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True North Archives - May 26, 2009
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Session Leaves Ruin in its Wake
Randy Brock

Like the end of a lingering hurricane, the Legislature blew out of Montpelier, leaving extensive devastation in its wake. The Vermont landscape was strewn with a host of new or increased taxes, matched by increases in spending.  Legislation was enacted that likely increases electricity rates, both by mandating above-market purchases of uncompetitive renewable energy and by reneging on the state’s deal with Vermont Yankee.  Property taxpayers are set to be hit with an estimated 6-7% increase because of an unfunded $19.8 million shift of teacher’s pension fund payments from the General Fund.  No wonder most Vermonters are relieved to see this storm pass.

States’ Rights
By Martin Harris

The answer is "States’ Rights". Thinking of the phrase as a label for segregationist policies in the Old South is decidedly obsolete; the new States’ Rights arose from the ashes of the more-recently-ignored Tenth Amendment prescription so that public education everywhere could escape from the Federal tyranny of No Child Left Behind, a 2001 requirement that almost all public school show test scores at the "proficient" level by 2014. Getting their young charges to "proficient" was such a foreign notion to edu-crats that, in almost every State, lobbyists were mobilized to enable each State to select any test, in lieu of the Federal one; and overnight, publishers like McGraw-Hill filled the newly-opened marketing niche with easy new tests for States to purchase, use, and display the better-than-NAEP results therefrom. Vermont, typically, went a step further, some of its districts filing suit against the Feds on the grounds that getting almost all students to proficient wasn’t in their job description, and if the Feds wanted such an unreasonable outcome, why then the Feds would have to pay a lot extra for it. The epithet was "unfunded mandate"; the argument was that each State should have the Right to pick its own tests.  Vermont has purchased NECAP; Tennessee has purchased TCAP;  and Montana has purchased MontCAS. Only Nebraska has refrained from end-running the NAEP. Thus, the States won out: federal testing still exists, but its dismal score-results get as little publicity from the State educational establishments as possible.

"Distraction" has Major Consequences
By Rob Roper

House Speaker Shap Smith and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin adjourned the legislature on May 9th because, at the beginning of the year, this is what they said they would do. It was a good idea that, if competently executed, could have saved Vermont taxpayers a half a million dollars. What Smith and Shumlin did not say they would do at the beginning of the year is bring up the issue of same sex marriage. They outlined their priorities, and that issue was not one of them. The 2009 legislative session was supposed to be focused like a laser beam on fixing the budget crisis, the economy and jobs. In the end, it wasn't.

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"The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some kind of middle ground in policies addressing terrorism. ... But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed. You cannot keep just some nuclear-armed terrorists out of the United States, you must keep every nuclear-armed terrorist out of the United States. Triangulation is a political strategy, not a national security strategy. ... There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people are in the balance."

--former Vice President Dick Cheney in a speech opposing Obama on national security

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

California, Here We Come?
From the Vermont Tiger, May 21, 2009

We are hearing, inevitably, that California is "too big to fail" and that the Feds will have to bail the state out somehow.  But the old too-big dodge has to run up against reality some day.  (Maybe California should be three smaller, more rational states.)  And sooner or later we will be hearing about enterprises that are "too small to save."  Which would seem to describe Vermont where some legislators are confident of another federal stimulus package that will fill the hole (some $200 million, give or take) in the 2011 and 2012 budgets.

Vermont isn’t California.  But then, California isn’t California any longer, either.   Excessive taxation and profligate spending have driven California to ruin.

No reason we couldn’t be next.

Committee to Form for Education Evaluation
From the Rutland Herald, May 18, 2009

The state's $45 billion spending plan awaits the governor's stamp of approval and a new education initiative does, too.

Included with the budget is a proposal to form a 15-member committee of educators, elected officials and state finance experts to study the state education system's organizational structure, decision-making at the legislative level, long-term outcomes of current and potential funding and whether or not any new plans would comply with the Brigham decision.

One More Time
From the Caledonia Record, May 19, 2009

A monumental financial crisis is coming at us in the next biennium, when we still will not have completely recovered from the recession, revenues will be down in the tens of millions of dollars more than the shortfall we are currently facing, and the "free" stimulus money will have disappeared.

And why? Because this Legislature has refused to face the definitive problem. Vermont must cut back on entitlements and personnel to the place where we can afford the services we provide and the essential personnel that we need. What this Legislature has refused to do, the special session or the next Legislature must do, and it will not be pretty.

Trees Good. Houses Bad
From the Vermont Tiger, May 19, 2009

Candace Page in the Freeps writes about a $1.8 million federal grant to purchase 5,272 acres of land in Eden and Johnson.  The U.S. Forest Service Chief was here and

They walked part of the way on a carpet of bluets where — without Forest Legacy — a golf course and suburban subdivision might stand.
Probably not a golf course.  No developer would build one today.  There are too many of them and demand for golf is lower than expected so most courses are losing money.

Have we been protected from that other blight:  houses?  If the Forest Legacy program has protected the land from having houses built on it, then one of three alternatives had to occur:

1.  The houses were built somewhere else.

2.   It became more difficult and costly to build houses and house prices are higher than they would have been if houses had been built on the land.?

3.  Houses were not built anywhere.

Failing To Understand An Economic Axiom
From the Caledonia Record, May 21, 2009

It is an axiom, discovered as early as John F. Kennedy's prophetic tax cuts, that when the government, federal, state, or local, raises taxes, it drives business down and lowers tax income. Conversely, when it lowers taxes, business increases and tax income does, too, way over the government's previous take. Higher taxes mean less government income; lower taxes mean higher government income. But, Vermont's ruling party, the Democrats, can't get that fact into their heads. So, they keep raising taxes on everything in the face of diminishing returns, and they don't know why!

Taxing booze even higher is a bone-headed political solution to self-interested Democrats' ideological issue. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the raise-taxes-at-any-cost-in-order-to-save-public-jobs is the embodiment of the Democrats' political cowardice.

Don't ask, don't tell. But do require
From Vermont Tiger, May 22, 2009

When legislators say they are asking someone to pay higher taxes, they don't mean it.  If they did, there would be a card in every Vermont income tax booklet asking those people to contribute.  The debate would be improved if instead, those legislators seeking higher taxes would remind voters that they will be requiring some people to pay higher taxes.

If you don't want to read the entire George Orwell essay, some relevant brief passages are:

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

CIA: US Does Not Know Location of all Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons
From, May 19, 2009

Leon Panetta, the CIA director, has said that the US does not know the location of all of Pakistan's nuclear weapons but is confident they are 'pretty secure'.

Al Qaeda Recruits Back in Europe, But Why?
By Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2009

Four men say their training experience in Pakistan wasn't what they hoped for. Anti-terrorism officials wonder if they're just biding their time, ready to strike in Europe.

"Foiled Bomb Plot Reveals 'Home-Grown' Reach of Extremists"
By Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, May 22, 2009

"The arrest of four individuals; three of whom appear to be U.S. citizens; confirms that homegrown Islamist-inspired terrorism is a clear and present danger," said Dr. Jasser.  "Today's arrests should be a wake-up call to America and especially to American Muslims that we are long overdue in countering the well-coordinated and well-funded Islamist programs which exist within the United States."

On the Defeat of the Tamil Tigers and Waning Insurgencies
By Douglas Farah, Family Security Matters, May 20, 2009

We are facing an unusual time in recent history. Two of the oldest and most successful insurgencies in recent times, the FARC in Colombia and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) in Sri Lanka, are on the brink of complete military defeat.

Both have lost their most senior and charismatic leader and much of the top command structure, both suffered the effects of top level defections and morale, and both suffered the catastrophic loss of geographic space in which to operate. Both have existed for several decades.

Although neither is completely destroyed (and the FARC retains the capacity to launch military strikes and controls some territory), both will leave lasting legacies for non-state actors, whose repercussions are being felt today and likely will be for years to come.

'Lawfare' Gains Ground? U.N. Resolution on 'Defaming' a Case in Point
By Brooke Goldstein & Aaron Eitan Meyer, The Washington Times, May 19, 2009

The United Nations recently passed resolutions that would make "defaming" Islam a globally criminal act. The United Kingdom first refused entry to Geert Wilders, a sitting European Parliament member and Islamist critic, and now has issued a list banning 16 other individuals, which includes some banned solely for their exercise of free speech.

Liberty City Six al Qaeda Cell Convicted for Conspiracy to Kill Americans
By Jim Kouri, CPP, Family Security Matters,  May 20, 2009

After a three-month trial, a Miami jury convicted five men of multiple charges that include conspiring to provide material support to the al Qaeda terrorist organization and conspiracy to wage war against the U.S. by discussing and planning attacks on targets in the U.S., including the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI building and other federal buildings in Florida. A sixth defendant was acquitted on all counts.

The six men – Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, and Rothschild Augustine – were named in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Florida (Miami) in June 2006.

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From Elsewhere
Government Wrong to Hose Car Dealers
By Bob Lonsberry,, May 19, 2009

Future historians might well look back on events of the last week and see a milestone of decline in the waning saga of American freedom.

The bridge between the free market and a command economy was likely crossed when, at government demand, thousands of car dealerships all across the country were put out of business. They were profitable, they were legal, they were useful, and the White House ordered them closed. A presidential panel, comprised of everyone except car-industry experts, demanded that Chrysler and GM cut off a third of their dealers’ heads. Hundreds of thousands will lose their jobs. Thousands of businesses will close. Millions of consumers will be affected.

Because the government said so.

The Rise of Collectivist Conservatives
By Will Wilkinson, Cato Institute, May 20, 2009

Today's Republican Party is a comedy of incompetence and strife. Yet beneath the hijinks lurks a struggle to define the proper relationship of the individual to society and to the state. If we don't dig too deep, the fight for the soul of the conservative movement looks something like this: In the rugged individualist corner is Fox News performance artist Glenn Beck—today's most spirited and surreal public defender of the American tradition of flinty self-reliance. In the collectivist corner is heavyweight conservative columnist David Brooks, who has used his New York Times platform to wage a relentless "scientific" campaign against what he sees as the pernicious individualism of Goldwater conservatives like Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

The Virtuous Path to African Development
By Anthony B. Bradley Ph.D., Acton Institute for Religion and Liberty, May 20 2009

What many of these organizations are now only beginning to understand is that many countries in Africa will escape poverty only if quality leaders are elected to positions of service. Entrepreneurial opportunities, the enforcement of property rights, the adjudication of conflicts, controlling violence, and terminating corruption are necessary aspects of an environment that will allow many African countries to develop out of poverty and remain vibrant. More importantly, these pillars of reform require certain moral values to truly flourish; in virtue’s absence the same system can serve to create new moral dilemmas. The recognition of human limitations in structural reform matter.

For example, even though Nigeria is a democracy with many free-market principles, corruption rules the day and drags everyone else down with it. Halliburton, a U.S. construction firm, was said to have given $180 million in bribes to top Nigerian politicians and government officials, including those of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to win the contract for the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant.

In February, Halliburton agreed to pay $579 million to settle charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice over bribes KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary, paid to win $6 billion in oil contracts from Nigerian officials. The bribe, in which three former Nigerian presidents were also said to have benefited, allegedly spanned the period from 1995, when the contract was awarded, to 2004 and possibly beyond. What is needed, then, are markets and governance that also value character and integrity.

All Cost, No Benefit
By Jerry Taylor, Cato Institute, May 20, 2009

The Obama administration's plan to require new passenger vehicles sold in 2016 to get an average of 39 miles per gallon or better (30 mpg or more for SUVs, pickups and minivans) is likely to be all cost and no benefit. If the proposed fuel efficiency standards were in place today, reports that only two cars — the 2010 Toyota Prius (50 mpg) and the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid (42 mpg) — would meet the standard. Angry environmentalists might thus find themselves key-scratching "gas guzzlers" such as the 2009 Honda Fit (31 mpg), the 2009 Mini Cooper (32 mpg) and the 2009 Smart ForTwo (36 mpg).

There is little dispute that, as a consequence, cars would become more expensive and industry profits more scarce. Even the Obama administration concedes that automotive costs would increase by $600 per car on average and that industry revenues would decline by $13 billion to $20 billion a year. Others offer larger figures, but it's difficult to peg costs with any certainty. What do we gain by this? Very little.

The Geography of Carbon Emissions
By Jack Dini, American Thinker, May 23, 2009

No American city is among the top 50 cities in the world for air pollution according to the World Bank. (1) Another list, ‘The Top Ten of the Dirty Thirty,' compiled by the Blacksmith Institute of New York compared the toxicity of contamination, the likelihood of it getting into humans and the number of people affected. Places were bumped up in rank if children were impacted. No US or European sites made the list. Sites in China, India and Russia occupied six of the top ten spots. Some examples: at Linfen in Shanxi province-the heart of China's coal industry-industrial and automobile emissions put the health of 3 million people at risk. At Sukinda in the state of Orissa in India, 2.6 million people face the hazards of one of the world's opencast chromite mines. And in Dzerzhinsk, Russia, 300,000 people are exposed to toxic by-products from chemical weapons. (2) ...

"Cut to the chase. We rich people can't stop the world's 5 billion poor people from burning the couple of trillion tons of cheap carbon that they have within easy reach. We can't even make any durable dent in global emissions-because emissions from the developing world are growing too fast, because the other 80 percent of humanity desperately needs cheap energy, and because we and they are now part of the same global economy. What we can do, if we're foolish enough, is let carbon worries send our jobs and industries to their shores, making them grow even faster, and their carbon emissions faster still."

Bono Discovers Sustainable Development Isn’t Sustainable
By Phelim McAleer, News Busters, May 20, 2009

The big problem with renewable energy is that it just doesn’t renew itself. The sun does not shine enough and the wind doesn’t blow enough to power the towns, cities, factories, hospitals and schools that make our lives so livable. No environmentalist would ever allow their child to be treated in a hospital fully powered by "renewables". They would not take the risk that the wind might stop whilst their baby was on the operating table. They would insist that the hospital and the life support systems had a fossil fuel powered back-up.

And so it is with "sustainable development". It just isn’t sustainable. At least it does not sustain a lifestyle that those who promote it would consider acceptable for themselves. But of course that is the key. Renewable energy and sustainable development are for "other people". Even though environmentalists come from societies and very often families that became rich because of their use of non-renewable energy and unsustainable development they will not allow these opportunities to be extended to the poor in the developing world.

Sotomayor's Resume, Record on Notable Cases
From CNN, May 26, 2009

In a 2005 panel discussion at Duke University, Sotomayor told students that the federal Court of Appeals is where "policy is made." She and other panelists had been asked by a student to describe the differences between clerking in the District Court versus in the Circuit Court of Appeals. Sotomayor said that traditionally, those interested in academia, policy, and public interest law tend to seek circuit court clerkships. She said, "All of the legal defense funds out there, they're looking for people with Court of Appeals experience. Because it is -- Court of Appeals is where policy is made. And I know, and I know, that this is on tape, and I should never say that. Because we don't 'make law,' I know. [audience laughter] Okay, I know. I know. I'm not promoting it, and I'm not advocating it. I'm, you know. [audience laughter] Having said that, the Court of Appeals is where, before the Supreme Court makes the final decision, the law is percolating. Its interpretation, its application." [Duke University School of Law, 2/25/2005, 43:19]

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