Friday, June 28, 2013

Former Presidential Candidate Spends Big on Full-Page — and Kooky — Ads

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 5:56 PM

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Readers of the Burlington Free Press opened their papers today to find a head-scratcher of an ad at the center of the A section.

Across the "double truck" centerfold is a slightly incoherent advertisement by John D. Haywood, the former presidential candidate who sued student journalists at St. Michael's College for libel — and $51 million — claiming their article about him for a class project cost Haywood the 2012 New Hampshire primary.

The Democratic primary. The one with Barack Obama in it. In which Haywood lost to the prez by a margin of 115 to 1.

Haywood's ad quotes a Freeps article about his libel lawsuit getting tossed by U.S. Magistrate Judge John S. Conroy, then asks, "Is my lawsuit a product of pettiness and sour grapes as found by Magistrate Judge Conroy? With all briefs now on file, that very question is soon to be decided by the Judges of the Court of Appeals. Vermonters must keep an open mind, as only enactment of a National Health Service will terminate the greatest financial crime ever perpetrated against the American people —"

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Homeless Advocates Balk at New Motel Housing Rules

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 3:43 PM

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New rules set to go into effect on July 15 will dramatically slash the number of homeless Vermonters receiving state benefits to stay in motels, a practice that came under fire from lawmakers this winter after emergency assistance spending on motel stays spending skyrocketed to $2.2 million fiscal year 2012 and roughly $4 million in 2013. 

The legislature cut its funding for that program to $1.5 million in this year's appropriations bill — and officials at the Vermont Agency of Human Services say the new eligibility rules will keep that spending in check. But advocates for the homeless are raising the alarm that the new rules are too strict, and will leave vulnerable Vermonters without any place to turn if homeless shelters are full. 

Chopping motel benefits before other relief programs are in place is like "pulling away the life raft before people know how to swim," says Rita Markley, who directs the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) in Burlington.  

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Morning Read: As Senate Passes Immigration Reform, Leahy Savors the Moment

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 10:24 AM

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When Sen. Patrick Leahy made the surprise announcement last December that he'd turned down a promotion to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, his explanation went something like this: With immigration reform and gun legislation on the Judiciary Committee's agenda — not to mention a possible Supreme Court nominee or two — that's where the action would be.

Turns out he was right.

Just minutes before the Senate passed sweeping immigration reform legislation Thursday afternoon by a vote of 68 to 32, Leahy paused to reflect on the role his committee played in the bill's passage.

Over the course of three weeks, he said during a speech on the Senate floor, the Judiciary Committee spent 37 hours debating and amending the bill.

"We considered 212 amendments from Democrats and Republicans and approved 136 amendments in a room filled with spectators on both sides of the issue," Leahy said. "Of the amendments approved in committee, 47 were Republican amendments and all but three were adopted with bipartisan support. Even the staunchest opponents of this legislation have praised the Judiciary Committee's process for consideration of this bill."

Well, if I don't say so myself!

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A World Government Based in Vermont? Find Out About It Tonight

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 7:43 AM

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Founded by Vermont's own Garry Davis, the World Government of World Citizens will mark its 60th anniversary in September. That makes it older than the governments of 30 or so of today's nation-states.

 Not familiar with the World Government of World Citizens? Haven't heard about this self-proclaimed entity that issues passports that have occasionally been recognized at international borders?

 An introduction is available Friday evening at Off Center for the Dramatic Arts in the form of a film-in-progress called My Country Is the World and the World Is My Stage: The True Story of Garry Davis. The biopic produced and directed by California filmmaker Arthur Kanegis traces Davis' colorful career, with a focus on the global authority he unilaterally decreed on September 4, 1953.

That has to rank as one of history's greatest instances of chutzpah. But while Davis did have experience as a Broadway song-and-dance man, he wasn't playacting in establishing his very own world government.

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The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 4:00 AM

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Who won and lost the week in Vermont news and politics? 

Pipe organ-istas, raccoons, vagrants, eardrums and, um, Patrick Leahy.

We humbly present you with the Scoreboard for the week ending Friday, June 28:

Winners:

Vermont trailblazers — It's hard to overstate the role our little state has played in advancing gay rights over the years. Here's to the Vermonters who led the way and helped make possible the Supreme Court's decision Wednesday to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Sen. Patrick Leahy — Immigration reform, SCOTUS decisions, an FBI director nomination, the ongoing NSA surveillance debate. If you're Leahy — and you like nothing more than being at the center of it all — this was a good week.

Evolution — Absent from the voluminous coverage in Vermont of DOMA's evisceration (including my own) was mention of one salient fact: Back when DOMA passed the Senate in 1996, both of Vermont's senators, Leahy and Jim Jeffords, were among the 85 who voted for it. Only then-Congressman Bernie Sanders voted against it. In the years since, Leahy evolved quite a bit and became one of the loudest cheerleaders for DOMA's repeal. Did he make up for that first vote?

Payoffs — Speaking of evolution, Sanders spent weeks pretending he might not vote for immigration reform, complaining that the bill allowed too many guest workers to take American jobs. But in the end, as the National Review's Jonah Goldberg wrote this week, "his support was bought with a $1.5 billion youth jobs program" that doesn't have a heck of a lot to do with immigration reform.

Burlington vagrants — Sure, they can still get booted from Church Street, but at least they get to read the 14-page legal memo justifying the legality of their eviction!

Holly Maniatty — Without question, she is Vermont's dopest sign language interpreter. Runner-up winner: Pipe organ geeks.

Losers after the break...

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

For Bi-National, Same-Sex Couples in Vermont, Court's DOMA Decision is a Reprieve

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 7:39 PM

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Barely a month ago, Michael Upton's hopes of living in the same country as his partner were dashed.

Since 2008, the South Hero resident had been in a relationship with Jandui Cavalcante, a Brazilian national. But because they're gay — and the federal government didn't recognize their relationship — Cavalcante couldn't apply for a green card.

Their best bet seemed to be an amendment Sen. Patrick Leahy had introduced to comprehensive immigration reform legislation extending new rights to binational, gay couples. But after an impassioned debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Leahy's fellow Democrats bailed on him and he withdrew his amendment. 

On Wednesday, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, the point became moot.

"It's very exciting. I could feel the huge sigh of relief 5000 miles away as tens of thousands of people realized this nightmare has a near end in sight," said Upton, who is currently visiting Cavalcante in Brazil. "We were together in Rio de Janeiro, watching SCOTUSblog line-by-line."

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That Welch Fundraiser We Mentioned

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 3:41 PM

In this week's Fair Game, we wrote about a weekend fundraiser Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) is holding later this summer in Woodstock for political action committee representatives and other out-of-state donors. 

Didn't make the invite list? Don't take it personally. Neither did we. 

But don't worry. Copied below, for your reference, is the invitation Welch's fundraisers have been circulating:

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This Week's Issue: We Go Ape for Animals!

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 3:03 PM

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Pick up this week's print issue of Seven Days and behold .... animals! Cute. Fuzzy. Ridiculously Adorable. Animals.

But there's still plenty of news — about animals, of course. And about other stuff.

Vermonters Celebrate Supreme Court Decision Overturning DOMA

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:45 AM

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This morning, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned DOMA, the law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage. 

A group of same-sex marriage supporters gathered at RU12? Community Center in Burlington to follow the proceedings. The two Supreme Court marriage decisions — one on DOMA, the other on California's Proposition 8 — were expected shortly after 10 a.m. The group at RU12? had set up two laptops on a conference table to follow along on NBC News and SCOTUSblog's live blog.

RU12? volunteer Susanna Weller (foreground, right), who works for the Vermont Department of Health, organized the gathering. "I couldn't sit by myself in my office and be 'working,'" she said. "I needed to be with my community."

The group of nine supporters and five reporters bantered nervously until 10:01, when Weller read aloud from SCOTUS blog, announcing the first opinion: "It's DOMA," she said. The room went silent.

When it became clear that the court had overturned DOMA, the audience cheered and cried. The nuances of the decision weren't immediately apparent, and it was still uncertain at that point how the court would rule on Proposition 8, but the audience was jubilant.

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Barb Dozetos, a marketing consultant who once edited Vermont's now-defunct GLBT newspaper Out in the Mountains (pictured, talking with Kristin Carlson of WCAX), told reporters that the decision signaled that there was only one "flavor" of marriage. "Marriage is marriage, period," she said. "It basically finally takes the word 'gay' out from in front of marriage. That's what this means."

Find the latest on the rulings on SCOTUSblog here.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sanders Casts Sole Vote Against Pritzker for Commerce Secretary

Sanders finds himself on the lonely end of a 97-1 vote.

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 7:33 PM

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One may be the loneliest number, but it seems to be Sen. Bernie Sanders' favorite.

In perhaps the least controversial confirmation vote of President Obama's second-term cabinet, the Vermont independent cast the sole vote Tuesday afternoon against the president's Commerce Department nominee: Penny Pritzker, the Chicago hotel heiress and Obama's 2008 national finance chairwoman.

The vote was 97 to 1, with two senators absent.

So what got under Sanders' skin?

A Tuesday story in Politico with the provocative headline, "On Penny Pritzker, where's the outrage?" reporters Alexander Burns and Burgess Everett list plenty of good reasons to vote no. They note that she "understated her income by tens of millions of dollars, clashed openly with organized labor, benefited from offshore tax havens and invested in financial instruments that helped precipitate the 2008 financial meltdown."

(Burns and Everett also point out, incidentally, that Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican, appeared to be the only one who'd vote no — though, of course, their prediction wasn't quite on the mark.)

For Sanders, it seems to be her labor record — specifically, that of the Hyatt Hotel chain, which her family founded and on whose board she serves. As CNN reported in May, the hospitality union UNITE HERE called Hyatt "the worst hotel employer in America."

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