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Opinion

September 12, 2013

Morning Read: Protesters Rip Up 9/11 Memorial Flags at Middlebury College

Mread

Middlebury College students marked the 12th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks yesterday with a display of 2,977 miniature American flags in front of Mead Chapel. The memorial, organized by the school's College Republicans and College Democrats groups, has happened every 9/11 for nearly 10 years, according to the Middlebury Campus.

This year, though, things went awry.

The Campus reported that five people ripped the flags out of the ground and tossed them into trash bags because they were planted on sacred Abenaki ground.

Continue reading "Morning Read: Protesters Rip Up 9/11 Memorial Flags at Middlebury College" »

September 03, 2013

Forbes Calls Vermonters "Stupid" For Closing Vermont Yankee

Images-1This week's winner of the "Ignoranus Award" — what the Washington Post Style Invitational once defined as "someone who is both stupid and an asshole" — goes to James Conca for his Sept. 1, 2013 Forbes piece titled, "Who Told Vermont To Be Stupid?" In it, Conca writes that:

"The Great State of Vermont threw away cheap clean energy this week out of ignorance and fear. Vermont chose to be stupid, and will hurt the environment as a sidebar."

After paying lip service to the "official reasons" Entergy cited for closing the 41-year-old plant, Conga declared that "we all know the real reason. Nasty politics and ignorance. The latter is forgivable and rectifiable with a little homework. The former is not."

Ugh. There's nothing more infuriating than someone smugly calling you stupid and lazy for not doing your homework — who was too lazy to do his own. Here are some quotes from the author who claims to "cover the underlying drivers of energy, technology and society." It appears he could use some extra time in study hall: 

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August 11, 2013

Opinion: More Press Sensationalism, Popular Hysteria and Counterproductive Policy in the Case of Sex Offender Timothy Szad

Save-a-deerEd. note: Poli Psy columnist Judith Levine wrote this post.

“Vermont on edge as officials warn boys aged 12-13 to be on alert as pedophile rapist is getting out of jail on Friday.” That’s the headline in ... the UK’s Daily Mail 

The release of Timothy Szad — convicted in 2000 of snatching, handcuffing and sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy — is apparently world news. 

It’s also the usual story of press sensationalism, popular hysteria and counterproductive policy.

On July 15, the police announced that Szad would be released on July 26 from the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., after serving his maximum sentence. The notification said Szad completed sex-offender treatment in prison but warned that he is at high risk for committing another crime.

This risk assessment is based on a formula assigning points based on the offender’s age, social and criminal history, the victim’s sex and other factors.

On July 16, WCAX reported that Springfield, where Szad was to live with his parents, was “on alert.”

July 17 the Eagle Times of Claremont, N.H., posted Szad’s physical characteristics. Cafemom.com, a national forum, warned mothers of Szad’s release.

Every news item basically said: Lock up your blond, blue-eyed 12- and 13-year-old boys. They all drew similar comments: “sickening,” “scary,” “They should all be castrated.”

After Fox44 television posted Szad’s sex-offender registry listing on Facebook, someone put up a photo of a truck emblazoned with a decal reading “Save a Deer. Hunt a Pedophile.”

Continue reading "Opinion: More Press Sensationalism, Popular Hysteria and Counterproductive Policy in the Case of Sex Offender Timothy Szad" »

August 08, 2013

Will a Prog Run for Gov? Nope.

Pearson & Progs"Should Progs challenge Shumlin in '14?"

That's the question Burlington Free Press reporter Terri Hallenbeck put to Vermont Progressive Party leaders in Tuesday's paper. The occasion for the query was the Progs' upcoming state committee meeting (at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Bethel Town Hall), which will feature an hourlong strategy session focusing, in part, on whether to run a candidate against Gov. Peter Shumlin, a second-term Democrat.

So should they? Maybe. But will they? I highly doubt it. Here are two reasons why:

Reason 1: For a bunch of lefties, Prog Party leaders have become mighty pragmatic.

Since 2008, when Progressive activist Anthony Pollina and Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington split the left-of-center vote and handed Republican governor Jim Douglas a fourth term, the two parties have avoided statewide confrontations. In 2010 and 2012, the Progs flirted with a guber run, but backed out both times, preferring to focus on building their ranks in the legislature.

That strategy has mostly worked. 

Continue reading "Will a Prog Run for Gov? Nope." »

June 28, 2013

Former Presidential Candidate Spends Big on Full-Page — and Kooky — Ads

Haywood Ad 2Readers of the Burlington Free Press opened their papers today to find a head-scratcher of an ad at the center of the A section.

Across the "double truck" centerfold is a slightly incoherent advertisement by John D. Haywood, the former presidential candidate who sued student journalists at St. Michael's College for libel — and $51 million — claiming their article about him for a class project cost Haywood the 2012 New Hampshire primary.

The Democratic primary. The one with Barack Obama in it. In which Haywood lost to the prez by a margin of 115 to 1.

Haywood's ad quotes a Freeps article about his libel lawsuit getting tossed by U.S. Magistrate Judge John S. Conroy, then asks, "Is my lawsuit a product of pettiness and sour grapes as found by Magistrate Judge Conroy? With all briefs now on file, that very question is soon to be decided by the Judges of the Court of Appeals. Vermonters must keep an open mind, as only enactment of a National Health Service will terminate the greatest financial crime ever perpetrated against the American people —"

Continue reading "Former Presidential Candidate Spends Big on Full-Page — and Kooky — Ads" »

February 22, 2013

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

ScoreBoardPaul Heintz is on a well-deserved vacation at an undisclosed location (OK, it's Dominica), so I'll be your Scoreboard host today. Without further ado, we present The Scoredboard for the week of Friday, February 22:

Winners:

The Air Guard — Brig. Gen. Steven Cray's election as adjutant general puts a fighter pilot in the Vermont National Guard's proverbial cockpit. Just watch out for those F-35 helmets!

Lawmakers who want to support gun control but worry it'll cost them — Castleton's new poll should give some cover to legislators on the fence about high-capacity ammo, background checks and other gun-control measures. Runner-up winner: Jon Margolis and Vermont Public Television for scooping (with permission) Castleton's own poll results.

Six-figure salaries — Jane Knodell is earning a hefty paycheck while on leave from UVM. But it's proving a liability in her run for city council.  

Mike Kilian — The Freeps' associate editor was promoted up the Gannett corporate ladder this week when he was appointed executive editor of the Daily Times (and eight weeklies) in Salisbury, Md. Warning to Maryland record keepers: Prepare to disclose!

Gnar shredders — Jay Peak and the NEK got a two-foot dump. So why am I still sitting here at my desk?

Paul Heintz — For taking a sweet vacation in an undisclosed (but presumably sunny) location. Runner-up loser: Andy Bromage, for getting left behind to blog in his stead.

More losers after the break...

Continue reading "The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers" »

February 14, 2013

New Feature: Kill This Bill!

Killthisbill.jgpThis just in: Lawmakers in Montpelier are churning out bills like mad. And some of them are just plain goofy. To that end, we're introducing a new feature for Off Message: Kill This Bill! A look at the worst, weirdest, silliest and biggest-waste-of-time proposals to emerge from under the Golden Dome.

To date, House lawmakers have introduced 280 pieces of legislation, while their Senate counterparts have offered 112 bills. Most of those will never even get a hearing, much less become law. Hell, some don't even originate with the lawmakers who put their names on them — it's routine for legislators to file bills at the request of constituents back home.

But that doesn't mean lawmakers won't spend precious time considering this stuff. Exhibit A: Tomorrow afternoon, the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee is set to tackle the pressing matter of what should be the state dog. For reals. Rep. Warren Kitzmiller (D-Montpelier) and many others are sponsoring H.171, "An act relating to recognizing as the state dog any adopted dog."

To which we say, kill this bill!

Continue reading "New Feature: Kill This Bill!" »

January 16, 2013

What's Shummy up to With His $17 Million Switcheroo?

If there's one thing to know about Gov. Peter Shumlin's legislative chops, it's this: When you're playing checkers, he's playing chess. And he's probably just a few moves shy of taking your king.

Which makes it hard to imagine the governor didn't anticipate the tripartisan shit-storm kicked up by his proposal to fund child care subsidies for low-income Vermonters by cutting a popular tax credit used by other low-income Vermonters.

The $17 million switcheroo has been panned by Republicans, Progressives and even Shumlin's fellow Democrats, who have variously called it "half-baked," "a tough sell," "worse than a broad-based tax," and a case of "balancing the state budget on the backs of some of Vermont's poorest citizens."

The debate is still young, of course. Shumlin only announced his plan last Thursday during his inaugural address and likely won't reveal many of its details until next week's budget address. Who knows? Maybe it'll catch fire once we know more about it.

That said, it's never too early to get all cynical and suspicious-like. Does Shummy have some ulterior motive in putting forward a plan that would surely rile up Montpelier's chattering class? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, we here at Off Message are happy to provide... (drum roll please)...

The Cynic's Guide to Shumlin Conspiracy Theories:

Continue reading "What's Shummy up to With His $17 Million Switcheroo?" »

December 28, 2012

Voices from the Energy Debate — Looking Back on 2012 (Part Two)

LowellThe previous year was a big one in Vermont's unfolding energy debate — from wind to solar, fracking to divestment. Seven Days went back to some of the big players in the energy debate — opponents and proponents, citizen activists, onlookers and developers — for their thoughts on a busy, sometimes tumultuous year. What did 2012 mean for energy development in Vermont and what might 2013 bring? (Don't miss yesterday's post with comments from some of industrial wind power's biggest critics.) 

Bill McKibben, writer and climate activist

"Vermont punched above its weight in 2012. Becoming the only state in the union to ban fracking was a big deal — it gave great heart to others in places where the fight is still raging. I think Vermont has also made it increasingly clear that there will be no tar sands pipeline through the state — some combination of Peter Shumlin's words and the truly powerful organizing by lots of folks should, I think, be enough to put a real crimp in the plans of the tar sands tycoons.

"2013 will have all kinds of fights, I'm sure, but the one that intrigues me most is about divestment. What Middlebury does will be closely watched, including, I hope, by other colleges around the state. (Wouldn't be surprised if Green Mountain or Sterling tried to steal their thunder!). And UVM will be a wonderful stage on which to debate the issues at the heart of the biggest crisis humans have ever faced."

Continue reading "Voices from the Energy Debate — Looking Back on 2012 (Part Two)" »

December 27, 2012

Voices from the Energy Debate — Looking Back on 2012 (Part One)

Wind-cover

What a year 2012 was for energy development in Vermont: Controversy swirled around projects both large and (relatively) small. Opposition to the construction of a 21-turbine project on the Lowell Mountains drove some protestors to civil disobedience, and prompted a few arrests. Watching the turbines rise on the Northeast Kingdom ridgeline prompted dismay in somepride in others — and no shortage of opinions and headlines all around.  

For this two-part post, Seven Days went back to some of the big players in the energy debate — opponents and proponents, citizen activists and wind developers — for their perspectives on a busy, sometimes tumultuous year. What did 2012 mean for energy development in Vermont — and what might 2013 bring?

Today we hear from the more outspoken critics of recent energy developments. We'll be back tomorrow with more voices. 

Lukas Snelling, director of Energize Vermont

"This was the year that a lot of Vermonters started to recognize where their electricity came from, and became active in making decisions about where they’d like to see their future energy come from. That goes well beyond the wind issue. In a lot of ways, 2012 was the first year when the renewable energy movement hit the road running. ...The ability to have a meaningful conversation hasn’t yet caught up to the number of people who are actively engaging — but I think it will. The more the merrier."

Continue reading "Voices from the Energy Debate — Looking Back on 2012 (Part One)" »

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