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True North Archives - February 02, 2010
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Featured Articles

Len Britton Can Beat Pat Leahy
By Rob Roper

Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts should be a wake up call for Senator Patrick Leahy. Leahy, who has lived inside the D.C. Beltway for thirty-five years, could be the poster child for the arrogant, old-boy politics voters just dramatically rejected. 

Health Care Committee Testimony
By Pat Crocker

The question I have is,  "Should our government provide healthcare, or should it provide the opportunity to pursue healthcare?  These are two different things, and I would contend that the government should not be in the business of providing healthcare to all!  What Senator Sanders did not tell you is that the same study ranked the US number one in areas like responsiveness to patients, confidentiality, availability of doctors and other providers, and respect for patients. These are variables that I find more important than whether we have socialized healthcare.

Ballon d'Essai
By Martin Harris

In an earnest effort (I’m trying really, really, hard) to stay au courant with, and au milieu de the elevated intellectual climate for which the gentry-Left (plural noun) of Norwich expect to be known and appreciated, I’ll characterize as a ballon d’essai the following quote from School Board member Geoffrey Vitt as reported in the 8 January issue of The Valley News. Here it is: "…cutting too much out of the budget could lead parents to send their children to private school, and…exacerbate school funding problems".

Justice for Children
By Mark Shepard

Salvatore MacEwan of Rutland was charged with murder in the death of his five-week old child, to which after a year-and-a-half he has pleaded guilty. The judge is considering a mere 14-year prison sentence for MacEwan’s heinous abuse of his child and the resulting murder (article here).

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This Week’s Mail Bag

School Choice

The wealthy have school choice because they can afford to pay their property taxes for their local school plus the extra tuition required for a different school, whether public or private. The question is, do all children, including low-income students, deserve school choice? Or should choice be reserved for the rich?

There are many issues which determine which would be the best school for a child: academics, cost, location, sports, music, faith, friends, safety. Religion is only one of many factors that parents consider.

The Jan. 15 editorial in The Burlington Free Press claims it is "wrong for tax dollars to aid religious schools." Despite the potential for enormous savings for taxpayers, the editor fears it will conflict with the Bill of Rights. However, the First Amendment does not say we must separate education and religion. After all, how can you teach children without any ethics or moral code? Our founders recognized that education and religion are inextricably linked; Vermont’s own constitution combines "religion and learning" in the Education Clause, Chapter 2, Article 68. 

What the First Amendment does say is that government must not establish a religion. Unfortunately, public schools come close to doing exactly that by monopolizing education tax dollars and espousing the religion called humanism. 

It is time to expand freedom of religion and school choice to all children regardless of their economic status. Vermont has the opportunity to save money for taxpayers and foster greater educational equality. We have statewide school taxes, we should have statewide school choice for all children.

Kelly Bartlett
Jericho, VT

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Free Press Ignorant of First Amendment Law

The Burlington Free Press editorial of Jan. 15, opposing "tax dollars to aid religious schools" displays a regrettable ignorance of First Amendment law ("Wrong for tax dollars to aid religious schools").

In the Cleveland school voucher case of 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment does not prohibit a state from giving children tuition vouchers to enable them to transfer to private schools, including religious schools, that their parents believe to be academically stronger, safer, and more committed to character values.??The key factors in the court's decision were that the Cleveland voucher program had a valid secular purpose; was neutral with respect to religion; provided assistance to a broad class of citizens; and allowed those citizens to make their own private choices about their children's education.??I agree that for the state to give money to religious schools entangles the parties in a relationship unhealthy for both. But there are no longer any "difficult First Amendment questions" when the state gives money to empower parents to choose among many education providers, secular and religious, in the best interest of their children. 

John McClaughry
Ethan Allen Institute, Kirby

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"It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds."
-- Samuel Adams
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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Free (?) Pre-School: What Act 62 Really Does
By Tammy Ryea, Vermont Tiger, January 27, 2010

When the Governor tells us that our education funding system is broken, do you agree?  Is providing the best education we can for our young students really what it’s all about, or has our education system become something else?  Eighty percent (80%) of the budget is to pay for school staff.  These staff levels have increased by 23% in the past 13 years, yet the student population has decreased by 11.5%.  The number of teacher’s aides has increased 43%. The number of support staff has gone up 48%. Is this realistic for Vermont taxpayers?  How about the fact that we have the lowest student to teacher ratio in the country with 11 students for each teacher? There are five students for every adult in our schools. Not only is this unrealistic for taxpayers, the number of children that our education system claims to educate includes some 1,000 children who don’t even exist – the phantom children!

One Snowflake Doth Not A Winter Make
Caledonia Record Editorial, January 28, 2010

Two Douglas administration economists revised their revenue forecast for the rest of this fiscal year upwards by $4.7 million. Economists Jeff Carr and Tom Kavet reported the good news to Gov. Jim Douglas and legislative leaders in order to give them a good idea within what limits to plan their budgets for the next fiscal year.

The truth is, though, that Carr and Kavet couched their report in fiscal cautions that clearly spell out a chancy, precarious road to recovery for Vermont. Included in their caveats are the current reliance of the state on the gross infusion of federal stimulus funds, the specter of inflation if the federal government continues or increases expenditures, the equally dangerous possibility of a double dip recession if the feds decrease their spending too quickly, and the balancing act among a possible increase in unemployment, the floor falling out from under real estate prices and activity, and 10 other things affecting our frail economy.

BT: Lessons From The Fall
By Art Woolf, Vermont Tiger, January 21, 2010

If there is one thing that Progressives (at least the Vermont version) believe, it's that business profits are a cost that ordinary people pay, and if the government can provide a good or service instead of the private sector, so much the better for the average person. 

In Burlington, that was the guiding principle behind the formation of Burlington Telecom, which essentially duplicated the activities of Verizon (now Fairpoint) and Comcast.  The city's logic was that each of those firms had a monopoly and that government could provide telecom services more cheaply, since BT didn't have to earn profits, and better, since BT's goal was to help the citizens and businesses of the city, rather than simply make a profit.  (I'll leave for another day the argument that profit-making businesses earn profits precisely because they provide a good or service that benefits people.  If they didn't they wouldn't earn a profit.) ...

The fundamental question for Burlington is whether the city should cut its losses and get out of a business it never should have entered into in the first place, or whether it should double down on its original bet and expose taxpayers to even more risk. 

Welcome, Burlington, to the real world of business: investment, risk, profit, and loss.

Teachers Reach Pension Deal
By Louis Porter, Rutland Herald, January 30, 2010

Vermont's teachers will work longer and pay more into their pension plans based on an agreement reached between their union and state officials, designed to save $15 million in the next fiscal year.

In exchange, some teachers will receive larger pensions and health coverage for their spouses and the state will accept $5 million less in savings for the pension system.

A Call To ... What?
From Vermont Tiger, January 28, 2010

If the state needs saving, then it will not be accomplished by a new study.  We have had many, many studies and commissions and precious little action.  It is time for Winston Hartwell and his colleagues who have been busy ignoring what others have warned was coming to move from contemplation to action, as he suggests, himself, later in his call to arms. 

Given current trends, immediate action is required.

Okay, then. So shelve the study and just agree that taxes are too high.  Then cut them. After all, that's what Churchill would have done.

Liberal La-La Land Again
Caledonia Record Editorial, January 29 2010

Just when you think the liberals among Montpelier lawmakers have returned from La-La Land, they come up with another Alice in Wonderland idea that will set the ideologues on fire with self-righteous religious fervor. This time, it is the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee which proposes to limit to five minutes the time that trucks can idle in Vermont. The prototype for their big idea is Burlington, the home of a Brave New World in Vermont, whose city council outlawed idling trucks earlier this year.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

The State of the U.S. Military (pdf)
Heritage Foundation Report, January, 2010

After nearly a decade of continuous warfare—and coming off a previous decade of underinvestment in next- generation equipment and systems in the 1990s and dramatically reduced force levels—America’s military personnel remain exceptional but are stressed, experiencing reduced readiness levels and lacking diverse training. The military’s equipment is old and getting older in part because it is employed at breakneck wartime rates.

The range of potential missions facing today’s military is vast. While winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remains a central mission, regional combatant commanders must also respond to humanitarian disasters, protect sea lines of communication and free trade, deter rogue states through a credible extended deterrence posture, and hedge against the future uncertainty that accompanies the rise of powers like China and Russia.

Regrettably, the tools required to sustain all of these efforts are in jeopardy. The collective decisions by Congress and both Democratic and Republican Presidents over the past 15 years have left the U.S. military using equipment that is extremely old and, in many cases, outdated.

Saudi Government Extremism and the U.S. Response
By Nina Shea, Talal Eid, Hudson Institute, January 26, 2010

Terrorists are not born, they're made. Extremist indoctrination is the first step in this process, an indisputable fact accepted by security experts and terror cell leaders alike. Administration officials have openly acknowledged this, noting that the growing list of Americans accused of terrorist acts are being inspired by "al-Qaeda and radical ideology."

One such ideology comes from Saudi Arabia and is based on the Saudi government's interpretation of the Hanbali school of Sunni Islam. It has been described as kindling for Osama bin Laden's match by some prominent terrorism experts, though of course the vast majority of those who are exposed to this ideology never go on to commit terrorist acts. Saudi Arabia's role in inspiring terrorists has caused the Obama Administration to designate the country this week as one of 14 countries whose nationals will face enhanced security upon entering the United States. In addition, Saudi Arabia has been on the State Department's religious freedom blacklist for engaging in egregious violations since 2004, yet the U.S. has invoked a national interest waiver on any actions (which could include sanctions) every year since then, in effect, giving Saudi Arabia a free pass.

Latin America: After the Left
By Samuel Gregg, D.Phil., Acton Institute for Religion and Liberty, January 27, 2010

The left is in trouble in Latin America. Sebastián Piñera’s recent election as Chile’s first elected center-right president in decades owes much to the inability of the center-left coalition that governed Chile after 1990 to rejuvenate itself. Yet across Latin America there is, as the Washington Post’s Jackson Diel perceptively observes, a sense that the left’s decade of dominance is unraveling.

Stratfor's Top Predictions for the Next Decade:
China Collapse, Global Labor Shortages, New American Dominance.
By Lawrence Delevingne,Business Insider, January 22, 2010

What will the next decade bring for the world? STRATFOR has the answers. In a Decade Forecast released yesterday, the global intelligence company predicts Chinese economic collapse, game-changing global labor shortages, and continued American dominance because of a gradual retreat from international engagement. Welcome to 2010.

Taking Credit for Failure
By Scott Stewart, Strategic Forecasters, January 27, 2010

Hezbollah’s ability to eject Israel from southern Lebanon and its strong stand against the Israeli armed forces in the 2006 war made a strong impression in the Middle East. Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas are seen as very real threats to Israel, while al Qaeda has shown that it can produce a lot of anti-Israeli rhetoric but few results. Because of this, Iran and its proxies have become the vanguard of the fight against Israel, while al Qaeda is simply trying to keep its name in the press.

Claiming credit for failed attacks orchestrated by others and trying to latch on to the fight against Israel are just the latest signs that al Qaeda is trying almost too hard to remain relevant.

Agreement Between Rifqa Bary, Parents to Settle Conflict Short-Lived
By Meredith Heagney, The Columbus Dispatch, January 29, 2010

The agreement between Rifqa Bary and her parents to settle their conflict through counseling has ended without a single meeting between the parents and their daughter, according to a motion filed in Franklin County Juvenile Court.

The parents - Mohamed and Aysha Bary - are withdrawing their consent to resolve the case. Rifqa and her parents agreed on Jan. 19 that she would stay in foster care and they would undergo counseling instead of beginning a dependency trial to determine where the 17-year-old should live.

She turns 18 on Aug. 10.

The motion says: "The parents now believe the entire deal should be thrown out because of misrepresentation and fraudulent inducement." It adds that the Barys now object to all decisions made on Jan. 19 and want a trial on the dependency case.

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From Elsewhere

The Rest of the World Can Learn a Lot From Israeli Formula for Growth
By Irwin Stelzer, TheHudson Institute, January 20, 2010

Dan Senor and Saul Singer's new book "Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle," rattles off some interesting statistics that deserve consideration by policy makers in other countries. Per-capita venture-capital investment in Israel runs 2.5 times that in the U.S. and 30 times that in Europe. Tiny Israel—population 7.1 million— attracts as much venture capital as Britain (population 61 million), and France and Germany combined (combined population 145 million). Israel has more companies listed on Nasdaq than any other country save the U.S. and has grown faster than the average for developed economies in most years since 1995. Between 1980 and 2000 7,652 patents were registered in the U.S. from Israel. That compares with 77 from Egypt.

Messrs. Netanyahu, Doron and Fischer were operating within a culture that is "skeptical of conventional explanations about what is possible" and characterized by "insatiable questioning of authority" according to Messrs Senor and Singer. And a willingness to accept failure is a necessary part of any economy heavily reliant on start-ups for its economic growth, a feature also characteristic of the U.S., where entrepreneurs say that if an entrepreneur has not gone bankrupt by the age of 35, he has not taken enough risks. A Harvard University study puts it more scientifically: entrepreneurs who fail in their first venture have a higher success rate in their next venture than first-time entrepreneurs. Credit Peter (now Lord) Mandelson for long ago recognizing that and leading an effort to reform U.K. bankruptcy laws to make second chances more possible for the country's risk-takers....

Obviously, no other country has Israel's combination of advantages and problems. But other countries can see what happens when a well-educated country allows failure and thereby encourages risk-taking, replaces pervasive government intervention with light-handed regulation, and benefits from intelligent management of its monetary policy. Job-creating start-ups flourish. The growth rate accelerates. Exports increase. Even in a country under continued threat from its enemies. Or perhaps because of that.

Democrats’ Voracious Search for New Tax Revenue
By David Boaz, The Cato Institute

Last year I tried to compile a list of all the taxes President Obama and his allies were maneuvering to impose. But each week brings new ideas. Just recently we’ve heard about a bank tax, applying the Medicare tax to capital gains and other "passive" or "unearned" income, raising the Medicare tax rate, raising or broadening the capital gains tax, an income tax "surtax," a tax on tanning – and of course the tax on private health insurance to pay for the expansion of government insurance has moved to the top of the list.

Victory: Obamacare Goes Down
From Tremoglie's Neoavatara 

After a year of debate, protests, under the table and behind closed door deals…the Democrats have virtually admitted defeat on Obamacare. Their last hope lay in the possibility of reconciliation…a calling cry from the left for months.  But it now appears, even that path is closed to them.

Republicans have laid out a strategy of submitting amendment after amendment if the Democrats carry through on reconciliation.  Reconciliation allows for endless amendments to be offered, and the submission of those amendments would only stop with a closure vote, which requires 60 votes…which the Democrats no longer have.

The Decline of Britain: A Cautionary Tale for America (pdf)
Heritage Foundation Special Report

Similar trans-Atlantic experiences reflect more than the economic linkage between England and the United States or the well-known swing of the political pendulum. Most significantly, the echoes and counter-echoes demonstrate how, at the lowest common denominator, political fashion and, at the highest, political thinking in America and Britain take place in the same marketplace of ideas. This should give political

commentators and strategists pause for thought. If Britain is on the wrong course and America follows, Britain will be even more dependent on its great traditional ally. More obviously, pursuing an authentically Anglo–Saxon route to decline offers no benefits to the United States. Consanguinity works both ways. What works in one of our countries has been shown to work in the other. But what fails in one country also fails in the other, and in crucial respects Britain is now failing. The country’s palpable decline from its

prosperity and security of just two decades ago constitutes an awful but, if intelligently observed, timely and useful warning to America.

A Self-Reverential State of the Union Address
From Politics Daily, January 28, 2010

President Obama's State of the Union address should unnerve Democrats in Congress and throughout the country. It was one of the worst State of the Union addresses in modern times – a stunning thing for a man who won the presidency in large measure based on the power and uplift of his rhetoric.

For those who hoped the president would use this speech as a pivot to the center, a la Bill Clinton in the aftermath of the 1994 mid-term elections, the speech was a major letdown. Much of what he offered up last night was symbolic. His budget freeze on a subset of domestic discretionary spending – which might amount to $15 billion – will hardly put a dent into our $1.35 trillion deficit. His budget commission, which will have no real power or authority, is worthless. His proposal to cut the capital gains tax for small business investment is a step in the right direction – but it will fall far short of what is needed to generate jobs and economic growth. One sensed there was no urgency or passion behind his effort to help small businesses and the private sector.

Virtual Immigrants Bring Benefits Without Leaving Their Countries
By W. Michael Cox, Investor’s Business Daily, January 29, 2010

Particularly significant has been the Internet's reaching critical mass in two key areas. First, it has spread widely enough to become an indispensable tool for modern international business. Second, data-transmission capacity has become big enough to move large amounts of information anywhere in the world.

Many Americans fear the job losses from offshoring, or the import side of virtual immigration. However, they ignore the greater job-creating benefits on the export side. As the Internet facilitated a wave of virtual immigration, the overall U.S. surplus in services trade grew from $78.8 billion in 1998 to $161.4 billion in 2008.

Teachers Union Spending Spree
By RiShawn Biddle, The American Spectator, January 29, 2010

For President Barack Obama, Scott Brown's victory over Martha Coakley in the U.S. Senate special election could at the very least lead to a drastically scaled-down version of his healthcare reform plan. But for the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and suburban school districts, it may mean at least $27 billion and perhaps, even more. 

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