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True North Archives - December 01, 2009
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Featured Articles

Rebalancing Education Cost and Value
By John McClaughry

The new report, entitled Better Value, Fewer Taxpayer Dollars, includes a detailed economic analysis of today's public education system. That analysis concludes that "it is very clear than Vermonters - taxpayers and parents - are not getting their money's worth from our very high per pupil education spending. It is also clear that this spending trend is unsustainable."

The Commission believes that "the great majority of parents and children have the capacity to identify the kind of education most suitable to their children's needs and preferences, and that public financial support for education should flow not through overgrown and nonproductive bureaucracies, but directly through the consumers to a wide array of educational providers, some public, some private, that attract revenues by offering a product that their customers want."

Science or Religion?
By Robert Maynard

In this week’s "Elsewhere" section there is an Editorial by The Washington Times that weighs in on the latest revelations regarding "The Global Cooling Cover-up", better known as "Climategate". The editorial raises an important issue: "Anyone interested in accurate science should be appalled at the manipulation of data 'to hide the decline [in temperature]' and deletion of e-mail exchanges and data so as not to reveal information that would support global-warming skeptics." This is a take on the issue that has not been commented on to the extent that it should be. The threat to the credibility of science has been present within the environmentalist movement long before this latest fraud. That threat comes from using science as a thinly disguised cover for what appears to be a nature worship religion.

When Ideology Trumps Ethics
By Martin Harris

In an attempt to preclude accusations of snarkiness (you might test your recent high school grad on definition and etymology) I’ll refrain here from asking why the "higher" professions have found it necessary to develop and publish elaborate canons of moral and behavioral ethics for mandatory compliance by members while plying their various trades. I’ll simply note that the productive professions have done just that, while the political profession --ideologues and pragmatists, active politicians and passive commentators—hasn’t.

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"And forasmuch as ingratitude is one of the most odious of vices, let me not be unmindful gratefully to acknowledge the favours I receive from Heaven; For all Thy innumerable benefits; For life and reason, and the use of speech, for health and joy and every pleasant hour, my Good God, I thank Thee."

--Ben Franklin, Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion, Nov. 20, 1728

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Shumlin and Friends
Caledonia Record Editorial, November 24, 2009

Shumlin made his announcement at the Earth Turbines facility in Williston. The fortunes of the Blittersdorfs, who run Earth Turbines and NRG Systems, rest upon the development of wind turbines and wind farms.

David Blittersdorf is a familiar face in the Legislature. He is also a board member of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, an ever present lobbying group. VPIRG's two wind gurus, Paul Burns, the group executive director, and James Moore, VPIRG's designated clean energy advocate, are on the Democrats' A list in the Legislature. A familiar name in Northeast Kingdom wind development, Matthew Rubin, is VPIRG treasurer.

K-12: Stop the Spending
From Vermont Tiger, November 30, 2009

Last Thursday’s article addressed the imperative need to reduce K-12 education spending to levels consistent with providing a quality education and restoring Vermont’s financial viability. This piece addresses what voters can do to help reduce education spending by doing their homework on a proposed budget, identifying cost savings opportunities and proposing an amount by which a proposed budget may be responsibly reduced. However, since many mistakenly believe spending and performance go hand-in-hand, I begin by briefly putting into perspective the resources (a.k.a. capacity) vs. performance (a.k.a. outcomes) issue.

Related: Report of the Commission on Rebalancing Education Cost and Value

State Wants Burlington Telecom Records
Public service entities submit 124 questions
By John Briggs, Burlington Free Press, November 28, 2009

The Vermont Department of Public Service and the Vermont Public Service Board have made clear their intent to understand Burlington Telecom’s violation of its license and its overall financial condition.

Condition 60 of BT’s Certificate of Public Good required the municipally owned provider of broadband Internet, telephone and cable television to repay any city money it uses within two months. Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold has said he became aware of BT’s violation of the condition in November 2008. Leopold informed and the Public Service Board in September.

Why I Am an Optimist (Thanksgiving Edition)
From Vermont Tiger, November 26, 2009

The early years in Plymouth were hard, with 45 of the 102 settlers dying during their first winter of 1620-21.  Governor Bradford realized that the settlement's organization needed to be changed from one based on what today we might call communitarianism to one based on individual ownership. ...

As long as we don't forget those lessons, we will celebrate many more happy and productive Thanksgivings.

Gay Marriage Momentum Stalls in Liberal N.Y., N.J.
By Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press, November 27, 2009

The state-to-state march to legalize gay marriage across the left-leaning Northeast has lost more momentum since a major setback three weeks ago at the ballot box in Maine. Since then, legislatures in New York and New Jersey have failed to schedule long-expected votes on bills to recognize the unions in those states.

Vermont Christmas Tree Farms Donate Trees to Military
From the Associated Press, November 27, 2009

Vermont Christmas tree growers hope to make the holidays a little brighter for members of the Vermont National Guard by providing 400 free trees to soldiers and their families.

About 1,500 members of the Vermont National Guard will leave for Afghanistan after Christmas, in the state's largest Guard call-up since World War II.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

Navy SEALs Face Assault Charges for Capturing Most-Wanted Terrorist
By Rowan Scarborough, Fox News, November 25, 2009

Navy SEALs have secretly captured one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq — the alleged mastermind of the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater USA security guards in Fallujah in 2004. And three of the SEALs who captured him are now facing criminal charges, sources told

The three, all members of the Navy's elite commando unit, have refused non-judicial punishment — called a captain's mast — and have requested a trial by court-martial.

Ahmed Hashim Abed, whom the military code-named "Objective Amber," told investigators he was punched by his captors — and he had the bloody lip to prove it.

Now, instead of being lauded for bringing to justice a high-value target, three of the SEAL commandos, all enlisted, face assault charges and have retained lawyers.

The Next Founders? Voices of Democracy in the Middle East
By Joshua Muravchik, Encounter, Reviewed by Michael Rubin, Middle East Forum

In the late 20th century, the world witnessed a democratic revolution. Since the 1970s, the percentage of countries with governments chosen by their people has doubled from 30 to 60 percent. Not only has Eastern Europe come in from the cold, but in West Africa, East Asia, and Latin America, states once dismissed by Western diplomats as impervious to democratic liberty now hold elections and regularly and peacefully transfer power from government to opposition.

The Middle East, however, remains a fitful holdout. Not a single Arab state is a democracy, nor is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Until 9/11, few people in Washington policy circles cared. Those of the "realist" school justified almost any partnership with autocrats; as Muravchik summarizes, "it was alright if they were bastards, if only they would be our bastards." But al-Qaeda's attacks on New York and Washington heralded a paradigm shift: "perhaps the internal affairs of Middle Eastern states was a strategic consideration."

Eight years and two trying wars later, Obama told his audience in Cairo that "no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other." The value of The Next Founders is to show that a policy of democratization need not mean, as in the leftist caricature, a program of obnoxious American imposition. "The fact that there is precious little democracy in the Middle East does not mean, however, that there are no democrats," Muravchik observes. His book profiles seven dissidents and reformers among the many he encountered in his extensive travels in the Middle East.

Islamism 2.0
By Daniel Pipes, Jerusalem Post, November 25, 2009

To borrow a computer term, if Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden, and Nidal Hasan represent Islamism 1.0, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an (the prime minister of Turkey), Tariq Ramadan (a Swiss intellectual), and Keith Ellison (a U.S. congressman) represent Islamism 2.0. The former kill more people but the latter pose a greater threat to Western civilization. ...

If the violence of Islamism 1.0 rarely succeeds in forwarding the Shari'a, the Islamism 2.0 strategy of working through the system does better. Islamists, adept at winning public opinion, represent the main opposition force in Muslim-majority countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, and Kuwait. Islamists have enjoyed electoral success in Algeria in 1992, Bangladesh in 2001, Turkey in 2002, and Iraq in 2005.

Iran's Green Movement Reaches Out to U.S.
By Robin Wright, Time, November 23, 2009

After more than five months of going it alone, Iran's opposition Green Movement is reaching out to the United States for help. Via public and private channels, the Obama Administration has received several appeals in recent weeks to take a stronger stand against human-rights abuses in Iran, avoid military action and impose more aggressive and rapid-fire sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards and its vast business interests.

Syria's Path to Islamist Terror
By Michael Rubin, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2010

While the Obama administration and congressional leaders may justify renewed engagement with Syria with their desire to jumpstart the Middle East peace process, they ignore the very issue that lies at the heart of the Syrian threat to U.S. national security: Syrian support for radical Islamist terror. This may seem both illogical and counterfactual given past antagonism between the 'Alawite-led regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is overwhelming evidence that President Bashir al-Asad has changed Syrian strategic calculations and that underpinning terror is crucial to the foreign policy of the country.

Tehran's Domestic and International Fronts
A briefing by Patrick Clawson, Middle East Forum

First, the Iranian régime's approach to domestic issues is often misconstrued as secondary to its concern for the nuclear issue. In fact, the government is primarily concerned about the domestic opposition, which does not "appear to be going away" and is antagonistic to the Islamic Republic itself, unlike the reformist candidates, who have the same long-term objectives as the present régime. The latter, according to Mr. Clawson, merely wish to end Iran's international isolation created by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. The government of Tehran also displays a certain "paranoia" about "cultural infiltration" from the West as well as groups such as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK)—despite the fact that the MEK has not been active in Iranian politics for twenty-five years.

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From Elsewhere

Health Reform Threatens Voluntary Charitable Action
By Rev. Robert A. Sirico, Acton Institute for Religion and Liberty, November 25, 2009

As it’s been said many times, if you think health care is expensive, wait until it’s free.

I also worry about the "crowding out" effect that this vast expansion of the government into health care will have on voluntary charitable action. Somewhere along the line we have lost sight of the fact that charity and health care was not an invention of Washington bureaucrats. How did the more than 600 Catholic hospitals and clinics, and many more hospitals bearing the names Jewish, Presbyterian, Methodist, Adventist and Baptist, get built in this country? It wasn’t through the sufferance of government. Faith is the source of these works, not policy initiatives. Faith, because it involves the entire scope of the human person, body and soul, has not only a larger claim on our allegiance but a deeper commitment to our well being. Our faith communities know us as persons, not as welfare case numbers or voting blocs.

Climategate: White House Involvement in Scandal Will Make It Harder for MSM to Ignore
By P.J. Gladnick, NewsBusters, November 26, 2009

Yesterday Brian Williams delivered an NBC Nightly News report about President Obama attending the Copenhagen global warming summit. Guess what hot topic was left untouched? If you had guessed Climategate you would have been correct. Not only Williams but also the other TV networks, with the exception of FOX News, have completely ignored what is considered to be the biggest scientific scandal in history. However, new Climategate revelations made by the Canada Free Press about a White House connection to the scandal will soon make it much more difficult (and ridiculous) for the networks to ignore.

Canada Free Press editor Judi McLeod and Canadian climatologist Dr. Tim Ball reveal the involvement of White House Science Czar John Holdren (photo) in the Climategate Scandal. The picture presented of Holdren is not a pretty one:

Lift up a rock and another snake comes slithering out from the ongoing University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) scandal, now riding as   "Climategate".

Related: Networks Ignore Climategate

Big Labor's Multi-Billion Dollar Bailout
By Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Hudson Institute, November 25, 2009

It's Thanksgiving, the start of the holidays, the season of giving -- and getting -- and many labor union officials have a lot to be thankful for. Some members of Congress are thinking about giving the union bosses a multi-billion dollar gift -- a bailout of failing, collectively-bargained multiemployer pension plans.

No matter that this would increase the federal deficit, putting even more pressure on the American taxpayer and the economy. After the $787 billion "stimulus" plan, the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Plan, and the potential $1 trillion health care "reform" plan, what are a few more hundreds of billions of dollars? Who's counting?

Related: Does Our GM (Government Motors) Await Same Sorry Fate As Britain's?

Even the Liberal Media Think the Obama Bubble has Burst
By Nile Gardiner, Telegraph (UK), November, 26, 2009

You know things are going seriously wrong for the Obama administration’s ultra-liberal agenda when even The Washington Post begins to question it. Here’s a quote from a rather good piece by Joel Achenbach, a senior staff writer for the Post, in yesterday’s front page story on Barack Obama’s slow, Spock-like decision-making process:

With multiple crises on his docket, the president has much to contemplate as he enters the holiday season. The economy has shown signs of growth and the stock market is up, but it’s a jobless recovery, unemployment is at the highest rate since he was in college, and there are fears of a double-dip recession. The dollar is down. The national debt is oceanic. Obama’s health-care plan is imperiled by the whims of a handful of lawmakers. His approval rating has dipped below 50 percent. Even once-Obama-friendly "Saturday Night Live" has taken to mocking him as a do-nothing president. This follows historical patterns: New presidents always experience a drop in popularity as the romance of the campaign trail gives way to the mundane bill-paying and grocery shopping of governance.

Dems' Kamikaze Mission: Health Care by New Year's
By Byron York, Washington Examiner, November 27, 2009

Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin recently was asked if a national health care bill would pass the Senate by the end of the year. "It must," Durbin responded. "We have to finish it."

Many other top Democrats share Durbin's determination to meet this deadline. But it's almost certainly not going to happen, for three reasons: the calendar, the Senate's other business, and, most importantly, growing public opposition to the health bill itself.

Related: A Year of Magical Thinking: The Democrats' health care dream is everyone else's nightmare

The Global-Cooling Cover-Up
Climate-change researchers admit their data is 'garbage'.
The Washington Times, November 27, 2009

The climate-gate revelations have exposed an unprecedented coordinated attempt by academics to distort research for political ends. Anyone interested in accurate science should be appalled at the manipulation of data "to hide the decline [in temperature]" and deletion of e-mail exchanges and data so as not to reveal information that would support global-warming skeptics. These hacks are not just guilty of bad science. In the United Kingdom, deleting e-mail messages to prevent their disclosure from a Freedom of Information Act request is a crime.

The story has gotten worse since the global-cooling cover-up was exposed through a treasure trove of leaked e-mails a week ago. The Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia has been incredibly influential in the global-warming debate. The CRU claims the world's largest temperature data set, and its research and mathematical models form the basis of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2007 report.

Related: Ready to Pay Your $6 Trillion 'Climate Justice' Bill?

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