Good Santa, Bad Santa, and a lump of coal for Christmas

Another holiday edition of “Thumbs Up…” This time, featuring images of Santa from two cinematic classics: “Miracle on 34th Street,” and “Santa’s Slay,” starring former pro wrestler Bill Goldberg as evil Santa.

And speaking of holidays, this feature will be taking next week off; it should return on December 31.

Terri Hallenbeck of the Freeploid and Kirk Carapezza of VPR, for doing some very fine reporting on what could have been a joke of an assignment — accompanying Governor Shumlin and his merry band of F-35 supporters on their planespotting junket to Eglin AFB. The two scribes played it straight, but their reports made it clear that the entire trip was a dog and pony show. If it wasn’t for their sacrifice of time, energy, and their employers’ expense accounts, we wouldn’t have learned about golden moments like…

— Governor Shumlin saying “Wow” upon first seeing an F-35 and then, Captain Renault-like, allowing that he was “shocked” at how quiet the jet planes were, and trying to convince us that the F-35 is somehow quieter than the currently deployed F-16.

— The entire company doing their best Robert Parker impersonation, characterizing the sound in neo-Wine Spectator terms — “it’s a different sound,” “it’s a deeper sound,” and, from an Air Force Colonel, “deeper, throatier.”  Mmmm, roll the sound around in your ears: earthy, robust, unfiltered, yeasty, chewy.

— Winooski Mayor Michael O’Brien measuring the loudness on his iPad, and then trying to explain away the embarrassing result: the F-35 was quite a bit louder, actually. Oopsie.

So congrats to Hallenbeck and Carapezza for bringing their A-game to this nothingburger story.

Self-aggrandizing petropreneur Rodolphe “Skip” Vallee, for continuing to believe that he is the political equal of Senator Bernie Sanders. Last week, Skippy began airing anti-Sanders ads (on WCAX, natch) attacking America’s Favorite Socialist for being pro-corporation and anti-environment. And if that wasn’t sufficient evidence of Skip’s political tone-deafness, he also slapped a figurative glove across Bernie’s face: “I challenge Bernie to a VPR debate on the Keystone Pipeline and Lake Champlain cleanup.”

I’m sure Bernie got a good chuckle out of that. As if he would waste his time debating Skip Vallee. The same Skip Vallee whose last foray into the electoral arena was a run for State Senate, which he lost despite setting the all-time record for a State Senate race by spending $134,000. (He did, admittedly, have more success as a bagman for George W. Bush, for which he was honored with the ambassadorship to Slovakia, where he didn’t even start a war or anything.) He dipped his toe into the gubernatorial waters back in 2010 but decided not to take on Brien Dubie. So now he thinks he could tackle Bernie Sanders? It is to laugh.  

Oh, in doing some research for this nubbin, I came across an account of Skip’s political origins from the late great Peter Freyne:

After graduation in 1983, the Williams College hockey player sought an entry-level position with Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy. He didn’t get it.

…Vallee ended up getting an internship with Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Stafford, and he’s been a Republican ever since.

Ladies and gentlemen, Skip Vallee, man of principle.

After the jump: A beloved bridge, a sought-after brew, a Foodbank in need, and a late unlamented figure of the political fringe.

The Quechee covered bridge, for its imminent return to active duty. The ridiculously picturesque bridge was destroyed in Tropical Storm Irene almost a year and a half ago, along with a goodly chunk of the adjacent roadway. Well, according to contractors, the bridge is scheduled to reopen on December 28.

There’s still a lot of damage from Irene, a lot of bills to be paid and a lot of work to be done, but the return of the Quechee Bridge is a tangible sign of progress and a morale-booster as well.

The University of Vermont, for another bout of self-aggrandizement – -this time from new President Tom Sullivan. The Prez wants to make UVM more selective, i.e. harder to get into. (Vermont students would be exempt from his new tougher standards because, well, political suicide.) The idea is that being more selective leads to higher retention and graduation rates, which are markers of academic quality.  

The evidence for this? The most selective colleges, those perceived to have the highest academic quality, also tend to have the highest retention and graduation rates.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being somewhat more selective. Although taken to the extreme, a dual admissions standard could result in a two-tiered student population: out-of-state students breezing through advanced courses, and Vermont students hanging on by their manure-encrusted fingernails. But this is just one more example of a self-aggrandizing trend at Vermont’s Most Distinguished Institution of Higher Learning.

Look, UVM is a nice public university in a small state. It’s done pretty well with limited resources. But it is not, and never will be, on the level of “the most selective colleges,” and it’s unhealthy to think so.  It’s resulted. ironically, in an inflated view of UVM’s achievements and the quality of its faculty and programs. From here within Vermont, UVM is a big deal. But outside Vermont, it’s a small fish in a very large pond. And that’s okay. It’s really, really okay.

Marshfield-based nanobrewery Lawson’s Finest Liquids, for crafting brews that are almost too good for their own good. I showed up at the Montpelier Farmers Market a few minutes after opening on Saturday, and noticed a longish line of people outside the Vermont College of Fine Arts gymnasium, the home of the winter market. I thought maybe it was a group tour of the VCFA campus or something.

Then, when I’d finished my shopping, the line had gotten a whole lot longer — at least a hundred people. And one of them explained it was a line for the Lawson’s Finest table in the market. Lawson’s had organized an outdoor line, lest the beer-seekers overwhelm the entire joint. And, as Keith Vance reported, although Lawson’s had brought twice as many bottles as usual, they sold out before closing time and sent some would-be customers away beerless.

The Lawsons issued a statement on their website, in which they said they were “humbled and amazed at [the] turnout,” and apologized to those who arrived too late to get any beer. They also posted a nice photo of the astounding lineup.  

The Vermont Foodbank, which enters the holiday season and wintertime facing a big financial shortfall. The Times Argus (article paywalled) reports that the Foodbank, the state’s primary supplier to food shelves, soup kitchens, and shelters, needs to raise $1.2 million (about 20% of its annual budget) by the end of December.

“We raise a majority of our dollars in October, November and December, but we’ve seen pretty serious shortfalls in the past two months,” says Judith Stermer, the organization’s director of communications and public affairs. “That we’re so far behind is definitely disconcerting.”

That’s not the only bad news. The Foodbank isn’t getting nearly as much commodity items from the federal government as usual. And it could face more money trouble if the mucky-mucks in Washington don’t settle the fiscal cliff negotiations. If you’d like to help, you can donate through the Foodbank’s website.


The late Thomas Naylor of the secessionist group Second Vermont Republic, for leaving a legacy of lies and bitterness behind him. Some may say it’s unkind to speak ill of the recently deceased; my view is that we should speak plainly of their lives for good and ill. And in Naylor’s case, primarily ill.

When Naylor first formed SVR, he attracted a variety of Vermonters from across the political spectrum, including quite a few leftists who were disgusted with the Bush war on terror. Turned out that he had allied himself with some southern neo-Confederate types, and had some very questionable views on the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. And when confronted about his views and associations by blogger “Thomas Rowley” and front-pagers here at Green Mountain Daily, he reacted with angry denials and furious counterattacks, and an attempt to undermine the career of at least one of his critics.

And in the process, he made it clear that he held some pretty noxious views. Afterward, a lot of his associates broke ties with him and SVR. The group continued to sputter on, but it ceased to be a meaningful force in Vermont politics. And in the immortal words of Louis Armstrong:

When you’re lyin’ six feet deep, no more fried chicken will you eat,

I’ll be glad when you’re dead, you rascal you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *