Got a little news bomb in my inbox today from the Vermont ACLU. They’re announcing a federal lawsuit that, if true, frankly beggars belief.
The gist: A year and a half ago, the Brattleboro Police Department arrested cited* local resident Isabel Vinson for the “crime” of writing a Facebook post critical of a local business owner. The charge, per Vermont law: “disturbing peace by use of telephone or other electronic communications.”
*Correction: Cited, not arrested.
Is this the same law that Attorney General TJ Donovan refused to enforce against racist, anti-Semitic goon Max Misch for waging a campaign of social-media hate directed at Kiah Morris? Donovan’s reasoning was that a prosecution would run afoul of the First Amendment.
That happened in January 2019. Vinson was cited in July 2020. I guess somebody didn’t get the memo.
To sum up: You can’t be charged for repeatedly engaging in vile, threatening, racist speech, but you can be for once criticizing a business owner? Huh. I guess justice is blind.
Ladies and germs, allow me to introduce you to Stephanie Stoodley, very angry member of the Rutland City School Board. The image quality is horrible thanks to the worst streaming of a public meeting I’ve ever seen. But it fits her to a tee: Lacking focus, out of control, and kinda scary.
Thanks to her performance at a January 11 school board meeting, Stoodley has become a top contender for Worst School Board Member in Vermont. Essex-Westford’s Liz Cady remains the front-runner followed by Mill River’s Todd Fillmore, but Stoodley has the potential to out-yammer them all.
Stoodley was one of six trustees to vote in favor of restoring the high school’s old nickname “Raiders,” but she was the most obnoxious of them all. She repeatedly interrupted trustees on the other side, she had trouble getting out coherent sentences, she said the same buzzwords over and over, and she made it clear that she didn’t give a tinker’s damn for anyone’s opinion but her own.
Background: The previous board adopted “Ravens” after a lengthy process, on the grounds that “Raiders” and the arrowhead were offensive to Native Americans. In last March’s school board election, enough pro-Raider trustees were elected to create a one-vote majority in favor of racism. Stoodley is one of those new trustees.
The board’s action also clearly violated Robert’s Rules of Order, which the board had voted to follow in their meetings. The Rules only allow reconsideration of a past measure under certain circumstances (which didn’t apply here) and they don’t allow a measure that contradicts a previously adopted one. But pro-Raiders board chair Hurley Cavacas refused to consult Robert’s, and trustee Charlene Steward asserted that “semantics about Robert’s Rules have been suppressing our vote.” Yeah, they were not about to let “semantics” get in the way of bringing back the Raider name and arrowhead logo.
But let’s get back to Stoodley’s performance, which was miles beyond anyone else’s.
While the bulk of our attention was focused on Dan French’s abject surrender to the Omicron variant, we got hit with a double dose of bad news regarding the equity of our justice system. Or should I say the lack thereof.
The first hit was a study showing that Black people were six times as likely to be jailed in Vermont as white people. The second was the latest installment in a series of studies showing a substantial racial disparity in traffic stops, searches and seizures. Those are, respectively, the endpoint and the beginning of the so-called “justice” system.
Can there be any doubt that we have a big problem in our law-n-order process? Can there be any doubt that Black people are getting the short end of the stick?
Well, unless your name is “John Klar,” but more on that later.
Stop me if you’ve seen this movie before. Statistics showing racial disparities are revealed. They are met with furrowed brows and Expressions of Earnest ConcernTM, along with determination to Get To The Bottom Of This. Time passes, another round of statistics is revealed, lather, rinse, repeat. Makes me tired, sad, and mad.
Apologies from the Veepies Selection Committee, which has been overwhelmed with all the stupid and/or obtuse in our public sphere. I’m sure we missed a few, but here’s a selection featuring a whole lot of misplaced self-regard from those in positions of public trust.
FIrst, the Hey, Look, A Squirrel! Award For Attempted Misdirection goes to Jason Maulucci, spokesthingy for Gov. Phil Scott. When last we met, we were giving chief of staff Jason Gibbs a right roasting for maligning a public health expert who disagrees with the administration. Gibbs all but accused Dartmouth’s Anne Sosin of professional misconduct, saying she was “desperate to prove a false narrative” and that her analysis “conceals the full truth.” Those are serious things to say about an academic’s work product.
Maulucci, when asked for comment by VTDigger, defended Gibbs by ignoring the personal criticism of Sosin. Gibbs had merely “presented data from a neutral data tool” according to Jason Junior, who concluded with “There is nothing uncivil about pointing out facts.”
Exactly, Jason Junior. There is nothing uncivil about pointing out facts. But there is something extremely uncivil and downright unseemly about attacking Sosin’s integrity. Maulucci’s lame-ass defense doesn’t change that.
Still to come: a spate of ass-covering by the cops, and correcting a very racist public monument.
Funny thing. A couple weeks ago Jay Nichols, head of the Vermont Principals Association, didn’t seem terribly concerned about reports of racist language at a Winooski/Enosburg high school soccer game. Nichols said the VPA might investigate if it received information about such an incident, but for now the Enosburg district was handling it. He gave no indication that the VPA would take an active role.
Since then, we’ve heard of at least two other incidents of hate speech at high school games.
And now, he’s announced a list of (bland and unconvincing) actions in response to the incidents. In doing so, he said “We have plenty of racism and sexism and stuff like that happen every single day.”
Two things. First, “stuff like that”? Really?
Second, if this “stuff” happens every single day, why in Hell didn’t the VPA have a process before now?
That statement is bad enough. But when you actually read the list of actions, it’s clear that this is nothing more than a beleaguered organization trying to cover its ass while actually doing as little as possible.
It goes without saying that state Sen. Russ Ingalls is an asshole. What might not be obvious at first glance is that he’s also a lily-livered coward.
Ingalls has gotten himself into a well-deserved spot of bother by publicly decrying — and doxxing — Sam Carbonetti, a middle school teacher who had the temerity to ask his class to “introduce themselves using their preferred names, pronouns and interests.” A parent, Ben Morley, posted a complaint on Facebook. Ingalls reposted it along with Carbonetti’s email address, so people could complain to the teacher directly.
Carbonetti posted the incident on Twitter, and quickly got an overwhelmingly supportive response. Including a tweet from Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, who vowed to look into possible sanctions against Ingalls.
Ingalls is an asshole because he’s so hot and bothered about nothing at all just as he is over critical race theory, about which he is wildly (and willingly) misinformed. It’s “nothing at all” because Carbonetti merely asked his students to identify themselves. He didn’t say anything about L, G, B, T, Q, I, A, or X. Morley and Ingalls made that inference in their own dirty little minds.
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,
Might be time for Vermont Tourism & Marketing to hire a crisis communications specialist. Because two times in recent days, stories have appeared in national media outlets putting Vermont in a very bad light. Both times, the subject was Vermont officialdom’s passive response to white extremism.
First, a pair of pieces on public radio’s “This American Life” about the Slate Ridge militia “training center” in West Pawlet; second, an essay in USA TODAY by Michael Shank of Brandon, who says he is moving out because of white supremacist activity near his home. (And let’s not forget that earlier this year, the New York Times ran a long piece about the residents of West Pawlet “living in fear” because of Slate Ridge.)
The Slate Ridge saga is familiar ground for those who follow the news. Various legal actions are wending their way through the court system, while Slate Ridge continues to be a disruptive presence. Its owner Daniel Banyai is defiant toward local and state officials, and their response seems oddly muted. Meanwhile, the people of West Pawlet are just trying to get by.
For me, Shank’s essay really hit home. For starters, I’d never heard that white extremists were a problem in Brandon. That made me wonder how many other pockets of extremism are present in Vermont, particularly in rural Vermont where local regulations are lax and local officials lack the heft and/or willingness to tackle these situations.
But the heart of Shank’s message is that white extremism is on the rise, and official Vermont has failed to respond. I think he’s dead on.
Oh boy, oh boy, tonight brings us another stop in the Klar Klan Kruiser’s “Waah Waah Critical Race Theory” tour. This time it’s in St. Albans, and the speakers include one Aaron Kindsvatter, professor of counseling in the UVM College of Education and Social Services, and, to be perfectly frank, one whiny little bitch.
Kindsvatter became a source of controversy on campus earlier this year when he posted a video on YouTube entitled “Racism and the Secular Religion at the University of Vermont.” In it, he complains about being stigmatized because of his race and being labeled a racist because he didn’t accept the “secular religion” of, well, critical race theory. He didn’t use that term, but his presence on the KKK’s roster shows you where his head is at.
Kindsvatter’s video triggered a petition drive aimed at getting him to resign. It’s gathered 3,445 signatures out of a goal of 5,000. This isn’t his first go-round with race-based campus controversy; back in 2016 he objected to the actions of the UVM Bias Response Team, which looks into reports of bias on campus. He said the team “opens the doors for censorship of anyone of any ideological perspective who says something in class that could potentially offend somebody else.”
Now, I can understand how a white man could feel a little uncomfortable with all the anti-racist efforts in his workplace. But that, in itself, is a great measure of white privilege. White people are used to being the norm. Their views, feelings and concerns are the ones that matter. That’s not true anymore, but it’s not as though white people are being ostracized or genocided or enslaved or lynched or engenicized or targeted by excessive police force.
A few decades ago, a study was done of male/female participation in group conversations. What they found was that women tend to speak about 25% of the time. If they start talking more often than that — say, 30-35% — then everyone in the group thinks the women are talking too much. Even the women. In reality, all they’ve done is try to make a small step toward equity.
What’s amazing to me is that a professor of counseling could possess such a complete lack of empathy. He sees everything through the lens of his own experience. That’s something that white people used to be able to get away with and can’t always do so now, which makes them feel oppressed.
In his video and in a subsequent interview with a right-wing media outlet, Kindsvatter makes some statements that reveal a total obliviousness about the experiences of others.
Well, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray kinda stepped in it, as she tried a little too hard to celebrate Vermont and Vermonters yesterday. In response to the news that we’ve passed the 80% vaccination mark, Gray tweeted out a quote from Calvin Coolidge, staunch conservative and native Vermonter.
I love Vermont… most of all, because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the union and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.
Seems benign, right? Nice gesture by a prominent Democrat to promote a famous Republican (albeit a dead one)?
Well, maybe not if you’re a Vermonter of Native American heritage.
The people of Vermont “are a race of pioneers,” huh? That pretty well covers white Vermonters. But it excludes the people who were here first, and who were nearly exterminated by that doughty “race of pioneers.”