All posts by BP

VermontPBS primetime impeachment hearings? To air is divine.

Longtime Public Broadcasting heavyweight journalist Bill Moyers and senior writer Michael Winship took out a full page ad in the New York Times last week urging PBS live up to what it once was and go the extra mile next week during the House impeachment hearings.

Moyers and Winship write: We believe that for the sake of the nation, public television should not only broadcast them live as they happen but repeat them in primetime so that Americans who work during the day have a chance to watch and judge for themselves Donald Trump’s guilt or innocence.” ?

The question is, does PBS dare to side with the Constitution or prefer the status quo. What should its mission be?

Vermonters can contact VermontPBS for a local answer and encourage our station officials to urge the national network to broadcast the hearings.

Moyers and Winship continue: During this present Constitutional crisis, the PBS Newshour and Frontline, as well as Washington Week in Review – which was around during those Watergate days — have done their best to keep up with day-to-day coverage of the bizarre developments of Trumpgate. Episodic coverage of the news, however, is not enough to get past the falsehoods and fraud that obstruct the truth in the news, especially when so many characters in the drama possess what Thomas Carlyle called ‘the talent of lying in a way that cannot be laid hold of.’” [added emphasis]

Trump keeps us in his crazy ‘Village’

I had a couple conversations recently with random people who volunteered in passing that they were feeling kind of smothered and oppressed by the way Trump dominates the news . Whether it is the recent thing about wanting to purchase Greenland from Denmark or retweeting a claim that he is seen by some as the King of Israel or almost any one of the endless lies he spews forth — he is, after two years, omnipresent. And like some digital media version of the white balloon Rover from the 1960’s TV show The Prisoner Trump’s behavior keeps us in his own crazy news village-potentially disheartened and distracted from other issues.

Rover is a fictional entity from the 1967 British television program The Prisoner, and was an integral part of the way ‘prisoners’ were kept within the Village. It was depicted as a floating white balloon that could coerce, and, if necessary, disable inhabitants of the Village […] in one incident, it even killed a person, but it is not clear whether the ability to kill was a normal feature of Rover or if this incident was a malfunction. Several aspects of the Rover device were not explained, presumably left to the imagination of the viewer.

It’s been a hard day on the planet…all year!

It’s been a hard day on the planet
How much is it all worth?
It’s getting harder to understand it
Things are tough all over on earth.

I’ve got clothes on my back and shoes on my feet
A roof over my head and something to eat
My kids are all healthy and my folks are alive
You know, it’s amazing but sometimes I think I’ll survive

released 1986 , Loudon Wainwright III

Photo-shop coping: a great escape from the Trump Era

Sure it is juvenile and a bit foolish, like drawing a mustache on a billboard face, but … I just couldn’t write a GMD diary about Senator Lindsey Graham violating his own Senate committee rules to railroad a bill (one that will help escalate the latest horrors ICE is perpetrating on immigrant families seeking asylum) to a vote. The bill will extend the time immigrant children can be held from a court-ordered 20 days to 100 days.  I even made an attempt to break my block by scribbling about a couple other issues, such as Trump’s barrage of racist twitter-rants. I even failed to engage over GOP Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s rage at “Moscow Mitch”, his new nickname … just couldn’t do that either.

So I did what I could do — used photo-shop and a Leningrad Cowboy to mock Donald’s comb-over and scowl. And studies have found that humor was an effective coping mechanism with all levels of stress.  In fact one study on former prisoners of war found they used humor as: “[…] a way of fighting back and taking control. By defining humor as an element of communication and by thinking of resilience as a communication phenomenon, the links between humor and resilience become more apparent.

At least for a half hour or so I felt better. Now how can I dig an escape tunnel out of the Trump era into the future?

Phil Scott’s Vermont Climate Action Commission put in the shade by gov’s inaction

In a recent editorial the Times-Argus is shocked that Governor Scott: “In such hot times, this governor seems to have developed cold feet” over implementing the recommendation of his own climate action Commission. […] Now, two years later, we posit: What has this governor done in response to that commission’s hard work and recommendations? The answer is: Very little.

It is worth noting how low the bar is for a GOP governor that The Times-Argus finds the need to praise Governor Scott, crediting him for actually acknowledging the climate crisis, supporting the goals of the Paris accord on climate change and for forming his own 21-member study commission — two years ago.

The editorial praises the commission’s work, noting: […] the commission produced a report that recommended ways Vermont could reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also encouraging economic and job growth — a tenet of Scott’s administration. [ PDF of the 123-page Vermont Climate Action Commission report

Maybe they shouldn’t be surprised by Scott’s reluctance to expend any political capital to actually implement the plan.There were hints — big hints — from the start over his commitment to the goals and recommendations of his climate change commission. The editors might recall or might even have referenced Scott’s tortuously slow journey to be able to speak about the causes of climate change. In 2016 as a candidate he was pretty wobbly walking the line between denial and acknowledging man-made climate change. SevenDays: Speaking on WDEV’s “Open Mike” radio show in June, [then-Lieutenant Governor] said, “whether it’s man-made or not is almost immaterial.” At a Vermont PBS debate in July, he said the climate could be changing “for many different reasons.”

Scott’s language has evolved, meaning he got his foot out of his mouth after taking office and was at least making encouraging noises about support for climate change actions. But then a year into office his administration was found eliminating the term “climate change” from state documents with proposed changes to Act 250 — the environmental development law. Surprisingly few warning bells and whistles were sounded at this point.

So maybe the Times-Argus shouldn’t be so surprised that governor is getting “cold feet” about engaging the climate change commission’s recommendations. He likely had them all along. It ‘s becoming increasingly clear that while the Vermont Climate Action Commission did its job, the governor’s hidden agenda was for the commission to simply provide camouflaging fig leaves of commitment and action for the Scott administration, with little to none of either mandated in the end. Besides, fig leaf attire is so much more heat wave-friendly.

The game is afoot: Rebecca Holcombe to run for Gov.

After a short hiatus Governor Scott may have figured or simply hoped he could spend the summer back at Thunder Road happily racing his stock car around in circles. Now he may need to spend a little more time thinking about his upcoming reelection campaign as he just got a declared Democratic opponent.

Former Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe (a Democrat appointed by former Gov. Shumlin and retained by Gov. Scott) has declared she will be running for the party nomination to challenge Republican Scott — who has yet to formally say he will run.

“I’m running for governor to take the state in a new direction — to put my experience as a lifelong educator to work and make sure every Vermonter has an equal opportunity to succeed,” she said in a written statement.

SevenDays reports: Holcombe, who has not previously run for public office, was appointed secretary of education by Democratic governor Peter Shumlin in September 2013. When Scott chose to retain her in February 2017, the new GOP governor hailed her “fierce commitment to improving Vermont’s education system,” and she said it was “a privilege and an honor” to serve in his administration.

Those feelings had evidently changed by March 2018, when
Scott announced that Holcombe had resigned for “personal” reasons. The outgoing secretary declined repeated interview requests at the time and said only in a letter to colleagues, “It is time to move on.”

Although not a candidate in 2018, Holcombe wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Bennington Banner (and several other newspapers up and down the state) critical of Governor Scott’s “flawed” reelection campaign claim that he avoided $71 million dollars in tax rate increase. Holcombe rebutted Scott’s claim and warned about what she saw as his poor budgeting practices. She closed the piece back then sounding like the candidate she now is: You can’t drive it [state government] like a racecar, unless your goal is to beach on a rock. On the other hand, engaged and measured leadership, basic fairness, and attention to details of policy can yield better solutions. None of us can get everything we want, but if we work together, we can get what we need.

Others who may join the race according to SevenDays include Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan, Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, who was elected as a Progressive/Democrat; 2018 Democratic primary candidate Brenda Siegel could run again.

Maybe Holcombe won’t trouble Scott’s summer idyll at Thunder Road racetrack but she got a strategic first-one-in-the-race jump on  his potential  challengers next fall.

See you at the races Phil.

Trump parade leaves tracks

Here’s another instance of the damage that simply gets lost in the floodtide of wreckage swirling along behind Trump and his GOP enablers.

After Independence Day last week Democrats in the House and Senate announced they will be examining President Trump’s “Salute to America” Fourth of July military parade (with tanks) and fireworks display held at the Lincoln Memorial.

The latest estimate is that it cost taxpayers at least $9.15 million. And despite the cost, Donald’s “Salute” was widely panned here and openly mocked by Russian state run media.

U.S.House and Senate investigations move slowly, take time and likely hardly be noticed. But the City of Washington DC is feeling immediate financial damage. The Washington Post reports Trump’s vanity project cost the city $1.7 million in combined police expenses. And [it] has bankrupted a special fund used to protect the nation’s capital from terrorist threats and provide security at events such as rallies and state funerals.

In a letter to the president Tuesday, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) warned that the fund has been depleted and is estimated to be running a $6 million deficit when the current fiscal year ends Sept. 30. The mayor also noted that the account was never reimbursed for $7.3 million in expenses from Trump’s 2017 inauguration.

Sure it is week-old news but now a familiar pattern; someone else is always left to clean-up what Trump & Company leave in the road after the parade.

Taking a stand on lemonade

July fun fact: Vermont, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, Missouri, Louisiana, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut are the only states that allow children to sell lemonade without permits.

Vermonters along the border with New Hampshire take note, our state lemonade stand regulations are not restricting this style of entrepreneurship. Live Free or Die indeed.

Lemonade stands run by children are technically illegal in 34 states, usually due to violation of health codes, child labor regulations or laws that require businesses to obtain permits. The laws don’t directly target lemonade stands, and in some cases are enforced somewhat loosely, usually prompted by a complaint. But the result, from Maryland to Oregon, is the same: officials, usually police, telling children to take down their stands.

And in a clear case of corporate self interest Kraft Foods brand Country Time Lemonade mix * has organized a campaign to challenge state restrictions. The company encourages parents to apply for a reimbursement and include an image of the child’s permit or fine along with a description of what the lemonade stand means to their child. The company will review submissions and will cover permits or fines up to $300 that comply with the terms.

*Ingredients: Sugar, Fructose, Citric Acid, Contains Less than 2% of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Natural Flavor, Soy Lecithin, Maltodextrin, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Citrate, Magnesium Oxide, Calcium Fumarate, Artificial Color, Yellow 5 Lake, Tocopherol (Preserves Freshness).

Country Time Lemonade mix: Looks like it’s got everything but the lemons!

Fishing for answers: VT Commerce and Community Development survey

This June the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development ran an online survey that reached out to gather residents’ and non-residents’ opinions and for “insights on living, working and doing business in Vermont.” The idea, they say, was to measure the strengths, opportunities, and challenges the respondents faced and how the ACCD can help.?

Of course you can’t source everything in state but I found that two out-of-state companies are prominently involved in the survey. The ACCD contracted with — an “experience management company” co-headquartered in Provo, Utah; Seattle, Washington; and with offices in Dublin, Ireland — to run the roughly 20-question (fewer for non-residents) poll. Separately, the agency’s Think Vermont Ambassador website is powered by a second out-of- state company: out of Baltimore Maryland. Their list of services offers a variety of plans (named like healthcare plans) called Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum; fees start at $1,500 per month and run to $5,000 monthly for Platinum.

The agency’s survey contained a variety of questions along the lines of: name what you like and don’t like about Vermont lifestyle/business climate, and a series of multiple-choice rating questions about who is the most important audience for economic development marketing. But not too far in it feels as if they’ve baited a hook. Can you spot the prompt and possibly the ACCD’s preferred response here on question number four? 

At the end of the Vermont residents’ version of the survey participants were asked if they would care to join the “Think Vermont Ambassador Program.”

Think Vermont Ambassadors can, they say, “share national rankings and news coverage of Vermont’s thriving industries, game-changing entrepreneurs, socially responsible companies, vibrant communities, world-class outdoor recreation opportunities, education, culture and so much more. For anyone curious about getting an ambassadorship to Think Vermont by all means follow the link.

When launching Think Vermont, Governor Scott said the Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s “Think Vermont will tell unique and positive stories about Vermonters and Vermont businesses.”

And, as we all know, nothing says “Think Vermont” more than hiring plenty of out-of-state businesses for prominent jobs.

Red state/blue state vegetable poll

I have been keeping away from early polling of the two dozen Democratic presidential primary candidates. If the truth be told I really can’t wait for the Democratic primaries to be done and the general election battle with Trump to begin.

But for now take close look (just to stay in practice) at the annual Green Giant poll of American’s favorite vegetables.

More than 5,000 consumers, from age 13 to 73, took the frozen/canned vegetables company’s survey, and broccoli placed first in 39 states. The results were released in connection with National Eat Your Vegetables Day, June 17, according to a news release.

Some interesting findings from the survey, which was open-ended, letting consumers choose any vegetable:

  • What’s up, Idaho?: Potatoes ranked first only in Arkansas, a loss of four states from last year;
  • Et tu, Iowa?: Of the 7 states choosing corn, Iowa wasn’t included. (Yes, sweet corn and field corn are vastly different, but still …);
  • No juicers? Despite the juicing craze that’s boosted celery prices to new heights, the fad didn’t elevate the stalk to the top in any state;
  • No CUKES!: Cucumbers did not carry a single state, unlike in 2018, when New Mexico and Louisiana residents chose them above other vegetables; and
  • The “orange” candidate: Nevada and North Dakota opted for carrots;
  • Welcome to the club: Asparagus led Alaska polling, and cauliflower was the favorite in Montana, the first times for both vegetables.

The survey, conducted through Suzy, a company that offers an online consumer insights platform, took place April 26-May 10, according to the release.

Time will tell but it may prove significant come November that celery couldn’t translate its popular fad into votes. Eh, I mean sales at grocery stores