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True North Archives - April 20, 2010
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Featured Articles

Taxation and Tea Parties
By Robert Maynard

Today it is clear that we have strayed far from a non-intrusive revenue generation system designed to fund only the essential functions of government. Our founders would be horrified with our current tax system and would have considered it a toll of tyranny, as would the ancient Israelites and Greeks. In short, todayís Tea Party movement has a lot to protest.

The Dumbest Bill of the Year
By John McClaughry

May I have the envelope, please? And now Ė the dumbest bill of the year is Ö S.88! Letís give a big hand to its author, Sen. Doug Racine!

Whatís S.88?

S.88 is Sen. Racineís bill to create a government run single payer health care system for Vermont.

But we donít have $2 billion dollars to make that thing work!

Thatís true. So Sen. Racine set aside his original bill and produced a new one, that directs the Health Care Reform Commission the Democrats created four years ago to do a big new study to develop three different varieties of socialized medicine that next yearís legislature can choose from. The senator asked for $400,000 to pay for it.

Punting to (or from) Proficiency (II)
By Martin Harris

Vermont chose to purchase, deploy, and publicize the results from NECAP, a test designed to show a 2/3 proficiency rate from the same cohort of students who made only 1/3 proficient on the federal (with unpublicized results) NAEP tests. Maryland chose to purchase, deploy, and publicize the results from MSA, the Maryland State Assessment. As for VT, the non-NAEP test seems to put public education in a far better light than the NAEP one. A  University of Maryland study in 2007 documented exactly that conclusion, and if you use the Web to read "Cross-Grade Comparisons among Statewide Assessments and NAEP", Schaefer, Liu, and Wang, 2007, youíll find on page 7 a pair of charts showing that, just as in VT, the seeming 70% reading-and-math-proficient result is actually 30% NAEP-defined proficient. Adding insult to injury (your scribeís comment, not the authorsí) the charts show a downward proficiency line across the grades: the longer students stay in school, the worse they do. Punting from proficiency, you might say.

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"Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it." - Justice Learned Hand

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Tea Party Vents Anger at Montpelier Rally
By John Curran, Burlington Free Press, April 16, 2010

Staged April 15 to coincide with income tax filing deadlines, the rally was one of several planned observances by the nascent tea party movement in Vermont, including a vigil for "The Forgotten Man" later Thursday in the capital and a Tea Party Tax Day Rally on Saturday in Rutland.

"People are fed up," said Linda Chagnon, a 57-year-old caregiver from Burlington, who carried a sign that read: "Give Me Liberty, Not Debt."

Related Article: On Tax Day, Vermont Tea Party Speaks Up

Can A 14-Decade-Old VT Policy Be That Wrong?
Caledonia Record Editorial, April 14, 2010

There are 92 towns in Vermont, many of them in our area, with parental choice of high schools under Vermont law. Among them are St. Johnsbury, Lyndon, Barnet, Waterford, Gilman, Lunenburg, Walden, Sheffield, Sutton, Wheelock, Burke, Peacham, Kirby and Victory.

All of these towns, for the past 140 years, have enjoyed parental/student choice of high schools because thrifty Vermont Yankees who long ago, rather than build public high schools that would duplicate existing independent high schools, academies, seminaries and institutes, required towns provide secondary education but need not build schools. All of these towns were allowed to issue vouchers to parents of high school-age students, vouchers that have been used ever since to pay the students' way to independent or other public high schools.

It has always stuck in the craw of public education authorities, but especially administrators and teachers, that they have not been able to capture and/or control the parents and students who exercise their right to choose their high school, rather than march in lock step to the neighboring public high school, good or bad, because they are captives of the public system.

Now, Commissioner Vilaseca is on the verge of getting a public reorganization passed that will slowly but surely choke off parental and student choice. [See John McClaughry column of last week.]

What's More Important: Reducing Poverty or Greenhouse Gases?
FromVermont Tiger, April 18, 2010

That's one of those questions that does not have win-win answers.  Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy believes reducing greenhouse gases trumps alleviating poverty in South Africa.  In a letter  he sent to World Bank President Robert Zoellick in late March, Senator Leahy argued that the Bank should not provide a $3 billion loan to help finance the construction of one of the world's largest coal-fired power plants in a rural part of South Africa.

South Africa, although relatively prosperous by African standards, is still a very poor country.  Consider that in South Africa

  • life expectancy is 48 years (the US is 78)
  • out of every 1,000 babies born, 44 die (in the US it's 6).
  • per capita income is $10,100 ($46,000 in the US)
  • the unemployment rate is 24% (9.7% in the US)
  • 50%  of the population earns less than the poverty level of income (12% in the US)
  • per capita electricity consumption is 4,500 kwh per year (12,500 in the US)
Junkyard Regulation Sets Up Clash of Cultures
By Candice Page, The Burlington Free Press, April 18, 2010

Meet Terry Carter, an affable man in grease-stained blue work clothes: Terry Carter, struggling businessman, recycler, host of last resort for your broken-down Subaru, your over-the-hill refrigerator, that old RV you canít sell.

Or is he Terry Carter, unlicensed junkyard operator, scofflaw, headache for town government and threat to the environment?

He is both, the correct answer runs ó and that is the challenge state government faces as it begins its first comprehensive effort to regulate junkyards and reduce the environmental risks they pose.

On Deadline?
From Vermont Tiger, April 16, 2010

There is, evidently, a fair possibility that the legislature will adjourn without completing its business this session. 

Rep. Oliver Olsen, a Jamaica Republican, and some other members of the House plan on offering an amendment to the bill that would bring the Legislature back to review and approve the administration's changes to government under the Challenges legislation in the middle of June. -- Rutland Herald
Well ... actually, it is an absolute certainty that the legislature will adjourn before it completes its business this session since it most likely will have done nothing to replenish the exhausted unemployment trust fund which will, therefore, have to get along on borrowed federal money.  Eventually this will have to be paid back.  With interest, which is the price we shall pay for the legislature's inaction.

Bankrupt Jobless Fund Needs Action Right Now
Burlington Free Press Editorial, April 19, 2010

The Legislature and the Douglas administration add to Vermont's fiscal peril by failing to deal with the bankrupt state fund that pays for state unemployment benefits.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

The Bear is Back
By Arthur Herman, The New York Post, April 13, 2010

The plane crash that killed Poland's president and 95 others is a tragedy for the Polish people and a loss of a good friend for the United States. For Poland's neighbor Russia, however, it's an opportunity to push for hegemony over Eastern Europe, as in the Iron Curtain days.

For the Russian bear is back. Like Dracula rising from his coffin, it now stalks the world long after we thought it dead and buried. And President Obama's feckless handling of foreign affairs is giving Russia's authoritarian leadership a chance like no other to expand its power -- and steadily diminish ours.

Related Articles:

Putin Wins Again: Rebuilding imperial Russia
Kyrgyzstan and the Russian Resurgence
Nuclear Terrorism: "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (Part 4 of 10)
By Peter Huessy,Family Security Matters, March 25, 2010

The history of sanctions efforts to change the behavior of rogue regimes is mixed. For nearly 30 years, the Iranian regime has been restricted from doing some business with the world, most specifically the United States. Nevertheless, during that period of time, Iran has grown into the worldís premier sponsor of terrorism, while seeking both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to provide them the top-cover under which they conduct their murderous business.

One of the positives of the past year is that some of our allies have come to understand the Iranians are the primary problem, and that previous failures to secure a negotiated settlement of Iranís violations of the NPT were not the fault of the United States or our allies. While engagement probably has failed, it took a year of such efforts to convince some of our important allies that the United States really was interested in "making a deal"

The War of Ideas: Jihadism Against Democracy
By Raymond Ibrahim, American Thinker, April 17, 2010

After the strikes of 9/11, a plethora of books dealing with the threat of radical Islam appeared in the West. In The War of Ideas: Jihad Against Democracy, Dr. Walid Phares -- who had been studying Islamism and its impact on international relations decades before 9/11 made it popular -- goes one step further by articulating the struggle from democracy's point of view. That is, not only does he delineate the general threat that radical Islam and jihad pose to the non-Muslim world, but he does so through a distinctly democratic paradigm, showing what, specifically, is at stake.

The result is eye-opening. The conflict between the West and radical Islam -- or as Phares more accurately shows, the conflict between democracy and theocracy -- is wide and far-ranging, and hardly limited to a few, finite grievances (whether Israel, oil, or unflattering cartoons of Muhammad): "Between the mosaic of democracies and the panoply of Jihadism, the disagreement is philosophical, historical, and doctrinal: it is about how the world has functioned for centuries and how it should evolve" (p.3).

Muslim Radical Lives in the Poconos -- but it's not what you think
By Dan Berrett, Pocono Record Writer, April 18, 2010

Gülen is an ailing Turkish cleric whose vision of an Islam that embraces science, education and interfaith dialogue has earned him millions of followers ó and the suspicion of many in Turkey's secular establishment. To his supporters, Gülen is the face of a more contemporary and tolerant Islam.

But his critics perceive Gülen's benign face as a mask ó one disguising an Islamist wolf in a moderate sheep's clothing.

How Was the ĎChristmas Bomberí Radicalized?
By Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman, Family Security Matters, April 14, 2010

National Public Radio (NPR) has been doing a fascinating series on how the young Nigerian wannabe bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was radicalized. Much of what they have provided resonates with the research I did for my book, Godís Law or Manís Law, published just before 9/11/2001. I tracked fanatical and violent religious movements around the world that appeared threatening to all secular governance. Although there are fanatics in every religious and ideological denomination, Islam is currently the most prominent.

One conflict area even then was in Nigeria, where radical Islamic and radical Christian missionary movements were already in collision. Northern Nigeria is heavily Muslim, whereas southern Nigeria is Christian, Animist, and secular. But until radicalization became the mode, all of these groups managed to coexist. For the past decade, however, coexistence is no longer an option.

Feel Safer with New Nuke Policy?
By Gregory D. Lee,Family Security Matters, April 7, 2010

Obviously the Russians still donít trust the United States when it says it will never initiate a nuclear attack against them. At the Russians insistence, the U.S. already backed off on a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe to protect it from a missile attack by Iran.

So, do you feel any safer today than you did last week? I donít. I do not believe that the U.S. is about to be attacked by any nation, including the Russians. I donít believe there is a reason to be overly concerned at this point, but the actions of the White House to purposely weakening our national defense for ideological reasons is unacceptable.

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From Elsewhere

Americaís Constitutionalist Revolt
The tea partiers want a return to the Foundersí principles of constitutional limits to government.
By Larry Kudlow, The National Review, April 7, 2010

So much is being written in the mainstream media about who the tea partiers are, but very little is being recorded about what these folks are actually saying.

We know that this is a decentralized grassroots movement, with many different voices hailing from many different towns across the country. But the tea-party message comes together in the "Contract from America," the product of an online vote orchestrated by Ryan Hecker, a Houston tea-party activist and national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots.

Allee Bautschís Mother Speaks Out
Says Daughter Was Attacked by Leftist Political Protesters
By Jim Hoft, Gateway Pundit, April 18, 2010

On Friday April 9, 2010, GOP official Allee Bautsch and her boyfriend Joe Brown attended a Republican dinner at Brennanís restaurant in New Orleans. When they left this event they were followed from the restaurant by a group of five white men who hurled insults at them calling Allee a "little blond bitch" and calling Joe a "f**king f*ggot." They brutally beat and stomped on the young Republican couple just blocks from the restaurant.

Allee Bautsch suffered a broken leg from the beatdown outside to the SRLC dinner at Brennanís Restaurant in New Orleans. She had her leg operated on over the weekend and it will take her months to recover. Her boyfriend Joe Brown suffered a broken nose, a broken jaw, and a concussion. They were attacked after leaving the Southern Republican Leadership Conference dinner at Brennanís Restaurant.

On Saturday, Allee Bautschís mother spoke out about the vicious attack. She joined Alleeís friend and said the attackers were leftist protesters.

How Bad Could 2010 Really Get For Democrats?
By Sean Trende, Real Clear Politics, April 14, 2010

Though Election Day is still months away, pundits have already begun to speculate on possible outcomes for this year's midterms. There's a general consensus that Democrats will lose seats in November, but beyond that opinions vary widely on how big those losses might be. Some argue that because of the advance notice, passage of health care, and an improving economy (or some combination of all three), Democrats will be able to limit their losses significantly. Others are predicting a repeat of 1994, when Democrats lost 50+ seats and control of the House.

So how bad could 2010 get for the Democrats? Let me say upfront that I tend to agree with analysts who argue that if we move into a "V"-shaped recovery and President Obama's job approval improves, Democratic losses could be limited to twenty or twenty-five seats.

That said, I think those who suggest that the House is barely in play, or that we are a long way from a 1994-style scenario are missing the mark. A 1994-style scenario is probably the most likely outcome at this point. Moreover, it is well within the realm of possibility - not merely a far-fetched scenario - that Democratic losses could climb into the 80 or 90-seat range. The Democrats are sailing into a perfect storm of factors influencing a midterm election, and if the situation declines for them in the ensuing months, I wouldn't be shocked to see Democratic losses eclipse 100 seats.

How Romney Could Kill the ObamaCare Repeal Movement
By Philip Klein, American Spectator, April 16, 2010

Over the past several weeks, political observers have speculated about how passage of the national health care law modeled after the one Mitt Romney signed in Massachusetts could hurt his presidential ambitions. But more significant for conservatives is how Romney's presidential ambitions could stymie the effort to repeal ObamaCare.

As it is, achieving a full repeal of the recently-passed health care law will be extremely difficult. Given that Obama would veto any bill to undo his signature legislative accomplishment, it means that to get rid of the law, Republicans will have to not only take back Congress, but capture the White House. It also means that conservatives will have to relentlessly campaign against ObamaCare during the next two elections and keep public outrage at an elevated level for at least the next three years. And even if they achieve all of this, they will have a short window to repeal the bill in 2013, because by 2014 the federal government will begin to dole out hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, which will create a whole new constituency to preserve the law.

If Romney were the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, it would make this already challenging fight even harder. Romney's role in creating a health care program quite similar to the one that just passed nationally would allow Obama to neutralize the issue during an election that would otherwise be a prime opportunity to make the case for repeal.

A Country of 'Third Rails'
By D.L. Hammack, American Thinker, April 17, 2010

Since the inception of Social Security, there has been an unspoken rule in politics: When campaigning for national office or running for re-election, a candidate could never pledge to touch, cut spending for, dismantle, or otherwise look crossways at Social Security unless it was to raise the payouts to its recipients. Social Security has always been referred to as the "third rail" in politics. You simply never touch it.

It would now appear that the US is riddled with a plethora of untouchable third rails and holy grails. Social Security no longer resides as the lone example of third rail politics. The recent extension of unemployment benefits by Congress is a perfect example of how the entitlement mentality will no longer afford any consideration for cuts to programs that the left would deem to be "rights" given to the beneficiaries by their warm-hearted leaders. It would be a safe assumption to believe that these unemployment benefits will be extended again and again as no politician wants to appear as heartless for taking away this benefit. The problem is this, however: The longer these benefits continue; the more recipients become addicted to the monthly checks. The more they become addicted, the more pressure from the voting block to consider this a "third rail."

It is a sad state of affairs when it is no longer feasible for politicians to consider virtually any program for cuts, unless it is defense, national security, NASA, or simple discretionary spending.

Income Falls 3.2% During Obama's Term
By Joseph Curl, The Washington Times, April 13, 2010

Real personal income for Americans - excluding government payouts such as Social Security - has fallen by 3.2 percent since President Obama took office in January 2009, according to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

For comparison, real personal income during the first 15 months in office for President George W. Bush, who inherited a milder recession from his predecessor, dropped 0.4 percent. Income excluding government payouts increased 12.7 percent during Mr. Bush's eight years in office.

"This is hardly surprising," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist and former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. "Under President Obama, only federal spending is going up; jobs, business startups, and incomes are all down. It is proof that the government can't spend its way to prosperity."

Tea Parties vs. Hard-Left Protests
By L. Brent Bozell, Media Research Center, April 13, 2010

A new study of Tea Party coverage on ABC, CBS, and NBC found that the anti-tax protesters were first ignored, and then deplored. That's much different from the substantial and promotional "news" of left-wing protests.

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