Tag Archives: Bruce Parker

The Watchdog labors mightily and brings forth a mouse

The readership of this blog has been growing rapidly of late. Part of the new crowd, to judge from the Comments and my Twitter feed, is comprised of conservatives who apparently read this stuff as a form of aerobic exercise: Stimulate the heart rate through aggravation.

One brave Tweeter recently responded to my disparaging comments about Phil Scott’s letter touting “concerning reports,” anonymous, that the Shumlin administration was trying to shoehorn political job-holders into regular state positions.

Scott has kept quiet about the letter ever since, so methinks he realized he had no evidence beyond, according to his office, one single inside source.

(Either that, or somebody told him to STFU because Jim Douglas did exactly that during his exit from office.)

This Tweeter referred to a report on Vermont Watchdog about the allegations, and cited it as the kind of quality journalism that I’d failed to produce.

Well, as you already know, Watchdog is a place where they spell “quality” with a “K”, but I thought I’d better take a look at the article.

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Koch lapdogs peddle bogus “baby parts” scoop

No sooner does the generally useless Vermont Watchdog score an actual journalistic coup, than it slips back into its usual nut-wing flackatoid ways.

The ‘Dog, for those just joining us, is the Vermont outpost of a 50-state network of right-wing “news” sites funded by the Koch brothers and their allies. Most of its stories are standard right-wing fodder; a prime recent example is its unfounded fearmongering about Russians trying to get Vermont driver privilege cards. (They applied, they got caught, they got no licenses, end of story.) But earlier this month, VW’s Bruce Parker got a legitimate scoop: he broke the story of a backroom legislative deal that netted the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce a $100,000 no-bid grant.

A few days later, Parker reported some widely divergent legislative memories on how this grant weaseled its way into law. Also useful information.

Well, enough of the real journalism. Today, it’s trumpeting the notion that state funds “may be supporting the sale of baby body parts” via Planned Parenthood. Note the inclusion of “may be.”

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Logrolling In Our Time, Bespoke Contracts Edition

Here’s me doing something I never thought I’d do: recommending a story on the right-wing website Vermont Watchdog that I believe is an actual scoop of some importance.

Vermont Watchdog, for those just joining us, is the Montpelier outpost of a conservative journalistic enterprise that gets its money from the Usual Suspects, i.e. the Kochs et al. The site’s usual content is vastly overblown at best, completely off the mark at worst. But this time, VTW’s Bruce Parker got hold of something.

Business development groups in Vermont are demanding to know how a $100,000 appropriation for fostering business with Quebec was awarded exclusively to Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, according to emails obtained by Vermont Watchdog.

The appropriation in question was included in S.138, an economic development bill that passed the Legislature this year. The bill’s language does not mention LCRCC; it simply says the $100,000 will go to the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development “to implement a targeted marketing and business expansion initiative for Quebec-based businesses…”

One could reasonably infer that once the bill was signed into law, ACCD would fashion a means of using the money for the intended purpose. But apparently there was a backdoor deal to simply hand the 100 G’s over to the LCRCC, whose Executive Director, Tom Torti, held high positions in the Dean and Douglas administrations, and was recently referred to by Seven Days’ Paul Heintz as one of “the state’s traditional power brokers,” whose counsel, sez Heintz, would be invaluable to potential candidates for governor.

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Scandal! Panic!! Naked Hippies!!! Taxpayer Dollars!!! AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

About five weeks ago, the Vermont Historical Society announced a bit of good news: it won a $117,521 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to conduct research and create exhibits and programs about Vermont’s countercultural movement of the 1970s. (The total cost of the project is roughly $260,000; VHS is responsible for getting the rest of the money.) VHS curator Jackie Calder explains:

“By collecting objects, papers, and oral histories we will be creating a body of information for this pivotal period in our state history, making it available for generations to come. And our project’s community forums and public programs will engage Vermonters in learning about this important time in our history.”

It’s a worthy project. The countercultural movement had a lasting impact on Vermont — its politics, culture, environmental movement, its very active food scene, even its economy. (Ben and Jerry’s, anyone?)  The idea of collecting oral histories is especially pertinent, since the firebrands of the 70s are now, ahem, getting up there in age and won’t be around forever.

So, all good, yes?

Yes, until the right-wing “news” site Vermont Watchdog got wind of the grant — more than a month after it was announced — and predictably headlined it like this:

Taxpayers stripped of $117,521 for naked hippie commune research

Damn dirty clickbait!

Damn dirty clickbait!

Ahh, nothing like a little moral panic to clear the sinuses, eh?

VW’s one and only staffer, Bruce Parker, hit all the high notes in his predictable screed: a “taxpayer-funded” project to study “the hippie commune movement that invaded Vermont” with its “oft-nude, drug-addled drifter colonies,” “idealistic youth dropping out of society,” “free-love vagabond communards,” and a former member reminiscing about how “We shared food. We shared sex. We shared clothing…”

Damn dirty HIPPIES!

This story combines two favored tropes of the far right: exaggerating government-funded activities to make them look ridiculous, and slamming the excesses of the left. Especially hippies. Damn dirty hippies!

But seriously, that 70s stuff — which itself had its roots in earlier back-to-the-land movements, as embodied in the works of Helen and Scott Nearing and pioneering New Hampshire-based food writer Beatrice Trum Hunter — did play a significant role in creating the Vermont of today.

The old Vermont, remember, was an extremely red state, ruled for over a century by the Republican Party. Montpelier was a famously stiff community where the sidewalks got rolled up at 5 p.m.

The transition is striking. And the role of the counterculture movement is definitely worth studying and discussing. Libraries and museums are the places that collect and preserve our past. That’s kind of important, no? We need to understand our past in order to understand how we got where we are.

I think Santayana put that a little better. But you get the point. Museums and libraries are the repositories of our history, our culture. They are the institutions that preserve what is important. And it’s inarguable that the 70s counterculture played an important role in Vermont’s history.

Even if you can’t stand damn dirty hippies.