Daily Archives: September 28, 2015

The Eternal General bows to the inevitable

It only took him about five months to figure it out, but Bill Sorrell finally announced today that he will not seek an eleventy-billionth term as Vermont’s Attorney General.

The end has been obvious to all since the early May appointment of former State Rep. Tom Little to head an independent investigation of Sorrell’s illegal (or at least thoroughly squicky) campaign finance activities.

SorrellZevonReally, the end has been all but obvious since Sorrell’s disastrous decision last March to throw the book at Dean Corren for an insignificant-at-best violation of the public financing law. Sorrell had alienated a lot of people over the years with his overzealous prosecution of campaign finance law and his underzealous pursuit of just about everything else in his purview. L’affaire Corren left him friendless in Montpelier and in Democratic and Progressive circles (he long ago lost the Republicans), with the possible exception of Sorrell’s political godfather, Howard Dean.

Today, the end came not with a bang, but an emailed whimper. Paul Heintz:

For a man who has spent much of his adult life in public service, Sorrell made his announcement in a remarkably low-key fashion. Rather than holding a press conference, he delivered the news in a terse, five-sentence statement emailed to reporters Monday afternoon.

Unsurprisingly, he couldn’t see any advantage to be gained from taking questions at his own political funeral.

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Mike Smith, multiplatform provocateur

Vermont’s number-one walking, talking conflict of interest, Mike Smith, has a bee in his bonnet.

Smith, for anyone living in a spider hole, is host of Not The Mark Johnson Show on WDEV, political columnist for the Times Argus and Rutland Herald, and political analyst for WCAX-TV and for the Charlie & Ernie Show on WVMT Radio. Man, that’s enough hats to gag a milliner.

Anyway, Smith is using his multiple platforms to capitalize on a recent tragedy: the death of state trooper Kyle Young during a training exercise. On his radio show and in his column, he is raising questions about possible wrongdoing by state officials. He is also, I hear, using his connections to prod WCAX into covering the “story.”

What caused Trooper Young’s core body temperature to rise to such a dangerous level? Was the training regime too arduous for the temperature conditions? Or was there some other medical reason that went undiscovered by State Police supervisors and medical staff until it was too late?

Well, of course questions need to be answered. But there is absolutely no indication that anyone did anything wrong. This was a standard, if rigorous, training; the weather was warm, but not unusually so. And yet, Smith is calling for an independent investigation, and is avidly sowing the seeds of doubt about the state’s handling of the case.

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Sons of the North

In the aftermath of the June 17 terror attack in a South Carolina church, many people have reawakened to the awful connotations of the Confederate battle flag. The issue has reached South Burlington, whose high school sports teams have been called the Rebels since the school’s founding in 1962. There have been calls to change the name to something that better reflects an increasingly diverse community.

Defenders of the nickname have called the controversy “crazy” and insisted the name “could mean a lot of different things.” One pointed out that Americans were the “rebels” in the Revolutionary War, so maybe that’s what it means.

Well, the Burlington Free Press came up with a creative approach. It sent reporter Haley Dover to leaf through SBHS yearbooks from the 1960s. And what did she find?

Confederate battle flags all over the damn place.

In the school’s first yearbook from 1962, sketches of Civil War era soldiers with their swords and muskets can be found placed among the student photos. The inside cover of the yearbook from 1964 is the image of a fall mountain scene and a Confederate solider holding the southern-rooted flag. Numerous pages throughout the 1960s show the flag hanging behind the basketball team or behind two Key Club members shaking hands. Cheerleaders pose with the banner on the football field.

Obviously, the Rebel nickname was inspired by the Confederacy.

Now, I don’t think anyone at SBHS was overtly racist back then. They were just completely clueless, in what was then a lily-white community and state.

There’s still a lot of that cluelessness around today. Indeed, there’s a prime example in the Free Press article itself.

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