Man, oh Manischevitz. Paul Dame has outdone himself.
Last time it was implying that the schools are the root cause of school shootings because of whatever they’re doing to alienate young white men. Now? He’s spun a twisted tale of slavery’s end that puts white Republicans at the center of Juneteenth and elides the unrelenting grimness of post-slavery life for black Americans.
And, of course, omits the GOP’s own complicity in abandoning the newly-freed Black folk for the sake of short-term political advantage.
For those just joining us, VTGOP chair Dame puts out a brief weekly email blast that makes you yearn for the clear thinking and deathless prose of Ben Shapiro. The latest edition is entitled “Juneteenth: A Promise Kept,” which gives you a foretaste of what’s to come.
We’ve got a disturbing trend on our hands: Small-town officials coming under heavy pressure from small groups of loud people. Or even one single person.
I’ve written at length about stealth conservatives running for local office, rabble-rousing over critical race theory and Black Lives Matter, and arguing over school mascots. But three more incidents have recently come to the fore: the Chester library board suspending Drag Queen Story Hour, the Canaan school board facing demands to remove books from the school library, and the Randolph school board voting to take down a “Black Lives Matter” flag.
This isn’t going away anytime soon. The American Library Association says it’s getting more reports of attempted book banning than ever before. The head of the ALA, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, says “It’s a volume of challenges I’ve never seen” in her 20 years in the organization.
“When you have organizations like Heritage Foundation and Family Policy Alliance publishing materials that instruct parents on how to challenge books in the school library or the public library, right down to a challenge form enclosed in the booklet so they can just fill it out, you’re seeing a challenge to our democratic values of free speech, freedom of thought, freedom of belief.”
It’s never been easy to be a local official. It’s a lot of work. You’re always on call. When things go wrong, you get the blame. But these organized movements present a new level of difficulty. Local boards of all kinds are facing loud, insistent demands from tiny cohorts of The Aggrieved.
Our local public servants don’t need any more headaches. But they’ve got ’em, and they’ll have to respond.
In my previous post, I expressed a bit of puzzlement about why former governor Jim Douglas chose the New York Sun as the place to express his sudden disdain for Middlebury College. Well, now I know why: Because any Vermont publication would have asked embarrassing questions.
Douglas, for those just tuning in, is upset over the college’s decision to take former governor John Mead’s name off a chapel building because Mead was a fervent and influential proponent of eugenics. In his essay, Douglas said he was staying away from his 50th class reunion because of the anesthetic-free Meadectomy.
I’ll miss seeing my classmates and reminiscing about our college days. My regret would be greater, however, if I were to pretend that I was happy to be there, in the shadow of Mead Chapel, the scene of the College’s expunction of the Governor’s legacy.
Time to call bullshit.
Douglas may have skipped his class reunion, but he gave no indication that he would give up the “Executive in Residence” title he’s enjoyed at Middlebury since 2011, or that he would cease his part-time teaching role. Apparently he’s not too upset about being “in the shadow of Mead Chapel” to completely absent himself from campus.
Ever notice how almost every photograph of former Vermont governor Jim Douglas looks the same? The not-quite-convincing smile, the middle-disance stare, the resolutely dead eyes? It’s almost as if he’s thinking to himself, “I wonder what puppy tastes like.”
Well, something has finally shattered that phlegmatic exterior. What, might you ask, is capable of piercing Douglas’ impregnable fortress of blanditude?
An alleged insult against a dead white guy.
Douglas, who could have had his pick of Vermont media outlets to carry his thoughts, took to the digital-only pages of the New York Sun, a conservative outlet that has nothing to do with the original city paper, to post his screed about why he’d decided to boycott his 50th class reunion at Middlebury College.
He did so because the college had the temerity to rename the Mead Memorial Chapel. It had borne the name of former Vermont governor John Mead, but the college took down his name because, uhh, Mead had been a proponent of eugenics.
Pish tush, says Douglas. A lot of people were pro-eugenics in the early 20th Century. And aside from that little flaw, Douglas says, Mead was “a decent man, as well as a generous benefactor” and a veteran of the Civil War to boot.
Problem is, John Mead wasn’t just some random dude who thought the gene pool needed a little purification. He used his platform as governor to call for an official policy of eugenics in Vermont, which led to one of the darkest periods in our history.
[In 1912,] Mead gave a farewell address to the Vermont Legislature in which he advocated for the use of eugenic theory in creating legislation and policy. His comments in that speech about marriage restrictions, segregation and sterilization inspired the research behind the Eugenics Survey of Vermont and led to the legalization of voluntary eugenical sterilization two decades later.
Oh looky, the anti-critical race theory fanatics gathered last night at Montpelier’s Capitol Plaza Hotel! CRT, a purely academic construct understood by few — and by no one who’s taken it up as the latest cudgel in the culture wars — is apparently a front for Marxist indoctrination! Who knew???
This ignorance extravaganza was promoted by Vermont Grassroots, whose tag line is “Empowering Parents and Teachers.” Well, that’s the friendly mask on this angry face; the full motto is “Empowering Parents and Teachers By Exposing Marxism.” The rest of the two-day event was held at the Ignite Church in WIlliston, a notable outpost of far-right Christianity. Or, more accurately, a radical worldview masquerading as Christianity. It’s the kind of thing that’d have Jesus rolling in his grave if he was still there.
(Funny that they put a Montpelier event in the middle of a Williston soiree. I seem to recall that Ignite had a spot of trouble with a Burlington hotel canceling in the face of controversy. Did they have to go all the way to Montpelier to find a willing caterer?)
Vermont Grassroots was the organization behind the series of low-budget, local-talent-only meetings organized around the state last summer by Gregory Thayer, Rutland ideologue and Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. Apparently the group’s budget has increased because now they’re bringing in outside speakers.
Sadly, it’s too late to organize a protest in Montpelier. It’s not too late to let the Capitol Plaza know how you feel about profiting off hatred. However, there will be other opportunities for protest throughout the summer. Vermont Grassroots has planned a series of events designed to fan the flames of manufactured outrage.
And before anyone goes all First Amendment on me, just stop. These jackasses have every right to express their views. And the rest of us have every right to express our views about their views.
Poor, poor, misunderstood Liz Cady. The person who courted controversy with her dog whistles about critical race theory and Black Lives Matter and, lest we forget, brought disgrace on her community by comparing BLM to Nazism, has up and quit. She resigned from the school board after little more than a year in office.
What a trooper.
Of course, it’s pretty much S.O.P. for right-wing culture warriors to screech at the slightest criticism while liberally defaming anyone else. How many January 6 insurrectionists have folded quietly in the face of 45 days in jail or some such? Pretty much all of ’em.
Let’s set aside the offensiveness that Cady tries to erase from her tenure, just for a moment, and simply say this: Democracy is hard. If you want to reform a public body, you’d best be willing to get in the trenches and be prepared for a long battle with an uncertain endpoint. Especially if the others on the body don’t share your views.
Even more so when a slate of like-minded candidates went down to defeat in this spring’s election. Sorry to say it, but the voters have spoken and Cady’s viewpoint did not carry the day. That doesn’t doom her cause to defeat, but it is a definite setback and it made her task that much more difficult. Difficult enough that she turned tail and ran.
And tried to frame herself as martyr and victim in the process. Pathetic.
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.