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True North Archives - June 24, 2008
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State Education Monopoly
By Bruce P. Shields

Secondary and primary schooling in Vermont is organized as a State monopoly.  That is, every town and city must provide a school, in which all parents or guardians in that jurisdiction are compelled under penalty to enroll every child of appropriate age.   The only exception regarding attendance is for children whose parents provide alternatives entirely at their own expense.  The school committee collects operating funds under the police powers of the State, which funds may be used exclusively for schools directly controlled by that town committee.  Thus, the same organization designs the program, collects and disburses the funds under legal penalties, controls attendance, evaluates and polices the results.

Symington is the One 'Stuck In Neutral'
By Rob Roper

Gaye Symington officially announced that she will run for governor in 2008. A major theme she tried to sell in her kick-off speech and in subsequent appearances is that Vermont is "stuck in neutral" and that a lack of leadership is what's keeping us there. If Symington really believes this, she needs to take a hard look at her own record.

Silver Lining
By Martin Harris

Two "if"’s: if every dark cloud has its silver lining, and, if the opposite of "no good deed goes unpunished" is "no bad deed goes unrewarded", maybe the success of the Golden Dome folks in re-drawing the Vermont economy with an objective of making a passive-income base more important than what remains of an unloved active-income base, has gathered up one reward in the form of a remarkably strong (compared to almost everywhere else) housing market. It now seems that the housing-market slump sweeping the nation has had less effect within Vermont than did the last real estate downturn, which took place in the early 90’s and resulted in a temporary value slump in the 10 to 15 percent neighborhood. Recent charts and tables, published in such media venues as The Wall Street Journal, consistently show Vermont, frequently right alongside North Dakota (for a different set of reasons), among the States least burdened with distressed sub-prime mortgages, foreclosures, unsold housing inventory, or price depression. Since this is an opinion piece, here’s my opinion: it traces back to Vermont’s relatively new economic landscape, with a politically-engineered high cost of entry and equally high cost of staying resulting in a higher-than-average proportion of home-owners wealthy enough to be unaffected by the various economic pressures affecting the budgets of less-well-endowed folks elsewhere.

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This Week’s Mail Bag

Response to Martin Harris' editorial

Martin Harris alleges that other people are failing to disclose relevant information when it comes to pre-k, so it is odd that he does not make it clear that Urie Bronfenbrenner's article was written before 1974 (the original publication date) so it is hardly the response of an "outraged critic" of the 1994 Bell Curve much less an accurate summary of today's knowledge about preschool education.

It is also simply not true that effects of pre-k are not evident beyond second grade.  Many studies find effects on school success well into high school.  The Perry, Abecedarian, and Chicago Parent Child (CPC) studies all have effects on achievement far beyond second grade.  Yes, they are smaller than the very large initial effects, but these later effects are still substantial.

The so-called "fade-out" to the extent that it is real and not an artifact of poor research methods is due to the continued influence of other factors in children's lives, the negative effects of family and community poverty that may drag kids down somewhat and the positive effects of schools that give extra help to those furthest behind, thus giving the control groups a boost (at a higher cost, of course).

Also, it is not just about test scores and school success, it is also about social skills, delinquency, and crime, where preschool education programs also have been found to have positive effects.  Urie Bronfenbrenner did not know any of this in 1974.

Mary Barrosse Schwartz

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Martin Harris Replies:

She's right the Bronfenbrenner piece does in fact date from 1974, so why it was included in an anthology produced to refute The Bell Curve (1994) escapes me. The only person who would know is Race and IQ anthology editor Ashley Montague and he isn't talking because he has assumed room temperature. Even if he could be made to talk his contribution probably wouldn't be useful: his major "contribution" to the question of race was the argument that it doesn't really exist, and is only an evil construct dreamed up by mean and nasty people.

On the subject of tests purporting to show that pre-K ed works, my observation is that in education one can always find a study somewhere to prove what one wants. The vast majority of the literature, including the 40+ year record of Head Start itself, show that it doesn't. I learned in trying to follow the studies on the merits of class size reduction, that the truly rigorous analyses of all the studies (like those conducted by Eric Hanushek, formerly of U of Rochester, now at the Hoover Institution) that they were ignored by education-establishment types if they didn't support the desired finding, that smaller classes are better, and that in some cases, as Hanushek describes in his detailed analysis of the Tennessee Star Study, the findings were actually misrepresented to state that class size reduction works, when in actuality it doesn't. It seems to me that the same tactics are now being used to defend the pre-k argument, in the face of the preponderance of evidence to the contrary.

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"In America, we have this strong bias toward individual action. You know, we idolize the John Wayne hero who comes in to correct things with both guns blazing. But individual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations." -- Barack Obama

"It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now... Cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus." ---John F. Kennedy in his 1963 speech to the Economics Club of New York.

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Al-Jazeera Messages Show Divide
By John Briggs, Burlington Free Press, June 19, 2008

Burlington Telecom this week released more than 200 letters and e-mails concerning Al-Jazeera English at the request of The Burlington Free Press. The messages make clear that culture clash is as fierce in Vermont as it is elsewhere in the country. Those who want Al-Jazeera English taken off the air in Burlington characterize it as anti-American and supportive of terrorists, while many of those who approve its presence on Burlington Telecom cable television cast Al-Jazeera English opponents as small-minded and intolerant. The Free Press sought the letters under the provisions of the state's Access to Public Information Law.

The Good News is We Moved Up Three Positions
From, June 22, 2008

The bad news is we're still only just above average in our rankings in the third bi-annual Milken Institute State Technology and Science Index. The index measures states relative competitiveness when it comes to leveraging technology and science to promote economic development. Vermont ranked 19th...behind all of our neighbors. Massachusetts took the top spot with New Hampshire taking 9th and New York at 15th, and lets not forget Connecticut at 7th.

Town Hall Geopolitics
Caledonia Record LTE, June 20, 2008

In a continuing attempt to blame the oil companies for failing to pump enough of their product out of the ground, Representative Welch's resident experts cited that the oil companies are pumping oil from only a fraction of the property over which they hold subsurface gas and oil leases. While this statistic is true, it fails to explain the nature of these leases.

A subsurface gas and oil lease is not an instrument which is executed after the property is determined to contain petroleum deposits, it is an instrument of speculation that gives the lessee (oil companies) specific rights of access to the land to explore and pump out the oil IF the exploration shows that there are deposits of gas and oil present. At an average cost of a few dollars an acre, this is a cost effective way for the oil companies to ensure that, if there is anything there, they will have enumerated rights to enter the property and drill exploratory or production wells and, if oil is discovered, they will pay an additional, preagreed, royalty to the lessor. If there is nothing to pump out of the ground, it is only natural that the oil companies would not pump the nothing that is there, hence the fractional activity on leased land. They are not in the business of seeking out failure through trying to pump crude oil out of dry holes.

Politicizing Curriculum
From, June 16, 2008

It is not wise to politicize one's curriculum. Social studies curriculum should not become a battleground of special interest groups. Currently in the United Kingdom, Jews and Muslims are battling over whether the Holocaust should be dropped from that country's official curriculum. TAG is an organization that should feel free to promote its cause, but asking for legislative mandates is not the way to go. The Legislature's education committees are busy enough making snowboarding the state sport and taking away school choice from pregnant teens.

Caledonian Record Editorial Comment
Caledonian Record, June 23, 2008

The Vermont Public Interest Group (VPIRG) and the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) have decided the best way to help Vermonters save money on electricity is to make it more expensive. They've proposed increasing the annual budget of Efficiency Vermont (EV), the administrator of the state's energy efficiency programs.

Government's Role: Protecting Us From Helping Our Children
From, June 23, 2008

Although many thought that Act 60, and Brigham, meant that the state would and should provide the funding to increase spending among low spending districts, others were concerned that some districts were spending too much and ought to be prevented from doing this, even though the higher-than-average education spending was paid for entirely by local taxpayers.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

Iran On Its Heels As Iraqi Government Gets Stronger
From Flopping Aces, June 19, 2008

For the first time since 2003, Iran has stumbled in Iraq. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s decision to confront Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Basra and Sadr City last month caught Tehran off guard. The Mahdi Army lost more than face: It surrendered large caches of arms, and many of its leaders fled or were killed or captured. Crucially, the militias lost strategic terrain — Basra and its chokehold on the causeway between Kuwait and Baghdad and Iraq’s oil exports; Sadr City and the threat it posed to Baghdad security. Visiting Basra this month, I saw city walls covered with pro-Maliki graffiti. Commerce is returning to the city center. Trouble spots remain in both places, as Tuesday’s car bombings show, but the Mahdi Army’s unchallenged hold has ended.

Afghan and NATO Forces Rout Taliban
From Reuters UK, Jun 19, 2008

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan and NATO-led forces killed or wounded hundreds of Taliban on Thursday in an offensive to clear the militants from the outskirts of Kandahar city, the provincial governor said.

Al Qaeda's Vietnam: Melting Down in Mesopotamia
By Rich Lowry, NY Post, June 17, 2008

LATELY, the Iraq War has looked more and more like another Vietnam - not for us, but for al Qaeda. CIA Director Michael Hayden says the terror group has suffered "near-strategic defeat" in Iraq. It has been routed from Anbar, Diyala and Baghdad provinces, and now is getting a beating in its last stronghold of Mosul, in the north. It is reviled by the Iraqi populace, and its downward trajectory began with indigenous uprisings at its expense. 

Bush’s "War for Oil" About to Pay Off - Finally!
By "RickG",, June 19, 2008

Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power. American involvement in rebuilding Iraq’s oil inustry is good news for both countries - the U.S. companies now have a replacement for lost markets in other locales, and Iraq hopes to utilize the westerners’ skills and technologies to boost daily production by half a million barrels.

Rogue Nations May Have Nuclear Blueprints
From CBS News, June 15, 2008

There's concern tonight that designs for nuclear weapons may be in the hands of regimes and rogue groups that up to now have been struggling to build nuclear arsenals. CBS' Early Show Correspondent Thalia Assuras reports from Washington. 

A former U.N. weapons inspector is set to reveal publicly that blueprints for nuclear devices were found on computers belonging to an international nuclear smuggling ring -- two years ago. The illicit group was once led by Pakistani scientist, A.Q. Khan. 

Islamic School Draws Fire
Protest follows arrest of top official on obstruction charge
By Gary Emerling, Washington Times, June 18, 2008

The arrest of a top official at a Saudi-financed school in Northern Virginia has fueled further criticism of the institution following findings released last week that say its textbooks contained violent and intolerant language.

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From Elsewhere

Another Democrat calls for Nationalizing Oil Refinery Industry
By Rick Moran, American Thinker, June 19 2008

The worrying thing is that the Congressman - Maurice Hinchey - isn't getting laughed out of Washington for proposing a nationalization scheme for the refinery industry. Even at the height of liberalism's power back in the 1960's, no Democrat would have seriously entertained the notion.

"The Greatest Story Never Told": Today’s Economy in Perspective
By Pat Tomey, President of the Club for Growth

There is a debate going on today over whether our economy is in recession. Polls show sagging public confidence. But some perspective is sorely needed. The fact of the matter is that we in the United States, and to a lesser degree the entire world, have just lived through—and continue to live in—the greatest period of prosperity in human history. Over the last 25 years, more wealth has been created, more people have been lifted out of poverty, standards of living have been elevated more dramatically, and the quality and length of life have improved, more than ever before in recorded history. Unfortunately, as Larry Kudlow says, this is "the greatest story never told." We need to start telling the story, and also to think about its causes.

Pence Needs 23 More Signatures
By Wendy Schibener, Human Events, June 19, 2008

Congress is just 23 signatures away from a vote that could finally end the archaic Fairness Doctrine and create a permanent free-market system for talk radio. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) continues to urge congress members to sign the Broadcaster Freedom Act discharge petition. The petition will "prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from repromulgating the fairness doctrine," originally initiated in the 1930s under Franklin Roosevelt.

Surging Oil Primes Political Pump For New U.S. Drilling
By Terry Jones, Investor's Business Daily, June 18, 2008

The president's bold plan caps several days of significant events that appear to mark a major turnaround for U.S. energy policy. They include:

• A change of heart by GOP presidential candidate John McCain, who — after opposing offshore drilling — vowed on Tuesday to go after reserves off the coast. He also says he wants to build at least 45 new nuclear power plants.

• A similar reversal by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a longtime foe of drilling off his state's coast, who also changed his mind this week because "Florida families are suffering."

• A new Rasmussen poll released Tuesday (see chart) showing 67% of Americans now favor drilling for more oil, with 64% believing it will lead to lower prices.

Price Of Not Extending Bush Cuts: Return To Historically High Taxes
By J.T. Young, Investor's Business Daily, June 16, 2008

Despite liberal condemnation of the Bush tax cuts, virtually no one embraces a complete return to their pre-cut level — including the Democratic majority in Congress and both pending presidential nominees. There is good reason. Implicit in this rejection is the admission that they were too high to return to. While the media won't say it now, and certainly wouldn't then, those supposedly halcyon days of fiscal policy rested on historically high tax levels.

Related: Remembering the Real Economic Legacy of JFK

Barack Pushes Windfall Profits
By Neal Boortz,, June 10th, 2008

Barack Obama has been toying with the idea of imposing a tax on windfall profits on US oil companies, and it will definitely be a part of his presidential platform. Take a look at this latest statement he made in Raleigh, North Carolina.  He said, "I’ll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and we’ll use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills."  Gee, that sounds like a wealth distribution plan if I’ve ever heard one.  Rob from the rich to give to the "poor."

Ok .. first of all, just what are "windfall profits?"  Does anyone have a handy definition?  Might I offer one?  Damn right I might.  Try this:  "A tax levied on a industry by a politician eager to pander to economically ignorant voters who, for whatever reason, are upset with that industry."

The Two Obamas
By David Brooks, The New York Times, June 20, 2008

Fast Eddie Obama didn’t just sell out the primary cause of his life. He did it with style. He did it with a video so risibly insincere that somewhere down in the shadow world, Lee Atwater is gaping and applauding. Obama blamed the (so far marginal) Republican 527s. He claimed that private donations are really public financing. He made a cut-throat political calculation seem like Mother Teresa’s final steps to sainthood.

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