It’s Winter in America, find your footing

Just in case anyone wants to step back (or recoil) from the daily news spew, you know, get away from the daily ‘Donald Trump tweeted this or that’ and coverage of the casting calls to fill his horror-show administration. If that’s the case, then take a load off your feet, slip away for a moment because here’s a bit of practical, perhaps slightly political news from our surefooted neighbors in Canada.noslipups

At the WinterLab at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute researchers have studied, tested, and are now providing traction rating for footwear in slippery conditions. In Ontario 2015 accidents involving slipping on ice sent 21,000 people to the hospital. Here in the USA during 2014 there were 34,860 same-level workplace injuries (not from heights) related to ice, snow, and sleet that required at least one day to recover away from work. Canadian researchers discovered that most winter boots sold in Canada (and probably the US) won’t keep you upright in slippery situations.

To test the boots, researchers asked people to walk, first on a level surface covered with ice, then on an increasing incline, first of two to three degrees, and then up to seven to 10 degrees. Then they tested the same boots on wet ice. The boot testers wore a harness as they walked, so when they slipped they didn’t fall. Of 98 models of boots the lab tested on ice and wet ice, only nine passed a slip test.

The top-rated boots got a single snowflake out of three. That meant they gripped when walking up a seven-degree incline, while most of the boots failed to keep people from falling.

Here’s a link to WinterLab’s top rated shoes and boots.

Remember: tread carefully, double-check footwear to avoid costly slip-and-fall-related medical injuries — because Trump is coming for our healthcare coverage after all. It’s winter in America and the social safety net is about to have more holes cut into it. One fall and the medical bills could land many people in the poorhouse, or its modern equivalent, foreclosure and bankruptcy.

Now, better rejoin regular coverage of Trump’s horror show –because it’s still going on.

Huh? Democrat Rep.Tulsi Gabbard for Trump’s Sec. of State!

gabbardntrumpA steady stream of potential candidates for the president-elect’s cabinet and administration has been auditioning for Donald Trump.

And about six days ago Democratic US Rep. from Hawaii,Tulsi Gabbard who served with her state’s National Guard and volunteered for duty in Iraq  joined the pilgrimage to Trump’s New York tower of power on Fifth Avenue.

During the Democratic Presidential primary campaign, DNC chairwoman Gabbard made big news among supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders in February when she resigned her position to support Sanders’ candidacy over foreign policy differences with Hillary Clinton. She said then: “We can elect a president who will lead us into more interventionist wars of regime change, or we can elect a president who will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.”

Rep. Gabbard was hailed last February as a Democrat to watch in the future, and now that prediction is proving true but in an unexpected and strange way. Democrat Gabbard has joined the line of well known Republican job seekers Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Jeff Sessions and lesser known former office holders Scott Brown and Rick Perry trekking to Trump Tower and Trump-owned golf resorts.

Her audience with Donald and his team raised a few eyebrows among Democrats. And fellow Democrats in Hawaii’s Congressional delegation note she failed to join 169 other Democratic House members that condemned “Alt-Right” supporter and possible ant-Semite Steve Bannon playing a major role in a Trump White House. And Howard Dean was particularly critical of Representative Gabbard: “She’s an interesting person, and the people from Hawaii basically have her tabbed as extremely ambitious with flexible principles.” He speculated that she may be motivated to position herself to the right for a future run for the Senate, but added: “So who knows what this is all about.”

Gabbard’s audience with Trump might have gained wider attention if the Trump transition itself wasn’t such a … well, circus. The says he has transformed what is normally a quiet task of forming a government into: “…a Trump-branded, made-for-television spectacle, parading his finalists for top administration positions this weekend before reporters and the world.” We have to wonder, is it the red carpet or a future perp walk?

Gabbard’s audience with Trump, according to a spokesperson, was focused on foreign policy “…our current policies regarding Syria, our fight against terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, as well as other foreign policy challenges we face.” They did not say if a job with the new administration was discussed.

Interestingly an opinion piece titled: Tulsi Gabbard is the pick for Secretary of State, not Mitt Romney appeared in and Brietbart News, floating the  congresswoman as possible Secretary of State:  [Gabbard]…does not play politics [and] embodies the very essence of the President-Elect’s ideological departure from the interventionist policies that have plagued this nation for the past two decades. No mention is made in the piece about Rudy Giuliani who has also been tagged a possible Sec. of State. But Mitt Romney, yet another candidate for the job, gets a trashing in the piece that is perhaps greater than any praise it offered for Gabbard.

Is this about Romney adversaries on the Trump team utilizing Gabbard for bit of political theater and showmanship to influence Donald? With all things Trump it is probably wise not to even speculate. On this one I’ve got to side with former Governor Howard Dean when he wondered: “So who knows what this is all about.”

Obama serves Thanksgiving meals

U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama served traditional Thanksgiving food at the Armed Forces Retirement Home. The Home is an independent agency in the Executive branch and provides residences and related services to retired members of the Armed Forces. This is the final Thanksgiving that Obama will mark as President of the United States.

Sure, it’s a photo-op, a darned good one by the way, and all things considered I’m going to miss him and his family.

Also yesterday,President-elect Trump and family spent Thanksgiving at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Their six option main course menu reportedly included “Mr. Trump’s Wedge Salad,” and a three layer “Trump chocolate cake,” dessert.

Trump, they say, will be hard at work today and for the coming weeks is planning to hold  a series of large ‘victory rallies’ as some supporters have already been doing. Okay, there’s the circuses — where’s the bread?

Ending Presidential Carte Blanche

The practice of gerrymandering, which played a crucial role in bringing Donald Trump to the White House, seems about to be tested in the Supreme Court. It certainly would not be the first time the Supreme Court has been tasked with adjudicating the fairness of redistricting, but the Wisconsin case has resulted in the development of practical metrics for determining fairness that were not available in the past.

With that glimmer of hope on the distant horizon, I thought we could use this time before the other presidential shoe drops to reflect on the deficiencies in legal restrictions on the conduct of a President that have been exposed by Donald Trump’s first weeks as President Elect.

Around this time last year, I was bitterly coming to grips with the reality that, for all of its progressive values, Vermont did not have a code of ethics, under which violations of the public trust (like those of which Norm McAllister stands accused)would have immediate and meaningful consequences. How many times did we hear the lame excuse that “we never needed one before”?

Here we are, a year later, discovering that the office of the presidency of the United States suffers from a similar lack of mandated ethical rules. That back door has been left wide-open, apparently with no thought given to the possibility that someone as arrogant and shameless as Donald Trump might one day use it to walk off with the nation’s silverware.

While we breathlessly await the President Elect’s next breech of traditional presidential ethics, it might be wise to note a wishlist of rules that now need to be imposed on any elected president by law rather than merely by custom. Candidate Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he cares little for truth, respect and conventional decency. We are therefore obliged to codify even the most rudimentary obligations of the presidency.

Here are a few suggestions, should Democrats regain the ability to initiate in 2018:

1)  All presidents should be required by law to place any and all holdings in a true blind trust. We thought that was the case, but apparently the devil is in the details.

2) The definition of a “blind trust” must be clearly and rigidly defined by law, and arranging for that transfer to a blind trust should be the first obligation of the President Elect before he/she even begins to consider appointments. That blind trust shall not be administered by anyone having a familial relationship to the President, and the President must not have any access to particular information about his holdings while in office.

3) Husbands, wives, children and siblings of the President should be barred by law from any official position in his/her administration. No matter how brilliant one’s relatives may seem to be, the idea of presidential advisors is to serve the people’s best interests by permitting the “decider in chief” to entertain ideas beyond his own echo chamber.

4) As those family members should be barred by law from occupying official positions, they should as well not receive security clearance beyond the necessary scope of their own personal security vis-a-vis the president. They should not be privy to security briefings ofany kind beyond the security of their own person; and, by extension, should not be allowed in the room when sensitive foreign or domestic business is discussed.

5) The fact that family members are ethically barred from profiting from the presidency appears an insufficient deterrent even in these earliest days of the Trump administration. It is  therefore necessary to establish specific and far-reaching definitions for the concept of “profit” because we can no longer trust that the President’s own judgment will not be ethically compromised.

6) A President who deliberately misleads the public should be subject to stiff penalties. With a President who famously lied 73% of the time during his campaign for office, it is unfortunately necessary to establish consequences for lying when one is the ‘leader of the free world.’ A President who doubles down on lies when challenged, and never admits that he is wrong,is extremely dangerous and requires additional legal constraints to keep him truthful.

7) The President should be required by law to allow a rotating pool of journalists from
a representative cross-section of established national news sources to accompany him throughout his schedule, being excluded only when it is a matter of national security. What exactly comprises a “matter of national security” must be clearly defined.

8) Press conferences allowing an opportunity for question and answer exchanges with the President should be established by law, to occur on a regular schedule…biweekly or monthly at the very least.

9)  The Presidentand his/her immediate family should be required to make the White House their primary residence.  Secret Service details should be limited to those members of the President’s immediate family who make the White House their primary residence. The costs and inconvenience accrued to the general public by any more whimsical arrangement in these security challenging times make it imperative that this simple rule be firmly enforced.

10) Anyone who has engaged in lobbying in the previous five years should be banned from appointments by the President. Anyone leaving elected or appointed service in the U.S. Government should be banned from lobbying activities for at least five years.

11) In order to ensure transparency and undetected avoid conflict of interest, the President Elect should be required by law to disclose his income tax returns for the past five years before election, and every year thereafter until he leaves office.

Why should the occupant of the highest office in the land be held to a lesser standard than any other elected official?  It is completely indefensible.

One must now accept that someone completely lacking in a moral/ethical compass will occasionally ascend to the White House.  The only way to protect our democracy under those circumstances is to established clearly defined laws, with meaningful consequences, specifically governing the president.

Of course, its time for a constitutional overhaul to replace the Electoral College with direct democracy; to overturn Citizen’s United; and to reintroduce the expired Voting Rights Act.

So, as P.E.D.J.Trump builds his historic legacy as the worst president ever, we have a to-do list that stretches far beyond his (hopefully) brief regime.

It begins with an urgent call for Democratic voters to turn out in record numbers to reverse the GOP majority in 2018.

Baby, It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over: Recount Monday

“So many tears I’ve cried
So much pain inside
But baby it ain’t over ’til it’s over”

-Lenny Kravitz

It’s recount Monday. For Representative-Elect Cindy Weed, today’s recount in Montgomery and Enosburgh confirmed her victory albeit by two votes fewer than the tabulators told us on election day. While Weed lost her hometown of Enosburgh, Montgomery voters put her over the top to take back her seat in the House from Rep. Larry Fiske who defeated her in 2014.

Franklin County Democratic Committee Chair Ed Ballantyne reported that Rep. Fiske raised doubts about the handling of absentee ballots at the meeting of the canvassing committee last week. (After elections, the Chairs of each major party or their representatives meet to certify the results.) It will be interesting to see if Fiske and the Franklin County GOP pursue any further action now that the recount has upheld the election night results.

For Rep. Sarah Buxton of Tunbridge, the election is still not decided. As of election night, Buxton, the Democratic incumbent, had the edge over her perennial opponent Republican David Ainsworth 1,003 to 1,000. The recount now has it as a dead even 1,000 to 1,000. If the courts certify the recount as a tie, then Buxton and Ainsworth will face off again in a runoff election. This isn’t the first time Rep. Buxton and Mr. Ainsworth have had a close result. In 2010, Buxton defeated Ainsworth, at the time the incumbent, by a single vote.

In 2012 I won a seat in the House by just 20 votes. I just lost a bid to return by 69 votes. If my race and the experiences of Rep. Buxton, David Ainsworth, Cindy Weed, and Rep. Fiske teach us anything it’s that voting really does make a difference.  Now that I’m out of the candidate business for the foreseeable future, I’m happy to be back at GMD. Hello again, blogosphere!



Phil Scott’s “moderate” governors coalition partner wants voter restrictions

Aren’t New England GOP’ers supposed to be the good ones? That’s the theory at least. And based on that age-old theory, Phil Scott wants to form a coalition of these fabled (mythical?) moderate Northeastern Republican governors to protect states from policies of the Trump Administration. And Scott wants to include New Hampshire’s Governor-elect Chris Sununu in his new coalition of moderate northeastern Republican governors. Scott also name drops Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan as possible partners (since when was Maryland in the Northeast?).

nhvotersHowever, Sununu is right in lock-step with the not-so-moderate national GOP trend to limit voter registration. Shortly before this year’s election on Boston talk/news radio Sununu alleged Democrats practiced voter fraud and said: “[…] when Massachusetts elections are not very close, they’re [Democrats] busing them in [to New Hampshire] all over the place.” He got a pants on fire rating for that one from

Now with the election over, Governor-elect Sununu has back-pedaled on his earlier fraud allegations but still wants restrictions: “It’s not about fraud and a rigged system, that nonsense. It’s really just about making sure that our rules are clear, that they’re unambiguous, and that people can believe that as a full-time resident of the state of New Hampshire, your vote isn’t being watered down by someone who’s ‘drive-thru voting,’ ‘drive-by voting.’ We just need to modernize the system.”

Specifically he wants to end or restrict his state’s same-day voter registration law – enacted by a majority of Republican legislators and signed into law by the Republican Governor in 1994. Sununu echoes the language used nationally by GOP’ers and Koch Brother’s ALEC funded efforts to squeeze voter registration rolls. Same-day registration, Sununu says, can have “problems.” He told NH Pubic Radio: “We just need our laws tighter.”

Same-day voter registration can have problems? Well, Ay-yup, and perhaps Sununu and New Hampshire Republicans have a “problem” with this: Same-day registration is a major issue in several college towns in New Hampshire, which this year voted heavily for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Democratic Senate candidate Maggie Hassan.

Oh, I see it now: by “problem” Sununu means figuring out how to limit Democratic voters. I suppose the NHGOP could, like in the old days, allow only property owners to vote – or better yet on the revenue side, impose a hefty poll tax to keep those others from voting – that used to work like a charm.

And that brings it back to Phil Scott’s imagined coalition of moderate’  Northeastern Republican governors. Don’t know much about Governors Baker or Hogan but I wonder how moderate this coalition can be if Sununu is one of Phil’s “good guys.”

No Thanks This Year

We’re not celebrating Thanksgiving at our house this year.

It just doesn’t feel right to us when so many of our minority neighbors are feeling frightened and uncertain as Donald Trump mans his fortress of power.

I know that many people are working very hard at looking for ‘normal’ amid the new world order, but that just reminds me of the many books I’ve read about Germany in the earliest days of Hitler’s rise, when denial was still the favorite defense. I highly recommend “Inside the Third Reich” by Albert Speer for a primer on rationalization.

I won’t belabor the parallels here, beyond a reminder that Hitler didn’t steal into power but was carried in on a populist sweep that exploited weaknesses in what was ostensibly a democratic system; and although accompanied by a heavy handed dose of demonizing the ‘other,’ his early policies seemed benign enough, including national health, full employment and support for the family.

Perhaps I will return to an interest in delving into political intrigues and policy issues on the local and state level, but until we see whether any rule of law can be enforced to check the ambitions of Donald Trump and his Cabinet of Horrors, I can think of little else.

It was gratifying at least to read the joint statement by outgoing Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin and incoming Republican Governor Phil Scott, promising to hold the line against the most hateful prospects of a Trump presidency. I sincerely hope that the new Governor is as good as his word.

Nevertheless, all one has to do is look at the remarks of Trump accolade Darcie Johnson and comments in the blogosphere to see that there are plenty of Trump’s cohorts ready for their marching orders, even here in the benevolent state of Bernie Sanders.

It’s as if a poisonous vapor has been released to waft through the countryside, reviving prejudice and suspicion wherever it lay dormant, inviting the spiteful to feed on the weak and vulnerable.

True evil walks the land.

No, we’re not giving thanks this year.


“Minimum” good news from Election Day

In four states, voters approved increases  in their minimum wage this past Election Day. Arizona, Colorado, and Maine voters approved phased–in minimum wage  increases to at least $12.00 per hour by 2020. In Washington the increase will be $13.50 by 2020. Seventeen other states (including Vermont) and many cities have already raised minimum wage requirements in recent years. However the Federal minimum wage remains low at $7.25 per hour.

wageworldCommenting on the passage of minimum wage hikes Holly Sklar, CEO of an organization called Business for a Fair Minimum Wage says: “This really reinforces what we know—that there’s very strong support among the general public for raising the minimum wage, and there’s also strong support in the business community for raising the minimum wage. And you can see it across the country and across the political spectrum.”

There’s a clear business case for supporting the increase. “To put it in the most basic terms, workers are also customers,” says Sklar. “Some of the political opposition against raising the minimum wage often acts like workers and customers are like two different species of people.”

Here in Vermont the Democrats and Progressives in the legislature passed and Governor Shumlin (D) signed an incremental minimum wage bill increase to $10.00 per hour in January 2017 and $10.50 by 2018.wageslaves1 Governor-elect Phil Scott(R) opposed this move. He said then and now that he prefers not to “burden” businesses and that wages should be left alone to grow “organically.”

Good news has been in short supply since Election Day but that shouldn’t diminish the fact that thanks to the voters roughly two million low-wage workers wages will benefit from these increases — a good small step, long in coming.

Phil Scott to meet with Koch Brothers

Well, not precisely with the Koch Brothers but close enough (and besides, the “evil Koch Brothers” are proven bi-partisan click bait in Vermont). Governor-elect Phil Scott will be flying to Florida this week to attend the Republican Governors Association’s two-day post-election conference.rga201620 At two million dollars the Kochs were the largest contributors to the Republican Governors Association(RGA) in 2016 according to

The RGA then, in turn coughed up big bucks – almost $3 million dollars – to support Scott’s campaign win here in Vermont. It is worth noting that with Trump’s ascendance in the national GOP, the Kochs have been channeling more and more resources – reportedly $750 million – to extend their influence to state GOP office holders at all levels.

A theme of this week’s RGA gathering is “leading the change,” and featured speakers include public employee union-busting Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, climate change denier Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, and Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina. Of the three only Haley has been critical of Trump, but she also accepted contributions from him.

Phil Scott’s first national excursion as governor-elect is to go racing off, following the money to schmooze at the RGA conference with union busters and climate change deniers. And the man who spoke so often about “hitting the pause button” will spend time hearing about “leading the change.” Who is this “authentic Vermonter?” Looks pretty different on the road from his campaign image when he’s at home.

The woman who thought Donald would keep a promise

Darcie Johnston, Trump’s rough and ready GOP campaign leader for Vermont, is The woman that knew Trump would win according to an interview done with her by’s Mark Johnson.dypdonald3

Johnston explains that she has no qualms about the divisive methods Donald unleashed from the start and believesthere had to be some shock and awe to get through the process.”  She was likewise impressed by Trump’s powerful triumph of will: “He knew what he had to do to become the nominee and he was going to do it.” If he reached the general election she knew he would say and do whatever was needed in order to win. Note to Darcie: ugly election campaign rhetoric does have consequences in the real world.

As a longtime VTGOP operative and an opponent of single payer healthcare plans here in Vermont (she started Vermonters for Health Care Freedom) Johnston was encouraged by Trump’s emphatic promise to repeal Obama-care. So, she dismissed Trump’s harsh racist and sexist rhetoric — talk of a Mexican border wall as “shock and awe” campaign rhetoric. Yet, Donald’s promises to push to repeal the Affordable Care Act she took seriously.

Her anti-Obamacare heart must have positively fluttered with joy each time during the campaign when Trump promised:“On Day 1 of the Trump administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare”. Johnston happily went to battle in the trenches for the Donald — mostly in New Hampshire where he finished second by a very small margin to Clinton.

Since Trump’s win Johnston told VtDigger she hopes to seek  a job with the new administration, on health care reform. That dream may have taken an unexpected turn when, just days after becoming president-elect, Trump quickly backed away from his promise of “total repeal [of] Obamacare on day one.”

It now seems likely “full repeal of the Affordable Care Act on day one” could actually mean keep Obama care in Trump-speak. So … surprise,Trump did what he had to do to win — shock, awe and say anything. And now he’ll ignore his promises and do whatever he wants.

So the sad fact for anyone like Johnston who bought-in to his campaign and actually believed Trump, there may be little to no time to gloat publically before President-elect Donald tosses your favorite campaign promise over his own wall at Trump Tower.