Something Stupid This Way Comes

Yep, it’s time again for another round of The Veepies, our awards for stupidity and/or obtuseness in the public sphere. Got a lovely crop of stupid on offer.

First, we have the It Worked So Splendidly Last Time, Let’s Run It Back Again Award, which goes to the folks responsible for exhuming the cold, rotting carcass of the Sanders Institute. Yep, the Sanders clan’s vanity project think tank is once again open for business, thanks to a big fat chunk o’change from… wait for it… the Bernie Sanders campaign! Gotta do something with all those $27 gifts they couldn’t manage to spend during the actual election season.

For those just joining us, the Sanders Institute was founded in 2016 by Jane Sanders and her son David Driscoll, who — mirabile dictu — emerged from what I’m sure was an exhaustive nationwide search to become SI’s executive director. Well, the Institute posted a bunch of essays (mostly recycled from other media) on its website and had one big conference in 2018, but was shut down in May 2019, sez the AP, “amid criticism that the nonprofit has blurred the lines between family, fundraising and campaigning.” Ya think?

There are a few differences between the original and SI 2.0. Sanders comms guy Mike Cesca told VPR that none of the campaign’s money would go toward pay or bennies for Sanders family members. Which is kind of an admission that they screwed up the first time.

Also, two different spokespeople made reference to “the transition” from winning votes to educating people, which makes you think he’s not running for president again, and makes you wonder whether he’ll run for another Senate term in 2024. The new Institute will also include an archive of Sanders and his family… hmm, sounds like a think tank vanity project.

After the jump: A daycare misfire, a self-inflicted social media disappearance, and incompetent fiber installers.

On to the You Could Really Use a Refresher Course in Media Relations Award, which goes to Penny Spaulding, owner of PJ’s Childcare in St. Albans. Controversy erupted when Spaulding imposed a dress code on her preschoolers, including a ban on shoulder straps less than one inch wide. This drew the ire of parent/client Briana Adams, who posted an angry response on the facility’s Facebook page accusing PJ’s of sexualizing her two-year-old daughter.

I get that. If you’re not thinking of a two-year-old as a potential object of desire, why ban narrow shoulder straps? Well, Spaulding’s hot-headed response included the unfortunate sentence “Do you want other kids to be looking at your daughter?”

So yeah, she’s sexualizing a two-year-old. Which, of course, she vehemently denied when contacted by VTDigger’s Lola Duffort. Her interaction with Duffort was a master class in What Not To Do When A Reporter Calls. The crowning touch:

“There’s not going to be an article put out on me, it’s not going to happen. Or we will go after you guys as well,” she added moments before hanging up the phone.

Right. If you’re trying to avoid bad publicity, the first thing you want to do is threaten a reporter and a major media outlet. Eesh.

Next, the Shooting Yourself in the Digital Media Space Award to crackpot attorney Victoria Toensing for abandoning Twitter in favor of Gettr, the conservative Twitter alternative recently launched by a Trump lackey. Toensing is a frequent guest on right-wing media, spinning conspiracy theories about Democrats. And she’s the mother of former Vermont Republican Party vice-chair Brady Toensing, last seen occupying an appointed position in the Trump Justice Department. Here’s her farewell tweet:

Twitter does, in fact, remove followers. It’s usually because they’re bots, spam accounts, or violators of Twitter’s TOS. Toensing is all hot and bothered over Twitter’s alleged limitations on her follower count. At the time of her last tweet, she had more than 140,000 followers. How many does she have on Gettr?

Um, a little over 4,000. Nice move.

Finally, the If You Think Your Telecom Installer Is Bad, Get a Load of This Award goes, allegedly, to FiberGenesis, a contractor’s subcontractor for ECFiber. Last fall, FG workers were running a fiber line through the Tunbridge dairy farm of Amber and Scott Hoyt. Benign enough, right?

Wrong. The Hoyts say some of their cows have died after ingesting pieces of wire, of a kind used in cable-stringing operations. Since FiberGenesis worked on the property, the Hoyts have been finding coils of wire around their property and small pieces of wire in hay they harvested and fed to their cows. They’ve also found these pieces in the bodies of dead cows.

Since then, FiberGenesis has gone out of business. The contractor that employed FG, Eustis Cable Enterprises, hasn’t admitted responsibility, but it has paid the Hoyts for three loads of feed from elsewhere. Even so, the Hoyts have had to buy another eight loads to keep their cows fed safely.

Hopefully the Hoyts will be made whole by Eustis or the corpse of FiberGenesis or their insurers. But this could also result in the kind of endless legal action that makes a lot of money for law firms and produces little or nothing for people like Amber and Scott Hoyt. Ugh.


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