Monthly Archives: July 2014

This was predictable, and should not be mistaken for good news

In a classic late-Friday newsdump, “sources” have slipped word to Bloomberg News that an impasse has been reached in IBM’s negotiations to sell its chip manufacturing arm to Globalfoundries Inc. “Globalfoundries… made an offer that was rejected by IBM as too low,” says Bloomberg, which called the failure of the talks “a setback for IBM Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty.”

She’s been in a race to meet 2015 earnings goals at all costs — most notably, by cutting the workforce and shedding any units that can’t generate profits. The strategery being, I guess, “if we keep shrinking and shrinking, we’ll grow.”

Like diving into a black hole and coming out the other side, eh?

I can believe Globalfoundries was lowballing IBM, since the word all along was that GF was not interested in IBM’s physical plants (including Essex Junction), just its engineers and intellectual property. If GF didn’t want the big costly plants, of course it would undervalue the package.

And besides, if GF wants the engineers and the brains, it sure doesn’t need to buy ’em from IBM. It can just go ahead and recruit, which is exactly what it’s been doing. Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz:

Globalfoundries… has announced in recent weeks that it has hired several top employees from IBM’s Essex Junction and East Fishkill, N.Y., plants. The company has also placed employment ads in papers serving those regions — including the Burlington Free Press.

Any IBMers who want to continue their careers must realize that GF is a better bet than IBM. It means moving, which isn’t for everyone; but GF should be able to entice quite a few people. After all, IBM has become a spectacularly awful place to work — with the constant threat of layoffs and the ever-tightening pressure to produce, produce, produce.

Now, I’m sure there’s some “intellectual property” under IBM’s control that GF would like to have. But naturally it wouldn’t offer anywhere near the amount of money IBM wants. It doesn’t need to buy the IBM assets; it just needs to pilfer the brainpower. Which it should be able to do easily, since its “competition” is the doom chamber of IBM employment.

And as usual, IBM is leaving state and local officials completely in the dark. Get a load of this convoluted statement from Commerce Secretary Pat Moulton about the Bloomberg report:

“I don’t know what that means — whether that’s good news or bad news, but I have not heard anything officially or unofficially,” she said. “Obviously having a company remain here and remain viable is important, so it was hard to know what a Globalfoundries deal — if there was one on the table — would have meant.”

I call that a cotton-candy statement: a teaspoon of substance whipped into a furious froth of nothing. It’s also a measure of the value IBM places on its relationships in Vermont: zero. IBM’s been keeping us completely in the dark for years.

If Globalfoundries was truly uninterested in IBM’s physical plant, a purchase agreement would have been bad news for Vermont. But the collapse of the deal shouldn’t be taken as a good sign. IBM will be even more desperate to spin off the unit. Or simply wind it down. And would any other potential purchaser be interested in an Essex plant that GF “had placed little or no value on… because [it is] too old”?

Two and a half years ago on Green Mountain Daily, I wrote that we should be prepared for IBM’s exit from Vermont within three years. And that it wouldn’t be Governor Shumlin’s fault, at all; it’s a result of IBM’s short-sighted, profit-chasing binge of outsourcing, downsizing, and stock repurchasing. IBM’s domestic workforce has shrunk dramatically in the past decade, and is continuing to do so. Essex is a rubber ducky in the IBM bathtub, the plug has been pulled, and we’re all spinning the drain.

My three-year prophecy is likely to miss, but my larger point remains: don’t expect IBM to stick around much longer. And don’t blame Governor Shumlin when it leaves.

It’s time to grab the State Senate by the ankles, flip it upside down, and give it a damn good shake

Poor, poor Democratic State Senators. They face such a difficult decision.

As VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, they’ll have to choose between their longtime colleague, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, and his Progressive challenger Dean Corren. The usually reliable but somewhat clubby Sen. Dick McCormack:

Then the question is who would you cross party lines for? Phil is a friend I’ve worked with for years, work well with. And Dean, the public financing is very admirable I have tended to agree with him on most issues so for a lot of us I think it creates a real dilemma.

Okay, wait. I’ll admit I don’t have a dog in the tired old Dem/Prog slapfights — I wish they’d each get over themselves — but McCormack thinks that supporting a Progressive and supporting a Republican are equally tough? C’mon now, which party is more closely aligned with yours on policy questions? You’re honestly having trouble choosing between the guy who’s in line with your party’s biggest policy priority (single-payer health care) and whose very campaign highlights your party’s concern with money in politics, and the guy whose party is opposed to single-payer and is uninterested in campaign finance reform?

As a nonaligned liberal, allow me to throw up in my mouth a little.

As for throwing up a lot, let’s turn to Senate Penitent Pro Tem John Campbell, who has already endorsed Scott’s candidacy. His knickers are in a knot over the prospect that a non-Democrat could become the Democratic candidate by winning the nomination on primary write-in votes:

“[To] say ‘oh well I’m  going to really run under this Party but then I’m going to try to take the nomination by getting a bunch of people to write in my name. I just think it’s a flaw in the system.”

Er, John. C’mere.  Closer. Yeah, right there.

[flicks Senatorial nose]

A couple of obvious points. First, if you wanted a Democrat to run for Lieutenant Governor, your party should have gone out and FOUND somebody. It’s your own party’s fault that there’s an appealing blank space on the primary ballot. Second, if Corren doesn’t win the Democratic nomination on write-ins, the most likely winner is Phil Freakin’ Scott.

But I guess that wouldn’t outrage Campbell because Phil Scott is a friend of his. In truth, John Campbell has no principle in play; he has a friendship and, as a very conservative Democrat, a profound aversion to Progressives.

Which gets back to the title of this post. Maybe it’s just me, but it makes no sense that a Senate that’s two-thirds Democratic defers so often to Phil Scott and fails so frequently to support solid liberal legislation.

It makes no sense to me that clubby insiders who value friendship over party — John Campbell and Dick Mazza, come on down! — are allowed to occupy such positions of power in the Senate.

So, after the election, could we please have some new leadership? Get rid of that stale air? Pretty please?

The boy in the bubble

During Scott Milne’s campaign kickoff this week, former Governor Jim Douglas hailed the travel agent/real estate developer as a person “outside the bubble, unaffected by the stale air of the State House.” At the time, I noted the irony in those words coming from a man who lived practically his entire adult life in that very bubble. Indeed, without a doubt Jim Douglas himself produced a substantial portion of that “stale air.”

(Photo by the late great Peter Freyne.)

(Photo by the late great Peter Freyne.)

But enough subtly-worded fart jokes. I thought it was worthwhile to hammer home the point in more detail… after I make a brief detour to Douglas’ other unintentional laugh line: he invoked that discredited VTGOP talking point about Vermont getting an “F” in a “study” of friendliness toward small business.

Oh no he di’nt.

Oh yes he di’id.

As I’ve said on more than one previous occasion, this was an unscientific, mass-mailing survey conducted by the small-business website Thumbtack.com. It’s been done in each of the past three years. But Vermont was only included in the survey results for the first year, 2012, because in the two following years, not enough Vermont businesspeople responded to the survey.

Vermont’s “F” was from the 2012 study. Which was taken (1) at a much earlier point in our recovery from the Great Bush Recession, when things were lousy for almost everybody, (2) only months after Tropical Storm Irene devastated much of Vermont and derailed Governor Shumlin’s agenda, and (3) only a year and some change into Shumlin’s time as governor.

So that “F” could be credited as much to Jim Douglas as to Peter Shumlin. And it doesn’t take into account any of Shumlin’s subsequent efforts to make Vermont a better place for entrepreneurs.

In short, the grade should not be taken seriously as a measure of Vermont’s business atmosphere. Which didn’t stop Douglas from perpetuating the lie.

Okay, now let’s take a closer look at the Douglas resume, shall we?

He was elected to the House in 1972 at the age of 21, only months after graduating from college. He served in the Legislature until 1979, when he became one of Dick Snelling’s top aides. A year later, he ran for Secretary of State and won; he’d go on to serve six terms.

In 1992, he lost to Pat Leahy for U.S. Senate. For two years after that, as far as I can tell, he was out of government service.

Then in 1994 he ran for Treasurer and won. He served until 2002 when he was elected Governor. He served four terms and retired in 2010. Well, technically, January 2011.

That’s 38 years of his adult life, minus two years, giving us a total of 36 years at the public trough.

No wonder the Wall Street Journal called him a “career politician.” 

The Journal’s 2011 article took Douglas as an example of the difficulties older executives face when embarking on a second career:

Finding a fresh pursuit in midlife is never easy. The challenge looms especially large for top managers with experience in just one industry, however. Mr. Douglas has spent his entire adulthood in politics.

All right, now let’s look at Peter Shumlin, the guy who, I suppose, is Douglas’ exemplar of a person who’s lived too long in the bubble.

Shumlin was appointed to a vacancy in the Legislature in 1990, and served one and a half terms. He then served in the Senate for ten years. He ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2002 and lost.

After that, he spent four years in his family’s business, Putney Student Travel. In 2006 he returned to the State Senate, where he served until being elected Governor in 2010.

From 1990 to the present, that’s 24 years. Minus the four years outside government, that’s 20 years breathing the stale air inside the bubble.

20 for Shumlin. 36 for Douglas.

Now look, Scott Milne’s status as an outsider with a fresh perspective is a respectable enough talking point if you like that sort of thing. But Jim Douglas is the worst possible person to deliver the message. Coming from his mouth, it was completely hypocritical.

A new nominee for the Most Dangerous Republican award

Last December, around the time of the fabled Chris Christie fundraiser for the Vermont Republican Party (projected take, a quarter mill or so; actual take, less than 50K as far as I can tell from the party’s financial filings), I posited that there was one figure in the downtrodden VTGOP who could pose a threat to the Democrats as a statewide candidate. It wasn’t Phil Scott; it was the closest thing we have to a Chris Christie — a short-tempered, get-things-done, “willing to work with both sides” kind of guy named Thom Lauzon, Republican Mayor of Barre. 

I still think he’s a solid potential statewide candidate, should he ever choose to climb the ladder. But another name has been suggested to me, and it’s an excellent choice. In fact, offhand I’d have to say he’s an even better Most Dangerous Republican than Lauzon.

I’ll give you the name, but first it’s Story Time, kids!

Starting in 2002, Craig Benson spent two disastrous years as Republican Governor of New Hampshire. While he was Governor, he appointed a little-known lawyer named Kelly Ayotte to the post of Attorney General. (In NH, the AG is an appointed position with a five-year term.) By the time her first term had come to an end,  John Lynch was Governor. He was a Democrat but he liked to play the bipartisan game, so he nominated her for a second term.

Before she served out that term, she resigned to run for U.S. Senate. And she won. And she’s now the only Republican member of NH’s four-member Congressional delegation.

The key moment in her ascendancy was her renomination by John Lynch. If he’d appointed a Democrat and sent her packing as a one-term Benson functionary, she would’ve had a much harder time continuing her political career. I firmly believe that there would never have been a Senator Kelly Ayotte if not for John Lynch being too clever for his own good.

Thus endeth the lesson. Back to Vermont, and the new nominee for Most Dangerous Republican.

Neale Lunderville.

At one time, he was the chief hothead on Jim Douglas’ team. He and Jim Barnett, who’s gone on to a very unsuccessful career as a balls-to-the-wall campaign manager, were dubbed “the Nasty Boys” by the late great Peter Freyne for their skilled knifework in Douglas’ campaigns.

Since then, little Neale has grown up — and gotten two great big helping hands from Democratic officeholders. Governor Shumlin chose him to be recovery czar after Tropical Storm Irene, and now Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger has engineered his hiring as interim head of the Burlington Electric Department.

In the process, the Nasty Boy has acquired a solid nonpartisan reputation as the go-to guy when trouble strikes. He’s been chosen by not one, but two, top Democrats to take on big administrative challenges.

Okay, here’s a hypothetical for you. In the next biennium, the Shumlin administration will unveil its plan for single-payer health care. It’ll be big, expensive, controversial, and a tough sell, even in a lopsided Democratic legislature. Win or lose, Shumlin will expend a lot of his political capital in the fight.

He also faces the whole issue of school funding and organization. Whatever he and the legislature do, more enemies will be made and more people will be alienated.

At best, Shumlin would enter 2016 having fought two extremely tough battles. Even if he wins on single-payer, he’ll be in that very dangerous period between passage and implementation, where everybody will be aware of the cost and the controversy but won’t have experienced any benefit from the new system. And if the implementation process for single payer OR school reform is difficult, contentious, or includes any stumbles, the Governor’s managerial reputation will take more hits.

And now comes, on a shiny white horse, Neale Lunderville.

Well, Lunderville 2.0, New and Improved with a track record for working under Democratic executives and managing the biggest challenges. In short, he’s Vermont’s Mr. Fix-It. The Governor won’t be able to depict Lunderville as a partisan ideologue because, after all, he chose the guy to manage the aftermath of Irene. At the same time, Lunderville will have solid Republican credentials from his tenure in the Douglas Administration. He’ll be more appealing to the conservative base than a Phil Scott will ever be.

The VTGOP won’t be in any shape to challenge the Democrats’ overall  dominance in 2016. But Lunderville could do what Scott Milne can’t do and Randy Brock couldn’t: topple Governor Shumlin.

Farfetched or believable? Just remember, if it happens, you can thank Peter Shumlin and Miro Weinberger for making Governor Lunderville a possibility.

Milne: I will not vilify Shumlin, but he’s a brazen, bullying, radical ultra-progressive

Warm day in downtown Barre. Small crowd, mainly retirement age (Yr. Obdt. Svt. included) gathering on the front lawn of the Aldrich Public Library. The occasion? Scott Milne’s long-awaited launch of his gubernatorial candidacy.

Phil Scott was there. Jim Douglas was there. My frenemy Senator Joe Benning was there.

Who wasn’t there? Well, as far as I could tell, Barre’s Republican Mayor Thom Lauzon wasn’t there. And he usually manages to make himself conspicuous wherever the cameras gather. Interesting. I seem to recall Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz reporting that Lauzon and his wife donated $2,000 to the Governor’s campaign.

Checking… yes, yes he did.

Still, the front section of the library, comfortably air-conned, was full of Milne supporters and the legions of media desperately looking for a sure-fire story during the summer slump.

Milne was introduced by Douglas, who gave Mr. Bunny a hearty endorsement after delivering what sounded very much like a statement for his own candidacy. (Must’ve made a few hearts flutter in the Republican audience and wish for What Might Have Been; Douglas is their Beau Ideal.)

Douglas lauded Milne’s experience in “the real world” of business and commerce, a person “outside the bubble, unaffected by the stale air of the State House.” That’s rich, coming from a guy who spent virtually his entire adult life in that very bubble.

And then the Man of the Hour stepped to the plate, promising “a campaign of ideas” and said that he would “not be vilifying the Governor.”

In the following few minutes, Milne used these words in direct or indirect reference to the incumbent: doubting that Shumlin’s course is “responsible and realistic,” calling the Governor’s agenda “ultra-progressive,” referring to Shumlin as “headstrong about the need for exuberance and rapid, radical change,” characterizing his Administration as one of “unbridled experimentation,” and decried the use of “bullying tactics” and “brazen displays of power.”

But he won’t be “vilifying” the brazen, bullying, headstrong, radical, ultra-progressive Governor. Bwahahaha.

By contrast, Milne depicted himself as moderate, “cautious,” “responsible,” and reluctant to make any wholesale changes. He said “cautious” a bunch of times.

The strategy, thus, becomes clear: in order to capture the center, Milne will go all-out to portray Shumlin as a fire-breathing radical. Without, of course, vilifying him in any way.

It’s hard to see this working. Shumlin has too many centrist positions, spends far too much time courting the center, and caters to the business community far too often to be convincingly marginalized as an “ultra-progressive.” (When he said that, I could almost hear the guffaws exploding from Prog Central: “Shumlin a progressive? You must be joking!”)

Scrum!

Scrum!

After his speech, his crew made their way to the Elks Club next door for a hamburger lunch. It took Milne a while to get there; he first had to submit himself to his inaugural media scrum. The key point for me was the inevitable exchange about Act 250, given his frustration and anger over the regulatory troubles facing his dream project, the mixed-use Quechee Highlands development. It’s run afoul of the regional Act 250 board and the town of Hartford.

Milne claimed that he is “very supportive of the concept of Act 250,” but then accused Shumlin of “hijacking something into a political ideology rather than a practical program that needs to be applied more pragmatically.”

Not exactly grammatical, but you get his drift. But when asked for specifics on how the Administration had hijacked the process, Milne came up short of the mark:

“I think if you look between the poor management at the Agency of Commerce over the last four years, very poor management at the Agency of Natural Resources, there’s very evidential answers right there.”

Not much meat on those bones, is there? He charges the Administration with “hijacking” the process — an aggressive power grab — and all he can offer as proof is a nonspecific charge of “poor management.”

Hey, a travel agent ought to know that it takes positive, organized action to hijack anything. You don’t do it by accident.

All in all, it was a happy event for the true believers. But if this is the tack Milne plans on taking, he’s gonna get shellacked by the Governor.

Profiles in Courage, Dick Sears Edition… again

It may be the offseason for lawmaking, but there’s still some occasional activity under the Golden Dome. Yes, even aside from the well-chronicled bats in our communal belfry.

Yesterday brought a hearing of the Joint Corrections Oversight Committee. On its agenda: State Auditor Doug Hoffer’s audit of the Sex Offender Registry, which found an 11% rate of “critical errors.” Which triggered a requirement in state law that the Registry must receive a “favorable” audit before the state can start posting home addresses of offenders. Which triggered yesterday’s committee meeting.

Okay, what do you think? Is an 11% “critical error” rate is a “favorable” result?

I thought not.

According to VTDigger’s Laura Krantz, most of the committee also thought not.

Rep. Sandy Haas, P/D-Rochester, said the committee should put in writing that the audit is not favorable. Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, agreed.

Seems simple enough. Ah, but then Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Sears runbled into action. Or should I say, inaction.

Sears… said to admit the audit is not positive could create fodder for a lawsuit from a defense attorney. He also worried a judgment would be binding and perhaps require another audit before the addresses can go online.

Dick Sears, who gets a lot of credit in State House circles for being a wise old hand, does this a lot. If any idea comes up that might possibly create some legal bills for the state, he puts his foot down. And so, the Joint Committee “declined to pass judgment” on whether the audit was favorable. Thus ignoring plan old common sense and, if you ask me, the requisites of justice.

Because although the vast majority of the problems uncovered in the audit have been fixed, the system remains flawed and is virtually certain to start pumping out fresh errors.

And what if we start publishing home addresses and a non-offender winds up on the list complete with home address? Or if an offender’s listed home address is wrong? Those are critical errors that could lead to disrupted lives, communities in turmoil, or even vigilante justice.

I don’t know where the Legislature goes from here. There’s clearly an appetite for posting home addresses, but there’s an obvious need to make the Registry as mistake-proof as humanly possible before that step is taken. And there probably isn’t much of an appetite for a better system that’d probably cost more money. So I guess they’ve bravely kicked this can down the road. Thanks to the “leadership” of good old Dick Sears.

Is the ground buckling under Phil Scott’s feet?

Lately, there have been signs aplenty of passengers taking their leave of the Good Ship Moderate Republicanism, helmed since last November by Captain Phil Scott and first mate “Super Dave” Sunderland. Or maybe Scott’s the admiral and Sunderland is captain, whatever works.

Scott and friends came away from last November’s VTGOP meeting with a rather conditional mandate to broaden the party’s base. Make it more attractive to moderate and undecided voters, and the pragmatic business types who’ve made their peace with the Democrats under Governor Shumlin.

It seemed a promising direction. Indeed, the only possible direction, since the Vermont electorate wasn’t suddenly going to turn Texas red. The conservative VTGOP of “Angry Jack” Lindley et al. had hit a glass ceiling at about 35% of the vote.

But it was going to be a tough job for Scott, previously not known for his willingness to tackle tough jobs. He was, by dint of his elective office, the only person who could credibly take it on; but he also, by dint of his personality, seemed unsuited for the task. And even if he rose to the occasion, the odds seemed to be against him. Shumlin and company have done a really good job of co-opting the center, and it’d be a hell of a job for Scott to win back all those voters and supporters without moving so far to the center that he completely alienates the easily alienated conservative base.

It’s only been about nine months, and the Good Ship Moderate Republicanism looks to be taking on water. Recent signs include:

Bruce Lisman’ decision to forego any sort of alignment with the VTGOP, even after he stepped away from leadership of Campaign for Vermont, the self-described nonpartisan policy shop.

Lisman’s brief and pointless flirting with a run for Governor this spring, which lasted just long enough to force State Rep. Heidi Scheuermannf (a Lisman ally) out of the race.

The continued activity of Campaign for Vermont. Its members do include people from across the political spectrum, but the group still tilts substantially toward the right. And many of its key supporters are the kind of people who used to be mainline Republicans.

Roger Allbee’s decision to run for State Senate as a Democrat. The former Douglas Administration cabinet functionary and self-described liberal Republican could have been a powerful ally for Scott. Instead, he’s hoping for a place on the other ticket.

— Former State Rep. Oliver Olsen’s decision to run again for his old seat, but this time as an Independent. In the 2011-12 biennium, Olsen was one of the more vocal and effective members of the House Republican minority; this time, he seems to believe that he’s better off without the “R” next to his name.

— Last week’s VTGOP campaign finance report which, as I reported in this space, was truly horrific. A quarterly fundraising total — during a campaign season, mind you —  of only $7,500. The bulk of that came from a few party insiders. And over the past year, the VTGOP has drawn virtually no small donors, a sign that so far it’s failing to reach the grassroots. In spite of Sunderland’s repeated claims that the people of Vermont are waking up to the failures of the Shumlin Administration. Well, they haven’t awakened enough to write any checks, that’s for sure.

What that dismal report means is that the VTGOP has lost some of its hard-core, ideologically driven donors, but has yet to even begin to attract a new donor base. Nor has it even begun to convince former Republican stalwarts to come back home.

— And finally, this week’s formation of Vision to Action Vermont (V2AVT), a “bipartisan” PAC aimed at supporting candidates who are focused on improving Vermont’s economy. Its co-founder is Scheuermann herself, and her decision to create this independent group is an interesting one. You’d think that Scheuermann would be one of Phil Scott’s most trusted lieutenants, with a bright future in Republican politics. But as with Allbee and Olsen, she has apparently decided that the Republican brand is too toxic to advance her goal of electing lawmakers who are focused on economic issues.

Take all these events together, and it seems like the Republican center-right is fragmenting in all directions rather than coming together behind Scott and Sunderland. That, I think, is a very bad sign for Scott’s effort to broaden his party. The people who might have been part of a new, broader, more vibrant VTGOP are channeling their energy in other directions.

It may seem unfairly early to declare Scott’s project a failure. After all, it’s been less than a year, and it took quite a few years for the VTGOP to get so badly screwed up. But Scott’s party has no resources and few candidates; if he fails to make any headway in Legislative elections, a substantial portion of the party will be ready and eager to unseat Scott’s team and return the party to its former course: down an ideological dead end.

The price we pay for cheap crap

Two news items on a single theme: Big Mac Mystery Meat, and toxic baubles.

Second one first, ‘cuz there’s a direct Vermont connection. Two-Fisted™ Attorney General Bill Sorrell has filed suit against Dollar Tree, purveyor of cheap crap and nothing but cheap crap, “for selling jewelry that contains toxic substances.”

What’s more, DT is a repeat offender. Sorrell says the bottom-barrel retailer is in violation of an earlier agreement to stop selling jewelry with unacceptably high levels of lead and cadmium. Charming. Sorrell’s office says the chain has sold “over 30,000 individual items… through its stores in Barre, Bennington, Burlington, Derby/Newport, and Rutland.”

The original 2010 settlement arose from what the AG’s office calls “a growing awareness… that many products imported from China and other countries contained toxic substances.” And the release adds, not at all reassuringly, that

“…although Dollar Tree routinely requires the testing of products it purchases for resale to consumers, its testing protocol does not ensure that all items of jewelry sold in its stores are free of toxic substances.”

Uh-huh. They require testing, but their testing program “does not ensure” the safety of their customers. I guess if they had a really thorough testing program, that’d interfere with the free and open flow of cheap crap. Which probably violates Dollar Tree’s constitutional right of free speech. Heck, if money is speech, isn’t a commercial transaction also speech?

On to Mystery Meat. McDonald’s, purveyor of oddly gray “hamburgers,” is portraying itself as “a bit deceived” over an audit of a Chinese meat supplier. The Daily Mail reports that Shanghai Husi Food was shut down after “a TV report showed workers apparently picking up meat from the factory floor, as well as mixing meat beyond its expiration date with fresh produce.” Yum, yum!

Mickey D’s CEO Don Thompson says “We are no longer serving product from the primary facility there that has the challenges and the issues.” I should hope so.

But that’s not the bad news. The bad news is this, from CNBC:

McDonald’s and many other food companies rely on third parties to perform audits to check whether facilities are complying with food safety rules and other regulations. It is not uncommon for suppliers at the center of food safety scandals to have received high marks on their audits.

Apparently, a whole lot of weak links in our food chain is the hidden price we pay for Cheap McCrap. And cheap pizza and “chicken,” since KFC and Pizza Hut have also served meat from Husi’s factory floor and compost heap.

At least they didn’t find elevated levels of lead or cadmium. Then again, how can we be sure they’re testing for that?

Oh, and let’s add Item 2.1 to my list: the opening of Pier 1 in South Burlington, bringing a whole world of cheap crap to one convenient location. Not to mention screwing its workers:

Long-time Williston resident Jeffery Fucci… will manage the new store, leading a team of approximately 35-40 associates. Associate hours fluctuate based on the needs of the business and the season.

That’s right, folks. All the “associates” will see their hours fluctuate “based on the needs of the business.” Yay, more crappy jobs for Vermont!

The Bailey Do

do, N.

1. (chiefly dialect) fuss, ado

3. a festive get-together: affair, party

5. (British) cheat, swindle

(from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary)

I guess Todd Baley’s parents are out of town, because he’s throwing a big party at their Middlesex home this month. Shades of “Risky Business,” in more ways than one.

The Bailey Do is a fundraiser for the least deserving of Vermont political causes, Peter Shumlin’s bulging campaign warchest. Which already contains three times as much money as he’s likely to spend this season. 

The host, Todd Bailey, is an acquaintance of mine and head of the (so-called) white-hat lobbying shop, KSE Partners. One of KSE’s chief causes is health care reform. And, as VTDigger reports, one of Bailey’s co-hosts is Tess Taylor, former House Democratic Whip, now head of Vermont CURE, a single-payer advocacy group and a client of (wait for it…) KSE Partners. And, the top priority in the next biennium will be hammering out the details of a single-payer health care system.

Comfy-cozy.

Bailey contends there’s nothing to see here, keep moving along.

“Campaigns are funded through private donations and every lobbyist in the state of Vermont is going to participate in some type of fundraising activity,” he said Friday. “This is how the system functions. We’re simply exercising our constitutional rights.”

Yeah, just like Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson.

In fact, Bailey is right: as the system is currently structured, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Bailey and Taylor fundraising for the Governor they hope to work with on the single biggest issue before the Legislature.

It might look bad, in a Captain Renault sort of way. But it’s perfectly legal, and Bailey et al. are exercising their constitutional rights as delineated by, ahem, the Roberts Court.

Liberal stalwart, retired lobbyist, and ass-kickin’ bluesman Bob Stannard agrees with Bailey: nothing to see here.

“You can treat them right and hope you get a little more time with them, but if the ideas you’re pushing are out of sync with theirs, it’s not going to happen,” Stannard said.

And then he added the laugh line of the entire article:

If other people feel their voice isn’t being heard, Stannard suggested they throw their own fundraisers.

Mmm-hmm. That’ll get ’em on Shumlin’s short list. Sorry, Bob, but that’s just weak.

Also making a Captain Renault-style appearance in the Digger story is Brady Toensing, vice chair of the VTGOP and a veteran of the inside-the-Beltway fandango. He is Shocked, Shocked that fundraising is going on:

The situation is illustrative of “just how farcical all the complicated campaign finance and lobbying rules and regulations really are.”

Well, your dander is conveniently raised, Mr. Toensing. I presume you’re just as outraged when conservative causes and businesses pump hundreds of millions into SuperPACs?

Nnnnehh, didn’t think so.

Back to the Bailey Do. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next legislative session when VPIRG pushes its chosen issue of the year — campaign finance reform, including bans on corporate and lobbyist contributions to candidates.

Because the Democrats are fond of complaining about the influence of money in politics… except when it benefits them. And the Bailey Do is perfectly legal… within a system that desperately needs a makeover and new limits on what’s “perfectly legal.”

Bailey and Stannard did their best to justify a system that works for them because the Democrats rule our roost. And Toensing is Shocked, Shocked because his party is on the short end of this particular stick. If he was able to attract the attention of the Golden Dome’s power brokers, I’m sure he’d be fine with their exercise of constitutional rights as expressed in generous check-writing.

I don’t really think that backroom deals will be made chez Bailey. No real corruption. But it looks and smells bad. It’s the kind of thing that makes people feel shut out of the process, and give up on trying to influence their officeholders.

Besides, why the Hell does Shumlin need more loot?

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.