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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Burlington Every Single Day

A Queen City institution. Everyday. Since way, way before the Internet, before cell phones, before Church Street became a bricked pedestrian mall, there were books in Burlap...everyday, seven days a week. And a healthy selection of out-of-town newspapers, too. [In fact, the only spot we found The New York Times yesterday.]

Elizabeth_orr When yours truly dropped roots in the Queen City in 1979, Elizabeth Orr and her former husband owned and operated the Everyday Book Shop on Burlington, Vermont's car-jammed Church Street. 

They’d originally opened it on College Street “next to where Stone Soup is now,” she told us. The couple split up when the book shop was on the Church Street Marketplace in the spot now occupied by Yankee Candle. A few years later she moved the business back to College Street,  directly across from The Burlington Free Press.

Burlington’s Queen Elizabeth was born and raised in a tiny village in the British Midlands in Stoke-on-Trent.  She emigrated to Canada in her twenties. Met the man she married and then emigrated again to the United States and Vermont in the late 1960s, something many English-speaking Canadians did at that time of Québécois upheaval.

She’s been on her own for many years and last month turned 80. The ol’ legs are starting to go, she told us yesterday - from the knees down. For the past year, Elizabeth’s been taking a taxi to work from her Spear Street home. Before that, she walked, yes, walked to and from work everyday.

A healthy walk up and over the hill, eh?

No computer screen at Everyday Books. The adding machine works just fine, thank you very much, indeed.

“I use an adding machine the way I was taught to in school,” she said.

No Internet, either. And, ready for this, no TV in her world either. Ever!

“I haven’t got time,” she told us. “Why add problems?”

Good point.

Elizabeth does have a radio at home, but she’s working at the book shop all day and into the evening. For almost four decades, in her inimitable quiet, polite, but firm British way, Elizabeth Orr has arguably been the most reliable and hardest working person in Burlington, Vermont.  And her book shop is a testament to what “one-of-a-kind” truly is.

Also told us yesterday that she’d stopped going to church about 5 or 6 years ago. They’d changed their hours for services, she explained.

“I work everyday,” she said. But Burlington’s Queen Elizabeth assured us, “I say my prayers. It keeps me in touch with myself and what I believe in.”


Now, excuse me, while I go write a political column.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ready to Rumble

Tom_little The ever calm and collected Tom Little of Shelburne was in the hot seat on Channel 3's You Can Quote Me on Sunday morning.

Little, former GOP chair of the House Judiciary Committee that wrote the landmark civil unions statute in 2000, is filling a very big seat as chairman of the new gay-marriage study commission appointed by the Democratic Leadership of the Legislature.

Statehouse Reporter Kristin Carlson noted, "The most recent Channel 3 poll on this was about a year and a half ago and it said 44 percent of Vermonters were in favor of same-sex marriage. 48 percent were not in favor of same-sex marriage...Do you really feel like this is a priority that Vermonters want lawmakers to be focusing on?"

LITTLE: Boy. I wish we could answer that question, Kristin. There are a lot of opinions about what should be focused on, as we saw with the global-warming festival that we had this spring, and even into July.

I think, looking back over 15-20 years. that the issues that Vermonters as a whole, as an electorate, care about are having a safe state; having a reasonable tax policy; having a clean state environmentally; and good schools. And this is not one of those kinds of issues for Vermonters. It’s of a different order. But I think Vermonters also have a 200 year tradition of being fair, tolerant, and being devoted to human rights and civil liberties and this is part of that agenda.

I think it’s something that the Legislature has a duty to take up when they feel it’s right. I know that sometimes with a tough issue, it involves controversy and social turmoil. Advocates try to bring it up every year, or every other year, until they get it done. And I think, my experience has been that’s not the best way of handling an issue like that. You can’t put it off indefinitely, but you want to make sure you strike when everything’s in place. It takes a lot of energy and political courage to do it, but it can be done, as we saw with civil unions.

Quote_me_3_2 CARLSON: Why weren’t there folks on [this commission] who are known opponents to same-sex marriage, perhaps someone from the Catholic Diocese, the Bishop?

LITTLE: My only participation in the selection of people was to have some names bounced off of me. And I know that the Speaker and the President Pro Tem were looking for geographic balance, male-female balance, differences in political  affiliation, Republicans and Democrats, ah, we have a college president. We have someone who runs a quarry. We have a retired state police officer, an Episcopal priest, former legislators, a former governor [Phil Hoff].

My guess is that everybody on the commission is open-minded or inclined in favor of taking this next step , but there’ll be a lot of differences of opinion as to how and when that should happen. And my charge to the commission members is going to be to keep in mind this is not an advocacy commission, this is a listening commission.

Little was asked by veteran news director and anchorman Marselis Parsons if he thinks the next round of public debate on gay marriage will be as "emotional" as the last?

LITTLE: I think that the emotional content will be largely the same, but with fewer spikes in it. I mean, I think it’ll be the same emotional, psychological, religious, spiritual issues involved, but not as much shouting. Not as much noise.


I could be wrong about that.

PARSONS: I guess we will wait to see.

Little said he hopes to hold the first public hearing of the "Commission on Family Recognition and Protection" sometime in September. Within a week, he said, he expects the Vermont Legislature's web page to have a link.

Ready for the rumble?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Leahy Facing the Nation

Facethenation_leahy That tall, bald guy from Vermont, the one who chairs the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, along with his Republican co-chair, were the lead-off guests on Face the Nation on CBS this morning.

As you know Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a longtime George W. Bush political operative, was back before the Judiciary Committee last week.

No smiles or joking around today. Serious faces, very serious faces, only.

Neither Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, nor Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, nor Host Bob Schieffer, beat around the bush. As Schieffer put it, "This week Democrats called for a special prosecutor to determine if the Attorney General of the United States, the highest law-enforcement officer in the government, has been lying to your committee in Congress."

LEAHY: A lot of us, Republicans and Democrats, were incredulous at some of the answers. I told him frankly, I don’t trust him. But in fairness, I’ve given him the testimony, he has a week to correct it if he wants. I suggest he consult with a lawyer as he does it.

If he doesn’t correct it, then I think that there are so many errors in there, then the pressure will be very. very heavily whether it’s a special prosecutor, a special counsel , efforts within the Congress.

The irony is, though, the Department of Justice [DOJ], which is supposed to be very impartial, is being shredded by his activities. And if you lose confidence in law enforcement, it hurts everybody all the way down to the cop on the beat.

Frankly, at this point, the President ought to take a long look at this and ask - does he want to go down in history with this attorney general as part of his historical record?

Let me just ask you, if he doesn’t change his testimony, then will you go along with the four Democratic senators who say there should be a special prosecutor?

I think if he doesn’t change it, what I want to do is spend some time with {GOP Vice-Chairman] Sen. Arlen Specter. This is a matter I’d like to approach in a bipartisan fashion. I think that we would also be asking whoever’s left there at the Department of Justice who doesn’t have to r'accuse themselves, to take this, go through it and give us some recommendations back.

Schieffer: [To Specter in Philly] What do you think should be the next step here, Senator?

Specter_tv SPECTER: Well, I think we ought to give the Attorney General a chance to correct the record. There’s no doubt, as I have said repeatedly for months now, that the DOJ would be much-better without him...

The DOJ is second only to the Department of Defense in protecting the American people...and that department is dysfunctional and it’s been dysfunctional for a long time.

LEAHY: I think it’s important because law enforcement is supposed to be impartial and it’s supposed to follow the law. Here we have an administration that feels they’re above the law, that the law applies to everybody except them. And we have a DOJ that goes along with that.

I was a prosecutor. Arlen Specter was a prosecutor. A number of us in there, both Republicans and Democrats, are really upset with this because we know how law enforcement is supposed to work. This is going to have a devastating effect on law enforcement throughout the country if it’s not cleared up.

  What should the President do?

LEAHY: Well, many of us have said he should fire the Attorney General, but I think it’s more than that. I think he has to state: "We in the Administration have made some bad mistakes in saying we’re above the law."

Nobody’s above the law.

Tell that to Scooter Libby, eh?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Gay Marriage Support

How’s everybody doing out there?

Sum-sum-summertime. Yours truly was enjoying big bad Burlington this Saturday. And the town, er, the city was jumping. From African refugees to French Canadian tourists to the usual suspects including politicians. And we finally ran into someone feeling upbeat about the Democrats who run the Statehouse appointing a “gay marriage” study commission.

Farmers_mkt_2 And that someone is freshman State Rep. Rachel Weston (D-Burlington), pictured on the left with boyfriend Nels in the middle and sister Erica Weston, a pre-med student visiting from Cambridge, Mass. on the right. Rep. Weston provides a fresh, upbeat perspective on the issue. Her district includes downtown and a chunk of the Old North End.

Weston was born in Hampden, Massachusetts in 1981, almost four months after Bernie Sanders was sworn in as Mayor of Burlington. She picked up her BA in anthropology in 2003 at U. Mass. Amherst and a Masters in Public Administration at UVM in 2006.

Bumped into her at the Farmers' Market in City Hall Park. Asked if she had gotten a heads-up from the Democratic leadership about Wednesday’s announcement of a Shumlin/Symington-appointed "Blue-Ribbon Commission" to hold public hearings on gay marriage, the lawmaker said she had not. Still, Rep. Weston is clearly an enthusiastic supporter of gay-marriage legislation.

“I think it’s great,” said the freshman in the House. “I think a majority of Vermonters support this,” she said. The Burlington rep called changing/dropping the state’s civil-union statute and granting full marriage rights to same-sex couples “doing the right thing.”

Under the current, landmark Vermont civil unions law adopted in 2000, said Rep. Weston, same-sex couples who have civil unions "do not have full marriage rights.”



§ 1204. Benefits, protections and responsibilities of parties to a civil union

(a) Parties to a civil union shall have all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law, whether they derive from statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage.

(b) A party to a civil union shall be included in any definition or use of the terms "spouse," "family," "immediate family," "dependent," "next of kin," and other terms that denote the spousal relationship, as those terms are used throughout the law.

(c) Parties to a civil union shall be responsible for the support of one another to the same degree and in the same manner as prescribed under law for married persons.

(d) The law of domestic relations, including annulment, separation and divorce, child custody and support, and property division and maintenance shall apply to parties to a civil union.

Interesting, eh?

Check out the entire statute here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Big Week for Vt Dems!

On Wednesday the distinguished Democratic leaders of the Vermont Legislature announced they are putting the "gay marriage" issue back on the state's political front-burner.

The first state in the union to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples through "civil unions" back in 2000 is heading for Round 2.

Republicans appear delighted the Democrat leaders want to fan those old flames and fire up their troops.

Conservative, scripture-quoting, anti-gay activists sound ecstatic!

And many Democrats outside the Statehouse "leadership" appear positively bewildered.

Instead of focusing on attaining a genuine "veto-proof" majority under the Golden Dome, or, god forbid, winning back the governor's office, House Speaker Gaye Symington [who is not gay], and Senate Prez Peter Shumlin [who recently declared his diminished sense of political ambition], certainly appear on track to prevent such.

They're in charge, folks, and they decide the majority party's priorities, right?

And word Friday via press release that Vermont Democratic Party Executive Director Jill Krowinski [photographed outside the Statehouse a couple months ago] is off for a two-week August study trip to the Philippines!

Jill_krowinski Jill Krowinski Selected to Participate in International Exchange to the Philippines

Political Study Program to Focus on Citizen Diplomacy

Washington, D.C., July 27, 2007 – Jill Krowinski has been selected by the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL), a bi-partisan, not-for-profit international exchange organization, as a delegate to the Philippines for a two week political exchange program beginning on August 3, 2007.  She will join nine other young political leaders from across the United States to study the Filipino political system, engage in dialogue on international issues, and forge professional relationships...

Krowinski will join other delegates, each between the age of 25 and 40, in Washington, D.C. for briefings by the U.S. Department of State and the Filipino Embassy before flying to Manila. The program will provide the delegates opportunities to travel within the country, and interact with key local and national leaders, business communities, and civic groups.

“I am honored to have been selected to participate in this ACYPL exchange to the Philippines,” Krowinski said. “This will be an excellent opportunity for me to learn about the current political and social dynamics there and help the Filipino people better understand the United States.”

This from the executive director of the party that could not hold together on its big global-warming bill, nor get enough members to come home from vacation to override Republican Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of their campaign-finance reform bill.

Reporter Terri Hallenbeck mentions Krowinski's Philippine trip on the Freeps blog we link to [column right]. And she mentions ACYPL has previously sent young Vermonters named Jim Douglas and Peter Welch on the "study" trip as well.

But in addition to those distinguished politicos, Krowinski has also been preceded by others of distinction not mentioned on the Freeps blog like Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Kay Bailey Hutchinson as well as - ready for this - Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez!

Should be quite a learning experience.

Careful, careful, Jill.

Dean Bringing Democrats to Burlap

Dean Now, I know y'all recognize this guy, eh?

The little Burlington doctor with the doctor wife?

Despite his Republican Park Avenue breeding, Howard Dean joined the Democratic Party when he settled in Vermont in the late 1970s.

Had quite a run from county chairman to state rep to Lite-Gov then Governor for more than decade.

The only office he sought that he did not get was President of the United States.

Not bad.

Of course, Ho-Ho is the current popular chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

There's an Associated Press story out of Washington, DC, about Dr. Dean making the rounds today:

As head of DNC, Dean faces major problems in 2008
By Beth Fouhy Associated Press

WASHINGTON — It won't be a summer of love for Howard Dean, with peace and understanding in short supply.

The Democratic National Committee chairman faces several formidable challenges. Some states are determined to move up the dates of their presidential primaries despite the potential for upending the nomination process, and the party's convention in Denver in 2008 is already dealing with nettlesome labor and financial woes....

The article taps old, reliable Dean critics from the former Clinton Administration like James Carville to make the hits.

Hoho_dean But it also acknowledges the reality of Howard Dean's enormous popularity with the Democratic Party's grassroots in the 50 states outside the beltway.

However, what the Associated Press did not mention, but "Freyne Land" has learned from reliable sources, is that Chairman Howard Dean is bringing the DNC's Executive Committee to "The People's Republic of Burlington" for a weekend pow-wow on August 10-11.

What fun!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chairman Leahy Subpoenas Rove

Ed_pagano Who is this guy having lunch with yours truly at Sweetwaters today?

And what possible connection might he have to Patrick Leahy vs. Karl Rove?

Or UVM hoops?

Stay tuned....

And Sunday morning TV news junkies take note - St. Patrick will be a guest on Face the Nation at 10:30 on CBS.


OK, OK. I'll tell you. Still don't recognize him, eh?

I bet Johnny C. does.

Ed Pagano played four-years of hoops at UVM [1981-84] on scholarship.  Born in Maryland, raised in Massachusetts, Ed Pagano made the most of his Vermont sojourn, cashing in, so to speak, on the contacts he made off the hard-court. Mr. Ed has been chief-of-staff for U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy for the past two years, previously worked for St. Pat on the Judiciary Committee.

Ed was back in Burlap today for a long family weekend with wife Jenny Backus [Democratic consultant and regular commentator on Hardball], and infant son John "Jack" Wallace Pagano.

Bet you know his mother-in-law, former Democratic state senator and U.S. Senate candidate [1994 & 2000] Jan Backus. Ol' Jan's celebrating her 60th birthday this weekend. Jeezum Crow, I remember when "60" sound real old.

Happy birthday.

Yours truly got the word from Big Ed on sun-splashed Church Street about St. Patrick and Republican Judiciary Committee Vice-Chairman  Arlen Specter issuing subpoenas to the man behind the Bush-Cheney throne - Karl Rove - as we met for a bite downtown.  As we ate, St. Patrick was delivering his Senate floor speech announcing the Rove subpoena - available for viewing on Sen. Leahy's website (on Real Player).

Here's a taste from that floor speech:

Chairman_leahy_2 For over four months, I have exhausted every avenue seeking the voluntary cooperation of Karl Rove and J. Scott Jennings, but to no avail.  They and the White House have stonewalled every request.  Indeed, the White House is choosing to withhold documents and is instructing witnesses who are former officials to refuse to answer questions and provide relevant information and documents. 

We have now reached a point where the accumulated evidence shows that political considerations factored into the unprecedented firing of at least nine United States Attorneys last year.  Testimony and documents show that the list was compiled based on input from the highest political ranks in the White House, including Mr. Rove and Mr. Jennings.  The evidence shows that senior officials were apparently focused on the political impact of federal prosecutions and whether federal prosecutors were doing enough to bring partisan voter fraud and corruption cases.  It is obvious that the reasons given for these firings were contrived as part of a cover up and that the stonewalling by the White House is part and parcel of that same effort.

Meanwhile the noose tightens on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, his sworn committee testimony now contradicted by former Justice Department officials, and today by the director of the FBI.

If this were a movie, it'd be an entertaining one - everyone in the audience would know the president, the vice president and the attorney general were bold liars who stole an election and started a phony war while making their friends and backers very, very rich!

And everyone would know that they'd be in hand-cuffs and leg-irons by movie's end.

But it's not a movie.

Is it?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gov. Douglas' Response

Gov Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas was one happy three-term Republican incumbent at his Wednesday press conference.

The opposition party, the alleged majority party, appears in disarray.

Everyone I've told about the new Symington-Shumlin Commission that will hold public hearings and "study" gay marriage - Republican, Progressive and Democrat - has looked at me like I was pulling their leg.

I wasn't.

Asked for his reaction to the Democrats' surprise highlighting of gay marriage at his Montpeculiar 1 pm presser, the governor of DNC Chairman Howard Dean
's home state [yes, the same Ho-Ho who signed the historic civil unions bill in secret back in 2000, behind closed doors] said:

My position on that has been quite consistent. We went through a very difficult experience seven years ago when the Legislature enacted the civil unions law. I think during that time most Vermonters have come to accept it. I don’t think it would be in the state’s best interests to reopen those wounds, to have that controversial debate, because we’ve extended full privileges, full legal rights and benefits to same sex couples.

I really think it’s important for the Legislature to work with me to focus on what is most important to everybody in Vermont, and that’s the cost of living here, making sure that all Vermonters can pay the property tax bills that have just arrived in mailboxes during the past few weeks.

I want to make sure that Vermonters can afford to buy gasoline, get to work and to school and do the errands that are so important to their families, to get a decent job, to get good health care coverage.

Those are the real priorities for the people of our state and I hope the Democratic legislators will work with me to achieve them.

PRESS: Is your only opposition it would be divisive to open this up? What if it turns out most Vermonters are in favor of this?

DOUGLAS:  I don’t want to speculate on what recommendations might come. I gather, based on the schedule outlined by the Democrats, they don’t plan for the current biennial legislative session to take it up, so I think it’s something that will be talked about well into the future.

PRESS: But do you have concerns beyond it being divisive?

DOUGLAS: Same-sex couples have the same benefits and rights and privileges of marriage now. In 2000 the Legislature fashioned a compromise that was difficult to achieve, but one that most Vermonters have now come to accept. It was a very difficult experience. Those of you who were in Montpelier at the time recall that and I think we really need to devote our energies to the cost of living in Vermont, to improving economic opportunity and hope for the future of our people.

PRESS: So are you saying we don’t need another law on this issue?

DOUGLAS: I don’t believe we do.

He didn't beat around the bush, did he?

No Joke

Shumlingaye After losing out to Republican Gov. Jim Douglas on two of their bedrock, core issues - global warming and campaign finance reform - Democratic Legislative Leaders Sen. Peter Shumlin of Putney and Gaye Symington of Jericho [at left] chose Burlington City Hall as the back-drop to announce their appointment of a "Blue-Ribbon" Commission to study - ready for this - gay marriage!

A hot burning issue in Vermont, eh?

Not making this up, folks. But jaws have dropped among other Dems and Progs when I told them.

In fact. Speaker Gaye and Sen. Shummy didn't even have the decency to let Burlington Progressive Mayor Bob Kiss - who as a legislator back in 2000 supported civil unions and gay marriage, too - know they were using his Progressive Castle as the setting for their big media event.

But they did show their bipartisan spirit by appointing the former GOP Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee that wrote the civil unions bill as the chair of their "Blue-Ribbon" Commission - Tom Little of Shelburne.


Hot burning issue in Vermont, eh?

Or are they just trying to change the subject and appeal to their base after the embarrassing Statehouse loses to Gov. Jimmy D. - who has a 1 o'clock presser at which he should have some interesting remarks about the Democrats' focus and priorities, eh?

Summer at last!

Fart_toys Definitely summer. The smallest largest city of any state in the Union is echoing with the lilt of French - spoken by visitors from north of the border [amazing how "American" they look, eh?]. And they have new tricks!

Caught these boys from Montreal with their hand-held, battery-operated  "fart" toys. The devices emit four or five different farting noises that, I confess, sounded amazingly real. They said they brought the devices with them from up north. Their parents thought it was all a hoot.

Lt. Emmett Helrich of Les Gendarmes de Burlington did, too, as he pretended to arrest them.  Or was it solicit a bribe? That's cold cash in his hand, isn't it?

Anyone know if the fart toys are some kind of new French-Canadian cultural thing?

And while the tourists are flocking to Burlap, Burlingtonians are hitting the road and the sky for their own vacation destinations.

Mary_sullivan_2 Bumped into former Democratic State Rep. Mary Sullivan at Fresh Market on Pine Street yesterday just after 11 am.  Mary's communications director at Burlington Electric. Still very active in Democrat Party circles. Picking up some grub for lunch, was she?

Would you believe she was taking it with as a supplement for the airline food she was about to enjoy?

Mary was heading for the airport to catch a flight to Philly where she'd then catch a flight to Dublin, Ireland, along with husband Don Meals and daughter Kaela. They're renting a car for two weeks and doing a lap of the Emerald Isle!

She's been before, but first time for them.

Plenty of political "news" ahead this Wednesday, too.

Top Democrat legislators - Shummy & Speaker Gaye - are scheduled to announce formation of a "sexy" new study commission this morning in Burlington AND Gov. Scissorhands has a 1 pm Fifth Floor presser on his schedule.

See you later, alligators.

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