January 26th, 2012

From The Senate Education Committee: Update on UVM Executive Compensation

by Philip Baruth

A quick update on the UVM executive compensation issue. A few days ago we had testimony in the Senate Education Committee from both John Bramley and Robert Cioffi, and we had a chance to ask them directly about how, exactly, the Board of Trustees is handling the issue. Most important nugget? You’ll remember that when the issue really hit the fan last summer, the Board quickly put together a subcommittee to look over Fogel’s compensation and determine whether and which changes should be made. Of course, that report has never surfaced. But Cioffi and Bramley assured us that they are not holding the report until after the new President’s contract is written, and that they’ll release the report prior to that new hire, so the public has a chance to weigh in on the recommendations.

Other choice bits? We were told that “all five candidates [for the Presidency] are very sensitive to this issue,” all five “expressed a strong inclination to live at Englesby House,” and that “Dan Fogel’s salary will not be the starting point for the new President” — which is reassuring.

Unless they meant that it won’t be the starting point in the bad way, rather than the good. More as details warrant.

January 23rd, 2012

Odum To Run For Montpelier City Clerk, Now Vows “I Will Blog No More Forever”

by Philip Baruth

The Vermont blogosphere is a very small place, and yet also very empty in its way, like the attic storage space you never quite get around to using because it’s full of blown insulation and gray squirrel droppings. Still, it’s home for a handful of us, and we’ve stuck together over the years. Which is what makes it hard to say goodbye to one John Odum, who founded and popularized Green Mountain Daily, the state’s consistently best community-blogging site.

Odum fights off dog

Where is Odum going, you ask? Apparently he’s developed a substantial fire in his belly, and has launched a campaign for Montpelier City Clerk. You heard right.

Some things to note here: 1) rarely has a candidate for a Montpelier municipal office brought such a mix of policy chops and raw sexual magnetism to the table; 2) never has such a candidate entered the race with so many highly qualified surrogates; and 3) Odum makes it pretty clear that if he loses, he will — like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator — Be Back.

VDB wishes him the very, very best of luck. Not that he’ll need it; here’s a guy who knows how to run a campaign. Only one hint in that area: get the tax returns out early, John. No one minds that you’ve amassed great personal wealth — it’s the cover-up they hate.

Partying post-primary: Annika, GMD’s John Odum, VDB, Nate Freeman (photo: Caoimhin Laochdha)

Text of press release to follow, and Godspeed:

John Odum to run for Montpelier City Clerk,
Step Down as Publisher of Green Mountain Daily

Green Mountain Daily founder and publisher John Odum has announced his intention to run for the position of Montpelier City Clerk - a position that is opening up due to the retirement of longtime Clerk and Treasurer Charlotte Hoyt. Odum has indicated that he will be stepping down from his position as Publisher of the political community blog, greenmountaindaily.com - a position he has held since starting the website six years ago.

If elected, he will also step down from his position as News Editor of The Bridge (although he intends to continue writing his weekly syndicated Statehouse column).

Odum believes that his professional expertise in technology — particularly databases — makes him a good fit for the position. “There are a lot of efficiencies that can be created - and possibly some money that can be saved for the city - by moving more of the City’s records into electronic format, and that sort of database work is something I have a lot of experience with,” Odum noted.

He added further, “After moving here 16 years ago, having two kids, and even being a Little League coach (which I never imagined I’d be doing), I’ve come to really, deeply love Montpelier and the people who live here. Being City Clerk will give me the opportunity to interact with, and be a part of, my community in a much deeper way than I ever have before - and that’s a really appealing prospect.”

Odum will continue posting and writing for The Bridge until Town Meeting Day. He has also indicated he will wait to see if any other candidates for the position emerge before deciding whether or not to open a bank account and assemble a campaign advisory team from supporters in the community.


January 20th, 2012

BREAKING: Entergy Wins in Murtha Decision, Because Apparently Lawmakers Considered Their Constituents’ Safety

by Philip Baruth

In case you’ve yet to get the disturbing news, Judge Murtha offered the State of Vermont what reporters have apparently agreed to call a “stinging rebuke” in the case against Entergy and the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant down in Vernon. The Legislature had no place, in Murtha’s opinion, attempting to regulate the nuclear facility “over safety concerns.” Yes, that’s right. Safety was a no-no.

The damning evidence? “Vermont’s efforts, Murtha said, were replete with references to safety. ‘There is evidence the statute was motivated by and grounded in radiological safety concerns,’ Murtha wrote in his 102-page decision.” And safety concerns, so the reasoning goes, are entirely and utterly a Federal concern.

And so, in a deft Catch-22, the only way that Vermont lawmakers might have protected the safety and security of their constituents — from a plant shown time and time again to be leaking radioactive material — would have been to successfully counterfeit an utter lack of concern with the issue in its entirety.

So this decision is now a part of history; it may be repealed, or not, depending on the Attorney General’s sense of the odds. But can we just, for a moment, pull back from the decision, the state and federal law involved, and Talk Sense briefly?

In essence, Murtha’s decision castigates state lawmakers for intervening on behalf of the safety of their constituents, their Prime Directive — more important than keeping schools robust, streets swept, taxes low, more important than any other issue can ever be, even in theory.

His disapproving reference to lawmakers’ use of the word “safety” — driven home by Murtha’s 192 uses of the word in his own decision — would, in a properly calibrated world, strike reasonable people as absurd. That’s right, you heard me.

To put it baldly, legislators should consider the safety of their constituents, radiological and otherwise, and they should do so unremittingly. And admitting that they’re doing so should not, in effect, be a crime with disastrous consequences. Legislators should not allow an overly lenient Federal regulatory structure to spook them from that obligation, because it is — in a word that VDB rarely uses — sacred.

So yes, the Feds have throughout the history of the nuclear industry denied states hosting nuclear facilities the right to discuss or demand safety. But that doesn’t make it right, or reasonable. And it’s neither.

So this decision stands for now. But the fight goes on. Allow VDB to quote one Ethan Allen, who had his own issues with Outside authority, and swore that rather than fail he would “retire with the hardy Green Mountain Boys into the desolate caverns of the mountains and wage war with human nature at large.”

What Ethan said.

January 19th, 2012

Your Bi-Weekly VDB WTF Roundup

by Philip Baruth

Exhibit A: Sarah Palin, on why South Carolinians should vote Gingrich and thus slow-walk the Romney coronation movement: “”I want more debates, more vetting of candidates, because we know the mistake made in our country four years ago with having a candidate that was not vetted to the degree that he should have been.” VDB would point out the painful irony here, but that, of course, would be painful. And, you know, ironic.

Exhibit B: After being told for decades that the American Democratic process desperately needs the first-in-the-nation input of the stunningly white/rural Iowa electorate — on the logic that voters in that state take the retail process very seriously — the state has now followed an under-attended GOP primary caucus with the news that it has misplaced eight precincts worth of information and will therefore congratulate both leading candidates and declare a tie:

“’I can’t speculate without documentation from the missing eight,’ Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn told the Des Moines Register. ‘The comments I made at 1:30 a.m. Jan. 4 congratulating both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum still apply. I don’t think the certified vote totals take anything away from either Governor Romney or Senator Santorum.’”

Let’s just examine that last sentence again: “I don’t think the certified vote totals take anything away from either Governor Romney or Senator Santorum.”


January 18th, 2012

On Citizens United: Corporations Aren’t People, And Even As Fictions Go, They’re Really Not All That Compelling Either

by Philip Baruth

We’re coming up on the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision, believe it or not, and anyone watching the unfolding GOP primary knows well how dramatically that decision has strengthened the hand of corporations and the occasional rogue billionaire. The Vermont Senate passed a resolution saying as much last year, but we’ve got bigger fish to fry this year — a Constitutional amendment aiming to take the issue out of the hands of the Supreme Court altogether. For which you need an army of voters.

So a downpayment on that nationwide army: today at noon, in the Cedar Creek Room of the Statehouse, VDB and many others will be attending a press conference designed to speed this effort. In addition to fighting the good fight, we will be eating the good ice cream (Jerry Greenfield will be speaking, and where there’s either Ben or Jerry, there’s generally Ben and Jerry’s).

Stop in. Tune in. Speak/pig out. Peace.

January 18th, 2012

Nato Drops A Hook For Miro

by Philip Baruth

Burlingtonians need no introduction to the work of local musician Nate Orshan (aka Nato). We know him as a songwriter by night, Vermont Teddy Bear Company marketer by day. And Nato has just produced something the likes of which VDB has not seen since the days of Scudder Parker’s gubernatorial run: a campaign song (and video) inspired by the candidate, but created entirely independently of that candidate’s campaign.

Here it’s the Miro Weinberger mayoral campaign that’s produced the inspiration. Mad hook alert: use caution, unless you’re okay with going around mouthing the words, “Oh, oh, oh, let’s go Miro.” It’s pretty catchy stuff. You’ve been warned.

January 18th, 2012

Rick Santorum’s Consiglieri Revealed

by Philip Baruth

A true thing about Rick Santorum: no politician is laid more bare by the camera. Typically, a Santorum photo shows you the Inner Rick, that which is otherwise shielded from clear view, all of it, the sanctimony, the pomposity, the odd family dynamic. Take this seemingly casual snapshot, captured recently in New Hampshire. Has ever a politician surrounded himself with a more visually disturbing inner circle? For instance, this guy on the right, eyes boring into the camera. Never see that sort of lust for total power in the eyes of a Vermonter. Remember: a vote for Big Rick is a vote for this man as Secretary of Defense. Or worse, Drug Czar. Live in fear, America.

January 13th, 2012

Time To Throw Down, Scott Walker

by Philip Baruth

Never forget watching a Democratic convention back in the DLC-dominated 1990’s: there was an official “protest area,” surrounded by metal fencing, in which protesters duly protested, far from the official venue where the chants and pressure might have done the slightest bit of good. It was disturbing, like watching cattle exercise their inalienable right to select their own slaughter hammers. And so Wisconsin has been, and continues to be, a bright spot on the organized protest horizon.

To wit: next week, labor supporters will submit well more than the signatures required to begin the recall process of Governor Scott Walker, he of the mouse-like eyes.

And Vermont filmmaker Sam Mayfield has the perfect video accompaniment for the recall campaign to follow: a documentary she shot on location in Wisconsin, during the heat of last year’s protests, called Wisconsin Rising. It’s pretty gripping stuff.

And expensive. But Kickstarter was born to help with that. So if the trailer reaches you, she could use your help in taking the film through the last stages of production and release.

Remember: every time the Kickstarter bell rings, a union-busting Governor loses his wings.

January 12th, 2012

Green Cleaning Products in All VT Schools

by Philip Baruth

For the instant gratification types among you, we offer this: this afternoon the Senate will pass a bill mandating that schools use green cleaning products in their daily maintenance, pulling pretty much all the toxic chemicals out of Vermont kids’ school-time hours. And then it will head straight to the Governor for signature. Boom. Done. Why so fast? Actually, it’s a bill we worked like dogs on last year in Senate Education, a bill that hit a concealed snag in the final days of the session, but is now risen. So we got that going for us.

Which, as Bill Murray once put it, is nice.


January 12th, 2012

Rick Santorum Will Never Stop, Ever, Because Somewhere Out There, Someone’s Enjoying Themselves In A Sexual Manner (And You Know Who You Are, New Mexico)

by Philip Baruth

You know, people say that Rick Santorum’s moment in the GOP primary sun has come and gone. People say he’s a one-trick pony, and outside the evangelical circus of Iowa, he’s a non-entity. But people are just flat out wrong. By VDB’s count there are a very full handful of sexual orientations against which Santorum has not yet railed, and hundreds of sexual positions (consider the Kama Sutra alone) against which he hasn’t yet aligned himself. More than enough to carry him through to the Convention, if he rations himself to one or even two positions per state (maybe three for California).

And if it turns out that the anti-sex vote in a particular state isn’t enough to carry him, Rick can always just riff on marriage and beer, which, let’s face it, never gets old. Or his wife can always ask the Holy Spirit to “speak through him,” which is also pretty powerful juju.

Onward to infinity, big guy. VDB’s behind you all the way.

And for those of you who simply can never see this lovely family photo too many times, your day is now made. You’re welcome.

santorum and brood

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