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True North Archives - December 29, 2009
Radio | Editorial | News & Views

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Featured Articles

It Ain't Easy Bein' Green: Especially when you have none.
By James Ehlers

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has a plan to clean up at least Lake Champlain: $800 million and 15 years is what is needed to clean up our "greenness." The only issue is, we don’t have $800 million. We owe retiring and retired teachers and state employees some $2 billion, among other obligations, so we are going to ask the federal government to pay while we continue to spread the "brown" hoping everyone thinks our "blue" is "green," even when it actually is. Quite a gamble when you consider we are two to three times more dependent on visitor spending than the national average.

Charting a Path Away from Insolvency
John McClaughry

Coming next week to a statehouse near you: perhaps the most critical legislative session in Vermont's modern history.

Over the past fifty years our state government has expanded into a gigantic money-eating machine. That machine sucks in taxpayer dollars and spews out benefits - minus the usual government handling charge. This makes lots of people happy, so long as the revenues keep on rolling in.

Raising the Achievement Bar in One Place in Appalachia
By Martin Harris

Related factoids: from the 2008 National Digest of Educational Statistics, you can read that average pupil-teacher ratio in Vermont is 1-to-10.8 and annual per-pupil cost $13.5K.... No mention in the various news accounts of any (beyond the basic inflation rate) budget change. Related factoids: NDES Table 66 shows the TN p/t ratio at 1-to-15.7 and Table 182 shows the annual per-pupil cost at $7.7K.

Like Bennington County and all of Vermont, Unicoi is, at 98%, statistically all white for NDES purposes, which shows in Table 121 that the US 4th grade average reading score is 220 overall and 230 for whites (out of 500) with VT at 228 (229w) and TN at 216 (224w) while Utah, with the largest p/t ratio in the nation at 1-to-22.1, and a resulting annual per-pupil cost of $6.7K, comes in at 221 (226w). The "proficiency" percentages by race aren’t shown, but all are well below 50% and at about 30% when you do your own adjustment. For example, the VT(w) average score is a point or two below the US(w) average, but the VT total at 41% "proficient" with a score of 228 is 9 points above the US total at 32% "proficient" with a score of 220.

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"The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations."

 --George Washington

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Christmas Giving
From Vermont Times, December 21, 2009

Last week while I was chilling at Fletcher Allen Hospital (another story), Art Woolf dropped by to cheer me up and his visit almost made the whole trip to Burlington – ambulance and all – seem worth the bother.

Sometime during our talk, Art suggested that we might want to run a series of posts from our regulars in which they would tell readers of a charity that they think especially worthy and to which they will be sending a contribution this season.

The project is intended to accomplish three things:

  1. Spread the word about organizations that need help and may not be especially well-known.
  2. Celebrate the spirit of giving.
  3. Convince our detractors that we won't be spending the season down in Whoville stealing Christmas.
Legislative Breakfasts
Caledonia Record Editorial, December 23, 2009

In a state like Vermont, there is no excuse to remain ignorant of what's going on and why, when public education opportunities like legislative breakfasts are readily available. We urge citizens who care about those things to go to these breakfasts, or listen to them on the radio, or read about them in The Caledonian-Record. They are a welcome source of news and conversational exchange between voters and their Northeast Kingdom legislators. It is a low-keyed way to hear what's going on - and to tell our legislators they're all wet when they need to get that direction. We're all for them.

From Vermont Tiger, December 26, 2009

"I think voting for this bill this morning was the right thing to do and the day after this bill is passed, I will start working as hard as I can to make it even stronger and to address some of the deficiencies in it," Sanders said. -- Freeps ...

What the bill delivers – as Mark Steyn puts it – is lots and lots of government and not very much health care.  It is bad.  Very bad.  But Senator Sanders can surely make it worse.

Farmers Consider Changes to Land Conservation Deal
From the Addison County Independent, December 23, 2009

Selling conservation easements is a big decision; signing over development rights means a farmer’s land can never be used for anything other than agriculture, which eliminates the chance to subdivide sometime in the future.

But Wood said his family never thought twice about the decision.

"We had come from where there were houses," Wood said, pointing out that building subdivisions and houses is a decision that has lasting ramifications, too.

"Once there’s a house there, it’s never going to be farmland again," he said.

Right now, the only way for farmers to sell their development rights — deals typically arranged through the VLT and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board — is to agree to these perpetual term agreement.

But some Vermont farmers are beginning to question whether or not preserving farmland in perpetuity is the only option for conservation, and members of the Vermont Farm Bureau are angling to create a way landowners can set land aside in 20-, 30-, or 40-year easements, what farmers have called "generational" periods.

Education Property Taxes: A Look Inside
From Vermont Times, December 26, 2009

As, barring a significant course correction, property taxes are likely to increase significantly yet again over the next three years, it is useful to revisit the property tax itself. More specifically, revisiting (1) who pays property taxes and (2) income sensitivity and current use policies that continue to narrow the tax base thereby placing more of the property tax burden on fewer Vermonters. In practice, these policies desensitize the pocketbooks of a large majority of Vermont homeowners (and voters on school budgets) from the full impact of public K-12 spending and, thus, have undoubtedly encouraged the profligate education spending that has occurred since enactment of Act 60. Common sense suggests that desensitized voters on school budgets won’t be as fiscally responsible when spending others’ money as they would be when spending their own money.

The Heart Of A Community
Caledonia Record Editorial, December 24, 2009

So often we're assailed with bad news - drug-driven burglaries, sexual assaults, spousal and child-abuses, DUI's. The list, unfortunately goes on. It's tempting to mistake the peccancy of area aberrants as a defining characteristic of our communities.

We'd prefer, during this holiday season to herald the people who better define us - the people who go to work everyday, and who are always available with a charitable act or gesture. So, let's take a look at some people of excellent heart who are the heart of the community.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

The Start of an Iranian Intifada
By Meir Javedanfar, Tel Aviv Front Line, December 28, 2009

An Iranian-style intifada seems to be in the making.

At the beginning of the current period of opposition, which started soon after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial reelection, quiet periods of seeming normalcy occurred between what were less frequent demonstrations.

Judging from the events of Ashura, however, the protests now seem to carry the potential to turn into a full-scale civil disobedience campaign, not unlike the first intifada the Palestinians initiated against Israel in 1987. Such an uprising will mean continuous periods of strikes and civil disobedience, as well as more confrontations between members of the public and security forces.

Life and Premature Death of Pax Obamicana
By Spengler, Asia Times, December 24, 2009

History speaks of a Pax Romana, a Pax Britannica, and a Pax Americana - but no other namable eras of sustained peace, for the simple reason cited by Henry Kissinger: nothing maintains peace except hegemony and the balance of power. The balancing act always fails, though, as it did in Europe in 1914, and as it will in Central and South Asia precisely a century later. The result will be suppurating instability in the region during the next two years and a slow but deadly drift toward great-power animosity. Those who wanted an end to US hegemony will get what they wished for. But they won't like it. ...

America's failure to sustain its own power will be as tragic as it is unnecessary.

Forces in Afghanistan Kill, Detain Militants
From American Forces Press Service, KABUL, December 23, 2009

Afghan and international forces in Afghanistan killed or detained numerous militants today in various operations, military officials reported. In an operation led by the Afghan general directorate of special operations, several known instigators of a kidnapping group were detained.

A Warning and a Ray of Hope from an Intelligence Operative
By Douglas MacKinnon, Town Hall, December 22, 2009

Recently, I sat down with a friend who has spent almost three decades working as an intelligence operative in the defense of our nation. During the course of our conversation, I asked him what -- based on his vast experience -- was the number one threat facing our nation? Without even pausing to think about it, he forcefully answered, "Our mainstream media."

More than Al Qaeda, more than homegrown terrorists, more than heavily armed Mexican drug cartels, more than non-existent borders, more than out-of-control and extremely violent domestic gangs, and even more than biological and nuclear terrorism, this dedicated intelligence operative felt that our own liberal media was a greater threat to our safety. Why?

Pakistani Court Acquits Christian Girl and Her Father Accused of Blasphemy
By Dan Wooding, ASSIST News Service, December 21, 2009

A Pakistani Christian girl and her father who were accused of defiling the Qur’an (Muslim holy book), in October of last year were acquitted on December 14, 2009 after serving thirteen months and fourteen days in prison.

America Isn’t Immune to Homegrown Terrorism
By Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman, Family Security Matters, December 22, 2009

A nightmare scenario for America is terrorists in our midst, and unlike those who perpetrated the horror of 9/11, difficult to profile. Our security forces look for young men (aged 16-30) of Middle East or South Asian origin. This is no longer good enough; many wannabe terrorists are American born Muslims or converts recruited in prison and universities. Add to this the occasional woman, for whom we would not usually be on alert. The terrorist next door has become a big concern.

Ignorance and poverty might be true for the poor starvelings being brainwashed in Afghan and Pakistani Madrassas, but they are only good for cannon fodder in the hands of their keepers. This profile certainly does not match what we are seeing in the U.S., and unfortunately, more than we had expected.

First, consider Maj. Hasan, a native-born U.S. citizen, soldier, and psychiatrist whose education was paid for by the military. This man – neither young, poor, nor ignorant – cold bloodedly murder 14 or his colleagues and wound 34 more before he was wounded himself. All we know about him was that he was a religious fanatic and his "spiritual adviser" with whom he corresponded, was a jihadi who had fled from Virginia to Yemen (he himself born in the U.S.).

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From Elsewhere

Not so Liberating: The Twilight of Liberation Theology
By Samuel Gregg D.Phil., Acton Institute for Religion & Liberty, December 22, 2009

As time passes, liberation theology is well on its way to being consigned to the long list of Christian heterodoxies, ranging from Arianism to Hans-Küngism. But as Benedict XVI understands, ideas matter – including incoherent and destructive ideas such as liberation theology.

The Best Christmas Present Ever
Senator DeMint Objects to the Appointment of the Conferees
By Dan Perrin, Red State, December 24, 2009

When Senator DeMint engineered, and Republican Leader McConnell actually objected to the appointment of the conferees, he was really handing the ball off to the left wingers — progressives if you will — and now they have their shot to either hold their own clan members who are against the Senate compromises and force them to vote No, or have their policy demands be ignored and take the crumbs from Senator Nelson’s and Senator Lieberman’s table.

Now, because of the Senator DeMint’s objection, unless the House votes for the Senate bill unchanged — which is highly unlikely (see below) — then the Senate ObamaCare bill must be amended on the House floor to gain the votes they need to pass it on the House floor. And because of Senator DeMint’s objection to the appointment of the conferees, there will be no conference, or conference report.

No Substitute For Fossil Fuels
From Investor’s Business Daily, December 22, 2009

America has long relied on fossil fuels to power its economy. Oil, natural gas and coal provide about 84% of the nation's energy. And for good reason. They are plentiful and typically easy to retrieve, and consequently, cheap.

At the other end of the spectrum are renewable sources such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal. They supply only about 4% of our energy, the remainder coming from hydro and nuclear power....

It's clear that renewables, which have benefited from government subsidies far in excess of what fossil fuels have received, can't compete in today's market and won't be faring much better a quarter century from now, according to the government's own reckoning.

Strong Growth Predicted for Semiconductor Spending in 2010
By Dan Worth,, December, 2009

Semiconductor equipment spending is set to increase by 45.3 per cent in 2010, according to the latest research from Gartner.

The analyst firm said that 2009 will see a 42.6 per cent decline in spending on semiconductor equipment, although the market is currently in the middle of a very strong period of growth recovery.

ACORN Qualifies for Funding in Senate Health Care Bill
By John McCormack, The Weekly Standard, December 21, 2009

Senator Roland Burris is claiming credit for a provision in Harry Reid's "manager's amendment," unveiled Saturday morning, that could funnel money to ACORN through the health care bill.

Griffith Faults Pelosi for Switch
By Josh Kraushaar,The Politico, December 22, 2009

Democratic Rep. Parker Griffith announced Tuesday that he's switching parties – saying he can no longer align himself "with a party that continues to pursue legislation that is bad for our country, hurts our economy and drives us further and further into debt."

Renewable Power – Clean And Green – Well, Not Really
From PA Pundits International, December 28, 2009

Renewable power is not clean. It is not green. It is just a huge joke being perpetrated on a public who has not been told the real facts.

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