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New Top Prosecutor 

Inside Track

Seven Days has learned that Burlington lawyer Ritchie Berger is about to be appointed United States Attorney for the District of Vermont.

According to reliable sources, Mr. Berger has received the necessary stamps of approval from both Republican Gov. Jim Douglas and Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. FBI background checks are currently underway.

Berger will replace Peter Hall, who was appointed last year to a judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Hall filled the seat of the late Judge Fred Parker.

Berger graduated Rutland High School and UVM (1974). He studied law at the University of Maine. For years, Ritchie's been a partner at Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew -- http://www.dinse.com.

Years ago, Berger's legal reputation won him the nickname "The Terminator." He looks and sounds like a prosecutor straight out of central casting.

Attorney Berger is known to longtime "Inside Track" readers for his successful representation of fired Burlington Free Press reporter Paul Teetor back in the mid-1990s. Berger's aggressive legal strategy exposed many of the inner workings of the Gannett newspaper chain.

It wasn't a pretty sight, and the Freeps settled out of court to avoid further embarrassment.

Berger's principal area of practice, however, has been defending physicians and health-care institutions. The Terminator was out of town this week and did not respond to our voicemail requesting comment.

Dean Meets the Press -- Former Gov. Howard Dean returned to NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday as head of the Demo-cratic National Committee. There were a few painful moments.

Ho-Ho had to respond to his infamous "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for" line.

Dean told the national audience he does not "hate Republicans as individuals."

Whew!

Ho-Ho also managed to switch Saddam Hussein's name with Osama bin Laden's, telling Tim Russert he was particularly miffed by "the insinuation that the president continues to make to this day that Osama bin Laden had something to do with supporting terrorists that attacked the United States. That is false!"

Russert didn't correct him on air.

In defense, it could be noted that Dean's gaffe merely reflects the successful Bush administration plan to blur the lines between Osama and Saddam so that they became one person in the minds of the American people. Besides, they all look alike, right?

Dr. Dean also bobbled the question about Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders' bid for the U.S. Senate. Russert played Joe McCarthy, reminding Ho-Ho that Bernie "is a self-described avowed socialist."

Instead of acknowledging Russert's description as accurate, Dean fidgeted like a man whose patriotism was being questioned in the 1950s.

"He's a populist," said Dean.

Russert reminded him that Sanders called himself a "democratic socialist" in his book.

Dean conceded the point, then tried to paint Bernie as basically "a liberal Democrat."

"We may very well end up supporting him," said Dean.

But Russert had read the 1996 Associated Press story that was floating around Vermont GOP headquarters last week. Most Democrats supported Bernie that year in a battle with Republican Susan Sweetser. But attorney Jack Long won the Democratic nomination. Longshot finished with 9 percent of the vote. Ho-Ho's was among them.

Back then, Dean said he had previously left his ballot blank rather than vote for a Republican or Bernie.

"Earth to Chairman Dean," said GOP State Chairman Jim Barnett this week. "Bernie Sanders is not a liberal Democrat. Just ask him."

In fact, when Howard Dean earned a Vermont paycheck, he wasn't a liberal Democrat, either. But that's another story.

The unasked question is: Has Howard Dean ever voted for Bernie Sanders?

Senate Wheels -- A few months ago, no one would have noticed. But once a Vermonter floats his name as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, things change.

Pretty soon, you can't even drive down the street in a new car without tongues wagging.

IDX whiz Ritchie Tarrant, a Republican, is in just such a situation. Mr. Tarrant is pointing toward a long-anticipated race for the U.S. Senate seat that Jim Jeffords is retiring from. He's currently interviewing potential campaign staff. But in his decades of hard work building a world-class Vermont-based software company, Ol' Jump Shot has never experienced the scrutiny of the political life before.

For example, these days, when Ritchie is seen tooling around in a new Bentley, heads turn as if it were James Bond, and a certain local political columnist gets a few calls.

Yes, Tarrant confirmed this week, the man with an eye on the U.S. Senate does indeed have a new Bentley, a new 2005 GT Coupe.

"Finally found a sports car I can fit in," said the tall, ex-St. Michael's hoop star of the 1960s.

Yours truly, also 6'4", can certainly appreciate that size matters. Little, normal-sized people have no idea what it's like living in a world built for humans who are half a foot shorter. Good for you, Ritchie!

They say you can tell a lot about a man by the car he drives, and Rich Tarrant's new wheels indicate the owner certainly appreciates quality.

The 552-horsepower, 12-cylinder Bentley Continental GT Coupe has a top speed of 190 mph. According to Motor Trend Magazine, it goes from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. That's about the time it took you to read the last sentence.

Motor Trend called the 2005 Bentley GT Coupe's speed "damned impressive for a nearly 2.5 ton, almost 16-foot-long luxury tank."

Candidate Tarrant's new wheels get 11 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway. But no one buys a Bentley for its gas mileage -- http://www.bentleymotors.com.

"Hedonists will be ga-ga," wrote Motor Trend, "when they slip into the sensuously styled cabin. Fit and finish are spectacular, with gleaming brightwork, veneers so lustrous they seem to have come from liquid trees, and leather rich enough to make the people at Prada pout."

Want one?

Well, they're certainly not for everybody. We figured out that with $2000 down, the payments would be just over $5400 a month for 36 months.

For those who wish to pay cash, the base price of the British-built 2005 Bentley Continental GT Coupe is $156,285. Motor Trend calls it "a bargain!"

Let it never be said that Candidate Tarrant does not know a bargain when he sees one, eh? Frugality, after all, is a good quality in a political hopeful.

Speaking of frugality, Tarrant's likely main opponent in the battle to be Jeezum Jim's successor is also quite frugal.

Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders lives in the same modest New North End ranch house he landed when he served as Burlington's mayor in the 1980s. Word is the Sanders family doesn't even use the old in-ground swimming pool in the backyard.

And for wheels, Vermont's seven-term congressman is currently driving around the state in his blue 2002 Saturn SL2. When purchased, the new Saturn cost $13,200.

These days Ol' Bernardo's been using it to transport himself to a series of "Vermont Town Meetings on Poverty." The next two are in Rutland on June 4 and in Newport on June 6.

No Bentleys in the parking lot.

Hall of Fame Fight -- The big annual Key Bank Vermont City Marathon takes place Sunday. The city of Burlington will fill up this weekend with thousands of runners from near and far. It's a very big deal.

What started back in 1989 with about 300 runners has grown into one of the country's premiere marathons with 6800 participating. There's even a Vermont City Marathon Hall of Fame.

Growing up, "Hall of Fame" meant one thing: Cooperstown, New York. It's the baseball cathedral honoring the legends of the game like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb.

Over the years, other Halls of Fame have popped up. Just about every sport has one; every college athletic department, too.

The Vermont City Marathon Hall of Fame was started to honor the select group of runners who had completed the first 10 local marathons. Jim Paulsen of South Burlington is one of them.

Paulsen's a 44-year-old Cornell-educated engineer who kissed IBM good-bye more than a decade ago. He currently buys and fixes up old houses while teaching math courses at the Community College of Vermont.

Paulsen's a scientist and a runner. He's one of those lone souls tramping along the roadside with a determination to endure as much pounding and pain as humanly possible.

And, not surprisingly, Jim the Math Teacher is a numbers guy. He noticed the Marathon numbers just didn't add up.

Paulsen told "Inside Track" that he noticed "a whole lot of Hall of Fame bibs were not picked up" at the 2002 marathon. That was when he first complained about the Hall of Fame list, "and got the brush off."

"Runners tend to be introverts," said Paulsen, "and I'm not really a stand-up-on-a-soapbox kind of guy, but what's the Hall of Fame supposed to mean?"

The following year, Paulsen checked the old race results and found several Hall of Fame members hadn't finished or even started a few Burlington marathons. They had no finishing times.

According to Paulsen's statistics, only eight runners, including himself, have completed all 16 Vermont City Marathons. The 2004 Hall of Fame includes 20 members.

Unfortunately for Paulsen, race officials have a different view of the Hall of Fame and are fed up with his complaints. In fact, last May, just before the race, marathon director Andrea Sisino wrote Paulsen, making it clear they have had it with this Hall of Famer's Hall of Fame criticism.

"Due to your irate behavior in our office on several occasions, we feel it is best to deny your request to volunteer. We fully understand your position on the Hall of Fame policy, however [you] do not agree that it is in the fun spirit that was intended for this group of runners."

Sisino told "Inside Track" she'd had it with Mr. Paulsen. She accused the Hall of Famer of "harassment."

"Thank God we haven't had to get a restraining order on him," said Sisino. The marathon's board, she said, had discussed the issue and decided to come down on the side of "fun."

The Vermont City Marathon, said Andrea, "is based on fun and good spirits. We respect his right to disagree. He's not respecting ours."

The latest Hall of Fame list named 20 runners "who have started every" marathon. Names in bold face signified finishing every race. There were 11 bold- face names. Paulsen says he can only find eight of them that made it to every finish line.

"It's a great race," said Paulsen as he prepared for his 17th consecutive. "The reason I run the race is it's fun."

But it's tough for a math teacher and Vermont City Marathon Hall of Famer to be told numbers don't count, that it's okay if a few fellow Hall of Famers didn't finish a few races. Or just paid the entry fee and stayed home. To be told that he should lighten up and have fun!

"I have to get treated this way?" asks the math teacher. "I'm the person they're trying to honor!"

Wonder what Pete Rose would think of all this.

Snappy Speaker -- Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards had a crowd of more than 300 rolling in the aisles Sunday at the Sheraton Burlington. The $25-a-ticket speech by the Texas Democrat was sponsored by Vermont Woman. Actually, it was more of a stand-up comedy act, and the audience ate it up.

Richards lost the governor's seat to a wide-eyed, well-heeled failed oil-driller named George W. Bush. Lately, she's been on a speaking tour.

In the post-9/11 age, air travel has indeed changed. For example, having a one-way ticket immediately sets off suspicion that one is a suicide hijacker. And when it comes to airport security, said Richards, "the smaller the airport, the higher the security."

Departing South Bend, Indiana, recently, she had one-way tickets to Detroit and Madison, Wisconsin.

"That's two one-ways," noted Richards, "which makes me practically wearing a rag over my head."

The former Texas governor was "shoved off to the side," she said, "and this young woman approach-ed me and said she had to wand me with this electric thing."

Gov. Ann quickly suspected there might be a little problem. In her distinctive Texas twang, she informed her Vermont audience that she wears "these garments that are called body suits, made by Wolford. They're the best traveling garments in the world, but they have these three metal snaps in the crotch."

The audience howled. Crotch jokes on Sunday afternoon are apparently perfectly acceptable in the 21st century. At least when a 71-year-old Texas beauty is telling them.

"My crotch set off her wand," said Gov. Richards. "She said, 'I've got to get my supervisor.'"

The supervisor arrived, "a large woman and strong," and asked "'What seems to be the trouble?'"

Gov. Richards told her, "Well, I don't have any trouble, but I have set off your assistant's wand with three metal snaps in my crotch."

Richards said she politely offered to take her pants off and "show the crotch with the three metal snaps to the supervisor."

"Oh, no, no, no, no, no," replied the supervisor. "But would you mind if we pat you down?"

"Well, I can't imagine any more fun!" answered Richards.

In fact, most of her 55-minute "speech" was pure fun. Richards steered away from the Iraq War and she steered away from George W. Bush.

No laughs there.

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Bio:
Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.

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