Tag Archives: Fox News

Lawmakers Lament Lost Opportunity to Grandstand

Full marks to Rutland Mayor Chris Louras for rolling out the welcome mat to 100 Syrian refugees — and for stoutly defending the decision against the inevitable backlash.

He drew the connection to America’s tradition of welcoming immigrants of all kinds — and he pointed out that immigrants, by and large, are a strong economic plus for struggling cities.

“Their arrival will signal a new wave in the ongoing economic growth of the region,” Louras added. “As our forefathers’ arrival added to the rich cultural melting pot of Rutland County, our newest residents will enrich and expand the tapestry we cherish today.”

Plus, Rutland will probably get some authentic Middle Eastern food out of the deal.

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… and a child shall lead them.

About a month ago, a journalism class at Bennington’s Mount Anthony Union High School posted a video on YouTube in which they systematically dismantled the integrity of Fox News “journalist” Jesse Watters. The video’s gotten 370,000 hits, and is well worth watching.

This has received quite a bit of notice outside Vermont, but not much within our borders. Probably something to do with Vermont media’s northern orientation; Bennington is a virtual black hole because it’s far away and not easy to get to.

A while ago, Watters ran a piece on “The O’Reilly Factor” in which he visited Vermont to confirm its reputation as a liberal hotbed. His visit was as pro forma as it could have been; he went to Bennington, the closest town to his NYC base, and did a handful of “man on the street” interviews with questions designed to prove his prefabricated point that Vermont is a haven of the far left. Questions like, “Why do you think the President has allowed terrorists to take over a third of Iraq?” (Pronounced eye-RACK.) His interview subjects were stereotypically flaky young people. (I doubt he considered asking anyone in a business suit to take part.)

Mr. Integrity.

Mr. Integrity.

The MAUHS students compared Watters’ report with the ethical standards of the Society of Professional Journalists, and found him guilty of “too many violations to count” resulting in a “wholesale distortion of truth.” As one student concludes, “By watching Fox News, we have learned buckets about journalism: what to do, and more importantly, what never to do.”

The conclusion isn’t a surprise, but what’s notable is the diligence and thoroughness of these students. Their work is worth noting and celebrating. Fox News didn’t see it that way, naturally; Bill O’Reilly referred to the students as “pinheads.” Stay classy, Loofah Man.

Oh, and just in case you want to stereotype these kids as loony liberals, the same class has taken the New York Times to task for its overheated reporting on drug abuse in Vermont, particularly the Times’ assertion that “the hallways of Mount Anthony Union High School… were littered with bags of heroin.”

Tweaking the noses of the powerful: one of the core functions of real journalism.

Vermont Republicans adopt the Fox News playbook

I don’t know what the hell has happened to Vermont Republicans. With a couple of exceptions (Phil Scott, Kevin Mullin), they seem to have gone batshit crazy.

And crazy in a very particular way. They have taken up the chief weaponry of national Republicans and the Fox News crowd by distilling a complicated issue to a single word.

The issue is health care and the word, of course, is GRUBER!!!!!!

Republicans have not been deterred in the last by Gov. Shumlin’s renegotiation of Gruber’s contract, cutting off further payments to Gruber and thus saving the state $120,000 — some of which will go to independent checking of Gruber’s work.

But it doesn’t matter, at least not to Republicans. They’ve decided “Gruber” is an all-purpose cudgel to attack Shumlin, the Democrats, and the cause of health care reform. Their entire health care focus is on Gruber.

It was only a couple weeks ago that the VTGOP had a big post-election news conference to call for repeal of Vermont Health Connect. We don’t hear that anymore; it’s all Gruber, all the time.

It’s the first time I can remember that virtually every notable Republican and conservative activist seems to be singing from the same hymnal. Kurt Wright sounds just like Rob Roper, and Heidi Scheuermann’s doing her best Darcie Johnston.

This fact hit home for me while reading Rep. Wright’s opinion piece in the Sunday Freeploid. Wright asserts that Gruber’s work on single-payer “will undermine the entire process and debate going forward.” When there’s no evidence that Gruber has done anything more than provide top-flight economic modeling. No matter; as ACORN allegedly poisoned the electoral process and Lois Lerner allegedly proved an Obama conspiracy against the right, the mere presence of Gruber fundamentally undercuts everything about single-payer.

So I guess, by Wright’s logic, we have to throw out all the work that’s been done on single-payer over the last three years and start over? Or is he arguing that by axing Gruber now, when the work is virtually complete, the entire process will be purified as if by cleansing flame?

Wright’s words are identical in meaning to Rob Roper’s. Over at his Koch-funded nonprofit, the Ethan Allen Institute, he claims that Gruber’s entire body of work is useless and cannot be used at all. And Darcie “Hack” Johnston, Tweeting out her policy stances, pronounes Gruber’s work is “tainted” and…

Just watch him, Darcie.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Benning is clearly intoxicated by his sudden Fox News fame, referring on his Facebook page to Gruber as “the gift that keeps on giving.” Which sounds disconcertingly like naked political opportunism. He goes on to brag that “FOX wants me back!”

Of course they want you back, Joe: you fit right in with their agenda. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.

On another front, House Republicans have filed a public-records request for Gruber’s work for the state and for communications between Gruber and the Shumlin Administration, I’d applaud them for trying to learn the truth, but given all their public remarks, it seems more like a Darrell Issa-type fishing expedition. What they’re really hoping for is more Gruberisms.

And then there’s the proto-Republicans at Campaign for Vermont, still flogging their online petition calling for Gruber’s firing. Too bad that since Shumlin’s termination of payment, CFV’s petition has pretty much stalled out. As of this writing, it’s at 233 signatures, and it’s been in the low 200s for several days now.

This isn’t about the truth. It’s about using a handful of remarks by Jonathan Gruber to try to undermine the push for single-payer health care.

The weird thing about this is, we just went through an election that provided two object lessons (Phil Scott and Scott Milne) in how Republicans can win in Vermont: by presenting a moderate, inclusive image. Now they’re all foaming at the mouth as though the election never happened and “Angry Jack” Lindley is still running the joint.

They would be well advised to rein in their inflammatory rhetoric lest they alienate the very voters they just managed to attract.

How to dismantle an atomic bomb, Shummy style

Tweet O’ The Day, Vermont Division:

ICYMI, Grubermania hit flood stage today, with the Pitchfork Brigade growing ever louder and — so we hear — Fox News prowling the halls of the Statehouse. (BTW, congrats to Sen. Joe Benning for scoring a primetime Fox appearance out of all this. When life gives you lemons, squirt ’em in your enemy’s eye.)

But the rising waters, laden with political opportunity, almost immediately washed away after Gov. Shumlin dynamited the logjam. Health care reform chief Lawrence Miller:

“…we need solid economic modeling in order to move forward with health care reform. I have told Mr. Gruber that I expect his team to complete the work that we need to provide the legislature and Vermonters with a public health care financing plan. I’ve informed Mr. Gruber that we will not be paying him any further for his part in completing that work.”

A cleverly-worded statement that took a little decoding: Gruber won’t get paid any more for grubering the gruber, but his minions will. And considering that (1) the contract with Vermont expires in three months, (2) the renowned Gruber model is well-entrenched by now, (3) Gruber’s got so many contracts (and so many bigger fish to fry), that Vermont is a drop in his bucket, and (4) I bet the staff’s been doing most of the work anyway… well, I don’t imagine this is much skin off Gruber’s nose.

For Shumlin, it allows the continued use of the Gruber model to finish work on his single-payer plan while also lancing a troublesome political boil. He’s always been at his best in crisis.

We probably should have seen this coming, what with the complete silence from legislative Democrats. Really, did a single Democrat call for Gruber’s firing? I don’t recall any. They must have known that a bacon-saving solution was around the corner.

And what’s that I hear in the distance? Methinks it’s the sound of Fox News’ mobile unit getting outta Montpelier as fast as it can. Nothing to see here, folks.

I’m sure the Republicans will find ways to tend the flame of Grubermania… but from now on, it’ll be more like a votive candle than a bonfire. A votive candile lit in memory of an all-too-brief political opportunity.

Ah, Grubermania, we hardly knew ye.

Phil Scott #2016 rumbles out of Pit Road

In my previous post, I noted a report of some uncharacteristically aggressive remarks by Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. As it happens, Mr. Nice Guy did a brief radio interview this morning on WCVR, “Real Country 1320 AM” in Randolph,”playing all your favorites from yesterday and today!”

Well, maybe not my favorites. I doubt their playlist includes King Crimson or Talking Heads (yesterday) or Arcade Fire or Cold Specks or Godspeed! You Black Emperor (today), but I know what they mean.

Morning deejay Ray Kimball took a few minutes from spinnin’ the tunes to talk with Our Lieutenant Governor. And thanks to Real Country’s livestream, I could listen from my snowed-in central Vermont hilltop redoubt.

Hey Vermont, need a lift?

Hey Vermont, need a lift?

I must say, Phil Scott was on his game, combining his customary aw-shucks charm with some well-crafted jabs at the (unnamed) Democrats.

It wasn’t much of an interview, maybe five minutes. And as an interviewer, Ray Kimball is a darn fine deejay. But it gave me a sense that Mr. Nice Guy will be a very dangerous candidate in 2016 if he wants to be. And, for the first time in his career, he’s showing signs that he does indeed want to be. I guess we shouldn’t have doubted the competitive fire of a man whose third profession is auto racing.

Ol’ Ray started by mentioning the expected presence of Fox News, which is apparently nosing around the Statehouse looking for fuel for its festive Jonathan Gruber stake-burning. Initially, Scott didn’t take the bait, instead pivoting to Governor Shumlin’s overdue rollout of a single-payer health care plan. And, in his customarily genial tones, he delivered a fist-in-a-velvet glove shot at Gov. Shumlin.

I’m looking forward to the Governor presenting his plan as he was supposed to do quite some time ago, as was named in the law itself. He’s missed a couple of deadlines. I don’t want there to be any excuses, I want to hear what this financing plan is, what this single-payer looks like, so we can make a decision as to whether it works for Vermont or it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, I want to move on. The uncertainty it’s created in Vermont just having this discussion, I think has had a negative effect on our economy. So I want to get this over and done, and then move on from there.

Nicely done, sir. Slam the Governor for missing deadlines, assert that the “uncertainty” has hurt Vermont’s economy*, but leave the door open, barely, for consideration of single-payer.

*Please stop with the uncertainty bullshit. Truth is, life itself is uncertain. Businesspeople face far bigger and more pressing uncertainties every damn day. Single-payer, if it happens, is three years away. How much other uncertainty will be packed into those years? 

Ray-Ray then asked a garbled follow-up, and that’s when Scott pivoted back to Jonathan Gruber’s videotaped comments, delivering a skillful punch in his unthreatening way.

His comments were made about Obamacare, but it does bring to light some, ah, you know, you might question some of the tactics and some of the things he’s said, in terms of trying to manipulate the public and perception, so I think some of his, ah, some of his data might be questionable.

Aha. Laying the groundwork for disbelieving the Governor’s plan while maintaining the facade of open-mindedness. He didn’t even call for Gruber’s head on a plate; he just undermined Gruber’s work.

Then Kimball asked about the budget. Scott took that ball and ran with it.

I know we can’t continue to look back, but I look back a few years as, uh, as to when Governor Douglas vetoed the budget…

Let’s stop for a moment and note the contradiction there: we can’t look back, but I’m looking back. Okay, Phil, continue.

… when Governor Douglas vetoed the budget, said it was unsustainable in the future, and it turns out he was right. We, uh, the Legislature overrode his veto and put that into place, and I think that’s where it started. And I think we’re living, ah, beyond our means. We’re spending, we, ah, we’re spending more money than we’re receiving. Revenues are down. So we’ve had to make corrections, and we’re going to have to tighten our belts, and it’s going to take all of us to determine how we’re going to do that, because we can’t spend more than we’re taking in.

Well played! Referring to the halcyon days of Jim Douglas, blaming the Democrats and Gov. Shumlin without naming them, couching harsh criticism in kitchen-table terms, and even calling for bipartisanship while, at the same time, trumpeting Republican orthodoxy. Ingenious.

There have been persistent doubts that Phil Scott has the fire in the belly, that he’d most likely stay within his comfort zone as Mr. Nice Guy, Lieutenant Governor For Life. It’s very early, but I suspect we can lay those doubts to rest.

Phil Scott exits 2014 with over $100,000 in campaign cash, and he’s proven he can be a big-time fundraiser within the humble boundaries of Vermont. If he can mount a credible campaign, and I think it’s clear he can, he’ll start drawing some outside money as well. He is developing a solid message, combining Jim Douglas-style plausible moderation with skillfully coded shout-outs to the True Believers.

If he wants the 2016 gubernatorial nomination, he’ll have it. And he will be the most formidable Republican candidate since Jim Douglas left the scene.

Hell, at this rate, he might turn out to be better than Jim Douglas.

Postscript. This was a brief interview, but a couple of items were notable by their absence. The name “Scott Milne” was not mentioned. And there was no talk of repealing Vermont Health Connect which, if I recall correctly, was the Republicans’ clarion call less than two weeks ago. 

Vile overreaction at Goddard College

Well, you knew that inviting Mumia Abu Jamal to speak would prompt a backlash. Especially when the professional ragemongers at Fox News got hold of it. (Seriously, Rupert Murdoch should make a donation to Goddard for giving his minions some raw meat to chew on.)

And, as we might have guessed, the reaction is thoroughly despicable. Goddard staff are getting obscenely violent emails and voice mails. My old colleague John Odum has written it up at his new outpost, POVt.net, and I suggest you check it out. I’ll give you just a sample here, and apologies for the language. This is not the worst one, by the way.

“Hey, if I rape one of your students and slit her throat – can I become a Graduation Day Speaker?”

Yes, there’s worse than that. According to John, the college has contacted the Vermont State Police. For those unfamiliar, this is a small college out in the boonies with a very roomy and impossible-to-secure campus. The commencement ceremonies are small affairs, with each program getting its own; the group that invited Mumia has only 23 students. It’d only take one nutjob to turn commencement into a crime scene.

I hope the VSP takes this seriously and provides appropriate security. I hope the troopers set aside their understandable feelings about Mumia and do their jobs like professionals.

And no, in no way does inviting Mumia Abu Jamal mean that Goddard “deserves” this kind of reaction.