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True North Archives - February 09, 2010
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The Key to Real Reform
By Robert Maynard

We are putting an unheard of amount of power in the hands of a small political class to affect just about every aspect of our lives. Is it any wonder that the end result is a political leadership that will do almost anything to stay in power? We have all heard of the arrogance of political officials who make laws for the rest of us but do not abide by those same laws. The political class has come to see itself as above the common citizen. They wield a degree of power that would have been the envy of ancient Roman Caesars. If we are really serious about reforming this mess, we need to take a serious look at our own role in enabling this behavior. In order to ensure that we have an ethical government, we must start with ensuring ethical citizens. On what criteria do we base our decision to support a candidate for political office? Is it character and a commitment to support the fundamental principles of government, or a promise to "bring home the bacon"? If it is the latter, then we are contributing to the problem and will never see real reform in government. 

Muddling Through the Looming Deficit
By John McClaughry

Basic point: the legislature can shave spending here and there, raise minor taxes and fees here and there, and maybe - maybe - close this year's huge budget deficit. That's called muddling through.

What Vermont really needs is a bold strategy to shrink the size and cost of government to what our overcharged taxpayers can afford, and stimulate our economy to wealth producing growth.  There won't be much of that this year.

Lots of Alpha, Not Much Numeric
By Martin Harris

One such (annual) class was presented (no real-time student questions allowed) by Vermont Governor James Douglas early last month as his gubernatorial swan song. His language was heavy on budget matters in alpha terms but, for the single-largest budget item, light on the essential proof demonstrable in numeric terms. That budget item is public education, whose own alpha-type leaders have remarkably pursued a strategy of increasing staff numbers in the context of decreasing student numbers, so that taxpayers in the year MMXI will be paying some $14,000 per pupil in school taxes, direct and indirect, to fund a pupil-teacher ratio of 11 to 1 and a pupil-staff ratio of 5-to-1, both the lowest in the Nation. The alpha politician proposed a modest increase in p/t ratio to 13-to1 and posited a cost saving of "as much as $100 million", but without the numerics to make that thesis at all convincing. Hereís the math. Itís better than he says.

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"(America is) reaping the consequences of the destruction of traditional education by the Dewey-Kilpatrick experimentalist philosophy."

-- from an extensive commentary on public education, made in March, 1958, by Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover (often called the "father of the atomic submarine")

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Not Just Good, But Great News
Caledonia Record Editorial, February 2, 2010

Developer Bill Stenger's announcement that a biotech firm will locate in Newport is good news that couldn't come at a better time. The $50 million plant with 200 new, high-paying jobs is an economic shot in the arm in an area that has traditionally had the highest rate of unemployment in the state. ...

The state impetus has come from Gov. Jim Douglas. He and Bill Stenger traveled to Seoul, Korea, in October to seal the deal to bring AnC Bio VT to northern Vermont. Gov. Douglas has continued Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie's international networking efforts, a hallmark of Dubie's tenure that has borne fruit from Cuba and Canada.

Committee: Burlington Telecom Not Financially Viable
From WCAX, February 5, 2010

It's laid out through most of the city and Burlington Telecom's fiber optic network now provides cable, internet and telephone service to approximately 4,800 city residents and businesses.

Few would argue that Burlington has built a world class state-of-the-art system, but there's one problem-- they can't afford it and the Blue Ribbon Committee says there aren't many viable options available.

Second Fatal Crash Revives Fetus Debate
By Terri Hallenbeck, Burlington Free Press, February 4, 2010

If her story sounds familiar, it is eerily similar to that of Patricia Blair, a Bennington woman who lost her six-month twin fetuses in a car crash in August. Blair was outraged to learn that charges against the other driver in her crash would not relate to the deaths of her fetuses. She is fighting for changes in state law that would allow that.

Cardinal said she remembered hearing Blairís story last summer and remembers thinking at the time that the fetuses should count. Now, she is joining Blair in the call for change.

Feds: State Worker in $500,000 Rip-Off
By Thatcher Moats, Times Argus, February 2, 2010

A former state employee is suspected of taking nearly $500,000 of state money that was destined for needy Vermonters and diverting it into private bank accounts controlled by her and her family, according to papers filed in a Burlington federal court on Friday.

Kathy Lantagne, a 19-year veteran of the Agency of Human Services, is the subject of a federal investigation into possible embezzlement, bank fraud, money laundering, mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy, according to the court papers.

Death, Taxes And Sob Stories
Caledonia Record Editorial, February 2, 2010

The two certainties of time immemorial are death and taxes, and since time immemorial, there has been a debate over what the third certainty would be if there were one. Some think that the third would be dirty politics, others prophecy of the imminent approach of Doomsday, still others even more absurd campaigns than the one to change the name of fish to "sea kittens" by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Our suggestion is death, taxes, and sob stories. Every time our legislators suggest cutting or trimming entitlement programs, the sob job begins. Stories are told about hardships and the suffering that will befall the grandmas, the orphans, the homeless, the mentally uncertain, and 50 other victims of the newly hard-hearted nanny-state.

Funding And Fairness: Vermont's School Finance System
Valley News Editorial, February 2, 2010

The main problem with Vermont's system of school funding is that it is opaque. Taxpayers very often don't understand it, and local school officials (let alone journalists) struggle to explain it to them. The result is confusion that undermines the worthy goals that underpin the system. Ironically, much of what makes it hard to understand stems from an attempt to ensure fairness.

That attempt was mandated by the Vermont Supreme Court in a 1996 decision. In that case, Brigham v. State of Vermont, the court ruled that the then-existing system of school funding was unconstitutional and concluded that the state must provide "substantially equal access" to education for all Vermont students, regardless of where they live. In other words, no one should suffer an educational disadvantage because of an accident of geography. That seemed to us then, and now, to be a legally, socially and morally justified precept, and one that has been supported by rulings in other states.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

The Homegrown-Terrorist Threat
By James Kirchick, Commentary, February, 2010

If 2001 was the year when international terrorism hit American soil, then 2009 was the year when Americans became the targets of domestic terrorism. In November, Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, born in Virginia to Palestinian Muslim parents, killed 13 and wounded 30 in his one-man attack on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas. The massacre, which Senator Joseph Lieberman properly labeled "the most destructive terrorist act to be committed on American soil since 9/11," capped a year of terrorist plots or conspiracies inside the United States, most of which were stopped by law enforcement in their planning stages. The notable fact about all these cases is that they are examples of so-called homegrown terrorismómeaning that they were planned by individuals either born or raised in the United States and executed without significant assistance from overseas networks.

Who Rules Iran? Iranian Ambitions
By Reza Molavi & K. Luisa Gandolfo, Middle East Quarterly, Winter, 2010

The tenth presidential elections represented a new chapter in Iran's intense intra-elite dispute. No one outside or inside Iran can predict the ultimate outcome. One thing has become abundantly clear: Ahmadinejad's reliance on paramilitary forces to support him in bringing about velayat- e ummat (guardianship of the people) has given way to Khomeini's doctrine of velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the clergy), the doctrinal principle on which the current system rests. In this context, Khamenei is not obliged to uphold international norms of human rights but to help erect a pure and authentic Islamic government while conforming Shari'a to Iran's political and social setting. The removal of Masha'i demonstrated, once more, that the real decision-maker in Iran is the supreme leader and not the president. Blaming Iran's problems on Ahmadinejad would lead us in a dangerous direction by suggesting that those problems will go away when he is finally driven out of office.

Geopolitical Intelligence Report: A Defensive Buildup in the Gulf
By George Friedman, Strategic Forecasters, February 1, 2010

In the end, Obama has followed the Bush strategy on Iran ó make vague threats, try to build a coalition, hold Israel off with vague promises, protect the Arabian Peninsula, and wait ó to the letter. But along with this announcement, we would expect to begin to see a series of articles on the offensive deployment of U.S. forces, as good defensive posture requires a strong offensive option.

Intelligence Officials Warn Attempted Al Qaeda Attack Months Away
From Fox News, February 02, 2010

Al Qaeda can be expected to attempt an attack on the United States in the next three to six months, senior U.S. intelligence officials told Congress Tuesday.

The terrorist organization is deploying operatives to the United States to carry out new attacks from inside the country, including "clean" recruits with a negligible trail of terrorist contacts, CIA Director Leon Panetta said. Al Qaeda is also inspiring homegrown extremists to trigger violence on their own, Panetta added.

America's 'Free' Falling Economy
From Investorís Business Daily, February 01, 2010

The latest index of economic freedom shows America falling fast, being ranked for the first time as "mostly free." We've fallen behind Canada, and it's look out below. Our accelerating descent into a command-and-control economy with government pulling the strings is taking its toll.

The Heritage Foundation's 2010 index of leading economic indicators shows that the land of the free is only mostly free, falling to eighth in the world from sixth last year, now sandwiched between Canada and Denmark.

A Watershed Election
By Michael Rubin, Middle East Forum, February 1, 2010

After the Iraqi parliament banned 500 candidates from contesting the March 7 national elections, Vice President Joseph Biden rushed to Baghdad to urge Iraqi political leaders to reconsider. While the ban has fueled U.S. cynicism about Iraqi democracy, such cynicism is unwarranted, especially now.

The Iraqi parliament's decision did not wipe out Sunni candidates. Even the majority Shia lists are multi-sectarian. Iraqis say the controversy is really about rule-of-law and sovereignty issues. Across the ethnic and sectarian spectrum ó and even in senior Iraqi military circles ó Iraqis consider it likely that there will be a Baathist coup attempt following U.S. withdrawal, even if they disagree about its chances of success. Indeed, it is no coincidence the current defense minister is among those banned by parliament.

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From Elsewhere

It Begins: Cash Strapped Cities Begin To Crumble
By John Carney, Business Insider, February 4, 2010

Our nascent economic recovery may come too late to save many American cities from bankruptcy, which in turn will deal heavy losses to municipal bond investors and the companies that insure munis.

The latest fright comes from Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania. The city is considering seeking bankruptcy protectionóas well as tax hikes and asset salesóto address $68 million in debt service payments due this year.

Climategate Necessary to Cover Incorrect Climate Basics of IPCC
By Dr. Tim Ball, Canada Free Press, February 2, 2010

Canada and the US announced new targets for carbon reduction that are completely unnecessary. It is madness and ultimately destructive to western society but what the perpetrators want. Despite exposure of the complete corruption of the science they continue to assume CO2 is a problem. UN Climate chief Yves De Boer said, "whatís happened, itís unfortunate, itís bad, itís wrong, but I donít think it has damaged the basic science."

British Climate Secretary Ed Miliband said, "Itís right that thereís rigour applied to all the reports about climate change, but I think it would be wrong that when a mistake is made itís somehow used to undermine the overwhelming picture thatís there," Itís not one mistake but a complete fabrication of every aspect of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Reports. In addition, science is only correct when accurate predictions are made and the IPCC have been wrong in every single one. Milibandís thinking helps explain why the UK is on the brink of economic disaster and needs a diversion. It is said, despite the disclosures, because the objective of eliminating fossil fuels and destroying industrial economies is still pursued.

Watchdog: Bailouts Created More Risk in System
From NewsMax, January 31, 2010 

The government's response to the financial meltdown has made it more likely the United States will face a deeper crisis in the future, an independent watchdog at the Treasury Department warned. 

The problems that led to the last crisis have not yet been addressed, and in some cases have grown worse, says Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the trouble asset relief program, or TARP. The quarterly report to Congress was released Sunday.

Behind Obama's Phony Deficit Numbers
By Dick Morris, February 1, 2010

President Obama is being disingenuous when he says that the budget deficit he faced "when I walked in the door" of the White House was $1.3 trillion. He went on to say that he only increased it to $1.4 trillion in 2009 and was raising it to $1.6 trillion in 2010.

Congressman Joe Wilson might have said "you lie," but weíll settle for "you distort."

(As Mark Twain once said, there are three kinds of lies: "lies, damn lies, and statistics.")

Here are the facts...

Related: Obama Submits Largest Budget in History, But is Portrayed as Fiscal Conservative by Networks

Justice Defends Ruling on Finance
By Adam Liptak, New York Times, February 3, 2010

Justice Thomas said the First Amendmentís protections applied regardless of how people chose to assemble to participate in the political process.

"If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, youíd say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association," he said. "If you all then formed a partnership to speak, youíd say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association."

"But what if you put yourself in a corporate form?" Justice Thomas asked, suggesting that the answer must be the same.

Gallup: Majority of Dems View Socialism Positively
By David Paul Kuhn, Real Clear Politics, February 4, 2010

The Gallup Poll reports that a majority of Democrats, 53%, have a "positive" image of socialism, which includes independents who lean toward the blue party.

Only 17 percent of Republican and GOP-leaners hold socialism in a positive light. In total, more than one-third of Americans, 36%, have a positive image of socialism.

Also viewing socialism positively: 61% of liberals, 39% of moderates and 20% of conservatives.

Note from TNR: At the time of publication this article was missing from the RCP website. For a preview of its contents, one can find part of the article reprinted here.

America is Not Ungovernable
By Jay Cost, Real Clear Politics, , February 8, 2010

While the President won a decisive victory in 2008, his congressional majority in both chambers depends entirely upon members whose constituents voted for John McCain. In fact, the President's election 16 months ago was one of the most polarizing in recent history. This remains a divided country, which creates complications in a system such as ours. The President should have recognized this, and governed with a view to building a broad coalition. But he has not.

America is not ungovernable. Barack Obama has so far failed to govern it. 

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