Monthly Archives: November 2015

Phil Scott, ultraconservative

In my previous post, I explored the fiduciary contradictions of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott’s recently posted essay on VTDigger. For those just joining us, Scott believes he can hold the line on state spending and reject any tax or fee increases, while also increasing spending in several areas and somehow hold harmless our social safety net and environmental protections. Which, hahahaha.

That was enough for one post. But there’s something else in his essay that’s worthy of attention. It’s stunningly radical, putting him way, way out in Tea Party territory on a crucial, all-encompassing issue of governance.

… the Legislature needs to set a clear standard for all legislation. If a proposal responsibly decreases the costs of living and doing business in Vermont, they should pass it. If it increases costs in any way and leaves us open to financial uncertainty, they should set it aside.

Whoa. This ain’t the bland, inoffensive, centrist Phil Scott we’ve all come to know and love. This is a hard-line stance that would warm the cockles of David Koch’s heart, if he’s got one.

It’s also completely unworkable, natch. In the abstract it’s simple and elegant; in practice, it would create all sorts of problems.

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Phil Scott, miracle worker

Phil Scott’s proto-campaign for governor has, so far, been a matter of personality: Phil Scott is the nice-guy leader that Vermonters have been looking for. On the issues, nothing but vague hints and bromides.

Well, he gives it another go in an essay posted on VTDigger.

Sadly, it’s kind of an incoherent mess. He calls for a moratorium on all tax and fee increases, a tight rein on state spending, and expansion of several state programs.

And he claims he can do that “without cutting off services to Vermont’s most vulnerable populations or weakening environmental protections.”

Oh, yeah?

Whatcha got in that basket, Phil? Five loaves and two fishes?

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How to reverse course without changing position

… The Phil Scott Way.

Congratulations to our Lieutenant Governor for arriving at the right answer on Syrian refugees. It only took him eight days to do it, which is kind of unseemly for a guy who wants to be our take-charge, New-Direction chief executive. A bit more clarity and alacrity would seem to be minimal qualifications for the corner office. But congratulations anyway: he may have taken the scenic route (unusual for a veteran race car driver), but he did manage to arrive at the right destination.

Scott now says it’s okay for Vermont to accept Syrian refugees. Also, he dubiously claims that his position hasn’t changed.

Which, hahaha. Let’s look at the record.

On November 17, Scott said the following to VPR’s Steve Zind:

“I think it’s incumbent upon us to [bar Syrian refugees] until such time as the federal government can prove it’s meeting its national security obligations,” said Scott.

Need I point out that “can prove” is an awfully high bar? Can the government absolutely prove it’s meeting its obligations? Especially without, say, revealing information best kept on the down-low?

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Jake Burton’s First Amendment bullshit

Today’s Burlington Free Press brings news of a returning product line at Burton Snowboards: a series of snowboards featuring Playboy bunnies. They tried this once before, and suffered an intense barrage of criticism for exploiting women’s bodies.

Somehow, Burton was shocked by that. I guess he was too deeply immersed in snow-bro culture to realize that much of the world has moved beyond the objectification of women.

And still is, since he’s bringing back the Bunny boards. But he’s ready for the critics:

“Since Burton was founded nearly 40 years ago, we’ve supported freedom of artistic expression. Board graphics are artwork, and we understand that art can be offensive to some and inspiring to others. I strongly back our latest snowboard collection with Playboy and was involved in the project from the beginning.”

How noble. How high-minded.

What a pile of horse hockey.

Look, I don’t mind if Burton wants to plaster naked Bunnies on snowboards. I think it’s tasteless, but I’m not in their target demographic.

I do mind the utter bullshit about artistic expression.

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Accepting refugees: a moral imperative

So I just took a driving trip through Canada. And of course I was exposed to a bunch of subversive ideas.

After all, we’re talking about a country that just handed a spectacular defeat to a Prime Minister who aggressively demagogued the refugee issue while his challenger, Justin Trudeau, campaigned on a promise to accept another 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this year.

Wait, the voters picked the pro-refugee guy?

Yup, Canada’s a funny place. And while traveling through the True North Strong and Free, I read a brilliant essay in the right-of-center National Post. It was by political commentator Michael den Tandt, and it argued that welcoming refugees — even Muslims — ought to be a Conservative cause.

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Terms and conditions

Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman have spent this week trying to define their positions on admitting Syrian refugees. The issue is a sure-fire hit in Republican constituencies across the country, but here in Vermont the blowback seems to outweigh the benefit.

The topline for both men is pretty much identical — a “pause” in the refugee program until we can be reassured about security safeguards. But the devil, don’tcha know, is in the details. And if you take them both at face value, they want to put the program on the shelf for a long time.

Scott makes happy noises about “a nation of immigrants” and our values and the Statue of Liberty. But look closely at his terms and conditions he presented in his essay on the subject:

…my goal is to ensure the federal program moves forward with security protocols Vermonters, and all Americans, can have confidence in.

And there’s the deal-breaker. If Scott means what he wrote, he wants the refugee program shelved until every American is satisfied. That will never happen. How can you possibly convince people who think Obama is a Kenyan and see Islam as a religion of hate?

Lisman’s position is essentially the same, but his rhetoric is angrier and his conditions are more overtly unreachable.

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Bruce Lisman sees an opening on the right

This week has seen Republican front-runner Phil Scott having a bit of trouble articulating a clear policy on America’s refugee program. Of course, he’s not terribly experienced at the job; one of the main perks of being Lieutenant Governor is that you don’t have to articulate clear policy stances. You can just kind of fuzzle around.

Meanwhile, his opponent Bruce Lisman has been shading his positions in the other direction. You may recall that, at first, the two seemed to be saying the same thing. But while Scott has shifted in a more welcoming direction, Lisman has sharpened his attacks on the security of the refugee program and on Governor Shumlin and President Obama.

Sigh. I fondly recall the good old days of Campaign for Vermont, when Lisman insisted he was nonpartisan and, in fact, had been a Democrat for most of his life. Well, now he’s declaring that he has no faith in the President’s ability to maintain security.

It looks like he has realized his only shot at the Republican nomination is to run to Phil Scott’s right. His opening gambit: a chorus of dog whistles aimed at stirring up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment.

Good God, I hope he goes down in flames. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

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Phil Scott dials back the demagoguery

Man, I can’t tell you how nice it is to live in a state where xenophobia isn’t a sound political strategy.

It hasn’t been 48 hours since our two Republican gubernatorial hopefuls cracked open a jug of Doctor GOP’s Universal Snake Oil Cure-All, and not only have they not made a dent in Governor Shumlin’s forthright support for allowing Syrian refugees into Vermont, but they have found it necessary to ‘splain themselves. Even worse, a Democratic candidate is firing back with both barrels.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott went so far as to fire off an opinion piece which (a) blamed the media for distorting his views, natch, and (b) set forth a new position that’s either carefully nuanced or tortuous, depending on how you look at it. His basic point: he wants a brief “pause” in the refugee program so all Americans can be fully informed, and become fully confident, in its absolute integrity. Which is bullshit, because no amount of information will convince, for instance, the roughly 30% of Americans who still believe President Obama is a Muslim. There is no reasoning with those people.

So if we wait for the “information” to convince every American, then we will never, ever, ever admit another refugee. Ever.

But let’s hear more from Phil “I Am Not A Xenophobe” Scott:

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Scott and Lisman go for the low-hanging fruit

Predictable but disappointing. As VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

Bruce Lisman and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, Vermont’s two Republican gubernatorial candidates, say the state should hold off on allowing refugees from Syria to settle in Vermont.

Oh, hooray, yippee, huzzah. What leadership, pandering to our fears instead of our values.

The two candidates are also showing their ignorance. Well, either that or their willingness to lie through their teeth.

“I think it’s incumbent upon us to [bar Syrian refugees] until such time as the federal government can prove it’s meeting its national security obligations,” said Scott. “Making sure that there is a rigorous process to be sure that it’s just peace-loving Syrians and others that want to come into our states.”

Hey, Phil. The federal government is meeting its national security obligations. It has an extremely rigorous process for vetting refugees. So much so, that it forces us to basically default on our humanitarian obligations.

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Cautionary notes on the Phil Scott inevitability, part 3: Deadweight party

See also: Part 1, addressing the massive turnout difference between presidential and non-presidential years; and part 2, on the unhelpfully archconservative nature of the Republican presidential field.

Strangely, there was no media presence at last Saturday’s meeting of the Vermont Republican Party.

I say “strangely” because the VTGOP’s four officers were up for re-election. And they haven’t been all that successful; the party continues to trail the Democrats in finances, staffing, and organization, both statewide and grassroots.

I couldn’t be there because I was out of town all weekend, but I have heard some news.

To begin with, in a sign that Executive Director Jeff Bartley doesn’t have his finger on the pulse, he scheduled the meeting for the opening weekend of hunting season. That’d seem to be a no-no for The Party Of Traditional Vermont (And Guns), if not for a young urbanite like Jeff. From what I hear, they barely mustered a quorum.

On the topline, there was no drama. All four officers were re-elected. Maybe the conservatives were out baggin’ deer, or maybe they just don’t have much to offer. (Two years ago, their choice for party chair was John MacGovern, who’s best known in these parts for being an ultraconservative joke candidate against Bernie Sanders in 2012. If he was the conservative wing’s best option, then ugh.)

Here’s something you’ll be surprised to hear. Both gubernatorial candidates addressed the “crowd,” and from the whispers reaching these ears, Phil Scott was underwhelming. How underwhelming? Well, Bruce Lisman looked good by comparison. Apparently, Scott rolled out his usual bumpf, while Lisman actually offered some red meat to the faithful.

In the long run, that’s probably meaningless. Scott remains the overwhelming favorite for the nomination, but there might just be a few chinks in the favorite’s armor.

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