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True North Archives - April 03, 2007
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Featured Articles

Spelling Test (Part I)
By Martin Harris

There is a quite limited range of nation-wide tests –one of the few is 4th grade reading -- which, under Federal regulations, a sampling of students in every state is required to take. It's called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and in its annually-published results, you can actually compare, say, teaching results in Vermont and Utah and every other States. Results are uniformly dismal: there's not a single State in which the public schools get their 4th graders to score better than the low 200's out of a possible 500, meaning that about 2/3 of 4th graders can't make "proficient" in reading at grade level, even in the so-called "best" States. Understandably, educators don't like publicizing these results, so they don't. What they prefer to publicize, in lieu of the Federal test scores, are the far-better results of locally purchased tests.

Enforced Purity?
By Bruce P. Shields

As an agrarian movement, the Blut und Boden people were also very suspicious of city people, and were especially aggrieved by the intrusion of capitalist modes of organization into the traditionally communitarian institutions of the ancient rural economy.  In many rural areas, a kind of code word for capitalism was Jewish, in some small part inflamed by the very spectacular success of the French Jewish family of Rothschild in investment banking.  So the core Nazi group coalesced around the idea of purity: racial purity, purity of language, purity of communitarian customs.  With its agrarian base, the Nazi propaganda (excluding the extreme racism normally present) would read today like the program of the Green Party. 

Property Tax Propaganda
By Peter Behr

Recent editorials in the Valley News and the Rutland Herald, bleating the prevailing political line from Montpelier, pointed to the approval of most school budgets at town meetings as evidence that the "property tax revolt" is over. This must come as quite a shock to Revolt and Repeal and the 60 plus towns and hundreds of taxpayers that have called for the repeal of Acts 60 and 68, and as a relief to the legislators, such as Harry Chen, who were pilloried at Town Meetings.

“Scribblings”: Education Cost Containment and Property Tax Relief
By Rep. Thomas F. Koch, Barre Town

We are faced with a basic problem.  Act 60/68 is a cash cow, generating millions of dollars more each year than we ever dreamed...  And as long as the revenue system continues to produce money, the educational system will continue to absorb it. Act 60/68 is also a system that local voters have little control over, and it is a system that is so little understood that even the “experts” who attempt to explain it to others find themselves getting confused and making errors.  It is a system that needs to be replaced by one designed to raise money and pay bills to support a specific budget, after that has been adopted, a system that is understood by most taxpayers, and that can be controlled by casting one’s vote in an informed manner.

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This Week’s Mail Bag

Dear True North Editor: 

I am outraged at the poor performance of our current state legislature under Democratic leadership. Are the leaders of the House and Senate in competition, a contest, to see who can be the most inept and ineffectual legislative leader --ever? In the latest show of incompetence, House Speaker Gaye Symington blames the governor for not advocating a totally ineffective bill to address education funding that would bring relief to the crushing property taxes. Pointing the finger has been Symington’s calling card since she was elected by Democrats (I guess we can blame them) for her new job. She looks to blame others for her failed leadership - anybody near by, it seems. Look, the good governor will not support a bill which puts a band aid on a broken leg? 

Not to be outdone, Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin has been trying to win the "booby prize" contest by advocating a Senate bill that supposedly will cure global warming! And he thinks our effort will bring high tech workers knocking on Vermont's door and that will solve our sagging economy. Senate bill S.94 is a pitiful piece of legislation. It’s so vague and there is no way to begin to understand how it is supposed to work. And this is the way of the Democrats - they will pass a bill on supposed higher moral ground without providing the justification nor where the funding for the bill will come from. And in typical Shumlin fashion, he said, “We’ll come up with a funding source." When Peter? At this point I think he leads, slightly, in this sad contest. Oh, and Peter, we the people are the source - always - and its hurting!! 

To be fair in this contest, Symington and Shumlin can’t be completely blamed for their incompetence to get something of real importance accomplished. This current crowd, aforementioned, that makes up the majority portion of the legislative body, Democrats, is proving to be the most inept I’ve seen in my many years living in this state. I have to wonder if Vermont would be better served by randomly picking a class of 5th graders to lead the way. Follow the children. That reminds me. Have you heard of that new TV show on Fox - "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader"? I really think any one of those TV fifth graders pitted against adults, who beat the adults, could lead this legislature far better than those leading us in that "new direction." To the poor house. 

I would strongly encourage the legislature to spend 100% of its time for the remainder of the session, and all of next year’s session, to stay on task - forget impeachment - forget Pre-K education expansion, forget the prohibition of wood stoves (that helps us stay energy independent from Iran) and serve at the pleasure of the citizens of this state. If not - if you continue to ignore their best interests, financial and otherwise, then their growing displeasure will hopefully send you packing. 

Glenn Thompson, Essex Center, VT 

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"Al Qaeda leadership is not hurt as badly as intelligence officials once thought." --New York Times, April 2, 2007

"London became such a safe haven for Muslim militants that it came to be known as Londonistan ... What I've come to realize is that killing for the sake of killing, and killing in the name of Islam for the sake of killing, is completely and utterly prohibited. And there's a big disease, a big problem and a cancer in the Muslim world. And it's a very dangerous cancer, and it needs to be dealt with." --Former terrorist recruiter and British citizen, Hassan Butt - age 26, now advocating an end to jihad.  His life has been threatened by jihadist and been called a traitor by his family. His full interview with Bob Simon on 60 Minutes, March 25, can be accssessed here

"I decapitated with my blessed hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl" --Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, March 10, 2007, a detainee at Guantanamo. The 9-11 Commission said Khalid was "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks." 

"Isn't that [Democrat's legislation setting a date certain to withdraw from Iraq and withhold funding for the war] handing a victory to Al Qaeda? They must be laughing at us right now." --Andy Potter to Peter Welch on the WCAX's TV show, Your Can Quote Me (YCQM) 

"But can you imagine Congress setting a deadline in WW II? I mean Hitler and Hirohito would have laughed at us as Andy said." --A question and comment by host of YCQM's, Marselis Parsons to Peter Welch - Sunday, April 1, 2007. 

Some of Peter Welch's long commentary to the questions: "...The Iraq Study Commission ... acknowledged that the war is making us less secure - not more .... Should we be in the war? Is it in the interest of American national security that we have an opened ended involvement in a civil war in Iraq? If you think the answer is 'yes' then you should not set a deadline .... In the first Persian Gulf War, President Bush 41, assembled a worldwide coalition. He got UN Support and 96 countries to participate and it worked." [Note: 96 foreign countries, and the UN, united to confront the terrorist Saddam Hussein on this first Iraq War, but not Senator Leahy, Jeffords and Sanders] 

"If the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe for Iraq, the United States, the region, and the world ... The regional influence of Iran could rise at a time when that country is on a path to producing nuclear weapons ... Because of the importance of Iraq, the potential for catastrophe ... we believe it would be wrong for the United States to abandon the country through a precipitate withdrawal of troops and support." --From the final report of the Iraqi Study Group co-chaired by Democrat Lee Hamilton and Republican James Baker.

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Examining Orthodoxy Serves Science Well
Burlington Free Press Editorial, March 30, 2007

S. Fred Singer brought his skepticism about what is rapidly becoming the common wisdom, that human activity is driving climate change, to the University of Vermont campus Wednesday in a talk sponsored by Lake Champlain International, a group best known for its fishing derbies. Singer probably changed few minds, if any, but he did stir debate in public and in person. That in itself is a critical service. When an orthodoxy threatens to overwhelm any subject -- especially in the sciences -- there's nothing like an opposing view to spur the search for knowledge.

Welch bill would fund carbon 'offsets' with taxpayer money
By Dan McLean, Burlington Free Press, March 29, 2007

Federal tax dollars could be used to buy carbon "offsets" if legislation introduced by Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., becomes law -- creating a potential windfall for the blossoming offset industry. Legislative branch offices and all federal agencies -- including massive institutions such as the State, Defense and Transportation departments -- would be authorized to use portions of their budgets to buy greenhouse-gas offsets and renewable-energy credits, should the Carbon Neutrality Act of 2007 become law.

Thinking Small
Caledonian Record Editorial, March 27, 2007

Right now, a high spending district can spend up to $12,500 before triggering a penalty. Had House Ed gone with a 120 percent trigger, taxpayers could have seen a minuscule savings. If the average cost per student were $10,000 (it's a lot more than that), a high spending district would be penalized for every dollar it spent over $12,000. That, they deemed too stringent a penalty. Under their compromise with Ways and Means, a high spending district will be able to spend $12,300 without triggering the penalty. Man, what a Draconian penalty! What taxpayer savings! What courage on the part of our legislative committees! Who knows? Maybe next time they will sting the high spenders with a trigger that is a full $100 lower than it is now.

Budget back-and-forth shows little leadership
Burlington Free Press Editorial, March 27, 2007

The back-and-forth of blame and posturing might be business as usual when it comes to the budget process in Montpelier, but Vermonters shouldn't have to put up with this type of partisan politics over their money when they face some of the highest tax burdens of any state in the nation. Recent articles published by the financial Web site MSN Money puts Vermont's overall state and local tax burden at 10th highest in the nation, based on 2005 data. Looking at just property taxes, Vermonters paid at the fourth highest rate in the nation -- the median tax was 1.63 percent of the median home value. Residents of only two other states, -- New Jersey and New Hampshire -- paid a larger percentage of their income in property taxes than Vermonters, who paid 5.07 percent. What this means for the budget is that neither the governor nor legislators can turn to taxpayers to fill in those gaps.

VT House pulls education funding from bill for lack of votes
WCAX, March 29, 2006

House Democrats pulled an education funding bill from the floor at the last minute Thursday because it didn't have enough votes to pass, jeopardizing the Vermont Legislature's chances of enacting property tax reduction legislation this year. House Speaker Gaye Symington blamed Gov. Jim Douglas, who she said failed to persuade Republicans to get behind it. Democrats were reluctant to back an initiative they believed was too much of a compromise in favor of Douglas' priorities, not theirs, she said. ... Douglas issued a statement late in the day lambasting lawmakers for wasting time and warning that no income tax increase would get by him. He said that would only shift taxes, not slow growth.

Related: Act 60 for Preschool Bill Introduced in Vermont

You Scratch My Back And I'll Scratch Yours
Caledonian Record Editorial, March 29, 2007

Democrats certainly pay their political bills. Union membership and successful organizing activities have been in serious decline for the past two decades. The unions are desperate to reverse the trend that has become a large-scale desertion by their former members. Democratic and union politics are virtual synonyms. Democrats across the nation, including here in Vermont, depend upon union support to get elected. When is the last time that you heard that the union, any union, supported a Republican or didn't support a Democrat. But union support doesn't come free, it's payback time for the Democrats, and here they come.

Related: My Turn: Fightin' Bob and the secret ballot by John McClaughry, March 30, 2007

Related: Union bill hurts workers and business Burlington Free Press Editorial, March 29, 2007

VT State mulls wood furnace regulations
WCAX, March 29, 2007

A proposal to regulate emissions from outdoor wood furnaces is drawing heat from both sides of the issue, with supporters saying it's needed to combat air pollution but some contending it would effectively deny Vermonters a home-heating option. ... The rule, which went before a legislative rules committee Wednesday, would limit new boilers to .44 pounds of particulate emissions per million BTUs of heat input starting in March 2008. ..."If the standard can't be met, then we view this as an outright ban," said Ed Larson, representing Central Boiler of Greenbush, Minn.

Politics of class warfare and taxes
By Rich Tarrant, Burlington Free Press, March 30, 2007

The reality is that the rich are now paying more taxes without realizing any wealth they had not already accumulated. And if the measure of a tax is whether or not it is progressive, consider this: The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans now pay 37 percent of all income taxes, up from 33 percent in the pre-Bush tax-cut days. Furthermore, the Treasury has seen record tax collections since the "cuts."

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From Elsewhere

Poor Behavior Is Linked to Time in Day Care
By Benedict Carey, The New York Times, March 26, 2007

A much-anticipated report from the largest and longest-running study of American child care has found that keeping a preschooler in a day care center for a year or more increased the likelihood that the child would become disruptive in class and that the effect persisted through the sixth grade. The effect was slight, and well within the normal range for healthy children, the researchers found. And as expected, parents guidance and their genes had by far the strongest influence on how children behaved. But the finding held up regardless of the child's sex or family income, and regardless of the quality of the day care center. With more than two million American preschoolers attending day care, the increased disruptiveness very likely contributes to the load on teachers who must manage large classrooms, the authors argue. ...

The debate reached a high pitch in the late 1980s, during the so-called day care wars, when social scientists questioned whether it was better for mothers to work or stay home. Day care workers and their clients, mostly working parents, argued that it was the quality of the care that mattered, not the setting. But the new report affirms similar results from several smaller studies in the past decade suggesting that setting does matter.

Related: N.I.C.D. Study of Early Child Care

Related: Act 60 for Preschool Bill Introduced in Vermont

The Global Warming Industrial Complex
by Joseph Loconte, The Weekly Standard, 03/28/2007

Even people with impeccably green credentials, if they question global warming dogma, are treated like heretics fit for the fire. "If you're skeptical about the litany behind climate change," says Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, "it's suddenly as if you're a Holocaust denier." A development expert from Kenya sees an ideology militantly opposed to modernization. "There is somebody keen to kill the African dream, and the African dream is to develop," he says. "We are being told don't touch your resources, don't touch your oil, don't touch your coal; that is suicide."

The Great Global Warming Swindle makes at least one incontestable charge: A "discourse of catastrophe" has infected the scientific community's approach to global climate change and is shaping the budget priorities of government. In this, the issue has taken on a quasi-religious character, with devotees on a quest for radical lifestyle alternatives to avert an apocalyptic future. "Monks have got something enduring," gushed an editor for BBC's Radio 4, "a sign post from them to us that could initiate a culture change shifting our relationship with the environment."

Philip Stott, professor emeritus of biogeography at the University of London and a program participant, takes a dimmer view of the spiritual fervor inspiring much of the movement. He worries about the way in which global warming provides meaning and mission--and employment--to countless scientists, activists, and journalists. "At the moment the greenhouse effect is like a puritanical religion," he says, "and this is dangerous." Dangerous, perhaps, but also profitable and difficult to dismantle: "If the global warming virago collapses," Stott predicts, "there will be an awful lot of people out of jobs."

"Environmentalism As Bad As Communism"
by Zoltan Dujisin, Inter Press Service News Agency, Mar 29, 2007

Czech President Vaclav Klaus has offered fresh warnings that environmentalism and measures to curb climate change are a threat to human freedom. ...Vaclav Klaus was one of the leading political figures of post-communist Czechoslovakia and was prime minister of the Czech Republic between 1993 and 1997, leading the newly independent country in its economic transformation. The old Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia Jan. 1, 1993. ...Conversely, the Czech President asked the congressmen not to yield to pressure from environmentalists and abandon the principles of free society: "the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity at the beginning of the 21st century is not communism or its various softer variants. Communism was replaced by the threat of ambitious environmentalism." ..."This ideology," Klaus said, "wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central, now global, planning of the whole world."

The Czech President is strongly opposed to environmentalism, which he calls a "religion based on political ambitions rather than science," and accuses environmentalists of using "sophisticated methods of media manipulation" to spread "fear and panic". Klaus also reminded environmentalists, in a text charged with economic jargon, that "policymakers should protect taxpayers' money and avoid wasting it on doubtful projects," and that each measure "must be based on a cost-benefit analysis.". Klaus fears environmentalist policies could set "artificial limits" and have "devastating" effects on national economies, harming growth rates and "the competitiveness of firms on international markets."

Repeal Sarbanes-Oxley: Sarbanes-Oxley Treats Businessmen as Guilty Until Proven Innocent
By Alex Epstein, March 30, 2007

Imagine opening tomorrow's newspaper and reading this: "Citing all-too-frequent child abuse and neglect, Congress has proposed the Parenting Reform Act. Under the proposed law, all parents must swear that they have not "caused unreasonable physical harm or danger" to their children. To verify compliance, all parents will be required to submit their children to a monthly full-body inspection by the new Parental Oversight Board, and account for every cut, scrape, and bruise that inspectors find. If a parent cannot prove the "reasonableness" of any injuries to the Board's satisfaction, it could result in a loss of custody and 20 years in prison."

Our reaction to this proposed law would be outrage. It is unjust and destructive, we would say, for the government to make arbitrary accusations of abuse and neglect, to conduct baseless investigations, and then to force an innocent parent to try to disprove them.

We should say the same about an existing law that perpetrates such horrors, not against parents, but against businessmen: Sarbanes-Oxley.

The Libby Precedent: Why government officials prefer to take the Fifth The Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2007

Congress has the right to conduct oversight of the executive, and in a better world government officials would be willing to testify and give as good as they get. Thus would the public be educated about the facts and policy differences be aired. But Ms. Goodling has been around, and she can see Democrats don't really want to know the truth; they want to shout "liar, liar" and set the stage to accuse Justice officials of criminal behavior. In a statement to the committee explaining her decision, Ms. Goodling said, "I have read public remarks by members of both the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary in which those members have drawn conclusions about the subject matter and the testimony now under investigation by the Committee." We've read them, too. Representative Linda Sanchez has already concluded that there have been "attempts to mislead the public on this issue." In a joint press conference, Senators Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein characterized Justice's testimony as "misleading statement after misleading statement--deliberate misleading statements." Mr. Schumer is also a lawyer, and we reckon he deliberately chose that word "deliberate" as a prelude to charging criminal deception and keeping the issue alive long enough to help elect more Senate Democrats next year. (He runs the Senate Democratic campaign committee.)

Related: A Tale of Monica and Pat Leahy, By Jeffrey Lord, The American Spectator, 3/29/2007

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