Monthly Archives: August 2016

The null-set campaign

If you’ve got 30 seconds to spare, why not skip on over to the Scott Milne For Senate campaign website? I’ll wait here.

… You back?

Not much to see, is there? Four stinkin’ pages: Home, Join Our Team, Contact, and Donate.

No “Issues”, no “News”, no “Events”, nothing of substance whatsoever.

It’d be downright weird if it wasn’t (a) Scott Milne we’re talking about, and (b) a perfect match for the campaign he’s run to date.

Which is to say, virtually substance-free.

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Come On Down to Big Phil’s Big Incent-a-palooza!

“YOU get a tax incentive! YOU get a tax incentive! And YOU get a tax incentive! In fact, ALL of you get a tax incentive!”

This appears to be the nuts of Phil Scott’s plan for boosting our economy. The guy who once told VTDigger “I like incentives” certainly does; over the course of his gubernatorial campaign, he’s floated tax-incentive ideas that cover just about every contingency.

It is his favorite approach to boosting growth. It costs nothing up-front; you can stage a shiny photo opportunity with every recipient; and the fallout is vague, hard to measure, and located somewhere in the future.

Unfortunately, there is little to no evidence that tax incentives accomplish anything. At best, they are blunderbusses in a target-shooting contest. At worst, they are just plain giveaways that hurt necessary government programs.

Officially, the state calls these programs “tax expenditures,” which is the appropriate term. It reminds us that every time we offer an incentive, we are forgoing tax revenue. It should be evaluated the same way we’d review a government program: does it work, and is it worth the money?

What’s worse, Vermont’s existing incentives are problematic due to a lack of documentation and oversight. And we need more of that?

There has been, naturally, no counting the cost of all these giveaways. Perhaps that’s why Scott’s own website fails to disclose any specific incentive ideas; if he presented the list all in once place, it’d be downright embarrassing.

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Shrine of the Holy Vortex Martyrs

Huh boy. Vermont’s anti-wind zealots appear to be establishing a Holy Place for their belief system of junk science and outright dogma. (Perhaps tax-free status as a religious organization is the next step.)

And where will this Medjugorje of the Muggles be created? Glad you asked.

The Therrien family property in Sheffield… will become a dedicated research hub to study the noise, vibrations and environmental impacts of 16 418-foot-tall nearby turbines known as Vermont Wind.

Ah, the Therriens, perennial poster family for the alleged hazards of wind. The anti-wind organization Energize Vermont bought their place at a tax sale, and now plans to use it as headquarters of the Vermont Center for Turbine Impact Studies — a name that seems to presage its findings. Because the overwhelming bulk of actual scientific inquiry has found little to no impact.

(Indeed, a massive study in Australia found a high correlation between reports of turbine-related sickness and protests over the construction of wind farms. Nearly two-thirds of all wind farms in the country had never received a single report of ill effects, while a handful of facilities that had attracted opposition was also responsible for the vast majority of health complaints. The conclusion: “wind turbine syndrome” is a “disease” spread by word of mouth.)

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State hires fox to guard henhouse

Your Tax Dollars At Work: the state of Vermont is offering $50,000 to a prominent anti-wind advocate to study the noise effects of wind turbines.

Great.

VPR had the details in a curiously understated article whose title, “State Funding for Research Into Turbine Noise Sets Stage for Vermont’s Next Wind Debate,” utterly fails to communicate the substance of the piece.

Which is this: in the late stages of this year’s legislative session, somebody slipped a $50,000 appropriation into the budget. The money goes to Lyndon State physics professor Ben Luce to buy sound-monitoring gear that he’ll use to study turbine-generated noise.

Fine so far. But Luce is a notorious critic of wind energy, having called ridgeline wind “a tragedy of inconceivable dimensions.” He sits on the board of Energize Vermont, a leading anti-wind organization.

And you say he’s going to be objective.

Riiiiiiiight.

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Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas — UPDATED with more fleas

Hey, you know about the Mylan controversy? Yeah, the company that bought the rights to the EpiPen and then jacked up the price by several gazillion percent? It now charges nearly $500 for a gizmo that probably cost them about three bucks to make.

Well, I’d managed to forget, or suppress, its Vermont connection until I was reminded by recent accounts in VTDigger and the Burlington Free Press. To wit, the Shumlin administration arranged a peculiar land swap in St. Albans to facilitate an expansion of Mylan’s operations here.

A land swap that costs the General Fund about a half million dollars a year.

(That’s about the price tag we “couldn’t afford” to spend on an Ethics Commission. Just sayin’.)

UPDATE: As Auditor Doug Hoffer points out, Mylan is also a beneficiary of the Vermont Employment Growth Initiative (VEGI) program to the tune of $5.7 million. More on this below.

I won’t rehash all the details here; you can check out VTDigger’s 2013 story, which lays it all out in excruciating detail.  I will note one thing before moving on: this turd blossom featured the guy I’m beginning to think of as the Joe Btfsplk of the Shumlin administration.

The idea… was largely the brainchild of Lawrence Miller, the Commerce Secretary.

Mmmyeah, EB-5, the endless Vermont Health Connect reboot, and now Mylan. Quite the resume you’re building, Mr. Miller.

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Progs be progs, I guess

Like that old fable about the scorpion riding a frog across the river. It’s in their nature to bite, even if it could mean their own end. From Ye Olde Twitter Feede:

On the one hand, yeah, the Progressives are well within their rights to point out unsavory (from their POV) behavior by Vermont Democrats. On the other, the timing seems just a wee bit off, considering that…

— Pretty much all the Progressive candidates are running as Democrats, taking advantage of the Democratic brand while seeking to undercut its value. And threatening their own purity in the process: taint by association is hard to remove.

— Their boy David Zuckerman just gained access to the fabled and much-desired Democratic Party voter database*, which has taken years and many dollars (some from corporate sources) to assemble.

*Correction: The Dems and the Zuckerman campaign reached agreement on resource-sharing and a coordinated campaign, but if does not include full access to the database.

At the very least, they might have waited a few days after Zuckerman’s organizational victory to start taunting the party that’s tangibly propping up their own prospects. And what did they gain? The fleeting satisfaction of sending a Mean Tweet.

As the scorpion sank beneath the waves, he belted out a hearty chorus of “My Way.”

Bernie’s Progressive Daycare

So, Bernie Sanders has launched his post-candidacy organization. “Our Revolution” is having a troubled birth, what with half the staff quitting over the weekend after Sanders parachuted his campaign manager Jeff Weaver into the top spot. Apparently some people don’t like Weaver and, more importantly, question his older-school approach to organizing (and the group’s dark-money approach to fundraising).

This storm will quickly pass. But if the history of progressive politics is anything to judge by, it’s an example of the kind ot stuff Bernie will have to deal with, and it won’t be easy.

Because nobody’s more capable of generating destructive internal strife than the American left. Sooner or later, the Purity Wars break out. Everyone’s got a pet cause or bug in the bonnet. Axes abound, and they all seem to require grinding.

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False equivalencies on renewable energy

VTDigger’s commentary page recently featured a call to Kumbaya by Brian Tokar, UVM lecturer and board member of 350Vermont. His argument is that our debate over renewable energy has been toxified by extreme positions taken by both sides:

On one hand, groups like VPIRG and Renewable Energy Vermont have staked out a position that any possible limitations on large-scale projects represent an existential threat to our appropriately ambitious renewable energy goals. On the other side are those who view all utility-scaled developments as an assault on our precious lands and wildlife habitats, among other concerns.

His characterization of pro-renewable advocates is 100% pure bullshit. Nobody from VPIRG or REV or Iberdrola or The Secret Blittersdorf Cabal is opposed to “any possible limitations” on renewable siting. In fact, they just spent a laborious 2016 legislative session working with all interested parties on a revised siting bill that allows for local input.

It was the other side that refuses to come to the table, insists on nothing less than full veto power for local governments, and depicts anyone who disagrees with them as corrupt toadies of rich, powerful, foreign interests.

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Ducking and Knuckling — UPDATED with Minter reax

I see from Paul Heintz’ “Fair Game” column that one feature of every electoral season is in high gear: the debate over debates.

Apparent front-runner Phil Scott is doing what front-runners do: insisting on conditions that minimize his exposure. To wit, he wants beloved nutcase Bill “Spaceman” Lee to take part in all debates.

So, this week’s one-on-one with Sue Minter might turn out to be a one-off.

Which would be a shame, and a disservice to the electorate. The real contest is between Scott and Minter. There should be a thorough exploration of their ideas, and they need to be put to the test in direct confrontation without any moonbats cluttering up the stage and hogging one-third of the available time.

Scott insists he’s not being chicken, but let’s keep it a hundy. He is.

And now, let us consider two media outlets who have responded very differently to Scott’s ultimatum. Let’s see if you can guess which is which.

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When is a law not a law? The sponsor responds

A couple days ago I wrote about the saga of Act 86, which requires constant monitoring of Lake Champlain for blue-green algae blooms, but actually accomplishes nothing in the real world.

Well, I’ve talked with one of those responsible for the law, and here’s what I learned.

First, Act 86 was not a stand-alone pice of legislation, which you wouldn’t know from reading VPR’s report on it.

“The bill itself has two parts,” explains Rep. Diane Lanpher (D-Vergennes). “The first addresses CSO’s [combined sewer overflows], and the second, cyanobacteria [blue-green algae].”

Lanpher was chief sponsor of H.674, the CSO bill; Rep. Kathleen Keenan (D-St. Albans) was chief sponsor of Act 86, the algae piece. Both measures addressed public notification of water quality problems, so they decided to combine the measures into a single bill.

While Act 86 has had little practical effect, H.674 has been highly impactful, turning an unforgiving spotlight on troublesome municipal wastewater systems.

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