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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Is Entergy Worried?

The early CW on the chances of Democrats overriding GOP Gov. Jim Douglas'  veto of their Global Warming Bill - "The Vermont Energy Efficiency and Affordability Act"  - was between none and next to none. H. 520 passed the House on an 85-61 vote. A two-thirds vote is required to take Gov. Jimbo's veto and park it where the moon don't shine.

Contrary to the CW, however, a few veteran Montpeculiar insiders took a very different approach. They suggested Democratic leaders actually should be able to override with no sweat. It's not just a matter of getting people to change their previous vote from "nay" to "aye," it's also about getting a few people to "stay home"  that day - that day being July 11.

R8dostis_2 This morning, House Natural Resources Chairman Robert Dostis [left] and Rep. Tony Klein, a committee member, were the guests on The Mark Johnson Show on WDEV. Johnson asked Chairman Dostis how he could possibly override?

"Well," replied the Chairman, "You need two-thirds of who is there."

Hint. Hint.

You think you can "realistically pull this off?" asked Marko.

"I would never count us out," replied Dostis. "Too important a piece of legislation."

Hint. Hint.

In addition, he noted, "People who previously opposed the bill are now supporting it." When they learn the facts, he said,  "They see it's a good bill."

Interesting. And soon things got even more interesting when Mark the Host took the next call and I - and the guests - instantly recognized the familiar South-Boston accent that's echoed up and down the Statehouse halls since the 1980s.

Gerry Morris, aka "Morris the Cat," is one of the top hired-gun business lobbyists under the golden dome. Mr. Morris [pictured below, right],  represents Entergy Vermont Yankee among other distinguished business clients, including Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc., Pfizer Inc, and  Vermont State Colleges.

MORRIS: Well, you both know Vermont Yankee does not pay a property tax which is why we pay less in property taxes now than we did in 2002. You both know that, right?

DOSTIS: Yeah. And that’s why I have to keep talking about money into the Education Fund and money into the General Fund, so it is a difference, but the bottom line is, call it what you want, it’s still basically a property tax, but it’s not based on fair-market-value.

Morris_the_cat MORRIS: Well, here’s the bottom line. We pay between $4.5 and $5 million a year into the state of Vermont through the generating tax, and the Legislature decided that 56 percent of that would go to the General Fund and the rest go to the Ed Fund, which is why, I believe, we’ve about $2 million of our money is going into the Ed Fund. So, in addition to that $4.5 million, we also contribute another $4.5 million to your Clean Energy Fund, and we also pay our local property tax. So for someone to say, we’re not paying our fair share of taxes, I really can’t understand that argument.

Just once, I would like to walk into a legislative committee and have someone on that committee say, ‘Well, gee, thanks, Entergy Vermont for saving Vermonters $650 million on their electric bills, for paying almost over $12 million into the state of Vermont  and local government and in your taxes. I mean, just once, I would like someone to say , ‘Thank you, Entergy, for all you’re doing for us!’

DOSTIS: Thank you, Entergy, for all you’re doing for us.

MORRIS: ...Instead of saying, here’s your 90 percent tax increase because we couldn’t figure out another way to pay for this new bureaucracy which doesn’t exist , hasn’t even been designed yet, as noble as its goals may be.

KLEIN: I do thank Entergy for paying into these funds, but one of the payments that he referred to was $4.5 million into the Clean Energy Fund. That money is only paid if Vermont Yankee is operating  in their ‘uprate’ mode - the 20 percent that wheels out of the state at terrific profit levels.

ust a "Freyne Land" thought: When Entergy's top, hired-gun Statehouse lobbyist is the person who calls the Democratic environmental leaders on talk radio to take them on mano-a-mano demanding hommage, you don't think someone's getting a little desperate, do you?

Veto, Veto, Veto!

A bit on the grungy side this morning in beautiful Burlington, eh?

Miss that sunshine, but, you know what?

Nothing we can do about it.

Speaker_symington_1 Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington (left, dare we say in the midst of the biggest political fight of her career?) is at this moment at the Royal Diner in Springfield on her post-Legislature, pre-veto override “Listening Tour!”

Madame Speaker will be at the Brattleboro Savings Bank over the noon hour. If you’re in the neighborhood, check her out, will ya?

Send me a picture! Report on turnout?

As everybody knows, Republican Gov. Jim Douglas will veto H. 520, the Democrats’ Fight-Global-Warming Bill as soon as he gets his hot little hands on it. As a warm-up, Gov. Scissorhands vetoed the new campaign finance reform bill yesterday.

Take that, you damn reformers!

The Legislature returns on July 11. This letter-to-the-editor in today’s Burlington Free Press from Democratic State Rep. Tony Klein of East Montpeculiar (pictured below right) makes the point most citizens are not aware of....yet. That’s because our Gov. Douglas and anti-Democrat bomb-thrower John McClaughry have done a marvelous job of defining the global warming legislation their way - over, and over and over.


But they get in the way!

Wind will be taxed like nuclear power

JR7kleinohn McClaughry's recent diatribe against the Legislature was full of whoppers, starting with his assertion that the all-fuels efficiency created by the Legislature would cost $25 million per year if signed into law by Gov. Jim Douglas. The real number is $4.5 million to $5 million per year, starting in 2009 and ending in 2012.

McClaughry then goes on to endorse the sweetheart deal that Vermont Yankee is getting at the expense of property taxpayers. Apparently McClaughry, like Gov. Douglas, thinks it's fair to single out Yankee's Louisiana-based owner, Entergy, for a freeze on property taxes. Entergy, after adding a multimillion-dollar addition to Yankee's production capacity, paid less last year into the education fund than it did in 2002. While every other Vermont resident and business sees property taxes go up, Entergy's property taxes go down. It's unclear how McClaughry, or Douglas, for that matter, can defend that inequity as fair.

But the clincher is McClaughry's assertion that wind developers are "corporate welfare" recipients when, in fact, the climate-change bill levies the same tax on wind as it does on Entergy.

Let's just get this straight: According to McClaughry, if you tax wind producers at one amount, they are corporate welfare recipients. If you tax nuclear power plants at the exact same rate, they are victims of an anti-business legislature.

East Montpelier

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

Joan_of_arc The anniversary, that is, of the execution, the burning at the stake, of a certain 19 year old female on May 30, 1431:

Tied to a tall pillar, she asked two of the clergy, Martin Ladvenu and Isambart de la Pierre, to hold a crucifix before her. She repeatedly called out in a loud voice "the holy name of Jesus, and implored and invoked without ceasing the aid of the saints of Paradise."

After she expired, the English raked back the coals to expose her charred body so that no one could claim she had escaped alive, then burned the body twice more to reduce it to ashes and prevent any collection of relics. They cast her remains into the Seine.The executioner, Geoffroy Therage, later stated that he "...greatly feared to be damned for he had burned a holy woman."

Got the above paragraphs from Wikipedia. Quite an interesting read. I recommend it. The good old Hundred Years War!

Some things never change,  eh?

Joan of Arc, executed in 1431, lives on into our time through the pens and chords of Dublin's George Bernard Shaw and Montreal's Leonard Cohen.

Joan_of_arc_interrogation The trial record demonstrates her remarkable intellect. The transcript's most famous exchange is an exercise in subtlety. "Asked if she knew she was in God's grace, she answered: 'If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.'"

The question is a scholarly trap. Church doctrine held that no one could be certain of being in God's grace. If she had answered yes, then she would have convicted herself of heresy. If she had answered no, then she would have confessed her own guilt.

Notary Boisguillaume would later testify that at the moment the court heard this reply, "Those who were interrogating her were stupefied." In the twentieth century George Bernard Shaw would find this dialogue so compelling that sections of his play Saint Joan are literal translations of the trial record.

Hey, I grew up in an Irish-Catholic house where anyone who fought the English in the 15th Century and was canonized a saint in the 20th Century was exempt from questions about her sexual orientation.

Then in the 1970s, L. Cohen provided the icing on Joan of Arc's cake:

Joan_times_square_1948_2 She said, I’m tired of the war,
I want the kind of work I had before,
A wedding dress or something white
To wear upon my swollen appetite.

Well, I’m glad to hear you talk this way,
You know I’ve watched you riding every day
And something in me yearns to win
Such a cold and lonesome heroine.

Then fire, make your body cold,
I’m going to give you mine to hold,
Saying this she climbed inside
To be his one, to
be his only bride.

And deep into his fiery heart
He took the dust of Joan of arc,
And high above the wedding guests
He hung the ashes of her wedding dress.

It was deep into his fiery heart
He took the dust of Joan of arc,
And then she clearly understood
If he was fire, oh then she must be wood...


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Quebec Discovers Bernie!


Pat & Pete were doing their Middle East recess junket-thing Tuesday, the third and last member of Vermont's robust congressional delegation held a presser in Burlap. One of the most energetic, upbeat senior citizens I know, too.

Sen. Bernie Sanders had Marian Wright Edleman - director of the Children's Defense Fund - "live" with him on a video uplink from his Capitol Hill office.

Next week, Ol' Bernardo will introduce his "All Healthy Children Act." Pretty radical stuff: health care coverage for all of America's kids.

Agnes_bernie Also in attendance, besides yours truly and reps from three local news shops (TV Chs. 3 & 5 and the Freeps), was Agnes Gruda (at right, with The Bernster), a distinguished writer from the Montreal daily La Presse.

Agnes is doing a feature, a profile on the socialist senator on the Quebec border. Interviewed Sanders one-on-one after the presser. She said she'll let us know when it's published (online), and we'll let you know.

En francais, of course

She interviewed me on the phone yesterday.

Hey, they may play ice hockey up there, but Montreal is a world away and Ol' Agnes knew very, very little about Bernie Sanders, America's champion of Canadian-style, single-payer health care for all!

Report From the Middle East

St Word via email from the Middle East this afternoon that the congressional delegation U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont is leading completed its meetings in Jordan earlier today and is traveling on to Israel, the West Bank and Lebanon. Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont is also on the trip.

St. Patrick’s Press Secretary David Carle informs “Freyne Land” :

"They had illuminating and candid discussions with The King and separate meetings with several government ministers, including the foreign minister and the justice minister.  he sessions have been dominated by discussions about Palestinian refugee issues and fallout in the region from the war in Iraq and from the strengthened position the war has given to. Iran. The King emphasized the importance of resuming the peace process.”

Mr. Carle also told us they’d been briefed by UN and NGO officials “about the Palestinian and Iraqi refugee situations in the region.”

Also, there was considerable discussion in separate briefings, “about a looming crisis in the murders and exiles of most Iraqi academics.”

Leahy’s veteran spokesman said “an emotional high point was the delegation's visit to the largest Palestinian refugee settlement in Jordan, the Baqa settlement, managed by the UN.”

And Mr. Carle passed along this comment from the keyboard of St. Patrick:

"I look at what the children in the refugee camps face, day in and day out and often decade after decade, and I wonder what kind of generation is being created.  A photo of a young refugee looks over my desk to remind me of that.  If we don't come up with better answers, history will repeat itself."

Patrick & Peter are planning a conference-call presser from the Middle East with the Vermont press around noon tomorrow our time.

Douglas for Governor!

Jim_douglas Check out Sue Allen's sweet piece on GOP Gov. Jim Douglas' plans for a fourth gubernatorial campaign in 2008 in today's Rutland Herald.

Douglas finds future in the past

"The terms are brief," Douglas said. He is serving his third two-year term, after being first elected governor in 2002.

"I sometimes am frustrated that change can't occur faster," he said. "I certainly have a lot more to do and expect to try to continue."

Topping his list of priories, as it has in recent years, is controlling the high cost of living in Vermont — a challenge the governor dubbed his "affordability agenda." For the 2008 session, for example, he said increasing affordable housing would be his key initiative.

Hey, let's not forget, Sweet Sue was a distinguished gubernatorial press secretary for that little doctor guy...whatshisname?

Anybody have any Democratic candidate suggestions?

And here's a couple of Burlington's "Finest" non-political performers out for a late afternoon serenade on the Church Street Marketplace yesterday. Gotta run to an Ol' Bernardo presser at 11:30 downtown.....


Monday, May 28, 2007

Clinton Does Middlebury

The most popular wife-cheating, skirt-chaser to occupy the Oval Office since John Fitzgerald Kennedy was in Vermont on Sunday to give the keynote address at the Middlebury College Graduation.

William Jefferson Clinton.

Clintondouglas_sunday_2 I was able to catch a chunk of the speech live online [right] on Sunday morning. That's GOP Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas [left] on Ch. 3's "You Can Quote Me."

Quite a doubleheader, eh?

Of course, Big Bill does have a Middlebury connection - sort of.  Middlebury College grad Ron Brown was President Clinton's Secretary of Commerce.

And before that, Sec. Brown had the job fellow New Yorker, former physician and once-upon-a-time Vermont Gov. Howard Dean now performs so well - chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Brown, a native of Harlem, as opposed to Ho-Ho's Upper East Side roots, was killed in a plane crash on an official mission in wartime Croatia in 1996.

Remarkably, President Clinton, unlike the current occupant of the White House - George "WMD" Bush - does have first-hand experience with impeachment, but I did not see it mentioned in the news coverage.

What was his alleged "high crime and misdemeanor?"

No bombshells here, folks. President Clinton the Ist lied under oath in a civil lawsuit about living out his sexual fantasies with Monica, the twentysomething White House aide. Of course, that happened before most of the Middlebury graduates seated before him on Sunday had even entered puberty. Besides, as long as his wife Hillary stayed with him...?

Press reports of the Clinton speech are, for the most part quite, similar as they should be. Bill was there to preach "community," urging the grads to recognize our similarities rather than our differences. He noted we human animals are genetically 99.9 percent the same!

Limbaugh But only Ch. 3's Andy Potter put Clinton's line connecting that "99.9 percent similarity" to right-wing radio talk show motormouth Rush Limbaugh [left] in his report. The Dinglebury grads of 2007 may not be aware, but Ol' Rush built his gazillion-dollar radio talk show empire off of what some would call Bill's "zipper problem."

Said President Clinton the First:

"I met Rush Limbaugh the other night in New York, and I was tempted after all the terrible things he said about me to tell him we were 99.9 percent the same." -- long laughter -- "I was afraid the poor man would run weeping from the restaurant, and so I let it go."

***UPDATED Monday 10:30 a.m.***

Inspired, no doubt, by my interesting 2007 engagement with cancer, I've heard myself saying frequently of late that life is all about how well you play the cards dealt you. Not many of us get four aces in their opening hand, and many of those that do end up blowing it all anyway.

Galisteo And that thought was back in the center square of the Ol' Freyne Brain this morning when my Memorial Day plans ran into a roadblock. [Painting at right is Galisteo by sister Maureen in Santa Fe. Nice, eh?)

I was going to shoot down to Vergennes to catch the Memorial Day Parade there. It's an annual event on my political calendar because it usually draws an interesting crew of pols even in a non-election year. Gov. Scissorhands will march. 'Course this year, Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch (his designated successor?) are on a Middle East congressional info-junket and won't be there. Still, I assume Sen. Bernie Sanders would show, doing his proverbial, independent,  one-man march and wave. And  Mr. Mainstream Vermont Radical is always good to take a few questions.

Plus, I'd heard representatives of VT Veterans for Peace were going to march - carrying a casket to represent the 3435 of their comrades who died for the Bush Administration's Big Bad Iraq Lie.

I always bring my bike to cover the Vergennes March. Mobility. Gets me around to take as much in as possible. But not this year. I took the wheels off the bike and toss it in my trunk. But still I need to get the back seat to fold down to make the necessary space.

Only one half would. Believe me, I tried.

Then I tried lowering the bike seat.

The latch, however, like half of the car back seat, simply would not budge!

The appropriate profanities followed, as well as one of those "light-in-the-brain" realizations that maybe there's a message here, Pedro?

Maybe you're not supposed to cover this year's Vergennes Parade. Maybe you'd fall and crack your skull (since you can't find your bike helmet), or maybe there'd be another similarly unfortunate circumstance?

In fact, before falling asleep last night, there was a seed of doubt that sprouted out of nowhere about today's Vergennes plans.

Interesting, eh?

That's what I thought.

These "tea leaves" seemed obvious. We'll go with the flow. Besides, I have a Vermont Business Magazine column due today. This will make making that deadline a lot easier.

Ah, life!

One day at a time.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Marathon Burlington

Good cool weather for the runners in the 2007 Vermont City Marathon. Kicked off at 8 am. Got this shot around the corner just before the 10-mile marker on Pine Street. My watch read 8:55 am. These two guys led the field and No. 1 Matt Pelletier, last year's winner, won again in an unofficial time of 2 hrs. 19 mins.

Then I went across the street, grabbed a New York Times and a bottomless cup of Speeder & Earle's coffee and had my Burlington Marathon experience for the year.

Didn't see any politicians running, nor any runner sport a political statement like "Impeach" or "Out of Iraq."  But I did catch one chap, a few pounds overweight, who ran carrying an American flag and a tee-shirt that declared his "love" for "God."

I hope God appreciated it.

Anything in the paper today?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

War Talk

Al_salzman Downtown Burlington was jumping with out-of-towners this afternoon, many here for tomorrow’s Vermont City Marathon. But not everybody.

I was snapping a few shots at College & Church of The Burlington Free Press building just in case it suddenly gets sold, when this familiar face shouted out my name and hopped out of his outdoor cafe seat at Sweetwaters.

Al Salzman is a now-retired Franklin County art teacher, who’s also an artist in his own right and an actor, activist and much more. And like others I bumped into downtown and chatted with on the bricks of the Marketplace or in the coffee shop, the positively, immoral, shameful, dishonest and utterly stupid bloodbath called “The U.S. War in Iraq” was the 800 lb. gorilla in everyone’s consciousness. Said Al:

You know what I’m waiting for? And it’s going to happen. The insurgency, either the Sunni or the Shia , or al Qaeda, although the talk of al Qaeda connected with this is sheer bullshit, there’s a small number, I’m sure, but, I’m waiting for them to tunnel under the Green Zone and blow up the American Embassy.

But what about Congress voting to continue funding the war - no time lines, no pressure on King George?

It’s disgraceful. It’s absolutely disgraceful. It’s history repeating itself. Georges Santayana was right.

Said Spanish-born U.S. philosopher Santayana in The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We’re doomed to repeat it and we’re repeating it now.

I like Charlie Rangel. He says let’s have the draft [aka. Selective Service System], I mean, if we’re gonna do this. And if Bush says this is the war of the century, a clash of civilizations, where are the taxes? If it’s so critical and it’s so vital and so important. If this is the end all and be all? Why don’t we have a draft?

Because George “WMD” Bush & Dick Cheney, two successful Vietnam War draft-dodgers, could never have pulled off their treason if they had to rely on a draft to stock their body bags. The American people would have paid closer attention, family-by-family, draftee-by-draftee.

Instead, they got away with using the National Guard. Abusing the National Guard. Decimating the National Guard. And the nation’s governors went along with it like good soldiers. A blank check for “the worst president in U.S. history.”

Some of you may have caught Salzman’s recent letter-to-the-editor that ran in a couple of Vermont dailies - a letter sticking up for the troops, something the White House has failed utterly at doing. Here’s a taste:

It was reported in The New York Times that the military has been purposely downgrading the degree of disabilities among our wounded to a classification that makes many of them ineligible for full benefits - just to save money. A recent study by the Pentagon has concluded that the military does not have the resources to treat mental and emotional trauma suffered by returning Iraq veterans. Such an admission from the military not known for its honesty (think Pat Tillman) indicates a problem of horrendous proportions.

When we, as a society, send our young men and women into battle, there is an implicit moral contract that those of us who have remained behind in safety, with no sacrifice other than to go shopping, must demand that our wounded be looked after with all the resources at our command. That this has not been done violates that moral contract and invalidates any soldier's duty to serve.

To protest this criminal neglect of our wounded soldiers, I am asking Adjutant General Dubie, commander of the Vermont National Guard to refuse to deploy any Vermont Guardsmen into harm's way. Given the betrayal of our service people by our government, it is the only right thing General Dubie can do - even if it means a court martial and the end of his career. General Dubie should take note that in the World Court the explanation, "I was only doing my duty!" is not an excuse for moral irresponsibility.

Al Salzman
Fairfield, Vt.

Down at the end of the block we caught these two members of Burlington's "Finest," getting ready for a busy Saturday Night in the Queen City. Nice bike, eh? Nice cuffs, too.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday's Gubernatorial Scoop!

Gov Yours truly was the only member of the Fourth Estate to show up this noon at the Sheraton to catch our Governor as he was on hand to address a VSAC luncheon.

And it paid off in more ways than one. I got the scoop!

"Yesterday," said Gov. Jim Douglas, "I celebrated 32 years of wedded bliss."

"You did? To the same woman?" I asked.

"You bet."


"And I’m signing up for another 32!' he told us in our exclusive in the hotel lobby.

I didn't know about Jimbo's wedding anniversary when I went to see him today, but I did have a "sex" question on my list.

This morning's Freeps reported GOP Jim had on Tuesday - three days ago - quietly signed into law S. 51, a landmark human rights bill. The new law prohibits discrimination in Vermont based on "gender identity."

I asked the Guv why the gubernatorial signing of such an historic piece of human rights legislation didn't make his public schedule?

DOUGLAS: I sign most bills without going on the schedule. It’s the exception that they are when there’s an invitation or a reason to have a ceremony, but the vast majority of bills are signed [in private].

Q. Are you proud you signed it?

DOUGLAS: Obviously, last year, I vetoed it on the recommendation of the Human Rights Commission which is charged with enforcing it. They didn’t feel it was enforceable. So over the last year I’ve met with members of the transgendered community, the Human Rights Commission has, and we’ve made changes that will make it work. Vermonters don’t want to discriminate, but there is a lot of controversy over that.

Q. You getting flack for it?

DOUGLAS:  There’s some people who have expressed their opposition, so I frankly didn’t feel the need for a signing event.

Q. Because it’s controversial? I can write that because it’s a touchy, controversial issue, the governor did not have a signing ceremony?

DOUGLAS: Yes, I guess. I’m not sure the advocates asked for one frankly. I don’t know. I think that’s true...I don’t recall that they did.

Interesting, eh?

Remember when Democrat Howard Dean signed the landmark Civil Unions Bill in the closet, too?

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