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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Time Running Out

Laurie_david The realities about global warming are sinking in. That was demonstrated by the overflow crowd that packed UVM's Ira Allen Chapel last night to hear a speech by Laurie David, producer of the blockbuster flick An Inconvenient Truth. About 1000 people packed the main floor and more than 300 squeezed into the overflow space downstairs.

Laurie David called global warming  "the most urgent challenge of our lifetime."

"This is not just my opinion, but the opinion of the world’s scientists. And although they’ve been largely ignored in the last two decades, and muzzled or rewritten for the last few years, they have now concluded we have less than 10 years to slow global warming down or we’ll be set on a course we will not be able to correct. This is the conclusion of the world’s most respected experts, the most cautious group of individuals on the planet saying we have less than 10 years.

"James Hansen, a scientist at NASA and one of my personal heroes, told me recently and I quote, 'Because of human activity we are already guaranteed two degrees of warming, but we dare not go above that.'

Hearing Hansen, who spent three decades studying the issue, say that, sent shivers up my spine."

As it damn well should.

"There is now more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than in the last - think about this number - 650,000 years. As CO2 levels go up, temperature goes up with them. This is a fact and it’s indisputable. And the world is putting an additional 70 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere everyday. July 2005 to June 2006 was the hottest 12 month period in the history of temperature measurements in the United States - 2300 heat records were broken in the month of July alone."

Global warming, ignored by President George W. Bush and considered theoretical by GOP congressional candidate Martha Rainville as recently as July, is projected, said David, "to completely alter your forests and lead to the eventual disappearance of the sugar maple.

"Can you imagine the core of who you are as a community changing forever - the sugar maples, the fall leaves, the ski season all at stake? "

Scary. We simply cannot ignore it any longer.

"This is not about politics, it’s about ethics. It’s against every value we all hold near and dear to know we are altering life, screwing up our climate system, wrecking havoc on weather patterns and continue to do nothing about it."

And David told the overflow crowd there is still time to save the planet but action must commence immediately. We must make dramatic adjustments in how we do things, she said, within the next 10 years - max!

Check out and read David's amazing piece in Sunday's Washington Post. And then let's start talking more to one another about it. OK?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More Kiss on Guns

Mayor_kiss Tuesday afternoon we sat down with Burlington's Progressive Mayor Bob Kiss to get it straight from the horse's mouth on the Mayors Against Illegal Guns "Statement of Principles" (posted in the Tuesday post below), that he signed without advance warning at Monday's Burlington City Council Meeting. Said Mayor Kiss:

"I’m making a statement along with other mayors across the country. It’s very clear to say our mayors are duty bound to do everything in our power to protect our residents, especially our children, from harm,  and there is no greater threat to public safety than the threat of illegal guns.

"I will continue the discussion and include the city council in that process. It’s one of those things I can sign onto without looking for support or authority from the city council. Since it’s very clearly a statement of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, that’s why I chose that route. I think it is an issue that people on the city council are going to be interested in and I think we should continue that discussion."

But isn't the Second Amendment's right to bear arms a strong principle in Vermont?

Kiss: "I think everybody has to agree that we want responsible gun-ownership. I would say in the same way that I talk about responsible ownership in terms of rental property and responsible tenancy, I mean I think there are a lot of responsibilities in our society that we have to pay attention to, and how we do that make a difference in the outcome. My goal here is to work on responsible gun-ownership and to aim at preventing gun violence. And I don’t know that we all wouldn’t be in agreement with those kinds of goals."

But "gun control" in Vermont?

Kiss: "Again, should there be waiting periods before people can buy handguns? I don’t object to that. I think it’s a reasonable thing to do. That might be portrayed as gun control, but I think that has a lot more to do with responsible gun ownership. In the same way that in Vermont before you get a hunting license, you have to take a firearms class so you’re prepared to do that appropriately. Is that gun control?  I think it’s probably responsible training so everyone’s safe in the practice of hunting. I might say, no, it’s gun control because if I don’t take the course, I can’t use my gun. But again, I think it misses the point. So I would say that Vermont and society can develop a reasonable set of rules that does a better job at protecting us at the same time it allows guns to be in the community."

Have you anticipated any kind of pro-gun backlash to this?

Kiss: "I have not. I think that having a discussion about guns, and even having a disagreement about guns, isn’t a backlash. I think we have to have that. And I think through that kind of discussion that you actually see change. And that’s what Mayors Against Illegal Guns are saying - we’ve got to do something about guns that come into our community illegally and have a negative consequence because people are dying on the street."

What do you think?

Incidentally, Burlington's mayor is not a gun owner.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dunne Sighting

Sen_matt At Uncommon Grounds on Burlington's Church Street Marketplace on Tuesday afternoon. There he was, the Democrat who gave Republican Brian Dubie a scare in Vermont's recent Lite-Gov race.

State Sen. Matt Dunne told yours truly he's "caught up on my sleep," and "made up significant childcare credits with my wife."

What's he got planned for the future?

"I'm exploring a variety of options," said Dunne.

Good answer, eh?

He did say he felt his "service politics" approach was a success and we may be seeing more of it down the line.


Certainly Young Dunne, with one statewide race under his belt, will be in the mix in 2008, right?

Stay tuned.

As the Rutland Herald editorial page put it:

"The defeat of Matt Dunne for lieutenant governor was a disappointment to many Democrats who saw him as a bright young leader with an abundance of energy and new ideas. One hopes that Dunne finds another avenue to bring his enthusiasm and ideas to Vermonters."

Still Mayor of Burlington!

*UPDATED  11 a.m.*

We swung by the extremely quiet Burlington City Council Meeting last night. Just two members of the public, a representative of the police department, the Ch. 17 videographer and yours truly were in the audience. And it turned out the printed agenda did not give away the most interesting part of the meeting. That item was:

3. COMMUNICATION: Mayor Kiss, re: General City Affairs (oral) (10 mins.)

Yes, Bob Kiss, the tall, soft-spoken former Progressive state rep, is still the mayor of Vermont’s largest city. And Monday night, without fanfare, Mayor Kiss told the Burlington City Council and those in attendance that he had just become “about the 125th” mayor of an American city to sign on with “Mayors Against Illegal Guns.” Kiss said he had attended the recent Northeastern Regional Conference in Boston and put his John Hancock on the organization’s “Statement of Principles.”

Whereas: 30,000 Americans across the country are killed every year as a result of gun violence, destroying families and communities in big cities and small towns, and

Whereas: As Mayors, we are duty-bound to do everything in our power to protect our residents, especially our children, from harm and there is no greater threat to public safety that the threat of illegal guns;

Now, therefore, we resolve to work together to find innovative new ways to advance the following principles:

* Punish - to the maximum extent of the law - criminals who possess, use, and traffic in illegal guns.

* Target and hold accountable irresponsible gun dealers who break the law by knowingly selling guns to straw purchasers.

*Oppose all federal efforts to restrict cities’ right to access, use, and share trace data that is so essential to effective enforcement, or to interfere with the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to combat illegal gun trafficking.

* Work to develop and use technologies that aid in the detection and tracing of illegal guns.

* Support all local, state, and federal legislation that targets illegal guns; coordinate legislative, enforcement, and litigation strategies; and share information and best practices.

* Invite other cities to join us in this new national effort.


Yes, he signed. When the meeting ended, the city council went into an executive session. Didn’t get a chance to ask da’ Mayor a couple questions regarding the rather stealthy way he let his anti-gun cat out of the bag.

Back last May, in his early days as mayor, Mayor Bob distributed a police press release about a shooting at a press conference he'd called on the budget. He made a passing reference to his gun control views and it stirred up a tempest. Mayor Kiss has since kept the lid on it. Until Monday night, anyway.

Can’t imagine one of his mayoral predecessors signing such a public-policy document without calling a press conference to sign it before the TV cameras, can you? That is, of course, if they would have signed it.

Interesting, eh?


*UPDATE*  11 A.M.

Looking for something to do this evening?

"Vermont's Two Year Term: Anachronism or a Bastion of Democracy"

A discussion between Former Governor Madeleine Kunin and University of 
Vermont Political Science Professor Frank Bryan.

Moderated by Emerson Lynn, Publisher, St. Albans Messenger

7 p.m Memorial Lounge, 3rd Floor Waterman Building, University of Vermont.

Also there's this possibility for:

Wednesday, November 29, Ira Allen Chapel, 6:30 p.m.

Who: Laurie David, environmental activist and producer of the 
documentary film An Inconvenient Truth

The lecture: "Stop Global Warming: The Solution Is You"


Monday, November 27, 2006

Secretary Tebbetts?

Very interesting front-page piece in Sunday's Rutland Herald/Times Argus by Louis Porter: "Growing list seen for Ag agency post."

And what makes it interesting is the presence of  Ch. 3 newsman Anson Tebbetts on the list - a list of possible choices to replace Steve Kerr as Vermont's Secretary of Agriculture.

Reports Porter:

Anson Tebbetts has been a reporter for WCAX-TV inside and outside the Statehouse, and he grew up on a Cabot farm where he still lives. His name has been floated as a replacement for Kerr; he's heard the rumors but not actively pursued the post, Tebbetts said.

Still, he can't say he wouldn't take the job, either.

"Agriculture has always been a big part of my life," he said. "It is certainly flattering to be on that list."

Tebbetts said he loves his current job reporting on policy instead of making it, but added that the job would be something he would "seriously look at" if it was offered.

Interesting, eh?

Of course, based on the softball questions Ol' Anson, the Cabot dairy farmer and Statehouse reporter for Ch. 3 has tossed at Gov. Douglas over the last few years, some would suggest he's already been working for the Douglas administration, eh?

Other potential candidates mentioned included: State Rep. Harvey Smith, Clark Hinsdale III, John Roberts of Cornwall, Jackie Folsom, president of the Vermont Farm Bureau and David Lane the current acting secretary.

P.S. Also on the media front, Veteran WPTZ reporter Stewart Ledbetter has been picked to replace Chris Graff as the host of "Vermont This Week" on Vermont Public Television. That's the weekly reporters' roundtable inaugurated by the late, great Jack Barry in the early 1980s. Chris Graff took over in the 1990s and is now moving on to a position at National Life.

Mr. Graff will be Bob Kinzel's guest on "Switchboard" on Vermont Public Radio Tuesday night at 7. He also be Mark Johnson's guest on WDEV Tuesday morning at 9:05.

Hey, we're not getting any younger, are we?


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Stocking Stuffer Extraordinaire!

“It is hard to remember today how little we thought of Dean when he assumed the governor’s office in 1991. We now have the perspective of his almost twelve years in office and his presidential run, but in August 1991, most insiders saw him as a lightweight. And a liberal one, at that. "(p.79)

Ah, memories! Thank you Chris Graff for gathering them all up in one marvelous volume titled “Dateline Vermont - Covering and uncovering the newsworthy stories that shaped a state - and influenced a nation.”

The new must-have for Vermont political junkies and history buffs should be hitting Vermont bookshops this week just in time for Christmas. You’ll also find it here and here.

It’s the perfect, long-awaited update to State Sen. Bill Doyle’s  “The Vermont Political Tradition - and those who helped make it.” The new Graff book takes us from the “Difficult 1960s” all the way through his firing last March as the longtime Montpeculiar bureau chief of the Associated Press. And tacked on the end are “The Top 20 Stories of the 20th Century” and “The 10 Most Influential Vermonters of the 20th Century.”

A great read and the perfect stocking stuffer!

Also plenty of  information you haven't heard before. For example, I never knew that when current Gov. Jim Douglas was first elected to the State House way back in 1972, he was driving on a Massachusetts drivers license! (p.30)

Or that Chris stopped covering or editing stories about Howard Dean's presidential quest because he refused the suggestion of his AP bosses to get his son Garrett not to work for Dean for America.

For those of you who lived through it, "Dateline Vermont"  will certainly jog the memory banks.  Well done!

Thanks, Chris.

And Chris Graff will be Bob Kinzel's guest on VPR's "Switchboard" this coming Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dubya Eliminates "Hunger!"

Bush_turkey Miracles never cease.

The standard Thanksgiving Week act of "kindness" by the president of the United States is to "compassionately" spare the lives of a couple turkeys - the kind with feathers. But our current president, George W. Bush, has gone a step farther. He's eliminated hunger!

According to report by Agence France Presse:

"The US government has tweaked its terminology in referring to the nearly 11 million Americans who face a constant struggle with hunger to refer to them as people with 'very low food security.'

"According to a report released this month by the US Department of Agriculture, roughly 35 million Americans had difficulty feeding themselves in 2005 and of those some 10.8 million went hungry.

"But unlike last year's report on hunger in America, which labeled families who don't get enough to eat as having "food insecurity with hunger," this year's report referred to them as having "very low food security."

I'm not making this up.

Patrick_leahy In fact, it was Vermont's senior senator - Patrick J. Leahy who brought this to our attenton with a Wednesday morning press release. St. Patrick is a senior member and former chairman of the Senate Committee On Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and has long led in Congress on policies to address hunger in America and overseas. Said Leahy:

"Hunger is an ongoing problem, people know what it means, and it should be a higher priority than it is.  I am going to continue to call hunger by its name, and I expect that many others who have long worked on this problem will too.

“Calling it something else is not going to bring us closer to solving it.  We need to be watchful to prevent wordplay from becoming a way to minimize the blight that hunger has on millions of Americans’ lives."

“More important than what we call hunger is what we do about it, and we need to watch closely right now as the Bush Administration sets its priorities for the new budget.  Hunger-relief efforts have been in a holding pattern for several years.  A nation as blessed as ours should not tolerate having millions of its families facing hunger day in and day out, year after year.  The Thanksgiving season is an appropriate time to redouble our commitment to ending hunger sooner, rather than later.”

Wonders never cease, eh?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On the Same Page?

Guv_1121 Republican Gov. Jim Douglas says “affordability” is the No. 1 issue facing the state as the legislature returns to the Statehouse in January. But the new senate president pro tem Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, says "global warming" is the No. 1 issue. Are we heading for a collision? 

Gov Jim Douglas told reporters Tuesday at his 11 a.m. presser in the Fifth Floor conference room that global warming is a very important issue and Vermont has done a lot to address it. Douglas noted he was "the first governor" to sign onto the regional greenhouse gas initiative and just this week lobbied the newly elected governor of Massachusetts to sign on to it as well. But on the campaign trail, Douglas said he heard more from voters about another subject. Said the Guv:

"I have to tell you that over the last six months or so of the campaign, what I hear Vermonters talk most about is property taxes and the other burdens of the cost of living in Vermont. We're always consistent with out strict environmental ethic and will continue to provide leadership on matters like global warming, but what really pinched Vermonters is the property tax bill that comes every year and the high cost of housing, health care and a college education."

Just our luck - Senate president-pro-tem-elect Peter Shumlin was at the Statehouse Tuesday for a meeting with House Speaker Gaye Symington.  They posed for our lens like tourists!

Informed of the Guv’s remarks, Shummy said there’s "no question affordability’s an issue." But he did not back off the bold statement he made here in Freyne Land two days ago that, in his view, "Everything’s related to global warming and the fact public officials are not directly addressing it." Said Putney Pete at the Statehouse today:

Speakerpres "When you see the polar ice cap dissappearing as quickly as it is, you look at the ramifications for affordability in Vermont, the ability to keep snow on our ski areas, job creation, the ability to make maple syrup, the ability for our farms to thrive and the list goes on and on.

In fact, our ability to live and let Vermont remain the great place that it is - it all depends upon our making a serious committment to changing the way we lead our lives and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. So affordability and global warming, frankly, are part of the same agenda."

We asked Democrat Shummy if he thinks he and Jimbo the Republican have much in common?

"I think we have a lot in common. We were all sent here by Vermonters. I can’t remember the public policy challenges that we’re facing in Vermont right now being as difficult and severe as they are, and I know we all want to solve those problems together.

"Take property tax - we’re going to need the governor. We’re going to need the House and the Senate working in a bipartisan effort to try to come up with creative solutions to that problem because there is no undiscovered pot of money to throw out there , no rabbit to suddenly pull out of the hat and say, hey, we can solve your problem, Vermonters, no more property tax heartache. So we’re going to have to work together. It’s going to be a team effort and we’re going to need a lot of help and a lot of gubernatorial leadership."

The governor and the incoming senate president pro tem have their first face-to-face meeting scheduled for next Monday. To be the fly on the wall...

P.S. We hopped in the fossil-fuel burner about 9:20 this morning to head for Montpeculiar. Pleasantly surprised to find Shummy was the in-studio guest on "The Mark Johnson Show" on WDEV. Wished I tuned in earlier because it sounded like he had opened with the global warming issue.

In fact, who is one of the callers?

None other than Gov. Douglas' press secretary Jason Gibbs. He was pleasant and the gist was something about how Gov. Douglas had indeed done stuff on global warming, but the signal in the car was crappy.

Nice to know he's listening, eh?

A Jim Douglas Tuesday?

We'll see. At least it looks like somebody thought it could be a Jim Douglas Tuesday.

The Guv is holding an 11 a.m. presser on the Fifth Floor in Montpeculiar. Looks like it's what we used to call a "regular governor's weekly." They died out, however, back in August when Democratic challenger Scudder Parker started scheduling pressers of his own an hour or two before the Guv's.

Gov. Scissorhands is also booked for Switchboard tonight at 7:05 on VPR to talk about the upcoming legislative session.

Wonder if "global warming" is on his to-do list?

Check back.....

Monday, November 20, 2006

Global Warming Monday

Holy you know what!

State Sen-elect Peter Shumlin is not the only person in Vermont who thinks global warming ain’t a theory, but rather a front-burner issue that simply cannot be ignored a minute longer.

“The fundamental question posed by global warming, is will we be living in a planet, will our children be living in a planet that is hospitable to life by the end of this century?”

Good question, eh?

Vpirglyons The questioner was James Moore from the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. He was releasing a VPIRG report focusing on how we could heat our homes in Vermont with less fossil-fuel use, lower heating bills and less pollution - especially the kind that’s heating up Ol’ Mother Earth in a way that’s dangerous to humans.

It is that time of year, isn’t it?

Next to what comes out our car, truck and SUV  tailpipes, home-heating is #2 for causing greenhouse gas emissions into the Earth's atmosphere. Heating costs have skyrocketed - more than doubling since 2002 - as the price of oil and natural gas has soared.

And worse! Those home-heating emissions are also contributing to global warming and climate change and a rather bleak future for our species unless more folks start speaking up like Vermont Senate president-pro-tem-in-waiting Peter Shumlin did in yesterday’s post - and start doing so real, real soon.

Do we really want to pretend any longer? Said VPIRG’s Moore:

“We are incredibly reliant on the tourism industry and the agricultural industry here in Vermont. When you look at climate change and the projected impacts on Vermont, we will not have a ski industry by mid-century potentially. We will not have a maple sugaring industry. We will not have a fall foliage industry.”

Also on hand at Monday’s Burlington Waterfront presser was State Sen. Virginia Lyons of Williston. Sen. Lyons is the favorite to be reappointed as chairman of the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee. Lyons cartainly sounds like she's on the same page as Shumlin when it comes to  the importance of the global warming issue and the demand for  legislative action. Said Sen. Lyons:

We need to pay attention to greenhouse gas emissions if we value our way of life in this state and region as well as in other parts of our globe.”

Don’t we have to do more than pay attention?

“That’s why we’re here. We want to start passing laws that will take us forward, that will help us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in this state. Everyone should be paying attention.”

To get a taste of what those laws might be like, check out the “Building Solutions” report online at VPIRG’s website.

Also did you see this?

"The inaction by Congress and the Bush administration on the threat of climate change may be seen in years to come as a far greater delinquency than their misadventure in Iraq. The evidence mounts daily that the ecosystems of the globe are undergoing changes more extreme than humankind has ever experienced."

From a very frank editorial in the Times Argus/Rutland Herald. Worth a read here. It's called "Global Delinquency."

Hey, mon ami, you are not alone.

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