Here at theVPO Institute for the Study of Political Inadequacy, we have yet to establish a causal link between the weather and incidences of stupidity, but it stands to reason that our current heat wave would fry a few synapses. Anyway, here’s a rundown of what’s new in the land of busted neural connections.
First, and we’ll have to put the Award Factory on double shifts to crank out enough Veepies for these honorees, is the No One Was Driving, Officer, We Were All In the Back Singing Award to the Scott administration, the Legislature, and members of a special “working group” for cutting way back on the “motel rooms for those experiencing homelessness” program without actually, uhh, creating an alternative. Members of the working group have my sympathy; they were given an impossible task and did their best. As VTDigger’s Katie Jickling reported back in March, the working group was established because no one could think of a halfway decent solution. It was a convenient receptacle for a very hot potato.
And the group, faced with the same set of dismaying facts (federal funding going away, not enough state dollars to carry forward, and an overheated real estate market), came up with this little cluster: Eligibility has been significantly tightened, which means that several hundred Vermonters could be tossed out of motel accommodations on July 1 without anywhere else to go. Eligibility will be further tightened on September 22, leaving hundreds more on the streets.
In many areas, rental housing just doesn’t exist. Elsewhere, it’s way too pricey. Homeless service organizations are trying to prepare, which includes arranging supplies of camping equipment. Because hey, nothing says “summer fun” like homelessness! Maybe we can give ’em discount rates at some of the less popular state parks.
There are no easy answers here. But given the fact that we’re currently awash in federal Covid relief funds, is there really an excuse for this massive policy failure? Veepies all around!
After the jump: Burlington Dems need a calendar, a plea to not use a veto session for its intended purpose, a once-respected journalist enters the Conspiracy Zone, and a new low in far-right commentary.
Next, the Gee, I Guess I Was Using the Gregorian Calendar Award goes to the Burlington Democratic Committee. The BDC has to nominate a candidate for the City Council vacancy created when Brian Pine joined the Weinberger administration. The BDC originally scheduled a nominating caucus for June 22 — which, funny story, is one day after the candidate filing deadline. Which would have rendered their chosen candidate ineligible. The Dems didn’t realize this until a Seven Days reporter asked them about it. Now, they’ve rescheduled for June 18. Does anyone wonder why the Burlington Dems have a reputation for being complacent?
I feel a little bad about this because I like the guy, but the Now Is Not the Time Even Though It Is Exactly the Time Award goes to Rep. Jim Harrison. In an essay posted on VTDigger, he argued that the Legislature shouldn’t use its upcoming veto session to, um, consider overriding vetoes. He’s particularly concerned with Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of charter changes for Winooski and Montpelier that would allow resident noncitizens to vote.
Harrison argues that now is “not the time or place” to attempt overrides — when, in fact, a veto session is, by definition, precisely the time and place. He also asserts that it’d be a shame for a session marked by executive/legislative cooperation to end on a sour note. Well, Jim, I’d say it was the governor who ended the Era Of Good Feelings when he vetoed those bills.
Up next is a belated entry from late May, but it truly deserves mention. It’s the I’ve Literally Forgotten More About Journalism Than You’ll Ever Know Award, going to longtime reporter Mike Donoghue. He’s been taking part in Gov. Scott’s Covid briefings as a contributor to something called The Islander, a news outlet on Vermont’s Champlain Islands. During the May 25 briefing, Donoghue tossed a “gotcha” question at Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine: “Can you address the various deaths linked to Covid-19 vaccine shots in Vermont?”
This was news to Levine, mainly because, well, it wasn’t true. Donoghue was referring to eight reports on the Vaccine Adverse Event Response System (VAERS), which is a Centers for Disease Control database compiling all reports of possible adverse reactions from vaccines. From the VAERS website:
VAERS is a passive reporting system, meaning it relies on individuals to send in reports of their experiences to CDC and FDA. VAERS is not designed to determine if a vaccine caused a health problem, but is especially useful for detecting unusual or unexpected patterns of adverse event reporting that might indicate a possible safety problem with a vaccine.
What Donoghue thought was a list of eight Vermonters killed by the vaccine was, in fact, a list of eight unconfirmed incidents in which Vermonters died in ways that might possibly be related to a Covid shot. The VAERS system has birthed many a right-wing conspiracy theory. It’s just kinda sad to see a veteran journalist fall for it.
Finally, the Fever Dreams That Burn With the Fire of a Thousand Suns Award, heading Aaron Warner’s way. He’s the author, to use the term loosely, of an opinion piece posted on Guy Page’s Vermont Daily, an outlet for right-wing news and commentary. I realize this is the lowest of low-hanging fruit, and I could do a Veepies every damn day if I made a habit of citing Vermont Daily, True North Reports and the Ethan Allen Institute’s website. But this one is special… in the worst way.
Warner begins with the assertion that left-wing protesters including Black Lives Matter and Antifa are exercising tyrannical power over American life and culture. That would come as a surprise to anyone in those movements, which have raised a lot of ruckus but have had little effect on, you know, public policy ‘n stuff. “Riots raged” across America, Warner says of the Summer of 2020’s largely peaceful protests with a few outbreaks of property damage and police overreaction.
All that stuff is right-wing boilerplate. Warner stands out from the crowd by launching into a spectacular display of white-blindness. “China is in no way oppressed by white people, [and] Africa has [no] semblance of white oppression within its borders,” he writes, ignoring the entire Colonial Era, in which European powers wreaked untold damage on non-white cultures around the world. That damage resonates to this day, just as the Civil War resonates in America 160 years after the fact. Warner also ignores the ongoing economic colonialism that extracts natural resources from developing countries without adequate recompense.
But here’s where Warner hits his peak. He actually wrote the following, intending for it to be a thought-provoking exercise in intellectualism:
“White people led the charge to free black and brown slaves in America and elsewhere.”
I suppose if you squint real hard and overlook all the Black and brown people who fought for their freedom and made up a good portion of the abolitionist movement, then you might say that “white people led the charge to free the slaves.”
But you’d have to ignore a little tiny bit of the historical record: That it was white people who MADE THEM SLAVES IN THE FIRST PLACE and kept them enslaved for centuries.
I tell you, a single Veepie hardly seems adequate. But I’m sorry, it’s one to a customer.
“Rep. Jim Harrison. In an essay posted on VTDigger, he argued that the Legislature shouldn’t use its upcoming veto session to, um, consider overriding vetoes.”
When I read his commentary I did not forget that Harrison was a lobbyist before he was a rep.