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True North Archives - November 25, 2008
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Working for Change in Vermont
By James Ehlers

The Framers conceived and JFK summarized: "the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God." As with any right, there is responsibility. A responsibility to provide for ourselves, assist family and friends and even the stranger. A responsibility to God. If not God, then the dark days of single digits will remind those who have not taken care to stock their own cupboards. We ought take God’s hand now, lift ourselves and our neighbor up, and bring a change to this long overdue season of our existence.

A Cat May Look at a King
By Martin Harris

Frank’s post-election WSJ essay, "Conservatism Isn’t Finished", argues that the recent Donkey victory should not make liberals over-confident. He also argues that "the culture wars have raged ever since 1968 because they help Republicans win elections" and specifically ascribes to followers of the Elephant eagerness for "a showdown between a folksy Middle America and a snobbish liberal elite". Mr. Frank is not a plagiarist, but he certainly is a historical revisionist, as even I, an amateur in such matters, can easily document. Unlike Mr. Frank, who chooses to trace the culture wars back only 40 years to a time of tie-dyed bra-burners and convention-crashers, I trace it back to the Progressive Movement of the 1890’s, which asserted, among other things, that it was the privilege and duty of the smarter and superior 10 percent of the population to govern the dumber and inferior 90 percent, a notion which, on the global scale, was described by summer-Vermonter Rudyard Kipling as "the white man’s burden" (1899) to civilize lesser beings --"…your new-caught sullen peoples, half-devil and half-child…" around the world, with or without their consent, cooperation, or gratitude

The End-Point of a Cultural War Matters
By Mark Shepard

However, to conclude that cultural issues will fade to irrelevance requires a post-modern, no-absolutes viewpoint and fails to consider just why America became stronger following the earlier cultural wars Beinart sites. Without such consideration, his suggestion – that similar economic election drivers will end the present day cultural war – is either demonstrably incorrect or the American culture itself is on a downward spiral. You cannot throw away the foundation of America, without throwing away America.

Those earlier American cultural wars ended with America, in many ways, more closely aligned to natural law and our nation’s creed penned by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

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"If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is." 

--Ronald Reagan

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Economists Give Grim Forecast for Vt.
From WCAX-TV, November 18, 2008

Lawmakers on the Joint Fiscal Committee listened, some seemingly frustrated and worried, as a state economist delivered the news. "There have been truly seismic shifts in the economy," legislative economist Tom Kavet said. Kavet says income tax collections will be down as unemployment rises. He predicts unemployment will top 7 percent by early 2010.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Caledonia Record Editorial, November 21, 2008

On behalf of the Vermont ACLU, Allen Gilbert questions a proposal by the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee, which has been working on legislation to rewrite criminal law dealing with sex crimes and sex offenders. The proposal would change the law to require the collection of DNA samples from people arraigned on felony crimes, instead of just those convicted of felonies. The senate proposal is in opposition to the fundamental guarantee in our system of justice that a citizen is innocent until proven guilty.

Belt Tightening Time For Towns
Caledonia Record Editorial, November 18, 2008

The arguments against reductions in funding operate on the assumption that every dollar of aid to a state or to a town is essential and that it is impossible for the aid recipient to cut even one dollar from a budget. The recipients argue they must make up any shortfall. The arguments miss the point. A cut in federal spending should send a message to the states to cut their own spending in response, not increase state spending to make up for the lost federal share. When Vermont cuts highway aid to towns, the message should be that towns should cut their budgets by the same amount. Towns should respond by cutting the town budget rather than increasing the local share.

Is Vt. Turning a Blind Eye to Illegal Workers?
From WCAX-TV November 19, 2008

"We had to do something because we needed the help and we were pretty apprehensive about it," Rob Hunt says. Hunt is a farmer in Addison milking about 210 cows. After his Vermont worker left, he ran an ad for six months looking for help with no luck. The hours are long; the work hard. Then he was told by another farmer about Mama Nancy. "They said call this woman. Left a message on a machine; who I was, what I wanted. And she calls back and leaves me a message on my machine, 'I have three packages coming in the next week. If you're interested call me back,'" Hunt recalls. Hunt says he'd rather hire Vermonters; there are no language barriers, plus this is all illegal.

Spaulding Proposes Gas-Tax Increase
By Peter Hirschfeld, Vermont Press Bureau, Times Argus, November 20, 2008

Steep budgetary shortfalls threaten to undermine the state's transportation system unless Vermont levies a new tax on gasoline and diesel purchases, according to a report issued by State Treasurer Jeb Spaulding.

New Budget Numbers, New Thoughts
From Vermont Tiger, November 21, 2008

Vermont's tax structure relies more and more on high income earners.  40% of the state's income tax is paid by about 7,000 taxpayers who earn over $200,000 and 60% comes from the 30,000 taxpayers who earn over $100,000.  When they do well (as they did from 2003-2006), the state coffers bulged.  Now that capital gains income and subchapter S income are in the tank, we're riding the downward trajectory of rich people's income.   Having a narrow tax base is very dangerous, as we're now seeing.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

Pentagon Hit by Unprecedented Cyber Attack
From FOX News, November 20, 2008

The Pentagon has suffered from a cyber attack so alarming that it has taken the unprecedented step of banning the use of external hardware devices, such as flash drives and DVD's, FOX News has learned.

‘Pullout’ Treaty a Win for Iraq and U.S.
By Amir Taheri, Family Security Matters, November 22, 2008

The U.S. had two key objectives in Iraq:

* To dismantle what was left of Saddam Hussein's war machine, ensuring that it wasn't rebuilt and used against Iraq's neighbors or other nations.

* To restore to the people of Iraq the power that had been confiscated from them by the Ba'athist dictatorship.

Both have been achieved, ensuring a clear U.S. victory – although many in Washington seem to believe that it would be impolite or impolitic to admit that. It is one of those ironies of history that Barack Obama, who opposed toppling Saddam Hussein, now inherits this victory.

America also benefits from the fact that, by signing SOFA, it shows that it isn't a fickle friend – that its commitment to allies isn't cast aside as a result of a change at the White House.

Charities and Terrorism
By Phil Leggiere, Homeland Security Insight & Analysis

Terrorist networks and organizations have many "underground" means of financing themselves, from drug smuggling to cybercrime. As challenging as these clandestine methods are to globally eradicate, an equally vexing problem is how to shut-off jihadist funding siphoned off from so-called "legitimate" charities.

Addressing that problem, according to Tolga Koker Department of Economics and Carlos Yordan Department of Political Science Drew University, means addressing the question of why tens of thousands of Muslims who are not terrorists and often opposed themselves to terrorism nonetheless support the work of charities that support jihadist operations. Their new paper , titled Microfinancing Terrorism: A Study in Al Qaeda Financing Strategy, published Tuesday by the Social Science Research Network, tries to do just that.

Britain Grapples With Role for Islamic Justice
By Elaine Sciolino, New York Times, November 18, 2008

The woman in black wanted an Islamic divorce. She told the religious judge that her husband hit her, cursed her and wanted her dead.

But her husband was opposed, and the Islamic scholar adjudicating the case seemed determined to keep the couple together. So, sensing defeat, she brought our her secret weapon: her father.

In walked a bearded man in long robes who described his son-in-law as a hot-tempered man who had duped his daughter, evaded the police and humiliated his family.

The judge promptly reversed himself and recommended divorce.

This is Islamic justice, British style. Despite a raucous national debate over the limits of religious tolerance and the pre-eminence of British law, the tenets of Shariah, or Islamic law, are increasingly being applied to everyday life in cities across the country.

Iran Produces Enough Uranium to Build Nuclear Weapon
From FOX News, November 20, 2008

Iran has now produced roughly enough uranium to make a single nuclear bomb, according to atomic experts analyzing the latest report from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Al Qaeda’s Message: We Will Not Stop Waging Jihad with Obama in the White House
By Dr. Walid Phares, Family Security Matters, November 22, 2008

While observers waited for the release of the "official" al Qaeda position on the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States, seasoned experts on the Jihadist movement had little doubt about the substance of the main message. As I have outlined in my appearances on Arabic television channels since November 4th, Osama bin Laden or his second in command, was expected to declare that their "Jihad" will continue despite the election of an African-American president and despite Obama’s intention to withdraw from Iraq. Ayman al-Zawahiri lived up to expectations on Wednesday in his latest message to his supporters and his enemies. His message? Even if the war ends in Iraq, the global war will continue everywhere.

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From Elsewhere

To Prevent Bubbles, Restrain the Fed
By Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr., Cato Institute, November 17, 2008

To avoid such a fate, Mr. Obama needs to stop the next asset bubble from being inflated by imposing a commodity standard on the Fed. A commodity standard (such as a gold standard) imposes discipline on a central bank because it forces it to acquire commodity reserves in order to increase the money supply. Today the government can inflate asset bubbles without paying a cost for it because the currency isn't linked to the price of a commodity.

With a commodity standard in place, the government would also have price signals that would alert it to the formation of a bubble. Why? Because the price of the commodity would be continuously traded in spot and futures markets. Excessive easing by the Fed would be signaled by rising prices for the commodity. In recent years, Fed officials have claimed that they cannot know when an asset bubble is developing. With a commodity standard in place, it would be clear to anyone watching spot markets whether a bubble is forming. What's more, if Fed officials ignored price signals, outflows of commodity reserves would force them to act against the bubble.

The point is not to deflate asset bubbles, but to avoid them in the first place. Imposing a commodity standard is a practical response to the repeated failures of central banks to maintain sound money and financial stability. What would be impractical is to believe that the next time central banks will get it right on their own.

Mad Max and the Meltdown
From The Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2008

What really went missing through the subprime mortgage years were the three Rs: responsibility, restraint and remorse. They are the ballast that stabilizes two better-known Rs from the world of free markets: risk and reward.

Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of "Merry Christmas."

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

Evidence of Sunspot Involvement in Climate Change Compelling
From Engineering News

Over the last few years, the evidence that sunspots on our sun are directly related to climate change on earth has been steadily increasing. ... The correlation for this effect, going back thousands of years, is good, remarkably so. Scientifically, this looks believable, and it is consistent with the theory and observation.

In contrast, the argument that man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) is causing warming does not fit the facts at all. Firstly, there was no industrial CO2 produced in vast quantities when the Roman Warming period occurred, or when the Medieval Warming period occurred. Both are well documented in various archives, such as the historical and archaeological.

Atlas Blinked: Fiscally Conservative Republicans Were Lost at Sea in the Panic of 2008
By David Weigel, Reason Online, December 2008

In late September, a White House economist arrived at Norquist's salon to sell a proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street firms whose investments in worthless mortgage-backed securities had sparked an international financial crisis. In a tense meeting, the president's emissary was turned into a piñata. Pro-market activists and economists with decades of experience battered him with questions, asking whether the administration was putting an end to capitalism as we knew it. The White House's economist responded coolly. Did these people really want to do nothing in the face of the great 2008 meltdown?

In the end, what fiscal conservatives wanted didn't turn out to matter much. As the Wall Street vapors scrambled every aspect of the 2008 presidential campaign and of George W. Bush's final days in office, no one was as angry as D.C.'s dwindling number of libertarians. They pointed out that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's plan involved a massive takeover of private firms and (in its original draft) unchecked executive power. They invoked previous examples of government meddling worsening crises, in the 1930s and the '70s. But as Washington faced the greatest economic panic in a generation, adherents of free markets were spectators in a debate between moderate interventionists and radical re-regulators.

Target Talk Radio
By Paul M. Weyrich, American Conservative Union, November 19, 2008

I did not see a way out of this situation until I interviewed Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken) on the "Right Hour" program on the Right Talk Radio Network. McConnell pointed to the record of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts. In ruling after ruling the court is suspicious of any legislation which tries to limit political free speech and our First Amendment rights. McConnell has been the plaintiff in the most important cases before the court. He believes that with a few more rulings and McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform will belong to the ashbin of history.

I had not considered the Supreme Court’s role in the Fairness Doctrine. There is little doubt that if the Fairness Doctrine is re-instated by congress it immediately will attract many free-speech lawsuits. Seldom is it that a United States Senator says anything to cheer me up. Congratulations, Mitch McConnell. You managed to just do that.

Careful What You Wish For… Net Neutrality is Pandora’s Box
From How to Save the USA, November 20, 2008

Net Neutrality is a trendy, feel good internet cause. The gist of it is that some Internet Service providers want to be able to throttle certain kinds of network traffic to prevent things like Bit Torrent piracy from choking off other customers like small business and grandmothers doing family tree research. Blog posts talking about protecting the sacred, free nature of the internet from evil corporations make the front page of Digg almost every day.

It certainly feels right, doesn’t it? Keep things "neutral." Keep those big evil companies out of the internet. All we need is the government to step in and… wait a second. I found a catch.

When has the government ever managed to make anything more free?

Related: Blackout of Left’s “Fairness” Doctrine Push
From The Media Research Center, November, 2008

While talk radio hosts often warned during the campaign that free speech could be trampled by an all-Democratic majority, the broadcast networks have failed to react to this dangerous threat to the First Amendment. A review shows the broadcast networks — whose affiliates could also be regulated — have failed to run even a single story mentioning the push for a new Fairness Doctrine. The most recent mention of the Fairness Doctrine was on May 30, 2007, when in an interview on CBS’s The Early Show, Al Gore bizarrely called it a “protection” that was removed during the Reagan years.

Change Our Public Schools Need
By Terry M. Moe, The Wall Street Journal, November 24, 2008

Democrats are fervent supporters of public education, and the party genuinely wants to help disadvantaged kids stuck in bad schools. But it resists bold action. It is immobilized. Impotent. The explanation lies in its longstanding alliance with the teachers' unions -- which, with more than three million members, tons of money and legions of activists, are among the most powerful groups in American politics. The Democrats benefit enormously from all this firepower, and they know what they need to do to keep it. They need to stay inside the box.

Related: Hoping for Change in Education?

Related: The Sidwell Choice: The Obama family leads by example

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