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September 2013

September 17, 2013

ACLU-VT Maps Vermont's Vast "Surveillance State"

PhotoAre Vermonters living in a surveillance state? The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont believes we’re fast approaching it — and the organization now has the facts to support that disturbing conclusion. The promise of an actual drone demonstration drew a crowd to a Tuesday morning press conference in Montpelier, where Allen Gilbert, executive director of the ACLU of Vermont, unveiled a new report, “Surveillance on the Northern Border.” 

Several years in the making, the 22-page, locally produced report offers a chilling view of the methods used by state and local authorities to gather, compile and sift through digital data that pertains to the activities and movements of ordinary Vermonters. “We are being watched,” the report states. “Today, Vermonters can barely go anywhere without creating a trail of digital information that pinpoints a person’s whereabouts at nearly any time, day after day.”

The ACLU-VT report pieces together all that is known, and not known, about surveillance technologies currently being used to track Vermonters’ location and activities, including their credit card, internet and cellphone usage, and driving habits.

Continue reading "ACLU-VT Maps Vermont's Vast "Surveillance State"" »

After Feds Pull Funding, Vermont Health Co-op Folds

Fleischer.OliverThe Vermont Health Co-op is no more.

Four months after state regulators denied the nonprofit's application to sell health insurance on the forthcoming exchange, the federal government pulled its funding Monday and ordered it to close. The co-op's board subsequently voted to dissolve itself, CEO Christine Oliver said late that evening.

"Without the financial support of our federal partners, it will not be possible to offer Vermonters the member-owned and member-governed health insurance option that will be available to Americans in many other states," Oliver said in a written statement.

Founded 15 months ago, the co-op sought to provide a third option for Vermonters slated to buy health insurance through the federally mandated health insurance exchange come January. But the South Burlington-based nonprofit's plans were derailed in May when the state Department of Financial Regulation denied its application to participate in the exchange.

Continue reading "After Feds Pull Funding, Vermont Health Co-op Folds" »

September 16, 2013

Shumlin Taps Cheney, a Norwich Democrat, for Public Service Board

CheneyWhen Seven Days' Ken Picard covered the state's little-understood Public Service Board last year, he referred to its three members as "Vermont's most powerful men you've never heard of."

Come October, those three will remain all-powerful — but they won't all be old white dudes.

On Monday, Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed Rep. Margaret Cheney (D-Norwich) to replace David Coen, who's retiring after 18 years on the board. She'll be charged with overseeing Vermont's regulated utilities, which include everything from electric power to telecommunications to pipeline gas.

After seven years on the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee — including four as its vice chairwoman — Cheney (pictured here) says she's looking forward to her new assignment, which begins when she's sworn in on October 1.

"It builds on a base of knowledge I've been accumulating over the last seven years. Working on energy issues, I feel like I've almost earned an advanced degree," Cheney says.

Continue reading "Shumlin Taps Cheney, a Norwich Democrat, for Public Service Board" »

After Summers Withdraws Fed Chair Bid, Sanders Says, 'Buh-Bye'

So much for niceties! 

Hours after former treasury secretary Lawrence Summers withdrew from consideration to lead the Federal Reserve on Sunday, one of his sharpest critics, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), fired off a parting shot. 

"I applaud Larry Summers for withdrawing his name from consideration," Sanders said in a written statement sent to reporters Sunday evening. "The truth is that it was unlikely he would have been confirmed by the Senate."

Oh, snap!

"What the American people want now is a Fed chairman prepared to stand up to the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street," Sanders continued, "not a Wall Street insider whose deregulation efforts helped pave the way for a horrendous financial crisis and the worst economic downturn in the country since the Great Depression. The Fed now must help develop policies which create millions of decent-paying jobs and rebuild the middle class."

Continue reading "After Summers Withdraws Fed Chair Bid, Sanders Says, 'Buh-Bye'" »

September 13, 2013

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

Scoreboard.newWho won and lost the week in Vermont news and politics?

Cats, Midd kids, political donors, your civil liberties and most definitely Vermont's congressional delegation.

Here's the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, Sept. 13:


Vermont's congressional delegation — Last week they were sweating bullets over their pending vote on Syrian air strikes. This week, they dodged a bullet. Now repeat after me: "Thank you, Vladimir!"

Friendship — It sure is great to be chummy with Shummy. If you're tight with him, Gov. Peter Shumlin might buy your solar trackers, roll with you to China and meet with you privately in Manchester

Rural Vermonters — Front Porch Forum, the online epicenter of municipal musings, has gone statewide, thanks to $300,000 from the Vermont Council on Rural Development. Now if everyone else's FPF is anything like my Old North End forum, you can look forward to plenty of bat-shit crazy.

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

Did Sanders Just Come Out Against Syria Strikes?

Sanders.WesternCorridorYes, I know. You're all tired of reading about the Vermont congressional delegation's tortured positions on potential Syrian air strikes, which — at least for now — aren't gonna happen.

Believe me. I'm tired of writing about them.

Buuuuuuuut... Sen. Bernie Sanders' regular "Bernie Buzz" e-newsletter crossed the transom earlier today and something about it struck me as a little odd. Here's the lede:

In the midst of widespread public opposition to military strikes against Syria, which Bernie shares, President Obama seized the opportunity to explore a proposal for international monitors to take over Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons. Bernie welcomed the president’s new approach.

Sanders "shares" "widespread public opposition" to the strikes?

From what I recollect, Sanders never actually came out in opposition to Obama's proposed air strikes. Sure, he talked Ed Schultz's ear off on a near-daily basis on MSNBC about his reservations. He said time and again that he was hesitant to get "involved in a bloody and complicated civil war in Syria." 

But every time I asked him or his staff whether he'd decided to vote against the strikes, they brushed off the question.

Continue reading "Did Sanders Just Come Out Against Syria Strikes? " »

September 12, 2013

Lindley Facing Likely Challenge for Leadership of Vermont GOP

LindleyIf he runs for reelection this fall, Vermont Republican Party chairman Jack Lindley can expect a battle.

According to several top GOPers, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and his merry band of moderate Republicans have been beating the bushes in recent months to drum up a challenger to Lindley (Pictured at right)

"I think we need a change," Scott says, before dropping the inevitable stock-car metaphor. "It's nothing against Jack. I think he's tried to do the best he can, but it's almost like a change in crew chiefs on a racing team or a change in coaches or managers on a baseball team. Sometimes you need to change things up to get better results."

So who might challenge Lindley?

"There's a few people that have shown some interest, and I don't think we've decided right now," Scott says. "But obviously I think there are a number of people who would like to see some changes in the party, so we're hoping to have a candidate."

Among the names Seven Days has heard bandied about are Chittenden County Republican Party chairman Jeff Bartley, former Chittenden representative Jim Eckhardt, former Rutland Town representative David Sunderland and 2012 Franklin County state senate candidate Joe Sinagra.

Continue reading "Lindley Facing Likely Challenge for Leadership of Vermont GOP" »

Pentagon Picks Camp Ethan Allen as Finalist for Missile Defense Site

* Updated throughout at 3:55 p.m. *

The Vermont National Guard's Camp Ethan Allen has been selected as a finalist to host a potential East Coast missile defense facility, according to the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The Jericho site was one of five chosen by the Department of Defense's Missile Defense Agency to contend for the system, which is designed to destroy nuclear-armed, intercontinental ballistic missiles. The facility would be operated by the Department of Defense — not the Vermont Guard — and could host 20 interceptors.

Leahy said Thursday morning he would oppose Camp Ethan Allen's selection as a missile defense site. 

"I’ve always felt that the multiple billions spent on missile defense are a monumental waste of money, on technologically challenged systems, and I am emphatically against putting one of these sites in Vermont," Leahy said in a statement.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Gov. Peter Shumlin joined Leahy later Thursday in criticizing the Pentagon's announcement. 

"My first impression is that this is a very bad idea and, for a wide variety of reasons, I do not believe that it will ever happen," Sanders said.

"This is absurd," Welch added. "It's the wrong location for a bad idea and dead on arrival."

Said Shumlin, "Vermonters are well-served by our federal delegation's thoughtful involvement and deep experience in these issues, and I agree with Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch."

All four men are strong supporters of the Pentagon's proposed basing of F-35 fighter jets in Vermont.

Continue reading "Pentagon Picks Camp Ethan Allen as Finalist for Missile Defense Site" »

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


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 11, 2013

Shumlin Discloses Details of Weekend Meetings with DGA Donors

DSC05700Calling himself the "transparency governor," Peter Shumlin on Wednesday identified who he met with privately last Saturday at a Democratic Governors Association retreat in Manchester.

As we reported in this week's Fair Game, Shumlin and three fellow Democratic governors wined and dined five- and six-figure donors to the partisan electoral organization last weekend at the Equinox Resort and Spa. Between official events, according to lobbyists who attended the gathering, the governors met privately with some of the DGA's top donors.

Last Thursday, DGA spokesman Danny Kanner claimed that Shumlin "has no scheduled meetings or events between breakfast and dinner on Saturday." Asked again Monday who Shumlin met with over the weekend, Kanner declined to answer the question.

Seven Days put the question to spokespeople for Shumlin, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Only the Washingtonian's office responded.

Inslee's communications associate, Lisa Harper, said in an email Monday, "The governor's visit to the DGA this weekend was on his personal time and not an event our office was involved with." Asked who might be able to answer the question, Harper said her office doesn't "interface" with the appropriate person and could not provide a name.

Continue reading "Shumlin Discloses Details of Weekend Meetings with DGA Donors" »

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