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True North Archives - April 06, 2010
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Another Voynich Manuscript?
By John McClaughry

What brings this obscure mystery to mind is the progress report received by the legislature on March 30 on the vaunted "Challenge for Change" project that is supposed to reduce the state's $154 million FY 2011 General Fund shortfall by $38 million.

Like the Voynich Manuscript, the CfC progress report appears to be written in a recognizable language (English). But after plowing through its 45 pages, a critical reader comes out wondering what problems the reports' authors think need to be solved....

After over forty years of a political culture that has increasingly viewed state government as the indispensable benefits bestower, wealth redistributor, tax collector, subsidizer of all things nice, and Nanny State regulator of everyone's lives, it's time to return state government to its essential core functions. Who says so? A four-year budget shortfall of $848 million says so.

Itís Not Their Ice Cream
By Deborah Bucknam

Our congressional delegation is spending our money to aggrandize themselves and help their re-election efforts. It is no coincidence that Sen. Leahy has been re-elected in Vermont for the last 35 years. He is a senator with a trifling legislative record and a dangerous propensity to gossip. He has been in two Batman movies and is on GQís best-dressed list. His political philosophy is to follow the national Democratic Party and agendas without deviating. But he brings in taxpayerís ice cream to Vermont, so he wins elections.

So Easy Even a Parent Can Do It
By Martin Harris

Hereís a phrase you donít hear much any more: "the third-grade slump". Like a lot of other child-raising customs which didnít survive the 60ís, that one was the result of then-typical parental pre-k preparation of their kids for school, who then found they (we) could pretty much coast through the first three of their (our) 13-year public ed odyssey. The slump came when we found that, starting with Grade 3, we actually had to pay attention and learn something, and the adjustment-lag showed up in poor report cards, parental displeasure, and swift attitude adjustment. My generation of parents was the last to do our pre-k job; when the slump showed, we were sternly instructed at the parent-teacher conference that it was our fault because, rather than presuming to teach (a professionally demanding task not executable by mere amateurs) we should have presented the kid(s) at the schoolhouse door as tabulae rasae, blank slates on which (or whom) pedagogical magic could be skillfully worked to achieve high level literacy and numeracy. Well, it ainít the 60ís any more, the low test scores arenít confined to grade 3, and teachers are now complaining that parents arenít pre-k-ing their kids as they used to, but thatís a whole Ďnother story. He real story is that prepping kids for reading and math (indeed, we were taught, and did ourselves actually teach, our kids to handle basic reading and math) is so easy that even we parental troglodytes could and did do it.

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[On ancient Athens]: "In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all Ė security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again." Ė Edward Gibbon
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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

By Their Speech Ye Shall Know Them
Caledonia Record Editorial, April 3, 2010

The five Democrats running for governor had a union-organized debate Thursday night. To hear them is to fear a Green Mountain State with any one of them as chief executive. So, without any further commentary of our own, we offer you some of the things they said Thursday and trust that when you finish, you will know them. ...

Please, Stop Us Before We Hire Again
By Hugh Kemper, Vermont Tiger, April 1, 2010

Our education establishment simply can't help itself.  It is, perhaps, time for some serious intervention.  Consider that notwithstanding:

(a) the lowest staffing ratios in the USA and 
(b) the continuing decline in enrollment,
the VTDOE still reported recently that during 2009 Vermont K-12ís payroll increased by a stupefying 218 staff or by a further 1.1%.  This means that since enrollment peaked in 1997 at 106,341, K-12 staffing has increased by 3,808 or by 24.5% while enrollment has declined (thru 2009) by 13,769 or by 12.9%.  And, as most Vermont Tiger readers know well, enrollment has continued to decline and for FY11 is expected to fall below 90,000 students or be 15.4% below 1997 peak enrollment.

VPIRG: A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing
Caledonia Record Editorial, March 31, 2010

Is the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) legally a tax exempt corporation or is it a thinly disguised lobbying firm that is not eligible for tax exempt status which it now has? When Democrat and gubernatorial candidate Sen. Peter Shumlin jumped aboard VPIRG's real bandwagon in a Burlington parade and rode it the length of the parade route, throwing handfuls of candy to the side crowd and waving his hands in celebration, he certainly brought that question to the fore. Tax-exempt organizations may not campaign for candidates or parties. When they do, they become lobbyists and lose their tax-exempt status....

The attorney general should, forthwith, start an investigation that leads to denial of VPIRG's tax free status and its obligation to register as a lobby. So, too, the AG ought to be forced to acknowledge Planned Parenthood's and the ACLU's political activity and lobbying efforts, although done at night under the cover of darkness. When that is done, the third investigation and trial should be of the Conservation Law Foundation.

Douglas Administration Unveils Gov't Restructuring Plan
From WCAX-TV, March 30, 2010

Details of a government restructuring plan in Vermont are beginning to emerge. The Legislature told several state agencies to find $38 million worth of savings-- that's only one-quarter of the budget gap-- for the next fiscal year....

Click here to see the Challenges for Change Progress Report (pdf).

In Vermont, We Subsidize
Small Schools Support Grants Ė A Homestead Tax Equity Issue
From Vermont Tiger, March 30, 2010

The debate over Small Schools Support Grants (SSSG) is generally framed by the consolidation issue, i.e., is it cost-effective to subsidize small schools? Rarely, if ever, is the issue of tax equity raised, i.e., is it equitable that the SSSG subsidizes the homestead tax rates of small school town residents?  Thatís what the current methodology for calculating per pupil spending at the local level effectively does and the resulting subsidy is clearly inequitable.

The current funding of K-12 education is characterized by four features: namely, (1) the grand lists of all towns belong to the Education Fund for education property tax purposes, (2) the vote at the local level on per pupil spending  determines the local homestead tax, (3) the Education Fund remits to each school district whatever amount is approved by local voters, and (4) the homestead tax, as adjusted by income sensitivity, is predicated on each homestead ownerís perceived capacity to pay.

Are They Crazy? A Dangerous Tale Retold In St. J
Caledonia Record Editorial, April 1, 2010

Once upon a time, there was a school district in a town where the economic climate was dismal, where the school system had been declared among the worst in the state, where 50 percent of the students continue to fail 50 percent of their courses, where 50 percent of the students never graduate, but where teachers make an average of $70,000 to $78,000, not counting their benefits while the average towns person earns only $22,000 a year.

When the district superintendent asked the teachers' union to change a few things, such as adding 25 minutes to the school day, providing tutoring on a rotating schedule before and after school, eating lunch with students once a week, submitting to more rigorous evaluations, attending weekly after-school planning sessions, and setting aside an additional one hour a week to meet with and help failing students, the union balked and refused the terms. So, the superintendent fired the high school's teachers, 93 people. At that point, the union changed its collective mind and accepted her terms. But, it was too late. They all remain fired.

Does that sound familiar? It should. The story unfolded in Rhode Island recently.

Sadly, there are similarities in St. Johnsbury. The school has been named among the worst in the state. Teachers were asked to make a concession in the form of a pay freeze, given that the school system budget was soundly defeated last month. They refused the request, and by refusing, their vote shows how out of touch they are with ordinary private sector citizens, or to understand how insulting they are to the people in town who are taking pay cuts, suffering reduction in hours, contributing more to health care, or are outright losing their jobs. Other union groups, such as Vermont state troopers, are taking cuts. Teachers in St. Johnsbury weren't asked to take a cut, just a one year freeze. Still, they refused to join their community in its straitened circumstance. This is yet another example of unions digging their own graves by refusing to negotiate or accept reasonable terms.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

Accused SEAL Passes Lie Detector Test, Another SEAL's Charges Dropped
By Chris Carter, Family Security Matters, April 1, 2010

Recent developments have further weakened the case against three Navy SEALs charged with assaulting an al Qaeda detainee. One development will impact the case for all three Ė the inadmissibility of a statement given by Petty Officer Jonathan Keefe.

At a Scottsdale, Arizonz rally on Saturday, Petty Officer Matthew McCabe Ė the only SEAL actually accused of striking the detainee Ė announced that he passed an independently-administered polygraph on March 16th.

Nuclear Terrorism: ĎIt's Not Personal; It's Just Business (Part 2 of 10)
By Peter Huessy,Family Security Matters, March 24, 2010

"Itís not personal; itís just business." So said Michael Corleone in the 1972 film The Godfather. It is also what numerous companies, countries, banks and individuals might very well say if confronted with the evidence that they are selling technology to Iran and Iran-front companies that contribute to Tehran's pursuit of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. The only tool, which European and American leaders now believe, will help them stall and perhaps reverse Iran's pursuit of the nuclear bomb is what is often referred to as "crippling sanctions." To be effective, a host of countries and companies will both have to be either shamed or fined into stopping their deadly traffic. The sanctions clock is thus in a race with the nuclear technology clock Ė the former has never been seriously pursued while the latter, firmly in the hands of the revolutionary elements in Iran, is proceeding with a seriousness not matched by the will of the free nations of the world to bring it to a stop.

N.Korea 'Runs Naval Suicide Squads'
The Chosun Ilbo, March 30, 2010

Former North Korean soldiers who defected to South Korea on Monday claimed "underwater suicide squads" may have been responsible for the mysterious sinking of a South Korean naval vessel on Friday.

They are similar to the underwater demolition teams operated by the South Korean Navy, the defectors claimed. Recruited from the cream among North Korea's naval commandos, members of the teams are treated well but undergo brutal training.

According to one high-ranking North Korean defector, the North formed suicide attack squads in each branch of the military after the country's leader Kim Jong-il said during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that no military in the world can defeat an army that can carry out suicide bombings.

The suicide attack squads are known as the "invincibles" in the Air Force, "bombs" in the Army and "human torpedoes" in the Navy. North Korea is said to place special emphasis on the naval squads. It operates a brigade of suicide attack squads in its East Sea and West Sea fleets and they are considered key to overcoming North Korea's inferior conventional military power.

Army Report: GIs Outgunned in Afghanistan
By David Wood, Politics Daily, April 2, 2010

American troops are often outgunned by Afghan insurgents because they lack the precision weapons, deadly rounds, and training needed to kill the enemy in the long-distance firefights common in Afghanistan's rugged terrain, according to an internal Army study.

Unlike in Iraq, where most shooting took place at relatively short range in urban neighborhoods, U.S. troops in Afghanistan are more often attacked from high ground with light machine guns and mortars from well beyond 300 meters (327 yards, or just over three football field lengths). The average range for a small-arms firefight in Afghanistan is about 500 meters, according to the study.

3rd ID Commanders Say They See Hope, Iraqi Patriotism Abounding
By Pamela E. Walck, Savannah Morning News, March 29, 2010

There is a new surge making ripples across Iraq, say 3rd Infantry Division commanders with a close view of life on the ground in cities stretching from Mosul to Baghdad.

And it is a movement that's anything but sinister. "My hat goes off to them," said Col. Charles Sexton, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID, based in northern Iraq. "Because the Iraqi Security Forces are in the streets every day, fighting the terrorists with less equipment than the Army has, doing the same job.

"It takes a heck of a brave person to do this. ... They put their families at risk, and it is pretty patriotic. The money is there, but it's not all that much."

Related Article: White Elephant in Baghdad

Parochially Post-American
It wasnít the "reset" button President Obama hit; it was the ejector-seat button.
By Mark Steyn, National Review, April 3, 2010

The Obama administration came into office promising to press the "reset" button with the rest of the world after eight years of the so-called arrogant, swaggering Texan cowboy blundering his way around the planet offending peoples from many lands. Instead, Obama pressed the ejector-seat button: Brits, Czechs, Israelis, Indians found themselves given the brush. I gather the Queen was "amused" by the presidentís thoughtful gift of an iPod preloaded with Obama speeches ó and, fortunately for Her Majesty, the 160GB model only has storage capacity for two of them, or three if you include one of his shorter perorations. But Gordon Brown would like to be liked by Barack Obama, and canít understand why he isnít.

There is much speculation on the "root cause" of presidential antipathy to Americaís formerly closest ally. It is said his grandfather was ill treated by the authorities in colonial Kenya in the 1940s, which seems as good a basis as any on which to reorder 21st century bilateral relations, or at any rate as good as the proportion of the Canadian overseas-aid budget devoted to abortion promotion. But I doubt insensitive British policing two-thirds of a century ago weighs that heavy on the president. After all, his brother back in Kenya lives on twelve bucks a year, and that doesnít seem to bother him, so itís hard to see why ancient slights to his grandfather would ó except insofar as they confirm the general biases of his collegiate-Left worldview.

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From Elsewhere

Cardinal Ratzinger An Evil Monster?
By Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, March 30, 2010

The level of vitriol being directed at Pope Benedict by the mainstream media right now is truly extraordinary. Itís primarily drive by desire for cash (scandal sells), followed closely by hatred, along with a hefty dose of ignorance....

The New York Times has done a great service to those wanting to look into this story by putting online a large number of primary source documents pertaining to the case. No doubt they mean these to incriminate Pope Benedict, but if you read them carefullyóand if you know the relevant backgroundóthey donít. (The documents are also posted here in .pdf format.) ...

One can fault any number of things about process or policy in this case, but we donít have evidence that Ratzinger did anything in bad conscience. He didnít stop the trial against Murphy from proceeding. At most (attributing everything to him that Bertone did) he recommended waiving the judicial proceeding due to the manís advanced age and ill health while simultaneously taking steps to ensure that the man would not be a threat to anyone as he lived out his final months in seclusion.

Gary Becker's Optimism
By Brian S. Wesbury & Robert Stein, Forbes Magazine, March 30, 2010

Becker said the financial crisis did not undermine his belief in free markets. When asked if he agreed with arguments about the inevitability of U.S. economic decline--as Lilliputian government activity ties the economy down with protectionism and redistribution--Becker remained hopeful. "If you have competing interest groups you don't end up with a systematic bias toward bad policy."

As an example, he talked about the outrage Americans felt toward the Wall Street bailout. He believes the outrage stemmed from a "belief in individual responsibility--the belief that people ought to be free to make their own decisions, but should then bear the consequences." He said this underlying philosophy "remains very powerful," and added, "The American people don't want an expansion of government. ... They want limited government. ... I expect them to say so in the elections this November."

State Debt Woes Grow Too Big to Camouflage

By Mary Williams Walsh, The New York Times, March 30, 2010

California, New York and other states are showing many of the same signs of debt overload that recently took Greece to the brink ó budgets that will not balance, accounting that masks debt, the use of derivatives to plug holes, and armies of retired public workers who are counting on benefits that are proving harder and harder to pay.

And states are responding in sometimes desperate ways, raising concerns that they, too, could face a debt crisis.

Opposing an Intolerable Act
By Ed Feulner, March 30, 2010

The history of the United States begins with a rebellion against unfair taxation. In 1767, a distant and unresponsive government in London, led by an out-of-touch leader in King George III, implemented the Townshend Act. That measure slapped taxes on many popular items, including tea. The law didn't, however, provide representation in Parliament for the taxed colonists.

Unable to make their voices heard in the halls of government, a group of American patriots dumped tea in Boston Harbor. The punishment for that first Tea Party was a series of intrusive laws so oppressive that they were described as the "Intolerable Acts."

History, as they say, tends to repeat itself. On March 21, the House of Representatives passed an unpopular health care measure, which the president swiftly signed into law.

Obamacare is today's "Intolerable Act." It too should be opposed and repealed. Fortunately, this time Americans are represented, so we can overturn this misguided law without resorting to violence.

Related: Obamaís Defining Lie

Oops - Arctic Sea Ice About to Hit Normal
What will the news say?
By Steven Goddard and Anthony Watts, The Alaska Standard, March 31, 2010

Barring an about face by nature or adjustments, it appears that for the first time since 2001, Arctic Sea ice will hit the "normal" line as defined by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) for this time of year.

NSIDC puts out an article about once a month called the Sea Ice News.  It generally highlights any bad news they can find about the disappearance of Arctic ice.  Last monthís news led with this sentence.

"In February, Arctic sea ice extent continued to track below the average, and near the levels observed for February 2007."

But March brought good news for the Polar Bears, and bad news for the Catlin Expedition and any others looking for bad news.  Instead of ice extent declining through March like it usually does, it continued to increase through the month and is now at the high (so far) for the year.

The Same Old Drill
No country in the world with significant oil or gas resources is abstaining from exploiting them.
By L. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, April 2, 2010

Obama justified his decision to allow drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic, and some coastal regions of northern Alaska on the grounds that it would create jobs and serve as a "bridge" to the carbon-free Brigadoon weíve long been promised. The reality is that his decision was entirely political. Aiming to win vital Republican support in the Senate for some kind of bipartisan cap-and-trade legislation, he lifted the ban where the polling was in favor of doing so. Sound science, energy policy, and economics were the last things on his mind. On that, there is widespread consensus. 

Back when oil cost $140 per barrel, Pres. George W. Bush lifted the executive ban on offshore oil drilling. Once elected, Obama quietly reinstated it. Since then, Obamaís Interior Department has been doing just about everything it can to slow, hamper, and prevent oil and gas exploration in the U.S. and offshore. Thereís no reason to believe the administration wonít keep doing that. Besides, Obamaís announcement actually bans more oil and gas reserves from exploration than it opens up: nothing in the Pacific, nothing in the western Gulf of Mexico, nothing in southern Alaska ó all promising areas.

Obama's False Promise on Offshore Drilling
By Steve Everley, American Solutions, March 31, 2010

The new plan includes: No drilling in the Pacific Ocean. No drilling in a large portion of the Atlantic Ocean. No drilling in some of the most promising areas of the Gulf of Mexico. No drilling in much of Alaska. While opening up any portion of the OCS for responsible energy development appears to be a great step forward, the truth is that none of this has been finalized, and most new drilling will not occur until after 2012 at the earliest. The offering also comes with a hefty price: President Obama wants to force Americans to swallow a massive new energy tax before any state will reap the benefits from this new offshore drilling. 

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