Category Archives: Arts and culture

Buy my book!

Ye Olde Blogge is about to go into cold storage. It shall remain intact, but as long as I serve as political columnist for Seven Days, I won’t be posting new material here.

A farewell message will follow. But first I’m exercising a bit of Blogger’s Privilege and posting a shameless plug for my book, which has nothing to do with Vermont politics. Indeed, it stems from an entirely different chapter in my life.

From 2000 to 2005 I worked at New Hampshire Public Radio as a news anchor, reporter, and host of a daily interview show. “The Front Porch” was resolutely unpolitical. Its tagline was “Interesting people from New Hampshire” — by which I meant the NHPR listening area, including parts of Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts.

When I launched the show, the joking response was, “So how long before you run out of interesting people in New Hampshire?” My answer, timidly at first but with more conviction as time went on, was ‘I honestly don’t think we ever will.”

And I was right.

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Point of Spousal Privilege

I’ve been told that Governor Shumlin’s wife is a fan of this blog. Oh well, let’s alienate another regular… 

Apparently when you’re married to the governor, you get to use his ceremonial office as a sounding board for your pique.

That’s the lesson I drew from Katie Hunt’s art installation, on display in hubby’s ceremonial office at the Statehouse. There are two works, each comprised of a set of papier mache figures. And it’s hard not to see them as Hunt’s own personal Festivus celebration with the Vermont media as the recipient of her Airing of Grievances.

Deets, and pictures, after the jump.

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Keith Knight!!!!

Drove down to Dartmouth College today for a talk by one of my favorite comic artists, a guy who ought to be much more well-known than he is: Keith Knight, creator of three (count ‘em — three) syndicated comics. Hardest-working man in the funny papers.

Knight, for those tragically unaware, is a young black man whose work features a rich and dynamic mix of political commentary, true-life narrative, goofball humor, and a visual style that’s bursting with energy.

I first came across his original creation, The K Chronicles, in the comics pages of Seven Days. Unfortunately, a couple years ago the paper revamped its comics and dropped the strip. I don’t know if it was too black or too funny or what, but it was a great loss. Fortunately, you can find his work online and he’s published a half-dozen compilations, some of which are still in print.

The subject of his talk is a sadly recurring theme in his work: police violence against African-Americans. It was entitled “They Shoot Black People, Don’t They?” which is also the title of a published collection of his work on the subject. “I’ve been doing comics about police brutality for 20 years. I’m sick of it.”

A recent example after the jump.

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Metapost: theVPO on the air

On Thursday morning, I’ll be guest hosting “Open Mike” on WDEV Radio. Live broadcast from 9-11 a.m., also live streamed on WDEV’s website.

Should be a great show. In the first hour, I’ll be speaking with David Hall, the Mormon millionaire who wants to create a planned community in Tunbridge, Strafford, Royalton and Sharon that could house up to 20,000 people. As far as I know, this will be his first extensive radio interview since his plans hit the news.

My post on the topic, subtly entitled “The Mormons are Coming! The Mormons are Coming!” elicited a response from Mr. Hall himself, which led to an email exchange and, ultimately, his accepting my invitation to the interview. He has denied some of my more outrageous concerns; according to him, this community is based on ideas from Joseph Smith, but it is not intended as a Mormon outpost. Rather, it would be open to anyone willing to commit to a sustainable, planned community.

Second hour should be lively as well. My guest will be James Lockridge, founder and head of The Big Heavy World Foundation, a Burlington-based nonprofit that promotes Vermont music in a host of ways. He’s had his differences with the Burlington and Vermont arts establishment, which he sees as excessively insular and not supportive of new, bold ideas. I also plan to talk with him about the importance of the arts for (1) our economy and (2) attracting young people to Burlington and Vermont.

WDEV’s at 96.1 FM and 550 AM. The FM signal is strong on the I-89 corridor from Montpelier to Burlington; the AM is pretty strong in all directions. Hope you can join me!

Flynn Center Presents: Serenade for Tiny Violins

A state tax reform measure that would cap itemized deductions at 2.5 times the standard deduction has picked up quite a bit of steam in the Legislature. And right on cue, here comes the Flynn Center’s John Killacky to sound the alarm: limiting itemized deductions “could have dire… consequences for Vermont’s nonprofits.”

tiny violinAwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Pardon me if my heart doesn’t bleed. What he’s saying is that we have to let our wealthiest keep a whole lot of their money in hopes that they’ll give bits of it to charity. It’s a very inefficient way to encourage philanthropy, especially in a day when our regulation of “nonprofits” is so lax, it’s laughable.

Just one example. The Koch Brothers, and many of their fellow megawealthy conservatives, don’t actually donate much to political parties or candidates. No, they set up networks of nonprofit organizations with “educational” missions and — wowee! — promote their ideology while simultaneously pocketing huge tax savings. Yeah, we’re subsidizing conservative propaganda. Feels good, doesn’t it?

(We’re also subsidizing a fair bit of liberal propaganda. The Vermont Workers’ Center has become a very well-funded organization thanks to dozens of annual gifts from nonprofit foundations, many of them set up by wealthy individuals. Its biggest donor is the Ben & Jerry Foundation. I’m not equating the Vermont Workers’ Center with the Koch Brothers, but they both sail along on a rising tide of tax-deductible contributions.)

Back to Vermont. Killacky cites a survey that shows “67 percent of people interviewed confirmed that a decrease in income tax deductions would cause them to contribute less.”

Perhaps. I’d like to see how the study was conducted and how the questions were worded. But even if it’s legit, it should have little to no impact on Vermont’s debate over itemized deductions.

That’s because the big kahuna is the federal deduction. A change in Vermont law would have no effect on that far larger tax benefit. There would still be abundant incentive to contribute.

Killacky also fails to mention that Vermont’s current tax rules for the wealthy are among the most generous in the nation. If we put a cap on deductions, we’d no longer be an outlier in our generosity to our wealthiest citizens, but we’d still be plenty generous.

The scare tactics are entirely out of proportion to the real situation. I can understand why Killacky feels obligated to scurry to the defense of his fat-cat donors, but his arguments are unconvincing.