Daily Archives: May 8, 2015

Tom Little: The right choice for the job

I’m sure it’s a coincidence (paging Mr. Coriell), but Governor Shumlin chose today to announce his choice of independent investigator to look into Eternal General Bill Sorrell’s campaign finance activities. On a Friday, and on a Friday when a sitting State Senator did a perp walk after his arraignment on sex-crime charges.

But the hiring is noteworthy, and from all appearances, Shumlin made a fine choice. Tom Little appears to be above reproach in his personal conduct, and even-handed in his political dealings. The only drawback — and to some it’s a very significant one — is that he doesn’t have any experience as a prosecutor. His legal practice has mainly been in corporate and real estate law.

Little served ten years a Republican State Representative. He distinguished himself greatly in the fight for civil unions. In this age of widespread marriage equality, that might seem like ancient history; but it was only 15 years ago, and at the time it was a legal milestone and a red-hot controversy. An August 2000 profile piece by Seven Days’ Kevin Kelley called him “the single most influential figure in steering the [civil unions] legislation to narrow passage.” As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Kelly writes, he “helped persuade other moderate Republicans to vote on their conscience, not their fears.”

He’s currently a top exec at the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, and he’s got a list of public service activities as long as your arm. And someone with much more knowledge than I characterizes Little as a “straight shooter, non-corruptible.” But here’s the point where my cynicism threw in the towel: according to a bio I’ve seen, he “currently serves as Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont.”

Good grief. Who is this guy, the reincarnation of Jimmy Stewart?

I don’t know Tom Little, never met him. But apart from the lack of prosecutorial experience, it’s very hard to find any fault with the choice. Not bad for a Friday newsdump. (Sorry, Scott.)

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Good ol’ Norm, maybe not so good

When a prominent figure is charged with a crime, as with Sen. Norm McAllister being accused of sexual assault and trafficking, it might turn out to be a well-concealed aspect of his personality. Everybody has secrets, and some do a really good job of compartmentalizing.

On the other hand, maybe the dam bursts and you start hearing stories. Like this, from former State Rep. Rachel Weston:

Weston/McAllister

Oh boy.

Is this the first of many “Norm the perv” stories to be told? If so, I have to say the Senate did an awful job of policing members’ behavior. Need any more reason to set up an ethics panel, Mr. Campbell?

It’s looking like the vaccine bill will get a vote — UPDATED

Although I favor repealing the philosophical exemption for childhood vaccinations, I’ve been predicting that the issue will be pulled from the House calendar due to (1) time constraints and (2) unwillingness to tackle yet another controversy.

Looks like I was wrong.

House Speaker Shap Smith was on WDEV’s Mark Johnson Show this morning, and he indicated that the vaccine bill (H.98) would be up for a vote on Tuesday. In his own typically oblique way; if pressed on his answer, I’m sure he’d say that he didn’t promise a vote on Tuesday. Here are his exact words:

It’s very possible that it could come to a vote on Tuesday in the House. It’s not a caucus issue; I don’t think it’s a caucus issue on either side. It looks to me that there is signifant support to remove the philosophical exemption; I think there’s some room around that to maybe give people time to address that. I don’t know when the implementation date will be for it, whether there needs to be a transition plan for schools. There are a number of internal issues that we’ve got to deal with, but it would not surprise me to see that come to the floor next week.

Cute. The guy who’s in charge of scheduling the calendar says “it would not surprise me” to see the bill pop up on the calendar. Hahaha.

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A Senator behind bars

The mugshot.

The mugshot.

It’s gonna be an uncomfortable day at the Statehouse, what with yesterday’s arrest — at the Statehouse, no less — of Sen. Norm McAllister on charges of sexual assault and human trafficking, blecccch. His friends and colleagues should be prepared for questions about it.

Some free advice, then.

You can always start with a generic “not enough information” approach. That’ll fly at least until his arraignment. After that, you can fall back on the “innocent until proven guilty” mantra, but be very careful about how you frame it.

Avoid anything that shows more sympathy for the (alleged) perpetrator than the (alleged) victims. Avoid coming across like a man who’s never given a thought to the reality of women’s lives. Avoid an overzealous presumption of innocence: “I can’t believe good old Norm would do this.”

Be absolutely sure to avoid casting aspersions on the (alleged) victims. Nothing about skanks or tramps or lowlifes or entrapment.

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Here’s an interesting fact about vaccines

Earlier this week, we had the honor of hosting a real live ***KENNEDY*** right in our very own Statehouse. Yep, RFK Jr. regaled us with his scare stories about the evils of Thimerosal, a vaccine additive containing (a harmless type of) mercury. It seemed a stretch at the time because (1) the autism/Thimerosal “connection” has been thoroughly debunked, and (2) Thimerosal was eliminated from all but one vaccine years ago, and yet autism rates have continued to climb since then.

But here’s something I didn’t learn until today:

The one vaccine containing Thimerosal is not on Vermont’s list of required vaccines.

That’s right. You don’t need a philosophical exemption to avoid the imaginary taint of Thimerosal. Which means that Kennedy’s argument was completely irrelevant to our current policy debate.

In any event, Kennedy seems to have done his cause no good. There’s no sign he moved the needle (sorry); in fact, he may have turned off some undecideds with his overheated rhetoric. Like, for instance, the editorial board of the Times Argus and Rutland Herald:

Kennedy’s strident language added nothing to the debate. He had discredited himself even before he arrived in Montpelier by furthering the damaging and discredited notion that there is a connection between vaccines and autism. The author of the paper asserting that connection has himself admitted to scientific fraud.

But I think it’s worth noting for the record that Kennedy’s bugbear, Thimerosal, has no bearing at all on the philosophical-exemption issue.