Democrat Dick Mazza “anchors” Scott campaign TV spot

Erstwhile Democratic State Senator Dick Mazza is the featured “anchor” in a 30-second TV spot for Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott. dick4philState Senator Mazza, supposedly a Democrat, has a long history of crossing sides to support and assist  the VTGOP in statewide office races.(notably Dubie for Governor 2010 and Scott for Lt. Gov. 2014) so this isn’t exactly a surprise.

But now, in 2016, it is one close, close race for governor. The results of VPR poll released yesterday showed the gubernatorial race to be a dead heat with plenty of undecided voters (14%) remaining.  Democratic candidate  Sue Minter has worked long and hard and gained ground over Scott’s early advantage in statewide name recognition. So, now along comes her fellow Democrat Senator Dick Mazza to help … Republican Phil Scott.

What can you say but “Hey, thanks a lot.Dick!”

No discernible debate strategy? Not good Donald … sad!

Tonight mercifully, the final of the three presidential debates will be held between Republican Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton the Democratic candidate.

I don’t plan to watch it tonight but will catch up on it tomorrow. So figured I’d at least get a bit of a preview today of what might take place in Las Vegas.  And one of the angles All thing Considered’s (and Fox News) commenter Mara Liasson ponders is the following question:

What is Trump’s strategy? : That hasn’t been clear in the past couple of weeks. [or longer, one could argue] When you type “Is Trump trying” into the Google search bar, the first thing that comes up is “to lose.”

Here’s all of what came up for me on the Google search: is Trump trying …trumpstrategygoogled

I guess he’s got options, but at this point it seems none that are likely to help him win. Sad.

Just the Facts: About Rigged Elections and Fraud

It seems incredible that such a measure should be necessary to reassure the voters of Vermont, but in the wake of unsupported claims by Donald Trump of widespread voter fraud, our Secretary of State, Jim Condos, has felt compelled to set the record straight:

By Jim Condos, Vermont Secretary of State

Recent unsupported allegations and sensationalized reporting are sowing seeds of doubt about our democratic process. This undermines voter confidence and calls into question whether all voices will be heard on November 8th.

As Vermont’s Secretary of State and chief elections officer, former State Senator, former City Councilor, and lifelong voter, I’ve been following our elections my entire adult life. I am frustrated by the careless way in which these stories attack our very democracy. They show a real lack of understanding of the true risks.

I’d like to set the record straight.

Vermont’s elections will not be “rigged” and “voter fraud” is essentially non-existent here and across the U.S. In fact, a Loyola University study by constitutional law professor Justin Levitt found just 31 instances of potential voter fraud between 2000 and 2014. According to Levitt, more than 1 BILLION ballots (local, state, federal) were cast in that period.

Vermont’s elections process is nonpartisan, transparent and decentralized to the town level. Any hacking or altering of results would require a conspiracy on a massive scale.

I can assure Vermonters we have taken every precaution to insure our elections are secure. I’m confident my elections team, our IT security staff, law enforcement, and local election officials will continue to protect the integrity of our electoral process.

I have faith in our system, and you should too. Here’s why:

 Vermont’s Election process is decentralized – to the local level. Someone trying to influence or change an election would have to hack into each town’s vote tabulators.

  •   Our tabulators are not connected to each other, the internet or any other software – eitherhard-wired or wireless.
  •   It has been suggested that the memory cards (MCs) in these machines could be tampered with, but from the time the MCs are delivered, 2-4 weeks before the election, the clerks are instructed to keep them secure. As long as the MC is stored securely, it cannot be manipulated.
  •   10-14 days before the election, the clerks complete a logic & accuracy test on the MCs.
  •   Vermont requires a paper ballot for our statewide elections. That ballot is sealed, secured and stored for 22 months after each statewide election.

 After each General election, we randomly audit several towns to insure results are accurate.

Another story that makes for great headlines is the risk of cyberattacks.

Are we vulnerable? There is always a risk and there will always be vulnerabilities, but the risk has been overstated. There are only two confirmed cases of successful hacking in other states, and those breeches were of voter registration databases having nothing to do with election results.

In Vermont, we have taken many precautions to secure our systems and data including a cyber risk assessment, penetration test, and firewalls. We are on high alert and in contact with federal law enforcement to identify and respond to any threats as they arise.

I have faith in our hard-working city/town clerks, local elections officials, and volunteer poll workers who conduct Vermont’s elections. We work directly with those individuals, providing

training, supplies, and other support.

They appreciate voting and cherish it as a fundamental right. They know what it means for democracy and are passionate about ensuring free and fair elections and careful, accurate results. To say that elections will be “rigged” or “hacked” or voter fraud is “very common” ignores the facts and insults their integrity.

Regrettably, the more harmful effect of casting unfounded aspersions is to rattle our confidence and prevent us from voting or trusting the outcome of those votes – a direct attack on democracy. That should concern us all, making us even more determined not to allow such threats to work.

I’m confident in our democratic process and how we have secured our elections. While there will always be vulnerabilities and risks, Vermonters should know they can go to the polls on November 8th and cast their ballots with the full expectation that their votes will be counted and their voices will be heard.

Remember, Your Vote is Your Voice!

Jim Condos is Vermont’s Secretary of State. Vermont’s voter registration deadline is November 2 @ 5PM. Register by visiting your town clerk or online at

Twitter: @VermontSOS and


Trump, Treason and “America’s Mayor”

As he rages through the Democratic process like King Kong on steroids, Donald Trump has few remaining national figures endorsing his behavior.

One of the most steadfast of these is Rudi Giuliani who was once-upon-a-time christened “America’s Mayor” in the national gush of emotion following 9/11.

He seemed the very model of a modern mayor-general, briefly symbolizing the resolution of all New Yorkers to rise from the ashes of the World Trade Center. A hero.

The rest of the nation didn’t really know him before then, so they warmly embraced the narrative.

Pausing in his rush to war with the wrong country, then President Bush addressed the nation and told us to go out shopping. The terrorists were enemies of “our way of life,” and we were not going to surrender that way of life, allowing the terrorists to ‘win.’

But they did ‘win’; not after years and years of resistance, but practically overnight. The transformation began with paranoia and the War Powers Act. It was all downhill after then.

Rudy Giuliani’s unblinking loyalty to Donald Trump, as he attempts to discredit the foundational process in our democracy, is testament to the terrorists’ victory over American ideals.

Giuliani and the hate filled “basket of deplorables” driving the Trump ‘movement’ have handed the 9/11 terrorists a victory beyond their wildest dreams.

Those terrorists only succeeded in killing people and destroying buildings. On the morning after, our time honored democratic institutions and tradition of generosity and civility were still intact. They had yet to be undermined by the enemy within.

Capitalizing on a decade and a half of festering ignorance, fear and xenophobia, Trump and his minions have ginned-up an angry mob that threatens the very foundations of our democracy.

By his example, he has given them license to hate, ridicule and intimidate virtually anyone who doesn’t look like them; and hinted darkly of Armageddon should they not succeed in carrying him to power.

Together they have sold this extremely suggestible sector the fiction that the historic first female candidate for president, with whom they sympathized in the 1990’s when her Democratic dog of a husband did her wrong, has somehow turned into Darth Vader and is about to destroy the Empire.

Donald Trump has so much contempt for the nation he fatuously claims to love, that he refuses to familiarize himself with even the most basic principles of checks and balances that serve as the framework to our democracy. His interest in the law is limited to how it can serve his selfish interests or be exploited for personal revenge.

The steady stream of vindictive hyperbole has finally become sufficiently toxic so that even some traditionally conservative media outlets are beginning to awaken to the danger they’ve unleashed by encouraging this dancing bear. But it’s too little and it may be too late.

Like Hitler planning the destruction of Berlin when the inevitable defeat loomed before him, Trump is readying his followers for schism and revolt by prematurely and openly challenging the legitimacy of the election process.

It surely is treason to sow distrust in the Democratic process among the electorate, tease at the idea of retribution and gleefully fan the flames of violent uprising.

…And Giuliani is aiding and abetting this treasonous madness!

“America’s Mayor” indeed!

Rudy Giuliani: “Voter fraud is this big!”


Updated: VT’s Black River Produce sold to giant food distributor

Black River Produce joins the long line of Vermont grown companies (Vermont Castings, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and of course, Ben and Jerry’s) to sell out to much larger, out-of-state businesses.

Owners of the state’s most familiar food distributor announced that Chicago food distributor Reinhart Foodservice will purchase Black River Produce/Earth Brothers, Ltd.   of Springfield Vt.   Reinhart’s parent company Reyes Holdings (a beverage distribution conglomerate) is owned by M. Jude Reyes and  in 2010 was the 20th -largest private company in the United States.

The Rutland Herald/ Time-Argus reports Black River was started in 1978 by two friends who delivered fresh produce from Boston to Vermont restaurants and stores.  Black River Produce currently employees 200 people in North Springfield.

The company is one of the standouts in the Vermont economy: Sales have grown 25 percent in the past five years, Black River Produce co-founder Mark Curran said. The company has been recognized by Vermont Business Magazine for its strong growth, he said. The company reported $75.3 million in revenue for 2015.

And to add value to deal the sale will include the four-year-old Black River Meats.

[UPDATE 10/21: When Chicago based Reinhart Food Distributors purchase of Black River Produce is complete it will include Black River Meats label/brand. Black River Meats are processed by Vermont Packinghouse (which operates out of a building owned by Black River Meats-presumably that will now be owned by Reinhart of Chicago)

Since only the profitable label/brand are changing hands the ownership of the plant will not change as result of the sale to the Chicago company.]

This outgrowth is a state-of-the-art slaughterhouse for local Vermont meats that received start-up grants worth $50,000 from State of Vermont Working Lands Grant in 2013 and state funding assistance from the Vermont Economic Development Authority in 2016. It is no small irony that money spent recently by the state of Vermont to grow and support local businesses may have helped to sweeten the sale for the giant Chicago-based conglomerate.


Chicago-based Reinhart Foods has almost 30 distribution locations from Boston to New Orleans — and its clients include Burger King, Subway, and the Defense Logistics Agency. A quick Google search reveals that Reinhart of Chicago has a recent history of OSHA-imposed fines and job-related deaths, and that the business holds the lowest rating from Greenpeace for sustainable practices.

Seven employees were injured and one killed at a Reinhart Food Service facility in Virginia in March when a 200-foot-long, 30-foot-high food shelving unit tipped and collapsed onto workers. Workers had reportedly complained about the safety of the racks prior to the fatal accident.

Also in 2016 a Reinhart facility in Massachusetts was fined over $70,000 when a faulty alarm system failed to detect a leak of anhydrous ammonia from a refrigeration unit that uses 27,500 pounds of the substance. Kenneth Shedden, OSHA’s area director for Boston and Southeastern Massachusetts, said although the amount of the leak was small “An uncontrolled release can be lethal and catastrophic,”

And finally in a recent 2016 report on sustainability Greenpeace gives Reinhart a “worst sustainability” rating of 5 out of 100 total points. Says Greenpeace: “Worst of all, Reinhart sources bluefin tuna: a severely overfished species red-listed by Seafood Watch for every single stock in the world. This suggests Reinhart either does not prioritize sustainable, ethical seafood, or is not concerned with the implications of sourcing threatened species.”

It has long been true that Vermonters tend to admire their “little” home grown local businesses like Black River Produce. We do just love all our aging hippie entrepreneurs, don’t we!  But once again, one of those local, homegrown companies has been sold to a very large corporation — some might say a monopoly. This time around it is Black River Produce and Meats, a key player in Vermont’s local foods movement and one of the brightest economic lights in southern Vermont” that has been swallowed up by what looks like a big ugly fish.

Stupid, stupid- goddamn stupid!

Is it possible to become totally desensitized to ‘stupid’?  If so, at least here in New England I think we could blame the Republican Governor of Maine-our own regional Trump-ist.lerump

What I am ranting about is the latest crazy-talk from Gov. Paul LePage (R).  LePage wants to jail local political opponents!

He said Thursday that two leaders of a referendum on raising the minimum wage in Maine should be jailed, echoing comments by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about jailing his political rival.

Long before Trump splatted onto our national political windshield, Paul LePage was New England’s notable governor dunderhead. In a long, long list of stupid declarations he has called for the return of the guillotine; blamed illegal immigrants for a spike in hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and HIV; and challenged a newspaper reporter to duel.

But it seems with Donald Trump on the national scene, an “un-shackled” LePage may be reaching peak stupid. Only last week, before he called for jailing opponents, he suggested the US had descended into anarchy and that:

Said LePage: “…we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law because we’ve had eight years of a president — he’s an autocrat.”

At some point does the ‘stupid’ become so common it is dangerous and toxic to democracy? The saying once was “As Maine goes, so goes the nation,” but we don’t have to follow.

What fresh hell can this Trump unleash?

It isn’t exactly unhinged to speculate on a wide range of things Donald Trump might unleash on the country should he lose. For now though, if you want to target your worries, here are a couple things Trump has been telegraphing — two things the GOP has a history with.

Since August or earlier Trump has been blathering regularly to his mostly white audiences about alleged voter fraud and rigged elections. On his website he reportedly calls for followers to sign up as poll watchers and says ominously “go down to certain areas and watch and study”  trumpmarchIn speeches he issues marching orders to “…make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.” And on this there is no daylight between Trump and running mate Mike Pence. Indiana Governor Pence encouraged a crowd in Manchester, New Hampshire, to help ensure a fair election by serving as poll watchers because “you are the greatest vanguard for integrity in voting.”

Trump could rely on the party for help on this one as the Republicans have past organizational skill with proactive voter intimidation — meaning actions beyond the latest burdensome registration requirements Republican controlled legislatures enact. One notable example, the Donald might approve of is the action taken by the Orange County California Republican Party in 1988 ,hiring uniformed guards to monitor polling places during the general election. The blue-uniformed Republican guards greeted residents at mostly Latino polling sites with bi-lingual signs reading: “Non-Citizens can’t Vote.”

And how about potential outrageous Trump strategies for after the votes have been cast?  A small riot after a loss in the general election might be just the thing to soothe an ego savaged at the polls.

It’s pretty clear he isn’t a good loser. During the primary Trump often imagined out loud that he might be “cheated” out of winning, and he threatened that his supporters could riot in Cleveland at the RNC convention if he was not the nominee. Trump advisor and  Republican operative Roger Stone even threatened to retaliate against convention delegates who might oppose him. Stone spelled it right out for the troops: “We’ll tell you who the culprits are. We urge you to visit their hotel and find them.”

Stone’s long resume (going “back” to Nixon) includes organizing the Brooks Brothers riots, credited with shutting down the Florida recount in 2000. Stone marshaled about two dozen hired “angry” Republican operatives to storm into a Florida canvassing office shouting “Shut down the recount!” That demonstration effectively ended the long recount process in favor of George W. Bush, which, in concert with the Supreme Court’s decision, doomed Al Gore’s chance at reaching the White House.

It doesn’t take much of a leap to see that Trump might urge his disappointed/outraged followers to riot in the streets in favor of putting Trump on the throne, despite the outcome of the popular and/or Electoral College vote. He’s already propagated a democracy-undermining narrative about “crooked” vote counting and “rigged” elections.

trumpstageDonald Trump’s past performance offers little evidence he might choose to follow two hundred years of tradition (for the good of the country), and honorably concede electoral defeat, going off-stage quietly to fortress-Trump Tower. Whatever form his closing act takes may be limited only by Trump’s fevered imagination. Comedy or tragedy, at least it will soon be over. Hold the curtain calls.

Celebrating civility

Perhaps under the poisonous influence of Donald Trump , civility seems in short supply this election season, even in some of Vermont’s statewide elections.

Randy Brock  has taken the low road in challenging Dave Zuckerman for the office of Lieutenant Governor (see below), and rather than focusing on policy, has chosen to run ads distorting Zuckerman’s words and assassinating his character.

I found that a pretty pathetic sign of the times..

So I was pleased to hear the high tone that Marina Brown, the Liberty Union candidate for Auditor of Accounts, adopted in an interview on VPR yesterday.

She explained that she wants the auditor’s office to create a web portal through which members of the public might more easily access all manner of government records. She says her goal is to improve transparency.

When asked what issues she has with two-term Auditor Doug Hoffer (D/P), Marina Brown (LU) said simply that she thinks he is doing a good job.

A minor party challenger complimenting the incumbent while simply presenting how she thinks the office could be improved would not usually be cause for much discussion; however, in this poisonous election cycle, it was as welcome to my Trump-weary ears as caroling on a snowy Christmas Eve.

Thank you Marina Brown.

Randy Brock goes negative … again

Well, with just a couple weeks left until Election Day, Republican candidate for Lt. Governor Randy Brock has gone negative. In two 60 second radio ads Brock is questioning the character of his opponent, David Zuckerman, and wonders ominously whether he should be “a heartbeat away from being governor.”

When asked: “With issue differences, why go after character?” today on VPR’s Vermont Edition Brock defended his negative ads against Zuckerman, saying: The election is about character, who you trust — and adds, “Character is the core issue.” thatrandycharacter

But you know,speaking of character Randy Brock has done this negative bit before and still come up short and lost.

Running for governor in 2012 against Peter Shumlin, behind in the polls Brock went negative in a series of TV ads.  From 2012: With less than a week until voters head to the polls, Republican Randy Brock has broken out the political knives with a new television ad that insinuates lies and corruption by incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin. And back then fellow-Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, nothing short of aghast, had to flop down on his fainting couch about Brock’s attack. Said Scott in 2012:

“…[Brock’s] spot was “unlike anything I’ve seen from a campaign perspective here in Vermont.” randybrockbear2

Fast forward to now — and Brock is at it again.

So it  bears asking: what does this willingness to repeatedly resort to negative ads at the last minute of his latest campaign say about Randy Brock’s character?

The GOP are all Trump-heads now


A poll conducted by Politico/Morning Consult allowed respondents to view the  lewd “Access Hollywood” video and Trump’s subsequent “apology.”

Those who took the poll rated their reactions to the clip on a scale from zero (very negative) to ten (positive) and a 74-percent majority had a negative reaction. However, other findings are unsettling but probably not surprising.

As of now, GOP voters largely want the party to stand behind Trump. Nearly three-quarters of Republican voters, 74 percent, surveyed on Saturday said party officials should continue to support Trump. Only 13 percent think the party shouldn’t back him.

Well, Trump knows he solidly captured the GOP base and did so early on. I am thinking back to his remark from back in January: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

The Washington Post broke the story!

NBC News had access to the Trump Access Hollywood tape for four days last week but due to legal  hemming and hawing it was finally scooped by The Washington Post. The Post moved quickly and took just five hours to vet the tape and decide to make it available to the public.

It is worth recalling that months ago a vengeful Trump took away The Washington Post’s campaign press credentials,  banning the newspaper’s staff from his campaign events. In June, Post executive editor Marty Baron wrote this: “Donald Trump’s decision to revoke The Washington Post‘s press credentials is nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press,”

Shortly afterward blogger Charlie Pierce wisely noted what this meant for Trump:

“ […] See, in my experience, this is how Marty Baron tells someone that they f*cked with the wrong executive editor.”

Pierce suggested helpfully that it might aid Trump’s understanding of the gravity of what he had done for him to  visit disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law “[…]  at the Basilica of Our Lady Of The Clean Getaway in Rome” [also see the movie Spotlight].