Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Beatings Will Continue Until Everything Is Awesome

This came out a few days ago, but I can’t resist. It’s so great in such a terrible way.

Last week, the Gannett corporation (owner and strangulator of the Burlington Free Press) held a big event to announce the new name for its digital spinoff. The winner: TEGNA, said to be taken from letters in the word “Gannett.” The name was immediately and widely panned, but those initial reactions tend to come and go. The name is dumb, but it won’t hurt the company.

gannettNo, the bad part was the cringeworthy lip-sync performance of “Everything is Awesome” (from The Lego Movie) by top Gannett executives. If you haven’t seen it, please take two minutes out of your day. It’s just incredibly wonderful in its stupefying awfulness. And thank journalism watchdog Jim Romenesko for digging up the video and posting it online.

Okay, seen it? We’ll continue.

Everything about that is UN-awesome, from the tone-deaf messaging to the terrible performances. Oh, and misspelling “commission.”

But the topper?

Yup.

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Nickels from heaven

In these hyper-tight budget times, would it surprise you to know that there’s a couple million bucks just sitting there, waiting for the State of Vermont to pick it up?

This isn’t just one-time money either; it’s an ongoing, steady source of revenue. And yet the Legislature hasn’t made a single move to grab it.

“What is it?” you might be asking.

It’s the unclaimed nickels from deposit bottles that never get redeemed. Right now, that money goes back to the bottling industry — an estimated $2 million per year.

Free gift for the bottlers? The PYT’s from VPIRG certainly think so. They’ve been lobbying, without success, to revise the Bottle Bill and get that money into public coffers.

Ten states have Bottle Bills. In four, the state gets all the unclaimed money. In three, the state gets the lion’s share but a slice goes to retailers, bottlers, or distributors. Only in Iowa, Oregon and Vermont do private companies get all the money. And since yjomhd seem to work in those seven other states, I think it’s safe to assume that the companies don’t need the extra revenue to collect and process the containers.

In fact, they get more money than they need from another source: selling the containers on the recycling market. A lot more money. But we’ll get to that that later.

Okay, so why isn’t the Legislature falling over itself to get those nickels? Two reasons; one immediate, one more far-reaching.

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Our ever-vigilant keepers of the public order

Oh boy, a cop scandal of our very own. And thankfully, it doesn’t involve shooting someone dead on little or no pretext. Just a digital cornucopia of hate speech from one of Vermont’s Finest.

The Vermont State Police is investigating one of its own for material that the trooper posted to social media.

One of the latest Facebook posts from Cpl. Jon Graham’s personal page is an article from Right Wing News. A photo of a smashed Virgin Mary Statue. And a comment from the trooper reading, “and these animals will kill you if you speak badly of Mohammed….tolerance.”

…The posts go back years, seemingly undetected by state police. Some allegedly penning his thoughts like one from 2014, “was just behind a Prius with a Bernie Sanders 2016 sticker…oh how I wanted to spin her vehicle out.”

Others make comments about actual crimes, “Officer involved shooting in Windsor tonight…officer okay…scumbag in hospital…as it should be.”

More specifics in a moment. First, though, a couple of notes that cut to the heart of the problem.

— Graham has been a state trooper for 15 years.

— He’s been posting hateful, racist, sexist stuff on Facebook for years. And his bosses never noticed?
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The Eternal General Strikes Back (Warning: SATIRE)

Y'know, this picture works with almost any song lyric.

Y’know, this picture works with almost any song lyric.

Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell, having come under intense criticism for his handling of campaign finance prosecutions and his own questionable compliance with the law, came out in true Two-Fisted Attorney General fashion late Friday.

(Warning: SATIRE.)

In a hastily-called news conference, Sorrell announced the filing of several new accusations against Dean Corren, last year’s Democratic and Progressive candidate for Lieutenant Governor.

Sorrell had previously charged Corren with violating the state’s public financing law by accepting tangible assistance from the Democratic Party, namely an email blast with an estimated value of $255. Sorrell’s proposed punishment for this crime: a total of $72,000 in fines and reimbursements.

“I have been accused of excessive zeal in this prosecution,” said Sorrell, a brace of assistant and deputy Attorneys General forming a semi-circle behind him. “To the contrary, I have uncovered even more violations by Mr. Corren. Taken together, they paint a clear and unmistakable picture of a rogue campaign.”

Among the new charges against Corren:

— At a Democratic State Committee meeting, Corren sneezed and a party official loaned him a handkerchief. “A tissue would have been within the bounds of the law,” noted Sorrell, “but a piece of haberdashery is clearly a significant gift that Mr. Corren could have potentially used throughout the remainder of his campaign.”

(Warning: more SATIRE… after the jump.)
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RESET takes a step forward

House Bill 40, also known as the RESET bill, made it through the Senate Natural Resources Committee friday. Unscathed, for the most part.

RESET, for those just joining us, is the overhaul of Vermont’s renewable energy policy. It has already been adopted by the House. It’s got a lot of good stuff in it. For the most part, it’s been making good progress in a low-key way; with so many other Big Things on this year’s agenda, RESET has attracted little attention. Which I suspect is exactly how its supporters want it.

It has drawn some fire from the anti-renewables crowd, who want to change the siting-approval process in ways that would make it much harder to build renewables. From their point of view, that’s a good thing. My top priority is climate change, so I think it’d be a bad thing. Mostly.

The one and only anti-renewables member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee is John Rodgers, putative Democrat from the Northeast Kingdom. Generally, the Senator is very pro-business and development (he’s a cheerleader for the Bill Stenger EB-5 project), but he’s a staunch opponent of ridgeline wind who’s branching out into anti-solar as well.

Rodgers was the wild card in SNRE’s consideration of H.40. He was clearly in the minority, but he’s a persistent cuss, and he brought some amendments with him to Friday morning’s hearing.
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A good cry on the Senate floor

So David Zuckerman gave an emotional speech today.

Two days after the Vermont Senate voted to end the philosophical exemption for parents who don’t want their kids vaccinated, a senator opposed to the change delivered a tearful address about being attacked online, his father’s death and how scientific uncertainty led him to his decision.

… “I have been attacked as being anti-science, not caring for those who are less able to protect themselves and mocked for my profession as being unqualified to make informed comments,” he said.

His reference to “being attacked online” almost certainly included me. After the Senate vote, I criticized Zuckerman’s tactics in trying to derail the bill in question. I said “scientists must be laughing their asses off” at his notion of genetic testing for potential vaccine allergies. I belittled his argument that schools would lose large numbers of students, and said that Zuckerman and his allies were “grabbing at any pretext, no matter how absurd, to preserve the philosophical exemption.”

And you know what? I’m not sorry.

My language regarding the Senator doesn’t hold a candle to the rhetoric used by anti-vaxxers, who’ve accused me and other vaccine supporters of being fascists and tools of Big Pharma, among many other things. They’ve accused doctors who support vaccination — the vast majority of doctors — of being either fools or sellouts. My posts on vaccines have been written in an environment inflamed, in large measure, by those on the other side.

Also, while I’m very sorry for Zuckerman’s loss and respect how it informs his beliefs, (a) I didn’t know any of that at the time, and (b) he’s not the only one who’s suffered devastating personal losses. It happens to a lot of us. My brother would have turned 55 today if he’d lived that long. The circumstances of his death have informed my views on some current issues, but I haven’t played that card in a political debate. (Not that I blame Zuckerman for doing so; there’s a time and place for everything, and he hit his time this afternoon.)

All I could see was Zuckerman’s political effort to preserve the philosophical exemption. I thought his tactics on Wednesday were transparent and not terribly coherent. I still do.

Have we just reached the tipping point on Bill Sorrell?

SorrellBlindersSurprising, and rather shocking, news out of the Statehouse today, courtesy of Paul Heintz:

The Vermont Senate is considering stripping Attorney General Bill Sorrell of his powers to prosecute campaign finance violations. Replacing him, according to lawmakers who support the idea, would be an independent elections oversight commission.

… “The fact that the attorney general is charged with investigating him or herself is clearly ridiculous,” says Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington), a member of the committee.

Those wanting to strip Sorrell of his authority include Dems, Repubs and Progs. No partisan witch hunt here. Two thoughts:

— This shows the breadth and depth of the Sorrell-hatred among the political class. To even propose such a slap in his face is a big deal. For all this to happen in a matter of days is pretty extraordinary. It’s like a dam breaking under pent-up pressure.

— If the Legislature has time to think about this and even write a bill, how can Governor Shumlin go on saying he’s too busy to think about it?

Sorry, a third thought: Continue reading