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.”
I’m glad to know that everything’s absolutely fine down Rutland way. No issues, no challenges, just unicorns and rainbows all day long.
That must be the case, because otherwise how to explain a majority of the Board of Aldermen* voting in favor of amending the city charter (Rutland Herald story, you may encounter a paywall) to enshrine the “Raider” nickname for Rutland High’s sports teams? That’s right: Change the freakin’ charter because they’re butthurt over the loss of a racist nickname. As Rep. William Notte wrote in an essay submitted to the Herald, “Nothing positive will come of this discussion.” Because there’s no way the Legislature would ever approve this.
*Speaking of which, “AlderMEN”? Really? Is this 2021 or 1921, guys?
More on this in a moment, but first we have breaking news about an upcoming outbreak of racism town hall meeting scheduled for next Wednesday in Rutland. It will be a gathering of Vermont’s anti-“critical race theory” dead-enders. Yup, the handful of folks who believe that fighting racism in the public schools is a threat to our American way of life.
The details: It’s organized by a Rutland-based group called Vermonters for Vermont, last seen helping to bring a busload of Vermonters to the January 6 Capitol insurrection. They’ll be gathering at the Vermont State Fairgrounds at 6:30 on Wednesday, June 16 for an evening of rabble-rousing by the likes of Rep. Art Peterson, former gubernatorial candidate John Klar, Mill River Union School District troublemaker Todd Fillmore, and newly-elected Essex school board member (and proud anti-anti-racist) Liz Cady. Klan robes optional.
There is so much to say about the pair of dueling events that took place in Essex last Friday. The first was a cauldron of conservative outrage concerning Their Latest Bugaboo, critical race theory, about which they know nothing. The second was a counter-event across the road, featuring supporters of the school district’s anti-racism efforts.
There’s what it says about the Vermont Republican Party that its chair attended Hate Night. There’s the ideological connection to recent events in the Mill River school district, where conservative outrage has also reared its unsightly head. There’s how the event was covered: Badly by VTDigger, and with manufactured both-sidesism by Seven Days. There’s the complete unmasking of a prominent conservative “journalist,” and the rise of a new contender for Worst Lawmaker in Montpelier.
But let’s start with Hebrews 11:1. In the King James Version favored by many evangelicals, it says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This verse has multiple applications here.
My friends, just because the rest of you took a nice three-day weekend doesn’t mean that Stupid isn’t on the clock. Yup, we’ve got another full slate for your reading pleasure. This week: A cheap shot on Bernie that doesn’t land, a double dose of Rutland-style racism, and public funds for… lobbying?
First, a pair of “Ha! I gotcha! But Why Are You Laughing? Awards to Fox News and the New York Post, for a wild swing and a miss at our own Sen. Bernie Sanders. Pretty much every media outlet covered last week’s revelaiton of Bernie’s lodging predilections: King-sized bed, 60-degree room, no ice machines nearby, etc. It was good for a chuckle, and quickly disappeared. But Fox and the Post tried to pull an Al Gore on Bernie: Accusing him of hypocrisy because, as a democratic socialist, he ought to be able to sleep on a park bench or somebody’s couch, I guess.
Fox referenced “a long list of diva demands,” while the Post said Bernie’s demands “would make even the most pampered celebrity blush.” All I can say is, apparently they’ve never seen what a real diva’s demands look like. Bernie’s not in their league.
Besides, c’mon now. Bernie was running for president, which is one of the most demanding tasks a human being can undertake. If he wants a big bed and a charter airplane so he can give multiple speeches in multiple different locations every damn day, well, that’s not hypocrisy, it’s doing whatever it takes to keep the candidate grinding away. For comparison’s sake, I’d love to see the travel demands of conservative “populists” like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or Newt Gingrich.
Next we have a pair of “I’m Not a Racist, I Just Can’t Stand People Who Aren’t Like Me” Awards going down Rutland way.
Something odd and troubling has been happening in southern Rutland County for more than a year now. Bits and pieces of it have been reported in the Rutland Herald, but nobody has put together the big picture.
It’s something you wouldn’t expect in the Vermont of our imaginations, the tolerant place where politics is characterized by civility, and the Religious Right is a toothless fringe. But for almost a year, the Mill River school board has endured harassment from a small group of far-right Christians. (The district includes the towns of Clarendon, Shrewsbury, Tinmouth and Wallingford.) They were originally upset over the proposed flying of the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ Pride flags at the district’s high school, but their list of grievances has grown by leaps and bounds. They’re upset over alleged illegality by the school board, its supposed “very left ideology” which seeks to “politicize and sexualize our children’s education,” a critical Front Porch Forum post by school board chair Adrienne Raymond, and the district’s failure to provide in-school education during the pandemic.
I’m probably missing some stuff, but you get the idea. It’s a great big bag o’nuts.
The group includes Rep. Art Peterson, notorious for denying the existence of systemic racism and saying that victims of discrimination should shake it off and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Peterson was inspired to run for the House after the school board approved the flying of the two subversive flags.
This spring, the group ran candidates for five school board seats. They didn’t run as a slate, but their issues and concerns were pretty much identical.
If they’d swept the field, they would have been one vote shy of a majority on the 11-member board. In the end, they only won two. The group’s candidates in the March elections were Todd Fillmore (pictured above in an out-of-focus yet somehow telling Zoom screenshot), Bruce Moreton, Julie Petrossi, Matthew Gouchberg, and Arne Majorell, who happens to be Peterson’s son-in-law. Moreton and Gouchberg are now on the school board; Majorell lost his race by six votes.
These people and a few allies are frequent participants in the public-comment section of school board meetings. They’re also active posters on Front Porch Forum. And while they try to couch their concerns in the language of earnest disappointment, they can’t entirely stop the crazy from showing through.
For those just joining us, The Veepies are my occasional awards for stupidity in the public sphere. We’re still setting a brisk pace in that regard. So, here we go…
The We Gave You a Crappy Half-Apology Because We Had To, But We Really Didn’t Mean It Award goes to the Bennington Selectboard. Last month, the town reached a settlement with former state representative Kiah Morris over the police department’s actions, or inactions, regarding threats against Morris. This came after the state Human Rights Commission issued a preliminary finding that the Bennington PD had discriminated against Morris and her husband James Lawton. As part of the deal, Bennington had to issue a formal apology. And it was kind of half-assed, blame-the-victim stuff: “It is clear that Kiah, James and their family felt unsafe and unprotected by the town of Bennington.”
See, it’s not that the town did anything wrong; it’s just that Morris and her family felt unsafe. Put the onus on the victim. But wait, there’s more!
Whatever little value there was in that “apology” was completely undercut by the town’s attorney Michael Leddy, who insisted that there are “no reasonable grounds to believe” that the town was guilty of discrimination, and by Selectboard chair Jeanne Jenkins, who told VTDigger last week doesn’t believe the police department discriminated against Morris.
All they will acknowledge is that Morris “felt unsafe.” Well, Morris and her family have since relocated to Chittenden County, so problem solved, I guess?
After the jump: Empty climate rhetoric, Medicaid money for school cops, and propping up a dying industry.