Well, it’s Monday, and once again we’ve got a full crop of stupidity in the public sphere. I didn’t intend for this to be a weekly feature, but hey, if they keep serving up the meatballs, I’ll keep swinging for the fences.
This week, the stupid was strong in positions of prominence. We’ve got a U.S. Senator, a State Senate committee, a state’s attorney, and not one but two agencies in the Scott administration. So let’s not keep these important slash self-important folks waiting.
To begin, we’ve got our first-ever Provisional Veepie and our first-ever Sub-Veepie. The P.V. is the I’ma Throw Everybody Under the Bus Award, which goes to none other than St. Patrick Leahy. It’s provisional because it’s about an anonymous second-hand quote from Politico, so there’s a chance that Leahy didn’t say, or mean, this. But if he did, what a doozy.
The article reports that Leahy is expected to run for re-election next year. It includes this line: “The 81-year-old has also indicated to them that he believes he’s ‘the only Democrat that can win the seat,’ said a person briefed on the conversations.”
Woof. Way to simultaneously diss every Democrat in Vermont, Senator.
Plus, it isn’t true. Any adequate Democrat would beat any Republican not named “Phil Scott” in a senatorial election. Now, if Scott were to run for Senate, then I might buy this anonymously-attributed-to-Leahy assertion, but that’s not what the sentence says.
The Sub-Veepie, the Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics Award, goes to Politico for this blatantly misleading line: “Given that Bernie Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats, Leahy’s the only Democrat ever elected to the Senate from Vermont.”
Technically true, but c’mon. The last Republican ever elected to the Senate from Vermont was Gentleman Jim Jeffords in 2000 — and he was by far the most liberal Republican in the Senate, and he left the GOP months afterward. Vermont is as blue as it gets. Here’s a statistic: From 2012 through 2020, there were 32 statewide elections in Vermont. Democrats won 26, Phil Scott won 6, and other Republicans won zero. If you leave Scott out of it, any Dem would be the heavy favorite against any Republican.
On to the Sure, There’s No Evidence It Works, But It Gives Us All the Feels Award, which goes to the state Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee. This group is full of devoted supporters of the new-worker grant program, which gives taxpayer money to people who move to Vermont — and can afford to pay their expenses up front, which makes it a giveaway to the affluent.
The committee wanted to make the program permanent and appropriate $1 million. The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee was much more skeptical; it reduced the funding to $630,000 and attached a study to determine the program’s effectiveness. Which is nice, although Auditor Doug Hoffer already did that.
Even supporters of the program acknowledge they can’t prove it works. Sen. Ginny Lyons called it “the icing on the cake,” which makes it sound a little…frivolous. “I hope this report due in December will vindicate us,” said Sen. Alison Clarkson. Not “I am confident”? And Austin Davis, lobbyist for the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce, put it this way: “There’s something to be said about putting out a sign saying you’re open for business.” Yeah, well, that’s one hell of an expensive sign.
Next, the We Can’t Solve the Case, So We’ll Arrest the Person Who’s Making a Stink About It Award, which goes to Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault. For over a year the Barre Police Department has been trying, with arguable dedication, to solve the disappearance of Barre resident Ralph Jean-Marie. Burlington activist Lee Morrigan is one of those who’ve been questioning the BPD’s commitment to the case.
So last week, funny thing. Thibault brought charges against Morrigan for refusing to answer questions in a closed-door hearing. Morrigan claims to know of video footage that might shed light on Jean-Marie’s disappearance, but refused to disclose the information. That’s inconvenient for the cops, but this prosecution smells like retaliation, not justice.
Proceeding to the Oh, You Didn’t Realize Your Sentence Might Include a Debilitating Disease? Award, which goes to the Vermont Department of Corrections. Two years ago, the Vermont ACLU sued the DOC for failing to offer treatment to inmates with Hepatitis-C, an illness that isn’t immediately fatal but usually becomes chronic if untreated, and can significantly shorten expected lifespan. Last week, VTDigger reported that there’s a settlement in the works.
But, c’mon. Four years ago, it was revealed that only one of 258 inmates with Hep-C was given treatment. The ACLU sued in 2019, alleging that more than 200 inmates were still going without treatment. Does it really take a lawsuit and multiple years to get the DOC to treat sick prisoners? Christ on a cracker.
Hang in there, we’re on the last one. That would be the If We Keep Our Eyes Closed, We Will See No Evil Award, going to the Vermont Agency of Education for allowing the scandal-plagued Kurn Hattin Homes for Children to continue operating an independent school. This, after Kurn Hattin had voluntarily relinquished its state license to operate a residential treatment program.
That relinquishment was kind of an “I quit before you can fire me” thing, since a Department of Children and Families review of the residential program reported that “Staff are saying that they cannot adequately meet the needs of students, [and] children are saying they do not feel safe.”
That review came after a VTDigger expose of a decades-long history of physical and sexual abuse at Kurn Hattin. Yikes.
In spite of the Digger story and the DCF conclusions, AND in spite of its own investigators citing Kurn Hattin’s failure “‘to implement safeguards’ to ensure employees had completed the necessary background checks and to ‘adequately train and supervise employees on their duties as mandatory reporters.'”
But fear not, kids! The “increased scrutiny motivated” Kurn Hattin to improve its procedures. It wasn’t the decades of abuse. It wasn’t relinquishing its DCF license before it could be pulled. It was the fact that Digger uncovered its shameful past. Gives you loads of confidence, doesn’t it?
It also has to make you question the adequacy of AOE’s oversight of independent schools, which are not subject to the same standards as public schools. Which Hoffer recently pointed out.