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True North Archives - April 13, 2010
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Featured Articles

The "Best of Times" or the "Worst of Times"?
By Robert Maynard

Mr. Steyn sees America as heading down the same path toward welfare state dependency and the eventual decline of civilization that comes with going down such a path. He is not very hopeful that we will be able to reverse our current course towards destruction. It is in this final assessment where Paul Rahe dissents. Mr. Rahe agrees with just about everything that Mark Steyn is saying except the conclusion that we will be unable to reverse course. In a piece entitled "A New Birth of Freedom", which appeared on the Big Government website, he lays out his counter argument. Mr. Rahe has argued in his books "Montesquieu & the Logic of Liberty" and "Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift" that the real danger for democracies is not a surrender to socialism via a coup d’etat in the manner that Obama and crew are trying to foist on us. ...

He believes that Obama has unwittingly spared us from that fate by rushing the move toward welfare state socialism.

People Who Live In Glass Prep Schools...
By Rob Roper

Rep. Clarkson made her true objectives pretty clear: Union controlled schools are losing students at the rate of about 1 percent a year. In order to prop up the system and the union that almost exclusively endorses and donates to democratic candidates, the legislature's job should be to deliver to the unions by force the students they have failed to attract by voluntary choice.  If our public schools are as "wonderful" as we say they are, said Clarkson, the legislature should be "encouraging" (a serious euphemism for what she's proposing) Vermont families to use them.

As offensive as this attitude is on its own, it is made more so by the fact that Rep. Clarkson, who vehemently opposes school choice for all Vermonters of all income levels, did not choose Vermont's public schools for her own children. She chose to send her kids to private prep school in Connecticut. As a parent, she no doubt did what was best for her children. Sadly, the children of the parents whom she represents don't get equal consideration.

When in Doubt, Punt
By Martin Harris

The history of public education's response to the 40-year-old NAEP tests with quantitative scoring of achievement, and the 10-year-old NCLB requirement that such scores be used to prove "proficiency" in basic subject matter, has been first to ignore and then to punt; the adoption of easier tests (to finesse the NCLB "proficiency" requirement) than the NAEP series by 49 States was intended (with plausible deniability, of course) to generate seemingly better numbers without actually doing better instruction. In VT, for example, the 2/3 or so of students who can't make "proficient" on the Federal tests become the 2/3 or so who miraculously can, on the alternative NECAP's. To use yet anther analogy, it's the Gresham's Law principle -"bad money drives out good" - in education, where deliberately-designed easier tests are purchased and deployed to supplant more rigorous ones, with the same intent: to deceive the gullible and reward the issuers.

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"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims 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

The Ace of Base (Load) Power
By Chris Campion, Vermont Tiger, April 5, 2010

Society also learned that horses wouldn't go as fast as cars, or jets, or be able to ship millions of tons of goods a day across vast oceans and continents.  That's another comparison completely absent from Stannard's analogy,  which doesn't actually speak to energy consumption or generation. Unmentioned by Stannard are the microchips manufactured in wafer fabs that go into those shiny calculators, and how much energy is required to power these fabs - because then we're talking about generating energy for productive use. If solar or wind were a truly a viable energy option, then you would likely have seen large wind farms and solar collection facilities at IBM's Essex Junction plant (if permitting would allow such monstrosities). The fact is that baseload requirements cannot be fulfilled by sporadic generation.

School Savings Plan Derails
By Peter Hirschfeld, Rutland Herald, April 9, 2010

A House education committee staged a Challenges-for-Change mutiny Thursday by refusing to endorse a controversial proposal that would have mandated more than $23 million in cuts to public education.

Related: We're Educators; We Don't Do Change

Gov. Douglas Less Than Happy With Legislature
Caledonia Record Editorial, April 12, 2010

As the legislative session and his tenure as governor come down to the wire, Gov. Jim Douglas is not very happy with the Legislature. Some of that unhappiness probably comes from the essential incompatibility of the strong liberal convictions of Democrats and the equally strong conservative tenets of Republicans, but a good deal of it comes from the sticker shock for Democrats of having to live within their means this year more than in any other year in memory. Cutting expenses to Democrats is equivalent to mixing oil and water. They never have embraced that stringency, they don't like it, and they are still pretending that they don't have to.

Welcome To Vermont Where We Subsidize (Almost) Everyone
By Hugh Kemper Vermont Tiger, April 7, 2010

Vermont’s program for property tax relief (a.k.a. income sensitivity) has left the reservation of fiscally responsible, government sponsored safety nets and it is time to bring it home. Empirical evidence demonstrably shows that the program is both unprecedented and extravagant – not only as a self-standing program (i.e., 12% - 16% of total property taxes collected) but also as a "desensitizing shield." One that has, undoubtedly, contributed to the significant increase in education spending since enactment of Act 60/68. 

The Legislature made an already overly generous program extraordinarily generous by increasing the eligible income limit from $75,000 to $90,000.  This suggests not only fiscal irresponsibility but also self-aggrandizement. Immediate reform impacting current recipients earning over $60,000 has been proposed and is warranted as these recipients have the capacity-to-pay for their homes. More comprehensive reform that targets only low- and moderate-income earners is also warranted with the ultimate objective being to reduce subsidies as a percent of total property taxes collected to well within the range of 5%-8%.

Related Story: Sensitive Subject School Taxes in Vermont 

A Very Wrong Action at the Absolute Wrong Time
Caledonia Record Editorial, April 6, 2010

Again, as reported by Jim Jardine, "Rep. Janet Ancel told the full House on Thursday the decision to renege on a promise to roll back taxes on Vermont companies is 'not a new tax.'" Besides, Ancel argued, the full legislature "never voted on the rollback" passed by Congress, but merely piggybacked Vermont tax policy onto the federal changes. Rep. Ancel continued with her bright and cheery portrayal of the House bill by assuring any Doubting Thomases that the rollback was "not used to recruit or maintain Rep. Ancel's irrational exuberance ... makes the legislature fun, and might even ease the pain of those companies with long-planned forecasts and budgets over the long-scheduled 9 percent rollback." Rep. Gregory Clark from Vergennes told the House the canceled rollback would cost the B.F. Goodrich plant in Vergennes $50,000.

Our 20-20 Vision
By Emerson Lynn, Vermont Tiger, April 9, 2010

If hindsight is 20-20, the Vermont Senate’s 26-4 vote in opposition to Vermont Yankee’s relicensing efforts looks glaringly like what it was: all politics, little substance, and dangerously premature.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

Homeschoolers Win Round Against United Nations
But officials warn crackdown on family rights expected to continue
By Bob Unruh, WorldNet Daily, April 11, 2010

Homeschoolers have won a round in the long fight against the crackdown on family rights contained to the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child, but experts say they need to keep up their guard.

The convention, which is not yet ratified in the United States but has been adopted by numerous other nations, orders that children can choose their own religion with parents only having the authority to advise them, the government can override a parent's decision regarding a child if a social worker disagrees, a child has a right to a government review of every parental decision and Christian schools would violate the law if they refused to teach children "alternative worldviews."

Nuclear Terrorism: ‘The Arrows of Allah’ (Part 3 of 10)
Peter Huessy,Family Security Matters, March 25, 2010

The Iranians are seeking both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to deliver them. They have now succeeded in deploying missiles with ranges in excess of 2,000-2,400 kilometers, bringing the entire Middle East and eastern and central Europe under such threats. While current sanctions have obviously not stopped Tehran’s missile programs, there is still a belief that sanctions can stop their nuclear weapons enterprise.

For this to happen, Russia, China and North Korea, among others, would have to stop facilitating the arming of Iran with such weapons, let alone actively assist in enforcing whatever new sanctions resolutions emerge from the United Nations Security Council. The role of this "cartel" of Iranian allies is not well understood. Much media attention focuses on China’s dependence upon Iran for oil imports, and Russia’s assistance to Iran for nuclear energy, but far less attention on how both nations are actively involved in the business of cooperating with Iran across the spectrum of weapons purchases and economic investments – in short, accomplices and partners with the premier terror master on the global stage today.

Putin's Gambit
From Investor’s Business Daily, April 5, 2010

If anything should raise alarm bells in Washington, it's Vladimir Putin's visit to Caracas to make oil deals and sell weapons. This signals not only the failure of the U.S. "reset" policy, but a new threat.

Friday, Russia's prime minister made his first trip to Caracas, jetting in with little fanfare to sign deals. The urgency baffled many, but Putin got right down to business, announcing that Russia had gotten the right to develop Venezuela's Hunin-6 field, the world's largest oil deposit.

World’s ‘Most Dangerous Islamist’ Alive, Well, and Living in Pennsylvania
By Paul Williams, PhD, Family Security Matters, April 6, 2010

The most dangerous Islamist in the world is neither Afghani nor Arab. He comes from neither Sudan nor Somalia. And he resides in neither the mountains of Pakistan nor the deserts of the Palestinian territories.

This individual has toppled the secular government of Turkey and established madrassahs throughout the world. His schools indoctrinate children in the tenets of radical Islam and prepare adolescents for the Islamization of the world.

Related Article: Obama Administration Turns Blind Eye to Muslim Foreign Militia in Pennsylvania

Afghanistan and the Decline of American Power
By Fouad Ajami, The Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2010

In word and deed, Mr. Obama has given a sense of his priorities. The passion with which he pursued health-care reform could be seen at home and abroad as the drive of a man determined to remake the American social contract. He aims to tilt the balance away from liberty toward equality. The very ambition of his domestic agenda in health care and state intervention in the economy conveys the causes that stir him.

Granted, Mullah Omar and his men in the Quetta Shura may not be seasoned observers of Washington's ways. But they (and Mr. Karzai) can discern if America is marking time, giving it one last try before casting Afghanistan adrift. It is an inescapable fact that Mr. Obama hasn't succeeded in selling this Afghan venture—or even the bigger war on terror itself—to his supporters on the left. He fights the war with Republican support, but his constituency remains isolationist at heart.

The president has in his command a great fighting force and gifted commanders. He clearly hopes they will succeed. But there is always the hint that this Afghan campaign became the good, worthwhile war by default, a cause with which to bludgeon his predecessor's foray into Iraq.

All this plays out under the gaze of an Islamic world that is coming to a consensus that a discernible American retreat in the region is in the works. America's enemies are increasingly brazen, its friends unnerved. Witness the hapless Lebanese, once wards of U.S. power, now making pilgrimages, one leader at a time, to Damascus. They, too, can read the wind: If Washington is out to "engage" that terrible lot in Syria, they better scurry there to secure reasonable terms of surrender.

The shadow of American power is receding; the rogues are emboldened. The world has a way of calling the bluff of leaders and nations summoned to difficult endeavors. Would that our biggest source of worry in that arc of trouble was the intemperate outburst of our ally in Kabul.

Irresponsible Nuke Policy Puts Every American in Danger
By Scott McKay, Family Security Matters, April 7, 2010

In perhaps the most breathtaking example of dangerous stupidity to date, the Obama administration announced yesterday a change in American nuclear weapons-use policy which serves as an advertisement to all of our enemies that we are no longer to be feared – and begs the question whether those in the White House are so naïve and unqualified as negotiators as to call into question any foreign policy or security dealings they might have in their time left in residence, or whether these bizarre foreign and national security policies come as a result of an active agenda to destroy the country.

Though it is sincerely hoped here that the former is the truth, indicating perhaps this incompetence may be alleviated in part through time and experience, functionally it is immaterial in the short run. Whether these individuals know what they are doing or not, either way they are putting policies in place which threaten the lives of millions of our countrymen.

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From Elsewhere

The "Social Justice" Fallacy? Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
By Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson, The Center for Vision and Values, April 7, 2010

Many Christians over many years have been beguiled by the Religious Left’s use of the term "social justice." This is because Christians rightly love justice and hate injustice. But "social justice"—or, at least, how it’s often used by liberal Christians—isn’t necessarily biblical justice.

The standard of biblical justice is equal treatment by law: "Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty" (Leviticus 19:15). Justice not only means that nobody is to be picked on because he is poor or favored because he is rich, but that (contrary to the doctrine of "social justice") nobody is to be picked on because he is rich or favored because he is poor. Everyone’s rights deserve the same protection. Thus, nobody should be taxed at a higher rate than his neighbors, nor should anyone receive special government handouts.

A New Birth of Freedom
By Paul A. Rahe, Big Government, April 3, 2010

This is, as Mark Steyn insists, a very dangerous time. In my judgment, however, it is also a time of almost unprecedented opportunity. We have options that have not been vouchsafed to the friends of liberty for more than sixty years. For, if the Republicans manage to articulate, on the basis of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the rationale for limited government as that rationale is pertinent to the healthcare bill, they will at the same time have articulated the grounds for doing away with the administrative state, and everyone will recognize the consequences.

The larger danger – which I analyzed in detail in Montesquieu & the Logic of Liberty and in Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift – has never been that we Americans would succumb to socialism as a consequence of a coup d’état of the sort being attempted by Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and their acolytes. The larger danger has always been what Tocqueville feared: that the citizens of liberal democratic republics would gradually and unobtrusively come to depend on centralized administration for help in every aspect of their lives. Our propensity to drift in the direction of obliviously surrendering our liberties one by one in search of a security that no government can really guarantee has always been where the greatest peril lay.

Like Mark Steyn, I view Barack Obama as "one of the most consequential presidents in history," but not for the same reasons. In my view, he and today’s Democratic Party represent the last gasp of the Progressive impulse. The tyrannical ambition hidden at the heart of Progressivism’s quest for what Franklin Delano Roosevelt termed "rational administration" Barack Obama has made manifest; and to all with eyes to see, the danger that we have temporized with for nearly a century is now perfectly visible. As Obama himself has insisted in speech after speech, the moment in which we now live is a "defining moment." What is required in what he calls "this defining moment" is what Abraham Lincoln once called "a new birth of freedom." The period we just entered could be our finest hour.

National Debt Seen Heading for Crisis Level
By Carolyn Lochhead, San Francisco Chronicle, April 5, 2010

Health care may have been the last big bang of the Obama presidency. With ferocious speed, the financial crisis, recession and efforts to combat the recession have swung the U.S. debt from worrisome to ruinous, promising to handcuff the administration.

Lost amid last month's passage of the new health care law, the Congressional Budget Office issued a report showing that within this decade, President Obama's own budget sends the U.S. government to a potential tipping point where the debt reaches 90 percent of gross domestic product.

Too Green, Too Soon? Renewable Power May Destabilize Electrical Grid
By Alex Salkever, Daily Finance, April 6, 2010

Boy, that was fast. Only five years into the world's renewable energy push, many utility companies are so concerned about grid instability that they're saying they can't accept any more electricity from intermittent sources of power. Translation: Solar power only runs in the day time and can't re relied on for so called "baseload" capacity. Wind power primarily produces current at night and, likewise, can't be relied upon for baseload capacity. Geothermal, meanwhile, is perfect for providing baseload. But geothermal projects take an excruciatingly long time to build out. And then there have been the recent spate of earthquake scares around geothermal sites. 

The upshot: Utilities such as Hawaiian Electric in President Obama's home state are voicing concerns about plans to integrate more solar and wind power into the grid until they develop methods to more effectively absorb intermittent sources of power without destabilizing the whole shebang. In Europe, Czech utility companies are concerned that "feed-in tariffs," which require power companies to repurchase all home- and business-generated renewable power at elevated rates, might wreak havoc on the Central European grid.

Court: FCC Has No Power to Regulate Net Neutrality
By Declan McCullagh CNET News April , 2010

The Federal Communications Commission does not have the legal authority to slap Net neutrality regulations on Internet providers, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. A three-judge panel in Washington, D.C. unanimously tossed out the FCC's August 2008 cease and desist order against Comcast, which had taken measures to slow BitTorrent transfers before voluntarily ending them earlier that year.

Report: Dems Face Two Worrisome Elections
From UPI, April 6, 2010

The prospect of losing two U.S. House seats in special elections spurred a Democratic effort to avoid a potential domino effect in November, strategists said.

Projections for special elections next month in Hawaii and Pennsylvania have caused alarm among Democratic officials, who said they feared dual defeats would play into the thinking that the Democratic Party is consigned to huge losses in the fall, Politico reported Tuesday.

Teachers' Union Official 'Prays' for Death of N.J. Governor
By Mary Katharine Ham, The Weekly Standard, April 12, 2010

New Jersey's new Republican Gov. Chris Christie is not amused by an internal memo from a Bergen County teachers' union official, which "prays" for his death.

Left-Wing Attack on CNN
Group Demands Network Not Air 'I.O.U.S.A.: Solutions'
By Jeff Poor, Business & Media Institute, April 10, 2010

Campaign for America's Future concerned cable news channel is 'fanning the flames of deficit hysteria.' ... The left wing seems to know no bounds in its efforts to ideologically cleanse CNN of any seeminly rational point-of-view when it comes to the issues of the day.

Representation Without Taxation
Little Media Notice for How Nearly Half Pay No Income Tax 
By Brent Baker, Media Research Center, April 10, 2010

A Wednesday night AP dispatch, “Nearly half of US households escape fed income tax,” which predicted “47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009,” has drawn little attention on television news... “no wonder” why so many “don't really care how much a government program costs. It's not costing them anything, so why should they?"

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