Monthly Archives: October 2015

Postscript: Bruce’s booties

A couple days ago, I noted the interesting footwear Bruce Lisman chose for this week’s Gov Pitch event:

Bruce Lisman, apparently desperate to come across as a true-blue Vermonter, sported a pair of beige shitkickers — the kind of boots you’d normally wear in a barnyard.

Well, turns out I was misled by the available images of the event. An attendee sent me a note setting the record straight:

They weren’t your traditional shitkickers. They were suede booties the likes of which I haven’t seen since 1977.

Hahahaha. That’s even worse than deliberately dressing like a farmer. My apologies to Bruce Lisman, Bootiemaster.

Evidence of Bruce Lisman’s appeal (hint: microscopic)

This week’s “Fair Game” column by Paul Heintz had some notable tidings near the end: Campaign for Vermont, the public policy nonprofit founded — and almost exclusively funded — by Bruce Lisman, appears to be on its last legs.

Now that Lisman is fully ensconced in his campaign — and has turned off the $1.35 million spigot that funded CFV — the organization appears to have fallen on tough times. Earlier this month, policy and operations manager Ben Kinsley decamped to the Lisman campaign. And now executive director Cyrus Patten says he’s on his way out the door.

According to Patten, who apparently isn’t averse to spilling bad news now that he’s out the door, CFV has a mere $40,000 left in the bank.

Lisman and Patten were constantly bragging about CFV’s alleged influence in the Statehouse and its progress in building an independent political movement, but there was precious little objective evidence to support their claims. After Lisman stopped writing the big checks, Patten claimed that an aggressive fundraising/membership campaign was starting to pay dividends.

Guess that was just a steamin’ pile of bullshit.

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All boot, no cattle

So the five major-party candidates for governor got together earlier this week for Gov Pitch, a forum on boosting Vermont’s economy hosted by the fine folks at Fresh Tracks Capital. A couple of items caught my attention: Bruce Lisman’s curious choice of footwear, and the impenetrable vagueness of the Phil Scott campaign.

First, Bruce’s Boots.

Four of the five were dressed for business, including well-polished footwear in black or brown. Bruce Lisman, apparently desperate to come across as a true-blue Vermonter, sported a pair of beige shitkickers — the kind of boots you’d normally wear in a barnyard. Here’s a piece of a Seven Days photo:

Matt Dunne, Bruce "Boots" Lisman, Shap Smith

Matt Dunne, Bruce “Boots” Lisman, Shap Smith

I seriously doubt he ever wore those to his digs in the dark heart of Wall Street. Then again, we’re kinda-sorta supposed to forget about his decades-long immersion in the culture of high finance and accept him as a born-and-bred Vermont boy. Just like, mmm, Rich Tarrant.

Anyway, nice try, Bruce. But in the future, you might just stick with the Guccis and try to prove your bona fides with the substance of your remarks.

On to Phil Scott, whose campaign has trumpeted his LEADERSHIP but said little to indicate where, exactly, he wants to LEAD us.

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Vermont’s public financing system is worse than useless

Before this year, our mechanism for public campaign financing was woefully limited and seemingly designed to discourage potential candidates. The excessive and punitive rules resulted in the only person ever to gain public financing, Dean Corren, facing an overzealous prosecution by Attorney General Bill Sorrell, our deeply tainted Guardian of Electoral Purity.

But that’s the good news.

The bad news is, the whole system has suddenly become a cruel joke. It’s so bad that unless the Legislature can bring itself to enact a simpler, more generous process, I’d just as soon they kill the thing. In its current state, it’s an insult to the very ideals it purports to uphold.

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The Progressives are kinda screwed

Whiter the Progressive Party? I don’t know; there isn’t a clear path forward, and obstacles litter the landscape. They’ve gained strength in the legislature, mainly by running candidates on the P/D or D/P tickets; but they’ve just about reached the limits of that tactic, and may have hit a glass ceiling.

The Progs are anxious to make a splash in 2016, having sat out the last three gubernatorial elections in order to give Peter Shumlin a better shot at creating a single-payer health care system, hahaha. His abandonment of that goal, barely a month after his third re-election victory, plus the Dems’ habit of triangulating to the center on a host of issues, has left the Progs in a bitter mood. They’re itchin’ for a fight, and would especially like to field a credible candidate for governor.

That’s looking increasingly unrealistic. For starters, nobody seems to want to run.

This is an unintended side-effect of the Prog/Dem strategy, which has put several Progs in positions of legislative influence. Examples: Tim Ashe chairs the Senate Finance Committee; Anthony Pollina has a bully pulpit in the Senate; organic farmer David Zuckerman is vice chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee; and Chris Pearson is vice chair of the House Health Care Committee. One could argue that the Progs have been granted more influence than their sheer numbers would warrant. Or, in the words of Lyndon Johnson, the Democrats saw it’s better to have the Progs inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.

And indeed, it’d be hard to give up that level of influence to make a long-odds, short-funded bid for higher office.

Compounding the difficulty is that any high-profile Progressive would likely depend on public financing. That was a difficult enough pursuit in previous years (just ask Dean Corren or John Bauer). Now, it seems to have become completely untenable.

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A curious endorsement

So last Friday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. Which struck me as an interesting, nay curious, move — partly due to policy, and partly due to timing.

Above all, and pardon me if my blogger cynicism is showing, it struck me as less a heartfelt choice for President and more a positioning maneuver in the Democratic primary. It seems designed to reinforce Dunne’s claim as the outsider in the race, since many current Dem officeholders have opted for Hillary Clinton. Policy-wise, I’d expect Dunne to have more common ground with a centrist than a Democratic Socialist. Indeed, in his endorsement Dunne tried to paper over the potential differences between himself and Sanders by emphasizing what “Bernie has been talking about” over the solutions Bernie proposes.

All along, Bernie has been talking about issues of critical importance at this moment in time: the loss of our middle class, addressing global climate change, fixing our broken healthcare system, providing needed support for our veterans and seniors, and giving the next generation the opportunity to graduate from college debt free.

Take the last one, for example: Sanders and Dunne both want to give students “the opportunity to graduate… debt free.” But I don’t think Dunne would back Bernie’s call for free tuition or anything like it.

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The Newsroom of the Future’s First Fruits

Now that the Olds have been almost entirely swept out of the Burlington Free Press, we’re getting our first sign of its future direction. And it ain’t encouraging.

It’s a twice-yearly, glossy magazine aiming to provide “everything you need to know about Vermont’s many ski resorts.” And the name of said publication, according to Publisher/Ventriloquist Al Getler:

“A group of FreePressMedia employees, from millennials to baby boomers, sat around and said, ‘What is this thing going to be?'” he said. “The name came from one of our millennial staff members who yelled out, ‘Freshies!'”


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A little lip service for the electorate, please

A lot of concern is being expressed these days over the Norm McAllister case. The disgraced Senator frets over the fairness of any legislative proceeding against him. A fellow Senator says he should be allowed to stay in office until the criminal proceedings are completed, no matter how long it takes. The head of his caucus frets about McAllister’s presence derailing the legislative session. The Senate President Pro Tem frets about establishing a precedent for dealing with the unprecedented: a sitting Senator accused of multiple sex crimes. The Senate Secretary tries to devise a process that’s true to the Legislature’s rules — and tosses a grenade in the direction of Vermont’s media corps:

You can’t do it just on what you guys are printing in the newspaper.

Yeah, how dare we print stuff in the newspaper.

Anyway. Notice anything missing?

Well, I’ll tell you. Nobody, except little ol’ me and some of my regular commenters, is talking about the voters of Franklin County, who have to suffer McAllister’s continued presence as their duly elected representative, or the people of Vermont, who have to suffer an accused sex criminal’s presence in the Legislature.

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The South Burlington Whitewash

There once was a town called Nigella. It was a nondescript little Podunk, located near a larger and more notable community. Its residents were almost entirely white. Its high school sports teams were named, in a more benighted era, the Niggers. Many of the kids would attend games in blackface, and the mascot was a Stepin Fetchit character who danced and hooted when the team scored a touchdown. All innocent fun, and no one in this lily-white town conceived otherwise.

Then came the civil rights era, and the school had a problem on its hands. The nickname was a piece of the town’s history, and nobody wanted to change it. So they dropped the mascot and banned the blackface, claiming the nickname was never intended as a racial slur — merely a light-hearted callback to the town’s real name.

You know where I’m going with this. Last night, the South Burlington School Board voted to keep the “Rebel” nickname, claiming that it had a specific meaning in their community and had nothing whatsoever to do with the Confederacy or slavery.

“It’s what we make of it. It’s something artificial,” said [an SBHS alum]. “I don’t think the intention is to offend anyone or promote racism.”

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Words acquire connotations. “Rebel” has other meanings, but its primary connotation is with the wrong side in the Civil War. You know, the one that wanted to keep on owning slaves, and was willing to kill the United States of America in order to do so.

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Here’s where we find out how clueless the State Senate really is

Following last week’s profession of innocence by alleged sex criminal Norm McAllister, the head of the Senate’s Republican caucus is taking action. And encountering resistance that reflects the Senate’s insularity and overweening self-regard.

Paul Heintz has the deets, as he often does. Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning wrote a letter to McAllister, upbraiding him for taking back a promise to resign if his case wasn’t wrapped up by November, and warning that if McAllister fails to do so, Benning would file a resolution seeking his ouster.

Benning is no fool. He realizes exactly how bad it would be if McAllister is still a sitting Senator when the Legislature reconvenes. And even worse if he actually shows up for work.

This being the Senate, things aren’t so simple. Benning got some immediate blowback from Sen. Peg Flory, who trotted out the old “innocent until proven guilty” canard (discussed below) in support of Good Ol’ Norm. There was some back-and-forth between the two, thoroughly documented in Heintz’ piece, and then it was brought to a halt by Sen. Dustin Degree’s suggestion that the Republican caucus should discuss this out of the public eye.

Transparency, anyone?

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