Ross Laffan's blog

Memories of Governor Douglas

The lame duck tenure of Governor Jim Douglas will be filled with stories and pictures and other reminiscences of a man considered by many to be the most popular politician in Vermont. His popularity can be attributed in part to his down-home folksiness and to his amazing ability to remember the name of every Vermonter he ever met. People love that. It kept him in office for his entire working life, taking advantage of the best benefits the state employees’ union (the one he so loathed) could provide for him. My memory of our governor will be from the 2006 reelection campaign of my local representative.  Her opponent, with the help of the governor and the GOP, at a cost of a few thousand dollars,sent a glossy mailing featuring the governor to every household in our district. It was one of those mailings where the opponent will highlight the voting record of the incumbent. This one equated my rep as being sympathetic to sex offenders because of a particular vote in the legislature.  Yeah, slimy. Truth being told, most of the mailings found their way to the recycling bin unread. But that’s the point.  I want to the truth to be told.  That mailing was dishonest and deceptive and if you ask the governor about it he’ll find a way to make you think it was true. I lost respect for the governor because of that mailing.  He was never a governor with whom I agreed on most issues, but I had always considered him to be honest. I was surprised that he turned out to be one of the dishonest politicians that are a dime-a-dozen. We’re now in a time where the truth is a commodity and we regard such campaign tactics as “just the way it is.” I’m hopeful we can start to demand the truth from our politicians. Let’s disagree on issues but can’t it be done with honesty? My memory of Governor Jim Douglas will be his image on a slimy campaign mailing sticking out of the recycling bin at the post office.

Misplaced Outrage?

Lots of people are telling us we just aren't keeping the numbers in perspective when we complain about the bonuses being paid to AIG executives.  A report on CNN'S Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull displayed a splashy graphic showing a tiny dot representing the $165 million dollars bonuses and a gigantic one representing the total bailout.  The point was that our outrage is misplaced, that $165 isn't really that much.  The reporter then interviewed a "financial expert" who told us the underlying cause of the financial meltdown is very complex and that it's much easier for the public to be outraged by the bonuses being paid because it's easier for us to understand.  Yes, I thought the same thing:  They think we're stupid. I'm not embarrassed to say that I don't understand the underlying causes of the meltdown.  Afterall, the so-called experts don't understand either.  What I do understand is that we're not only paying for the bonuses (insignificant though they may be) but we're also paying for the bailout.  Our outrage isn't misplaced.  We need to be more outraged.  From my point of view it's been a long time since the people in Washington have been the least bit concerned about the outrage of the people at home.  It's refreshing to know they might be starting to listen.

Hope Springs Eternal

The choice of Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in California to deliver the invocation at the Obama Inaugural has become a mildly controversial step.  Many gay men and lesbians consider it a slap in the face that Obama would choose a pastor who was a leader in the defeat of Proposition 8 in California, the propostion that made gay marriage illegal there. What should be more disturbing to us and to every American is that Obama has chosen a pastor whose church discriminates against gays and lesbians in not allowing them as members of his church.  From the church website (the typo is theirs):

“Because membership in a church is an outgrowth of accepting the Lordship and leadership of Jesus in one’s life, someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted at a member at Saddleback Church. That does not mean they cannot attend church we hope they do! God’s Word has the power to change our lives.”

When we express our skepticism about change when considering Obama’s cabinet choices or about his support of the death penalty or about his opposition to gay marriage we’re told by less skeptical friends and pundits not to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.  There is nothing good about allowing someone who discriminates against any group to participate in the inauguration of any president particularly one who was elected on a platform of “change”.

Suit Threatened Over Campaign Finance Ruling

Campaign finance news from the Boston Globe, August 27, 2008 MONTPELIER, Vt.—A prominent Burlington lawyer said Tuesday he is in talks with supporters of independent gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina about filing suit in federal court over Vermont's campaign finance laws. 
The comments from John Franco, former Burlington city attorney and former aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders when a congressman, came as Pollina's campaign was striking a conciliatory tone and saying he would take steps to comply with the law as interpreted by Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz and Attorney General William Sorrell. "Anthony's waving the white flag on this," said Franco, who said he had donated $600 to Pollina this election cycle and might like to give more. "But this implicates the constitutional rights of his contributors as well. It's not going down very easily with me, and it's not going down very easily with some of his other contributors, either." Pollina's problem with contributions began in July after he dropped his Progressive Party affiliation and said he would run for governor as an independent. The Secretary of State's office notified him of a tighter limitation on fundraising by independent candidates and that he may have accidentally violated it. At issue is a campaign finance law provision that limits independent candidates to contributions of $1,000 per donor -- half as much as what party-affiliated candidates can raise. Franco said he had been in talks with other Pollina donors and expected to act as their lawyer when they file suit in the coming days in federal court. Meanwhile, former Democratic congressional candidate and Bennington County State's Attorney John A. Burgess said he and his wife Virginia, who are active in the group Democrats for Pollina, were contemplating filing their own suit.

Keep on flippin'

Did anyone watch the Forum on Faith with mega-pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback church?  I happened onto it while flipping channels.  The question for McCain at that moment was on tax policy and the definition of the word "wealthy".  Religious folk across the country had just let out of church and were waiting anxiously for the candidates' replies so that they could continue their journey in faith knowing the answer to that question which obviously came from directly from the good book.  Sorry, I can't share their answers because Olympic badminton was on and I'm a fan.

Become a Progressive Justice of the Peace

Of course most of our attention is focussed on the race for governor and our legislative races, but keep in mind the possibility of running for Justice of the Peace in your town. It's a great way to become involved in electoral politics and a great way to keep the Progressive Party name connected with candidates. The glory part of the job is performing marriages and civil unions, but JPs also count votes in the primary and general elections as well as at town meetings. Check out all the responsibilities involved by viewing the Vermont Secretary of State's website, here. And be in touch with the Progressive Party's Director, Morgan Daybell to find out how to get your name on the ballot.
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