Category Archives: gender issues

Skunk at the party

The abrupt end of Norm McAllister’s first trial on sex-crime charges — a case of prosecutorial overreach, malfeasance, or cowardice, or a combo platter of all three — creates a world-class headache for Franklin County Republicans.

DoonesburyGuiltyMcAllister’s second trial is vaguely scheduled for sometime this fall, and will be conducted by the same legal Dream Team that flushed the first case down the sewer. Between now and then, we’ve got ourselves a primary vote and maybe a general election. McAllister has filed for re-election, and there’s nothing to stop him from carrying on.

Well, shame, perhaps. But he’s already proven he has precious little of that commodity. Remember the Franklin County Legislative Breakfast in January, when the recently suspended McAllister not only showed up, but tried to chair the meeting?

There will be a three-way Republican primary for two Franklin County ballot spots, featuring incumbent Dustin Degree, incumbent in-limbo McAllister, and State Rep. Carolyn Branagan.

It wouldn’t be a surprise, at all, if the esteemed ranks of Franklin County Republicans renominated McAllister despite the massive and unmistakable aroma surrounding him. Vermonters are, after all, strongly inclined to support incumbents — or too lazy to do their homework, take your pick.

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The McAllister “trial” was a disgrace

Mad as Hell, boys and girls.

That’ll do for a start.

Today, the prosecution threw in the towel on the first of two cases against accused rapist Norm McAllister. And absolutely threw their star witness under the bus.

Disgraceful.

There is much more to say, but let’s start there. The accuser did not step forward of her own accord; the authorities encouraged her to do so, and actively solicited her testimony.

She was a reluctant witness from the start. Until the last moment, there were doubts about whether she would show up.

As it turned out, she shouldn’t have. She was subjected to hours of raw, hurtful questioning about every little detail of a series of intimate assaults. And what was her reward?

Less than 24 hours later, the prosecution threw up its hands and said, “Never mind.” Her compliance, her assistance, her exposure in the media, her dutiful effort to testify accuately to events that happened several years ago — all flushed down the toilet.

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Phil Scott needs a refresher course in “Leadership”

The Man Who Would Be Governor Of All Vermonters had his first chance to display some authentic leadership, and he blew it big-time.

In the wake of the Orlando tragedy, which struck at the hearts of thousands of Vermonters, Phil Scott did the absolute minimum. He issued a paragraph of generic condolences and kept to his schedule of content-free glad-handing.

While somewhere between 1,000 (Burlington Free Press) and 2,000 (VTDigger, so let’s call it 2,000) people gathered for a vigil in Burlington, including numerous political leaders, Phil Scott was… um…

… which followed earlier appearances at the Equinox Valley Nursery, Wilcox Ice Cream, and Miles Lumber and Fuels. Because as far as his campaign was concerned, it was just another Monday in Vermont and there was no reason to postpone a single feel-good photo opportunity.

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Tweetblocked by Meg Hansen

You do remember Meg Hansen, the far-right ideologue who’s being paid to craft messaging for the Vermont House Republicans?

Yeah, she just blocked me on Twitter. She’s also blocked at least one prominent Democrat who had presumably given her some blowback for her obnoxious, Christianist Tweets. Which must be a bit of an embarrassment to a VTGOP trying to hold onto a fig leaf of mainstream credibility.

Well, here’s one more embarrassment: the last Tweet I shall ever see from the keyboard of Ms. Hansen.

Meg Hansen tweet

Aww, that’s nice. No time for sincere condolences or “thoughts and prayers,” just straight to scoring political points, eh, Meggle?

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Here’s another sign of the VTGOP’s “moderation”

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s one guy who tends to provide comment and reaction quotes to the media on behalf of the Vermont Republican Party.

No, it’s not Phil “Mr. Leadership” Scott. It’s usually not Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning. Sometimes it’s VTGOP chair David Sunderland. But more often than not, the Republican quote machine is none other than House Minority Leader Don Turner.

Meg Hansen, from her LinkedIn page. (Fair use!)

Meg Hansen, from her LinkedIn page. (Fair use!)

And there’s a person at the controls of the Turner Quote Machine. Her name is Meg Hansen. She handles “strategic communications” for the House Republican Caucus. And she has a very enlightening Twitter feed, for those who still think Vermont Republicans are really a different breed than their national counterparts.

This is the kind of person who’s crafting the Vermont Republican message these days.

She’s been harshly critical of Syrian refugee resettlement, invoking the myth that refugees are a big fat drain on the public treasury. (In fact, the vast majority of refugees quickly become productive members of society.)

Stick around. There’s lots more.

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Good Ol’ Norm: Bloodied but not unbowed

Heh-heh. Just as I predicted, Senator-in-Purgatory Norm McAllister has filed petitions to run for re-election.

Heh-heh-heh. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Sorry. Political junkies get a little excited at the prospect of chaos among the comfortable class. And I bet the Franklin County GOP is wetting its collective pants.

VTDigger broke the news; McAllister dropped off his petitions at the Franklin County courthouse this morning, and (showing uncommon restraint for him) was not immediately available for comment.

Need I remind you: McAllister faces two trials on numerous sex-crime charges; he allegedly coerced women (over whom he exercised some measure of control) to have sex with him. He was arrested on the Statehouse grounds in the last days of the 2015 session; the Senate then spent the entire off-session with its head stuck in the sand, hoping Norm would just go away. When he didn’t, the Senate decided to suspend him for the remainder of the session.

So now that he’s thrown his hat in the ring, let the speculation begin…

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School officials backtrack on bathroom panic

Maybe the folks at Green Mountain Union High School got advance word that the Obama administration was issuing guidelines on bathroom rights (and other issues) for transgender students. That happened earlier today; yesterday, the Vermont school district reversed itself and announced that transgender male students would, in fact, be allowed to use the boys’ restrooms instead of being consigned to the closet-sized gender-neutral facilities.

The original decision had prompted a brief walkout by a couple dozen students on Monday.

A.J. Jackson is a trans student at Green Mountain Union High School. He says the student protest made a difference and now he can use the boys bathroom at the high school.

“I didn’t think we would get this far,” said Jackson.

He’s now hoping for a general review of school policies with an eye toward accommodating students of all kinds. And hey, now the district has guidelines from the state and federal governments to follow.

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Bathroom panic in Vermont

Seems to be a little confusion down Chester way. Officials at Green Mountain Union High School have barred a transgender student from using boys’ restrooms. In response, a couple dozen students staged a protest on Monday. WCAX:

Recently a transgender student, who identifies as a boy, was told he could no longer use the boy’s bathrooms at the school.  A complaint from a fellow student prompted the school’s decision.

… As the protest unfolded outside, school officials claim they have been ahead of the issue of supporting students’ rights, including the LGBT community. The school has six gender neutral bathrooms. The trans student was told to use one of them.

Yeah, kid, go use the Weirdo Bathroom. That won’t create a stigma.

On its face, this would seem to violate the legal principle that “separate but equal” isn’t the same as “equal.”

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Time for a gender scrub

UPDATE: Noted attorney (and Bernie Sanders superdelegate) Rich Cassidy informs us that part of this is already underway: he’s a member of the Uniform Law Commission, which has begun work on rewriting Vermont law for a post-Obergefell world. Good to know. I do want to see government policies and forms become more gender-inclusive as well, but the law is the most important thing. Kudos to the ULC and those who serve on it.

A few years back, the Vermont Legislature initiated the Respectful Language Study, a long-overdue effort to scrub Vermont’s laws and public policies of archaic references to people with disabilities. Strange to think that, until very recently, our laws contained references to retardation, idiocy, imbecility, lunacy, mongoloids, defectives, invalids, etc. Yeah, that stuff was in there.

It was an intensive, multi-year effort. But when it was completed, our governmental documents were stripped of degrading and misleading terminology.

Well, today is Trans Visibility Day in America. It’s a day when trans people show themselves as they are — friends, neighbors, loved ones, valued members of their communities, not at all scary or threatening. I think it’s an appropriate occasion to call for a new Respectful Language Study.

This time, the focus would be on gender-related language unsuited to a time when the binary model of gender no longer applies. Terminology that assumes all people are either male or female, when married couples consist of one man and one woman. This kind of language can be insulting at the very least; at worst, it can interfere with people’s rights and needlessly complicate government processes.

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I gotta say, sometimes it’s just nice to live in Vermont

I have often been critical of Vermonters’ exaggerated perception of their own inherent virtue. We’re far from perfect on race relations; there are subtle forms of sexism here that I haven’t seen elsewhere; and, of course, our vaunted reputation for environmentalism is largely due to forces out of our control: small population, not much industry, and lack of exploitable resources. Based on how we’ve handled Lake Champlain, or the damage done when we HAVE had the opportunity to do so (the Elizabeth Mine, the PFOA contamination around Bennington), I contend that if there was a lot of coal under the Green Mountains, we’d be West Virginia North.

But while I contend that Vermont isn’t as special as we think it is, I readily acknowledge that it definitely has its virtues. We have two examples from recent headlines, where other states are pursuing destructive, hateful paths while we quietly handle our business in a positive manner.

Example #1: the Vermont House passes — with broad bipartisan tripartisan support — a bill that would guarantee women’s access to contraception even if that section of Obamacare is repealed.

Example #2: The Agency of Education issues guidelines for supporting transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

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