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True North Archives - June 08, 2010
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Featured Articles

Health Care Insanity
By Robert Maynard

In summary, we have been warned about the perils of heading down a path toward health care reform paved with more government control and have had a free market alternative approach proposed to us. In light of this, how has our political class reacted to the evidence that the path we are on is a dead end? Are they calling for a change of course? No, their response is to pass a bill calling for a study of a single payer system, which basically is the logical destination of the current path we are on. This brings to mind the classical definition of insanity as doing the same thing and hoping for different results.

Surveying the Economic Desert
By Rob Roper

Last week the Arno Group and Vermont Business Magazine released results from an unscientific survey of Vermont businesses regarding Vermont’s business climate. The Stowe Reporter’s rosy headline "Businesses staying, despite taxes," is a bit misleading and misses the most important point articulated by the surveyors entirely. 

First, only 254 of 3100 returned the survey, and, according to the surveyors, responses were skewed heavily toward very small businesses with just twenty or fewer employees. It’s certainly a good thing that most of these businesses plan to stick around. However, this is kind of like surveying the cacti and kangaroo rats in the desert and asking them if Death Valley is a good place to live. It’s fine for them, so what’s everybody else’s problem? 

Gesture Politics III
By Martin Harris

When you Google "gesture politics" you get 800,000 hits and a New York Times definition as "…symbols and empty promises". The Grey Lady (not-entirely-there-any-more) of 43rd Street has it somewhat wrong: a more important aspect of gesture politics involves making rhetorical noise for an outcome you don’t at all want (or vice versa). The classic Vermont example, for the last score of years, has been the flow of Golden Dome oratory demanding the closing of the Vermont Yankee power plant and replacing the jettisoned one-third-of-the-State’s electricity need with some mix of windmills and bio-mass. Most of the I-don’t-really-mean-it language comes from those G-D LB-er’s whose core constituency is the battalions of latte-machine devotees who would, arguably, be most displeased should their essential beverage dispenser be deprived of wattage. But an even better example has now surfaced: its inventrix is the Golden Domer from Burlington, the Honorable Johannah Leddy Donovan, who is presently the Chairwoman of the House Education Committee.

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"If I had an hour to save the world I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions" 
-- Albert Einstein

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

That's Why They Call It The Blues
From Vermont Tiger, June 3, 2010

... Thabault said her department had concluded Blue Cross had broken the law by paying Milnes more money than necessary to perform his functions as head of the nonprofit health-benefits provider. --  Freeps
Ah, the system at work.   In a state where it has become impossible for profit-seeking health insurance companies to do business, Blue Cross of Vermont enjoys a kind of protected status and rolls along serenely raising its rates, year after year, and providing a kind of mystifying coverage where it is just about impossible for a subscriber to know what is – and is not – covered until the bills come due and Mr. Blue informs him that he is responsible for this or that much of the charge for his recent medical procedure.  And, by the way, your premium just went up.  Again.

Vermont's Current Use Tax Is Bad Public Policy
Caledonia Record Editorial, June 4, 2010

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, as one of his last actions in office, vetoed the Democrats' current land use bill recently passed by both Houses. We agree with his decision to veto the bill, but not for the same reasons at all. Douglas vetoed it because he thinks that the bill is unacceptably punitive of the 12,000 participants with their 15,000 parcels of land included in the program. We agree with his veto because we think that the Democrats' bill is way too weak and is far less punitive of the current use abusers than it should be. It amounts only to a slap on the wrist.

Here are some facts. The land in the program is more than 2.2 million acres. That's more than one-third of the whole land area of Vermont. The current land use entitlement reduces taxes on the parcels by 60 percent on the theory that its current use as farm or timberland is more valuable than its development value. But, the entitled owners routinely withdraw their parcels or parts of them to develop them themselves, or to sell them to developers to develop them. Either way, there is practically no financial penalty for withdrawal. The Democrats tried to plug that hole with a financial penalty. We believe that the new penalty is still too little a disincentive to slow the withdrawals.

Vital Signs Shaky for Catamount Health
By Louis Porter, Rutland Herald, Jun 6, 2010

The state's landmark Catamount health insurance program is not terminally ill, but it needs a checkup.

A smaller-than-expected infusion of federal money and other factors mean the nearly four-year-old program needs help – about $3.8 million – from the state's General Fund to stay afloat this fiscal year, sooner than expected. The goal of having 96 percent of Vermonters insured by the end of 2010 seems unlikely to be met. About 7.6 percent lack health insurance now.

School Daze
From Vermont Tiger, June 4, 2010

Governor Douglas did not sign the bill known as H. 66 – aka an Act Relating to voluntary school district merger, virtual merger, supervisory union duties, and including secondary students with disabilities in senior year activities and ceremonies – into law.  Nor did he veto it.  He simply allowed it to become law without his signature.

The bill's advocates claim that it creates incentives for school consolidation thus preventing the fiscal train wreck facing the state as a result of its broken system for funding K-12 education.  The bill is pabulum of the sort that legislators like to spoon feed to voters who, they believe, do not have the stomachs for anything stronger. 

Some Vermonters with the constitution and the nerves to handle real reform – which comes down, always and inevitably to cutting staff – are unhappy that the governor did not veto the bill and force the legislature to come back to Montpelier and try again.  They have an argument that is worthy of respect.  But...

Related: The Governor’s message relating to H. 66

The Best Reason to Cheat
Caledonia Record Editorial, June 2, 2010

Rob Hofmann, Vermont Human Services commissioner, recently revealed that state employees have used state computers wholesale for personal interests and business. Here are some of the uses that the state discovered and that have brought on the threat of a monitoring system that will nail offending employees:

  • Bringing computer network speed to a crawl by using scarce bandwidth to watch afternoon NCAA March Madness.
  • Loading a thousand pornographic images onto a state computer.
  • Connecting to pornography sites, downloading images, and in the process, introducing a computer virus that started hacking into a local bank computer system.
  • Using state computers to run small businesses on taxpayer time.
  • Closing The Gap
    By Chris Campion, Vermont Tiger, June 2, 2010

    Vermont's Joint Fiscal Office has a nice graphicregarding the state's budget and projected revenues, and the gap between those two numbers.  That the state is facing a shortfall in revenues compared to the planned outlays is not new news, but sometimes the simple chart can illuminate the issue in ways that the raw numbers cannot.  Even with the budget as passed, with the challenges included, demonstrates the significant deficit Vermont is facing in the immediate future.  This type of chart might beg the question why the legislature has been so unwilling to act on this issue, when the information as to how bad the state's finances are has been available to any Vermonter for the past few years, with but the click of a mouse. 

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    Freedom Under Fire:
    The Global War on Terrorism

    Al Qaeda in Iraq is 'Broken,' Cut off from leaders in Pakistan, says top US general
    By Bill Roggio, The Long War Journal, June 5, 2010

    Iraqi and US forces have hit al Qaeda in Iraq hard over the last several months, crippling the terror group's senior leadership and disrupting its communications with al Qaeda's top leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the top US commander in the country said.

    "Over the last 90 days or so, we've either picked up or killed 34 out of the top 42 al Qaeda in Iraq leaders," General Ray Odierno, the commander of US Forces - Iraq, told reporters during a Pentagon press briefing.

    War Pyongyang Style
    By George H. Wittman, The American Spectator, June 4, 2010

    North Korea's (Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- DPRK) continuing efforts to maintain political and military pressure on the United States is difficult for Washington to understand. It seems so simple in American terms: Pyongyang needs only to reduce its military power, primarily in the field of nuclear weapon development and missile delivery systems, and investment and aid will flow into the North. The problem with this thesis is that the DPRK leadership needs confrontation with South Korea (Republic of Korea -- ROK) and the U.S. to maintain control of their country.

    American Jihadists
    By D. Gartenstein-Ross, B. Roggio & Tara Vassefi, The Long War Journal, June 2, 2010

    'Homegrown terrorism' has become a major national security concern. The problem is discussed in the Obama administration’s new national security strategy, which states: "Several recent incidences of violent extremists in the United States who are committed to fighting here and abroad have underscored the threat to the United States and our interests posed by individuals radicalized at home." Further, a new RAND Corporation paper written by Brian Michael Jenkins notes that in 2009, there was "a marked increase in radicalization leading to criminal activity."

    Ground Zero Mosque Imam Tied To Flotilla Funders
    By Andy Soltis, New York Post, June 5, 2010

    The imam behind a proposed mosque near Ground Zero is a prominent member of a group that helped sponsor the pro-Palestinian activists who clashed violently with Israeli commandos at sea this week.

    Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a key figure in Malaysian-based Perdana Global Peace Organization, according to its Website.

    Perdana is the single biggest donor ($366,000) so far to the Free Gaza Movement, a key organizer of the six-ship flotilla that tried to break Israel's blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip Monday.

    Nine passengers aboard the largest ship died in clashes with Israeli commandos, and a new confrontation loomed today, when another Free Gaza Movement ship was due to reach Gaza waters in defiance of Israel.

    The Elephant in the Room: Islamism and Appeasement
    Obama is abandoning religious freedom to placate oppressive Muslim regimes.
    By Rick Santorum, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 2, 2010

    In last year's Cairo speech, however, Obama at least gave the impression that he would confront Islam on one key front: religious freedom. "People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul," he declared.

    A Pew Research Center report released several months after the president's address found that the predominantly Muslim countries Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, and Pakistan were - to no one's surprise - among the nations most politically and socially hostile to religious freedom.

    So what has the president done to put teeth in his Cairo rhetoric? Less than nothing.

    According to the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom's most recent annual report, the administration's promotion of religious freedom is "missing the mark." USA Today reported bluntly that the commission had "blasted" Obama for "softening his stand on protecting the right to one's faith at a time when religious persecution is on the rise."

    Strategy vs. Tactics in Afghanistan
    By Ann Marlowe, The Hudson Institute, June 2, 2010

    Gen. Stanley McChrystal has embraced Hamid Karzai as part of the Obama administration's startling about-face on the Afghan president. Until recently, the Obama team seemed to understand that Mr. Karzai was "not an adequate strategic partner," in the well-chosen words of our ambassador (and former general) Karl Eikenberry. Mr. Karzai's refusal to name cabinet ministers in the wake of the August 2009 election (as required by the constitution) so angered his own parliament that for several days last month they refused to conduct any business, instead sitting silent in protest.

    Mr. Karzai and the American commander are both following what Col. Gian Gentile, head of military history at West Point, has called "a strategy of tactics"—by which he means ground-level measures pursued on an ad hoc basis without an overall objective.

    Mr. Karzai has no vision of his country's future. But he's adept at playing off all the actors, including the U.S., against each other in the hope he will be the only one left standing. His strange lack of urgency about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, according to Abdullah Abdullah, the leader of the Afghan democratic opposition, stems from his underlying belief that the U.S. decision to gradually withdraw next summer is a bluff. Many Afghans think the U.S. is there for ulterior motives (Afghanistan's small oil and gas reserves, coal, taking Afghan farmland) and will stay forever.

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    From Elsewhere

    BP Oil Spill: Who's Your Daddy?
    By Gene Healy, Cato Institute, June 1, 2010

    "Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?" 11-year-old Malia demanded Thursday morning while the president was shaving. Poor President Obama: even his kids won't give him a break about the Gulf oil spill.

    Tough. It's hard to feel sorry for the "Yes We Can" candidate, who got the job by stoking the juvenile expectation that there's a presidential solution to everything from natural disasters to spiritual malaise.

    But the adults among us ought to worry about a political culture that reacts to every difficulty by screaming "Save us, Superpresident!"

    Related Articles: 

    In Criticizing Cleanup, Jindal Finds His Voice
    How Washington Just Worsened the Gulf Oil Spill
    Reappraising the Right
    By Bruce Edward Walker, Acton Institute for Religion and Liberty, June 2, 2010

    Both Kirk and Buckley agreed that the conservative tradition had its roots in spirituality –specifically, the Judeo-Christian tradition. Morality and right-thinking come not from man, but from a higher power. Furthermore, humankind will continue to succumb to the temptations and appetites of the flesh it has been heir to since the Fall. The two men took as articles of faith that humanity is not perfectible and that the striving for earthbound utopias is foolhardy.

    Kirk, writing from the "stump country" of Mecosta, Michigan, and Buckley, writing and speaking in his Brahmin-drenched New England patois, differed in their views of where conservatism derived, what precisely it was and where it should go. Despite their differences, Kirk wrote a column for nearly every issue of National Review from its inception and for almost 30 years. ...

    But, and as Nash repeatedly notes, the threads braided together to form the rope of modern conservatism are diverse and tenuous. No longer can a single thread be traced from Burke to Santayana to T.S. Eliot as Kirk was able to do so expertly in "The Conservative Mind." Instead of threads, tendrils of paleoconservatism, neoconservatism, compassionate conservatism, crunchy conservatism, libertarianism, Randianism, classical liberalism, small government advocates, tea partiers and even Blue Dog Democrats tangle and creep in all directions while still managing to squeeze into the conservative rubric.

    In a Welfare State, How Much Is ‘Enough’?
    That’s a question Democrats don’t tend to ask.
    By Jonah Goldberg, National Review, June 3, 2010

    Governments do not generate wealth; they can merely distribute it. The challenge for both liberals and conservatives is simply to define how much distribution is "enough." What would an acceptable safety net look like? Who should be taken care of by taxpayers and for how long? Paul Ryan offered an answer to that question, and liberals scoffed because they reject the question. There’s no such thing as enough, as far as they’re concerned. That’s what the Greeks thought.

    Death Panels' were an Overblown Claim -- Until Now
    By Michael D. Tanner, The Cato Institute, May 27, 2010

    During the debate over ObamaCare, the bill's opponents were excoriated for talk of rationing and "death panels." And in fairness, with a few minor exceptions governing Medicare reimbursements, the law does not directly ration care or allow the government to dictate how doctors practice medicine.

    But if President Obama wanted to keep a lid on that particular controversy, he just selected about the worst possible nominee for director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the office that oversees government health care programs. Obama's pick, Dr. Donald Berwick, is an outspoken admirer of the British National Health Service and its rationing arm, the National Institute for Clinical Effectiveness (NICE).

    Arizona's Governor is Ready to Go to Court
    By Ethel C. Fenig, American Thinker, June 2, 2010

    Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) doesn't scare easily. President Obama (D) doesn't scare her, neither does the US Attorney General, Erick Holder, or the ACLU all of whom, in one form or another, have threatened to take her state to court over Arizona's decision to implement US immigration laws. No problem, she told  John King on CNN, staunchly defending her policies. 

    "We'll meet you in court..."

    Lies, Damn Lies, and Politicians: High Crimes and Misdemeanors at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave (Part 2: The Inconsistencies)
    By Liz Blaine, News Real, May 31, 2010

    The inconsistencies between the White House and Congressman Sestack’s statements lead to more questions than their "coordinated" statements answer.

    The Obama administration is adamant that "White House staff did not discuss these options with Congressman Sestak." Really? Sestak claims the offer originated from "someone in the White House," but former President Bill Clinton is not part of the Obama White House. And Sestak has repeated this claim on numerous occasions. (Hattip: The NRSC)

    Storming the School Barricades
    By Bari Weiss, The Wall Street Journal,   June 5, 2010

    "The public education system is at a crossroads," Ms. Sackler says. "Do we want to go back to the time when children are forced to attend their district school no matter how underperforming it is? Or do we want to let parents choose what's best for their kids and provide a lot of options? Sometimes those options might fail. But ... I don't see how you could choose to settle for what we've been doing for half a century when it's been systemically screwing over the same kids—over and over and over."

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