Thumbs Up, Na Na Boo Boo, and a Poke in the Eye

Special Ronnie Reagan edition, in honor of a Republican who was willing to compromise on taxes. Couldn’t find a Reagan “thumbs down,” but I like what I did find.

Governor Peter Shumlin, for finally achieving his long-rumored (and coyly denied) ascension to the chairmanship of the Democratic Governors Association. The Guv is spending a couple of days out in sunny Los Angeles (actually, it’s cloudy and rainy today, so just keep that Speedo packed away in your suitcase, thanks very much) at the DGA’s annual meeting at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel because, well, it’s a dirty job and somebody’s got to do it.

(The Beverly Wilshire describes itself as a “history-rich luxury hotel in the heart of Beverly Hills, just steps from Rodeo Drive… Enjoy warm, hospitable service, Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurants, and a world-class spa at this iconic Beverly Hills hotel.” Lowest price currently available on Travelocity: $415 per night. We trust, of course, that such an august personage as Our Governor is in one o’ them pricey suites.)

But Shumlin insists that it’s not all champagne wishes and caviar dreams, telling VPR:

“I feel that it’s a real opportunity for us to not only learn a lot from other governors what’s working well what’s not working well that’s where I get some of my best ideas.”

And, despite Republicans’ pre-election carping about Shumlin becoming a part-time Governor, he insists that his new job won’t take up too much of his time. (And, he might have added but didn’t, he must be looking forward to a stop at Al’s Frys on his way back from the five-star luxury resort and all those tedious Michelin-rated eateries. Gimme a quart o’ good old poutine any day!)

Governor Shumlin, a rare Daily Double, for throwing some cold water on a couple of his most valued initiatives. As reported by Peter Hirschfeld of the Vermont Press Bureau (article paywalled here), Shumlin has refused to commit to a specific funding level for the Clean Energy Development Fund.which has provided $5 million a year for support of renewable energy projects. That money came from Vermont Yankee, under terms of an agreement that expired earlier this year. Now, the Governor and the Legislature have to find a new source for the money, and Shumlin isn’t saying how much he will propose in the next budget. And Representative Tony Klein, who helped form the CEDF back in 2005, says that sooner or later, the renewables industry will have to get by without that funding:

Klein said if the administration can find somewhere to get the money, then he’s all for giving the CEDF the $5 million…

”But at a certain point I worry about dependencies being built and expectations being assumed,” Klein said. “Maybe it becomes a security blanket.”

The Governor is also sounding some cautionary notes about the impact of health care reform on some of our neediest residents. (article paywalled here):

Gov. Peter Shumlin says state health care subsidies for working-class Vermonters might be more generous than they need to be, and that some residents here could soon be facing higher insurance premiums and deductibles.

As part of the transition to a health benefits exchange, two state programs (Catamount Health and VHAP) that help working-class folks will come to an end. And federal support for the exchange won’t be as generous as it has been for those two programs.

While Shumlin last week said he’ll protect some people from the increased exposure, he said others will have to make up the difference themselves.

…”You could also argue there are parts of our existing program that are more generous than they need to be, and that’s what we’ll be looking for,” Shumlin said.

Practicing for a an upcoming role as The Grinch, are we?

The central idea of health care reform is to provide universal access to coverage. If the new system puts the pinch on working folks struggling to get by, that’ll be a major failure for Shumlin.

After the jump: Bernie, Enbridge, a broadcasting legend, and Vermont’s most reactionary newspaper strikes again.

 Senator Bernie Sanders, for pushing the Pentagon to be accountable for contracting fraud. Last week, the Senate added to the defense authorization bill a Sanders proposal to require annual reports on fraud by military contractors. (Those wonderful folks who brought you the $750 hammer and the $640 toilet seat and the F-35, the poster child for cost overruns and production delays.)

The Senate also added a Sanders amendment that would make public a list of former senior military officers who leave the government and go straight onto the payrolls of defense contractors. Kudos to Bernie for getting the Senate to agree; somehow I think his amendments will face much tougher sledding in the Republican House. Because, if you believe Republicans, a dollar wasted on defense fraud still (somehow) makes our nation safer.

Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge, for taking steps that may bring dirty, corrosive tar sands oil through the Northeast Kingdom. Last week, a coalition of environmental groups issued a news release noting that Enbridge…

…filed regulatory documents to move plans forward to reverse its Line 9B pipeline bringing oil – likely to include tar sands – eastward to Montreal. The announcement essentially opens the door to bringing the corrosive tar sands through Ontario, Quebec, and Vermont for export from Portland, Maine.

The Portland-Montreal pipeline currently carries imported oil from the Atlantic port to Canadian markets. What with all that tar sands oil in Alberta, there’s a declining market for imported oil in Canada. So what to do with the pipeline? Hey, use it to export the tar sands stuff!

The fly in that ointment is that tar sands oil is really nasty. It’s highly corrosive, which means pipelines are more likely to leak or fail. And when that happens…

[the oil] causes more damage to human and environmental health than conventional crude, and is nearly impossible to clean-up even at enormous expense as evidenced by the 2010 spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River which is still being cleaned today and stands as the most expensive inland pipeline spill in history.

It’s quite possible that Enbridge simply wants to bring western Canadian oil to eastern Canadian markets. But with that nice Portland-Montreal pipeline just sitting there… and with an uncertain future for plans to run tar sands pipelines through the central US or out to the British Columbia coast… it doesn’t take much insight to see that the New England pipeline may be a highly attractive alternative for Enbridge.

That Kalamazoo River spill was really, really bad. And two years after it happened, the EPA says Enbridge still needs to do more to clean up the damage. Two years! Do you want any of that stuff oozing its way through the Northeast Kingdom?

the late State Representative Greg Clark, R-Vergennes, struck and killed by a car last week. Clark was a widely-respected figure at the Statehouse, and a beloved teacher at Mt. Abraham High School.

“The faculty is having a difficult time,” said David Adams, the superintendent in Addison Northeast.

Flags at Mt. Abe were lowered to half-staff Friday in Clark’s honor– it was a custodian’s idea. Students came up with the idea of writing Mr. Clark, or “Clarky” as they called him, notes to say goodbye.

Flags across Vermont will be at half staff tomorrow, by direction of Governor Shumlin. I never met Greg Clark, and I’m sure I’d disagree with him politically, but by all accounts he made a difference in the lives of his students and his community and cut a memorable figure in the House.

Rob Roper and the Ethan Allen Institute. Vermont’s teeny tiny conservative movement continues its incestuous ways, rewarding failure with promotions. Just like the free market! (It’s especially enjoyable to have the honors done by St. Ronnie himself.)


Ken Squier, owner of WDEV Radio and co-owner of Barre’s Thunder Road racetrack, for winning a major honor from NASCAR. He is this year’s recipient of the Buddy Shuman Award, given annually to someone who has played a key role in the growth of NASCAR. Those who only know the modern-day Squier who still, at the age of 76, appears daily on WDEV, may not realize how important a figure he is in auto-racing history.

For more than 20 years, Squier provided lap-by-lap commentary during NASCAR Cup telecasts and is credited with convincing CBS to offer flag-to-flag coverage of the Daytona 500 beginning in 1979. His timing couldn’t have been better: The broadcast was seen by millions who were kept at home by a major East Coast storm, and those who tuned in witnessed the legendary trackside fistfight between drivers Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough. Squier was the first to describe the annual Cup Series opener as “The Great American Race” and introduced a number of innovations – including the in-car camera – to motorsports telecasts.

Congratulations to one of Vermont’s own, who continues to provide a real community service on his locally-programmed radio station, in addition to accomplishing great things on a national stage.

the St. Johnsbury Caledonian-Record, always a reliable source of reactionary politics. But even by its antediluvian standards, its November 29 editorial is hard to beat. Entitled “Hard to Kill,” it’s basically an over-the-top rant about labor unions which, as we all know…

…use strong-arm tactics, they’re greedy and they work hard to decrease the level of service provided by their members. Their un-ceasing drive for ever higher wages and benefits have pushed companies, cities and states past the breaking point.

The Cal-Rec crowed over some high-profile reversals for unions in Wisconsin, Michigan, Chicago and California, and then said…

So where do union bosses go when everyone else in the country has figured out their greedy grift?

Yep, the united socialist republic of Vermont. Though we were once too small to bother with, suddenly desperate bosses are now scraping for membership under every last rock.

I hadn’t noticed any invasion by squadrons of union thugs seeking solace in the bosom of our socialist republic. But the Cal-Rec editorialist sees foreign forces at work in unionization drives at the University of Vermont, St. Michael’s College, Goddard College, and the child-care sector. And it makes him so, so angry.

On its face you’d figure Vermont to be easy pickings for the union beasts. For those who pay attention, though, public sector unions are mostly to blame for $3-billion in unfunded pension and retirement benefit liabilities and the exploding cost of education. Vermonters already are aware that, everywhere public sector unions go, taxes go through the roof and services go to hell.

Wow. In one brief editorial, the Cal-Rec referred to unions as greedy strong-armers whose only goal is higher pay and less work, grifters and beasts who make “services go to hell.” I don’t know how the writer managed to avoid using “Nazi” or “brownshirt”; I guess I should applaud his restraint?

It’s too bad the Cal-Rec’s ill-tempered rants are tucked securely behind a paywall, since that means the vast majority of Vermonters can’t benefit from its wisdom and insight. No wonder we remain a socialist republic, in spite of the Cal-Rec’s best efforts.  

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