Call Dr. Levine, We’ve Got a Full-Fledged Stupidemic On Our Hands

Well, geez. I already had enough material for another edition of the Veepie Awards on Friday, and then the weekend brought a fresh outbreak of The Stupid. So before any more cases are diagnosed, let’s roll out our second-ever awards for Outstanding Stupidity On Public Display…

The We’ve Always Done It This Way, and We’re Going to Keep Doing It This Way Until the Sun is a Cold, Dark Husk Award goes to House leadership for continuing the barnacle-encrusted tradition of appointing one Republican to a committee chairship, no matter how small the Republican caucus. This time it may just bite ’em in the butt. And, more painfully, bite unemployed Vermonters with children.

As reported by VTDigger’s James Finn, the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee is likely to eliminate an additional $50-per-week to unemployment benefits for jobless Vermonters with children, included by the Senate in a bill addressing UI benefits and the unemployment trust fund. This is the committee with the obligatory token Republican chair, Rep. Michael Marcotte. He told Finn that he’s skeptical about the parental bonus, and his committee may strip it from the bill.

We don’t know how other Commerce members feel, because none are quoted in the article. But the chair sets the committee agenda, and has the power to block anything they choose. Heck of a time for a Republican to occupy that seat.

I get the desire for bipartisanship, or at least the plausible appearance of same. I could understand giving a chairship or two to a minority if there’s a close partisan split in the House. But why give away a leadership post to a party that can barely win one-third of available seats? Republicans know it’s a token gesture. It doesn’t stop them from feeling abused and ignored by the majority. It accomplishes nothing. Or, in this case, less than nothing.

After the jump: Stupid Bar Tricks, Art Malappreciation, and a comms guy makes a dumb comms mistake.

We’ve got a pair of winners for the Gee, I Didn’t Know Social Media Was, You Know, Social Award. First, Hinesburg Fire Chief Al Barber, who has shared some fairly distasteful items on Facebook. He was originally dinged for reposting a patently homophobic item depicting two men who are obvious gay stereotypes doing a Lady and the Tramp number on a banana, with the caption “How Gay Men Who Want to Ban Guns Eat a Banana.”

Barber claims he reposted it without fully reading it. Which, (1) is irresponsible, especially for a public figure, and (2) doesn’t pass the sniff test. I mean, the photo and caption are clearly homophobic. You don’t have to read the entire thing.

So naturally The Citizen, which reported the initial story, took a look at Barber’s Facebook history and discovered several other offensive posts. Barber is scrambling to contain the damage; he issued an apology for the banana item, he took down his Facebook page, he claimed the reposts were simply an attempt to spark public debate, and he’s asserting that his personal postings shouldn’t be held to scrutiny just because he’s fire chief. Hey, Chief. Pick one excuse and stick to it.

The other G.I.D.K.S.M.W.Y.K.S. Award goes to The Saint J Brewery, for advertising a weekend event with the closing line “All Americans Welcome, No Globalists Please.” The term “globalism” is popular in far-right conspiracy circles, and exudes the unmistakable whiff of anti-Semitism. Bar owner Scott Salmonsen didn’t respond to interview requests from Seven Days, which reported the oopsie. But his own Facebook page is replete with nativist and anti-globalist posts. Let’s see how it affects his business.

And now we have the If You’re Going to Be Publicly Hateful, At Least Get Your Conspiracies Straight award, for those harassing a Northfield art gallery over a painting in its window. Some anonymous members of the community have decided that the painting features a symbol of the Antifa movement. They’ve sought the artwork’s removal — and have also contacted Art, Etc.’s landlord to urge that its lease be terminated. (Anyone wishing to support this endeavor could take a road trip to Northfield and visit the place. Hours, according to its Facebook page: Wednesday through Sunday, 10a-2p.)

This is doubly stupid. First, it’s an abstract work. There are circles, and hints of something that might be a capital “A,” but seeing a symbol requires a heavy squint and a heart full of grievance.

Second, THAT’S NOT THE ANTIFA SYMBOL. It’s the “Anarchy” symbol. C’mon, folks, if you’re going to peddle conspiracies, at least get your disinformation straight.

The I Used to Do This For a Living, But I’ve Forgotten Everything I Learned award goes to former Scott administration communications chief Ethan Latour. He’s now deputy commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management, which is a lovely promotion for a guy who wasn’t even comms chief until last year.

That’s beside the point, which is that Latour sent a letter under an assumed name to The Stowe Reporter addressing a controversy over a disc golf course. But that’s not even the stupid part.

No, the stupid part is that he attached his personal cell number and email address to the letter. Astoundingly enough, that proved to be enough information to trace the letter back to its source. And this guy spent four years in the governor’s comms shop. Sheesh.

Finally, we have the Mister Sister Memorial Award for Tasteless Bar Name, which goes to the proprietors of Good Trouble, a watering hole opening later this month in Burlington. The name is a nod to the late Congressman John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement. “We were really inspired by his legacy and his quote about ‘making good trouble,'” said co-owner Lauren McKenzie. A mural featuring Lewis will be displayed on an exterior wall.

Well, that’s nice. And the bar will donate five percent of its proceeds to a charitable organization every month. But appropriating the image and ideas of a figure like Lewis for a commercial enterprise is questionable at best. And when it’s a Black icon appropriated by two white folks in an extremely white city? Well, that’s perilously close to the edge.

If you don’t see the potential offense, I recommend this essay by Anthony Quinones, entitled “White People Are Cashing In On the Black Struggle for Equality,” published in Black Enterprise magazine.

Apparently the good folks at Seven Days didn’t see it. The story about “Good Trouble” is in its “Food & Drink” section, and was obviously written as a nice little Welcome Wagon gift to a new business. No hint of the questionable nomenclature.

But there has been a wave of criticism on social media. It remains to be seen whether the name proves to be an albatross around the venture’s neck, just as the blink-and-it’s-gone gay bar “Mister Sister” was sunk by community backlash to its tasteless name.

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