North Archives - January 29, 2008
| Editorial | News & Views
archives are here! Use the controls on our radio archive page to
listen to past shows of note (archived shows are available for a limited
time only). True North Radio airs daily on WDEV AM & WDEV FM from 11
am to noon.
Fiscal Obesity in Montpelier
By John McClaughry
January 16, five days after the Governor's state of the state message,
the Emergency Board got a rude shock. The consensus projection of state
economist Jeff Carr and legislative economist Tom Kavet contained the bad
news. Although Vermont ought to weather Fiscal Year 2008 (ending in June),
FY09 is likely to see a $25 million reduction in expected revenues. At
the same time, there is a 52% probability of a recession, inflation will
continue its upward march, and legislators and agencies are clamoring as
always for more spending on their favorite programs and interests.
Even A Little Is A Lot
By James Ehlers
The Vermont Department of
Environmental Conservation (DEC) tells us that "because even a little bit
is a lot" when it comes to mercury, it needs to be managed carefully and
its use reduced. ... The Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service
Board created Efficiency Vermont, an organization funded by a surcharge
on our electric bills that promotes the use and distribution, even offering
subsidies, of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL)—a product whose essential
ingredient, mercury, is the same toxin that another state department, DEC,
exists, in part, to reduce because of its poisonous nature. But even a
little bit is a lot, right? ... The US Environmental Protection Agency
tells us a little may be a lot but there will be more so be safe:
"As energy-efficient lighting
becomes more popular, it is important that we dispose of the products safely
and responsibly. Mercury is released into our environment when products
with mercury are broken, disposed of improperly, or incinerated. If you
break a CFL, clean it up safely. And always dispose of it properly to keep
CFLs working for the environment."
Of course, there will be
more mercury, our government is making it so, with our own money. Efficiency
Vermont boasts, "Participation among appliance retailers and outlets that
carry compact fluorescent light bulbs was nearly universal. Vermont recorded
the highest level of compact fluorescent bulb sales per household of any
state for which sales data was available." What is DEC doing?
An Occasional Newsletter from the Legislature
By Rep. Thomas F. Koch Barre
new year starts with financial red flags flying all over the place.
The Emergency Board held its regular January meeting last week and emerged
with its consensus fiscal forecast. Briefly summarized, the economic conditions
being seen around the nation and the world are not leaving Vermont unscathed.
When Fiscal Year 2008 ends on June 30, there may be a general fund surplus
of $15 million or so. But after that, general fund revenues level off for
the next several years. Unfortunately, the state’s obligations do not level
off, and we are quickly looking at a deficit for FY 2009 of proportions
yet unknown. Furthermore, these projections relate only to the general
fund; the transportation fund is in far worse shape, and the fish and wildlife
fund has suffered from declining revenues for several years.
# # #
"If I were seriously ill
and in desperate need of a physician, and if by some miracle I could secure
either Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, or a young doctor fresh from
the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, with his equipment comprising the
latest developments in the technologies and techniques of medicine, I should,
of course, take the young doctor. On the other hand, if I were commissioned
to find a teacher for a group of adolescent boys and if, by some miracle,
I could secure either Socrates or the latest Ph.D. from Teachers College,
with his equipment of the latest technologies and techniques of teaching,
with all due respect to the College that employs me and to my students,
I am fairly certain that I would jump at the chance to get Socrates." --Educator,
# # #
Weekly News Round-Up
From VermontTiger.com January
We can confidently expect
to hear much more talk from Montpelier, in the next few weeks, about
how "tough" things are and about the need to make "hard choices."
To which, anyone with a little seasoning will say:
a) Tell me something I don't
b) So ... shuddup and make
them. Didn't you campaign on how you had the virtues needed for the
the job? Time to walk the walk.
What experience also teaches
is that the notion of "shared sacrifice" is chimerical and that we can
be certain that the logrolling skills of the usual suspects will
be on full display until sometime in Spring when the legislature decides
it has done enough damage and goes home.
Campaign Finance Bill: An Expensive Mistake
Caledonian Record Editorial,
The campaign finance bill,
S.278, is bad news, indeed. Not only does it reek of partisan politics,
but, if it passes, it promises to cost Vermont taxpayers a lot of money
defending the rat hole of a losing cause.
Other Peoples' Money ... Compassionately
From VermontTiger.com January
At some point in history,
a creative non-profit thought it wise to solicit Vermont towns for donations
directly from the town budget, thus bypassing the individual charities
that non-profits typically rely on to exist. Since that fateful day, we
have watched countless towns disperse tens of thousands -- and even hundreds
of thousands -- of dollars to non-profits. Unsurprisingly, these are often
the pet projects of some board member. Even when voted on by Australian
ballot, these appropriations are rarely defeated, simply because voters
struggle to make the distinction that voting in favor will have a direct
impact on their tax rate.
Douglas Announces Proposed Budget
By Louis Porter,Vermont
Press Bureau, January 22, 2008
…Tough economic times nationally
will result in less state revenue than had been predicted last year while
Vermonters will still need just as much help, Douglas warned. Current predictions
put state revenues in fiscal year 2009 virtually flat compared to the current
fiscal year, 2008….
Can't Get There From Here
From VermontTiger.com, January
By law, the state cannot
force people who are on Medicare, in IBM's health care system, or enjoy
the benefits of one of the gold-plated plans negotiated by the teachers'
union to enroll in a health care system it administers. And even
if the law were no obstacle, does anyone believe that the teachers would
agree to join a plan with benefits substantially inferior to those they
now enjoy? Or that a "comprehensive and inclusive" state program
could afford to offer such lavish benefits to everyone?
Before the state can even
begin to get a handle on health care, the people who make policy
and laws must ... well, get real. They could start
here and follow the links.
Slowdown Demands Hard Choices
Editorial, Burlington Free
Press, January 20, 2008
…When it comes to dealing
with a recession, waiting for the official word of a downturn before acting
is too late. That's because the official only comes after the fact. If
we know a recession is likely, the prudent thing to do is to act as though
we are already in one…. Every budget item must be able to meet the test
of, "Can we really afford this?"... What Vermont clearly needs is restraint
when it comes to spending in the next fiscal year.
# # #
Global War on Terrorism
Police Arrest Warrants Up 79 Percent
By Lt. Col. Bradley Link,
Operation Iraqi Freedom, January 26, 2008
The Iraqi National Police
issued 158 arrest warrants in the fourth quarter of 2007 for crimes of
terrorism including murder, kidnapping and stolen property, a 79 percent
increase from the third quarter.
The quality of investigations
has improved because of a maturing judicial process, a respect for the
law that is taking hold within Iraq and a developing relationship of mutual
respect and trust between the police and the Ministry of Justice, said
Lt. Col. Maher, officer in charge of National Police HQ Investigations
Iraqi Forces Grown A Tail?
From Captain’s Quarters,
January 24, 2008
A new agreement between Iraq
and the US will curtail American military operations and confine our troops
to primarily support and logistics efforts. NBC
News reports that the long-simmering bilateral security agreement would
keep American bases in operation but with substantially reduced troop levels.
Iraqis want their own forces in lead roles for security operations:
… Can Iraq handle it? NBC
says that American military commanders have considered the Iraqi forces
as "all teeth and no tail", meaning that they lack the equipment and reserve
capacity needed to maintain control of the borders and internal security.
An extended American presence can provide that, while reducing the aggressive
nature of the US troops in Iraqi lives. With the Iraqi Army built to a
more competent level, the two countries have better options than existed
a year ago, when only a heavier American presence could tamp down the violence
that raged throughout Iraq in 2006.
They Came for Piglet
By Mark Steyn, National
Review, January 26, 2008
My favorite headline of the
year so far comes from The Daily Mail in Britain: "Government Renames
Islamic Terrorism As ‘Anti-Islamic Activity’ To Woo Muslims."
Her Majesty’s government
is not alone in feeling it’s not always helpful to link Islam and the,
ah, various unpleasantnesses with suicide bombers and whatnot. Even in
his cowboy Crusader heyday, President Bush liked to cool down the crowd
with a lot of religion-of-peace stuff. But the British have now decided
that kind of mealy-mouthed "respect" is no longer sufficient. So, henceforth,
any terrorism perpetrated by persons of an Islamic persuasion will be designated
"anti-Islamic activity" Britain’s home secretary, Jacqui Smith, unveiled
the new brand name in a speech a few days ago. "There is nothing Islamic
about the wish to terrorize, nothing Islamic about plotting murder, pain
and grief," she told her audience. "Indeed, if anything, these actions
…You remember the Three Little
Pigs? One builds a house of straw, and another of sticks, and both get
blown down by the Big Bad Wolf. Western civilization is a mighty house
of bricks, but who needs a Big Bad Wolf when the pig’s so eager to demolish
Planned Attacks Across Europe: Report
From Reuters, January 26,
Islamist extremists were
planning attacks across Europe, especially against public transport, before
their arrests in Barcelona last weekend, a Spanish paper reported on Saturday,
citing a would-be attacker's testimony.
Still in Al Qaeda’s Grip, Admiral Says
By Kristen Noel, Special
to American Forces Press Service, January 24, 2008
The coalition’s success securing
Baghdad and Iraq’s Anbar province from al Qaeda will need to be repeated
in other parts of Iraq, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq said yesterday.
"There are still villages
and towns and regions that are completely under the thumb of terrorism,"
Navy Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith said. … Last year, al Qaeda was driven
out of every major city in Iraq except Mosul, he said, which has affected
the terrorist organization’s ability to raise funds inside Iraq through
corruption and criminal activity. "Much of their economic base, in terms
of how they would intimidate, kidnap, extort, and all the rest of it, is
less successful to them," Smith explained.
The coalition’s removal of
al Qaeda from Iraq’s economic centers also cut off many of the terror organization’s
most significant communication avenues, Smith said. In 2006, al Qaeda had
free-flowing lines of communication from Mosul through Baghdad and virtually
all the way through the Syrian border, he said.
Smith added that, ultimately,
the continued success of localized efforts by coalition and Iraqi security
forces and concerned citizens groups to rebuild infrastructure, restart
the economy and bring back jobs will lead to the demise of insurgency in
"Al Qaeda brought nothing
in a positive, constructive way," he said. "What the people are looking
for is a change in a positive direction. Beyond just the reduction of violence,
they’re also looking for an opportunity to get their lives back."
By Amir Taheri, The New
York Post, January 26, 2008
Opponents of taking a tough
line on Iran have always claimed that imposing sanctions (not to mention
threatening military action) would strengthen the Islamic Republic's most
radical elements. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice looks to have bought
that argument. Last week, she agreed to water down the new sanctions that
her advisers had devised against the Islamic Republic. Waving an olive
branch, Rice also called for a peaceful resolution of the dispute over
Tehran's illicit nuclear ambitions.
Events inside Iran, however,
provide a different picture. The Council of the Guardians of the Constitution,
a 12-man committee of mullahs and their legal advisers, this week rejected
applications from nearly 4,000 men and women to run in the March 14 general
election. Nearly all the denied applicants belong to the 21 groups designated
by Western observers as "reformist" opponents of the ultra-radical President
# # #
Doesn’t Work, Mr. Gates?
By Larry Kudlow, National
Review, January 24, 2008
"A guy without a college
degree who invented a new technology process in his garage that literally
changed the entire world, a guy who took advantage of all the great opportunities
that a free and capitalist society has to offer and got filthy rich in
the process, is now trashing capitalism and telling us it doesn’t work.
For all his do-good preaching,
Mr. Gates is ignoring the global spread of free-market capitalism that
has successfully lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and
into the middle class over the last decade. Think China. Think India. Think
Eastern Europe. (Maybe even think France under Sarkozy.) Mr. Gates wants
business leaders to dedicate more time to fighting poverty. But the reality
is that economic freedom is the best path to prosperity. Period.
the Times: Rupert Takes On Pinch
By Ed Lasky, The American
Thinker, January 21, 2008
The American mediascape is
about to experience an earthquake, Rupert Murdoch is preparing to topple
the New York Times from its position as the pre-eminent general interest
daily newspaper, generating severe financial pressure on a struggling media
company reeling from mismanagement. There is every indication he will succeed.
Myths About Breaking Our Foreign Oil Habit
By Robert Bryce, The Washington
With oil prices still flirting
with $100 a barrel, everyone is talking about the need for "energy independence."
Late last year, President
Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of
2007; Sen. John
McCain has declared, "We need energy independence"; and
Obama has called for "serious leadership to get us started
down the path of energy independence."
This may all be good politics.
But the idea that the United States, the world's single largest energy
consumer, can be independent of the $5 trillion-per-year energy business
-- the world's single biggest industry -- is ludicrous on its face. The
push for energy independence is based on a series of false premises.
Called It Macaroni
By Quin Hillyer, The American
Spectator, January 24, 2008
The presidential campaign
trail is not the only place where conservatism is being routed this month.
We're also being shoved under the desk in the Oval Office. President George
W. Bush has begun his final year in office by moving sharply leftward.
It's as if he is finally vying for the Strange New Respect Award from the
liberal East Coast elites. The effort, of course, is futile -- not to mention
wrongheaded and potentially disastrous for the country. How doth the president
shaft us? Let us count the ways.
PM Eyes Five-Year Spending Freeze
By Ben Hall, John Thornhill
& Peggy Hollinger, The Financial Times, January 23, 2008
France is planning to freeze
public spending for five years under its biggest programme of social and
economic reform since the late 1960s, according to François Fillon,
the prime minister.
Senate GOP Leadership Embraces the Minority
The Senate GOP has been having
its retreat. This is the first retreat since Lamar Alexander (R-TN) was
named Chairman of the Conference. In this position, Alexander is charged
with developing the GOP agenda and controlling the message.
Today, the Republican Senators
are at a retreat and they are getting their first taste of Lamar Alexander's
leadership. His message: embrace being in the minority.
According to Senate staff
familiar with the conversations, Senators have been hearing from multiple
pollsters including Dave Winston. Winston has consistently been presenting
polling to the GOP caucus over the last year that has shown that the war,
spending, and corruption were three major issues leading to GOP defeat.
You can get a sense of Winston's thinking here.
As if orchestrated, other
"experts" who were invited by Republican leadership gave reports downplaying
the GOP's struggle with spending and pork and focusing mainly on the war
in Iraq as the problem. Senators were told that what the American people
want most is cooperation in Congress and to see lawmakers get things done:
Read -- Pass Democrat legislation. In fact, by the time it was over, I'm
told you would have thought the Appropriators themselves had arranged the
presentation to completely undermine Winston's assertion that waste and
earmarks had anything at all to do with the GOP loss in 2006.
to the Enemy
Roger Pilon, The Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2008
the Senate takes up a bipartisan surveillance authorization measure that's
already passed the Intelligence Committee. The clock is ticking. This Friday
a temporary law called the Protect America Act will expire. If Congress
does not act before then, the president's statutory power to prevent terrorist
attacks will be seriously compromised. This dangerous situation should
never have arisen. ...
# # #