Daily Archives: October 13, 2014

If you can’t grow the grassroots, lay down some astroturf

Campaign for Vermont, now firmly in the post-Lisman era — organizationally, at least; I have a feeling that Bruce is still writing most of the checks — is chugging along, trying to find ways to engage The People in its putatively centrist agenda.

Its latest effort? The Legislator Outreach Tool. It’s a way to take a basic template Letter To Your Lawmaker, make whatever changes you want, click a button, and have it sent by email to the legislator of your choice. Once it’s been vetted by CFV to make sure you haven’t written anything “profain (sic), illegal, threatening or otherwise inappropriate.” A screenshot is below.

The subject of the letter is high property taxes, and the basic letter includes CFV’s talking points on the subject: high per-pupil spending, rising taxes, “a system with little incentive for efficiency.” The letter specifically mentions a Campaign for Vermont report. And I wonder, based on CFV’s past practices, if using the Tool gets you on CFV’s member list. And if the letter arrives in the lawmaker’s inbox with some sort of CFV identifier attached.

Maybe I’m being overly suspicious. But the letter is, at best, a two-edged sword. It facilities contact with your lawmaker (you don’t even have to know your lawmaker’s name to send a letter!) — but on an issue of CFV’s choice, including a reference to CFV and a list of its canned talking points. Look at it one way, it’s an attempt to foster democracy. Look at it another way, it’s an attempt to reinforce CFV’s agenda and strengthen its profile at the State House.

The truth, I think, is somewhere in between.

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I’ve been there

Easy targets of the week: the Hardwick couple who ended a disabled boy’s life by pouring vodka into his IV bag. The overweight, slovenly-looking couple, now charged with second-degree murder. They’re fat, they’re ugly (as all the quick-draw commenters on the WCAX website point out), and they killed a helpless boy.

Sorry, I can’t join the multitude in crying bloody murder.

Because I’ve been there.

I’ve been in a situation where someone I loved was in a severely disabled condition. Not life-threatening, but no chance of meaningful recovery either. I know what it’s like to see complete helplessness and unending suffering, to watch the days and weeks and months and years pass by with no change and no hope. To look into the future and see more of the same, unending.

To be a caretaker, and watch the clock moving in slow motion. To have nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing meaningful to offer except my presence, for whatever the hell that was worth.

And yeah, I’ve asked myself “what’s the point?” I’ve thought that a quick, hopefully painless death would have been the best possible thing for all concerned.

I never did anything about it, but I can tell you the thoughts came to mind.

I don’t know what happened with Isaac Robitille. I don’t know what was really in the minds of Melissa Robitille and Walter Richters: did they mean to kill Isaac, or merely sedate him?

The bare bones of their story don’t reveal enough to pass judgment. They do bring out painful memories of despair, of helplessness, of boredom, of wondering what it was all about and when it would end. And I can tell you, no matter how much assistance you get from the medical and social-services people, it’s not enough to ease the heavy burden you carry 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

I don’t know how well Robitille and Richters handled the situation. But I know enough to realize that there’s plenty of room for another side to this story. A side that, if true, would make a murder conviction a senseless piling-on to a tragic situation by a system that’s supposed to dispense justice.

It’s possible that they concocted a scheme to rid themselves of the anchor around both their lives; that one of them held Isaac down while the other dumped vodka into the tube, knowing it would kill him, and watching him die before calling the police.

I will say that Isaac’s BAC of .146 doesn’t support that version of events. It seems low to me. If they’d really intended death, I’d think they would have used a higher dose.

But I don’t know. All I know, in fact, is that I don’t know. And although they seem like easy targets, I won’t be passing judgment anytime soon.

Maybe never.