Monthly Archives: June 2016

Yes, Peter Galbraith ran for Congress in 1998. No, he doesn’t want you to think so.

One of the most curious aspects of the whole Peter Galbraith/Wikipedia sideshow is the furious debate over whether or not he was a candidate for Congress in 1998.

The stuff about the Kurds and Galbraith’s oil wealth and his frequently contentious career as a diplomat, that’s understandable. It seems clear that Galbraith himself, or a close ally, has been scrubbing his Wikipedia page of negative material. On the other hand, some critics of his diplomatic adventures have been just as obsessive about his Wikipedia entry.

But this Congress thing? Why does that matter?

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We’ll clean up Lake Champlain with platitudes

Last week, the gubernatorial candidates discussed environmental issues at a forum organized by Vermont Conservation Voters. It can be viewed online here; unfortunately, the audio quality is poor. Here’s a link to the video with better sound quality.

I’m writing about the two Republicans, who delivered wheelbarrows full of bromides, boilerplate, and empty words. It’s safe to say that if Phil Scott or Bruce “Still A Candidate” Lisman wins the corner office, we’ll be back to the Jim Douglas age of high-falutin’ words and little or no action.

This is disappointing if unsurprising on issues like renewable energy, regulation of toxic chemicals, transportation, development, carbon emissions, and energy efficiency. But on Lake Champlain?

Hey, guys, we’re under a federal mandate. If our actions don’t satisfy the EPA, the feds are going to swoop in and force remediation. On their terms, not ours.

That realization hasn’t penetrated their skulls. Or it has, and they’re just whistling past the graveyard. Because their “plans” don’t even begin to seriously confront the situation.

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The Paige Exclusion

Congratulations to the Vermont Democratic Party for giving perennial fringe candidate H. Brooke Paige more publicity in a few days than he could possibly earn on his own this entire year.

The VDP did so by ordering his banishment from all party events, reportedly due to impertinent and offensive comments posted by Paige on Facebook.

Mixed feelings about this. I don’t have much use for perennial fringe candidates; as far as I’m concerned, it’s too easy for people to get on the ballot and even grace the occasional debate stage without proving they hold the least bit of appeal or interest for the electorate. Waste of time and space. Detracts from direct confrontations among candidates who actually matter. That goes for Paige and for Emily Peyton and Cris Ericson and the entire Diamondstone clan.

Paige is an irritant* in all senses of the word. He runs for at least one office every cycle, sometimes as a Republican, sometimes as a Democrat, and I think as independent on occasion. He has also fomented birther claims against not only President Obama, but also Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. I can see why the Democrats would want to be rid of him. And, after all, it’s their party and they can make their own rules. Or even cry if they want to.

*Irritants produce distress, annoyance, and the occasional pearl. 

That said, their reaction seems unduly stiff.

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So I guess we’re calling the Republican primary

It’s been obvious from Day One that Bruce Lisman had a mighty tall mountain to climb. He was taking on Phil Scott, the personable Great White Hope of the VTGOP, and he shares roughly the same political space: putatively moderate, business-friendly Republican paying lip service to centrist issues, sharply critical of Governor Shumlin (even though he’s not, ahem, actually running), straight white male.

The question on everyone’s mind but Lisman’s was, more or less, “Why would anyone opt for a pale imitation Phil Scott who’s a Republican-come-lately and a creature of Wall Street?”

Or, ore succinctly, “Who asked for this?”

Still, we make polite noises about the Republican primary campaign because that’s what you do. Lisman has lots of money, after all; and once in a blue moon, Iceland actually beats England.

But the polite fiction is coming to a premature end.

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The primary campaign is suddenly in overdrive

The evidence is unmistakable. Campaign press releases flooding the inbox. Candidates speaking wherever they can find two constituents to rub together. Campaign buses and caravans clogging the highways*. Candidate interviews all over the electronic media. Debates and forums seemingly every night.

* The candidates could substantially reduce their carbon footprint if they’d only carpool to joint appearances. I can see it now: Phil Scott is, of course, the driver. Bruce Lisman is offering fuel-saving tips and checking GasBuddy for the best place to fill up. Matt Dunne is babbling about driverless technology and electric cars. Sue Minter is pointing out how smooth the roads are. Peter Galbraith is in the back, complaining loudly, and nobody’s paying much attention.

… And Brooke Paige is lagging on the roadside, riding a scooter and shouting “Wait for me!”

Yes, the campaign is in high gear. It happened sometime between the end of the legislative session and last week: all at once, we went from “there’s plenty of time” to “Oh my God, it’s almost here!”

Time’s a-wastin’. It’s been about six weeks since the Legislature adjourned — the traditional kickoff of campaign season. And it’s only about six more weeks until Primary Day, August 9.

Which is the earliest primary date in, well, probably forever. Until 2010, our primary was traditionally held after Labor Day. This year, it moved from late August to early in the month, roughly two weeks earlier. The reason was to allow more time for recounts and disputes, and still get ballots out in time for absentees (notably overseas military personnel) to make their votes count.

The effect has been profound, especially in a year of such intense competition. We thought the early primary might have an effect on turnout — and it will. But its intensification of the primary season is more of a surprise.

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Maybe Vermont farmers aren’t so pure after all

Will Allen, writer and organic farmer, has issued a scathing report on Vermont farmers’ use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. The report is based on official state data, which shows that between 2002 and 2012, herbicide use nearly doubled on Vermont farms.

Farmers used 1.54 pounds of herbicide per acre in 2002; that number increased to 3.01 pounds per acre in 2012.

That, in itself, is appalling — especially for a sector that wraps itself in the pure-Vermont blanket when it comes to political issues like, say, the pollution of Lake Champlain.

Allen’s report focuses mainly on herbicide and pesticide use, which spiked at the same time GMO corn* became nearly universal on Vermont farms. You know, the stuff that’s supposed to reduce the need for killer chemicals. (See note at end of this post.)

*A factoid for those impressed by our GMO labeling law: 96 percent of corn grown in Vermont is genetically modified. Ninety-six percent!

Gee, maybe Monsanto sold us a bill of goods?

But there’s another aspect that really struck me.

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Galbraith pipped at another progressive post

I don’t know how much influence Rights & Democracy has. It’s a fairly new organization, but it’s made some waves in its brief existence. And it drew a crowd of hundreds Wednesday night for a combination political rally and concert.

At which it endorsed David Zuckerman for lieutenant governor — no surprise there — and Matt Dunne for governor.

Hmm, I thought. Matt Dunne. Not Peter Galbraith. From a group whose stated goal is to advance Bernie Sanders’ political revolution.

Overall, Dunne’s a better candidate than Galbraith, but some of his positions are rather centrist. I would have expected a bit more puritanical and less practical approach from a left-wing group. So I gave R&D chief James Haslam a call to find out how the group settled on Dunne.

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