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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Don't Cry for Me, Argentina!

The truth is, I'm on "vacation." And I already live in vacation land. So instead of going somewhere far away, I'm getting my travel bug scratched by someone who is far away - Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Foto_principal Received this e-mail from University of Vermont grad [1998] and former WCAX-TV Reporter Brian Byrnes.  Brian's in Buenos Aires these days and just became a daddy -"Terrence Bautista Byrnes ("Bauti"), was born on August 30th. He's cute as hell and we're thrilled."

Brian's also been having a blast covering the Argentine presidential election - you know, the one we heard little about from our mainstream press. Writes Byrnes:

We had a interesting presidential election here in Argentina on Sunday. The First Lady was elected to the Casa Rosada! Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been called the "Hillary Clinton of South America," and in many ways the comparisons ring true: she's a lawyer and senator who accompanied her husband from the governorship of a backwater state....all the way to the presidential palace. 
On Sunday she became the first female elected to top office in Argentina and is looking to become the new Evita. The same happened last year next door in Chile: Michelle Bachelet went from political exile under Pinochet to being "Presidenta." I wonder if this wave of female presidents will make its way from the south to the north???
Brian reported on the election for CBS Radio and CNN International.

If you're curious about what really happened in the Land of Eva Peron - and much more, check here.

Yes, there are other countries out there besides Iraq and Iran.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Life = Juggling?

Juggler A little chilly out there, huh?

And not many folks on Burlington's Church Street Marketplace during the Monday evening "rush" hour.

But UVM sophomore Dan Leipow, 20, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey was. Majoring in geography "at the moment," said he. Appears to prefer juggling much, much more. Been at it religiously since last October, though he told me he got the juggling balls from an English friend eight years ago - just never got hooked.

Said his little donation jar takes in about $5-an-hour.

Speaking of juggling, yours truly is officially on vacation this week from "Inside Track" duties.  Of course, the juggler in me cannot avoid the blogosphere.

Speaking of great "jugglers," have you ever heard of a guy named Jim Douglas?

Off his "official" public schedule:

9:00 a.m. Maison de la France and Department of Tourism Memorandum of Understanding Signing Ceremony, Ceremonial Office, State House, Montpelier

11:00 a.m. Barton Senior Center Halloween Party and Luncheon, Village Square, Barton

1:00 p.m. Northeastern Vermont Area Agency on Aging Annual Meeting, East Side Restaurant, Landing Street, Newport

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Outed Agent Hits Vermont

War_dead_one Before going out to catch former CIA covert agent Valerie Plame Wilson's speech at the Sheraton Sunday afternoon, sponsored by Vermont Woman, I swung by author/musician Marc Estrin's place in Burlington's Old North End. Hadn't been by in a few months and I wanted to get the latest casualty count on the Bush-Cheney madness.

The number on the left, [449], is the latest U.S. death toll in  Afghanistan. In the middle, [3834] is the latest U.S. death toll in  Iraq. And on the right, [1,085,967] is the latest estimate of civilian deaths in Iraq, according to a Johns Hopkins study.

Reality check.

So was Ex-Agent Valerie Wilson [right] talking to Vermont reporters in the hallway before her speech. She's on a national tour plugging her new book: Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House.

Valerie_plame_wilson "My parents were Republicans," said Mrs. Wilson. "I was raised Republican when that meant strong national defense, a strong fiscal policy," she said, noting it's been changed so much "to the state it's in now, that it's now hard to recognize it."

Valerie's the career undercover agent at the Central Intelligence Agency outed by the White House in Robert Novak's column in 2003. V.P. Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff Scooter Libby got convicted for the leak, but then received a presidential pardon* (see correction below) - no jail time.

Hey, he was just doing his job, right?

As Wilson told the admiring crowd of 800 in the Emerald Ballroom, had "senior administration officials been sitting across from a Russian journalist at a fancy restaurant in downtown Washington and given him my name, that would have been called 'treason.'

"Why is it called anything different when it's filtered through an American journalist?

Good question, eh?

The former CIA agent told the gathering the American invasion of Iraq "was in many ways a response to an unproven academic theory put forward by the Neocons that democracy would blossom, that the invasion, conquest and occupation of Iraq would really just get democracy blooming throughout the region!"

Val_wilson_2 During the Libby Trial, she noted, "What came out very clearly was the extent to which the media, the White House press corps -  has a symbiotic relationship with this administration. That's nothing new, but the extent to which this administration has used intimidation tactics is unprecedented!"

Mrs. Wilson highlighted the "quite striking"  fact regarding the "very little shoe leather that was expended by the media on the reasons for going to war." The Washington press corps, she said, was "spoon-fed everything by the administration."

Sad, but true.

"Now it's true - anything the President says is news, but it seems to me we were let down by the media because they didn't actively pursue the mid-level managers at the Pentagon, the State Department and elsewhere. They could have told them a little different story."

Yes, indeed.

More here.

Nov. 3 post
- This from Marc Estrin. I got it wrong on the "pardon."

I did want to correct one thing in your blog. Scooter Libby was not pardoned; his sentence was commuted. This was very savvy of  the Bush lawyers. It leaves the case still open and "on appeal". Therefore Bush/Cheney/Rove can continue to argue that they cannot comment publicly because it's an ongoing investigation. Libby paid a small fine the very afternoon it was demanded -- if I recall, $250k -- but he had already raised $3+ million from Republican fatcats for the "Scooter Libby Defense Fund".

All in all, another good job done cheaply by the administration. Bread & Puppet made the same mistake for a "Pardon Me" circus act this summer, but no one would listen to me and accept the distinction. It was a funny act, though, with the puppeteers handing out pardons to the audience like pre-Luther indulgences, without charge.

Thanks, Marc.

Couple things....

Yes, it’s a scary world.

And I’m not just talking about war, fire, hurricane, drought and the melting of the Arctic ice cap.

I’m talking about the Boston Red Sox sitting one game away from winning the World Series. Ah, modern pro baseball! Millionaires on steroids!

Grandps In the old days, they just used to drink alcoholic beverages.

Born and raised a Yankee fan was I. Dad may have been the Kilkenny farm boy who joined the IRA in 1920, but mom was raised in the Bronx, daughter of the Galway girl who survived the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and the butcher from Tipperary who keeled over from a heart attack when she was still a kid.

Agnes Cummings grew up on Clinton Place, a dear and devoted Yankee fan and close friend of Yankee relief pitcher "Fireman" Johnny Murphy’s sister. That meant tickets to the games and socializing with the Yankee players. We’re talking mid-to-late 1930s and early 1940s.


Ah, sure they're all gone now, and you and I will join them one day, but the here and now is all we've got.

Happy to say I looked like I needed a haircut the other day. It’s growing back. Couple tests on Hospital Hill this week, but the chemo treatments look like they did the trick.

Haircut And also happy to say that Jessica Sidway introduced herself the other day down at Speeder & Earl’s and suggested she’d be the perfect one to do it.

The full treatment including a shampooing. Haven’t had one of these in.....ages?

Gentlemen’s Top Option. Down on the Burlington Waterfront. Upscale price-wise, but worth it.

Life’s short, eh?

And Jessica was great company.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ribbon-Cutting Time!

It was the official opening of the new environmentally-friendly Merrill Lynch office on the Burlington Waterfront Thursday. Yours truly was the only press that showed. No big deal, but I thought there just might be a gubernatorial ribbon-cutting, eh?

Ribboncutting Gov. Jim Douglas noted Merrill Lynch is a "very large global corporation with annual revenues  7-times the state budget here in Vermont."

Gov. Scissorhands called Merrill Lynch "a great corporate citizen" for making a "commitment to a green building."

Steve Waltien of Shelburne, a UVM grad and bank president before signing on with Merrill Lynch 17 years ago, told the gathering of almost 100 that "Without the support of the local administration, this project for us would never happen. So we really appreciate your being here mayor."

Progressive Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss - the only socialist we could identify in the crowd, told the gathering that:

"Being a student of the Sixties, you know the question I have is: ‘Does business have a soul?’ 

"I think in a lot of ways Merrill Lynch is a pillar of the community...and we’re building the community together.

"We all know that the sub-prime mortgage rates are in trouble. We all know that there’s disparity between rich and poor and I think we’re all struggling with those issues to make sure we have a quality life and a better life."

"So what I see here is a dedication to green building,  an investment in Burlington and a long commitment, I think, to social needs in the City of Burlington and the State of Vermont so I’m hoping that we partnership together so that we can build a better world."

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Merrill Lynch's Waltien told Freyne Land:

"There are a lot of Merrill-Lynch managers like me around the country who think like I do. Very frankly, I’m a liberal Democrat and there are many people who think like I do in this firm. I feel very comfortable in this firm.

"I think the impression from afar is that these are the right-wing Republican fat cats. Nothing could be farther from the truth

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Change in the air?

South_union_king What do you think?

Bye-bye summer, eh?

Still, though, plenty of flowers holding in there in Vermont's Queen City - this batch on South Union Street yesterday.


Also, I didn't have room to take note of Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' new press secretary in the print column so here he is - Will Wiquist. Would you believe he's been living in an apartment across the street from yours truly in Burlington's South End?

Will_wiquist Yes, indeed. Here's a shot of Will as he made the final move-out last weekend.

Previously, Wiquist, 29,  worked as comptroller on Democrat Peter Welch's successful 2006 congressional race. Then he was briefly with the Vermont Department of Public Service working on telecom policy. Will's a money/numbers guy, previously a senior campaign finance analyst with the Federal Elections Commission. No past press job, unlike his immediate boss, Ol' Bernardo's Communications Director Michael Briggs, who was with the Chicago Sun-Times for years.

Will informs us he graduated Franklin & Marshall College with a double-major in English and Government. Entirely "appropriate" he says, "given that my parents were English and History teachers respectively.  Coincidentally," he adds in an e-mail, "the only other F&M alum I’ve met in VT is our own City Councilor Joan Shannon."

As for his Vermont roots, Rookie Press Secretary Wiquist informs Freyne Land, "My mom was born in Fletcher Allen while my grandpa was working in Vergennes running the old Week’s School.  My mom’s parents were pre-ski boom Stowe born-and-bred (ie poor farmers)."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Singing the Anti-Nuke Blues

Stannards Former Manchester state representative, 8th generation Vermonter and distinguished blues-harp player Bob Stannard is departing his executive-director post at the  non-profit Better Bennington Corporation to return to the Statehouse on a daily basis come January.

Stannard, [pictured here with wife Alison at Saturday evening's VPIRG anniversary celebration]  tells Freyne Land he's been signed up to be a Montpeculiar lobbyist for the Citizens Action Network.

"Act 160 basically positioned the Legislature to have a role in the relicensing of Vermont Yankee and whether that’s voted on in 2008 or 2009 is going to be up for debate," said Stannard.

"I don’t like to consider myself a lobbyist because that implies that I’m a contract lobbyist and I take on anybody who pays me," said the blues-harp player.

"I consider myself to be more of an advocate than a lobbysist," said Stannard. "I take on a cause that I believe in. I tell people I can sell gasoline to a man on fire if I think it’s good gas. I HAVE TO BELIEVE IN THE GAS!

"And for me to be able to leave a very nice life where I was having a great time, liked by everybody, doing good work... to walk away from that to go back into arguably the most controversial issue fror the next two years - that wasn’t an easy decision.

"My wife and I talked it over. I owe it to my great-grandchildren who aren’t born yet to do it."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Face Behind the Canvas

Dropped by Uncommon Grounds on Church Street after the Ol' "Inside Track" went to the printer. Put a little more flesh on the bones of the Freyne Land post below about Monday's protest at Rep. Peter Welch's Burlington HQ.

I know. The Freeps blew it off. But, hey, Welchie is our only congressman and people got arrested. Even Brian Joyce (WCAX) and Stew Ledbetter (WPTZ) made it.

A few other things, too.

Kim_forney But the pleasant surprise up at the Church Street Marketplace's oldest coffee shop was that Kimberlee Forney, the artist behind the marvelous, warm, colorful canvases that have lined the walls since October began, was having a little "opening."

All month, the regulars have been commenting favorably on her wallscapes.  Now we have a face to go with them. She's even got a website!

Kim turns 29 in December. A Vermont native. Her dad's a state court reporter - last of a breed.

And the artist - an artist with a future - is currently calling his basement in Milton "home."

Damn Hippies!

Boots_busted C'mon. Vermont Democratic Congressman Peter Welch says he opposes the War in Iraq. Over and over he says it. He said it again as recently as Friday at the Sheraton.

But a bunch of old Vermont hippies take exception to the fact Rep. Welch keeps voting for the war-funding bills that keep it chugging along. They were there in March, too. The late, great Grace Paley of Thetford was with them.

And they don't like a few other Iraq War-related votes cast by Ol'  Welchie.

Picky. picky.

That's Boots Wardinski, 64, a Newbury farmer and former Marine, being escorted out of Congressman Welch's Main Street Burlington office after closing on Monday.

Can't they just ignore the Iraq War like good citizens and wait until a new president moves into the White House in 2009?

No, they can't.

Thank god.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Watching & waiting...

Big turnout at the Sheraton presser on Friday. Traumatic Brain Injury [TBI] was the hot topic. Democratic State Sen. Ed Flanagan, recovered from his horrible auto accident of two years ago, was the star. He said he felt “close to 100 percent recovered - like in the high-90s.”

Rep Freshman Democratic Congressman Peter Welch [taking a question, at right, from Ch. 3’s Kate Duffy], whose brother sustained TBI several years ago, also participated.

Yours truly couldn’t ignore the 800-lb TBI gorilla lurking in the corner.

PRESS: Is there any hope in terms of reducing Traumatic Brain Injury, probably the best cure would be to bring the troops home from Iraq? Anything happening on that front?

WELCH: On bringing the troops home?

PRESS: Yeah.

WELCH: Well, we should bring the troops home and what I believe we have to do in Congress is be willing to use the power of the purse ‘cause that’s the power we have and I’m willing to do that. The president is stubbornly clinging to a failed policy and he’s shown no signs of budging. The president didn’t pay attention to the vote of the American people. He didn’t pay attention to the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Commission. He pays no attention whatsoever to our retired generals who can speak freely - most recently Gen. Sanchez - who said the war is a catastrophe.

The commander-in-chief has an awful lot of power and he’s not using it wisely for us.

And all we can do is sit back and let him continue to not use it wisely, eh?

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