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Saturday, June 30, 2007

You Can Quote Him

Sand_2 Sunday morning at 11 a.m. on WCAX-TV, Ch. 3,  Windsor County's veteran State's Attorney Bobby Sand [right] occupies the guest chair on You Can Quote Me.

Even law enforcement types who don't agree with Sand the Prosecutor about taking a "harm-reduction," rather than "lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key" approach, to "illegal" drugs, privately admire his courage.

Hey, did you know that, "The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners, incarcerating more than 2.3 million citizens in its prisons and jails, at a rate of one in every 136 U.S. residents—the highest rate of incarceration in the world?"

Did you realize that "55% of all federal and over 20% of all state prisoners are convicted of drug law violations, many serving mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession offenses."

Or how about the fact that "federal, state, and local costs of the war on drugs exceed $40 billion annually , yet drugs are still widely available in every community, drug use and demand have not decreased, and most drug prices have fallen while purity levels have increased dramatically?"

Yep. Get past the government propaganda and one is faced with the fact that the Ol' "War on Drugs" is about as effective as the Ol' "War on Terror."

The truth hurts.

And maybe you knew, but I honestly had no idea that "cities across the country have experienced a rise in violent crime and must prioritize scarce law enforcement resources, yet the nation’s police arrested a record 786,545 individuals on marijuana related charges in 2005—almost 90% for simple possession alone—far exceeding the total number of arrests for all violent crimes combined!"

Let's see, the current official estimated population of the State of Vermont - every man, woman and child - is 623,908.

That's 162,637 more pot arrests in America than there are human beings in the Green Mountain State!  Sad but true. Great use of our police resources and tax dollars, eh?

My source?

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the above is from the resolution adopted at last week's 75th Annual Meeting of the USCM in Los Angeles. Check column-right under "Adopted Resolutions" for a complete copy. [Go to pages 47-50.] America's mayors have had it. They officially want to see "A New Bottom Line In Reducing the Harms of Substance Abuse."

Change is in the air, eh?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Greed is Good in Healthcare?

Savoy Went to Montpelier for the Vermont premier of Michael Moore's Sicko at 9:30 this morning at the Savoy.

Yours truly and WPTZ-TV were the only media to show up for the presser at the front door of the Savoy Theater that Dr. Deb Richter organized.

Powerful stuff. Mind-opening. Heart-breaking. It's about a whole lot more than the visit to Cuba part that's received all the pre-opening U.S. mainstream-media hype. The visits to Canada, yes, Canada and Paris, France and London, England will blow your all-American mind. They certainly did mine.

Closer to home, he refuses to see Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, still, so I'd be shocked if Vermont's Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, a governor who publicly supports opening up our state to every cherry-picking health insurance outfit in existence, went anywhere near this flick.

More later....

Much moore.

"Battlefield Breakdown" Update

Laura_cnn Just got home from Montpeculiar and checked the ol' email and learned that this weekend's premier of "Battlefield Breakdown" the CNN Special Investigations Unit Special Report yours truly highlighted in this week's "Inside Track" column in the print edition of Seven Days had been canceled.

The powerful one-hour investigative report was produced by Rice High School and UVM grad Laura Bernardini, with veteran CNN news guy John King and Jung Park and Doug Schantz who work the camera/sound angle.

The first email indicated the powers that be at CNN had pulled the program early this morning "due to breaking news regarding the foiled London terror plot."

You know, the green Mercedes packed with 60 litres of petrol, gas cylinders and nails, and discovered parked outside the Tiger Tiger night club in Haymarket last night? London police say hundreds of innocent people could have been killed.

Ah, yes, what a wonderful world it is.

Great leaders.

The news, I confess, bummed me out. Finally a major mainstream U.S. news network was going to tell it like it is on how this administration has treated its fighting men and women and they pull the plug at the last minute to fan the ol' 9/11-type War on Terror flames.


Then about 2:45, "Freyne Land" got word that CNN had changed its mind - a little bit. The "Battlefield Breakdown" documentary will air this weekend after all!

Only it won't be in prime time as originally scheduled.  Here are the new times:
Saturday 6:00AM – 7:00AM, 3:00PM and Sunday 6:00AM and 2:00PM.

Don't know about you, but I am an early riser these days.

Nixonian Flashbacks


"This is a further shift by the Bush administration into Nixonian stonewalling and more evidence of their disdain for our system of checks and balances," Leahy said.

"Nixonian stonewalling," eh?

Shall we say, the perfect word selection by Vermont's senior Sen. Patrick J. Leahy?

The Senate Judiciary Committee Leahy is chairman of has issued subpoenas to the White House for documents and testimony that will help to uncover the truth about the Bush firing of all those federal prosecutors. We still live in a democracy, right?

*UPDATE: Chairman Leahy will appear live Sunday morning on NBC's "Meet the Press" for a 15-minute solo segment regarding the subpoenas.

C'mon St. Patrick, comb your hair nice.

Vpirgkurt_wright Closer to home, these folks were out exercising their democratic right of freedom of speech on North Avenue in Burlington last night. Their issue is global warming. And their target is Republican State Rep. Kurt Wright, whose district they were in. Ol' Kwik-Stop Kurt, along with all the other House Republicans, voted "no" on H. 520, the top priority of Democratic Senate leader Peter Shumlin, the big global-warming bill that passed and received a firm gubernatorial veto.

Lawmakers return on July 11 for a veto-override attempt. And it appears obvious to all now, including Shumlin, they simply do not have the two-thirds vote required to win.

That's prompted Shummy & Co. to offer a deal -  the withdrawal from the legislation of its controversial funding source, the tax on power generation on Entergy's Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon, Vermont.

"This is dead meat," suggested yours truly to the tiny band of environmental activists. "There’s no impeachment override. The Democrat leaders concede they don’t have the votes. It’s not about getting Kurt’s vote; they can’t even get enough Democrats!"

"That’s only half the point," replied Vermont Public Interest Research Group Field Associate Sean Sarah. "The other half of the point is action and letting people know, and letting legislators know, it’s not just about this one vote, it’s about the issue. And even if we lose this vote, the issue’s still around. The amount of play it’s gotten in the media tells us it’s still going to be around whether we win or lose and that’s equally important."

By the way, "Freyne Land" was the only media that dropped by Thursday's protest.

"I’m sure there’s a chance we’re going to lose." said the VPIRG organizer. "We’re still going to fight and even if we lose, we still have the issue. That’s the most important thing, continuing the dialog afterward."

Becca McHale, a sign-holding Burlington graphic designer, said she liked Gov. Douglas "a lot more before this."

"You didn't vote for him, did you?" I asked.

"No, I didn't, actually, but I didn't think he was this bad!"

McHale said she thought that, "It was the Yankee tax that really did 'em in."

Carrie Shamel, a Burlington social worker, said she was protesting the governor of Vermont's veto of H. 520 during Thursday's dinner hour because she was "saving the planet for my great-great grandchildren."

And the youngest of the tiny band, 17-year-old Sarah Pennucci of South Burlington had biked into the Queen City [no helmet!] for the protest.

"It’s my future that this is concerning," she told me with determination. "Most of the people making the laws will be dead before any of this has any effect, but I have to deal with it and I think I should be part of trying to solve it."

Sarah got wind of the event from a friend at the recently started Vermont Youth Activism Network.

"I think our governor really needs to get a backbone already and stop cow-towing kowtowing [thanks Kitchen Talker], to businesses," added Sean Zigmund, a "computer geek" by trade. "This is not about money anymore. This is really about our future. It's up to the younger generation to step up and say this is bullshit."

Why the rather small turnout Thursday evening on North Avenue? There were more protest signs than hands to hold them.

"Honestly," said Zigmund, "I think it’s because we live in a society and a country where we’re complacent because of the fact that we’re spoon fed eveything through the media and we just buy whatever we’re told.

"And we’re content with what we have and we’re very comfortable. If people weren’t comfortable you’d know they’d be out in the streets screaming about it."

He's got a point, eh?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

History Lesson?

Winter Hey, remember winter?

Cool down. It'll return. Like history, winter has a way of repeating itself.

You know, the longer I live, the more I realize the glaring flaw in this little type of primate that I am - the inability to overcome the inability to live under primate leadership that tells the truth and is committed to making peace, not war, its top priority.

And history provides endless lessons, doesn't it?

I had a bunch of Vermont political balls in the air inside the "Freyne Brain" this morning, but then Ol' Garrison Keillor's magnificent Minnesota mind absolutely blew me away with his Writer's Almanac on VPR.

World War I - we all learned about it in school, right?

Today is both the anniversary of the event that started World War I and the day that the treaty was signed that officially brought the war to a close.

The event that started the war was the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a Bosnian revolutionary on this day in 1914 in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo.

One month after the assassination, Austria used the event as an excuse to declare war on Serbia, even though the nation of Serbia had nothing to do with the assassination. Germany chose to back Austria in its attack. Russia chose to defend Serbia. France entered the war against Germany. And when Germany invaded Belgium, Great Britain got involved as well, having pledged to defend Belgium from any invaders. That series of alliances led to the largest war ever conducted in history at that point. About ten million people died in the next four years of fighting.

Lesfleurs The enormous bloodbath we call "World War I" [first of dozens?] officially ended on this June day in 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

It redrew the maps of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Four fallen empires [the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and Tsarist Russia], were dissolved and their global territory redrawn.

It was done in private by three men:  Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Georges Clemenceau of France, and David Lloyd George of Great Britain.  Among the countries created by the Treaty of Versailles was Yugoslavia, which collapsed into civil war in the 1990s, and a country every American has now heard of - Iraq.

Just about every major European or Middle Eastern conflict in the last few decades can be traced back to the decisions made in 1919. One of the people paying close attention to the conference was a young Southeast Asian kitchen assistant at the local Ritz Hotel named Ho Chi Minh. During the conference, he submitted a petition appealing for the independence of his home country, Vietnam. But the petition was ignored. So even the Vietnam War can be traced back to the Treaty of Versailles.

French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau would later say, "It is much easier to make war than peace."

Thanks, Garrison.

Now fast-forward to the present day and listen to Major General Rick Lynch explain what his U.S. fighting men and women have been doing over the last 12 days, claiming "control" of all of 6 kilometers of ground along the Tigris River on the south side of Baghdad, Iraq.

The straight-talking professional soldier compared his troops task to "playing three-dimensional chess in the dark."

Hear General Lynch for yourself here.

Bottom line: Lynch and his fighting men and women deserve better leaders in the White House and on Capitol Hill. Just like the soldiers of my generation did when they told us if we didn't stop the Communists in Vietnam they'd be in California next!

Instead, we've got Russian hockey players from the Land of Lenin in the NHL and the governor of Vermont, a Republican, just returned from a trade mission to Red China.

You tell me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Old Timers Day?

Louie_and_arty2 The thermometer hit 96 degrees again in Beautiful Burlington, Vermont, but the humidity was significantly higher than yesterday and that kept a lot of the outdoor tables empty this noon, downtown on The Church Street Marketplace.

Air-conditioning was quite the "hot" commodity today, eh?

There were exceptions.

Recognize these two dudes at Ken's Pizza?

You'd recognize their voices...if you had been listening to Burlington radio through the 1980s and 90s.

That's Louie Manno of "Manno & Condon" fame on WQCR-FM and WKDR-AM on the left [Jim Condon has ended up representing Colchester in the Vermont Legislature.]

On the right, the one and only Arty Lavigne who year-after-year made 'The Wizard" aka WIZN-FM, rock!

Yours truly was en route to a lunch date at Sweetwaters with an old Vermont reporter-type - Diane Derby.  "Derbs" is quite familiar to Vermont news junkies and was U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords' last press secretary. Ate in the air-conditioned interior on the College Street side and got to watch all my "pals" from the Freeps go out for their lunch breaks.

Judge2 The conversation was so good I completely forgot I was packing the little camera.

Realized that when I was sitting on the top block an hour later and this "tourist-type"  walked by.

Recognize him?

Let's just say you would if he had the black robe on over the shorts and Hawaiian shirt and you were in the courtroom on the Fifth Floor of the Federal Building during one of the many sessions he presides over.

Looks in pretty good shape, doesn't he?

Nice shirt.

Said he was coming back from his lunch break.

Given the decisions of the Roberts Court this term, I say, when it comes to the First Amendment: Use it, or lose it!

Vermont Will Be No. 1

Bush Vermont was the first state to ban slavery, the first state to ban roadside billboards and the first state to recognize the loving relationships of same-sex couples.

And after tomorrow, Thursday,  June 28, 2007,  it will be the ONE and ONLY state in the United States of America that the most incompetent and dishonest president in our history - George "WMD" Bush - has not visited.

Until this week, there have been two states on the Bush no-go list. The Green Mountain State and Rhode Island have jointly shared the honor and distinction of not having had to "show the flag" for Bush II.

His daddy, President George Herbert Walker Bush visited all 50 states, including Vermont, during his one term in the White House.  And his successor, Democrat William Jefferson Clinton did make it to all 50, too, hitting Nebraska in his final month in office.

Word's out this week that the current President Bush plans to speak Thursday at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. His topic will be the global fight against terrorism [something he's a real authority on, eh?]

The Republican president is making the trip to the heavily Democratic Ocean State before heading north for a vacation at the seaside estate of his father, former President George H.W. Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine, said a Bush spokesman.

You know what that means, don't you?

After Thursday, we're No. 1.

Hip, hip, hooray!!!

You'd think Republican Gov. Jim Douglas' angry veto of H. 520, the Democrats/tree-huggers global-warming bill that ticks off Corporate Vermont so much from Entergy to the oil dealers, would soften Bush II up a little, wouldn't you?

C'mon Jimbo, use your Republican Party clout!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wow, Democrats Can Count!

What else explains this little missive that went out to the Vermont media around lunchtime:

Shumlin22 "The leadership of the Vermont House and Senate today announced that in light of Governor Douglas’s veto of H.520 and his objection to the source of funding for the bill, Senator Shumlin [at right] and Speaker Symington [currently in Norway] will propose a suspension of the rules during the veto override session on July 11 to consider the same bill with the funding for an all fuels efficiency utility removed.

"Since the legislation vetoed by the governor stipulates that funding for the all fuels efficiency utility will be needed starting in 2009, this proposal would allow the legislature to consider how to fund the utility when it reconvenes in January.

"In the meantime, the planning process for the utility, as well as other key provisions in H. 520, will be enacted as stipulated by the bill.  Senator Shumlin and Representative Robert Dostis, Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, are meeting with Governor Douglas tomorrow to inform him of this proposal

I can think of a few Statehouse lobbyists who just might be having a few cold ones this evening in celebration of well-earned Democratic surrender!


Up and at 'em bright and early - it's a two-column Tuesday ahead!

Knock off the VT BIZ one first [one I don't think certain leading Democrats will enjoy], and then roll right into "Track." And good news on the "hands" front - the swelling's really gone down a whole lot. The infection's on the run.

Jeezum crow, at the Sunday Democratic Party event, after one handshake, I had to give it up - hurt too damn much!

Interesting object, the human body, eh?

Sadowsky2 And there's Ch. 3's "Morning Meteorologist" Gary Sadowsky giving everyone the straight news about the day ahead and it's all about a little three-letter word - HOT! HOT! HOT!

Thank you, Gary, only former bike-shop manager I know who holds college degrees in philosophy [University of Minnesota] and meteorology [Lyndon State]!

No, I don't own an air-conditioner.

I live in Vermont.

I have two fans!

And why is Paris Hilton's release from jail the top story on the national morning news in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?

I've managed to avoid that one.

Corporate media at its very best!

Who is Paris Hilton?

But I do know who Bellows Falls High School graduate Liam Madden is, and if you don't, you should!

Check this.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Procrastinating Pete

No panic. Deadlines are the cornerstones of journalism. Things have to be in by a certain time, no ifs, ands, or buts.  I'll knock out the print version of "Inside Track" tomorrow, but my plan was to knock out the "Under the Dome" column for the monthly Vermont Business Magazine "sometime today."

Les_fleurs_2 Instead, I spent time on the "Inside Track" trail this morning. Then strolled down to the caffeine outpost on Pine Street [taking pictures of the flowers along the way] for the print edition of The New York Times avec the bottomless $1.75 Speeder & Earl's high-test.

Though the folks at the tables, all solo flyers with their laptops, never spoke, either to me or one another [laptop culture?], one of the college students working there for the summer had some recent personal experiences to share that were right in synch with an item I'm pursuing for "Inside Track."


Then as I was reading The Times - interesting front-page story about the Japanese sushi CRISIS - they're running low on bluefin tuna - the picture of the VT BIZ column started to materialize between the ol' ears. Interesting how that works.

Came home and the phone started ringing. Political types. But then I did something I rarely do - turned on the Ch. 5/WPTZ "News at 5" and there's a shot of Burlington Attorney Jerry O'Neill going ballistic in the Chittenden Superior Court hallway. Why?

Mistrial declared in priest sex case

Associated Press Writer
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -- A mistrial was declared Monday in a priest sex case accusing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington of negligence when a diocesan lawyer overstepped the bounds established by a judge in questioning the alleged victim.

Chittenden County Superior Court Judge Ben Joseph declared the mistrial at the request of lawyers for James Turner, 46, of Virginia Beach, Va., saying Diocesan lawyer David Cleary violated the pretrial ruling....

"We will have a different judge, with a different perspective on the case," said Cleary outside court, referring to a retrial.

Jerome O'Neill, one of Turner's lawyers, said he never saw such a blatant violation of a pretrial ruling. He said he would seek to have the Diocese found liable for the attorneys' fees and expenses incurred by Turner.

"The Diocese wins again," O'Neill said. "It manages to keep a complainant from coming forward."

In his suit, Turner said Willis - who has since been defrocked - molested him as they slept with several other people in a Latham, N.Y., hotel room after attending an ordination ceremony for Bernard Turner.

James Turner was 16 at the time.

It’s tomorrow’s front-pager.

Interesting comment by the Diocese's attorney David Cleary, eh?

About having "a different judge" next time.

Sounds like a guy who just got his prayers answered.

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