Endorsement Season!

Like so many others, I have been spellbound for too long by the train wreck on the national campaign stage.  ‘Time for a cup-half-full moment, as we note some of the great endorsements netted by a few deserving folks.

Since it could be argued that this is the year of Bernie Sanders, perhaps the best endorsements of the 2016 campaign season flow from his celebrated hands.  Of course, Bernie reserves his stamp of approval in state races for the few, the proud:  the Progressives!

He has bestowed this blessing on Dave Zuckerman for Lieutenant Governor; auditor Doug Hoffer for reelection; Senate candidates Anthony Pollina (Washington) and Chris Pearson (Chittenden); and House candidates: Jill Charbonneau (Chittenden 1); Mari Cordes (Addison 4); Celene Colburn (Chittenden 6-4); Diana Gonzalez (Chittenden 6-7); Susan Davis (Orange1); Robin Chestnut-Tangerman (Rutland-Bennington); Mollie Burke (Brattleboro); Sandy Haas (Rochester); and my good friend Cindy Weed, who is once again standing for the House in Franklin 7.

If I missed anyone, please chime in in the comments. I put this list together a little hastily as I wanted to be sure to get it up on GMD in a somewhat more timely manner than has lately been my habit.

Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV) has released their full roster of statewide endorsements, just in time for early voting which began today, and a couple of Bernie’s picks are in that lineup, as well.

Making the VCV “Team” are Sue Minter for Governor, Dave Zuckerman for Lieutenant Governor, Jim Condos for Auditor, T.J. Donovan for Attorney General, and Doug Hoffer for Auditor.

Anyone familiar with the sustainability mission of Vermont Conservation Voters will not be the least bit surprised by their picks.

“Vermont Conservation Voters is pleased to endorse a slate of statewide candidates with strong environmental values, all of whom are committed to ensuring the state continues working toward healthy drinking water for all Vermonters, clean lakes and rivers, climate action, sustainable communities, and other environmental priorities,” said Lauren Hierl, Political Director for Vermont Conservation Voters.

It may surprise some that the VCV has declined to endorse for Treasure, but also consistent with their mission is the obligation to occasionally withhold the ‘carrot’ as well as the ‘stick:”

“VCV is not endorsing a candidate in the Treasurer’s race this year. While VCV appreciates Treasurer Beth Pearce’s work on issues such as water quality funding and energy efficiency investments, the organization is hoping to see more leadership from the Treasurer’s office on divesting the state’s pension investment portfolio from fossil fuels”.

Congratulations to all the above, and good luck in the coming fray.

Mike Pence wants to channel Dick Cheney

As if Trump alone wasn’t bad enough, his running mate, hardcore conservative Mike Pence shared his thoughts on what kind of vice president he would like to be. If the unthinkable happens and they are elected, Indiana’s’ governor and former congressman apparently wants to be another Dick Cheney. He recently expressed his deep admiration for George W. Bush’s former vice President.

Said Pence: “I frankly hold Dick Cheney in really high regard in his role as vice president and as an American.”

Dick Cheney’s approval ratings have improved since he left office in 2010 but at the end of his eight years as VP he had “earned” a shockingly low 13% approval rating. He accomplished this feat in a variety of ways, not the least of which was seizing the  lead role in deceiving the country into the disastrous war in Iraq, expanding government monitoring of US citizen phone calls, and supporting torture. Some international war crimes experts now recommend Cheney (and his former boss George Bush) should be charged and tried for war crimes.

The conservative record that Pence established in Indiana has failed to get much attention with running mate Trump dominating the daily election news. An article in Rollcall.com spotlights some of his controversial efforts, including one that his hero Darth Cheney would just love. Governor Pence established an official state of Indiana news bureau — to be called “JustIN” – overseen by his administration, and to hire a “managing editor” to assist in the production of “news stories.”  Despite quickly abandoning the plan, Pence’s project set the media world ablaze, and drew comparisons to government-backed news outlets in communist countries.

Trump is supposed to have kind of a short attention span, and may want a VP to handle the “details.” But it seems unlikely, if elected president, that he would allow VP Pence to wield as much power as Cheney did — I doubt the Donald would share center stage that much. But it remains alarming (though not surprising) that ultra-conservative Pence would journey to the dark side and channel Darth Cheney’s spirit  as a role model.

The VTGOP is hair today

It’s “all business in the front and party in the back” that’s a description of the classic mullet hair cut,famous in the 1970’s and 80’s, infamous by the 1990’s. And now with 20,000  votes for Trump  in the primary the Vermont Republicans needed a general election strategy to cope with Trump for President in a blue state. So,by intent, or by accident the VTGOP has styled itself a political “mullet”cut.vtgopelephaint1

At the presentable front of the “mullet”, gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott has denounced Trump and pledged to write in Jim Douglas for president rather than the party nominee (Scott picked the “Donald Duck for President” ploy). So he isn’t brave enough to totally disown Trump’s deplorable basket of views and  vote for Clinton, as many well known national Republicans are doing.

Randy Brock, the VTGOP candidate for Lt. Governor had supported John Kasich for President and denounced Donald Trump, but as far as I know, remains mostly mum on a write-in Douglas presidential vote — or one for Clinton.

Meanwhile on the backside of the VTGOP “mullet” you can find caucus leader Don Turner in the Vermont House of Representatives joining other Vermont Trump supporters, including Darcie Johnston (Johnston ran Randy Brock’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign). Turner boldly declares: “I am not afraid to say that I’m going to vote for Donald Trump,”  He does add the thoroughly meaningless comment that he will not endorse Trump for president. So,Don Turner isn’t afraid to vote for him, but curiously is afraid of endorsing the man.

So, “Dude! Check out the VTGOP’s hair style! Equivocation in the front, Trump supporters in the back!!” Or maybe it’s not a mullet at all, just a bad GOP comb over.

And coming next week: birtherism goes local: Was Phil Scott born in Vermont? Of course I am not endorsing this ridiculous question, but since people are talking and questions are being asked …!

The climate around Phil Scott

scottbalanceRepublican Phil Scott is doing his bit for the party to promote carbon tax hysterics on climate change this week.

One of his many recent tweets,(Team Scott must not have heard that marketing studies show that after three tweets,engagement dramatically decreases.) a “news” story from Vermontwatchdog.org  warns of an alleged carbon tax apocalypse.

Vermont Watchdog is the local franchise mouthpiece of the Franklin Center for Government, a nationwide organization said to be at the forefront of right-wing efforts to thwart action on climate change and blur the distinction between statehouse reporting and political advocacy.scottwatch

Watchdog dutifully prints a Vermont Republican Federal Elections Committee  ad in part of the article, but if you peel away the hysterics, the gist of the piece is centered on a series of  VPIRG’s proposals. Their proposal to fight climate change (and yes, Phil it is real) suggests a series of tax changes, instituting a global warming impact tax (carbon tax), starting an energy investment fund, and also energy rebates and tax cuts.

But this post isn’t exactly about the complicated carbon tax issue, but rather the policy crowd Scott runs with to get elected — his “in crowd.” The Vermont Watchdog is actually a “local” outlet, but also funded by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a 501c3 non-profit. Much of its funding is reported to be fueled with money from various hard right sources including the infamous Koch Brothers’ climate-change-denying organization.

Former Reuters chief White House correspondent Gene Gibbons didn’t mince his words in a 2010 report on the Franklin Center:

“For the most part, the people in charge of these would-be watchdog operations are political hacks out to subvert journalism in their quest to grab and keep power using whatever means they have to do so.”

The keynote speaker at a Franklin Center Watchdog.org  training session in 2012 was none other than right-wing  provocateur and ACORN “sting” artist James O’Keefe

So,what was it, only a couple weeks or more ago that Scott actually made it clear…well sort of that he thought climate change science was real ?

And now he is tweeting support for Koch Brothers-sponsored  “news” stories about climate issues.This doesn’t exactly fit with his own claims that his view “evolved.” Lie down with Big Carbon, get up covered in soot.

Phil Scott wants a Tiger Team of his own

Once upon a time, Governor Douglas had nine Tiger Teams, and now Phil Scott wants one of his own. If you’re thinking these are bad kung-fu action movies, you’re off the mark; instead they’re teams of officials created to prowl through state government, supposedly looking for inefficiencies and ways to save money. I don’t remember if the nine Douglas Tiger Teams ever actually accomplished anything, but Phil Scott says he will form a very similar group. scottstigerteam

I know this because of his crowing on twitter that he is “…the only candidate w/ a plan to modernization [sic] State Govt.” These declarations of his seem to occur at surprisingly regular intervals — but that’s what Twitter is for, I guess.

Scott says: “On the first day I am Governor, I will sign an executive order creating the Government Modernization & Efficiency Team (GMET).” And I can’t begin to guess why on day one. You know, god save-our-souls and have mercy on the state of Vermont if he doesn’t get to this on his FIRST freakin’ DAY, should he become governor! I wonder: is Phil liable to forget to do this if he waits a day or two?

Anyway, Scott’s proposed GME Team will be overseen by Vermont’s Chief Information Officer. According to the campaign website, the team’s areas of interest include: increasing operational efficiency, accounting improvements for IT projects, consolidating and streamlining and/or automate services (layoffs?) to name a few.

But like the Douglas Tiger Teams of yore, Phil’s GME Team may prove a handy cover for a little Republican budget slash n’ burn “In addition to the limits we would impose on budget growth, our goal will be to reduce the current operational cost of every agency and department by one cent for every dollar currently spent, in my first year in office.  This could generate as much as $55 million in savings.”

One of the Douglas’ Tiger Team so called “savings,” highlighted in his 2010 budget address, was a proposal to cap certain types of ER visits funded through Medicaid. This Medicaid “savings” (along with earlier proposed cuts to mental healthcare providers’ salaries) were heavily criticized because advocates said it would have made it harder for Vermonters in need to get proper health care.

Scott’s GME Team proposal gives little hint at any specific cuts, but it sure looks like his version of the Tiger Team will be wearing the same stripes as ones from the Douglas era.

What and when they knew: the shadow over Degree and Parent

Election day is nearing and Franklin County voters must decide whether or not it is important for them to have representatives in Montpelier who are at least minimally aware of potentially dangerous or compromising situations close at hand.

So far, we have not had the privilege of hearing substantive accounts from either Dustin Degree or Corey Parent of their day-to-day interactions with Norm McAllister and his teenaged “intern.”

It is a troubling gap.

Mr. Degree appears to have been an intimate of Mr. McAllister, who has himself implied that Mr. Degree knows far more about him and the situation with the teenager than anyone else; and Corey Parent has said in a sworn deposition that he often drove the teenager to and from Montpelier. Furthermore, the “intern” herself has testified that she devoted time to working both for Mr. McAllister’s and Mr. Degree’s election.

While no one would accuse either Degree or Parent of being complicit with Mr. McAllister’s alleged crimes, to accept that they were wholly unaware of the unhealthy relationship is to also accept that both gentlemen are singularly lacking in curiosity and intuition; two things that would seem fairly important to the offices that they currently hold.

Their inability in such close proximity to appreciate the real danger to the young girl (or even a hint of impropriety) represents a failure by Degree, at the very least, and possibly Parent as well, to uphold the sworn obligation to protect their constituents.

If I were a Franklin County Republican, I would be taking a second look at the Democrats in this election cycle, because all of the incumbent Republicans must share some guilt for allowing McAllister to run rampant over their party and failing to protect the best interests of the county.

Bernie makes a binary pitch

Senator Bernie Sanders had a busy Labor Day in New Hampshire. The campaign visit to Vermont’s upside down doppelganger is the first since his big win over Hillary Clinton in the early spring primary. On this trip he headlined three rallies to support Clinton for president, including a Labor Day breakfast sponsored by the AFL-CIO. upRdown

Sanders expressed support for, and urged supporters to cast their vote for Hillary Clinton. “We are talking about which candidate will better represent the needs of the American people.”

He stressed the points of agreement with Clinton but made it clear what the stakes are. “I am not the world’s most partisan person,” he said. “But the truth is, if you look at Donald Trump’s record, what you find is that this guy is a pathological liar.”

Clinton, he said, “is the superior candidate, hands down.”

Speaking prior to Sanders at the breakfast event, Democratic Senator Jean Shaheen reminded voters about New Hampshire’s recent history with third party presidential candidates: “What happened in 2000 is Al Gore lost New Hampshire by about 7,000 votes, and 19,000 people voted for Ralph Nader,” she said. “And we got George W. Bush, and we got the war in Iraq.”

Shaheen translation:  “You can’t bet half a cigarette. If you break it in half, you don’t get two nickels, you get shit.”

Some random Labor Day stuff with an old cartoon

[Note: the guy is leading with a left] 1919: 150,000 coal miners strike for higher wages, better working conditions, and recognition of United Mine Workers of America.
Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894. In Vermont, 1895 there were Labor Day parades and celebrations in Barre and Montpelier. After speeches in Montpelier the Barre baseball team defeated National Life, 11-7. The machinists defeated the stone cutters, 13-12.


Some misc. 2016 labor statistics:

16.4 million The number of wage and salary workers age 16 and over represented by a union in 2015. This group included both union members (14.8 million) and workers who reported no union affiliation but whose jobs were covered by a union contract (1.6 million). Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (24.7 percent), and South Carolina had the lowest rate (2.1 percent).

108.0% The projected percentage growth from 2014 to 2024 in the number of wind turbine service technicians (4,400 jobs in 2014), the projected fastest-growing occupation. Meanwhile, the occupation expected to add the greatest number of positions over this period is personal care aides (458,100).

6.3 millionThe number of commuters who left for work between midnight and 4:59 a.m. in 2014. They represented 4.5 percent of all commuters. The most common time was between 7 a.m. and 7:29 a.m. – with 20.6 million commuters.

26.0 minutes The average time it took workers in the U.S. to commute to work in 2014. New York (32.6 minutes) and Maryland (32.3 minutes) had the most time-consuming commutes.

And does anyone remember back when Labor Day was considered the traditional  start of the presidential campaign season?

Phil Scott’s key answer

I’ve read and heard one of the keys to the Phil Scott vision for the state’s future is increasing the number of 25-45 year-olds who live in Vermont. Now Scott doesn’t supply many specifics for meeting his goal and enticing this age group to Vermont, but in comments to the Burlington Free Press he indicated he believes helping a company feel more confident by way of various tax incentives should be a big part of it – or maybe that’s the key to all his plans.

But there are other solutions to this puzzle. And here are samplings from a short list (lifted from here ) of policy suggestions that might realistically incentivize the desired demographic (and other age groups) Scott claims he wants to woo to the Green Mountain state:

a) Offer a higher wage. Yes, yes, wages are so 20th century, but The Kids Today have a strange affinity for them. Maybe it’s nostalgia. […]

b) Good health insurance. […] Silly Kids Today.

c) Retirement benefits. […] They’ve been told their whole lives that Social Security just won’t be there for them so they need an alternative. Blame whoever keeps telling them that (shhh!!!!).

d) On the job training. […]

e)Job Security. The Kids Today would like some assurances that their jobs might be around a few months hence. […]

Oh, but implementing any of those would take a bit of leadership, and Scott’s business buddies would squawk a lot. Philand the millennials

But let’s be fair to Scott’s key solution – business-friendly tax policy – it might be just thing 25-45 year-olds are into.

And I am probably not alone in recalling those times long ago, when we were still young, meeting up with friends on a Saturday afternoon and making plans to head out on the town that evening, in search of a little “business certainty, a tax incentive” or if we got really lucky “a tax exemption.”

Nobody does it better.

In case you’ve missed it, Garrison Keiller has just taken Donald Trump to the woodshed as only he could.

In an open letter appearing on the op-ed pages of many American papers (including, I am happy to report, the St. Albans Messenger) America’s Grandpa has penned the ultimate response to Donald Trump’s public year of personal bad behavior.

A sample:

“You are in the old tradition of locker room ranting and big honkers in the steam room, sitting naked, talking man talk, griping about the goons and ginks and lousy workmanship and the uppity broads and the great lays and how you vanquished your enemies at the bank”

Like a modern day Mark Twain, Garrison Keillor, older than dirt and considerably wiser than the spoiled septuagenarian man/child he lampoons, has brought his unique perspective to a presidential race that has been too long on sensation and too short on self-awareness.

His letter is destined to be one of the great literary relics of our political times, a highlighted footnote to the report card on twenty-first century U.S.-style democracy that I am sure we have coming to us in the not-so-distant future.