Daily Archives: July 21, 2014

Just what we need: another centrist bipartisan group in Vermont

Well, looky what’s cluttering up the ol’ inbox: a press release announcing a new organization, “Vision to Action Vermont,” or, for short, the catchy V2AVT. It’s the brainchild of Republican State Rep. Heidi Scheuermann of Stowe and Democratic State Rep. Paul Ralston of Middlebury.

Two of the more property-rich communities in Vermont, of course. But that may be simple coincidence.

V2AVT’s stated goal is to “put partisanship aside and advocate for balanced, common-sense public policy in Montpelier.” When I hear those words, I immediately think “center-rightists trying to court the moderate vote.” Indeed, it’s not far removed from the surface rhetoric of the Vermont Republican Party, seeking always to “restore balance” and re-establish “common-sense public policy.”

It’s also interesting that Scheuermann has been one of the leading lights of Vermont’s other notable centrist reform organization, Campaign for Vermont. Might also be simple coincidence that Scheuermann founds a new group with a similar mission, not long after she (a) considered a run for Governor until (b) CFV founder Bruce Lisman undercut her potential candidacy with open musings about his own.

On the other hand, the two groups could cooperate rather than competing. V2AVT is a political action committee “that will promote, support and elect strong candidates,” as opposed to CFV’s policy and lobbying focus. But otherwise this looks an awful lot like CFV; their preferred candidates are the kind…

“… who advocate for fiscal responsibility in state spending, and are committed to forming balanced, common-sense public policies that encourage economic prosperity, greater opportunities for Vermont families and businesses, and individual liberties and responsibility.”

Yeah, that sounds exactly like CFV’s right-leaning definition of “nonpartisanship.” That one sentence is full of code words and dog whistles from the lexicon of Republicans seeking moderate support. “Common-sense” in particular is an awfully damn tired phrase in these parts.

Ralston, who’s not running for re-election and thus has no bridges to burn with the Democrats, has been described to me as an outsider in the Democratic ranks. Think Cynthia Browning with a lower profile. And in V2AVT’s press release, he echoed the pseudo-Republican talking points, emphasizing economic growth above all else:

“Heidi and I have worked together for four years to implement policies that foster greater economic activity in Vermont…  We must be sure that those in elected positions address those issues thoughtfully and independently, and with an eye toward the benefits and consequences to our economy.”

Smells like Republican spirit.

So far, the V2AVT website includes only two items — the press release and an introductory statement. Plus some really cheesy masthead graphics. And a biography of “Heidi” (but none for “Paul”) strongly emphasizing her connections to the late Jim Jeffords. The same can be said, of course, for Darcie Johnston, so Scheuermann gets few points for a Jeffords connection that’s ten years in the past.

We shall see what becomes of this attempt at growing a “nonpartisan” movement. It’ll be interesting how much money they put behind Republican candidates as opposed to Dems or Progs. That’ll be a telling sign of their true devotion to nonpartisanship and balance.

 

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Mark Donka steps very close to the edge

Random thoughts on a Monday afternoon in July, the weather is warm, the sun high in the sky… and some people’s thoughts turn apocalyptic.

 

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That cheery idea comes from the brain of the likely Republican nominee for Congress in Vermont. Mark Donka faces two equally rabid conservatives in the GOP primary, but he should have a name-recognition edge from his disastrous 2012 bid to unseat Democrat Peter Welch.  I assume he will win the nomination.

To be fair to Mr. Donka, I really don’t take this Tweet as an authentic wish for a catastrophic attack on America — although he clearly opens the door to such an interpretation. But even if you give him the benefit of the doubt, this is so wrong in so many ways. (For starters, let’s run it by the families of 9/11 victims.) I wouldn’t want anyone who thinks like this anywhere near a position of authority. And of course, he knows deep down that he’s never going to be a Congressman, so he’s free to spout whatever hurtful nonsense he likes.

But let’s leave aside the moral dimensions of this offensive remark, and focus for a moment on the practical.

Did 9/11″light the fuse of change”?  Well, I guess you could say it did. It ushered in the Bush Administration’s two disastrous wars, the building of a huge security apparatus and the exercise of broad new government powers, and the explosion of federal deficits (as Bush chose to cut taxes even while prosecuting two wars).

But considering that Mark Donka describes himself as a limited-government conservative who wants to rein in federal authority, cut spending, and pay off the debt, it’s interesting that he should believe that another 9/11 would promote his kind of change, instead of the precise opposite.

Mark Donka: dangerously wrong. And, assuming victory in the primary, one of the top names on the Vermont Republican ticket. Be proud, VTGOP.

 

Aki Soga takes a stand

In this day and age, it takes some courage for a newspaperman to criticize his readers. But that’s just what Aki Soga did on the Sunday Freeploid’s editorial page.

The Burlington Free Press’ website has been something of a toxic waste dump this week — in particular, the comments below its stories about Vermont possibly playing host to some of the thousands of children who have crossed our southern border and overwhelmed the Border Patrol’s ability to house them and process their cases.

The comments have been full of ignorance, rage, and hysteria. They accused “our crazy politicians” of “flooding the country” with illegal immigrants. They rant about the cost to taxpayers of housing them “forever,” which is a lie. They say the children aren’t children at all, but are drug mules and gang bangers. There were calls for “taking care of our own” first, which is rich considering what these geniuses probably think of social service programs in general.

There was enough bile and hatred that Aki Soga felt compelled to write an editorial entitled “Rise Above the Ugly Immigration Rhetoric,” upbraiding those commenters and making the case for humane treatment. For which I say, good on ya’, Mr. Soga.

At issue is the federal government’s request that Vermont consider housing up to a thousand immigrant children on a temporary basis. And, as Soga states in the third paragraph of his editorial:

The immediate reaction, coming mainly online in response to a Free Press story published Wednesday, dredges up the worst stereotypes while exposing a stark lack of understanding of the situation.

There is nothing to support claims by some opponents that the unaccompanied minors are gang members or have ties to terrorists. There are no reports of the children posing a serious public health threat.

To the commenters’ call for turning the kids back at the border or immediately deporting them without a hearing, Soga points out that the problem is “largely due to a 2008 law targeting human trafficking — passed with bi-partisan support and signed by President George W. Bush. The law requires children from Central America be given an immigration hearing before they can be returned to their home countries.”

He closes by calling for “level heads” and rejects “fears driven by ignorance of xenophobia,”  and asserts that “Vermonters are better than that.”

And how did the Freeploid commentariat react to Soga’s appeal to reason? Let’s check the comments.

“Joey Miller,” citing a post on the far-right-wing Judicial Watch, invokes the spectre of gangs and drugs:

Bringing a thousand “children” — many if not most of whom will be teenagers — from the most gang-infested murderous communities in the Americas into a small rural state with a serious heroin problem developing WILL result in a significant influx of gang violence here.

“Rich Celia” opts for the simple and straightforward:

Send them back.

“Bill Sprano” cites his standard of justice — which conveniently ignores the 2008 law — that’s LAW — requiring a hearing before deportation. And also ignores the fact that these children aren’t in the country illegally; they presented themselves at the border and were taken into custody according to, ahem, the law. But don’t let that stop Mr. Bill.

…these people are entering the country Against Our Laws! and they are aware it is against the law. This makes them Criminals by definition.

… Crime is Crime and we need to stop pussyfooting around the immigration issues and close the border with whatever force required, and send back as quickly as possible every illegal immigrant we can.

“Tim Vincent” seconds Mr. Sprano’s screed, and adds,

But you know…..It’s not about the law, it’s about creating more Democrat voters.

Yeah, because Obama’s big plot here is to assimilate all these children and turn them into freeloading, welfare-loving Democrats.

And Mr. Smook Banng (which is not at all a pseudonym) makes the rhetorical leap from temporary housing to permanent residency:

what… if hundreds of children came to Burlington, they end up staying for years (or longer), have to be enrolled in the public schools, and the school system needs to hire hundreds more employees to handle all the non-English learners? At what point do you become sympathetic to the plight of the taxpayers[?]

“Hundreds more employees”? At the very most, Vermont would provide temporary housing for no more than 1,000. Even if every one of those chlidren stayed, would the district really need “hundreds more employees”? Only in the fever dreams of Smook Banng.

And in fact, these children are all in custody. There’s a backlog in the system, mandated by LAW, to process their cases. Many will be sent home after due process. Some will be reunited with families already in the U.S. Few if any will remain in Vermont.

To be fair, there were a few voices of reason in the cesspit of the Freeploid’s comment section. But they were outnumbered by the angry trolls dwelling under that journalistic bridge.

Again, congratulations to Aki Soga for making a strong case for thoughtful consideration of the issue. And you trolls can get back under your bridge anytime.