March 9th, 2011

That Yankee Story: Everybody Stay Calm

by Philip Baruth

Email coming in already, re: the Free Press story this morning concerning potential Federal action, maybe as early as next week, to relicense Vermont Yankee. First thing to note: this was expected. The Feds were always going to champion the nuclear industry because, to repurpose Terminator, that’s what they do, that’s all they do.

vermont yankee

Which means that the Legislature’s authority will potentially be tested against that of the US Government, maybe sooner rather than later. So be it.

VDB promises two things: first, a long detailed update tomorrow on what we can find out in the Statehouse today; and second, that Entergy and the NRC will have to come to Montpelier in person and pry that 20-year license extension out of our cold dead hands.

More soon.

March 8th, 2011

Scott Brown Solicits Bizarro Jim Douglas

by Philip Baruth

Some amusing gotcha footage here: Scott Brown kisses up to David Koch, for cash, in advance of his star-crossed re-election campaign. That’s right, Brown makes the ask on camera. And that’s worth VDB’s derision, sure, as is the ham-handed way he struggles to say something informed about this newly dedicated cancer facility. But the weirdest thing of all? How much David Koch looks like Jim Douglas all hepped up on steroids, and powered by a toxic petro-chemical fortune. Eerie.

March 4th, 2011

MUST SEE VIDEO: Wisconsin State Rep Welcomed to New American Order

by Philip Baruth

It’s always funny until someone gets hurt, by a cop. Some fairly amazing footage for you this morning, straight from KWOW in Wisconsin: police throw a State Representative to the stone floor for attempting to enter the Capitol Building, where said Legislator maintains an office pursuant to the duties of his elected office. Lunacy, sheer lunacy. Imagine this happening to one of your own Vermont Reps, to Shap Smith, or Tony Klein, or Joey Donovan. (Okay, granted, Joey would have responded ninja-style and they’d have had a few trooper workman’s comp claims to file, but still.)

Watch it a second time, and just clarify what’s happening in your own mind: this is a direct subversion of the Democratic process, with the Executive Branch not just closing the people’s house to an elected Representative, but visiting a fairly extreme form of violence on one who dares to assert his own equivalent right.

VDB smells tipping point.

March 2nd, 2011

Right Down The Rat Hole: Mayor Bob Kiss Continues One-Man Drive To Erase His Party’s Substantial Burlington Legacy

by Philip Baruth

Back about a year and a half ago, I had coffee with a well-placed and well-respected Burlington Progressive, a very nice guy with a direct personal connection to the Mayor. My argument: Bob Kiss not only hasn’t cut his political losses on Burlington Telecom, he’s chosen an almost confrontational style in an attempt to make a retrospective virtue out of his handling of the issue. In short, no one has been punished for what seem like clear improprieties, if not outright illegalities; no one has apologized; and Kiss himself instead seems bent on retaining everyone involved, and singing their collective praises at every turn.

All of this, I argued, would pull Kiss inevitably down the rat hole, and he in turn would pull Burlington Progressives and everything they hold dear down the rat hole with him.

That was before voters rejected Instant Run-Off Voting.

But once IRV had been abruptly taken back by Burlingtonians, on Town Meeting Day a year ago, I thought surely Kiss had gotten the message now. Surely he’d change course, let voters know he’d gotten the message, even if it had cost his party the crown jewel in their legislative agenda.

But no. In fact, Kiss attributed the election results to “nay-sayers” in the city’s New North End, my end of town. And people took it amiss.

All of this taken together gave the impression that Mayor Bob Kiss was one of the most tone-deaf politicians in the history of Burlington, maybe the state at large; that while generally praised as a gentle and kind person, he was unexpectedly rigid, stubbornly ideological, to the very clear detriment of his own stated municipal agenda.

Still, as this past Town Meeting Day approached, I thought again that certainly Kiss and his advisors would change something, throw voters some small bone, in an attempt to pass what would be a difficult tax increase in any year; in an attempt to save his CFO’s vote on the Finance Committee; to save Burlington Electric’s ability to bond its way out of its own arguably BT-related troubles.

But again, no. Kiss went out to the New North End and held a combative Town Hall meeting in the run-up to the election, in which he gave no quarter on BT, and didn’t deny that the ballot initiative calling for a 50% majority would be one way to re-establish IRV. As strategy, it was madness, but Kiss described it as a good discussion, and clearly seemed to think he’d helped his cause.

So a couple of weeks back, when I had a few minutes alone with Kiss at an event at the Statehouse, I figured I should say what was on my mind, as directly as I could. And so I made the rat hole argument, as quickly and politely as I was able: if no one is held accountable, and no one apologizes, voters will continue to demand those things at the ballot-box, and they won’t be overly discriminating in picking their targets. It will all go down the rat hole.

Bob Kiss, left, and Jonathan Leopold, right

Kiss listened to me, eyes narrowed, and then he answered me — with precisely the same boilerplate excuses that have defined his response from the earliest days. It couldn’t have been any clearer that his plan was to continue for the next year in exactly the same mode, hoping against hope for a financial white knight to refinance BT’s debt, denying any wrong-doing, poor judgment, or mismanagement.

By now you’ve seen last night’s Town Meeting Day results. They couldn’t be any clearer: everything Kiss touched turned to dross. His initiatives were not simply rejected but rejected by what amounted to super-majorities. His budget fix won in only one of the city’s wards, arguably the most left-leaning, and that only by 7 votes.

His response to the Free Press? Wishing the turn-out had been higher. Translation for the Kiss-challenged: most of the city supported my policies but failed to show at the ballot box, leaving nay-sayers to rule the day.

I’ve written other columns about this Mayor, and I’ve always offered him advice — maybe not advice he could or would accept, but advice that certainly couldn’t have made his situation any worse.

But the time for advice is over. What the voters delivered last night was the functional equivalent of impeachment: they made it abundantly clear, in large numbers, that they have finally turned their backs on a Mayor who has consistently and openly disrespected them. Where he leads, they will not follow; in fact, they will consider the opposite direction most promising, by default.

It’s a genuine shame that it had to come to this. But come to this it now undeniably and quantifiably has.

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