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True North Archives - February 05, 2008
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Shoveling Snow & The Cost Of Capital: A Parable
By Bill Sayre

Yes, it is always tempting to ignite the politics of envy, turning the tax code into a battleground for class warfare, demonizing the wealthy individuals and large corporations.  But it is important to remember that capital is mobile, and when it is taxed less predictably, and at higher rates, it will tend to migrate, along with its owners, to where they both are more welcome.  Let’s hope we remember this, as we consider whether or not to raise the rate at which Vermont taxes capital. If we were to destabilize and increase taxes on capital, the owners of capital who migrate from Vermont, will be hurt far less, if at all, than are the workers left behind, whose incomes will grow more slowly, if at all.

Low Income Level, High Asset Level, or Big Portfolio, Small Check
By Martin Harris

Because I’m only an amateur economist, not a credentialed two-handed one (on the one hand, thus… and on the other hand, maybe not thus…), I’ve long puzzled over what I have thought to be the weak link in my "trust-funder economy" thesis, the assumption that in order for a State like Vermont to conduct itself as if all its citizens are above-average (a little Lake Woebegone lingo, there) in terms of income, its voters who have shown themselves to be remarkably accepting, even welcoming, of high taxes and low business friendliness, high spending and low capital investment, high growth in government and low to no growth the objective in everything else, must necessarily be just that: above-average in income. As all the stats show, they’re not.

The Bigger Threat: A Teacher’s Perspective
By Curtis Hier

Vermont’s media outlets pounced all over the story of an Irasburg teacher giving out literature apparently promoting Jesus over Santa Claus. I’d like to put the issue in perspective. ... I don’t perceive the Irasburg incident as a big threat.  The bigger threat in this state is the kind of overboard secularism that makes us now take a "December Break" rather than the traditional Christmas Vacation. I grew up in the Congregational Church in Pittsford. Our family was a typical New England family that didn’t talk much about religion. But we learned a lot about common sense. And common sense tells me that there are a lot bigger problems facing our schools today than what that Irasburg teacher was doing. The media in Vermont is much more concerned with religion in the schools, it seems, than drugs in the schools.

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

Amid the many bills, resolutions, and ideas floating around the Statehouse, some are inevitably worse than others. This year, there are some particularly bad ones, and it is with regret that I report that some of them are getting serious attention and may even become law. So the theme of this "Scribblings" is what kind of foolishness is this?

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"Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Tom Licata's War
From, February 01, 2008

Tom Licata doesn’t look or sound the part of a warrior.  (Or Tom Hanks, for that matter.)  I knew this from having met him a couple times.  So when I finally got around to attending one of his Vermonters for Economic Health presentations, I wasn't sure what to expect. After all, the Act 60 Revolt and Repeal people -- Steve Adams, et al -- don’t exactly look like Sam Adams et al. I wondered if there'd be any arm-waving and finger-pointing. What I saw and heard was a well-spoken (and calm), stay-at-home dad. He was armed, but only with an MBA, a nice suit, and some common sense. Licata spoke (more calmly than I would have) about $3.5 billion of looming expenses facing our state, $1.3 billion of which represents what we’ll have to spend just on repairing roads and bridges. ...

Local Towns Feel Taxed to the Max
By Tena Starr, Caledonian Record, January 28, 2008

After a year and half or so of trying to push education reform to relieve the property tax burden, Ben Bangs of Newark is a little discouraged. He and the organization of Newark taxpayers called Vermont Citizens for Justice have decided to soldier on, although they're considerably less optimistic than they once were.

Group Looks For Solutions to Vermont's Economic Troubles
From WCAX-TV, January 28, 2008

The economic state of the state had residents in St. Albans talking Monday night. Vermonters for Economic Health hosted its third forum Monday, hoping to educate the public and stimulate new ideas. The group is spearheaded by Tom Licata, a Burlington resident with ten years experience in the financial sector.

After years of compiling data about the economic health of Vermont, Licata says he's worried that no one is paying attention to a looming problem.

"If we don't change the status quo, in about 20 years we'll only have enough money for entitlements and the interest on our debt," Licata told the dozen-or-so people gathered in the library of St. Albans Town Educational Center.

Go Forth and Multiply--Just Not Here
From, February 02, 2008

So the question is why there's not as much fructifying in Vermont as in any other state. Could be that there just aren't as many new big homes in Vermont. Maybe Vermonters didn't build as many houses because of Act 250, which made it more difficult to site housing developments. Perhaps Act 250 should take into consideration the impact of new housing development on the ability of Vermonters to fructify. There are some other factors to consider as well:  The babies born today do not look like the babies born in 1961, nor do their parents: For starters, they are much more likely to be Hispanic, to live in a red state and to be part of an evangelical Christian family

Austerity Means Austerity
Caledonian Record Editorial, February 02, 2008

All of the benchmarks of the national and state economies are pointing straight at economic hard times coming, perhaps even a recession. That means that nobody, public or private, can afford to spend more money, and most won't be able to spend as much. Gov. Jim Douglas made that conclusion explicit in his budget presentation to a joint meeting of the House and Senate. There is no windfall of money, whether from a year-end surplus or new taxes in his budget. Level funding is the rule. It is called austerity.

The Democratic leadership, though, simply doesn't believe that austerity means austerity. They jumped on Douglas's budget almost before his voice died away in the House chamber. Listen to them.

Legislators Facing Efforts to Repeal Laws Passed Last Year
By Louis Porter, Vermont Press Bureau/Rutland Herald, January 29, 2008

Lawmakers are spending a lot of time on issues they thought they were done dealing with last session. Besides two vetoed bills now being resurrected — one on campaign finance and another on energy — legislators are also grappling with efforts to repeal portions of four laws passed less than a year ago. It is not clear yet if any of those will succeed. But it will take some time to consider them in any case.

Brattleboro and the "Vermont Brand"
VTGOP Big Tent, February 4, 2008

As most people have probably heard, both in Vermont and across the United States, the town of Brattleboro will vote on town meeting day whether or not to arrest the President and Vice President for war crimes should they ever decide to visit.

Odds are they won’t, regardless of the vote on March 4. Why would anybody come where they’re not welcome? But, according to reports of disappointed citizens calling in from all over the country to protest this nonsense, it looks like a lot of other people won’t be visiting Vermont any time soon either. This is not a good thing for a state that depends on being a host to over 13 million visitors each year.

Brattleboro’s antics are the "Vermont" the rest of the world sees on the national news, along with other similar futile expressions of hatred. (Peter Welch’s bizarre anti-Christmas vote comes to mind, as well as Bernie Sanders’s maniacal ravings about the rich.) It’s turning people away.

If we really want to protect the "Vermont Brand," - wholesome, pure, solid, and down to earth - the first thing we need to do is stop electing these people to platforms where they can wrecklessly undermine our state’s appeal. 

An Act Relating to Tax on Plastic Bags
By VT Reps Donovan, Edwards, Miller, Mrowicki, Pearson, and Spengler

There shall be paid by the purchaser or recipient a tax of $0.17 on each plastic bag purchased or received in a retail transaction in this state or purchased or received for use in this state....

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

Yes, It Is About Religion: George Weigel rejects secularized analysis of the War on Terror
From City Journal, January 30, 2008

I recently attended a briefing by a U.S. Air Force colonel who declared that the current terrorist threat had "nothing to do with Islam." Such well-intentioned statements appeal to political correctness at the expense of meaningful understanding. It is true that the War on Terror is not a religious war between Islam and any other religion; it is also true that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists. However, the global war against the extremists who attacked America on September 11 has a theological dimension that we must acknowledge.

In Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action, Catholic theologian George Weigel presents the War on Terror as an existential and generational conflict between the free world and radical Islamists—representatives of "jihadism," a militant branch of Islamism that seeks "nothing less than a global Islamic state." Weigel rejects the claims that jihadism is the result of American foreign policy, Third World poverty, or actions taken by the state of Israel. Instead, he identifies the historical and theological roots of jihadism in the early Muslim world, providing a brief summary of Islamic history from the early days of Muslim expansion and the development of political Islam through the birth of Wahhabism and the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood right up to Osama bin Laden’s "global jihad."

"Islamic Calvinism" and industrialisation meet in Turkey
By Dorian Jones, Common Ground News Service

"Many people in Western Europe -- very serious thinkers too -- have held that Islam is a fatalistic religion and that it suits a trading economy but not an industrial economy," Gnaus says. "What we found in Kayseri is that on the contrary, the kind of characteristic traits that Max Weber attributed to the Calvinists - very hard working, very sober, not given to ostentatious displays of wealth - are the characteristic traits you find in businessmen in Kayseri."

The term "Islamic Calvinism" caused a bit of a stir in Turkey, being angrily denounced by some in the Islamic media. But in Kayseri, most seemed quite happy with the label. 

Mustafa Boydak is the head of the Kayseri chamber of commerce. He also runs one of the largest companies in the city Boydak. He also sees parallels with the 19th century puritans:

"In Calvinism there is this understanding that work is a form of worship, and Kayseri people share that understanding. Islam also teaches us to be tolerant, and open to new ideas, which is very important in business, and to people living here. But Christianity shares this ideal, and the influence of Christianity here is important. For centuries many Christian Greeks and Armenians lived here and were very involved in business, and this too has shaped people's ideals."

Facing threats in 2001 and 2008

I'd like to juxtapose two items in today's news that may seem unrelated except for the fact that they both contain the word "Iraq." They would be: "Buried WMD Scoop" and "Al Qaeda use two 'Down's syndrome' women to blow up 73 people in Baghdad markets."

Oh no, you say. You're trying to link Iraq and al Qaeda. You're going to go all "Office of Special Plans" on us. That's so 2003. Don't worry, I'm not--although I would have been proud to be part of that shop. Read on....

Muslim Opening Prayer at Iowa Statehouse Raises Concerns
By Erin Ballou, Pilot Tribune Staff 

The Iowa Legislature started just over a week ago and some people were upset before the first issue was ever addressed. When the session began, a Muslim Imam began the prayer in the Iowa Legislature. This is where the controversy begins. The prayer asked of "Victory over those who disbelieve," and "Protection from the great Satan" among other things.

Pastor Steve Smith of the Evangelical Free Church in Albert City is among those concerned about the Muslim prayer. Rev. Smith admits that he doesn't know about all the levels of Muslim but knows that the Jihadists believe those in the U.S. are the great Satan. Rev. Smith also wants to point out the mention of "victory over those who disbelieve." He feels "this is a request in the Iowa Legislature for God to grant the Muslims victory over every non-Muslim. Not a request for salvation." Smith takes it as a gesture not of prayer but more as a political statement, especially with the wars that have been going on in the Middle East.

The Fallacy of Grievance-based Terrorism
By Melvin E. Lee, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2008

The fundamental premise of much scholarly examination and public discourse is that grievances with U.S. policies in the Middle East motivate Islamist terrorism. Such assumptions, though, misunderstand the enemy and its nature. In reality, the conflict is sparked not by grievance but rather by incompatibility between Islamist ideology and the natural rights articulated during the European Enlightenment and incorporated into U.S. political culture. Acquiescing to political grievances will not alter the fundamental incompatibility between Lockean precepts of tolerance and current interpretations of Islam: Only Islam's fundamental reform will resolve the conflict.

Top Al-Qaeda Official Killed
Rick Moran, The American Thinker, February 01, 2008

Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior al-Qaeda commander, was killed by a US missile strike targeting him specifically on Wednesday: ... Libi can be replaced fairly easily so the hit does not damage al-Qaeda in a tactical way. But by any measure it is a blow strategically to the terrorists. This guy was competent, popular, and was well thought of by the men.

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From Elsewhere

The Liberals' Mommy Fascism
By Christopher Chantrill, The American Thinker, January 29 2008

Then, in Liberal Fascism:The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning,he takes the fateful step.  He argues that the American liberal tradition -- from early twentieth century Progressivism to the New Deal to Michael Lerner's politics of meaning and Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village -- is also an instantiation of the fascist concept.

Liberals would say that "liberal fascism" is an oxymoron, and a hateful one at that.  How could liberals have anything to do with right-wing fascism?  But sixty years ago Hayek in The Road to Serfdom had already made the connection.  He quoted Peter Drucker:  "Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion."  Communists and fascists, Hayek continues, "compete for the same type of mind and reserve for each other the hatred of the heretic."

Goldberg does not say that American liberals are street-fighting revolutionaries like Hitler and Mussolini.  He means that they belong to the same nostalgic tradition as the communists and fascists. They want to use political power to reestablish in the alienated modern city the lost innocence of community and kinship of the pre-modern village.

Crisis of Big Government
By Paul Weyrich, American Conservative Union Foundation, January 30, 2008

Conservatives may be surprised to hear that for over 50 years they have been somewhat successful in stopping the growth of big government. Going all the way to the early 1950s Federal spending has hovered in a fairly narrow band around 20% of GDP.

But even that limited success is soon to be swamped by reality. For the Federal Government’s long-term projections show a radical change over the next 40 years, with Federal spending soaring close to 40% of GDP or more. This is due to our nation’s big entitlement programs – Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Counting state and local spending, total government spending in the U.S. would be over 50% of GDP.

Obama’s New Deal
By Rich Lowry, National Review Online, January 29, 2008

Within the party, Clinton represented a turn away from old-style Michael Dukakis liberalism. Obama now seeks to upend the Clinton ascendancy. With an overwhelming South Carolina victory fueled by revulsion with the Clintons’ tactics, Obama is explicitly seeking to defeat Clintonism forever as a dominant force in national Democratic politics.

Long before Obama came on the scene, Democrats had tired of centrist-oriented Clintonian Third Way politics. The approach didn’t survive Al Gore’s campaign in 2000, when the vice president ran as a left-wing populist. John Kerry reprised Dukakis in 2004, and all the energy has been on the left of the party since then. Even Hillary has abandoned her husband’s moderation on trade.

Obama reflects this return to liberal orthodoxy. What makes him different — besides the historic nature of his candidacy — is his stylistic contrast with the Clintons. He promises a politics that is more civil and straightforward, less partisan and bare-knuckled. Nearly every passage in Obama’s stirring victory speech in South Carolina was a slap at the Clintons’ hardball politics, framed in inspirational liberal terms. Obama might as well have intoned, "We shall overcome — the Clintons."

The Movement Is What Matters
By Rush Limbaugh, January 28, 2008

We believe in conservatism.  We believe in it as a governing ideology.  We believe in it because it's the founding principle of this country.  We want it to take root, and we want it to soar because when it does, people soar, country soars.  S-o-a-r-s.  And to sit around here, we're not making calculations on the basis of one political issue to the next.  One of the reasons I think the Republican Party would be at least reshaped, is that I think it would lose big. I think that conservatives, some of them just won't vote.  I don't think the McCain people understand just how deep the resentment for Senator McCain has been and is, based on his time in the US Senate.  I don't think they understand it, and I think that they think that it can be overcome with a little outreach here and a little outreach there, by saying he's changed his position, changed his mind on illegal immigration. We got some audio sound bites that clearly indicate that he hasn't done that.  He was asked, for example, if the amnesty bill came up again, would he vote for it?  Oh, sure, I'd vote for it again.  He said what you don't understand is, it won't come back that way.  But he says he'd vote for it.  If he says he'd vote for it if he had a chance to, he would sign it as president if it came to his desk, then he hasn't changed his mind.  And who knows, it could come back.  That's the whole point.  It could come back in that same form.

McCain and the Supreme Court
By Steven G. Calabresi & John O. McGinnis, Thw Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2008

We believe that the nomination of John McCain is the best option to preserve the ongoing restoration of constitutional government. He is by far the most electable Republican candidate remaining in the race, and based on his record is as likely to appoint judges committed to constitutionalism ...We make no apology for suggesting that electability must be a prime consideration. 

Time To Apply The 15% Solution: Making Bush Tax Cuts Permanent
By Jason Desena Trennert, Investor’s Business Daily, January 30, 2008

Sadly, few policymakers would like to admit that no amount of government spending (or Fed easing for that matter) will address the root cause of the current economic slowdown — the unwinding of a housing bubble that started six years ago. The only cure for that malaise is, sadly, time and ensuring that current levels of employment and income remain intact.

What is most remarkable is that Congress, the administration and the Fed can propose $150 billion in new government spending without any meaningful discussion of perhaps the quickest, cheapest and potentially most effective way to restore business confidence and maintain the currently low levels of unemployment — making the Bush tax cuts on dividends and capital gains permanent.

Zombies no joke: global warming can cause anything
By William M. Briggs, Statistician, February 1st, 2008

A day ago my number two son and I sat over a bottle of wine and he suggested that if global warming caused temperatures to increase, then we would see an escalation in the number of zombie attacks because, obviously, there would be less cold weather, which everybody knows slows attacks from the undead. I wrote this up in the approved New York Times format, and, to my astonishment, some people thought I was joking.

I was not. The post was in earnest and was an attempt to put into perspective the hundreds, if not thousands, of "studies" that purport to show the ills that will befall us when global warming finally strikes. There are three problems with these studies.

The first is their ridiculous variety, nowhere better cataloged than at NumberWatch’s "Warm List". That page contains links, mostly to news reports to studies that ask us to believe that, for example, lizards will undergo sex changes, there will be "waves of rape", a rash of camel deaths will occur, the Earth will spin faster (hold on!), and, worst and most frightening of all, there will be an increase in lawyers (to handle all the "who’s fault is it?" litigation, you see).

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