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October 29, 2013

In Burlington City Hall, Eyes on the Ball

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Two conflicts played themselves out more than 1000 miles apart from each other last night. 

In Burlington City Hall, friends and foes of the F35 were making their last-ditch appeals to the city councilors, who by the end of the night rejected two anti-F35 resolutions with 10-4 and 11-3 votes.

In St. Louis, Mo., two teams were both seeking their third win in the World Series. Ultimately, the Red Sox prevailed with a 3-1 win over the Cardinals.

But Councilor Norman Blais (D-Ward 6), probably wasn't surprised by either outcome, because he managed to have his eyes on both the meeting and the game. 

In a photo taken at the meeting and posted publicly on Facebook by a man named Ben Eastwood, Blais' laptop screen shows a man swinging a bat. "I found it almost by accident when I was trying to zoom in on the map they were handing around the council and noticed what they were watching," Eastwood writes in an email to Seven Days.  

Could Blais have clicked on the browser window by accident, or was the councilor tuning out the F35 debate to watch the game? Neither, apparently.

"I didn’t do it accidentally, I wanted to find out what the score was," Blais says candidly.

Elaborating, the councilor explains, "I didn't even have to stop listening to the discussion. I clicked on [the window showing the game], looked at the score, and then continued listening to the meeting."

Photo courtesy of Ben Eastwood. 

October 04, 2013

In Health Exchange Roll-Out, Shumlin Distinguishes Between "Nothing-Burgers" and "Something-Burgers"

NothingburgerTwo days after his administration launched a new web-based health insurance marketplace, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Thursday that problems plaguing Vermont Health Connect were a little more "something-burger" than "nothing-burger."

At the same time, Shumlin said his administration was "making great progress" in resolving glitches and accelerating connectivity to the online exchange, through which 100,000 Vermonters are expected to buy health insurance. 

"This is a good news story," the governor said Thursday afternoon at a Statehouse press conference. "This is the biggest technology transformation in health care in the history of America. We are delivering on the promise that was made to help low-income people get access to insurance."

In discussing the system's roll-out, Shumlin found himself revisiting a prime metaphor he cooked up at another press conference two weeks before. At the time, the governor was asked about his administration's recent admission that Vermont Health Connect's online payment processing system would not debut until November 1 — a month later than promised.

Continue reading "In Health Exchange Roll-Out, Shumlin Distinguishes Between "Nothing-Burgers" and "Something-Burgers"" »

October 02, 2013

Grocers Honor "Big Dick" Mazza with Ridiculous Roast

Mazza.KaleWho knew Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell (D-Windsor) were so theatrically inclined?

Well, the secret's out now that the two have starred in a video roast of their colleague, Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle), produced by the Vermont Grocers' Association. (If you're not familiar with the legend of Dick Mazza, BTW, you should definitely check out Seven Days' 2011 profile of him, written by my former colleague, Andy Bromage.)

Mazza, whose family has operated Mazza's General Store in Colchester since 1954, was presented with the industry trade group's "person of the year" award at its annual convention last Friday at South Burlington's DoubleTree Hotel.

With it came the 15-minute video written, in part, by Scott and Campbell and starring such notable Green Mountain thespians as Gov. Peter Shumlin, Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and former governor Jim Douglas. It was directed by local filmmaker Dennis Bathory-Kitsz.

"We have some talented actors masquerading as politicians," says VGA president Jim Harrison. 

Continue reading "Grocers Honor "Big Dick" Mazza with Ridiculous Roast" »

August 23, 2013

Which Harry Potter Characters Do Vermont's Muggle Senators Look Like?

BuzzFeed, American journalism's leading purveyor of cats and clickbait, has a new listicle finding the Harry Potter character doppelgangers in Congress, and both of Vermont's senators make appearances. It's also full of animated GIFs, so it's basically a Daily Prophet issue.

Anyway, about half of these comparisons are really, really stretching it (that Hagrid? come on), including Sen. Patrick Leahy. But that's probably fortunate, as Leahy has perhaps the least flattering of all the comparisons: Lord Voldemort from Sorcerer's Stone, when (SPOILER ALERT for the five people who haven't read or seen Potter at this point) Voldemort was just a weird face on the back of some other guy's head. And the resemblance is not exactly striking.

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Sorry, Buzzfeed! Better leave this kind of thing to Andy Bromage, Seven Days photo-blog editor emeritus famous for classic Off Message posts like "Who Wore It Best?" and "Totally Looks Like."

Sen. Bernie Sanders makes an appearance, too, but we won't spoil that one for you. You'll have to click through to see that one. Hint: not Dumbledore!

August 14, 2013

Media Note: Barton Chronicle Reporter Looks On as His Car Gets Stolen

CrvLet's say you're a thief looking to steal a car. You probably don't want to be seen, so you wouldn't want to commit the crime in broad daylight. And competent reporters are usually on the lookout for unusual things, so stealing a car from a newspaper's parking lot might be a bad idea. And since you can't drive a stick shift, you'll swipe an automatic. Right?

Not if you're this hotshot wannabe bandit in Barton.

Yesterday afternoon, someone stole Barton Chronicle reporter Paul Lefebvre's SUV from the office's parking lot — in broad daylight, as Lefebvre looked on:

Continue reading "Media Note: Barton Chronicle Reporter Looks On as His Car Gets Stolen" »

August 06, 2013

Boa Constrictor Found at Burlington's Leddy Park

Wasn't expecting to see this in the pile of media releases in my inbox this morning: A report of a five-foot-long boa constrictor at Leddy Park. OMG.

Per the Burlington Police Department:

On August 5th, 2013 at approximately 1727 hours, Burlington Police responded to the area of Leddy Park for the report of an exotic snake. Upon arrival in the area, officers discovered a large domesticated snake, not native to Vermont, on the southeast corner of the parking area.

Animal experts from the Vermont Wildlife Refuge Center were contacted, and were able to respond to the scene and assist in the capture of the snake. The snake was reported to be in good health and will be cared for by the Refuge Center. 

Continue reading "Boa Constrictor Found at Burlington's Leddy Park" »

July 24, 2013

Totally Looks Like: Vermont Politics Edition

We interrupt our mostly serious political coverage to bring you this totally ridiculous waste of time.

One of my favorite sites on the World Wide Web is TotallyLooksLike.com, run by the good folks at ICanHasCheezburger. The premise is simple: "Stuff that looks like other stuff." Pair 'em up, and have a good laugh.

Here at Off Message, we couldn't help but notice that a lot of Vermont politicos look like other people. Or stuff. And with Google's help, we found the matches. So, without further ado, we present "Totally Looks Like: Vermont Politics Edition."

 Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) totally looks like former congressman Chris Shays (R-CT).

Welch Shays

Continue reading "Totally Looks Like: Vermont Politics Edition" »

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