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14 posts categorized "2009 Inauguration"

January 04, 2010

Judge Sides with Troopers Who Fatally Shot Mentally Ill Man

A federal judge has ruled that members of the Vermont State Police tactical team were justified when they fatally shot Joe Fortunati (pictured) in the woods of Corinth in 2006.

Joe_Fortunati U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha cleared nine members of the Tactical Services Unit, a camouflaged and heavily armed SWAT-type team, of wrongful death in a civil lawsuit filed by the parents and brother of Fortunati, a 40-year-old paranoid schizophrenic with an intense fear of police.

Seven Days covered the Fortunati case and the discrepancies in the troopers' accounts of the shooting in a September story headlined, "Did Vermont State Troopers Go Too Far When They Shot Paranoid Schizophrenic Joe Fortunati?"

According to the judge, who issued the ruling December 29, the answer to that question is "No."

Continue reading "Judge Sides with Troopers Who Fatally Shot Mentally Ill Man" »

January 20, 2009

Inauguration: Welch and Sanders Comment

Obama Ed. Note: Seven Days correspondent Kevin J. Kelley is in Washington, D.C. covering the inauguration.

Washington has managed to host many massive gatherings, but the capital city was utterly overwhelmed on Tuesday as thousands of would-be witnesses to history were unable to get within sight of even the jumbo TV screens that lined the National Mall.

A cold wind whipped litter along the city's broad boulevards that were thronged with pedestrians who couldn't reach the Mall. Many celebrants with tickets to official viewing sites were denied entry through gates that were blocked off hours before President Barack Obama swore his oath of office.

But the disappointments and inconveniences, which included 10-deep queues for portable potties, did not diminish the general jubilation. Spectators remained in high spirits on what was, after all, a sunny day.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch watched from seats on the platform where Obama spoke. Both the Vermont lawmakers said they were stunned by the size of the crowd, which neither was able to see in its entirety.

"I saw people standing shoulder-to-shoulder all the way to the Washington Monument, which is well over a mile," Welch said. "There were more people out there than in the state of Vermont."

Sanders called the spectacle "unbelievable." He said the inauguration marks "an extraordinary day in the history of the United States."

Both Welch and Sanders gave Obama's address good reviews despite its thin substance and the absence of any JFK-style catch-lines. Obama "very clearly included criticisms of the recent past" as he went about "re-introducing America to the world," Welch said.

Vermont's lone House member isn't willing to forgive and forget the deeds of the previous president. That much buzzed-about "change" may take a while to arrive, Welch suggested, due to "the destruction Bush and Cheney have left behind them. They really did wreck almost everything they touched," he added, citing the economy, civil liberties and the United States' standing in the world.

Sanders says Bush should be held accountable for his alleged crimes, just as Wall Streeters should be made to pay for the collapse of the U.S. financial system.

Taking a tougher line on Bush than that put forward by Obama in recent days, Sanders called for a congressional investigation of "what may have constituted illegal behavior."

The senator did voice optimism about the $850 billion economic recovery plan that Obama and the Democratic Congress have begun to fashion. Sanders points out that it includes more investments in clean energy and primary health care than in all of U.S. history. "In this one document, you're seeing something Bush wouldn't have done if he'd been in office for 100 years."

Sanders and Welch are attending the New England states' inaugural ball tonight in architecturally elegant Union Station. I'm covering an all-Africa ball at a hotel across the Potomac in Virginia. Obama's Kenyan grannie is going to be there, so maybe the prez himself will show up.

Final Thoughts from Nectar's

IMG_2198 As someone who has frequented Nectar's since moving to Burlington in 1991, I have to say two things just happened I don't think I've witnessed in this bar before: The singing of the National Anthem (loudly and proudly!) and hearing the word "Amen!" after Rev. Joseph Lowery gave his blessing to Pres. Obama's inauguration.

Folks are clearing out and going back to something called "work." As if.

And, by the way, the gravy fries were awesome — as always.

Big shout out to Damon and the crew here at Nectar's. They sure know how to throw a good party.

In the words of my 10-year-old, Phin, who has been my trusty assistant all morning to watch this historic event, "It was awesome ... And, there goes Cheney."

It's Official!

In one word: Wow.

Here are some snippets that many Vermonters reacted to during Pres. Barack Obama's inaugural address:

"Hold true to our founding documents." No fooling? There's a concept.

"Pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and rebuild America." Ask not what your country can do for you ...

"Do our business in the light of day."  I guess the Cheney doctrine is really over.

"We reject the false choice between our safety and our ideals." PATRIOT Act, SchmATRIOT Act.

"We are a friend of each nation." Not just the willing?

"To be judged on what you build, not what you destroy." Hmmm. Maybe there is a new direction in the "war on terror"?

"We are willing to extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." B-ipartisanship.

"It's not whether or not government is too big or too small, but whether it works." One word: Katrina.

The Nectar's crowd — replete with plenty of "community organizers" —  gave plenty of cheers when Pres. Obama had the audacity to say he would put the science back in global warming and make a greater push for moving us to renewable energy.

We're Getting Closer ... Gravy Fries & Inaugural

Philip Baruth of Vermont Daily Briefing just kicked off the festivities here (officially) along with Charles Chamberlin of Democracy for America.

Baruth noted that Nectar's and Metronome (just upstairs) and were host to several groundbreaking pro-Obama politcal events in the past couple of years.

He also gave a shout out to Neil Jensen, who was first out of the gate in support of Obama and organized the original Vermonters for Obama group that both locked up Vermont's electoral votes and trekked to New Hampshire to help Obama win that state, too.

Baruth said this was "the impossible morning — years in the making and one that you were told would never come" because Obama was unelectable. "He was too black, too white, too inexeperienced and all of those things turned out to be utterly untrue."

Chamberlin noted Obama was one of the first candidates it endorsed shortly after its creation.They endorsed Obama, the "inspiring Senate candidate in Illinois with a funny name."

Chamberlin added, "I'm not sure if I'm more happy about Bush leaving or Obama coming in."

I'd say both by the sound of the crowd. Anything Bush-related gets a boo and a hiss, while Obama gets cheers, tears and applause.

I caught up briefly with Jensen. What drew him so early to Obama?

Aside from Obama's 2004 convention speech, "which stood out for everybody, it was his singular ability to reshape our reputation around the world."

As for the thoughts running through his head as the inaugural approaches, Jensen said, "As a veteran supporter of the Dean campaign, it's incredible to me that he actually won. The last two years have really exceeded my wildest expectations."

Amen.

(Note: I'm going to take a bit of a break to watch the inaugurations)

Live from Nectar's: Burlington Celebrates

The line was already out the door by the time we arrived at the famous Nectar's on Main Street in Burlington for the special inauguration watch hosted by Democracy for America and Vermont Daily Briefing.

Within the first half hour the prime viewing spots were snagged, spirits are high — and everyone is glued to the widescreen in the barroom where C-SPAN is on.

Former Gov. Howard Dean, the outgoing chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was on screen for a couple of minutes getting off a plane and audible claps, hoots, and cheers filled the air.

He may be persona non grata in DC, but in Burlington the guy is still a popular figure. Maybe they'll be a coming home party since Dean isn't likely to keep up a residents in the nation's capital.

Plenty of local political dignitaries are here, including Amber LeMay of the League of Drag Queen Voters. What's an historic inaugural without drag queens, right?

The First Ladies were just escorted to their limos ... Big cheers for Michelle Obama.

And, here comes outgoing Veep Dick Cheney in a wheelchair — I guess he can't hear the hisses and boos from the Queen City. Fitting exit? He's crippled our civil liberties, for sure. A little payback for telling Sen. Patrick Leahy to, well, you know — perform an anatomically impossible sex act.

Now, here they are — outgoing and incoming presidents. Major applause, for Obama, that is.

Looks like Pres. George W. Bush didn't change his plans today either, which means Vermont is the only state in the union that didn't receive a special visit by the president. Cool.

Here's a link to a great piece by Cox News about Vermont's distinction. It ran last year, but the folks there re-ran it this morning on their Washington blog.

More soon — hoping I can blog and not get gravy on my keyboard.

Watching the Inauguration at Work

Obama Didn't make it to D.C.? Can't make it to one of those public viewing parties?

There are plenty of places to watch the inauguration online.

I'm keeping up with coverage on CNN Live. CNN has teamed up with Facebook, so I can see my friends' status updates along the right-hand side as I'm watching. Genius.

The stream is pretty slow for me, probably because everyone else here is watching, too, but I'm still getting the impressive visuals.

WPTZ has a live stream, too.

The Free Press is liveblogging.

Here's a link to all of our coverage on Blurt.




Inauguration: Black-tie Gala Monday Night

022 Seven Days correspondent Kevin J. Kelley is in Washington D.C. covering the inauguration. Here's his latest report:

Here are a couple more shots from a Mon night black-tie dinner at the Mellon Auditorium near the White House. It was sponsored by an international conservation caucus. Big celeb turnout — actors Edward Norton, Bo Derek, Robert Duvall, along with various African ministers whose countries make some effort to protect wildlife/resources.
 
The Boys Choir of Kenya performed; that's them in the group photo singing a hero's welcome song in Swahili in honor of Obama.
 
016 The two in the other photo are (right) Mitchell Mwamudo and (left) Frederick Masambaya. Many members of the choir, founded in 1998, come from slums in Nairobi. The choir effectively rescues kids from lives of poverty and, possibly, crime and drugs. This is their sixth trip to the United States; first time in Washington, although they've performed in Vermont!

Who's That Girl?

IMG_9630 Do you recognize the woman clapping on the left in this still? You may have spotted her in one of the many station promos CNN is running ad nauseum during its inauguration coverage. Don't blink or you might miss her (they cut faster than I do).

If my eyes serve me correctly, she is Rachel Weston, one of our own State Representatives. I remember seeing her smiling face in some of the DNC footage which must have made an impression at CNN because she made it into the final cut of this promo that runs every 20 minutes. Has anyone else spotted Rachel on CNN?

Way to represent Rachel! Happy Inauguration everyone!

January 19, 2009

Inauguration: Crowds Converge on D.C.

108 Ed. note: Seven Days correspondent Kevin J. Kelley sends this report from Washington, D.C.

Surprisingly, the 6:35 a.m. AirTran flight from BTV to Balt-Wash Airport was only two-thirds filled. Not as much VT traffic to the inauguration on a cheapo flight as I had imagined.

But downtown DC is aswarm with celebrants, soldiers in camo, and hawkers of inaugural kitsch. I've been to many demonstrations here, including some of the biggies during the Vietnam war, but I've never seen Washington as crowded as it is today. Though it's impossible to estimate with any real accuracy, it looks like African-Americans account for about half of the throng on the National Mall.

"Yes, we did," an Obama t-shirt peddler is chanting to passers-by as I write. Pride is palpable on many faces. All the Obama paraphernalia isn't needed to convey the dramatic shift in mood among rank-and-file Americans.

103 "As an African-American I did not expect to see this happening in my lifetime," said Robert Tignor, a 64-year-old retired judge who has lived all his life in Washington. "We're all a bit apprehensive about the state of the economy and the image of this country in the rest of the world, but I and everybody I know feels that there's not a better person or team of people to lead at this moment. It's like being on an airplane that's been out of control, that may be damaged, and you know you're in trouble. But finally someone you can trust is taking charge and you're starting to hope that maybe we'll all land safely after all."

Esther Iverem, an African-American writer, echoed that sentiment:  "I'm not into hero worship, but It's like a weight is being lifted off us. It's like the end of the Dark Ages."

And here's Jim Doughtery, a Sierra Club leader: "I don't think this would be possible in 95 percent of countries. So many people around the world have been looking askance at the United States for the last eight years, but now they're looking at us in amazement."

Yes, we did.

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