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True North Archives - December 16, 2008
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Voting Vermont Yankee Off the Island
By John McClaughry

Extorting money from Entergy is a familiar game in Montpelier. In 2003 the legislature shook the company down for $9 million in return for the state’s non-objection to increasing the plant’s electricity output. Two years later it extracted another $28 million in return for state permission to store its oldest and least radioactive spent fuel rods in dry casks instead of in a water pool.

It’s highly likely that in addition to continuing favorable power rates after 2012, the legislative leadership will "ask" Entergy to pay dearly to avoid a political death sentence.

This is not quite the same as a corrupt Governor selling an appointment to a vacant U.S. Senate seat, but it falls under the same broad heading.

Read ‘em and Weep
By Martin Harris

In that context, two recent news articles appearing almost simultaneously, recently, drew my attention. One was a write-up of a recently released report on contemporary public education by the advocacy group Strong American Schools entitled "Diploma to Nowhere" which I read in a monthly called School Reform News. The subject was also covered by the wire services in their releases to major newspapers across the nation. The other was a lengthy op-ed by former IBM CEO Louis Gerstner, more recently the head of another advocacy group called "The Teaching Commission" , in The Wall Street Journal, in which he sets forth his five measures for improving publication. The two fit together because the first describes how remedial college education –making up for what the K-12 effort doesn’t accomplish with its young charges—now applies to a full third of all college freshmen; while the second offers specific remedies for that failure to produce adequate results. Read both and weep, you might agree, is an understandable taxpayer reaction: after all, it’s been 25 years since the first of such study-and-recommend reports (A Nation at Risk, 1983) was published, and the public-education-productivity situation has since worsened, rather than improved. In 1983, for example, a third of all college students didn’t need remedial high-school-level courses. I won’t even mention the changes in property tax levels (for school funding) here.

The Vermont Dissenter
By Tom Wilson

There is no place more estranged from the hardscrabble character of its frontier roots than new Vermont. The old Vermonter was an utter free thinker, an ultimate separatist: he wouldn't be a churchman or a Yorker or Hampshireman; he was so republican he wouldn't even be a colonist. The Republic of Vermont refused to join the Union until 1791. Yet he marched in more numbers per capita from the Eden of his own conscience into the Civil War than from any other northern state. But not because he was such a Unionist. No, he marched against royalism and elitism, the roots of slavery. As Ethan Allen once said, "the gods of the valley are not the gods of the hills."

Our freedom is ephemeral. Now there is a enough usurpation afoot to raise the dead, let alone the taciturn. We are now slaves to debt, some of which we stupidly incurred, but soon we'll all be Atlas, impossibly trying to carry it all, staggering, as the monied elites laugh their way to perfect power. We'll have no voice, no rights, no recourse; to the megalomania of the new royalty, we're already cattle, their human resource.

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"Really new trails are rarely blazed in the great academies.  The confining walls of conformist dogma are too dominating.  To think originally, you must go forth into the wilderness." 

--S. Warren Carey (Australian geologist)

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Benson Parents Want Holidays Back In School
From WCAX-TV, December 9, 2002

The debate over what constitutes a religious celebration in schools has parents in Benson fired up. More than two dozen parents packed the Benson Village School board meeting, Tuesday night, complaining that their children are banned from making any reference to Christmas in the classroom. The parents say that their school has been singled out, and that its policy about holiday references in school has gotten to the point of being ridiculous.

Vermont Ranks Low in a Nationwide Survey of Internet Speeds
By Joel Banner Baird, Free Press Staff December 9, 2008

Vermont appeared near the bottom of a nationwide ranking of Internet speeds this month — but the study’s sponsor cautions against drawing any quick conclusions. Only Wyoming, Hawaii and New Mexico rank below the Green Mountain State in the survey conducted by, an established purveyor of computing trends.

To Raid Or Not To Raid The Education Fund?
Caledonia Record Editorial December 12, 2008

The political leadership of both major parties is clearly thinking about raiding the Education Fund to help reduce the huge revenues shortfall they expect in the 2009 budget and the even larger shortfall they expect in 2010. Their ruminations are all about whether or not to appropriate (misappropriate?) the $20 million surplus in this year's education tax revenues.

There is one fact that neither the governor nor the Legislature should allow themselves to forget or to gloss over when they are about to make the grab. The Education Fund surplus is the result of Vermonters being over-taxed to fund the schools, i.e. it came out of our pockets under a false rubric. It should never be appropriated (misappropriated?) for any other use than to fund education or to be returned to us, the taxpayers.

Related: Vermont Statutes Title 16, Chapter 133 § 4025 (d): "Upon withdrawal of funds from the education fund for any purpose other than those authorized by this section, chapter 135 of Title 32 (education property tax) is repealed."

Tri-Tech to Leave South Burlington
From WCAX-TV, December 9, 2008

A South Burlington-based manufacturing company will be closing its doors after 23 years in Vermont. Tri-Tech USA specializes in advanced metal working and also produces commercial grade mobile kitchens for the military. The company is moving its operations to South Carolina. 30 people work at the South Burlington plant. Most of the company's customers are in New England. No word yet on whether the Vermont employees will be offered jobs in South Carolina.

Act 82 Fatigue?
From Vermont Tiger December 14, 2008

In every community, a public relations campaign is being waged by school officials to beat Act 82.  What exactly do they have to beat?  Well, they have to avoid the second vote if they can.  Win it if they must.  Nobody knows for sure yet who is going to be covered by the two-votes thing, because the numbers aren't available yet.  So just in case they might be covered by it, school officials will keep reminding voters what a bad law Act 82 is.  Maybe that'll help that second vote get passed. ...

And my favorite?  "Act 82 solved a problem that basically didn't exist."  How could a short sentence like this produce two such assaults on logic?  Yes, there is a problem.  And, no, Act 82 doesn't even begin to solve it.  There's much more work to be done on education finance reform.

Related: VT NEA Lawyer Joel Cook disparages the "two vote mandate" (pdf, on page 5)

A Failure At Verbal Legerdemain
Caledonia Record Editorial, December 10, 2008

Gov. Douglas, pro tem Sen. Peter Shumlin, then-Speaker of the House Rep. Gaye Symington, and everybody else who valued political survival over falling on their swords, did everything but swear an oath not to raise taxes. That was not hard for Gov. Douglas. He is very far from a tax-and-spend nanny-statist. But it was almost impossible for the far left, which is addicted to expensive entitlements that can be sustained only by new or increased taxes.

Enter a term that appeared to rescue the addicts without seeming to raise taxes. The term is "surcharge." Both Shumlin and Symington (and half a dozen others) jumped on it as a way to raise public money without raising taxes.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

Unusual Suspects
Strategic Surprises?
By Ralph Peters, The New York Post, December 12, 2008

WARNINGS about the foreign challenges the Obama administration will face early on focus on the usual suspects - al Qaeda, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia and, not least, the global solvency crisis. While each of these issues demands serious attention, the crises abroad that shocked, consumed or defined a succession of presidencies came "out of the blue."

The Russian War on Words
William D. Zeranski American Thinker December 09, 2008

Word games can't reverse the economic disaster caused by the Russian-Georgian War but all the same, authorities are moving against news outlets not following the government's script.  Of course, state-controlled television networks have already complied, but "authorities have begun scouring Web sites and newspapers for evidence of content that they believe could incite panic in a nation already on edge about its economic plight."

Basic Divisions Emerge
When the Catholics and Muslims got together.
By John F. Cullinan, National Review, November 26, 2008

Similarly troubling is this blithe assertion: "Certainly we cannot claim that violence is the monopoly of only one religion." Whatever this claim’s historical or theoretical merits, religiously-inspired violence today is not a Christian phenomenon, nor does holy war play any role whatsoever in modern Christian thought and life

Finally, there are Nasr’s unfortunate and offensive remarks to the media belittling the immense suffering of Christian minorities and Christian converts from Islam: "The difficulties of these Christians are nothing in comparison with what Muslim peoples have suffered over the centuries at the hands of Christians, and today especially at the hands of Israel and the United States."

None of these inaccurate and provocative claims was matched by similar comments from the Catholic side. But they’re a useful reality check and fair measure of the difficulty of arriving at a true meeting of the minds.

Next Steps in the Indo-Pakistani Crisis
By George Friedman, Strategic Forecasters, December 8, 2008

In an interview published this Sunday in The New York Times, we laid out a potential scenario for the current Indo-Pakistani crisis. We began with an Indian strike on Pakistan, precipitating a withdrawal of Pakistani troops from the Afghan border, resulting in intensified Taliban activity along the border and a deterioration in the U.S. position in Afghanistan, all culminating in an emboldened Iran. The scenario is not unlikely, assuming India chooses to strike.

Our argument that India is likely to strike focused, among other points, on the weakness of the current Indian government and how it is likely to fall under pressure from the opposition and the public if it does not act decisively. An unnamed Turkish diplomat involved in trying to mediate the dispute has argued that saving a government is not a good reason to go to war. That is a good argument, except that in this case, not saving the government is unlikely to prevent a war, either.

A Modern-day Islamist Inquisition?
By Walid Phares, American Thinker, December 09, 2008

The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), an association of the world's Islamic states, is pushing the United Nations to outlaw "defamation" of religion in general, and of one religion in particular.

India Has Proof ISI Trained Mumbai Attackers: Sources
By Nidhi Razdan, New Delhi Television, December 04, 2008

More than a week after the Mumbai attack, sources have told NDTV that India has proof that the ISI mastermined the Mumbai attack. Sources in fact say that they are 100% certain that the attack was authorised by Pakistan's intelligence agency. They say the attack was very well organised, with sophisticated equipment and logistics.

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From Elsewhere

Blame Me for Job Losses
By C. Edmund Wright, American Thinker, December 11, 2008

Let me attempt to help out these "curious capitalists" (though I am still skeptical that anyone working for CNN or Time is either curious or a capitalist).  I caused part of this job loss and I know precisely why; the election. The results portend big trouble for small business.

The job destruction process has started. We are about 20% of the way through our ramp down process and on schedule to complete the shut down by spring 2009. Watch the financial news and you will see continued job cuts each month. We are not alone in our strategy. Far from it. Atlas has shrugged all over the country.

UN Blowback: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims
By Marc Morano, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, December 10, 2008

The UN global warming conference currently underway in Poland is about to face a serious challenge from over 650 dissenting scientists from around the globe who are criticizing the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore.  Set for release this week, a newly updated U.S. Senate Minority Report features the dissenting voices of over 650 international scientists, many current and former UN IPCC scientists, who have now turned against the UN. The report has added about 250 scientists (and growing) in 2008 to the over 400 scientists who spoke out in 2007. The over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.

Oil Companies Voting With Their Feet
From Investor's Business Daily, December 12, 2008

 Another day, another oil company fleeing the country. No, this isn't Ecuador, the banana republic that just defaulted on its debt after chasing out investors. It's the United States, and what we're seeing is self-defense.

Democratic Party Scandal: How High Will It Go?
By Rick Moran, American Thinker, December 10, 2008

The big news, of course, is the governor's attempt to sell the senate seat of Barack Obama. Incredibly, it appears that he tried to get the best deal by shopping the seat to as many as 7 potential candidates -- including, indirectly, Barack Obama.

Blogger Joseph Cannon of Cannonfire details the offer to an unnamed high level Obama advisor (evidence suggests it is newly-designated chief of staff Rahm Emanuel). Blagojevich was pushing what Cannon calls "a wacky scheme" where the governor would take over control of a not for profit group  -- a 501c(4) -- set up by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates (who would act at the behest of Obama) in exchange for appointing Obama's choice for the senate seat -- his longtime friend and advisor Valerie Jarrett.

Diverse Coalition Offers Proposals for A New Thrift Culture (pdf)
From the Institute for American Values

Overindebtedness has become an American way of life. A groundbreaking report from a broad coalition of American leaders is now calling for institutional and cultural changes to address today’s debt culture. The report proposes 5 major objectives and 19 specific initiatives to create a new thrift culture that would promote savings and sustainability.

Speech Codes Limit Campus Freedom
By Ray Nothstine, Acton Institute for Religion and Liberty, December 3, 2008

On college campuses during the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was students who embodied campus radicalism. Today some administrators practice a brand of radicalism intent on punishing students who dissent from the ideology of the campus power structure. In their book, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses, authors Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate declare, "In a nation whose future depends upon an education in freedom, colleges and universities are teaching the values of censorship, self-censorship, and self-righteous abuse of power."

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