Thumbs up, thumbs down, and a pie in the face

Special Presidents’ Day Edition, with a mixed-metaphor closing image because I like it, okay?

The godless state of Vermont, gloriously headed for Hell in a sap bucket. The good folks at Gallup have confirmed what we all suspected was true: Vermont is the least religious state in the union. Notwithstanding recent efforts by the Freeploid to drag us back into the soft and suffocating arms of the One True Church.

Only 19% of Vermonters described themselves as “very religious.” The national average was 40%. But we’re only slightly more godless than our New England neighbors, which must have Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather spinning in their skivvies. The five least religious states, in fact, are New England states, ranging from Vermont (19%) to Rhode Island (29%). Connecticut, at 31%, is in a five-way tie for eighth place.

So who’s at the top of the list? You’ll never guess. No, actually, you will.

Mississippi, at 58%. In fact, with the exception of heavily Mormon Utah (56%, tied with Alabama), the top ten list is dominated by the Old South. Maybe we should have let ’em secede, after all.

Seven Days, a.k.a. The Weekly Freeploid, for copying the Freeps’ favorite (and laziest) journalistic technique: poking around in public records looking for some sign of excessive spending — or spending you can mischaracterize as excessive, anyhow.

This time, the intrepid Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz inquired about Governor Shumlin’s use of the Vermont state airplane — a 1962 Cessna. And the big reveal?

Shumlin took the plane to one campaign event last fall, and failed to reimburse the state. His campaign has now belatedly done so. To the tune of $65.80.

Sixty-five dollars and eighty cents. That’s gotta be the tiniest scandal in the history of politics.

The Sixty-Dollar Scandal comes several weeks after Seven Days’ big Christmastime expose — that the state had spent $2.2 million to put up homeless individuals and families in budget motels, at an average cost of $58 per night. Maybe that’s excessive, maybe it isn’t, I don’t know; but I do know it’d be an awful lot more costly to either (a) build and operate a bunch more shelters, or (b) solve the state’s chronic affordable-housing shortage.

And I know this: both of these stories are classic examples of neoconservative scandal-mongering that probably have Peter Freyne spinning in his skivvies.

They’re also the kind of thing you should be doing in the slow months. Not when the Legislature is running at full steam, and there are important stories going unreported every damn day.

Two pieces of free advice, worth every penny: Save the FOIA requests and database searches for after the Legislature adjourns. And, the next time a scavenger hunt produces nothing more than $65 for a short hop in an aging airplane, don’t bother writing it up.

Also, a special bonus Thumbs Down to the aforementioned Freeploid, for stealing Heintz’ $65 “scandal” and getting Terri Hallenbeck to write it up big-timewithout giving proper attribution to Seven Days. Hey, if you’re going to squander your journalistic ethics, don’t do it on a trumped-up nothingburger of a story.

After the jump: Shumlin in a handicap match, an ex-Governor burglarized, a new Vermont skiing champ, and a pie in the face for the Slummin’ Solon.

Governor Peter Shumlin, for getting an opportunity to exercise his intellectual superiority in our nation’s capital. This Friday morning, as part of’s annual State Solutions Conference, Shumlin (as head of the Democratic Governors Association) will debate his Republican counterpart.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

Sheesh. If Shummy can’t mop the floor with that wafer-thin ideologue, I’ll be sorely disappointed.

The debate is set for Friday morning at 8. I’ve been looking for information about a broadcast or livestream of the event, but haven’t found any. If someone out there has more info, please let me know and I’ll update this post. Get your popcorn ready!

 Former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift, who recently moved to Vermont, and was greeted not by a Welcome Wagon, but by a burglar. Swift is now CEO of Middlebury Interactive Languages, and is renting a home in nearby Cornwall. But when she returned from work last Tuesday evening, she found the door kicked in and her belongings thoroughly rummaged.

Swift generously allowed that the incident hasn’t soured her on Vermont, and complimented the state police on their response. She and her husband are house-shopping, despite this Vermont-sized outbreak of crime.

(By the way, I’ve heard that some in Vermont Republican circles are intrigued by Swift as a potential candidate. If she’s their idea of a “star,” it shows what a desperate state they’re in. Swift was elected Lieutenant Governor; she served one unelected half-term after Paul Cellucci resigned so he could become Bush’s ambassador to Canada. Next election, Swift got bigfooted by Mitt Romney, who wanted to use the governorship as a stepping stone to his inevitable election to the Presidency, haw haw.)

17-year-old skier Mikaela Shiffrin, for becoming the youngest women’s Apline skiing works champion in nearly three decades after winning last weekend’s slalom in the poetically-monickered town of Schladming, Austria. Just rolls off the tongue. Shifrin is now seen as a rising star who’s sure to become one of the faces of the US team in next year’s Winter Olympics.

Shiffrin is a native of Colorado, but she attends school at Burke Mountain Ski Academy in Vermont. After her win, she gave a lot of credit to her coach, Kirk Dwyer, for honing her technique to championship levels. Dwyer returned the compliment, calling her “the best skier in school history.” Hard to argue.

 Veteran major-league pitcher Carl Pavano, who nearly suffered a fatal injury while shoveling snow at his winter home near the Okemo ski resort. On January 12, he slipped on some ice, the shovel handle jammed into his midsection and, unbeknownst to him, ruptured his spleen. As the primary shoveler at my house, let me just say AAAARRRRGGGGGH.

He didn’t realize it until four days later, when he was suddenly overcome by abdominal pain. By the time surgeons removed the spleen, he’d lost massive amounts of blood and is slowly recovering. He’s lucky to be alive, but from a professional viewpoint the timing couldn’t be worse: Pavano is a free agent who probably would have found a new team by now if not for his depleted condition. A full recovery will take several weeks at the very least, but Pavano vows to pitch again.

The Slummin’ Solon, Sen. Peter Galbraith (D-Messiah), for his heroic intervention in last week’s end-of-life debate that completely screwed the pooch. I’ve already vented my spleen (sorry, Carl) over his antics — killing a piece of legislation that had been thoroughly vetted and tested in favor of his one-page assisted-suicide free-for-all.  

This additional award isn’t for his legislative antics, but for not only believing that his shit don’t stink, but for trying to convince us all that it’s solid gold. He crowed that he’d “developed a 2-to-1 consensus” on the divisive issue. And while it’s true the final Senate vote was 22-8, the margin was purely procedural. Supporters of death with dignity hate Galbraith’s bill and only voted in favor so they could move it on to the House, hoping for a complete rewrite there. Opponents of the concept voted yes, not because they actually want to open the door to unregulated assisted suicide (which Galbraith’s bill would do), but because they wanted to kill the original bill.

Galbraith insisted that he didn’t “believe for a nanosecond that I gutted the bill,” even though his amendment threw out the entire original bill in favor of a concept that, according to Sen. Diane Snelling, was presented to the Senate with “less than one day” to consider it.

The former diplomat turned oil gazillionaire also betrayed his ignorance of the medico-legal process. He insisted that his bill, which simply indemnifies any doctor who helps a patient end his/her life, makes it a matter between a doctor and patient, and keeps the state out of it. Well, hell, Petey, the state regulates all kinds of medical activity — and for good reason: not every doctor is a paragon of virtue. (Not every diplomat is, either. I have a perfect example in mind.)

Not to mention that helping someone die is such a serious act that no doctor in her/his right mind would venture out and risk her/his professional career and freedom on this slender reed of legislation. There are far too many unanswered questions and gray areas. That’s why the original bill had so many safeguards, which had been tried and tested in other jurisdictions.

Do you know what an “asshat” is, Senator? It’s someone with his head wedged deeply in his fundament.

You, sir, are an asshat.  

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