North Archives - May 26, 2009
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Leaves Ruin in its Wake
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.
By Martin Harris
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.
has Major Consequences
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.
# # #
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
# # #
Weekly News Round-Up
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
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
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
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.
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.
Good. Houses Bad
From the Vermont Tiger,
May 19, 2009
Candace Page in the Freeps
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.
To Understand An Economic Axiom
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
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.
ask, don't tell. But do require
From Vermont Tiger, May
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.
# # #
Global War on Terrorism
US Does Not Know Location of all Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons
From Telegraph.co.uk, May
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'.
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.
Bomb Plot Reveals 'Home-Grown' Reach of Extremists"
By Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, May
"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."
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.
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.
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.
# # #
Wrong to Hose Car Dealers
By Bob Lonsberry, boblonsberry.com,
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
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.
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.
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, Edmunds.com 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.
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."
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.
Resume, Record on Notable Cases
CNN, May 26, 2009
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]
# # #