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True North Archives - December 23, 2008
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Featured Articles

Vermont Caught in Negative Feedback Loop
By Tom Licata

Tax increases to solve Vermont's fiscal crisis would evade the difficult "untouchable" structural reforms needed. To name a few: Act 6-0/68; Act 250; the current use program; school closures; school district consolidation; and income and corporate tax reform.

Until Montpelier addresses the fact that it has lived beyond its means and that it has created an environment that will neither create wealth nor jobs, Vermont will continue its long, slow march toward increased impoverishment.

When Distant Trumps Local (or Doesn’t) Part I
By Martin Harris

And most recently, a new flexibility of outlook has emerged. Suddenly it has become OK for state government to build a courthouse-in-a-swamp, while lesser mortals are required to avoid barely damp "wetlands" that aren’t even on a 100-year flood-zone map. Conversion of cornfields into housing is verboten, except when a hospital wants to do it. Building multi-family housing on land zoned for multi-family housing isn’t OK for a private developer: Assistant Attorney General Julie Brill explains that in such matters the actual zoning "really isn’t relevant". Faithful replication of destroyed historic buildings is a no-no from the Division of Historic Preservation, except when town government does it, which makes it OK and explains why the Town of Ferrisburgh now has an extremely handsome replica of a former Grange Hall on Route 7, which is its main drag because, when the Town was laid out in the late 1700’s, it was in the form of roadside strip development –a "lineal village" in respected-planner-speak. The pejorative description is used only when the modern construction is private-sector in nature and therefore deserving of opprobrium. As, for example, the present debate about proposed new commercial development along the old 6-rod-right-of-way highway, Route 7 in Ferrisburgh.

Vermont Apocrypha
By Tom Wilson

When the corrupt citizens of a democracy realize that they can extort public funds (not just pork and earmarks, but perpetual welfare, free corporate bailouts, a totally counterfeited and exploding fiat money supply, and subsidized everything) by voting in corrupt representatives who milk the system, that democracy will end in an elitist, dictatorial plutocracy: a government of, for, and by the rich. Historically, the life of a democracy spans about 200 years, start to finish. Guess where we are now.

Web Cam on Suicide
By Kelly Bartlett

Recently Abraham Biggs, a 19-year-old college student, committed suicide in Florida.  He stated his intentions and deliberately overdosed on pills, which had been prescribed for his illness.  What was particularly chilling about this suicide is that he had an audience; he committed suicide in front of a web cam with some online viewers trying to talk him out of it, while others egged him on.  This is similar to the Death with Dignity bill that suicide advocates intend to promote, again, in Vermont. Some people try to talk legislators out of passing these bills, while others encourage it.

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"It is that particular wise and good God, who is the Author and Owner of our system, that I propose for the Object of my praise and adoration. For I conceive that He has in Himself some of those passions He has planted in us, and that, since He has given us reason whereby we are capable of observing His wisdom in the Creation, He is not above caring for us, being pleas'd wit our praise and offended when we slight Him, or neglect His Glory. I conceive for many reasons that He is a good Being, and as I should be happy to have so wise, good and powerful a Being my Friend, let me consider in what Manner I shall make myself most acceptable to Him."

--Benjamin Franklin in "Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion", November 20, 1728

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

A Good Cost-Cutting Suggestion
Caledonia Record Editorial, December 22, 2008

Here is a money-saving budget cut that would not hurt anybody and would save the state more than $600,000 a year.

The Legislative Committee on Judicial Rules has informally recommended to the Vermont Supreme Court that it adopt a new protocol directing that routine jail-to-court-and-return trips for prisoners attending routine hearings be suspended in favor of telephone or closed circuit television attendance.

Right now, the state is spending more than $600,000 on mileage and per-diem salaries of deputy sheriffs who deliver and pick up these prisoners.

Teacher Caught With Chest Full of Porn
From WCAX-TV, December 17 2008

A computer teacher at Brattleboro Union High School is accused of possessing child pornography.

Eric Achenbach, 59, has been placed on administrative leave. Police say two hunters recently found a chest filled with child porn near his home in Vernon. Achenbach reportedly admitted he hid the chest in the woods several years ago and that his personal computer contains child porn.

Police say the chest contained images of children, including infants, engaging in sexual acts with adults.

What Are MY Legacy Costs?
From, December 20, 2008

We’ve heard so much about the legacy costs of auto workers, and how when you factor them in, auto workers are compensated at an average of $73 an hour.  So, I got to wondering what are my legacy costs?  For those of you who don’t know, I am a public school teacher.  And basically, what we’re going to be looking at here are the legacy costs of a Vermont public school teacher.

Sacred Cows And Ox Gorin
Caledonia Record Editorial - December 16, 2008

In the face of a projected $66 million state revenues shortfall, Gov. Jim Douglas last week suggested that school boards take another, harder look at school funding. He was immediately jumped by Vt-NEA and the head of the Vermont School Boards Association (VBRT), the two organizations that are establishment Siamese twins in refusing to cooperate in controlling school costs.

Cuts: The First, But Not The Deepest
From Vermont Tiger, December 16, 2008

The first budget cuts have been agreed upon.  They amount to some $20 million – not nearly enough – and they are spread all across the map to include, touchingly, the cancellation of one concert by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.  In times, like these, one thinks, perhaps we could use some fine music to ease the pain.

As Art Woolf has pointed out here, and in other venues, the best way to go would be to single out entire programs.  His advice, so far, has been rejected in Montpelier. But Art can take rejection and, anyway, he is used to it.

Starr Heads In Wrong Direction
Caledonia Record Editorial, December 15, 2008

Essex-Orleans State Sen. Bobby Starr, usually possessed of clear-headed thinking, fiscal moderation and common sense, has allowed his heart to get in the way of his head.

He's a member of the Vermont Milk Commission, which has undertaken an impossible task. The members want to pay dairy farmers a premium for their milk, an admirable goal. The Commission, though, wants milk processors and retailers to pay the farmers more money, then eat the cost hike. The idea that government can increase private industry's costs of doing business and not have those increased costs passed along is the legislators' favorite fiction. So far, raising costs without doing harm to anyone is as elusive a goal as a perpetual motion machine or turning seawater into gold.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

No Such Luck
From Investor's Business Daily, December 18, 2008

Leadership: President Bush reminded us this week of our triumphs in the war on terror despite critics who sought to deny him the tools. He's kept us safe since 9/11 and says luck had nothing to do with it.

Who Was Behind the Jihad by the Shoe – and Why?
By Dr. Walid Phares, Family Security Matters, December 20, 2008

As I observed the immediate aftermath of the shoe throwing incident in Baghdad, I noted that the most striking effect occurred among the Western public, and particularly within the United States. Commentators and regular citizens were asking themselves again, seven years later, "why do they hate us?" missing one more time the fact that this particular violent expression, far from being a unique emotional reaction by one individual, is part of a war of ideas; it is a continuous organized confrontation over the future of the region. In short, this was another form of Jihadism, one I am coining now as a Jihad by the Shoe (Jihad bil Hizaa). Here is why....

The Church and the Terror State
By John Couretas, The Acton Institute

In choosing a new patriarch, the Russian Church now has an opportunity to come to grips with this past, and with other questions: nationalism, the status of minority ethnic and religious groups, secularization and consumerist materialism. Will the new patriarch lead the Church into a future of growth and spiritual renewal, or will he strike another "Faustian bargain" with autocratic leaders?

A Middle East Arms Race
The Arabs respond to the likelihood of the Iranian bomb.
From The Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2008

Hosni Mubarak is no one's idea of a visionary, but in sensing the Middle East's political winds he has few equals. So when Egypt's president-for-life warned his ruling party last week that "the Persians are trying to devour the Arab states," it's worth paying attention.

A Swift Challenge From Latin America
From Investor's Business Daily, December 18, 2008

Latin America: Barack Obama hasn't even assumed the presidency, but already he's getting his marching orders from a slew of hostile leftist regimes to our south. This is a sign of trouble.

Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Treasury Secretary to Stop AIG Bailout Financing of Terrorist Activities
From The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2008

A federal lawsuit ( was filed this morning against U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. and the Federal Reserve Board to stop all bailout funds from going to American International Group, Inc. ("AIG"). According to the lawsuit, the U.S. government, through its ownership of AIG, is not only violating the Constitution, but also promoting and financing the destruction of America using American tax dollars.

The basis of the lawsuit is that AIG intentionally promotes Shariah-compliant businesses and insurance products, which by necessity must comply with the 1200 year old body of Islamic cannon law based on the Quran, which demands the conversion, subjugation, or destruction of the infidel West, including the United States. To help achieve these objectives and with the aid of federal tax dollars, AIG employs a three-person Shariah Advisory Board, with members from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Pakistan. According to AIG, the role of its Shariah authority "is to review [its] operations, supervise its development of Islamic products, and determine Shariah compliance of these products and [its] investments."

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From Elsewhere

Why We Give
By Rev. Robert A. Sirico, Acton Institute for Religion and Liberty, December 17, 2008

There is another, perhaps more practical aspect of the giving of gifts that is worth pondering which was brought to the fore by Arthur Brooks, author of the 2006 book "Who Really Cares: America's Charity Divide - Who Gives, Who Doesn't and Why it Matters." Brooks investigated the American habit of giving and what he found surprised some, irritated others and confirmed some suspicions that I have had for some time. Among his findings was that the general profile of the gift-giver is one who has a strong family life and who attends church regularly.

Yet, there is another aspect to Mr. Brooks' research worth noting, especially at this time of the year and in the midst of these troubling economic times. At a recent conference in Rome, Brooks said that his research revealed that "when people give they get happier, and when they get happier, they are more productive and become richer."

Brooks, who will shortly become the new president of the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, contends that there is a kind of interconnected relationship between generosity, prosperity and happiness.

Madoff and the Failure of the SEC
By Briggs Armstrong, Ludwig Von Mises Institute, December 18, 2008

This is not a case in which free-market proponents are forced to theorize countless what-if scenarios regarding a solution that would not involve the government. The free market did spot the problem; it even reported it to the SEC. Perhaps unsurprisingly, all of the warnings were ignored by the SEC, which failed its fiduciary obligation to investors.

Due to the lack of government intervention and regulation with respect to hedge funds, consumers demanded some sort of policing of hedge funds in order to protect investors who lack the knowledge or resources to properly investigate the funds in which they plan to entrust their money. The free market responded to the consumer demand and so-called "due-diligence firms" emerged. Individuals seeking to invest in a hedge fund frequently pay one of these due-diligence firms for their opinion about specific hedge funds.

Green Is the New Color of Lobbying
Makers of Energy-Saving Products See Opportunities in Big Stimulus Bill
By Brody Mullins, The Wall Street Journal, December 13 2008

WASHINGTON -- Lobbying for green energy has become a red hot business here.

From electric cars to "green" roofs, companies that produce renewable fuels and energy-efficient products have snapped up Washington lobbyists at a rapid clip to get a helping hand from the federal government.

Nearly 300 green companies and industry groups have signed up Washington lobbying firms seeking tax breaks, research grants, contracts and other government business during the current two-year session of Congress, according to disclosure forms reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. That is an eightfold increase from the previous session.

Who Knew About Blago, and When Did They Know It?
By Jack Thompson, Human Events, December 15, 2008

United States Code, Title 18, Section 4, states:?"Misprision of a Felony: Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

Yes, Virginia, it is a crime in this country to know of a violation of federal law and not report it to a judge or a prosecutor. ...

This is where misprision of a felony comes in. If Rahm Emanuel knew that Governor Blagojevich was trying to extort something for himself in exchange for the US Senate appointment only he could make, then Emanuel, under Title 18, Section 4 of the United States Criminal Code had a duty to run, not walk, to the Feds with this information. Maybe Emanuel did just that, but if he did not he could be charged for a failure to report this crime.

Dollar Staggers as U.S. Unleashes Cash Flood, Deficit (Update2)
By Bo Nielsen and Daniel Kruger,, December 15, 2008

U.S. policy makers are flooding the world with an extra $8.5 trillion through 23 different plans designed to bail out the financial system and pump up the economy. The decline shows that the increased supply of money may be overwhelming investors just as the government steps up debt sales, the trade and budget deficits grow and de-leveraging by investors slows.

"The dollar will go to new lows as the U.S. attacks its currency," said John Taylor, chairman of New York-based FX Concepts Inc., which manages about $14.5 billion of currencies.

Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., BNP Paribas SA and Bank of America Corp. predict further weakness. Last week was the first time in almost a month that consensus estimates for the dollar against the euro through 2009 fell, according to the median forecast of 47 strategists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Unhealthy Lawsuits
From Investor's Business Daily, December 18, 2008

Legal Reform: A physicians' group has found that the practice of defensive medicine wastes more than a billion dollars a year in Massachusetts alone. Trial lawyers should be ashamed of what they've done to health care.

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