Daily Archives: August 5, 2014

The Milne Transcripts, part 8: Open mouth, insert foot, BITE DOWN HARD

The final installment in my only apparently endless series of posts from Scott Milne’s disasterrific July 25 interview on WDEV’s Mark Johnson Show, available for your cringing pleasure on Johnson’s podcast site. 

This time, we bring you some of Milne’s most spectacularly inarticulate moments. 

As you may recall, in part 1 of this series I reported Milne’s desire to fill “the need for a, hopefully what the people will judge me as an articulate voice of opposition to that.”

Keep hoping, brother. Milne went on to embody the polar opposite of “an articulate voice” of anything. At times, he sounded more like an unprepared high-schooler bullshitting his way through an essay than a serious, major-party candidate for the state’s highest office.

Milne had a lot of trouble with health care reform. For several minutes, he got confused between Vermont Health Connect (the current system) and single-payer health care (Governor Shumlin’s ultimate goal). But he began his tiptoe through the minefield with this answer to Johnson’s basic question, “New problems with Vermont Health Connect have been revealed this week. What would you have done differently?”

Whether you’re for or against Obamacare, i.e. the Affordable Care Act, it’s a national law and I think the Founding Fathers set up this federal government that enables states to do a lot of things and enables states to be the incubators of best practices. And one of the fundamental principles of our campaign is that the more locally a decision can be made, the better it is. I would trust a decision by a selectboard or a city council over a state legislature when it makes sense, and clearly a decision made by a state legislature over the federal government when it makes sense.

That was just the preamble to a long, discursive response that could be boiled down to “Shumlin bad.” See what I mean about the unprepared high schooler?

But wait, there’s more. Milne repeatedly called the Shumlin Administration “reckless” in establishing Vermont Health Connect — but at the same time, he refused to take a stand for or against single-payer. That triggered this exchange:

Johnson: You called the Governor reckless on health care reform. You said it was too bold a move. How can you possibly go forward with single-payer?

Milne: Um… That’s a pretty, um, now I see why you’ve got your own show, Mark. Um. You know, it’s part of our strategy to get elected to spend August talking about the Shumlin Administration and their lack of management expertise, which is part of leadership, and the reckless ideas that have given them a greater opportunity to mismanage the affairs of the state. Um, I think that, ah, folks in your seats, i.e. the press, have let the Shumlin Administration get away without answering questions for six years. I’m new to this game; I should get 30 days.

Johnson: What questions haven’t the press asked Shumlin about health care?

Milne: I didn’t say you didn’t ask ’em, I said you let ’em get away without answering ’em. He hasn’t answered how he’s going to pay for it.

Johnson: Is that the fault of the press for not getting the answer out of him?

At this point, Milne seemed to realize that he’d just directly insulted his host, a longtime member of the Vermont media on radio and in print, and all of his colleagues in the media. You know, the folks who’ll be reporting on his campaign. And suddenly, his brain sounded Retreat!!!

Milne: No, no. I mean, but, but I’m saying — uh, no, it’s not the way I — I think, I think it’s, um, I think, I think um, it’s a, it’s a great question. I think it is not the fault of the press, but that, um, letting somebody get away with changing the subject when there’s, you know, an elephant in the room that they’re ignoring, uh, we should be reminding people about the elephant and not talking about the distractions.

Ugh. It’s not the press’s fault, but they did let Shumlin get away with it. In other news, the bank was robbed but it’s not the guards’ fault.

I could bring you many more examples of Milne’s inability to produce coherent sentences, but I’ll just skip to the end of the interview. Johnson, taking some pity on his shriveled husk of an interviewee, tossed Milne a softball for his final question: “Tell us about a life experience you’ve had that would convince people that you should be Governor.”

Fasten your seat belts. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride…

Um, well, let’s see. A life experience I’ve had that would convince people I should be Governor. Um, hopefully the opportunity to meet me over the next 60-90 days, have a conversation, realize I’m really not trying to sell you anything. I mean you talked about fundraising, I’m a little uncomfortable calling people asking for money, but, um, I, I think my whole life experience is one of growing up in Vermont, um, been interested in what’s going on, I’ve met every Governor of my lifetime in Vermont, which is one of the great blessings of being in Vermont, it’s sort of like being in New Hampshire every four years, you can meet primary candidates for Presidents if you want to.

Um. Got a good history in Vermont. I’ve got a political science degree. Paid attention to issues. But I guess my whole life is, you know, there’s reasons why maybe you don’t want to vote for me, and, ah, hopefully you realize I’m, uh, in this, ah, not for my personal ego, uh, I don’t know that this is a great, um, experience for my business, uh, but I just felt like, um, somebody needed to step up and point out the real danger to our future that’s, um, to me very, very apparent if we continue down the road we’re on and it, ah, and the Shumlin Administration seems to be doubling down on everything they’ve done over the last four years now and, they start doing an about-face in the next 60 days, my guess is going to be because they read a poll and realized that’s what they had to do.

Yeah, that “life experience” question is a real stumper. Good grief, Johnson gave you a chance to be a relatable human being and garner some sympathy for your quixotic cause. And all you could do was kick it around for a couple of minutes and leave people wondering what the hell you were talking about.

There you go. My eight-part guide to one of the most disastrous interviews in Vermont political history.

Another Republican hopeful steps forward

The industrious (and so far anonymous) folks behind RecruitFour, the drive to mount Republican write-in candidacies for Attorney General, Auditor, Secretary of State and Treasurer, has unveiled the second of its four.

The first, as reported in this space earlier today, is Burlington attorney Shane McCormack, who hopes to snag the AG nomination. The second, just announced, is Nicole Citro for Secretary of State.

Citro is co-owner of an insurance agency in South Burlington, but she’s best known as a public supporter of basing F35 jets at the Burlington airport. She’s the brains behind “Green Ribbons for the F35,” which foments support for the planes and the Vermont Air National Guard. From the Green Ribbons website:

Tie a Green Ribbon  on a tree in front of your home, on a porch railing, on your mailbox… some place where your neighbors will see you support The Vermont Air National Guard with the basing of the F35 in Burlington, Vermont.

The Green Ribbon campaign began in July of 2012 when Nicole Citro, a South Burlington business owner, felt frustrated with the way the debate over the basing of the F35 in Vermont was being waged.  It seemed all the attention was being given to the very small contingency of those in opposition. Yet all around her, Nicole was finding her friends, families and customers were expressing their support for the new jet.  … Much like the yellow ribbons used to show support for the troops in the Gulf War, Nicole determined green ribbons would be used to show support for the Green Mountain Boys.

Her advocacy won’t win her any points in liberal/progressive circles, but hell, they weren’t voting for a Republican anyway. Not that it matters much; even if she does get the nomination, she’ll be an underfunded unknown getting an extremely late start against established incumbent Jim Condos. And frankly, her credentials for the job seem a bit… er… slim. Here’s some of RecruitFour’s pitch:

We all know Nicole as the woman behind the Green Ribbons for the F35. And isn’t the point of elections, choosing individuals with leadership skills? Well just as Jim=Jobs, Nicole=Leadership. Nicole created a movement out of chaos.

Presently Nicole runs The Citro Agency with her sister. Nicole started at the agency 27 years ago and as with most things, she stays committed. … Let’s have Nicole run the Secretary of State’s office as well as she runs The Citro Agency and the Green Ribbons for the F35!

Um, yeah, well, there’s not much valid comparison there. It’s not even apples to oranges — it’s more like one apple to an orange grove. Managing a family business and launching a smallish grassroots organization is hardly adequate prep for becoming Secretary of State. Nonetheless, I applaud her willingness to step forward.

And, I assume, we can expect two more announcements from RecruitFour in the very near future. Perhaps at some point the organizers will step out from behind their nascent Facebook page and discuss their agenda and their plans to turn the Four into credible candidates rather than placeholders. I’m here if you want to talk, and I’ll give you a fair hearing.

Well, somebody’s trying to fill all those empty slots

Last night I was having dinner with The Loyal Spouse, and we were talking about the Vermont Republican Party’s dearth of statewide candidates — no official hopefuls for Attorney General, Auditor, Secretary of State, or Treasurer. I half-jokingly said I was thinking of starting a “Me for AG” write-in campaign — asking my Tens of VPO Readers to consider writing me in for Attorney General on the Republican primary ballot.

I guess somebody out there was listening, because That Very Same Evening, the following showed up in my Twitter feed: Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 3.57.43 AM

That’s the Burlington Republicans, or whoever does their Tweets, soliciting write-in votes for a Burlington lawyer for Attorney General. The Facebook link is to a newly-established FB page for a group called “RecruitFour.” Its purpose is to find Republicans willing to run for those statewide offices.

Guess this puts the kibosh on my own candidacy. But sorry as I might be to lose a chance at some Fred Tuttle-style low comedy, I’m heartened to see somebody — ANYBODY — step up and try to fill this embarrassing shortfall. It’d be a bad thing, really, if a random collection of write-ins (or a coordinated joke write-in campaign, ahem) were able to snag these precious ballot slots. As much as I revel in Republican misfortune, it is one of our major parties, and it has a role to play in the process. Not really a good thing for democracy if the Republican ticket were to include the likes of Yours Truly, Vermin Supreme, Lobsterman, and Annette Smith.

So far, Recruit Four has gotten all the way up to One. McCormack is a very youthful looking attorney with the law firm of Burak, Anderson & Melloni. According to his bio page on the firm’s website, he got his law degree from Boston University in 2000, and was admitted to the Vermont Bar in 2004.

RecruitFour describes Shane-O-Mac’s view of the AG’s office thusly:

Shane would make a great Vermont Attorney General because he believes this office needs to do more to curb our legislature from entering into unwarranted action that only leads to millions in legal costs–money we cannot afford.

Good old Republican thinking, that. Although I doubt that a Republican AG would get very far with that argument in a one-sidedly Democratic Legislature.

Anyhoo, best of luck to Mr.McCormack and RecruitFour. Even if it does force a premature end to my own political ambitions, it’d be good to have some actual Republicans running on the Republican ticket.

Essex Junction’s negative equity

Oh, here’s some good news on IBM’s facility in Essex, courtesy of Bloomberg. 

IBM was willing to pay Globalfoundries Inc. to take on IBM’s money-losing chip-manufacturing operations, according to a person familiar with the process.

IBM was offering about $1 billion to persuade Globalfoundries to take the unit, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations were private. Globalfoundries wanted to be paid about $2 billion, enough to offset the division’s losses, the person said.

Okay, first we’ll posit that IBM’s chip division includes other plants besides Essex, so we can’t blame that plant alone for IBM’s negative equity. But it is a stark reminder that Essex and IBM’s other chip operations are basically dead weight. And now that Globafoundries has withdrawn from the bidding, IBM is desperate to unload the division:

IBM’s willingness to pay underscores the urgency for Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty to get less profitable businesses off the books.

Rometty’s top priority is to reverse recent losses, and hit very ambitious earnings targets by 2015. Er, that’s five months from now.

To stay competitive in manufacturing, IBM may have to invest billions of dollars to keep its plants up to date with newer chip technology. IBM’s East Fishkill location cost $2.5 billion to build.

We’re talkin’ billions of losses and/or risky investments in a market that IBM has basically lost to Intel. When you compare that awful reality to Vermont’s potential offer of a few million bucks in incentives, you see the scope of the problem and the almost complete inability of li’l ol’ Vermont to make a difference. Somehow I don’t think resurrecting the Circumferential Highway or another cut in electricity rates will save this sinking ship. Nor would the more business-friendly “tone” that Scott Milne keeps promising. And it’s hard to see what the Shumlin Administration, or any other administration, could possibly do in the face of such dismal market realities.