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True North Archives - September 30, 2008
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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Part I of IV)
By Martin Harris

Until recently, no one paid much attention to this National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) even though the resulting student test scores were uniformly quite dismal, typically in the low 200’s out of a possible 500, meaning that about 2/3 of all test-takers couldn’t make "proficient", (the three categories are basic, proficient, and advanced) and couldn’t, therefore, function at grade level. All that began to change in 2001, with the adoption of Public Law 107-110, better known as No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, and that was not because of the federal testing, which had been in place and unprotested for some 32 years, but because of the line deep within the new law requiring that almost all students be "proficient" by 2014, and States now must demonstrate via test results that their students are making Adequate Yearly Progress towards that goal. As you may have noticed, we’re halfway there, calendrically, but not test-score-wise. Time is running out; each additional year of stagnant NAEP test scores makes it statistically more improbable for students to improve achievement enough that virtually all are "proficient" in only six more years. Such an intractable problem calls for a conference; or, if you prefer, a Forum....

But then, a funny thing happened. On page 9 it says, "NAEP’s definition of "Proficient" is not bound by grade-level expectations or proficiency in a subject". In one brilliant etymological stroke, the Forum-goers solved the NAEP student-achievement "proficiency" shortfall, simply by re-defining proficiency. Wow.

Unions Struggle with Choice?
By Retta Dunlap

On September 10, the VT-NEA held its first ever gubernatorial education debate. The three candidates, James Douglas (R), Gaye Symington (D), and Anthony Pollina (I), squared off on the stage of the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph, Vermont. What was surprising was the lack of real substance about education in the debate. Where was the discussion of giving parents the real tools they need to be involved in their children? education? Where was the discussion of how to help small schools stay open? Why not allow them to open up as charter schools? What about the quality of Vermont's education compared with the rest of the world? Should we have merit pay for teachers? How would the candidates help to get technology into the classrooms? Are teachers being trained for the 21st Century and what would the candidates do to support that? Just how supportive are they of other educational opportunities, such as homeschooling and private schools? Do they support allowing parents to take advantage of school choice? These are the questions that the VT-NEA rarely ever asks and should have been the real focus of the debate.

Reflections on Sarah Palin
By Ruth Dwyer

I am convinced that John McCain will be our next President, just as I was positive George W. Bush would prevail in both of his elections. So the first women Vice President will be a Republican. And thankfully not a country club Republican! My friend from New York City says Palin is "too much of a yokel" for national office. She is a yokel, God bless her. So was Harry Truman.

I planned to send John McCain some money, but I doubled the amount when he chose Palin as his running mate. Finally the election got interesting, because Palin has more executive experience than Obama, even if he has little by most standards. And so what is she never had a passport? Do Americans REALLY want leaders who spend lots of time in Europe? Obama obviously thinks so. But one of my favorite things about George W. Bush - apart from his kissing me on stage at a Republican Dinner – is how much Europeans hate him. Proves he is doing something right. So if up until now Sarah Palin has stayed in Alaska doing the job she was elected to do, rather than globetrotting at taxpayer’s expense, good for her. When she’s Vice President she’ll rack up lots of frequent flyer miles and think of the hunting opportunities!

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This Week’s Mail Bag

Not a time for partisanship

In his 1980 work "The Real War", Richard Nixon discusses the Cold War and global power in terms of national will, diplomacy, natural resources (i.e. oil), military power, and economic power.

Today we find ourselves facing crises of national will, diplomacy, oil, and economic power. We are a nation observing its national will in the mirror of a national election fraught with bickering, name calling and a total lack of anything resembling a coherent, reasoned discussion of the great issues facing our great nation. We have seen our global diplomatic status erode through consistent, unilateral initiatives. Our refusal to deal with our increasing thirst for foreign oil has put us in a position where our national wealth is being siphoned off at a staggering pace. We still can take perverse comfort in our ability to bomb anyone into the stone-age with virtual impunity, though we seem to be having trouble keeping track of all of our nukes. And our economic power, the great stability and opportunity of the US capital markets stands in a shambles, victim to misguided legislation and lack of oversight.

Today the debate is raging regarding the great $700 billion bailout bill. The administration says that the plan is desperately needed to maintain the solvency of the US economy. Voices from the opposition bemoan the shifting of the burden onto the taxpayers. Both arguments have merit. In a global financial marketplace where billions of dollars are moved with the push of the button, time is of the essence, and the appearance of a protracted legislative fight will only reinforce the impression that the US has no credible plan. Conversely, the granting of a financial mulligan to a handful of Wall Street profiteers is as distasteful as a plate of cold haggis.

Into this mix, as predictable as the sunrise, has entered Senator Bernie Sanders. On the Senator’s web site (Sanders Op-Ed: The Middle Class Must Not Be Forced to Bail Out Wall Street Greed -- 09/21/2008) he states:

"…as a member of the House Banking Committee and now as a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I have heard the Bush Administration tell us how "robust" our economy was and how strong the "fundamentals" were… Now, we are being told that if Congress does not act immediately and approve the $700 billion Wall Street bailout proposal …there will be an unprecedented economic meltdown in the United States and an unraveling of the global economy".

Now, I don’t know about you, but this strikes me as odd. Isn’t Mr. Sanders, as a member of these committees, supposed to be the expert on banking issues? Shouldn’t he be telling the President, and anyone who might listen, what the state of our economy is? Why is he looking to the President for analysis of our economic situation?

The answer to that question is quite simple. Mr. Sanders views this crisis as a vehicle for political gain first, and an opportunity to serve his constituents and this nation, second. Before we rush to lay the blame for the current mess on the Bush administration, let us remember that it was President Clinton who signed into law the legislation to dismantle Glass-Steagall, the post depression regulations that prevented the construction of integrated financial institutions. Without that legislation, sponsored by Phil Gramm ,we could not have gotten into this mess.

The blame for this mess crosses party lines, and is at your feet, Senator, as well as your colleagues, past and present, on both sides of the aisle.

We are faced with a Hobson's choice; fund the bailout with taxpayer dollars or let the financial institutions fail, and bring our collective net worth, and economy down with them. With the bailout, we buy time to let you "experts in congress" who represent us try to fix the problem. Without it, you are off the hook. You will keep drawing your government check while those whom you, supposedly, serve lose everything.

Time is of the essence. Partisanship is unacceptable. Tweak the bill, but don’t re-write it.

Way to go, Bernie. This is despicable.

Gary Crosby, Fayston

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Candidates Urged to Sign Economic Health Petition

This letter is to all candidates running for election in November.  I urge you to go to the web site and click on the site's petition.  There are currently 869 signatures and many comments left there by Vermonters who are very concerned with the direction in which our state is going.  You all need to pay attention to what the voters are saying, and let this be your wake-up call.

Marge Day, Saint Albans Town

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"I never emulate white men and brown men whose fates didn't speak to my own. It was into my father's image, the black man, son of Africa, that I had packed all the attributes I sought in myself, the attributes of Martin and Malcolm, DuBois and Mandela."

--Barack Obama, from Dreams of My Father

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

An Abysmal Legislative Business Report Card
Caledonia Record Editorial, September 23, 2008

Twice a year, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce publishes its "Legislative Report Card," which rates legislators on how they voted on issues important to the Chamber. Two weeks ago it published the report card, and the Democrats in the Legislature got abysmal grades....

Republicans earned an average score of 86 percent, while Democrats averaged 26 percent. Democrats were closer in the Senate, but still averaged 60 percent to Republicans' 87 percent. Sen. Kevin Mullen, R-Rutland, earned a 100-percent ranking. So did Sen. Hull Maynard, also a Republican. Seven members of the House - all Republicans - also voted with the Chamber 100 percent of the time. The obvious conclusion is that these lawmakers heartily agree that what the Chamber thinks is good for business is good for Vermont.

Area Vt. Schools Below Sate Results
By Katie Beth Ryan, Eagle Times, September 24, 2008

The Vermont Department of Education released results from the science evaluation of the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) test on Wednesday, and results show that the state has room to improve in ensuring science proficiency. The test was administered last spring to Vermont's fourth-, eighth-, and 11th-graders. Across the state, 48 percent of fourth- graders, 26 percent of eighth-graders and 25 percent of 11th-graders had attained proficiency in science.

PETA Asks Ben & Jerry's to Make Ice Cream out of Breast Milk
By Daniel Barlow, Vermont Press Bureau, Rutland Herald, September 25, 2008

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream this week to consider using human breast milk instead of cow's milk in their products.

A Lesson Learned
Caledonia Record Editorial, September 24, 2008

The endorsement of Pollina by the state's three largest labor unions came at a time when Pollina had the support of about 7 percent of Vermont voters, according to poll results released around the same time as the endorsements. In fact, Pollina made no secret of the fact that his decision to file as an Independent was to broaden his support after failing to get any traction run for governor as a Progressive.

Since the three big labor union endorsements, Pollina is now getting twice as many votes as Symington in a current online (and unscientific) news poll. Douglas, the Republican incumbent, is way out in front of both Pollina and Symington with around 48 percent of the vote.

Small Hydro Hopefuls Critical of ANR Permit Process
By Mike Ives, Seven Days, September 17, 2008

In the late 1990s, Anders Holm came up with what he thought was a pretty good idea: converting the energy generated by Middlebury’s Otter Creek Falls into hydroelectric power. Holm recalls that, as he began to craft his hydro-powered vision, the developers of Winooski One Hydroelectric Project, which was approved by regulators in 1988, warned him about complications associated with the Agency of Natural Resources’ permitting process. But he decided to try anyway, and in 2006, he began working with the state agency to get his project permitted.

He had no idea at the time that some 20 "small hydro" developers were in line behind him. Since 1988, not a single one of those projects has gotten the green light from ANR.

When the Evidence Doesn’t Support A Reasonable Doubt
Caledonia Record Editorial, September 25, 2008

Anybody who watches "Law and Order" on television knows that a case is not proven until the jurors cannot, in the face of the testimony and evidence, support a reasonable doubt. When that is successfully achieved by the prosecutor, the juror must find the defendant guilty.

If we were to consider the current question of whether the Vermont Legislature should pass Jessica's Law, a stringent holding-to-account of sex offenders, we think that the accumulation of testimony and evidence has made a compelling case for adoption of Jessica's Law and an end to the dithering about it.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

A Threat Bigger than Wall Street
By Greg Sheridan, The Australian, September 27, 2008

The new president will have one modestly useful extra resource, a bipartisan report commissioned by two former US senators and written primarily by Middle East expert Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute. The Weekend Australian has obtained a copy of the report, to be released later this week. Before I got the report, I had a long discussion with Rubin.

Rubin is a Republican, but the report he wrote was the consensus work of a bipartisan taskforce that includes Dennis Ross, Obama's key Middle East adviser. The report is sobering and in some ways shocking reading. It begins baldly: "A nuclear weapons capable Islamic Republic of Iran is strategically untenable."

It points to the disastrous consequences of an Iran with nuclear weapons: "Iran's nuclear development may pose the most significant strategic threat to the US during the next administration.

Moscow On The Main
From Investor's Business Daily, September 26, 2008

With America hit by a financial crisis, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez now sees a weak U.S. and is pushing to accelerate Russia's foothold in the Caribbean. Russia's with him. Will the next U.S. president be ready?

8,000 Pakistani Soldiers Take On al-Qaeda in Volatile Tribal Region
By Zahid Hussain, Times Online, September 27, 2008

This was the scene yesterday in the Bajaur tribal region, as it has been for much of the past six weeks. Bajaur, which borders southeastern Afghanistan, is a main operating base for al-Qaeda and the Taleban; Pakistani intelligence believes that Ayman al-Zawahri, the second-in-command of al-Qaeda, has been a visitor. Now it is the venue for the fiercest battle between Pakistani military and Islamic fighters since Pakistan joined the US War on Terror in 2001.

More than 8,000 Pakistani troops have been involved in the six-week campaign. The generals claimed yesterday to have killed 1,000 militants so far – yet the hostilities show no sign of letting up. A constant supply of fresh fighters from inside the country and across the border in Afghanistan is helping the militants to stay in the fight.

Saudis Using Oil as a Weapon Against Iran?
By Ed Lasky, American Thinker, September 27, 2008

A Business Week article on Saudi Arabia portrays a kingdom eager to pump oil far above its OPEC quota despite a rapid decline in the price of oil on the world markets. This places them in an adversarial relationship with Iran and Venezuela - two allies. Why might the Saudis engage in this practice? One, is they want to prevent a collapse in demand that might bring about a harsher collapse in prices.

However, there might be another reason: to destabilize Iran, an arch-foe of Saudi Arabia. Iran is a Shiite power intent on achieving hegemony throughout the Middle East. Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leading Sunni power and a protector of two of the holiest sites of the Sunni branch of Islam (Mecca and Medina).

Spies Warn That Al Qaeda Aims for October Surprise
Intercepted Messages Asking Local Cells To Be Prepared for Imminent Instructions
By Eli Lake, New York Sun, September 22, 2008

In the aftermath of two major terrorist attacks on Western targets, America's counterterrorism community is warning that Al Qaeda may launch more overseas operations to influence the presidential elections in November.

Tancredo Proposes Anti-Sharia Measure in Wake of U.K. Certification of Islamic Courts
"Jihad Prevention Act" would deny U.S. visas to advocates of ‘Sharia’ law, expel Islamists already here
From the Muslims Against Sharia Islamic Reform Movement, September 20, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC – Amid disturbing revelations that the verdicts of Islamic Sharia courts are now legally binding in civil cases in the United Kingdom, U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo (R-Littleton) moved quickly today to introduce legislation designed to protect the United States from a similar fate.

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From Elsewhere

The Goal Is Freedom: State Capitalism in Crisis
By Sheldon Richman, Foundation for Economic Education, September 26, 2008

Words from politicians are like incantations. You’re not supposed to ask exactly how an alleged government solution will work. You’re just supposed to feel reassured. The well-meaning politicians and their experts have things under control. No need to worry. Nothing to see here. Move along.

But let’s be mischievous and wonder how government plans to fix the financial markets it so royally screwed up over many decades. The government will take bad loans off the hands of the lenders. For how much? No one else wants the loans, so Czar Henry is the only buyer. Some kind of reverse auction will perhaps be held. Will that yield the "right" price? Is there a way to tell? And do you think there’ll be lobbying and rent-seeking going on in the selection of what to buy and how much to pay? If you think not, you still believe in the tooth fairy too.

The jockeying for advantage has begun! "Financial companies were already lobbying to broaden the plan. And the Bush administration did indeed widen the scope by allowing the government to buy out assets other than mortgage-related securities as well as making foreign companies eligible for government assistance," the New York Times reported. Bad credit-card debt and car loans could also be on the government’s shopping list.

It goes without saying that Paulson will not be spending his own money. Last I heard, the government was running a $400 billion budget deficit. There isn’t $700 billion tucked away in a petty-cash drawer somewhere. That’s 700,000,000,000 dollars. Seven hundred thousand million dollars, or 2,333 bucks and change per man, woman, and child in the United States. More than the Pentagon spends in a year. More than the Iraq war has cost. It’s a lot of money.

Inhofe Report Exposes Environmental Groups as "Massive Democratic Political Machines"
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, September 25, 2008

U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today released an updated comprehensive investigation into the financial and political activities employed by charitable and environmental organizations claiming to be non-partisan. [See today’s updated full report: Political Activity of Environmental Groups and their Supporting Foundations - Previously in 2004 Senator Inhofe released the original report on environmental group funding. See: INHOFE RELEASES DETAILED REPORT ON ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP POLITICAL FUNDRAISING – October 5, 2004]

"Campaigns to ‘save the cuddly animals’ or ‘protect the ancient forests’ are really disguised efforts to raise money for Democratic political campaigns," Senator Inhofe said during a floor speech today presenting the new report. "Environmental organizations have become experts at duplicitous activity, skirting laws up to the edge of illegality, and burying their political activities under the guise of non-profit environmental improvement.

"Take this ad for example, displayed on the League of Conservation Voters, or LCV, website. This is LCV’s standard text used to raise money for the nonprofit organization. In turn, LCV takes these donations, given to ‘save the environment’ and uses them to fund ads for Democratic Candidates such as Ben Lujan from New Mexico. LCV, similar to other groups I’ll highlight later, disguises itself as an environmental group dedicated to saving the environment, yet, as shown by this political ad, it is simply an extension of the Democratic political party.

The Palin Hope
By Donald Devine, American Conservative Union, September 24, 2008

Actually, I was introduced to Ms. Palin in 1999 when I was recruiting activists for a conservative organization. I was overwhelmed by her intelligence, knowledge and judgment, to say nothing about her commitment to conservative principles. She was willing to discuss limited government philosophy and impressed this professor with her depth. I met her again to recruit her for Steve Forbes’ campaign for president and was again overwhelmed by her questioning and inquiring mind and her willingness to commit to a dedicated conservative even though it would probably not benefit her politically.

McCain May Back Alternative to Bank Bailout
By Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal, September 25, 2008

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., may be throwing a monkey wrench into efforts to pass a $700 billion bank bailout, instead favoring alternative plans that looks to free up capital and credit markets via tax and regulatory relief while allowing financial institutions to temporarily skip dividend payments to shareholders.

Republican and Democratic officials in Washington said McCain was offering alternatives Thursday to the $700 billion plan backed by the Bush administration, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. That plan has the federal government acquiring bad mortgage assets from struggling banks with the goal of keeping them afloat and allowing more credit to flow.

McCain appears to be siding with conservatives and House Republicans who question the bailout and its costs to taxpayers as well as government rescuing private lenders and perhaps taking ownership stakes in rescued banks.

The Man Who Never Was
By Tony Blankley, GOPUSA, September 24, 2008

The mainstream media have gone over the line and are now straight-out propagandists for the Obama campaign.

While they have been liberal and blinkered in their worldview for decades, in 2007-08, for the first time, the major media consciously are covering for one candidate for president and consciously are knifing the other. This is no longer journalism; it is simply propaganda. (The American left-wing version of the Volkischer Beobachter cannot be far behind.)

And as a result, we are less than seven weeks away from possibly electing a president who has not been thoroughly or even halfway honestly presented to the country by our watchdogs -- the press. The image of Obama that the press has presented to the public is not a fair approximation of the real man. They consciously have ignored whole years of his life and have shown a lack of curiosity about such gaps, which bespeaks a lack of journalistic instinct.

Illegal Aliens & the Mortgage Mess
By Michelle Malkin, New York Post, September 24, 2008

But there's one villain that has slipped notice: how illegal immigration, crime-enabling banks and open-borders Bush policies fueled the mortgage crisis. It's no coincidence that the areas hardest hit by the foreclosure wave - Loudoun County, Va., California's Inland Empire, Stockton and San Joaquin Valley, and Las Vegas and Phoenix - also happen to be some of the nation's largest illegal alien sanctuaries. Half of the mortgages to Hispanics are subprime. A quarter of all those subprime loans are in default and foreclosure.

Regional reports across the country have decried the subprime meltdown's impact on illegal-immigrant "victims." A July report showed that in seven of the 10 metro areas with the highest foreclosure rates, Hispanics were at least one-third of the population; in two of those areas - Merced and Salinas-Monterey, Calif. - Hispanics comprised half the population. The National Council of La Raza and its Development Fund have received millions in federal funds to "counsel" their constituents on obtaining mortgages with little to no money down; the group almost succeeded in attaching a $10 million earmark for itself in one of the housing bills passed this spring.

For the last five years, I've reported on the rapidly expanding illegal-alien home-loan racket. The top banks clamoring for their handouts as their profits plummet, led by Wachovia and Bank of America, launched aggressive campaigns to woo illegal-alien homebuyers. The quasi-governmental Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority guaranteed home loans to illegal immigrants.

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