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True North Archives - April 27, 2010
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Featured Articles

Children Don't Come First
By Rob Roper

"To be glib about it," said Nelson, "if all we cared about was what individuals want, then we don't need to have public schools." Nelson explained that the public school system's duty is to take a broader view of society. It makes decisions and sets priorities based on its own particular interpretation of "the public good," and the needs of individual children are, and should be, a secondary priority. 

Pareto Principle Pending?
By Martin Harris

I’ll avoid the right-brain/left-brain question, and the underlying statistics, in this column and go directly to the basic principle of consumer behavior and the charts which illustrate it. The principle has been called "the tipping point" and it refers to the repeated empiric observation that, if and when 20% of the population make a consumer choice of goods or services, the remaining 80% mostly soon follow. ...

In modern basic English, two-syllable words max, the percent of age 5-17 students in non-public schooling is 17 (oops, a three-syllable number, there, twice).

Finally, compare 17 to the 20 which is the 80/20 tipping point number. It’s close. Is non-public enrollment about to embark on the steep part of the Harry Dent S-curve? Is the Pareto Principle pending?

Well Done, Please
Moose steaks will signal era of Vermont’s recovery
By James Ehlers

All of this is symptomatic of a state being governed by emotion rather than reason. No reasonable person would allow one moose to endanger the health of Vermont’s wild population, especially not when there are all those steaks that could be sent to the Vermont Foodbank seemingly always needing food. Shoot the moose. 

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"When school children start paying union dues, that 's when I'll start representing the interests of school children."

-- Albert Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers union

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Putting the Legislative Cart Before The Economic Horse
By Chris Campion, Vermont Tiger, April 19, 2010

What the Free Press does not bother to discuss, however, is the reason why there's such demand for unemployment dollars, and it's not because everything's rosy on the VT employment front.  Interestingly, the Freeps does offer this mild slap to the collective wrists in Montpelier.

The administration and lawmakers have been grappling with the unemployment fund since at least last year. Yet the issue remains unresolved in the Legislature with only a few weeks left in the session and lawmakers already facing a crowded calendar.

But the crowding of the calendar with unproductive work is of their own doing.  The realities of Vermont's economy cannot change without a fundamental change to how education is funded (I would argue that the Gordian knot of education funding needs to be removed entirely and rebuilt from the ground up), a permitting reform project, and a highly simplified tax structure that encourages economic growth.  Unfortunately, Vermont's place in these state rankings reflects the economic climate that has been created by legislative leadership over the past decade or two.  Highlights...

Governor Douglas Criticizes Senate Vote on Tax Increase
From Vermont Business Magazine, April 23, 2010

Governor Douglas criticized senators who today voted to follow the lead of the House and pass a harmful tax increase on manufacturers, farmers, contractors and others by not extending the pass through domestic production deduction as expected. The domestic production deduction is meant to protect and grow domestic manufacturing and other productive activities. An amendment to prevent the tax increase failed by a vote of 17 to 12 on the Senate floor this afternoon.

Economics, Vermont-Style
By Michael Gardner, Vermont Tiger, April 23, 2010

As if property tax equality isn’t skewed enough by the vote-buying structure of income sensitivity payments, Senator Anne Cummings, D-Washington, wants to make it worse.

By three fold!

The head of the Senate Finance Committee proposes counting income from interest and dividends 3 times when used in calculating income sensitivity payments. Such that every one dollar in dividend and interest income over $5,000 would be counted as $3 in income for the purposes of the prebate formula.

Vermont House of Representatives Passes Own Health Reform
By Dave Gram,The Burlington Free Press, April 24, 2010

Vermont lawmakers made clear Friday that recently enacted federal health care reform did not go far enough toward a public model, passing legislation that could bring to the state the "public option" health insurance rejected by Washington or even a Canadian-style single-payer system.

By a vote of 91-42, the Democratic-controlled House passed its own version of legislation passed earlier by the Senate. Both bills call for designing a single-payer system, in which a government agency would administer and make all payments for health care.

A Tale of Two Stories
From Vermont Tiger, April 24, 2010

Recently, IBM announced that it was hiring 100 workers for its Essex Junction, VT, manufacturing site.  Listening to VPR today on the drive home, they announced this hiring with some fanfare, but the reality is that these are temporary positions, not permanent ones. You would not have learned that from the story on the radio, nor from their website.  In fact, VPR's online site mentions nothing of "temporary" [Editor's note: The website has been updated and now states that the jobs are not permanent]

Channel 5 gets it right, however, in terms of the positions being "supplemental".

Government Plans to Seize Farm Land from Family
From WCAX-TV, April 25, 2010

The federal government is taking a Franklin County farm family to court. The Department of Homeland Security is threatening to take part of their land through eminent domain to increase border security.

The Rainvilles say the move will put them out of business.

The Department of Homeland Security wants to expand its outdated and crumbling border station at Morse’s Line. Originally the government was in need of 10 acres. But after further review, which revealed only 40 cars use the port each day on average, they scaled the project back to 5 acres.

"They are pitching this as a stimulus project. Putting my family out of business is not economic development," said Rainville.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

Chart of the Day: How America Will Beat Back China with Its Killer Labor Force
By Vincent Fernando, CFA and Kamelia Angelova, Business Insider, March 31, 2010

There's an enormous yet simple reason why America will remain an extremely powerful nation out to 2050. It's demographics.

Thanks to a relatively high fertility rate, plus a rich culture of immigration, America is set to grow its population by another 100 million people through 2050. This is based on U.S. census projections and is supported by other projections as well via New Geography.

Over the next four decades, America will grow its labor force, ie., its productive population, by a whopping 42%, as shown below.

Meanwhile, China's labor force will shrink by 10%, Europe's will shrink 25%, and that of Korea and Japan's will shrink by horrendous amounts.

See, China's labor force has been growing very fast lately, which has helped it stun the world, but this growth is set to peak and then start falling by the middle of this decade. So be prepared for the hype to die down by about 2020, even though China will of course keep developing.

In contrast, from about 2015 onwards, the U.S. will start showing how its national model isn't so bad after all.

21st Century Socialism
The attempt to destroy democracy in Latin America.
By Otto J. Reich, National Review, April 23, 2010

The Obama administration started out on the wrong foot in world affairs. It used techniques better suited for domestic political campaigns — popularity contests — in its foreign policy. In our own hemisphere, the result was confusion for our allies and our enemies alike.

The overriding objective of U.S. policy — in Latin America and elsewhere — should be to advance U.S. national interests, not to curry favor with foreign leaders. If we can be liked while advancing our interests, so much the better. But when we try to befriend undemocratic leaders and ignore their belligerence in the process, we neither become better liked nor advance our interests. Some of the despots in Latin America to whom the Obama administration extended an open hand, only to encounter a clenched fist, include the rulers of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, and Honduras’s former president José Manuel Zelaya. 

Foremost among our national interests is security, but, caught up in trying to be liked, the administration is underestimating the threats we face. The main threat to the peace, freedom, prosperity, and security of the U.S. and the Western Hemisphere comes not from military coups, but from a form of creeping totalitarianism that calls itself 21st Century Socialism; it is allied with some of the most virulent forms of tyranny and anti-Western ideology in the world.

Japan Increasingly Alarmed by China's Growing Naval Power
Warships off Okinawa and other incidents with an increasingly far-roaming and competent Chinese navy likely a harbinger of shocks to come.
By Jonathan Manthorpe, Vancouver Sun, April 21, 2010

Tokyo's shock, horror and alarm at the sighting a few days ago of a flotilla of 10 Chinese warships off Japan's southern Okinawa island is undoubtedly contrived.

It has been evident for the past two decades as it invested huge amounts of money, time and effort into military modernization that Beijing intends to be able to project military power that supports its growing economic and diplomatic supremacy.

Just a few days before the latest encounter, a helicopter from a Chinese warship "buzzed" a Japanese naval vessel that was keeping watch on the exercises.

Nuclear Terrorism: ‘From Tehran with Love’ (Part 5 of 10)
By Peter Huessy,Family Security Matters, March 29, 2010

If the United States and Russia reduce their nuclear weapons by 650 deployed warheads, out of stockpiles of some 5,000 warheads for the United States and some 14,000 for the Russians, does this qualify them for the winning ticket in the disarmament sweepstakes? Do countries that previously would not help in keeping Iran and North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons now help us? In addition, would these same countries now actively help to secure nuclear material – both weapons grade and commercially available for nuclear reactors – that they would not do in the past? In short, would the "international community" think enough of the U.S. and Russian new START agreement to help fulfill the promises of the NPT or the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty and significantly move humankind toward: (1) a world without nuclear weapons; and (2) a world in which nuclear dangers, especially nuclear terrorism, were significantly reduced?

This is indeed the hope of the leaders of the two nuclear powers as they conclude a new arms control agreement. The two Presidents will sign it in Prague, the Czech Republic the first week of April 2010. Numerous analysts have concluded that while modest in scope, the new agreement establishes a new measure of "trust" between the two countries, and will allow them to establish their "arms control" credentials prior to a follow-up meeting dealing with securing nuclear materials and the upcoming review conference on the NPT. This in turn, it is hoped, will "unlock" a series of non-proliferation doors, through which we and other nations can walk toward a nuclear weapons free future.

Religious Persecution International
By Doug Bandow, American Spectator, April 17, 2010

The U.S. is a rarity among nations. Among its unique attributes is a commitment to religious liberty.

A new study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life explores religious persecution around the world. According to Pew: "64 nations -- about one-third of the countries in the world -- have high or very high restrictions on religion. But because some of the most restrictive countries are very populous, nearly 70 percent of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities."

Include moderate restrictions, which most Americans also would consider to be intolerable, and more than half of the world's nations limit religious liberty. Fully 86 percent of the globe's people face significant limits on their right to worship God.

The Americas, including the U.S., happily have the least restrictions in both cases. The U.S. is joined by Brazil, Britain, Italy, Japan, South Africa, and the United Kingdom in the free category. 

Al Qaeda Beheaded in Iraq?
By Dr. Walid Phares, Family Security Matters, April 21, 2010

We should underline the following four points in our initial reaction to foreign reports, including a statement from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Maliki, that "Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri were killed by an Iraqi team."

Indonesia Between the Reefs
By Matthew Omolesky, American Spectator, April 14, 2010

The Republic of Indonesia -- that bewilderingly diverse land of 17,508 islands which, in Multatuli's immortal words, "wind about the equator like a garland of emeralds" -- has long seen itself as something of a nation "in training," a term Oswald Spengler used with respect to those polities capable of shaping their own and their region's destiny, but only after a lengthy limbering process. Since 1948 the Indonesian state has assiduously erected and strengthened the two pillars that have enabled the republic to prepare to take what it deems its rightful place in the community of nations. The first, a longstanding policy of anti-kolonialisme, for better or worse ensures that Indonesian relations with the United States will never be without turbulence, while the second, the bebas-aktif doctrine, likewise ensures that Jakarta will never submit to a Chinese influence often described as "neo-tributary." That being the case, Indonesia serves as a sort of geopolitical barometer in the Pacific region, and its behavior in the coming months and years will function as an indicator of the relative strength of the United States and China in the region. Long accustomed to "rowing between two reefs," Indonesia will be conducting a clinic in the application of a realist foreign policy, and its shifts and oscillations, "curious" or otherwise, should and will garner considerable international attention.

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From Elsewhere

Shocking Report: Police Find TEA Parties More Peaceful Than Anti-war Protests
By Candance Moore, News Busters, April 21, 2010

On Monday, the Christian Science Monitor bucked its mainstream peers by reporting something truthful about the TEA party movement: police officials have begun to relax security requirements at conservative rallies because of the remarkable absence of violence.

Yes, you read that right: despite nonstop media warnings about hateful protests, violence from TEA party attendants is so nonexistent that police feel safe allowing them to bring large items and sometimes even guns.

The Monitor was compelled to check things out when a TEA party in Raleigh, North Carolina, persuaded officials to overturn a ban on flag poles. Such items are typically banned because a flag pole is really just a very big stick that could be used as a weapon. The Monitor's research led the paper to admit that conservative protests are far less threatening than many past demonstrations.

Lower Merion Report: Web Cams Snapped 56,000 Images
By John P. Martin, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 19, 2010

Lower Merion School District employees activated the web cameras and tracking software on laptops they gave to high school students about 80 times in the past two school years, snapping nearly 56,000 images that included photos of students, pictures inside their homes and copies of the programs or files running on their screens, district investigators have concluded.

In most of the cases, technicians turned on the system after a student or staffer reported a laptop missing and turned it off when the machine was found, the investigators determined.

But in at least five instances, school employees let the Web cams keep clicking for days or weeks after students found their missing laptops, according to the review. Those computers - programmed to snap a photo and capture a screen shot every 15 minutes when the machine was on - fired nearly 13,000 images back to the school district servers

Democrats at the Edge of the Cliff
Democrats are spending trillions at the worst possible moment, with a new poll showing public trust in government at a historic low of 22%.
Wall Street Journal Editorial, April 22, 2010

There was always something eerie about the way the Democrats said their health-care legislation was what the American people had waited "70 years" for. Invoking the ghosts of 1939 was kind of creepy. Then when the moment in history finally arrived, history got no votes from the other party. Whatever the politics, there was something ominous about all this. One felt something else was going on.

A Pew Research Center report just out, the one that says trust in government is at an "historic low" of only 22%, looks like the something else.

Dig past the headline of the Pew study and one discovers why Bill Clinton is insinuating that "demonizing" government could cause another Oklahoma City bombing. If these numbers are at all close to reality, something one can hardly doubt just now, the American people have issued a no-confidence vote in government, at both the national and state level. To the extent one believes in the "consent of the governed," consent is being eroded.

Related Articles: 

Is Goldman Obama's Enron? No, it's worse
Who You Gonna Trust?
Scientist Says Arctic Getting Colder
From UPI, April 23, 2010

A Russian scientist says the Arctic may be getting colder, not warmer, which would hamper the international race to discover new mineral fields.

An Arctic cold snap that began in 1998 could last for years, freezing the northern marine passage and making it impassable without icebreaking ships, said Oleg Pokrovsky of the Voeikov Main Geophysical Observatory.

Big-Government Extremism
By D.L. Hammack, The Washington Times, April 17, 2010

The rising wave of popular activism in the United States is ritually derided by liberal commentators, politicians and academics as fringe-movement politics. But recent polling reveals that skepticism about government is broad and deep. Discontent with Washington has become the mainstream position; those who defend big government are the real extremists.

The annual Pew Research Center survey on trust in government released this week found "a perfect storm of conditions associated with distrust of government - a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter partisan-based backlash and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials."

The details are sobering. Fifty-six percent of Americans are frustrated with government, and an additional 21 percent are "angry." Anger at government has doubled in the past 10 years and now is equal with the percentage of people who are basically content. As well, 30 percent identify the federal government as a major threat to their personal freedom.

V-Shaped Explosion
By Martin Hutchinson, Asia Times, April 21, 2010

Commentators, including the egregious Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, are increasingly claiming that the United States is in the process of a V-shaped recovery from the Great Recession. Certainly first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP), to be announced next week, is likely to show a substantial bounce, albeit not quite the inventory-driven 5.6% annualized growth of the fourth quarter. Yet commentators should be careful what they wish for: a V-shaped recovery is likely to lead not to a prolonged period of healthy growth, but to an economic explosion and collapse. 

This may seem counter-intuitive. You would normally expect a period of above-normal growth after such a deep recession, whatever the political environment. After all, even in 1934, a year in which the federal government was taking a hatchet to the banking system and capital markets through the Glass-Steagall Act and was micro-managing wages, prices and product specifications through the National Recovery Administration, US GDP, it is now estimated, rose by an extremely healthy 10.9%. Indeed, 1933-34 form the principal supporting evidence for the efficacy of Keynesian "stimulus" - real federal expenditure rose by 23.7% in 1933 and no less than 34.2% in 1934, a public sector bloat rate of which even President Barack Obama might be proud. 

Five Myths about Green Energy
By Robert Bryce, Washington Post, April 25, 2010 

Americans are being inundated with claims about renewable and alternative energy..... But before we wrap all our hopes -- and subsidies -- in it, let's take a hard look at some common misconceptions about what "green" means.

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