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True North Archives - August 12, 2008
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Featured Articles

"Moonbeam Lawsuits" to Stop Growth
By John McClaughry

Add all this up, and sprinkle liberally with AG Sorrell's enthusiasm for joining enviro lawsuits initiated by publicity-seeking AGs in other states, and it should come as no surprise when the AG blocks a development because its electricity, heating and motor fuel consumption would - when added to everybody else's - make it impossible for Vermont to meet its declared greenhouse gas reduction goals.

When Act 168 passed, Rep. Joyce Errecart (R-Shelburne) voted No. Said she, "the goals in this bill will be impossible to meet, and we don't know what the consequences are of placing unattainable goals in statute." Now that Attorney General Moonbeam has blazed the trail in the McCloud controversy, Vermonters may find out those consequences soon enough.

States’ Rights Part III
By Martin Harris

For starters, you might want to compare Vermont, highest-per-pupil cost and lowest average-class-size State, with Utah, lowest-per-pupil cost and highest average-class-size State, in terms of the effects of these inputs on the measured output, student achievement. ALEC data show 2007 test data and 2005-6 spending, p/t ratio, and so on. Using the same home-made Cost-Effectiveness Index I described recently in this space for the Addison County districts, you can divide each State’s 4th-graders’ scores averaging math and reading proficiency by its per-pupil annual spending. For Vermont the numbers read 44% proficient divided by $13102 spending, for an EI of 34. For Utah the numbers read 37% proficient divided by $5556 spending, for an EI of 66, almost twice as much achievement per dollar, traceable, of course, to class-size policy. Utah’s seemingly large class sizes, today, are actually a third smaller than they were in the Fifties, not exactly a time of pre-civilization cave-dwelling. Today, average p/t ratios are: VT, 10.9-to-1; UT, 22.1-to-1. The proficiency percentages come from the actual test scores –227 out of a possible 500 in Vermont, 221 in Utah. If you look at the average scores by race, VT and UT are even closer: whites in the former score at 227, in the latter at 226. the national averages for 4th grading reading are 217 for all students, 228 for whites. Stated differently, Vermont’s 4th graders, statistically all white, make a point less on the NAEP reading test than the national average for all white students, at Vermont’s annual per pupil spending of $13102 compared to $9295 nationally.

What is it that Gaye doesn't want us to know?
By Rob Roper

The reason Vermonters expect gubernatorial candidates to disclose their full household financial information is to uncover any real or potential conflicts of interest. Gaye Symington has refused this access, choosing instead to keep voters in the dark about her husband's many business dealing. This editorial by the Caledonian Record asks the right question: "What is it Gaye doesn't want us to know about?"

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This Week’s Mail Bag

Trimming of trees next to roads

I have heard of your passion to help wildlife habitats by planting fruit bearing plants and apple trees after clearing out old growth and donating the lumber for liheap. Commendable, yes but rational, no. Ever consider that by planting shrubs or fruit bearing trees as a replacement for ground cover after deforestation that we encourage wildlife to encroach on the same roads, thus endangering our and their lives? I would suggest instead to replace the old growth with clover, the VT state flower as a replacement ground cover along with other wildflowers. It would serve much better to honey bee population and provide a scenic view as well. Just suggesting, not demanding.

Ed Cram, Hardwick, VT

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Looks Good

You do nice work, the site looks good.



"A society so vicious and polluted, implicated in so many of the crimes of these last fifty years -- by its lies, by its servility either willingly or enforced, by its eagerness to assist or its cowardly restraint -- such a society can only be cured and purified by passing through a spiritual filter. And this filter is a terrible one, with holes as fine as the eye of a needle, each big enough for only one person."  --Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

The Thinking May Be Bad, but the Writing is Awful
From, August 04, 2008

It is sad, but unsurprising, that the editors of a major newspaper are ignorant when it comes to the basics of formal economics.  After all, there are all kinds of things that newspaper editors don’t know anything about but that hasn’t stopped them from pontificating on those matters.  Still, if those people are untutored about the subject at hand, they should at least know how to write.  That skill, after all, is fundamental to their trade.  But judged simply as a piece of writing, the Freeps editorial is woeful.  It is an organizational and thematic mess, wandering all over the map in a futile attempt to link the amount of money Exxon makes, the sub-prime mortgage problem, the war in Iraq, offshore drilling, food banks, and the nature of democracy.

School Tax Rate Increase Of 7.48 Percent is Unacceptable
Caledonia Record Editorial, August 09, 2008

In the next few weeks schools will open in Vermont, and within a few weeks of that, taxpayers will get their property tax bills. Across Vermont, property tax payers will have to cough up 7.48 percent more dollars to pay their education tax rate. That is quite unacceptable. Vermont is already fourth highest in per-pupil expenditures in the nation at $12,475. Our legislators must take heretofore unmentionable actions to stop the annual unaffordable increases. The two-vote requirement on budgets that exceed inflation plus one percent is a good start. Here are a few more.

Status Quo Forever
From, August 06, 2008

Louis Porter has done a typically professional and thorough job of reporting on Art Woolf's idea for heating with electricity this winter.  And with his customary civility and lucidity, Art Woolf answers the criticisms of some of the people Porter interviewed.

What strikes one about these criticisms is their pro-forma quality This is the tone, these days, of the Vermont scene.  Suggest any change in the current way of doing things and the response is a thin, whiny, "Oh, we can't do that."  Followed by several reasons for why not, all of them about as cogent as this objection to Art's plan from the head man at Efficiency Vermont where they look upon electricity as being only slightly less malign than anthrax:

Offensive Concealment
Caledonia Record Editorial, August 06, 2008

Gaye Symington, Democratic candidate for governor, recently refused to share basic information about her household income, arguing, in effect, that her family's financial circumstance has no bearing on her as a gubernatorial candidate. While we realize that Gaye is a relative newcomer to the state of Vermont, this latest misstep, tantamount to "mind your own business, voters" is further evidence that Symington is dangerously out-of-touch with the state she seeks to lead.

You Pay; We Play
From, August 10, 2008

It is widely accepted that raising taxes in a souring economy is bad economic policy.  Well, in Vermont, we have a souring economy where young people have a tough time finding a job that matches their qualifications and the state is facing revenue shortfalls and businesses are closing down or leaving the state. But still, the tax juggernaut rolls on.  Act 60/68 recognizes no economic realities. It is economic reality

An Adjustment That Dictates An Imperative
Caledonia Record Editorial, August 7, 2008

We wrote an opinion last year that the economists responsible for predicting revenues seem to have deliberately low-balled their estimates in order to produce phony surpluses to pay for VIPs' windfall pet projects that would not pass the scrutiny of full legislative discussion and voting. Those surpluses rose as high as $60 million a year. If our suspicions were correct, the true revenues shortage this year would be the privately projected surplus plus $32-$37 million, or between $80 million and $95 million.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

Illiberal Education
By the Editors, National Review, August 8, 2008

The choice to nudge rather than to force — to flood China with our dollars and ideas, rather than to compel its acquiescence — was made long ago, and cannot be unmade. And indeed that choice has paid dividends: The past three decades have seen not just an economic miracle, but a political one. The Communist party, though having failed to relinquish power, is no longer an extension of a single personality, as was the case in the days of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping; and the amount of personal freedom that the average Chinese person enjoys today is vastly greater than it was a generation ago. More and more, the party recognizes that it has a constituency to please, and is acting with moderate success to end the corruption of its officials and the arbitrariness of its legal system.

Diyala Surge
Conditions are much improved here, but the fight is not yet over
By David Bellavia, National Review, August 8, 2008

Then, Diyala was a microcosm of the troubles of Iraq. Three competing factions — Sunni, Kurd, and Shia — make Diyala one of the most complicated areas to understand to this day. The Sunni here are still reaping what they sowed when they foolishly walked away from the national elections of 2005. It has taken three years for them to begin to work with the provincial government — which is Shia-led, despite the fact that 85 percent of the population here is Sunni. In 2004, Iraqis in this area still had their eyes fixed on the atrocities of an ousted dictator and were hostile to unwanted Western influence.

Those days are over. Although some in Diyala are slow to recognize the new Iraq, they have largely stopped trying to kill it.

Raping Georgia: Russia Invades an American Ally
By Ralph Peters, New York Post, August 9, 2008

AS I write, Russian tanks grind into a brave and isolated democratic state. Assuming that the world's attention would focus on Beijing, Moscow stage-managed an elaborate act of aggression against Georgia. But the world has changed since Soviet tanks rolled unchallenged into Afghanistan at Christmastime 29 years ago. Global communications now spotlight aggression instantly.

Islamobil: Mosque on Wheels
By Amil Imani, The New Media Journal, August 6, 2008

Operating this vast network of Islamism requires significant financing. Saudi Arabia has spent over $80 billion for these operations since 1970. The other Gulf States, with their treasuries flush with oil money, have done and continue to do their share of financing. Not to be out-done by the virulent Wahhabism of the Saudis and their co-sectist Sunnis, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been bank-rolling its own array of clientele in the Middle East, much of Africa, and as far away as Southeast Asia and Latin America in a push for Shiism. The-non-Muslim world is literally caught in a pincer of the two rabid Islamic forces.

Iran's Time Bomb
By Investor's Business Daily, August 08, 2008

Summer vacations, Olympic Games and even election campaigns must not distract us from the frightening reality that Iran is building a nuclear bomb and that it may soon be too late to do anything about it.

Disgraceful Hamdan Sentence Calls Military Commissions Into Question
By Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, August 8, 2008

In an astounding finale to the first military-commission trial, Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s personal aide, has been sentenced by a military commission to five-and-a-half years in prison — five-and-a-half years — upon conviction for the war crime of providing material support to al-Qaeda.

It gets worse. The military judge, Naval Captain Keith Allred, has decided that Hamdan should be credited with the five years he has already spent in custody.

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From Elsewhere

Solzhenitsyn and His Critics
By John Couretas, Acton Institute, August 6, 2008

Solzhenitsyn’s critique of modern societies went much deeper than ideology. He drew from a Christian moral tradition, not a political platform. He yearned for a "moral doctrine of the value of the individual as the key to the solution of the social problems."

The solution for Russia, he wrote in 1974, lay in its willingness to take on a "deliberate, voluntary sacrifice," not in the name of a collective society but by each and every person, uniquely made in the image of God.

"A society so vicious and polluted, implicated in so many of the crimes of these last fifty years -- by its lies, by its servility either willingly or enforced, by its eagerness to assist or its cowardly restraint -- such a society can only be cured and purified by passing through a spiritual filter. And this filter is a terrible one, with holes as fine as the eye of a needle, each big enough for only one person." Solzhenitsyn understood this as a national spiritual renewal -- even spiritual battle. This, he believed, was how a sick society gained the path to moral soundness. Material well-being, intellectual accomplishments, technological breakthroughs, captivating new ideologies would not cure the sickness.

The Politics of the Social Safety Net
By Christopher Chantrill, American Thinker, August 09, 2008

You can imagine that it was difficult to introduce the radical conservative idea that government programs like Social Security actually fray the social fabric, leading to holes in the social safety net.  Conservatives believe that when people don't have to rely on their families, their churches, their neighbors, and their own mutual-aid associations, they let their social ties fall into neglect.  When ties of obligation are neglected, conservatives believe, we get exactly today's heedless, selfish society in which the vulnerable slide into pathology and social deprivation and children grow up in torment.

Western Oil Shale Potential: 800 Billion Barrels of Recoverable Oil
From the U.S. Department of the Interior

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management today published proposed regulations to establish a commercial oil shale program that could result in the addition of up to 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from lands in the western United States.

Republicans' Debate in the Dark
By Rep. Tom Price and Rep. Mike Pence, Human Events, August 3, 2008

Consequently, last Friday at about 10:45 a.m., with the House poised to adjourn, we had nearly 100 members of the Republican conference ready to speak -- ready to give breath to our founding document - ready to advocate on behalf of the roughly 700,000 constituents who sent them to Washington.  Once Speaker Pelosi and the Democrat leadership got wind of this, they would hear nothing of the sort.  True to form, they passed an ultra-partisan adjournment motion, objected to by virtually every Republican member.  Its passage would end the ability for anyone to officially speak.  Republican leader John Boehner valiantly sought recognition to keep the floor open.  But NO -- not for this crowd in charge. Steny Hoyer, the Democrat majority leader -- moved that the House adjourn, and it was so….

Except we weren’t ready to leave.  We had members waiting to fulfill their duty, waiting to honor their oath, waiting to present their best vision of our future.

Faddish Planning Fantasies
by Donald Devine, American Conservative Union, August 6, 2008

Once upon a time, a young idealist was moved by the first Earth Day to devote his life to saving America’s land. He went to forestry school and joined the U.S. Forest Service ready to serve. The young man soon learned the government – supposed to be its protector - was in fact a major despoiler of the nation’s environment.

Tax To The Max
From Investor's Business Daily, August 08, 2008

The day of reckoning is coming for the costs we're running up to keep Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits flowing. Judgment will be painful — as in a 150% increase in our current tax bills.

A GOP Choice: Tom Coburn or Ted Stevens
By John Fund, Wall Street Journal, August 2, 2008

Reagan quoted a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison in 1796, warning that allowing Congress to spend federal money for local projects would set off "a scene of scramble among the members (for) who can get the most money wasted in their State, and they will always get most who are meanest." Reagan didn't think that represented good government or good politics. Republicans today should heed his warning.

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