Tag Archives: Mark Davis

A tale of two Phils

Throughout the gubernatorial campaign, there were two very different Phil Scotts to be inferred. One was the good guy compromiser who wants to get everybody in a room and work everything out in a broadly tripartisan way.

The other? The business owner whose first venture ran afoul of Act 250, whose current company and favorite hobby are both heavily invested in fossil fuels, whose campaign kickoff took place at the annual convention of Vermont road contractors, who sometimes dog-whistled on issues like abortion, and who frequently made reference to consulting business leaders when making policy.

The first, a moderate in the classic mode. The second, a creature of the fiscally conervative business community.

The first, a candidate who attracted quite a few moderate and liberal voters. The second, a target for suspicion in many liberal circles, including this little tiny one. A suspicion fueled by his single-minded focus on reining in the budget without any tax or fee increases, at a time when (1) we might be in for significant federal cutbacks and (2) we still have an antiquated tax system with multiple revenue sources that aren’t keeping up.

So anyway, two Phils.

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Incoherent Rifle-Wielding Man, Blah Blah Blah

In a time when America is averaging more than one mass shooting per day*, the good people of Burlington just suffered through several weeks of a homeless man riding his bike around town with a rifle strapped to his back.

*FBI definition: four or more people shot in a single incident, not including the shooter. We’ve had 29 in July so far. 

Per Seven Days’ Mark Davis, police “found [Malcolm Tanner] to be ‘incoherent,’ and he insisted that laws do not apply to him.” But they did nothing about him because “he did not seem to be breaking any laws.”

Tra la la.

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A slanted report from a usually reliable source

Not sure what happened in the editorial process at VTDigger, but on Wednesday morning it published a terribly one-sided piece on the F-35 issue.

Those opposed to F-35s at Burlington Airport probably liked the article, and will probably attack me for the following critique. But really, no matter what your political persuasion, this is a clear and obvious example of slanted journalism at its worst.

By comparison, Mark Davis of Seven Days wrote a story that was fair and respectful to both sides and provided readers a clear understanding of the status of the issue.

The two stories provided very different versions of a court hearing in a legal challenge to the F-35 siting decision. At the end of the hearing, the judge said he would consider some extremely limited factors in the case, which was bad news for the plaintiffs.

The Digger article was written by Adam Federman. His name does not appear on the Digger staff listing; nor was he identified at the end of the piece, which is customary for a non-staff contributor.

Federman’s piece is a dutiful chronicle of one side of the issue — the anti-F35 side. The story is framed around their objections, and (unfairly to readers who want to stay informed) exaggerates the antis’ chances of success.

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Just a simple country farmer

The latest on alleged sex criminal and Republican Senator Norm McAllister comes by way of this week’s Seven Days, and it ought to be an occasion for liberal schadenfreude over the fact that Republicans are still stuck with this tar baby. In the story, McAllister insists he will not resign and won’t agree to a plea deal. Republicans had been hoping he would change his tune once it became clear that his criminal case wouldn’t be resolved until sometime next year. But his tune, like Yanni’s, remains the same.

Thus, the 2016 legislative session is set to begin with a whole lot of embarrassing questions and an intense focus on the McAllister case. He might even show up for work, which would be the circus of the century. The Senate may try to expel him, which would lead to, presumably, public testimony from the likes of his former Montpelier roomies, Sen. Kevin Mullin and Rep. Tim Corcoran. It would be instructive to hear them explain, under oath, how they remained clueless about what was happening when McAllister had a teenaged “assistant” sharing his bedroom.

The schadenfreude is tempered, however, because the Seven Days article itself is kind of disturbing. It’s basically a one-sided account from McAllister’s point of view, quoting him extensively, painting him as a sympathetic figure, and providing little context or pushback.

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A watershed moment for legalization in Vermont

This year, the state legislature did its best to tippy-toe around the issue of marijuana legalization. We heard the usual excuses — the time is not right, it needs more study, we’ve got too much else on our plate — and ended with an expensive consultant’s report sitting on a shelf.

Since then, two rather dramatic things have happened. Two weeks ago, Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito called for the legalization of marijuana and the decriminalization of personal use of other drugs.

I always knew that guy was a hippie! (Photo from his Facebook page.)

I always knew that guy was a hippie! (Photo from his Facebook page.)

And now, we have a pro-legalization essay by the top Republican in the State Senate, Joe Benning. His piece, posted today on VTDigger, said legalization is inevitable, that marijuana is a useful and “widely popular consumer product,” that legalization would result in “a safer product,” and — here comes the Republican part — it would create “a legitimate, properly regulated industry [that] can only lead to more real, good-paying jobs.”

Well.

Sen. Benning can’t swing the vote on his own since his caucus numbers a mere nine*. The next step in marijuana law is up to the many Weebles in the Democratic majority, who’ve been painfully hesitant on the issue.

*Originally I wrote “seven,” but the good Senator corrected me. Must have stumbled upon outdated numbers in my expert Googling.

But I’d think that Benning’s advocacy would give them an opening to advance legalization. Democrats tend to be thoroughly spooked by the threat of Republican counterattacks on crime issues. And although Benning is only one Republican, he’s a very influential one. His stand ought to inoculate Democrats from GOP attacks.

It’s hard not to see this as a big step toward the death of the costly and ineffective War On Drugs, or at least the death of its most ineffective component, the war on Weed.

Fill up the dunk tank with Purell, please. I need to feel clean again

Update: Seven Days has just posted a story with more unsavory details. See below.

Things are not looking bright for Good Ol’ Norm. More details came out Friday on the criminal charges against Sen. Norm McAllister; and if you’re not completely skeeved out by them, well, your Skeeve-O-Meter needs a tuneup.

The case against G.O.N. “suggest[s] that McAllister for years used his power over vulnerable women,” reports Seven Days’ Mark Davis:

In December 2012, a woman moved into a trailer home McAllister owned in Franklin and began working at his farm. From the beginning, he asked her for sexual favors in exchange for allowing her to keep her job and home, affidavits say.

Reminder: McAllister’s late wife was still alive when this got started. Extra bonus skeeve points.

There’s a whole parade of horrors in the police documents, with three women alleging nonconsensual sex with McAllister — oral, vaginal, and anal, on dozens and dozens of occasions, sometimes causing pain. And, according to a Sunday evening report on Seven Days, one of his victims may have been below the age of legal consent when the assaults began.

But the low point, IMO, was this:

McAllister also proposed transporting her to area farms so she could perform sex acts on “Mexican” farmhands. He proposed they split the proceeds. She refused.

Eeeeeeeuuuuuuuucccccch. And this is a guy who was an aggressive moralist in his politics.

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Some backstory on the militarization of our police

Last week, while I was out of town for a family Thanksgiving, Mark Davis wrote a nice little story in Seven Days about Vermont police agencies picking up a whole lot of military-grade weaponry, thanks to a federal program designed to shore up military contractors’ bottom lines provide local police with “military equipment left over from America’s foreign wars and stockpiles.”

Which brought to mind some of my own past coverage of specific events tied to this story: a small New Hampshire community talked into buying an assault vehicle by a Rush Limbaugh-listenin’, Tea Party-believin’ salesman, and the small-scale invasion of a small Vermont town.

Instrument of peace?

Instrument of peace?

First stop in the Wayback Machine is February 2012, when Keene, NH had received a $300,000 Homeland Security grant to buy an eight-ton armored vehicle called the Lenco Bearcat. This, for a city with a population of 23,000 and virtually no history of violent crime.

But there was all that federal money dangling in front of the city fathers…

During a City Council meeting, the Mayor was heard whispering to a City Councilor “We’re going to have our own tank.”

Better than Viagra. Of course, the grant won’t pay for operating costs like maintenance, training and insurance.

The most fascinating part of the story, to me, was Jim Massery, salesman for vehicle manufacturer Lenco. His pitch was laden with fearmongering about the need for high security everywhere. In fact, one of his quotes was the following:

I don’t think there’s any place in the country where you can say, “That isn’t a likely terrorist target.” How would you know?

There was a whole lot of that, and you can read more in my 2012 post on Green Mountain Daily. Massery, as I discovered, was a true-blue conservative who believed that President Obama was trying to steal our freedoms, and that the government was spending us into oblivion. And yet he had no problem helping the government militarize local police and wastefully spend $300,000 on a Lenco Bearcat that nobody needed. (The notorious Free Staters of Keene probably thought he was an enemy agent tasked with bringing the power of the police state to their own little community.)

One of Massery’s other pitches went like this:

When a Lenco Bearcat shows up at a crime scene where a suicidal killer is holding hostages, it doesn’t show up with a cannon. It shows up with a negotiator.

And, he might have added, that negotiator shows up in grand style, hunkered down in eight tons of steel. Which brings me to story #2. In June of 2012, a man named Alfred Perreault unknowingly touched off a minor invasion of his town of Washington, VT…

A summer scene befitting a Norman Rockwell portrait was spoiled Monday morning when more than a dozen police cruisers, an armored vehicle and the big box truck that houses Vermont’s equivalent of a S.W.A.T. team set up shop in Washington to take what proved to be one unarmed man into custody.

That armored vehicle was, as it happens, a Lenco Bearcat. Purchased by the Vermont State Police with, you guessed it, a Homeland Security grant.

Perreault was known to possess a goodly quantity of firearms, hence the heavy-handed police response. Which must have triggered (sorry) a sizeable panic reaction among townspeople who suddenly saw this caravan o’death roll into town and set up roadblocks.

It all ended peacefully. But as I wrote at the time, there’s an old saying: To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Our police agencies have been outfitted with military-grade, up-armored hammers. So naturally, Alfred Perreault looked like a nail.

It’s a lot easier for the authorities to escalate a response when they have the tools of escalation close at hand — indeed, when they may well feel a need to justify the purchase and upkeep of all those hammers. Alfred Perreault clearly needed to be dealt with. But did he warrant such a robust response?

You can bet we’ll be asking these kinds of questions again in the future.