All posts by BP

VT GOP Fundraising: Lie down with rodents, get up with ticks

Considering that Vermont Republicans — and our Governor in particular — often bill themselves as being outside the national fray and belonging to the long-fabled (mythical?) “northeast moderate Republican” club, they sure have a history of inviting outspoken GOP nutcase-stars to join their fundraiser events. In the past notables Maine Governor Paul “Bring back the guillotine” LePage and former Congressman Allen West, who believed religious coexistence “would give away our country,” headlined  VTGOP fundraisers.on skids

Now conservative New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu will be the headliner at an August fundraiser for the Vermont Republicans. The Governor will address issues both states face. “As a region, we can continue to have important conversations on affordability, energy, the environment and important regional economic issues,” he promises, according to VTdigger.com.

And as an extra, the Vermont GOPer’s could likely get some helpful tips on how to restrict voting rights. In a recent diary I wrote that Governor Sununu is right in lock-step with the not-so-moderate national GOP trend to limit voter registration. Shortly before this year’s election on Boston talk/news radio Sununu alleged Democrats practiced voter fraud and said: “[…] when Massachusetts elections are not very close, they’re [Democrats] busing them in [to New Hampshire] all over the place.” He got a pants on fire rating for that one from politifact.com.

President Trump referenced alleged New Hampshire vote fraud as justification when he announced his Election Integrity Commission. After taking office Sununu called for “tightening up” voting laws. Last month New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a member of Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, readily agreed to hand over voting records. He has since said NH will “hold off” Commission vice chairman Kris Kobach’s fifty-state request for voters’ names, addresses, dates of birth, party affiliation, last four social security number digits and voting histories since 2006 pending the outcome of an ongoing legal challenge from the ACLU.

Sununu is unlikely to offer the same level of wacko blather as LePage or West, but his support for boosting his own and Trump’s voting restrictions is at odds with the concerns of average Vermont voters. But regarding the VTGOP’s “moderate” reputation and character: maybe a true view of the party’s reputation is exposed by the characters they  choose to headline their fundraisers.

Just a “hoax” ? No,and it is as big as…

In addition to recently pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords, our own climate-denier-in-chief really has tweeted climate change skepticism 115 times. In 2012 Trump accused the Chinese government of promoting the “hoax” of climate change science in order to gain competitive advantage over the U.S.A.ahoax

Regardless of what Donald Trump might tweet or want to believe about climate change, this is not hoax: one of the largest icebergs ever recorded — 2,200 square miles — has broken off from Antarctica. For now, some scientists caution, it is too soon to determine if this is a direct result of climate change — but it certainly focuses the mind.

But how big is the giant iceberg compared to the size of something most people can comprehend? Well, if you are are familiar with Ukraine, it is half the size of the Transcarpathian region. The online news site Quartz.com has a regional rundown of what in the world something so large can be compared to so we can understand the magnitude of what just happened. asbigas

And should President Trump care to give the giant iceberg a second thought while watching a the Bastille Day parade and festivities in France this week he might find it enlightening to know that it is  55 times the size of Paris.

Trump Jr. and the word of the day

The NYTimes.com is out with a big story. They report that during the campaign, Donald Trump Jr. was told before holding a meeting with a Russian lawyer that information damaging to Hillary Clinton he might  access would be coming from the Russian government. President Trump’s son in-law and current multi-tasking White House adviser Jared Kushner and his then-campaign manager Paul Manafort also attended the meeting.

word of the dayThe Times article is pay walled but here’s a link is to TPM.com placing the meeting in context of the campaign: Less than six weeks before Wikileaks released its first tranche of emails, only a month before that still never explained platform intervention, Donald Trump Jr was asked to take a meeting with a Russian lawyer who had dirt on Hillary Clinton. He was told that the dirt was the product of a Russian government program. He took the meeting in hopes of getting the dirt. [added emphasis]

Like it or not we are cursed to live in interesting times — with Trump. So, sadly, a little birdie keeps telling us this drama still has a long and likely painful way to go before it plays itself out.

 

 

It’s Independence Day in Vermont

4thpostcardI figured I’d haul out the Fourth of July blimp postcard.

Even if you are not marking today with “[…] Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations” as John Adams suggested in a letter written July 3, 1776, what celebrates independence more than the right to vote?

And so here’s a timely tweet from Charlie Pierce reminding us why voting matters.Untitled-1July 14th is the deadline for states to comply with Trump and the GOP’s bogus voting “fraud” commission request for extensive voter registration data from all fifty states. Over half Forty one have refused to comply fearing that the real mission of Donald Trump’s Election Integrity Commission — run by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — is to suppress voting — and slate.com says, to eventually gut and repeal the National Voter Registration Act.

On Monday Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos (D) left no doubt about our state’s position: “I want to make one thing perfectly clear: Vermont will NOT be complying with the Commission’s request for Vermont voters’ private and sensitive information,”* Condos said Monday in a written statement. “Protecting the privacy and security of Vermont voters’ most sensitive information is something I take very seriously, and I will not compromise the privacy of Vermont citizens to support the Trump Administration’s witch hunt for widespread voter fraud, which has been disproven many times over by non-partisan experts.”[added emphasis]

Happy Independence Day Vermont

*The fine print: Condos: “I will not release any more information about Vermont voters than is available to any citizen requesting our voter file.”

Whatever any member of the public is entitled to from Secretary of State records will be available — so that would mean no social security numbers, DOBs, or other ‘private’ info. Our names, addresses, and voting histories (which are public info) will be in Pence-Kobach’s hands within the deadline period.

Wow, the ratings are in and the world swamped Trump!

It is well known Donald Trump, former reality TV performer, is obsessed with his own popularity in polls. He once called himself a ratings machine, but following a few short months in office, his worldwide numbers are in: a poll shows more than three quarters of the world has no confidence in President Trump.

According to a Pew Research Center survey of 37 nations, a median of just 22% has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when a median of 64% expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world. It is worth noting the survey was conducted before Trump’s widely unpopular decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords.

Pew Research found the biggest decline in worldwide public trust in Trump and his administration was with our closest allies in Europe and Asia.

Mirroring the numbers garnered by President Obama, the poll also showed that America as a country was popular then, and much less so now: In the closing years of the Obama presidency, a median of 64% had a positive view of the U.S. Today, just 49% are favorably inclined toward America. Only in two countries — Russia and Israel — out of the 37 polled, did Trump get higher marks than former President Obama had while in office.

Trumparrogant The resoundingly negative view around the world is an issue of the Trump character as well as policy. In the eyes of most people surveyed around the world, the White House’s new occupant is arrogant, intolerant and even dangerous. Among the positive characteristics tested, his highest rating is for being a strong leader [a bully?]. Fewer believe he is charismatic, well-qualified or cares about ordinary people.

Although the American people and popular culture are maintaining a reservoir of favorable opinion, the Guardian.com sees a troublesome trend developing, noting the Pew findings: […] also shows that the low level of support for the president is leading to a decline in support for wider American values. Just 49% expressed a broadly positive view of the US, compared with 64% in surveys carried out 2015 and 2016.

And Vermonters have only to look north to see what effect Trump’s “charm” has on our Canadian neighbors. For the first time in Pew Research history, most Canadians no longer regard America as a force for good in the world.

Just 43% of Canadians have a positive view of their neighbour.

I recall Trump’s 2016 New Hampshire primary victory speech when he promised: “And the world is going to respect us again. Believe me.”

Well maybe it’s time to cancel his show due to low ratings. Not so good Donald … sad, believe me.anvil3

Off the chart GOP hypocrisy

Well, this is a few days old but still there’s nothing like a side by side comparison. In 2010 the GOP screamed long and loud about what, at the time, they claimed was a secretive process the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) was taking through Congress to become law.healthcare ramchartThe chart from The Health Insurance Resource Center compares the process the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA aka Obamacare) took through the Congress to the one the Better Care Reconciliation Act (the Senate version of the House of Representative’s American Health Care Act) is now taking.

And as a sort of bonus document to GOP hypocrisy here’s a 2010 quote from a lengthy Washington Post compilation of GOP Obamacare criticisms :“When it comes to solving problems, Americans want us to listen first, and then, if necessary, offer targeted, step-by-step solutions. Above all, they’re tired of a process that shuts them out. They’re tired of giant bills negotiated in secret, then jammed through on a party-line vote in the middle of the night.”

That was Senator Mitch McConnell Feb. 23, 2010 complaining about the ACA process he imagined to have been secretive. Now as Majority Leader he has embraced a giant bill negotiated in secret, soon to be jammed through on a party-line vote.

That level of hypocrisy is not unheard from Mitch McConnell. Sadly it may prove almost off the charts unhealthy to those who need healthcare but not (ahem) for the Majority Leader.

VP Mike Pence checks in with the boss: a pause to refresh

In the face of multiple official investigations into Trump campaign’s possible Russian contacts heating up and a key vote due in the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) and trash Medicaid funding, Vice President Mike Pence Pence somehow found time to sneak off and have a private chat with Charles Koch.the koch machine1

According to The Hill.com the first instinct of the Veep’s office was to deny the meeting took place. But it turns out while at a conservative Christian celebration in Colorado, Pence had an unannounced meeting with Charles Koch and representatives from the Koch brothers’ political finance and policy arm, Americans for Prosperity.

Pence, in town to headline a banquet celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Christian conservative group Focus on the Family, sat down with the chairman and chief executive of Koch Industries, along with key members of the Koch team.

 The meeting was not on the vice president’s schedule released by the White House late Thursday.

A spokesman for the vice president’s office denied to The Hill earlier Friday that Pence would be meeting with the Koch brothers’ network. The spokesman did not respond to requests for comments late Friday.

 For anyone harboring happy dreams of a scandal-plagued Trump leaving office one way or another before his term expires, it’s sobering to consider the Vice President may be just as bad in his own unique way. He has expressed a desire to copy former VP Dick Cheney’s governing style. And Pence has enjoyed a long relationship with the Koch machine, even if he’s not just an outright puppet of the oligarch-wannabes.

 The Hill.com reminds readers: While President Trump had an almost non-existent relationship with the libertarian billionaire Koch brothers, Pence has a much longer history with both Charles and David Koch. 

 Americans for Prosperity touted Pence’s record as governor of Indiana. His former pollster Kellyanne Conway, now a senior adviser in the Trump White House, worked for a Koch network group. And [Marc] Short, the White House’s top lobbyist and former Pence chief of staff, once ran the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a key wing of the Koch brothers network.

President Trump or President Pence: name your poison, America … bottoms up.

 

A golf pro, a lobbyist and Governor Scott walk in to the legislature

Since becoming governor Phil Scott has twice had the chance make appointments to the state legislature. His choices to replace Republican legislators a lobbyist and a golf pro hardly fit the image most citizens may have of an average Vermonter.

Scott’s first legislative appointment to the state House of Representatives was Jim Harrison, a lobbyist and former president of the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association. And his most recent pick, for the state Senate is David Soucy, a golf pro who now manages the Green Mountain National golf course. FDTF

The course, located in and owned by the town of Killington, has struggled for years to cover as much as $5 million in debt originally incurred to build the facility. In 2011 with golf revenue down 13.5 percent in Vermont, town officials were critical of spending $25,000 per year to promote the course while facing a large municipal debt restructuring.

At the time Soucy appeared to dismiss worries over the debt and said reporting on it had been “sensationalized.”  He championed the golf facility, telling WCAX: “[…] as far as the debt is concerned, the pressure is on the town, not the course. It really comes down to the debt structure, not our operations; we make money on our operations. The debt structure is what needs to be taken care of,” he said. [added emphasis] So the Gov’s  newest pick for the legislature hardly your typical Republican town budget hawk worried.

David Soucy may actually be a good match with Scott’s earlier appointment to the legislature, Jim Harrison the former Vermont Retail and Grocers Association president. Under Harrison the VRGA opposed taxing sugared drinks, any paid family leave policy, and the Vermont Genetically Modified Organism labeling law. A lobbyist and a golf pro selected to represent average Vermonters in the state House and Senate that’s par for Republican Governor Scott giving business an even bigger voice in the legislature. Making Vermont Affordable for Whom?

 

Phil Scott Races Away from ‘Moderate’ Govs’ Bipartisan Healthcare Effort

Back in January  VPR reported  Phil Scott made some public noises about working with what he calls moderate GOP Governors to help maintain health care in the face of Trump and the Republican efforts to repeal (gut) the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka ObamaCare) and Medicaid. He was reported to have joined in conversations with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts about ways to work with the Trump administration.ACAkeepit

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) legislation that would gut the ACA was passed in the House; now it is being negotiated in secret talks in the Senate  — and Trump’s budget proposal is threatening Medicaid.  But Gov. Scott’s name was inexplicably missing from a recent letter sent to Senate leaders this week by governors expressing concerns about affordable health coverage.

A group of Democratic and Republican governors wrote Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urging that efforts to improve the health care system be bipartisan in nature while reiterating their concerns with the House Obamacare repeal legislation, the American Health Care Act.

Democratic Governors John Bel Edwards (LA), John Hickenlooper (CO) Steve Bullock (MT) and Tom Wolf (PA) signed the letter along with three Republicans: Govs John Kasich (OH), Charlie Baker (MA) and Brian Sandoval (NV).

The Hill.com reports  the letter to Majority Leader McConnell in part says: While we certainly agree that reforms need to be made to our nation’s health care system, as Governors from both sides of the political aisle, we feel that true and lasting reforms are best approached by finding common ground in a bipartisan fashion,” the governors said.

The governors are particularly concerned about the bill’s Medicaid provisions. All of governors who signed the letter are from states that expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare, but the Republican bill in both chambers is set to end the federal funding for that expansion.

This seems like just the kind of act a simple bi-partisan effort he might have signed on to. Neighboring Massachusetts GOP Gov. Baker joined in, and Gov. Kasich, whom Scott supported for President, also signed the letter to Senator McConnell.

Maybe signing on to the multi-state Climate Change Alliance (under pressure) fulfilled his monthly quota for bi-partisanship. But he’s a busy man meeting a host of challenges  facing a possible state government shutdown with down-to-the-wire state budget veto negotiations  and, of course, he’s somehow finding time to race his car.

Job preservation at work in Vermont

Country Home Products named one of Vermont’s best places to work in 2017 has announced it is laying off dozens of Vermont workers. There’s a major layoff announcement in Winooski. Country Home Products informed employees this week that dozens will soon be out of a job.[…]selffeeding layoff The Vermont-born maker of outdoor power tools gave 67 employees a letter or reached out by phone, telling workers they are out of a job and when their last day will be.

In 2009 the longtime Vermont business Country HomeProducts/DR Power raised $12 million from 24 foreign investors through the EB-5 investment-for-visas program. The $12 million was used to fund product development and market expansion. As a designated “troubled business,” the company escaped the normal EB-5 requirement to create 10 jobs and only had to preserve existing jobs.

Six years passed, and in 2015 Country Home Products, now with a market value of $2.1 billion, was sold to Generac Holdings Inc., a larger publicly traded business. Generac is headquartered in Waukesha, WI, the CEO is Aaron Jagdfeld, and the company employs 4,202 people. Jagdfeld’s overall compensation in 2016 was $3.9 million, while all executive compensation was up 6.51% the same year.

And so now the layoffs start. Country Home Products president Matt Bieber says the full-time, part-time and seasonal layoffs are in addition to the complete closure of their Winooski assembly plant. [Emphasis added.]

Kind of raises a few questions about what “job preservation” in Vermont actually means. And whose job and for how long was it supposed to be preserved?

I am sure we will be told there isn’t much the State can do other than speedily provide unemployment benefits and perhaps job counseling.  Although Governor Scott offers this: “Any job loss in the state of Vermont is concerning,” His suggestion that, “It reinforces that we have to watch every dollar. We have to make Vermont more affordable,” might ring kind of hollow to those now out a good job. No prescriptions available for this malady from the Gov., just take two ‘affordables’ and call me in the morning.