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Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Supreme Liar

Clarence_thomas_official U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas' autobiography goes on sale Monday morning October 1. Thomas, a staunch conservative, received a $1.5 million advance. Good for him.

Yet, word is that Ol' Clarence, the second black to serve on the High Court, is a very bitter associate justice and, it appears from the early reviews, a very bitter man.

National Public Radio's Nina Totenberg put it well on All Things Considered on Saturday. Nina had spoken with several people who helped him get confirmed 16 years ago,  "allies who simply don’t understand it because it reopens a wound that’s 16 years old, [a wound] that most people have moved on from, and it draws the Supreme Court into a place where it doesn’t want to be which is into politics.”

Totenberg described My Grandfather's Son as "intensely personal - far more personal that any memoir I have ever read. And it’s language is so vivid that it’s almost uncomfortable at moments to read."

Wrote Clarence:

"What gave these rich white men the right to question my commitment to racial justice? Was there no limit to their shamelessness?"

Which senators was he talking about?

Many, said Nina, among them Sen. Judiciary Committee Chairman at-the-time Joe Biden who he calls  "a hypocrite."

And Patrick Leahy of Vermont who dared questioned him on abortion rights and the law. "[Leahy's] bullying was something I just didn't give into," writes Justice Thomas.

Leahy's "bullying?"

St. Patrick's been called a whole of of names, but I wasn't aware "bully" was on the list.

Reached by NPR's Totenberg at his Middlesex, Vermont home on Saturday, Vermont's senior senator had this to say:

Patrick_leahy "Well, it’s an interesting reaction he had. I simply asked a routine question about whether he ever discussed Roe v. Wade.

"He surprised everybody, Republicans and Democrats on the committee by saying he had never discussed
Roe v. Wade or the hearing, even though the decision came down while he was in law school.

"I don’t know any senator who believed that answer, either Republicans or Democrats. Most people were kind of scratching their heads wondering why he wouldn’t tell the truth about something like that."

Here's a taste of the Leahy-Thomas exchange during Thomas' confirmation hearing on September 11, 1991 - long time ago, eh?:

SENATOR LEAHY: You were in law school at the time Roe v. Wade was decided. Was it discussed while you were there?

THOMAS: The case that I remember being discussed most during law school was Griswold. But I did not spend a lot of time debating all the current cases.

LEAHY: I am sure you are not suggesting that there wasn’t any discussion at any time of Roe v. Wade?

THOMAS: Senator, I cannot remember personally engaging in those discussions.

LEAHY: Have you ever had discussion of Roe v. Wade in the 17 years it has been there?

THOMAS: Only in the most general sense that other individuals express concerns, and you listen and you try to be thoughtful. If you are asking me whether or not I have ever debated the contents of it, that answer to that is no, Senator.

LEAHY: Have you ever stated whether you felt that it was properly decided or not?

THOMAS: I don’t recollect commenting one way or the other. There were, again, debates about it in various places, but I generally did not participate.

Source: Senate Confirmation Hearings September 11, 1991

Friday, September 28, 2007

American Machine

Lantz Six characters on the third shift at a dilapidated car-parts plant in the rust belt are the fodder for Jim Lantz’s new play American Machine.

Ipsy, Teena, Lona, Buddy, Winkie and Lane.

Lane’s the 18-year-old son of the company owner, testing the summer-vacation waters on the family path to becoming the factory’s boss. Sweet, cute  guy. He ends up knocking-up Teena [well-acted by Bridget Butler, by the way], a single-mom with two kids home with her mom.

Lona’s the Latina single-mom with a dead-end life, who’s mostly on a cell phone fighting for custody of her kid. In the back of my mind, I wondered why she’d have any shot at custody if she was working the third shift?

Buddy, played by prolific local actor Dennis McSorely, has been there for 35 years and is mostly into porn movies.

Winkie’s a big, fat, dumb you-know-what.

Not a lot of laugh lines in this 90-minute one-act, but one is Winkie’s about them giving him a week to come up with the 500 bucks to pay to f*** the gorilla.

And Ipsy, the shift supervisor, has an accent, a limp and some kind of learning-disability.

You got it - a very depressing crew.

"Life Sucks and Then You Die" would be an apt alternate title.

What shone through to this blogger/reviewer was the effort Lantz the writer/director put into it. An admirable quest for some kind of meaning in meaningless times. 

“Once you got a mold,” says Ipsy, “you can make anything from plastic.”

American Machine will be at the Flynn Space though October 7.

Just can’t beat live theater.

Thank you, Mr. Lantz.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Roper Gets Nasty!

Roper_gop Vermont GOP Chairman Rob Roper certainly exudes that All-American-Boy look, very clean cut, straight-laced, but, boy-oh-boy Chairman Roper sure dug his teeth into Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington with this Wednesday press release:

Symington’s company boasts green thumb
(but gives environment the finger)

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"The left in Vermont has repeatedly used our environment as tool for partisan politics. The negligence at Intervale illustrates that they are not only hypocrites, but unworthy of Vermonters’ trust as environmental stewards.” – Rob Roper

House Speaker Gaye Symington is the Development Coordinator for the Intervale Center. This organization has just been cited by the Agency of Natural Resources as having violated the Vermont Solid Waste Management Rules, the Vermont Indirect Discharge Rules, and the conditions under which the center was certified. As a result of Intervale’s danger to the environment the Center is facing the possibility of a forced shut down in July.

It is outrageous that a project enjoying the intimate involvement of the Speaker of the House and the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, with a mission dedicated to "protecting natural resources," could be in such flagrant violation of Vermont environmental law.

Intervale is made up of a veritable who’s who of left wing politics in Vermont. The Speaker of the House is the Development Coordinator. Progressive Representative David Zuckerman farms a plot on Intervale. The treasurer for Democrat Scudder Parker’s gubernatorial campaign, Will Rapp, is the “honorary founding member.”

Check out the "Who We Are" section of Intervale's website here: https://www.intervale.org/who_we_are/index.shtml

Thursday afternoon, House Speaker Gaye Symington put this baby out:

For Immediate Release
September 27, 2007

Statement by Speaker Symington regarding The Intervale Center

Symington I work for an organization that is founded on values of land preservation and environmentally sound practices.  The Intervale Center is taking the notice of alleged violations seriously and is committed to minimizing the environmental impacts of the facility. My job at the Intervale Center is to support our work and communicate the center's accomplishments: over 100 jobs in farming, healthy local food in schools, water and soil improvement, a conservation nursery, a youth farm, restoration of historical buildings, and the transformation of a former dumping ground into productive farms.

Sounds like Ol' Robbie struck a nerve, eh?

I called the Speaker's Office for comment. Had a couple questions. Was told she was "on the road" and not available.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

An Orwellian Wednesday

Chertoffdouglas Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff [speaking with DMV Commish Bonnie Rutledge and Gov. Jim Douglas in a pre-planned photo-op],  made an unheralded visit to Burlington Wednesday. Chertoff toured the Department of Motor Vehicle facility on North Ave and signed a memorandum of understanding with Gov. Scissorhands aimed at enhancing border crossing security. Said our Guv:

So, it’s a real honor and privilege to be one of the first three states in the country - Washington and Arizona being the other - that will be pilot projects for the Department of Homeland Security and we appreciate, Mr. Secretary, you’re not only entering into this memorandum of agreement with the state of Vermont, but for coming here today to share in this announcement.

Chertoffgovnl Under the voluntary program, Vermonters will shortly be able to apply for enhanced drivers licenses. They’ll cost $15-20 more and contain a computer ID chip. Eventually the Bush administration hopes to require all American citizens to carry passports when returning to the US from Canada.

An overreaction to 9/11?

Implementation of the passport requirement, however, is currently on hold.

And Vermont Transportation Sec, Neale Lunderville [above with the two big guys], and DMV Commissioner Rutledge acknowledged afterward there is at present no guarantee that it will be implemented anytime soon given the upcoming presidential election in November 2008.

In the brief Q & A with reporters, yours truly asked Sec. Chertoff for his reaction to Vermonters' concern that the proposed new computer-chip enhanced drivers licence represents a dangerous step toward Big Brother-style surveillance. Replied Sec. Chertoff:

Bbposterpreview_2 We are not going to take over or own the database or the information. This is a state drivers license. I mean I guess there may be people who think that having a driver’s license is Big Brother, and that’s between them and the state troopers, but, ah, I think from our standpoint we are keeping this in the state. What we are doing is giving the state the capability to issue an enhanced driver’s license that we will accept when people want to cross the border into Canada or coming back from Canada.

I think everybody recognizes when you cross an international boundary, you are required  to show some kind of identification. So I don’t think this order in any way, shape or form looks like a Big-Brother type of operation.

So. there!

Everybody feel better?

Vacation Wednesday

Les_final_fleurs Yes, "officially" I'm on vacation. No "Inside Track" column in today's Seven Days. I think they got some distinguished legal beagle to fill in for me. 

Of course, there's no place I actually want to go for vacation. Everywhere I've wanted to go, I've already been. Besides, the vacationers come here. Church Street has often felt like Montreal South this summer.

Hey, dig the last of the flowers out front here in Burlap's south end. We all have a part to play, eh?

"Freyne Land," however, is another story.  Plus, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's surprise and almost secret visit to Burlington today gives this blogger and WDEV radio reporter plenty to focus on.

His presser with Gov. Jim Douglas is at 2:20 this afternoon.

If you had one question to ask Mike Chertoff, what would it be?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chertoff Visit Update*

Chertoff Very interesting.

Citing "a reliable source," yours truly posted the item below about a Vermont visit on Wednesday by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff shortly after 8 a.m. this morning. We also emailed and called Gov. Jim Douglas' Press Secretary Jason Gibbs.

No response from Jason.

Still.

Then just before noon, the Vermont Democratic Party Executive Director Jill Krowinski put out this:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Douglas must ask Chertoff serious questions Wednesday

Krowinsky Montpelier, Vt- Today Vermonters learned that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will be meeting with Governor Douglas in Williston tomorrow.  This gives the Governor an opportunity to ask important questions on behalf of Vermonters, such as:

1.  There are no federal funds to pay for the enhanced driver's license program.  How much will this program cost the State of Vermont?  Will thef ederal government provide funds? Implementation of the enhanced driver's license program is scheduled for November 2008, but Secretary Chertoff has
insisted on use of passports for crossing the U.S.-Canada border by June 2008.  Since Secretary Chertoff is insisting on passports by June 2008, how will an enhanced driver's license benefit Vermonters 5 months later?

Four more of Krowinsky the Director's questions right here. 

# # #

Then we heard the location of Chertoff's 2 p.m. presser with GOP Gov. Scissorhands had been changed - from Williston to Burlington. And The Associated Press Montpeculiar bureau put out this story:

Homeland Security chief in Vermont Wednesday

Chertoff MONTPELIER, Vt. --Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will be in Burlington Wednesday to sign a memorandum of understanding with the state for the creation of enhanced drivers' licenses that could be used as identification to cross the Canadian border.

Prior to the public event, Chertoff will meet privately with Gov. Jim Douglas and the two will discuss border security issues important to Vermonters.

The public meeting will be at the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicle office in Burlington's North Avenue.

Many Vermonters are concerned that stricter border requirements could hurt businesses that rely on Canadians.

Vermont is working on a license that will include radio frequency ID chips and other features that can be scanned at the border. The license will cost more than a standard driver's license, but will be less expensive than a passport...

Can't wait for the Presidential visit, can you?

Didn't hear a peep about tomorrow's visit by Secretary Chertoff from Marselis Parsons or Kristin Kelly on the WCAX-TV News at Six.

The top story on WGOP, "Vermont's Own" "award-winning" TV news was a moose getting shot by wildlife officers in Burlington.

I'm not making this up....

**************************************************

IT'S OFFICIAL. This went out from Gov. Douglas' office at 7:47 p.m.:

Burlington, Vt. – Governor Jim Douglas and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff tomorrow will participate in a joint signing of a Memorandum of Agreement on Enhanced Drivers Licenses.

WHEN:  Wednesday, September 26, 2007 – 2:20 p.m.

WHERE: Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, Burlington Office 193 North Avenue

INFO:   Media setup begins at 1:45 p.m.

            Signing of the MOA will occur promptly at 2:20 pm.  It is recommended that journalists be on sight and set up by 2:00 p.m.

            Journalists may be asked to present media credentials or valid government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license or passport.

Ledbetter Responds

Just got off the phone with “Vermont This Week” host Stewart Ledbetter.

Ledbetter_pic He said he did not care to respond directly to Progressive State Rep. David Zuckerman’s charge that he had engaged in “irresponsible journalism” on Friday evening’s Vermont Public Television program. [See "Irresponsible Journalism" post two down.]

Ledbetter suggested Zuckerman hadn’t told the truth in “Inside Track” last week when he said Democratic Senate Boss Peter Shumlin had on two ocassions suggested Democrats and Progressives have mended fences and Progressive Anthony Pollina might be a candidate the Ds could back in a race against incumbent Republican Gov. Jim Douglas in 2008.

“[Zuckerman] can say what he wants to say,” said Ledbetter.

Though Shumlin still hasn’t returned our calls, Stew said he spoke with him around lunchtime on Friday via phone, and "because of that conversation," Ledbetter told us, he said what he said on the Vermont Public Television airwaves about someone “not telling the truth.”

“Shumlin said he was trying to be diplomatic about how the Democrats and Progressives could work together,” said Ledbetter.  Shummy told him, he said, that he had been “very clear and careful” in talking to Zuckerman that he was not backing Anthony.

Shumlin did have nice things to say about Pollina, said Ledbetter,  including “that he was articulate and a good speaker.”

Ledbetter said Shumlin also made other “off-the-record comments” to him which he did not share with yours truly.

“I wasn’t there in Montpelier,” said Stew. “It’s a ‘He said-He said.’”

Here comes Chertoff?

Chertoffbush According to a reliable source, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff is coming to Vermont on Wednesday for a quickie visit to the law enforcement support center in Williston.

The topic, we're told, is a proposed "enhanced driver's license" that will allow travel back-and-forth to Canada without requiring a passport.

Gov. Jim Douglas will be his host.

We noticed that the Guv's public schedule for Wednesday was blank. Perfectly understandable that the Fifth Floor would not want to publicize the Secretary of Homeland Security's visit.

Hey, it's not George "WMD" Bush himself, but....close, eh?

***UPDATE***:
11:45 a.m.

Sources tells us Sec. Chertoff's official Vermont visit is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon at the Law Enforcement Support Center on Harvest Lane in Williston. That's about a mile west of Tafts Corners. Speculation is all the hush-hush [still no response from Douglas Press Secretary Jason Gibbs to our phone and email inquiries], is to keep the anti-Bush protester-turnout to a minimum.

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Irresponsible Journalism"

That's what House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Zuckerman [P-Burlington], called on-air remarks by "Vermont This Week" Host Stewart Ledbetter on Friday's broadcast, remarks suggesting he had not been telling the truth in comments published in last Wednesday's "Inside Track" in Seven Days.

Ledbetter Ledbetter [left] is a veteran reporter on WPTZ-TV, the Plattsburgh, NY-based Hearst-Argyle affiliate with a Vermont bureau in Colchester. He replaced Chris Graff this year as the host of the weekly news discussion program on Vermont Public Television that airs Friday night and is repeated Sunday morning.

One of this week's headlines was: Election '08: Is Anthony Pollina The Democrats’ Best Hope?

And what Ledbetter the Host said to the statewide audience was:

"As we look ahead in the off-year to Campaign ‘08, we saw a couple of dueling blogs this week, which certainly caught our attention for their implications and what they say, sort-of, about the back-story negotiations between the Progressives and the Democrats. And the issue was whether or not the top Democrat in the state senate, Peter Shumlin,  was sort of acknowledging in private conversation that maybe Progressive Anthony Pollina might be an acceptable consensus candidate between the Progressives and the Democrats to run against Jim Douglas, who Peter Shumlin would like very much to see replaced."

Then the panel batted it around for a couple minutes and Ledbetter dropped this stink bomb:

"Or maybe the story that Shumlin was pushing Anthony Pollina is simply not true."

Hello?

Maybe the Moon is made of green cheese?

First of all, I missed the "dueling blogs" that Stew's referring to, just comments by "odum" in the Green Mountain Daily blog last Thursday [link in column right].

The story of Sen. Shumlin suggesting Democrats consider backing Pollina in a race against Gov. Scissorhands of the GOP broke in last Wednesday's Seven Days. That's a Vermont-owned weekly newspaper and last week's was a healthy 128-pager. And the source for the story, pictured here with his wife and wee daughter at Saturday's Farmers Market, was clearly identified and on-the-record:

Zuckermans Progressive State Rep. David Zuckerman of Burlington told yours truly that Shumlin first broached the subject of a Pollina nomination last April.

“He came up to me at an event in Montpelier,” said Zuckerman, “and said we’ve really got to talk about how we’re going to get rid of Jim Douglas, and I think Anthony Pollina should really consider running.”

Dave the Prog, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said Shummy told him he would “be willing to talk to other Democrats about getting behind Anthony if we don’t have someone else.”


More here in "The Pollina Possibility?"

Informed in the park on Saturday of Mr. Ledbetter's on-air comments on "Vermont This Week,"  Rep. Zuckerman, at first, appeared a bit shocked. Ledbetter had not spoken to him about it.

"I respect Stewart Ledbetter," said Chairman Dave, "but that's irresponsible journalism."

Does he stand by what he said in "Inside Track?'

"Absolutely, 100 percent!" Zuckerman replied. "I will stand behind that for eternity."

Trust me. He meant it.

Meanwhile, I still haven't had the voice messages left on Sen. Shumlin's cell-phone last Tuesday returned. If it wasn't true, don't you think Shummy would have called by now?

And VTW Host Ledbetter has not, as yet, responded to my Sunday e-mail seeking comment.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Where's Bernie?

Would you believe Costa Rica?

That's right, amigos - Costa Rica! And rather hush-hush on the publicity-side, too.
 

Bernie_s We heard it from a reliable source on Thursday that Independent Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders [right], would be visiting Costa Rica this weekend to express his strong opposition to CAFTA - the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Costa Ricans are holding a national referendum on CAFTA on October 7. Our source said Sanders had been invited by Luis Guillermo Solis, a political science professor at the University of Costa Rica, who is a leader of the "No" side.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias is a leader of the "Yes" side.

Costa Rica, a nation twice the land size of Vermont with 4 million citizens, has Central America's strongest economy. Besides bananas, tourism and retirement enclaves for North Americans, there's offshore gambling, Costa Rica's #1 industry!  The country has been described as an Internet Las Vegas! The legal gambling outfits do not have to pay tax on profits earned outside of Costa Rica.

Nice.

Thought we'd hear from Sanders' U.S. Senate office but finally gave up and contacted them on Friday.  Press Secretary Michael Briggs confirmed it. Said he thought the Economic Policy Institute - a left-wing D.C. think tank that's involved with the trip - would have sent us this release.

Economic Policy Institute

EPI NewsAlert: Congressional Trip To Highlight CAFTA Concerns

Costa_rica On October 7, Costa Rican citizens will decide whether or not to approve the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), in an unprecedented referendum that could have serious economic and social consequences for Costa Rica, the United States and other countries.  This weekend, two U.S. lawmakers – Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind-Vt.) and Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) – will travel to Costa Rica to meet with governmental, business, labor, farm, and student leaders to discuss issues related to unfettered free trade.

On Sunday, they will appear at an EPI press conference to explain why they voted against CAFTA and that many in the U.S. Congress share their opposition to unfettered “free trade”.

Didn't see Sanders visit to Costa Rica [accompanied by two of his advisors including Huck Gutman], mentioned anywhere in the Vermont press, or any press, did you?

Not a peep.

Interesting, since Ol' Bernardo, as you know, has been an outspoken opponent of NAFTA and CAFTA. His tune has been a consistent one. In 2005, as a member of the House, he voted against CAFTA, but it passed anyway on a squeaker 217-215.

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