Hello Stupid, My Old Friend

Now that the Olympics are over, let us return to our regularly scheduled awards for stupidity and/or obtuseness in the public sphere. Unlike Olympic champions, you won’t see these honorees standing tall and proud while their national anthem is played.

In the leadoff spot we have the Remind Me, Whose House Is This Again? Award, which goes to State Rep. Alice Emmons, for publicly pondering whether reporters should be barred from the Statehouse.

Emmons, chair of the House Corrections & Institutions Committee, is the longest-serving state lawmaker, and has a prickly attitude toward the media. I once saw her berate a reporter in front of a couple dozen people, because the reporter dared to record a committee hearing on his phone. Technically, people are supposed to check with the chair before recording, but that rule is never, ever enforced. Except when Emmons gets a bee in her bonnet. So reading this passage in VTDigger wasn’t much of a surprise:

Rep. Alice Emmons, D-Springfield, told the Joint Legislative Management Committee that while “we want to make sure the press is available to our work,” she is unsure “how that happens on their end.” She said that while it’s possible the press will be allowed to cover the Legislature in person in 2022, “they could also do it by Zoom.”

Yes, they could. But c’mon, if you’re reopening the Statehouse, you’ve got to let the reporters in. It’s a little thing called “freedom of the press.”

After the jump: A doomed attack line, a twisting of history, and the flimsiest felony,

On to the We’ve Seen This Movie Before And It Bombed Award, which goes to EMILY’s List, the national fundraising organization that supports Democratic women. It has compiled a list of 39 Republican officeholders who are “On Notice” for being too conservative on issues concerning women. And there, right next to Republican governors like Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott and Brian Kemp, is our very own Smilin’ Phil Scott.

The group’s argument is that Scott repeatedly vetoed paid family leave bills and increasing the minimum wage. Okay, but he’s hardly among the 39 most notorious Republicans. Besides, the last time a national group tried to bushwhack Scott, it backfired badly. During his first campaign for governor in 2016, the political arm of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (with money from the Democratic Governors Association) spent big on TV ads attacking Scott’s abortion record. The ads were so over the top that nobody believed them. And if EMILY’s List tries to convince people that Scott is just another Republican, it’ll be 2016 all over again.

Up next, it’s the If Frederick Douglass Is Rolling In His Grave, It’s Because You Keep Tasing His Corpse Award to “motivational speaker who has become a sought-after Political Activist” (caps his) K. Carl Smith, who recently conducted a brief tour of southern Vermont alongside not-at-all-sought-after ex-gubernatorial candidate John Klar.

Smith is that rarest of flowers, the conservative Black guy. His contribution to our political discourse is his reimagining Frederick Douglass as an Ayn Rand character. The Manchester Journal, for some reason, did a front-page story on the sparsely attended Smith/Klar appearance in that town. This is how Smith characterized Douglass:

Smith pointed out that Douglass was a slave for the first 20 years of his life, but by applying himself he not only became free, but was an adviser to five U.S. presidents, and at the time of his death in 1895, had amassed a sum of $300,000, which would equate to over $10 million today.

So, because Douglass picked himself up by his bootstraps, Black people should stop yammering about systemic racism and get to work. Which ignores the countless occasions on which Douglass was deeply critical of systemic racism in all its forms. This 1894 speech, for instance, is full of passages like this about the plight of Black America, who he saw as…

… an aggrieved class, smarting under terrible wrongs, denied the exercise of the commonest rights of humanity, and regarded by the ruling class… as outside of the government, outside of the law, and outside of society…

Yeah, I think he wanted something more from white America than a motivational poster.

Finally, we have a provisional bestowal of the If This Is a Felony, What’s the Punishment for Jaywalking? Award to the Washington County State’s Attorney’s office. This, because of a rather startling headline that greeted me on the front page of last Wednesday’s Times Argus:

Police: Woman Stole $20 From Man

Now, that’s pretty small potatoes, even for the small-city crime blotter. But the topper: this woman is facing a felony charge of larceny from a person.

A felony? For filching a Tubman? Really?

There was no violence involved; the victim reported the crime, and police caught the perpetrator at another location.

The article gives a lengthy account of who said what and where, but doesn’t provide any more information about why the felony charge. So there might be more to the story.

But frankly, I have a hard time imagining what that might be. If the nonviolent taking of a $20 bill is classified as a felony in state law, then the law needs a fresh look.

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