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True North Archives - December 31, 2007
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Featured Articles

The Big VPIRG Climate Scare
By John McClaughry

On December 4 Vermonters were treated to a well- orchestrated media event designed to terrify them into endorsing a very expensive special interest policy agenda. The occasion was the release of a new report by the Vermont Public Interest Group (VPIRG) claiming that "global warming will substantially increase the odds of extreme precipitation. scientists predict that warming temperatures will increase the frequency of major storm with heavy rainfall or snowfall." ... To their credit, the Vermont news media (Free Press, Vermont Press Bureau, WCAX) sought out some expert opinion. Andy Nash, the National Weather Service lead meteorologist at Burlington, was clearly not buying the VPIRG climate fright.  The Free Press reported Nash as observing cautiously that the data could be artifacts of the natural variability of the weather. WCAX quoted Nash as saying that the report does not present new data and raises more questions than it answers. This won't be the last time that enviro organizations pump up an enviro-scare to promote their political agenda. Vermonters need to greet these continual revelations with a lot of skepticism.

The Special Education Bridge to Nowhere
By Curtis Hier

The recent study by the Joint Fiscal Office on our tax burden in Vermont reminds me of another JFO study done a few years ago. In 2001, the JFO was put in charge of studying special education costs. It enlisted a working group that included special educators, professional disability advocates, and the "Big Three" of the education lobby — including, of course, Joel Cook of the Vermont-NEA. Given the makeup of the working group, it should not be a surprise that the study identified growing costs that were beyond anybody's control, and it recommended that the problem be studied further. Herein lies the problem of special education cost containment. Those who potentially have the answers to the problem of spending are the stakeholders who benefit from the spending.

The Trust-Funder Economy
By Martin Harris

Ever since, the higher elevations of the Appalachians have been home to retirees and trust-funders: even to day, mega-mansions are being built, some in gated communities, some not, in places like North Carolina’s Blowing Rock, (not even an incorporated village) an hour’s drive north of Asheville, or Henderson County, an hour’s drive south. Henderson County is particularly interesting because it demonstrates that you don’t need a rail baron’s extraordinary wealth to sustain a local economy on the basis of passive income; the non-working segments of the upper middle class, retirees and trust-funders, can do it on their own, just fine. Indeed, further north where the Appalachians fade away into such insignificant bumps as western Vermont’s Mt. Philo, the same sort of economic base is gaining strength, both political and economic, and even though it’s not yet socially acceptable to recognize the phenomenon in speech or print, it’s by far the fastest-growing (as I have documented in earlier columns on this subject) the most vibrant, healthiest, and brightest-future sector of the rapidly-changing Vermont income distribution.

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"If you analyze it, I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. 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. I think that libertarianism and conservatism are traveling the same path." -- Ronald Reagan

"If we would delete the ultimate objective of establishing a global system from the Haj rituals, the remainder would be deeds devoid of a soul." --Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

(Editor’s note: by "global system", he is referring to a global government under Islamic Law)

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Vermont Weekly News Round-Up

Prometheus Redux
Synthetic-fuel Recipe: Mix CO2, water; heat with sun.  Stir gently and drive on, Dude.
From, December 29, 2007

Imagine internal combustion as a reversible process. If CO2 could be recycled into fuel, how would the ever-diligent  bureaucrats calculate the emissions of my truck? As crazy as this sounds, a report from Electronic Engineering Times says scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are building a system for synthesizing fuel. The system will harness sunlight to reverse the process of combustion. The reactor would use reclaimed carbon dioxide emissions to create renewable synthetic fuel by combining the CO2 with water.

Local Developer Barred from Neighborhood Planning Meeting
By John Briggs, Burlington Free Press, December 26, 2007

A local developer was barred last week by a neighborhood activist from attending a meeting at Heineberg Senior Center. The developer said the meeting appeared to be a Neighborhood Planning Assembly meeting. The activist said it wasn't. The activist, Lea Terhune, who lives on Appletree Point Lane in the New North End, is one of a number of people opposed to a proposed development of a senior housing complex on 16 acres close to her house. She has described the project as one that would "warehouse (seniors) in a swamp."

Bill Niquette of Infill Development Group filed an application with the city Dec. 7 describing the 256-unit project. He said he saw Terhune's notice of the Dec. 17 meeting advertised on the Internet Front Porch Forum -- a Web site that has a number of neighborhood-based forums for Burlington. Niquette said the notice seemed to be an announcement of a Neighborhood Planning Assembly meeting where his proposal was one of the topics.

Too Complicated for the Likes of You
From, December 28, 2007

In a supervisory union just a wee bit to the south of mine, there was a meeting  recently whose minutes reflect a very astute question from a member of the public.  The minutes say: "A question arose whether a comparison could be made regarding Central Office costs, as compared with another supervisory union of similar size, etc."

Bingo!  That's called benchmarking.  Businesses do it.  My organization has been promoting EXACTLY that.  This watchful citizen should have felt proud.  But no doubt the answer left the questioner feeling deflated. "This would be difficult to compare," came the reply, "as there are too many variables and differences."

Vermont's Senator Dangerfield At It Again
Caledonian Record Editorial, December 27, 2007

The Rodney Dangerfield of the U.S. Senate, aka Vermont's own Senator Patrick Leahy, is at it again. This time, Vermont's senior U.S. Senator, frustrated that he doesn't get any respect from the National Football League, has decided to bully NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell by threatening to hold antitrust hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Cell Phones Slow Growing Up
From WCAX-TV, December 27, 2007

The kids who communicate the most, the 'high communicators' we call them, are the ones who are least autonomous, least likely to be self-regulating academically and the most likely to have high parental regulation," Hofer said. Hofer calls it an "electronic tether" and says the study proves that cell phones actually delay adulthood in college students. The 2,000-plus students completed online surveys, revealing not only how often they talked to their parents but also what those conversations were about. And Hofer says it's the content rather than the frequency of conversations that's the real problem.

"Some of the parents who call a lot, there's a high sense of control, high sense of conflict with the students," she said. "Parents are micro-managing their kids' lives and I think technology makes that more possible than in the past."

But former student Elena Kennedy says students are also to blame. "I think the students are just as responsible as the parents are," she said. "Students are reaching out to their parents, students are asking for their parents to continue regulating their lives just as much as parents are coming down on their students."

Sunday Sermon
From, December 30 2007

The preacher from the Church of the Status Quo climbs into the pulpit this Sunday morning to lecture Governor Douglas about his nasty habit of bashing Vermont.  In particular, for pointing out that

        "... we are chasing young people out of the state with our high taxes."

Repent, Jim. least there should come to be a

        "perception ... that Vermont is not business-friendly, in part because our state's chief executive won't stop telling people that's the case."

And Lo, look to thy neighbors in Rhode Island, in Maine, in Massachusetts, and yea, even unto New Hampshire and see that they, too, are losing sheep from their flocks.  This plague falls not on Vermont alone. And, so on.  With lots of the kind of stuff that makes one nod off during the middle of sermons and commencement speeches and Sunday morning editorials.

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Freedom Under Fire:
The Global War on Terrorism

2007: A Global Assessment of the Confrontation
By Walid Phares, American Thinker, December 29, 2007

The conflict we call the War on Terror still continues at the end of 2007 and all indications are that its battlefields are expected to spread further, and escalate, in the upcoming year. 

The following is a global assessment of the confrontation that has taken place since 2001, though the systematic war waged by the Jihadi forces against democracies and the free world began at least a decade before 9/11. This evaluation isn't comprehensive or definitive, but a collection of observations related to major benchmarks, directions and projections.

Putin's Cold War
Confrontation with America satisfies a domestic agenda.
By Leon Aron, The Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2007

Creating a sense of a besieged fortress at a time of domestic political uncertainty or economic downturn to rally the people around the Kremlin and, more importantly, its current occupant, is part and parcel of the Soviet ideological tradition, which this regime seems increasingly to admire. 

So between now and at least next spring, Russian foreign policy is likely to be almost entirely subservient to the Putin's regime's authoritarian, ambitious and dicey agenda. This will likely result in more nasty rhetoric from the Kremlin and further damage relations with the West, and the U.S. in particular. 

Benazir Bhutto: Killed by the real Pakistan
By Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, December 27, 2007

The real Pakistan is a breeding ground of Islamic holy war where, for about half the population, the only thing more intolerable than Western democracy is the prospect of a faux democracy led by a woman — indeed, a product of feudal Pakistani privilege and secular Western breeding whose father, President Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, had been branded as an enemy of Islam by influential Muslim clerics in the early 1970s.

The real Pakistan is a place where the intelligence services are salted with Islamic fundamentalists: jihadist sympathizers who, during the 1980s, steered hundreds of millions in U.S. aid for the anti-Soviet mujahideen to the most anti-Western Afghan fighters — warlords like Gilbuddin Hekmatyar whose Arab allies included bin Laden and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the stalwarts of today’s global jihad against America.

The real Pakistan is a place where the military, ineffective and half-hearted though it is in combating Islamic terror, is the thin line between today’s boiling pot and what tomorrow is more likely to be a jihadist nuclear power than a Western-style democracy.

At the Foggy Bottom of the Iraq Story
By Michael Ledeen, The New York Sun, December 27, 2007

 The Washington Post provided a luminously clear picture last week of the ongoing, enormously important, battle over the "meaning" of events in the Middle East war, including its own efforts.

On Wednesday, December 19 tucked away on the fourteenth page of the front sections, the Post reported the Pentagon's analysis of the recent stunning decrease in attacks against Coalition Forces and Iraqis. Did it mean that Iran — widely viewed as a prime mover in support of terrorist groups in Iraq — had voluntarily cut back on its aggressive role in the war? Or did it mean that security forces in Iraq had put the terrorists on the defensive, made their lives more difficult, and thus blocked many of their efforts?

A new Pentagon report has concluded that Iran continues to provide money, training, and weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq, although U.S. commanders previously stated that attacks using lethal bombs linked to Iran have fallen in recent months.

"There has been no identified decrease in Iranian training and funding of illegal Shi'a militias in Iraq," the report, released yesterday, said. ...

This apparently did not sit well, either at Foggy Bottom or over on 15th Street, where the Postniks conduct their operations. They struck back on the front page on Sunday with an interview with the State Department's senior top official on Iraq, David Satterfield:

"The Iranian government has decided 'at the most senior levels' to rein in the violent Shiite militias it supports in Iraq, a move reflected in a sharp decrease in sophisticated roadside bomb attacks over the past several months ...

The Profession of Death
By Barry Rubin, The Jerusalem Post, December 31, 2007

Much will be said about Benazir Bhutto's assassination; little will be understood about what it truly means. I'm not speaking here about Pakistan, of course, as important as that country is, but rather the lesson - as if we needed any more - for that broad Middle East which begins in Pakistan and ends on the Atlantic Ocean coast. 

The following is a true story. Back in 1946, an American diplomat asked an Iranian editor why his newspaper angrily criticized the United States but never the Soviet Union. The Iranian said it was obvious. "The Russians," he said, "they kill people." 

A dozen years earlier, in 1933, Iraqi official Sami Shawkat gave a talk which became one of the most famous texts of Arab nationalism. "There is something more important than money and learning for preserving the honor of a nation and for keeping humiliation at bay," he stated. "That is strength... strength, as I use the word here, means to excel in the Profession of Death." 

What, you might ask, was Shawkat's own profession? He was director-general of Iraq's Ministry of Education. This was how young people were to be taught and directed; this is where Saddam Hussein came from. Seventy-five years later, the subsequent history of Iraq and the rest of the Arab world shows just how well Shawkat did his job. 

September 11 in the United States; the Bali bombing for Australia; the tube bombing for Britain; the commuter train bombing for Spain, these were all merely byproducts of this pathology. The pathology in question is not Western policy toward the Middle East but rather Middle Eastern policy toward the Middle East. 

WHEN I read Shawkat's words as a student, the phrase "profession of death," which gave his article its title, struck me as a pun. On one hand, the word "profession" meant "career." To be a killer - note well that Shawkat was not talking specifically about soldiers, those who fight, but rather those who murder - was the highest calling of all. It was more important than being a teacher, who forms character; more important than being a businessperson, who enriches his country; more important than being a doctor who preserves the life of fellow-citizens. 

2008: A Decisive Year
From The Surfing Conservative, December 30, 2007

Well, 2007 is all but over. We've seen many important developments this year. The most important development of the year was by far President Bush's surge of troops to Iraq, led by General Patraeus, which turned the tide in Iraq, despite all the naysayers in the media and Congress. Insurgent violence in December was 60 percent lower than a year earlier. US casualties have dropped dramatically. Iraqis are returning rather than leaving. Businesses are open in Baghdad. Al-Qa'ida has been driven from its sanctuary in Al Anbar province. A dramatic turn of events to be sure.

But, 2008 looks to be a very decisive year both here in the US and abroad. Many things hang in the balance that will determine the course of events in many places of importance, especially with regard to the global War on Terror. Here are some of the most salient issues that will be decided, one way or another, next year.

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From Elsewhere

A Voice for Freedom
By Matthew Kaminski, The Wall Street Journal, December 29, 2007

Can radio change the world? It used to. On the walls at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty here hang pictures of Solidarity rallies in Poland and a smiling Vaclav Havel. The message isn't subtle or inaccurate: This legendary U.S.-funded broadcaster helped win the Cold War.

The glory days are past at RFE/RL, and for American public diplomacy as a whole. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, when history ended and freedom triumphed (or so it seemed), Munich-based RFE/RL landed on the chopping block. It was saved, on a threadbare budget, partly thanks to then Czech President Havel. In gratitude, he offered cheaper digs in a communist-era eyesore here in Prague that previously housed the Czechoslovak Parliament. Yet in the public mind, the station founded in 1950 by the likes of George Kennan and John Foster Dulles might as well be gone. "We're trying to revive it," says Jeffrey Gedmin, the broadcaster's new president. Doing that, and making the station a valued tool of U.S. foreign policy again, won't be easy.

The Great Fall of China
Beijing isn't the giant we thought it was
By Walter Russell Mead, The Los Angeles Times, December 30, 2007

The most important story to come out of Washington recently had nothing to do with the endless presidential campaign. And although the media largely ignored it, the story changes the world. The story's unlikely source was the staid World Bank, which published updated statistics on the economic output of 146 countries. China's economy, said the bank, is smaller than it thought.

About 40% smaller.

China, it turns out, isn't a $10-trillion economy on the brink of catching up with the United States. It is a $6-trillion economy, less than half our size. For the foreseeable future, China will have far less money to spend on its military and will face much deeper social and economic problems at home than experts previously believed.

Hume, Father of Postmodernism and Anti-rationalism—Part 3
By Reginald Firehammer, The Automist

"Custom, then, is the great guide of human life. It is that principle alone which renders our experience useful to us, and makes us expect, for the future, a similar train of events with those which have appeared in the past. Without the influence of custom, we should be entirely ignorant of every matter of fact beyond what is immediately present to the memory and senses. We should never know how to adjust means to ends, or to employ our natural powers in the production of any effect. There would be an end at once of all action, as well as of the chief part of speculation." [All emphasis mine.]

It may not be immediately apparent to you in what form this terrible concept is today corrupting every aspect of Western Civilization, culture, and society. It is used in the argument, there are no absolute values or principles, there are only customs and every culture and society has different ones, therefore, there is no set of customs that is better than another—this is the root of multiculturalism. Another form of this same mistake is the so-called cultural hegemony of Gramsci and the cultural Marxists.

Bulldozer in the Blue House
By John Gizzi, Human Events, December 26, 2007

After more than a generation of presidents who were either career politicians or retired generals, South Korea for the first time turned to a product of the corporate world as its leader. Raised by a poor Christian family, Lee earned money for commercial high school and Korea University as a popcorn salesman and garbage collector. Starting at an entry level job in Hyundai Construction and Engineering, he rose to become its CEO at age 36, took a company that had 90 employees when he started there to one with 160,000 when he retired 27 years later to go into politics.

Like Mitt Romney, he is a product of the corporate world who became a multi-millionaire before running for office. Like Mike Huckabee, Lee connects with lower-income and blue collar voters by recalling and never forgetting his humble origins. And he even has a bit of the television star image of Fred Thompson: a popular Korean TV series in the 1990’s, Time of Ambition, portrayed Lee as a hero.

In short, were Lee an American politician, he would almost surely be a conservative Republican. And, in the mold of French President Nicholas Sarkozy, the new South Korean President has made no secret of his admiration for America and his desire to be different from a predecessor who more often than not was chilly toward George W. Bush’s White House.

Taxing Records
By Deroy Murdock, National Review, December 27, 2007

The God-O-Rama that the Republican presidential campaign has become has eclipsed the GOP’s signature issue: Taxes. Assuming life still matters here on Earth, not just in the hereafter, it might be useful before balloting begins to evaluate the top three GOP candidates and their executive tax records.

Fred's Message to Iowa Voters
From YouTube Video

But, most of all, I think I know how to talk to the American people about the opposition and the danger their victory would pose to the principles we hold dear. You know in the last debate -- when I was asked the biggest problem with American education -- I had a ready answer: "The NEA." By which I meant the National Education Association -- that highly politicized, Washington-based union that is a hindrance to students as well as to the teachers it claims to represent.

But you know the NEA is not the only problem. Just like its education policy, the Democratic party's foreign policy is heavily influenced by another left-of-center pressure group -- Move which implied that our leading general in Iraq betrayed us, that tells our men and women in uniform that the war they are fighting is lost, and then tries to cut off funds for our troops in the field.

And its social policy is heavily determined by the radically secularist ACLU -- which tries to take God out of the public square and leaps to the legal defense of our Nation's enemies.

You know, when I'm asked which of the current group of Democratic candidates I prefer to run against, I always say it really doesn't matter. Because these days all those candidates, all the Democratic leaders, are one and the same. They’re all NEA, Move, ACLU, Michael Moore Democrats. They’ve allowed these radicals to take control of their party and dictate their course.

So this election is important not just to enact our conservative principles. This election is important to salvage the once-great political party from the grip of extremism and shake it back to its senses. It's time to give not just Republicans but independents and, yes, good Democrats a chance to call a halt to the leftward lurch of the once proud party of working people.

Times Defends Hiring Conservative Kristol
By Michael Calderone, Politico, December 29, 2007

The New York Times’ hiring of Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol to write for its op-ed page caused a frenzy in the liberal blogosphere Friday night, with threats of canceling subscriptions and claims that the Gray Lady had been hijacked by neo-cons. But Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal sees things differently. ...“People who don’t want to hear what their ideological opponents have to say are making a gigantic mistake,” Rosenthal said. 

So Much at Stake in Election
By David Broder, Washington Post/Indy Star, December 31, 2007

When all the fun and games are finished, Americans will be choosing a president for a dangerous time in a world that has more shocks to administer. I hope some of the folks in Iowa and New Hampshire are thinking about that.

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