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True North Archives - August 05, 2008
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States’ Rights Part II
By Martin Harris

The concept of federal testing of students supposedly "owned" by States was adopted by Congress in 1964, at about the same time that all sorts of other "Great Society" social-engineering notions were being put in place by the Johnson administration. The testing bureaucracy was to be the newly-created National Assessment of Educational Progress, NAEP for short, and the first tests were administered to very carefully selected statistical samples of students in every State across the country, at the 4th, 8th, and 11th grade levels in the math and reading subject areas, in 1969. For the first time, under the theory of 50 different State educational systems serving as competing laboratories for effective instruction, it would be possible to see the different systems compared in terms of how much they spent per pupil, how they organized their instructional efforts, and how well their students fared, measured in terms of actual achievement, as a result. However, in the late ‘60’s, such openness to measurement was more than the Left in general or the National Education Association in particular could or would tolerate, and so political compromises were made. Yes, the NAEP tests would be administered and the results compiled, but the individual States, while obliged to participate, were not obliged to turn in their results for inclusion in the National Digest of Educational Statistics, nor to publicize the results in-State if their State Education Departments didn’t like them. Under the rubric of States’ Rights, their SED’s would be free to purchase, deploy, and publicize the results of any other tests they might choose alongside of the NAEP’s. They still are free to do so, and most do. From the start, a handful of States opted out of full participation in the NAEP protocol. On the website of the NAEP there’s a page illustrating the pattern for the decade of the ‘90’s: Vermont students’ scores show up for only three years in mid-decade. Other absentee States, almost all Northern, range from Washington to New Jersey.

"Scribblings" - An Occasional Newsletter from the Legislature 
By Rep. Thomas F. Koch Barre Town

The basic facts are simple but significant. Built in 1964, Vermont Yankee provides nearly one-third of Vermont’s electrical power, and it provides it at roughly four cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s a lot of power at a very cheap price, compared to the current market price of power. The plant was sold in 2002 to Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, a private company based in New Orleans. The plant’s operating license is due to expire in 2012, which means that we will lose the benefit of that base power (which would then have to be purchased "from the grid" at market prices) unless the operating license is renewed. Entergy has signaled its intention to apply for a 20-year license renewal, which would need approval of both the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Vermont legislature. Once the plant’s operating license finally expires, whether in 2012 or 2032, or at some other time, the plant will have to be safely dismantled, at a cost presently estimated to be $893,000,000.00.

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"Barack Obama is back from his big European tour. Did you see him in Europe? People were cheering him, holding up signs, blowing him kisses. And that was just the American media covering the story."  --Jay Leno

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Symington Losing Her Credibility

Vermonters are catching some profound insights into Gaye Symington’s character and her curious relationship with the truth. 

This week began with an attack, in which she claimed Vermont has the lowest job growth in New England. We don’t. We’re tied for third. When confronted with this fact, the explanation was that the states that actually lost jobs were discounted by Symington because they were experiencing job shrinkage, not job "growth." Needless to say, this bizarre "logic" didn’t wash with the press (See Campaign Mis-Speakings on the Free Press Blog) .

Next, her campaign charged that the Douglas administration could not quickly produce for VSEA a list of the 150 jobs trimmed through attrition, despite the fact the VSEA wasn’t even requesting such a list. Most recently, Symington penned an Op-Ed in the Brattleboro Reformer leveling a false attack at the administration, claiming that Department of Public Service (DPS) blocked the Public Oversight Panel from participating in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) inspection of the Yankee plant. This was not the case.

Symington has a pattern of viciously attacking, often with disregard for the truth, opponents who simply disagree with her agenda. See her comments lashing out at IBM on the VTGOP website. See her comments baming Vermont’s business community when they respectfully asked for specific reforms to Vermont’s business climate. Note her sour grapes reaction to the success of the Sales Tax Holiday, rather than simply being happy Vermonters saved some money, made some money, and felt good about the economy for a few days. Note her curt failure to condemn the actions of a left-wing activist who threw a pie at Governor Douglas during a parade. 

How can anyone work with a person who acts and thinks this way?

This "my way or I’ll attack you to the highway" attitude is probably a big reason why, even given a supermajority in both chambers of the legislature, Gaye Symington was not able to accomplish much as Speaker of the House.

1969 Redux
From, July 28, 2008

The Freeps' was about a proposal from Josh Farley, an ecological economist at the Gund Institute at UVM who argues that 

Americans could substantially cut their energy use, he declared, if they could manage to live at the level that prevailed in 1969.

...It's hard to believe anyone can seriously think that an average American would want to go back to 1969's standard of living or that things were better back then for the average American.  You'd have to give up your cell phone and replace it with a rotary dial phone (your choice of white or black, and no answering machines allowed).  Out the window with your computer, DVD player (not to mention your VCR), and microwave.  No more iPods or Walkman. Or even boom boxes.  Back to vinyl. 

Half the people who own them would have to get rid of their dishwashers, clothes washers, color TV's and air conditioners.  Your 2007 car's pollution is about 99% less than the 1969 vehicle.  And it's safer and lasts longer.

I don't even want to start talking about medical care. 

Symington’s Shocking Views on Vermont’s Largest Private Employer: IBM

From the Governor's press release...

On a recent trip to southern Vermont, House Speaker Gaye Symington let her true colors show in candid statements she made about IBM, Vermont’s largest private employer.  Symington accused IBM of not adopting her political agenda which would result in higher costs for Vermont businesses, including IBM, which provides over 5,000 jobs at its Essex facility. 

In front of a group of supporters, Speaker Symington attacked IBM for not agreeing to her energy plan and stridently questioned the company’s environmental ethic.  She even questioned their commitment to "thinking long-term about our energy future past today and tomorrow."   Symington's attack came in part because IBM – like other businesses – has identified affordable energy as a key element to their continued success in Vermont. Gaye Symington's irresponsible energy policy will lead to increased energy prices for both families and businesses.

This is part of a larger pattern of Gaye Symington's hostility toward Vermont businesses – large and small.  From companies like IBM on down to S.D. Ireland Concrete Construction, Sterling Construction, Bouchard-Pierce, Wendell’s Furniture, and dozens of others, Symington chooses to ignore the things they say they need to grow good jobs and a strong economy.

"In 2003, IBM officials highlighted key changes that could help the company stay competitive in Vermont.  Unfortunately for them, Gaye Symington opposes every one of these changes and has a record of making Vermont less friendly to businesses," said Douglas campaign manager Dennise Casey. "Now Vermont businesses are seeing that Gaye Symington is will attack them if they don't agree to her political agenda."

This is about more than just IBM, Casey said.  "It's about an attitude that Gaye Symington has toward both large and small companies.  She taxes them, she disparages them, she over-regulates them and if they won't back her political agenda, she goes after them.  Vermonters have a right to ask; how can you expect Gaye Symington to grow Vermont jobs when she attacks Vermont businesses?" asked Casey.

IBM Identifies Needs in Order to Keep their Vermont Facility Competitive.

"IBM officials have identified several areas that could help the Vermont plant stay competitive: reform the permit process; cut taxes, reduce electricity costs; invest in education to produce better workers; and build the circumferential highway, linking IBM directly to interstate 89 in Williston." 
-- Vermont Business Magazine, 9/1/03

Symington’s Record:

Reform the Permit Process

Symington Voted Against Common Sense Permit Reform – Twice!

In 2003, H.175 Consolidated Environmental Appeals and Revisions of Land Use Development passed the house by a vote 78 to 53 on April 11, 2003, Symington voted against the bill. 

In 2004, Symington once again voted against permit reform when the house voted overwhelmingly to support the final bill – the conference committee’s report – which passed the house 114-24. 

Cut Taxes

During her tenure as Speaker, Symington has ignored calls for action to lower property taxes, while supporting new taxes on payroll, income, property transfer, gas, diesel, home heating oil and trucks & family vehicles.

Payroll & Income Tax:  In 2005, the Legislature under Gaye Symington’s leadership proposed raising taxes for a government run health care plan. "The Legislature proposed a 3 percent payroll tax paid by companies that didn't offer coverage to their employees and a 1 percent income tax on those receiving the proposed primary care benefit." (Brattleboro Reformer, 8/19/05)

Property Transfer:  "Only a week after the budget message, the Democrats unveiled their first initiative of the session…It was a property transfer tax increase on commercial properties." (Vermont Guardian, 2/9/07) 

Gas & Diesel Tax:  According to the Rutland Herald, in 2006 "Symington has been steadfast in her support of the gas tax increase and an accompanying jump in the diesel tax by 6 cents to 31 cents a gallon." (Rutland Herald, 4/17/06)

Home Heating Oil:  In 2008, Symington said she would consider tripling, over 10 years, the half-a-percent per gallon weatherization charge on heating fuel to 1.5 percent to help subsidize efficiency programs. "That will be controversial…We will definitely look at it," Symington said. (Valley News, 1/29/08)

Trucks & Family Vehicles:  In 2007, Symington thought that, although a tax on large vehicles was unpopular, "it the right thing to do anyway." (Rutland Herald, 4/9/07)

Property Taxes:  And when proposals to reduce property taxes were laid on the table, she dismissed them in spite of the benefit they might have for Vermont businesses.  According to Symington "The real agenda [of Republican House Leaders] is lowering the property tax burden…for businesses at the expense of Vermonters…" (VPR, 10/18/06)

Reduce Electricity Costs

Symington supported a new and arbitrary tax on Vermont’s largest energy producer, even though business leaders throughout the state recognized it would raise electricity rates.

In 2007, representatives of the business community worried that the arbitrary tax that Democrats in the Legislature tried to stick on Vermont Yankee would harm the ability of utilities to negotiation favorable rates in a new contract with Entergy. "The tax isn't going to go away," [Steve] Kimbell said. "The costs will show up someplace." 

"He questioned, too, if Entergy's profits are taxed this time, what company might be next. ‘Does that apply to GE in Rutland, to General Dynamics in Burlington? Does it apply to IBM?’ he questioned." (Burlington Free Press, 4/27/07)

Even in the face of the concerns, Symington supported the tax.  "‘I think there will remain in the bill resources from Vermont Yankee,’ said House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho." (Burlington Free Press, 5/7/07)

Invest in Education to Produce Better Workers

Symington proposed to cut funding for the Next Generation scholarship program.

In 2008, during contentious budget negotiations, Gaye Symington and Legislative leaders "chose to accelerate the effective date for some higher business fees; cut pay for the highest-paid state workers and set travel restrictions; tap the higher-education fund for $2.2 million; redirect $1 million from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board; and reduce by $1 million the funding for the Next Generation scholarship and work-force development initiatives." (Burlington Free Press, 4/19/08)

Build the Circumferential Highway

Symington has consistently been against building the Circumferential Highway

"The speaker remains opposed to large projects like the Circumferential Highway in Chittenden County and the Bennington Bypass…" (Eagle Times, 9/14/07)

Symington doesn’t think that the Circ – or the Bennington Bypass – is a priority. "‘I'm concerned that we don't have the money for new projects like the circumferential highway and the Bennington Bypass,’ said Symington." (Bennington Banner, 9/15/07)

Tax Math Is Always Up
Caledonia Record Editorial 7/31/08

Understanding the mathematics of taxes under Acts 60 and 68 baffles most Vermonters who don't have an accounting education plus a degree from an engineering school. ... Whether Vermonters understand the math or not, they understand and feel the pain of paying taxes that are too high and rising. That fact dictates that the first order of business in the next Legislature has to be to reduce our runaway property taxes, and since the lion's share of these taxes is the cost of education, the former can't be achieved without reducing the latter.

Food For Thought, July 28, 2008

With so many states facing budget shortfalls this year, one would expect to see states proposing a myriad of novel solutions. We're still waiting to see what kind of solution Vermont's creative class, (i.e., carpetbaggers), comes up with. While we're waiting, here’s what Cato found five states are doing -- they're using Education Tax Credits to save a bundle while simultaneously serving the grander purpose of expanding educational freedom: 

Wood Pellets And Legal Permits
Caledonia Record Editorial, August 02, 2008

Vermont's permit process is an intentional nightmare. It is a maze of panels, commissions, departments, and committees, with foot dragging conflicts of bureaucratic interests that would discourage the Sphinx from entering it. There are worthy projects and plans that have waited for up to 12 years, and are still waiting, to clear the permit process. "If we can slow things down, we have done our job," seems to be the motto of the permit authorities.

Douglas' Tax Holiday Tumps Symington Plan
By Rob Roper, The Burlington Free Press, August 3, 2008

It seems reality trumped Symington's and her party's hard-left, ideological belief system. The sales tax holiday was a good idea, well executed and, most important, it got results.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

A Darkening Mideast
From Investor's Business Daily, August 01, 2008

A "breakthrough" in Iran's nuclear program, a shipment of advanced U.S. anti-missile radar destined for Israel and word of a secret Iranian bomb factory. Are these signs Iran soon will be under attack? 

Bombers, Bank Accounts, and Bleedout: al-Qa'ida's Road in and Out of Iraq (pdf)
From the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point

Key Findings Saudi Arabia and Libya supplied the most fighters in the Sinjar Records. Saudi Arabia contributed the highest number of foreign fighters to al Qaida’s fight in Iraq between August 2006 and August 2007, followed by Libya. Foreign Fighters contributed approximately 75 Percent of suicide bombers between August 2006 and August 2007. Of the 376 fighters in the Sinjar Records that designated their "work" in Iraq, 212 (56.4 percent) were listed as suicide bombers. AQI is a wounded organization. Tribal disaffection, the surge in Coalition and Iraqi Forces in 2007-2008, and AQIs self-destructive penchant for violence have all contributed to... 

Poll: 1 in 3 Muslim students approve killing for Islam
From Worldnet Daily

If ignorance and poverty are responsible for the growth of extremist views in the Islamic world, someone needs ask to Muslim students, privileged enough and bright enough to attend some of the United Kingdom's best universities, why one-in-three of them endorses killing in the name of Islam.

The report of this finding, based on a poll of 600 Muslim and 800 non-Muslim students at 12 universities in the UK, and conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Center for Social Cohesion, will be released tomorrow as "Islam on Campus."

Hizbullah operatives caught in Baghdad 
The Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2008 

In a display of Hizbullah's extended involvement in conflicts throughout the Middle East, Coalition Special Forces captured two members of the group during a raid over the weekend in eastern Baghdad.

Is Zawahiri Worm Food?
By Rick Moran, The American Thinker, August 02, 2008

CBS News is reporting - with a lot of caveats - that there is a possibility al-Qaeda's #2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, may be criticially injured or dead.

The Deobandi Fatwa Against Terrorism Didn't Treat the Jihadi Root
By Walid Phares, The American Thinker, July 28, 2008

From the fatwa itself and the statements made as it was issued, the following political goals likely motivated the gathering and the fatwa. 

Create a separation in the eyes of the public discourse between Islam (as a religion) and terrorism as an illegal violent activity

Such a move is legitimate and to be encouraged as it diminishes the tensions towards Muslims in non-Muslim countries, particularly in the West, as some are claiming that the Islamic religion is theologically linked to the acts and statements of the Jihadists. The logic of "we are Muslims and we are against Terrorism," helps significantly the disassociation between the community and the acts of violence. However, without criticizing the ideological roots of this violence, the fatwa seem to state a wishful thinking, not an injunction. A more powerful fatwa should have openly and expressly said: "we reject the calls for violent Jihad regardless of the motives." For the followers of Jihadism do not consider their Jihad as "terrorism." Their answer has always been -to these types of fatwas- "but we aren't performing terrorism, we are conducting Jihad." Thus, at this crucial level, the Deobandi fatwa missed the crux of the problem.

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From Elsewhere

Breaking Speaker Pelosi's News Blackout
By Nancy Coppock, American Thinker, August 03, 2008

This is a classic example of how the MSM has controlled the message and the debate. This unnamed reporter, while witnessing ground-breaking news, is not interested in the actual events unfolding before his eyes, but rather in how to change the issue and debate of that event in order to present a freshly spun and sanitized message to the public. But reporters like him are no longer in control of the message or the debate. What we are witnessing is a true (r)epublican revolution in which individuals can become their own newsgathers. Technology has given us a clear view of Congress as much as Newt Gingrinch used the C-Span cameras for special order speeches to speak directly to the viewing public to explain Democrat scandals like those involving the House Bank and Post Office. What the public is learning now is once again making us very angry with the Democratic Party Leadership and its members of Congress.

The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
By Jonah Goldberg National Review, August 01, 2008

Capitalism is the greatest system ever created for alleviating general human misery, and yet it breeds ingratitude. People ask, "Why is there poverty in the world?" It’s a silly question. Poverty is the default human condition. It is the factory preset of this mortal coil. As individuals and as a species, we are born naked and penniless, bereft of skills or possessions. Likewise, in his civilizational infancy man was poor, in every sense. He lived in ignorance, filth, hunger, and pain, and he died very young, either by violence or disease. 

The interesting question isn’t "Why is there poverty?" It’s "Why is there wealth?" Or: "Why is there prosperity here but not there?"

Border Order
From Investor's Business Daily, August 01, 2008

A new study showing fewer illegal aliens bolsters the case for putting enforcement first. What we're seeing is the necessary first stage of reform.

McDonald’s sponsors gay pride parade
By Donald E. Wildmon, American Family Association, July 30, 2008

McDonald’s helped sponsor the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. Want to see what McDonald’s considers worthy of support? Click here. (Warning: These photos are extremely offensive and graphic.) AFA asked McDonald’s to remain neutral in the culture war. The company refused, stating they will continue to support the gay agenda including same-sex marriage. AFA has called for a boycott of McDonald’s restaurants. McDonald’s spokesman Bill Whitman told the Washington Post that those (even Christians) who oppose homosexual marriage are motivated by hate, saying that "... hatred has no place in our culture." 

This boycott is not about hiring homosexuals or how homosexual employees are treated. It is about McDonald’s choosing to put the full resources of their corporation behind promoting the homosexual agenda. To help promote the gay agenda, McDonald’s paid $20,000 to become an official "organizational ally and corporate partner" of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and secure a seat on the group’s board of directors. The NGLCC lobbies against laws protecting marriage as between a man and a woman.

Phony 'Emergency'
From Investor's Business Daily, August 01, 2008

Barack Obama's newly unveiled "Emergency Economic Plan" is quite a document, sounding more like the rantings of an extremist fringe candidate than a serious contender for the presidency.

Leader of the Opposition, Again
Rush Limbaugh resumes the role he was born for
By James Bowman, National Review, August 01, 2008

After the loss of the Republican congressional majority in 2006, Rush declared his independence from the current leadership of his party. "I like President Bush," he told Zev Chafets of The New York Times Magazine last month, "but he is not a conservative. He is conservative on some things, but he has not led a movement as Reagan did every day of his career. Bush’s unpopularity is due primarily to his reluctance to publicly defend himself and his administration against attacks from the left. . . . The country has not tilted to the left in my view. What has been absent is elected conservative leadership from the White House down to the Congress." That seems unlikely to change now that John McCain is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and Republicans in Congress are going into the November elections in the expectation of even more serious losses.

And that means that, whatever happens in November, Rush is now well-placed, 15 years later, to resume the role of Leader of the Opposition.

Nancy Pelosi’s "Lights Out" Energy Policy
By New Red Majority, August, 2008

Yesterday our Democratic lawmakers in the US House decided they were due for a break. With abysmal approval numbers and a "pro-US energy" bill looming, Nancy Pelosi decided it was just time to go. She shut off the lights. She shut off CSPAN. She shut off the mics. Where in the world could there be a more perfect symbol of Democrat energy policy than this "shutting off the lights?" The double entendres alone are worth millions in available political capital. Time to capitalise, friends. It’s days like this I wish I had 15 people with film and graphic design degrees on staff. 

Show Me the Money
From the Education Reform Newswire, July 29, 2008

We released our 2008 Annual Survey of American Charter Schools yesterday. The findings provide a powerful look at the operational success of public charter schools in the face of a severe funding gap when compared to conventional public schools. Tidbits include: even though they are public schools and should receive the same amount of federal, state and local funds, charter schools receive nearly 40 percent less funding than other public schools; despite receiving less money, charter schools are able to offer longer school days, longer school years, and innovative curricula not available in conventional public schools; and charter schools have grown at a rapid pace over the last ten years, but state caps and moratoriums on new schools are now impeding the necessary growth. Check it out.

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