even The Good Guys Go Too Far
Caledonian Record Editorial, January 16, 2008

Governor Douglas has apparently let himself be carried away by the latest secular humanist cry of imminent doom, this time coming upon us by that most human and worst of the Seven Deadly Sins, gluttony, which will lead to obesity on a grand scale, which finally will lead us to societal death through fatness. Douglas, in what seems a sop thrown to the devotees of this new religion, has promised to add 12 new obesity specialists to our regional health offices and to seek more funding to combat obesity.

Unnecessary Studies
Caledonian Record Editorial, January 17, 2008

Here are two sobering facts. It costs Vermont taxpayers $54,000 a day for our legislators to palaver the days away, usually from early January until, and sometimes into, June. And, it costs additional big bucks for the countless summer study committees that all of that talk leads to. Talk is not cheap.

Campaign Finance Foolishness
From the VT-GOP, January 21, 2008

On a day when Vermont’s major newspapers headlined a $14 million revenue shortfall for our state, every Democrat in the Vermont State Senate voted to passed a campaign finance "reform" bill, S.278, knowing that it is likely unconstitutional, and knowing that it is liable to waste an estimated $2 million in another lost legal cause.

The two parties who sued and won Randall v. Sorrell, striking down Vermont's last campaign finance law, testified:

James Bopp, Attorney, 1/11/08: "S.278 is not complying with the Constitution, but defying the Constitution."

Alan Gilbert, Executive Director ACLU, 1/11/08: "You’re essentially considering taking an action that arguably is going to result in litigation depending on what you do, and you run the risk… that maybe this time the Supreme Court is going to throw everything [all campaign contribution limits] out and say forget it."

Losing Randal v. Sorrell cost Vermont taxpayers $1.49 million in loser’s legal fees to the ACLU and Bopp (plus the still undisclosed costs of the Attorney General's office), and set a national Supreme Court precedent for challenging campaign donation limits.

Senator George Coppenrath (R-Caledonia) explained his opposition to the bill in part:

"The last time that the general assembly bet taxpayers money on a campaign finance bill, Vermont had to pay 1.49 million to the plaintiff’s attorneys. That is real money that could have been available to provide home heating oil to our low income residents, assist those needing mental health services, repair some bridges, or meet other priority needs.

Now we are faced with the prospect of, once again, defying the US Constitution…. In my opinion it is outrageously irresponsible for us, during this time of limited revenues, to even consider passing this bill that will have no real effect on campaign spending."

Under questioning from Senator Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland), Senator Jeanette White (D-Windham), chairwoman of the Government Operations Committee, admitted that her committee did not even consider how much passage of this bill would likely cost Vermont taxpayers. White also admitted that the bill does nothing to limit the growth of or expenditures made by PACs. Other serious flaws in the bill came to light during Mullin's questioning

Nevertheless, every Senate Democrat voted for S.278, which passed 24 – 5.

Republican Party Chairman, Rob Roper, said, "Today’s business on campaign finance illustrates, again, just how far out of touch the Senate Democrats are with the priorities of regular Vermonters and the challenges we face. Let’s hope common sense, bipartisanship, and respect for Vermonters' tax dollars and civil rights will prevail in the House."

Thinking about Economic Development
From, January 19, 2008

The real key is for existing firms to grow.   Like Blodgett Oven in Burlington, which just announced that after years of double digit sales growth, it has outgrown its existing plant and needs to find 200,000 to 250,000 square feet of new space, plus parking and room for future expansion.   And the ultimate source of Blodgett's success is pretty mundane:  America's, and the world's,  hunger for pizza--and pizza made quickly.

The firm's management is upbeat about the company's prospects.  But the note of caution expressed by company president Gary Mick is interesting:

A fully permitted site would be helpful.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

New Terror Threat
From INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY, Thursday, January 17, 2008

Homeland Security: Terrorists are increasingly looking to Europe as both a target and a staging ground for U.S. attacks. Their ticket may be the Visa Waiver Program, a major security loophole.

Al Qaeda in Iraq's shrinking area of operations
By Bill Roggio, The Long War Journal, January 17, 2008

Nearly one year to the day of the announcement of the "surge" of US forces to Iraq and the change in counterinsurgency plan, Iraqi and Coalition forces have shrunk al Qaeda's ability to conduct operations inside Iraq, a senior US commander said.

Saving Major Coughlin
By Andrew G. Bostom, The American Thinker, January 15, 2008

It may not be too late to save the career of a Pentagon analyst of jihad threats whose frank and honest work has gotten him into trouble. Bill Gertz in his weekly Washington Times "Inside the Ring" column (1/11/08) reported that "Pentagon and military leaders, along with lots of working-level officials, are quietly rallying" in support of Major Stephen Coughlin (USAR), whose plight I have discussed, earlier here. Gertz also makes clear in no uncertain terms, dismissing some rumor mongering, that Coughlin was being accused "falsely" of talking "out of school to the press." As is his wont, Gertz gets to the heart of the matter:

Textbook: Islamic 'jihad' means doing good works
By Bob Unruh,, January 16, 2008

An Islamic "jihad" is an effort by Muslims to convince "others to take up worthy causes, such as funding medical research," according to a middle school textbook used in California and other states. And even at its most violent, "jihad" simply is Muslims fighting "to protect themselves from those who would do them harm," says the "History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond" book published by Teachers' Curriculum Institute. But a parent whose child has been handed the text in a Sacramento district is accusing the publisher of a pro-Muslim bias to the point that Islamic theology has been incorporated into the public school teachings.

More Problems for Musharraf
Rick Moran, The American Thinker, January 17, 2008

The Pakistani army suffered a humiliating defeat yesterday when Taliban and al-Qaeda troops overran a fort on the Afghan frontier: ... The action took place in an area dominated by one of the suspects in Benazir Bhutto's assassination, Baitullah Mehsud. Meshud also led the attack on the Red Mosque last year and is considered one of the major extremists in Pakistan. A defeat at the hands of this guy is not good for Musharraf. He may now seek an accommodation with Meshud. That has been his pattern in the past when the Pakistani army has suffered a setback.

Smearing Soldiers
By RALPH PETERS, Tthe New York Post, January 15, 2008

The New York Times is trashing our troops again. With no new "atrocities" to report from Iraq for many a month, the limping Gray Lady turned to the home front. Front and center, above the fold, on the front page of Sunday's Times, the week's feature story sought to convince Americans that combat experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan are turning troops into murderers when they come home. ...But the hard statistics from the Justice Department tell a far different tale from the Times' anti-military propaganda.

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From Elsewhere

Poor Countries Don’t Need Climate Change Welfare, They Need Capitalism
By Keith Lockitch, The Ayn Rand Institute

"The world’s poorest can barely cope with day-to-day survival, let alone with unproven threats projected to occur over decades. Imagine having no electricity or access to clean drinking water. Imagine having to cook your meals over an open fire, breathing smoke and ash every day. Billions around the world survive at a subsistence level because they lack the elements of industrial capitalism that we in the developed world take for granted: power plants, factories, modern roads and hospitals, cars, refrigerators, and countless time- and labor-saving devices.

"What poor countries need is not climate adaptation welfare doled out by environmentalists who oppose industrial development; what poor countries need is to become rich countries. They need to embrace free markets and private property rights and attract the investment of profit-seeking entrepreneurs to create wealth and drive economic growth.

The Nightmare For Financial Advisers
From Captain’s Quarters, January 14, 2008

Which spectre haunts financial advisers the most? Terrorism? Global unrest? Not even close. According to a survey of over 200 financial advisers taken in December, their biggest worry is that Hillary Clinton will win the presidential election in November:

Liberate, Don't Stimulate, the Economy
Dr. Yaron Brook The Ayn Rand Institute January 16, 2008

Fearing a recession in the wake of the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and other economic problems, factions in Washington are competing to offer "stimulus packages" to come to the rescue. Some favor Fed interest rate decreases, while others want some sort of immediate tax cut, while others want an outright giveaway to lower-income Americans. But, said Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, "We don't need the government to 'stimulate' the economy with some new intervention; we need it to liberate us from all its destructive economic intervention that put us in this situation.

Baby Boomlet Pushes U.S. Birth Rates to 45-Year High
FOX News Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bucking the trend in many other wealthy industrialized nations, the United States seems to be experiencing a baby boomlet, reporting the largest number of children born in 45 years.  ...Experts believe there is a mix of reasons: a decline in contraceptive use, a drop in access to abortion, poor education and poverty. There are cultural reasons as well. Hispanics as a group have higher fertility rates — about 40 percent higher than the U.S. overall. And experts say Americans, especially those in middle America, view children more favorably than people in many other Westernized countries.

"Americans like children. We are the only people who respond to prosperity by saying, `Let's have another kid,"' said Nan Marie Astone, associate professor of population, family and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins University. ... The influence of certain religions in those latter regions is an important factor, said Ron Lesthaeghe, a Belgian demographer who is a visiting professor at the University of Michigan. "Evangelical Protestantism and Mormons," he said.

Fascistic Liberalism
By Daniel Pipes, The American Conservative Union, January 16, 2008

To understand fascism in its full expression requires putting aside Stalin's misrepresentation of the term and also look beyond the Holocaust, and instead return to the period Goldberg terms the "fascist moment," roughly 1910-35. A statist ideology, fascism uses politics as the tool to transform society from atomized individuals into an organic whole. It does so by exalting the state over the individual, expert knowledge over democracy, enforced consensus over debate, and socialism over capitalism. It is totalitarian in Mussolini's original meaning of the term, of "Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State." Fascism's message boils down to "Enough talk, more action!" Its lasting appeal is getting things done.

In contrast, conservatism calls for limited government, individualism, democratic debate, and capitalism. Its appeal is liberty and leaving citizens alone.

Goldberg's triumph is establishing the kinship between communism, fascism, and liberalism. All derive from the same tradition that goes back to the Jacobins of the French Revolution. His revised political spectrum would focus on the role of the state and go from libertarianism to conservatism to fascism in its many guises – American, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese, Cuban, and so on.

Making Money in Medicine Is Moral
By Dr. Yaron Brook, The Ayn Rand Institute January 15, 2008

"Contrary to Mr. Meno's insinuations, businesses do not profit by exploiting consumers, but by offering them life-enhancing values--whether a loaf of bread, a miracle drug, or a cutting-edge surgical procedure. The farmers, doctors, and businessmen who create and supply those values have a moral right to be compensated for their efforts. The attack on profit in medicine is an attack on profit as such--and on all the goods and services profit makes possible. We should oppose Mr. Meno's attack on profit and welcome expanded freedom in medicine."

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