Monthly Archives: December 2022

In Honor of the Restoration of Power, It’s the Return of Lightning Round!

It’s been a long, strange week chez VPO. Along with many other Vermonters, our power went out on the morning of Friday the 23rd. Unlike most other Vermonters, we didn’t get our power back until the evening of the 28th. (Our neighborhood suffered the downing of multiple power poles and the damaging of its substation.) Most low-key Christmas ever.

So that’s why no blogging in a week. In the meantime, things kept happening (on a reduced-quantity holiday schedule), so here I am to proclaim the return of POWERRR and to catch up on stuff I might have missed. Today’s bits include a surge in criminality that can’t possibly be the Progressives’ fault, a minimal sentence for a “savage beating,” how the F-35s put Burlington in Putin’s crosshairs, and a country-rock revenge fantasy from a very unsuccessful House candidate. En avant, mes amis!

Rutland Crime Wave Fails the Preferred Narrative. On December 27, VTDigger reported on Rutland’s dramatic rise in property crimes. Thefts from cars up 400% from the previous five-year average, and a more than threefold increase in stolen cars, thefts from buildings, and retail theft.

I don’t know how they’re going to pin this on Radical Socialist Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George or “defunding the police,” but I’m sure they’re looking for a way. After all, Rutland doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a crime-friendly center of rabid progressivism, and yet here they are suffering a crime wave. Some are blaming restrictions on bail, but the obvious cause is substance use. According to the Rutland PD, 75% of suspects in retail theft are known narcotic users, as are 64% of auto theft suspects and 100% of robbery suspects.

Yeah, I think we’ve pinned down the problem there. Opioid deaths continue to set new records. Opioid-related crime appears to be fueling any increase in lawlessness. Can we stop nattering about progressive criminal justice reform and address the real problems?

No, I guess that’s no fun, is it.

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So Hey, Department of Corrections, How Goes the “Culture Change”?

You know it’s serious when a report from State Auditor Doug Hoffer (a) gets a lot of media attention and (b) prompts a chastened response from state officialdom.

That’s just what happened Monday with the release of Hoffer’s performance audit of the Department of Corrections’ prisoner grievance process. A process that was so lacking that Hoffer couldn’t even conduct a full audit because of poor recordkeeping. A process so lacking that to even call it a “process” is an indignity against the English language.

And no, I’m not exaggerating. Hoffer found that DOC records do not “have reliable, basic information to determine the number, type, status or outcome of prisoner grievances.”

Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

But wait, there’s more! Inaccurate data, missing records, no submission or response dates, inadequate training for staffers who use the system, and no DOC administrator specifically tasked with managing the grievance process.

It’s a great system if your goal is to avoid accountability.

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Pillow Guy-Funded Ex-Scientist Brings His Election Denialism to Town

From the pen of cub reporter Mike Bielawski comes the exciting news that a scientist — that’s right, an honest-to-God scientist — is coming to Vermont to expose a nefarious scheme to steal the 2020 election from Donald Trump.

The scientist in question is one Douglas G. Frank, reputed to be a “world-renowned physicist with 60 peer-reviewed scientific publications, including cover and feature articles in the world’s leading scientific journals.” Those are words from the press release announcing Frank’s appearance, dutifully transcribed by Bielawski.

Okay, I’ll bite. Who is this Frank guy, and how does being a physicist qualify him to uncover election fraud? I mean, it reminds me uncomfortably of WIlliam Shockley, an honest-to-God Nobel Prize winner who brought disgrace on his own head by advocating “scientific proof” that Black people are just plain inferior to whites.

That’s what happens when an expert in a narrowly-defined field decides his genius can be freely transferred to any other area of life. And with all due respect, Frank can’t possibly be a scientific genius in Shockley’s class. Can he?

Well, no.

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And By “Those Populations” I Mean, You Know, People

Huzzah, huzzah, the great amorphous bipartisan centrist policy apparatus has burped out another moral failure. I’m talking about Gov. Phil Scott’s plan to wind down rental assistance and emergency housing, which belies his perpetual commitment to protecting the most vulnerable.

Well, yesterday, the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee, including its Democratic majority, signed off on the plan.

Does this help explain why so many Democrats were happy to vote for the Republican governor, or why so many were uneasy at the prospect of fierce housing advocate Brenda Siegel becoming governor and putting everybody’s feet to the fire?

Yep.

To be fair to the distinguished panel, they didn’t have much choice. The Legislature isn’t in session, and the JFC (unfortunate acronym alert) doesn’t have the authority or time to craft a replacement policy. But it would have been nice to hear a little more kicking and screaming.

We did get some pushback from Rep. Emilie Kornheiser, vice chair of House Ways & Means. “I am having trouble seeing my way towards March, April, when a lot of people will be handed tents.”

Tents. And we like to call ourselves the greatest country in the World.

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Some Questions Need to be Answered About the Red Flag Law — UPDATED

Note: This post has been updated with figures from Lamoille County.

It’s been almost five years since Gov. Phil Scott signed a package of gun bills into law on the Statehouse steps. One of them was a so-called “red flag” law, which allows police to temporarily take firearms away from people deemed to be an immediate risk to themselves or others.

This was a popular alternative to tougher gun restrictions, endorsed by quite a few Republicans including then-president Donald Trump. But how has the idea worked in practice?

Well, according to the Associated Press, not all that well. The AP reported that in many jurisdictions, red flag laws are so rarely used they might as well not exist.

AP found such laws in 19 states and the District of Columbia were used to remove firearms from people 15,049 times since 2020, fewer than 10 per 100,000 adult residents. Experts called that woefully low and not nearly enough to make a dent in gun violence…

In Chicago, the Illinois law was used only four times. New Mexico’s law was employed eight times. In liberal old Massachusetts, the red flag law was used a whopping 12 times.

It’s a different story in Vermont. But there are still questions to answer about our red flag law in practice.

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This Isn’t Gonna End Well

VTDigger greets us with a happy little tale from Rutland of a vigilante band taking the law into their own hands. The story is pretty thorough and goes on at some length. It’s alarming stuff, although the local cops and county prosecutor seem to be just fine with it. I mean, this could be nothing more than Neighborhood Watch on steroids, but the story leads with a shoplifter being confronted and assaulted by members of the “Rutland City Patrol.” Not a good sign.

Especially when you look at the above photo, which accompanied the Digger story. There’s the cheap-looking “Rutland City Patrol” magnetic sign. And then there’s a second sign that’s clearly associated with Blue Lives Matter.

The article doesn’t mention that. Kind of an important point, don’t you think?

“I got your six” means “I’ve got your back.” It’s used in many contexts. On its own, it’s benign. But when it’s paired with the black, white and blue flag, it’s Blue Lives Matter. And that creates a whole different context for the story and for the City Patrol.

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He Knows When You’ve Been Bad or Good, and If You’ve Been Bad He’s Giving You Something From the VTGOP Gift Collection

I hope you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet because now’s your chance to please the Coolidge lover in your life. And we’ve all got one of them, haven’t we?

Pictured above: Two items from the “Coolidge Was Cooler” line of VTGOP merch. All five items feature the same hastily-photoshopped image of Calvin Coolidge sporting a pair of aviator sunglasses. See, Coolidge was cooler than Joe Biden of aviator sunglasses fame. Ha ha, cough.

This is the best design available from the Vermont Republican Party’s online “SHOP” page. Hard to believe I know, but the rest of the collection is even sadder.

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All of a Sudden, Phil Scott Cares About Family Leave Again

There’s only one circumstance that makes Gov. Phil Scott care about paid family leave: When it looks like the Legislature is going to pass a universal paid leave plan. That’s when he whips out his grossly inadequate substitute voluntary idea in hopes of peeling a few votes from the Dem/Prog supermajorities.

Scott first floated his voluntary concept four and a half years ago as an alternative to a universal program. A little less than four years ago, he and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced a two-state approach meant to give the program a sounder financial footing. That idea never went anywhere because Vermont lawmakers didn’t buy it and the (then-Republican dominated) New Hampshire Legislature wasn’t interested.

At the time, Scott insisted he could make a go of it in Vermont alone. But he made no apparent efforts to do so.

In 2020, Scott was again offering the voluntary idea but offering no specifics. That situation stayed the same… until now, when his party has taken a shellacking at the polls and he faces veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate. Now he’s got a plan.

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Storm Clouds Above the Statehouse

There is much to be said about Gov. Phil Scott suddenly pulling a voluntary paid family leave program. For instance, that he has never ever pushed this issue at all unless the Legislature is actively considering a universal program. This isn’t a principled position, it’s an artifice meant to draw votes away from the Dem/Prog caucuses.

But something else, something subtler but equally discomfiting, is on my mind at the moment.

There are signs that the House-Senate tensions of past years are flaring back up again. If so, key legislation could fail because of differences between the two chambers, real or imaginary. If that happens, they’ll be disappointing the voters who elected record numbers of Dems expecting them to get stuff done.

This tension was minimized if not eliminated in the current biennium, thanks to the efforts of House Speaker Jill Krowinski and outgoing Pro Tem Becca Balint. It’d be a shame if Balint’s departure triggers a return of the bad old days.

The usual sniping between House and Senate is most often expressed in senators’ apparently innate sense of superiority. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen senators speak of state representatives as if they’re misbehaving kids on a school bus, and treat House legislation as if it’s toilet paper stuck to their shoes.

The most prominent example of the House-Senate tension has been the twin battles over paid family leave and raising the minimum wage. The House has preferred the former, the Senate the latter. The result: No paid leave program and woefully inadequate movement on minimum wage. On two occasions the Legislature has passed watered-down versions of a paid leave program and Scott has vetoed them. The inter-chamber differences have done much to frustrate progress toward enacting a strong paid leave program over Scott’s objections.

And now, here we are again with an apparent House-Senate rift on paid family leave.

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VTDigger Coughs Up a Hairball, Calls it Caviar

The headline is dramatic. “Former campaign staffer sues Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brenda Siegel for unpaid wages, expenses.” Wow, sounds serious.

Well, it’s not. In fact, the story is so bereft of substance that it makes you wonder how it got published at all.

For starters, the “former campaign staffer,” Bryan Parks, worked for the Siegel campaign for less than a month. The amount of money in question is less than $600.

Six hundred dollars.

Reporter Sarah Mearhoff, who will not be submitting this shitball for any journalism prizes, gives over the first six paragraphs to Parks’ account, his disillusionment with the candidate, his insistence that it’s not about the money, and how he waited until after the election to file his suit “so as not to appear politically motivated.”

And only then, after Parks is given all that space, do we get Siegel’s response: “No, I don’t owe him any money. He is completely paid up.”

Well, there you go, right? Game, set, match, right?

Er, no.

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