My friends, just because the rest of you took a nice three-day weekend doesn’t mean that Stupid isn’t on the clock. Yup, we’ve got another full slate for your reading pleasure. This week: A cheap shot on Bernie that doesn’t land, a double dose of Rutland-style racism, and public funds for… lobbying?
First, a pair of “Ha! I gotcha! But Why Are You Laughing? Awards to Fox News and the New York Post, for a wild swing and a miss at our own Sen. Bernie Sanders. Pretty much every media outlet covered last week’s revelaiton of Bernie’s lodging predilections: King-sized bed, 60-degree room, no ice machines nearby, etc. It was good for a chuckle, and quickly disappeared. But Fox and the Post tried to pull an Al Gore on Bernie: Accusing him of hypocrisy because, as a democratic socialist, he ought to be able to sleep on a park bench or somebody’s couch, I guess.
Fox referenced “a long list of diva demands,” while the Post said Bernie’s demands “would make even the most pampered celebrity blush.” All I can say is, apparently they’ve never seen what a real diva’s demands look like. Bernie’s not in their league.
Besides, c’mon now. Bernie was running for president, which is one of the most demanding tasks a human being can undertake. If he wants a big bed and a charter airplane so he can give multiple speeches in multiple different locations every damn day, well, that’s not hypocrisy, it’s doing whatever it takes to keep the candidate grinding away. For comparison’s sake, I’d love to see the travel demands of conservative “populists” like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or Newt Gingrich.
Next we have a pair of “I’m Not a Racist, I Just Can’t Stand People Who Aren’t Like Me” Awards going down Rutland way.
First recipient is Rutland Town Selectboard member Don Chioffi for revealing his racism by denying there’s any racism in the community. At its May 24 meeting (reported by the always-timely Rutland Herald in its May 28 edition), the selectboard was asked to approve a “statement of inclusion” that says “Rutland Town condemns racism and discrimination of any type, and welcomes all persons, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age or disability, and will protect these classes to the fullest extent of the law.”
Well, that was much too much for Mr. Chioffi. He threw everything against the wall in hopes that something would stick, arguing variously that the statement implies there’s been exclusion, which there hasn’t, or there’s no proof, or town officials are already bound to be inclusive by their oaths of office, or maybe the resolution itself would be illegal. And then he topped it off by lamenting the disappearance of the N-word from public discourse:
“That’s one of the things that really irritates me in society is that you can’t use that term… in any context whatsoever, whether it’s to define it or talk about whether it’s in a book or whether it’s in a quote or anything else,” said Chioffi. “Apparently, the only ones that can use that term, that name, the only ones that can use it are the people that it refers to. They can use it freely, and there’s no problem.”
Waah, waah, waah, I wanna say the N-word!
May I remind you that this isn’t Chioffi’s first instance of public racism. He was one of the organizers of Rutland First, the group opposed to a plan to settle Syrian refugees in Rutland. In fact, he won an award from a national anti-immigrant organization that’s on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups for its anti-Muslim rhetoric. His comments on the settlement plan reveal a deep ignorance and/or a willingness to lie through his teeth.
The second “I’m Not a Racist, I Just Can’t Stand People Who Aren’t Like Me” Award goes to, hmmm, there’s a bunch of potential dishonorees (such as a majority of the Rutland School Board), but let’s give this one to Rutland Alderman Thomas DePoy.
Last year, the school board voted to drop the “Raiders” nickname for its high school sports teams and replace it with “Ravens.” This year’s elections brought a pro-Raider majority to the board, and since then it’s been looking for a way to reverse last year’s action. Because they’ve got nothing better to do than bring back a symbol of anti-Native American racism.
So why give the award to DePoy? Well, Mia Schultz, head of the Rutland Area NAACP, wrote a letter implying that students should take a stand against the Raider logo if it’s reinstated… even if it meant not playing with their teams. DePoy demanded that Schultz leave her leadership position because she had “directly threaten[ed] the children in our school system.” Sheesh. What a snowflake. That earns him the Veepie.
Finally, we have the “Our Tax Money Went for WHAT?” Award, which goes to the Vermont Department of Labor. Not for its ongoing unemployment insurance disasterpiece, but for one of the grants issued last week in its Vermont Internship Program. An unstated amount of money went to the Vermont Chamber of Commerce to “support VCC’s Legislative Monitoring Collaborative, providing postsecondary students and graduates opportunity to learn more about the legislative process and public policy that affects Vermont businesses through a structured work-based learning experience.”
Hmm… “legislative monitoring”… “legislative process”… “public policy that affects Vermont businesses”…
To put it plainly, these internships provide support for the Chamber’s Statehouse lobbying operation. Which seems like an odd way to spend taxpayer dollars.
Now, the program includes businesses, associations, nonprofits and educational institutions that provide internship opportunities. The idea is to encourage internships as a way for young people to gain valuable experience and make connections with potential employers.
All good, and nothing in the program’s description would bar the Chamber — or any other organization that has a lobbying operation — from using state dollars to support their activities. A loophole, maybe?
It’s something to ponder for any other organization that lobbies our lawmakers. For instance, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility or the Vermont Natural Resources Council or VPIRG or Rights & Democracy or the Progressive Party or the Youth Lobby. Get on board the gravy train, folks.
Update 6/1/21. A reader tells me that VPIRG has, in fact, received similar grants from the state’s internship program. If so, then I feel the same way. State money shouldn’t go to support lobbying efforts aimed at state government.
Update Update 6/2/21. Paul Burns, executive director of VPIRG, has posted a comment saying that his organization does not accept state money for lobbying, and would never do so. Maybe the reader cited above had some bad information. Or he just doesn’t like VPIRG.