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True North Archives - February 17, 2009
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Our Reckoning
By Tom Licata

A September 2008 Harvard Business Review article showed that "in 1980, the total value of global financial assets was roughly equal to world gross domestic product (GDP)."  In 2007, these same financial assets increased to 356% of world GDP; most of the increase from private and government debt.  According to Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf, "the ratio of U.S. public and private debt to GDP reached 358% in the third quarter of 2008."  The previous all-time high of 300% was reached in 1933, during the Great Depression.  Most of this debt is private, reaching nearly 300% of GDP in 2007.  U.S. household debt service (as a percent of disposable income) is at its highest level since the Great Depression.

What are the implications of these numbers?  Simply put, there is not enough money – by consumers, businesses or governments - to back up all this debt.  Many parts of Europe and Asia are witnessing social unrest, as the implications of this financial reality takes hold.

Forgotten Man
By Martin Harris

The "forgotten man" of the Great Depression, the guy who struggled through a decade of New Deal supposed stimulative cures which only made matters worse, was smarter than all those Keynesians then, and he (or his descendants) is/are smarter than they (or their descendants) now. For starters, today’s "forgotten man"  has just pushed his savings rate up, against expert advice, from the recent zero level to 2% of earnings; not where it was in the early ‘80’s at over 10%, but it’s a start. From Economics 101: "savings equals investment" which means that the desired job-creation comes out of free-market capital investment and not out of government debt. The experts don’t want him to save. They’ve said so. But the extravagant consumer spending of the last decade or so hasn’t come out of earnings alone, although it has pushed the savings rate down to zero; it has also come from huge jumps in credit card debt and from drawing down home-owner equity in housing.
By Tom Wilson

Committees don't invent; people invent. Swimmers against the tide invent, original renegades, determined originalists, entrepreneurs invent. Intellectual eagles are academic outcasts. The old group think collective never thinks a thing except parsing rules for membership.

By Tom Wilson 

(Note: This was intended for last week's issue, but the link was inadvertently omitted.) One of the targets of all this enforcement of illusion is Israel. It's not our fault, say the maniacal (remember, Religion of Peace) Islamists, It's all Israel's fault. They make us do it. You just need to divide Jerusalem, amputate the Golan, Judea, and Samaria, just give us another state (only the 57th) and we'll give you all peace and security. Sure we will.

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"Thus, our national circulating medium is now at the mercy of loan transactions of banks, which lend, not money, but promises to supply money they do not possess."

-- Irving Fisher (1867-1947) American economist. Source: 100% Money, 1935

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Poll Shows Support for School Choice
From the Burlington Free Press, February 13 2009

A plurality of Vermonters believe their public schools are "good or excellent," but nearly nine out of 10 would send their children to private, charter, or virtual schools, or educate their children at home, according to a new poll sponsored by school choice groups.

The results come from a survey conducted by Strategic Vision and sponsored by Vermonters for Better Education and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization. The survey found majority support for school choice which is consistent with a poll conducted 10 years ago for Vermont Public Radio showing support even for money following the child to religious schools.

Related: Vermont’s Opinion on K-12 Education and School Choice (A public opinion survey conducted by Strategic Vision)

When Windfalls Collide
From Vermont Tiger, February 14, 2009

There's no quantifiable stimulus in the federal spending.  It's simply more federal spending.  I recall a time when deficits were horrible monstrosities that must be eliminated by all right-thinking people.  If all government spending is a good thing now, no matter what the money is spent on, then there's nothing wrong with increased defense spending, is there?  Especially for US contractors? Why was defense spending so horrible a year ago, but now all spending is such a fantastic idea?

It's Decision Making Time
Caledonia Record, February 11, 2009

The current Montpelier version is a bit different. The sky really is falling and the King, Gov. Jim Douglas, already knows it. He has been doing his best to get the Chicken Little Democrats to believe it and make some really important decisions to solve Vermont's critical financial problems. The Democratic leadership is panicked at having to make hard decisions that often run 180 degrees opposite their political sacred cows, the VSEA, VT-NEA, and all entitlement programs.

Pure Golf
From Vermont Tiger, February 12, 2009

Shots fired in the latest skirmish in the long war between Vermont and WalMart.  A friend of the Tiger thought it curious that Act 250 might be used to protect the views of golfers in Bennington and decided to do a little computer  research.  He recalled that Augusta National – scene of the Masters and one of the world's iconic golf courses – is in a pretty trashy neighborhood.

Vt. Lawmakers Want Maximum Retail Milk Price
From WCAX-TV, February 11, 2009

These Senators want to set the price of milk you buy at the store, saying large supermarkets are gouging Vermonters for a gallon of milk and in these difficult economic times they want to step in. ...

"I don't think I can support it," said Rep. Norman McAllister, R-Franklin.

Opponents are concerned this bill intrudes on private business. McAllister is a farmer and on the Agriculture committee that will look at this bill.

Leahy Should Get To Work
Caledonia Record Editorial, February 5, 2009

Bush and company made plenty of mistakes and often played alarmingly fast-and-loose with our Constitution in claiming seven years of terrorist-free homeland security. Those shortcomings, notwithstanding, we have to wonder how Leahy would have fared in front of a Senate committee, a "Truth Commission," investigating repeated leaks of sensitive, classified foreign intelligence when he was Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the 80's. Though he resigned from that committee in disgrace, he was lucky to have escaped prosecution. He got off easy with the lifetime nickname of "Leaky Leahy."

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

Asia: The Coming Fury
By Walden Bello, Foreign Policy in Focus, February 9, 2009

The sudden end of the export era is going to have some ugly consequences. In the last three decades, rapid growth reduced the number living below the poverty line in many countries. In practically all countries, however, income and wealth inequality increased. But the expansion of consumer purchasing power took much of the edge off social conflicts. Now, with the era of growth coming to an end, increasing poverty amid great inequalities will be a combustible combination.

In China, about 20 million workers have lost their jobs in the last few months, many of them heading back to the countryside, where they will find little work. The authorities are rightly worried that what they label "mass group incidents," which have been increasing in the last decade, might spin out of control. With the safety valve of foreign demand for Indonesian and Filipino workers shut off, hundreds of thousands of workers are returning home to few jobs and dying farms. Suffering is likely to be accompanied by rising protest, as it already has in Vietnam, where strikes are spreading like wildfire. Korea, with its tradition of militant labor and peasant protest, is a ticking time bomb. Indeed, East Asia may be entering a period of radical protest and social revolution that went out of style when export-oriented industrialization became the fashion three decades ago.

Exclusive:Obama’s Misguided Iran Policies
By Christopher Holton, Family Security Matters, February 14, 2009

Among the topics that President Obama covered in his first news conference on the evening of Monday, February 9th, was Iran. The president made several troubling statements – which is hardly surprising, given that the new administration's entire approach to Iran is troubling. President Obama used terms and phrases like "constructive dialogue," "engage" and "mutual respect and progress."

None of these expressions has any place in a conversation about Iran.

Obama opening floodgates by inviting Hamas to "migrate" to the U.S.A.?
By Judi McLeod & Michael Travis, Canada Free Press, February 5, 2009

On his first official day in the White House, President Barack Obama was on the horn to President Mahmoud Abbas. ...

Given that a clip from Al-Jazeera televised Hamas-controlled Palestinians "burning up the phone bank from Gaza" to rally support for his presidential campaign, perhaps the telephone call was made out of gratitude. 

Seven days later on January 27, President Obama signed Presidential Determination No. 2009-15, which allocates $20.3 million for Palestinian migration and refugee assistance.

Iraq: Good News Is No News
By Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post, February 13, 2009

Preoccupied as it was poring over Tom Daschle's tax returns, Washington hardly noticed a near-miracle abroad. Iraq held provincial elections. There was no Election Day violence. Security was handled by Iraqi forces with little U.S. involvement. A fabulous bazaar of 14,400 candidates representing 400 parties participated, yielding results highly favorable to both Iraq and the United States.

Jihad against Love: Valentine's Day Enflames the Middle East
By Dr. Walid Phares, Family Security Matters, February 14, 2009

"Al Gharam mamn’uh, al Gharam kufr," screamed the self-declared cleric in al-Ansar’s chat room this Friday. "Love is forbidden, love is infidel" -- said the online fatwa about the "legitimacy of loving and being in love." 

A weekend before Valentine's Day, jihadist souls were not questioning the "commercialization" of romance, but inquiring about the ban on "being in love." The "scholars" said human love is evil. The simple feeling of being attracted to or in love with someone is a terrifying sin if it is committed outside of their religious dogma -- and it warrants serious punishment.

U.S. Airstrike Kills 30 in Pakistan
By Pir Zubair Shah, The New York Times, February 14, 2009

Two missiles fired from American drone aircraft killed more than 30 people, including Qaeda and Taliban fighters, near the Pakistani border with Afghanistan on Saturday, according to a Pakistani intelligence official and residents of the area.

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From Elsewhere

Lawsuit: Florida Clinic Botched Abortion, Threw Out Live Baby
From the Associated Press, February 05, 2009

Eighteen and pregnant, Sycloria Williams went to an abortion clinic outside Miami and paid $1,200 for Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique to terminate her 23-week pregnancy. Three days later, she sat in a reclining chair, medicated to dilate her cervix and otherwise get her ready for the procedure. Only Renelique didn't arrive in time. According to Williams and the Florida Department of Health, she went into labor and delivered a live baby girl.

What Williams and the Health Department say happened next has shocked people on both sides of the abortion debate: One of the clinic's owners, who has no medical license, cut the infant's umbilical cord. Williams says the woman placed the baby in a plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.

On the Dole Again
By Michael D. Tanner Cato Institute

Much of the "stimulus" bill is devoted to a backdoor undoing of one of Washington's greatest achievements of recent years - welfare reform.

One of the most important changes of the Clinton-era reform law was replacing the individual entitlement to welfare with a block grant to the states. In the old system, the more people a state signed up for welfare, the more money it got from Washington. The block grant broke this link, creating an incentive for states to help people become self-supporting.

But, as The Post's Charles Hurt has reported, slipped into the stimulus bill is a provision establishing a new $3 billion emergency fund to help states pay for added welfare recipients, with the federal government footing 80 percent of the cost for the new "clients." Plus, the bill would reward states for increasing caseloads, even if the growth came because the state had loosened its requirements for recipients to work.

Republican Study Committee's Hopeful Message to Conservatives
By Patrick J. Casey, American Thinker, February, 2009

On February 4th 2009, the Chairman of the RSC, Rep. Tom Price M.D., sent out an open letter to members of the RSC's mailing list. Whenever letters like that go out, one assumes that a request for funds can be found somewhere inside. But this letter was different, and wasn't a plea for money. Rep. Price was asking conservatives for support - but in the form of optimism and determination to get the GOP back to its conservative foundation, asking them to once again firmly embrace "conservative solutions-based traditions".

Race Alarmists Hijack Black History Month
By Anthony B. Bradley Ph.D., Acton Institute for Religion and Liberty, February 11, 2009

High concentrations of blacks and Latinos is a problem for critics because of the mythological belief that blacks and Latinos need to be in the presence of whites to achieve academic success. It is the New Racism: the idea that minorities cannot survive without whites. The report additionally confuses race with class. What matters most is not that blacks and Latinos are in minority schools but that lower-income black and Latino parents suffer from not having the freedom to attend whatever school will best educate their children, as do many in higher income brackets, including middle-class minorities.

A predominantly black and Latino demographic is an irrelevant factor in a school’s low student achievement scores. All-black schools have produced high achieving students in the past. Thomas Sowell tells of a segregated high school that, from 1870 to 1955, repeatedly equaled or exceeded national norms on standardized tests. During the entire 85-year history of Washington’s M Street/Dunbar High School, most of its 12,000 graduates went on to higher education, an unusual achievement for any school—white or black—during this era. Some M Street/Dunbar School graduates attended Harvard and other elite colleges in the early twentieth century.

Economists Paint Gloomy Picture
By Lynn Cook, Houston Chronicle, February 12, 2009

In a freewheeling discussion about "The Great Recession" and energy, top economists painted dark scenarios that could be ranked as bad, worse and horrendous.

"2009 is basically a write-off," Harvard University economics professor Kenneth Rogoff told a packed audience at CERAWeek, the annual Houston conference that has come to be known as the Davos of the energy world. The other economists agreed.

Climate of Change: UK Met Office Issues ‘Blistering Attack on Scientific Colleagues’ For ‘Apocalyptic Climate Predictions'
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, February 11, 2009

Scientists at the UK Met office "launched a blistering attack on scientific colleagues and journalists who exaggerate the effects of global warming." The Met office, "one of the most prestigious research facilities in the world" according to the February 11, 2009, article in the UK Guardian, is no hotbed of climate skeptics, as the organization accepts the UN IPCC view of man-made global warming. A U.S. climate expert has also declared that "the political consensus surrounding climate policy is collapsing," and a U.S. Naval Academy chemist has accused the media of "journalistic malpractice" for hyping warming fears. Furthermore, NASA's James Hansen and have also come under renewed criticism.  .

The Emerging Liberal Oligarchy
By Christopher Chantrill, American Thinker, February 12, 2009

Anyone can make a mistake.  But when a parade of Obama administration cabinet picks -- Richardson, Daschle, Killefer, and Lynn -- turn out to have ethics or tax problems, and are actual lobbyists or lobbyists by any other name, you start to wonder. But why be surprised? You expect stuff like that from today's Democrats.

Obama's Rhetoric Is the Real 'Catastrophe'
By Bradley R. Schiller, Thw Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2009

President Barack Obama has turned fearmongering into an art form. He has repeatedly raised the specter of another Great Depression. First, he did so to win votes in the November election. He has done so again recently to sway congressional votes for his stimulus package.

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