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Prizes, Prejudices and Adolph Hitler? 

For David Moats of the Rutland Herald, Monday’s Pulitzer Prize for editorials supporting Vermont’s landmark civil-unions law was “the affirmation of a career,” a career toiling in the journalism trenches of small-town America.

For the rest of us, it was the affirmation of the courage of so many and the “common humanity” of the Vermont family we cherish.

Last year, our brave little state legalized love for all couples and made a historic statement about the true meaning of family.

This year, from “Dear Abby” to the Pulitzer Prize for the Rutland Herald, the affirmation and admiration from across the nation is just starting to pour in.

A big-city newspaper colleague remarked the other day that David Moats’ Pulitzer “is not a win for editorials of great rhetoric, but rather for editorials that embodied plain-spoken common sense.”

And what a nice gesture from the competition! The newsroom at The Burlington Free Press sent a congratulatory bouquet of flowers to the Rutland newsroom Monday. In Tuesday’s edition, the Freeps played the Rutland Herald Pulitzer Prize story on the front page, above the fold.

What the folks in the Freeps newsroom and Vermont political junkies are well aware of is the fact that the editorial board of the Free Press completely ducked the issue that the Rutland Herald won the Pulitzer for — civil unions. The newspaper’s petulant publisher,

Jim Carey — he of the born-again bumper stickers — simply would not allow it.

In Tuesday’s edition, Herald publisher R. John Mitchell acknowledged that Moats’ award-winning editorials supporting equality and justice for all Vermont couples came with a price — lost advertising revenue.

Whether or not the fear of losing advertisers prompted Boss Carey to muzzle his editorial page is something we do not know. Mr. Carey is a publisher who prefers to not talk to reporters who do not work under him.

Monday morning, The New York Times let the cat out of the bag, reporting the Herald was a Pulitzer finalist — “National Spotlight for Vermont Paper.” It’s not surprising that the American newspaper that has won more Pulitzers than any other got a heads-up on the prize winners.

The Times’ article by Felicity Barringer — love that byline — also mentioned the courageous stand not taken by our distinguished local daily. “Editorials in The Burlington Free Press, the state’s largest newspaper,” wrote Barringer, “said little about the core of the issue. A few days after the court ruling, the paper called for ‘Leadership. Civility. Open Debate.’ It did not say in which direction the leaders should lead.”

Curiosity got the best of us. Did Jim Carey take the call from The New York Times?

According to reliable sources, when Carey did not return Barringer’s first phone call, she called again. Lo and behold, his secretary must have been away from her desk. Mr. Carey personally answered Ms. Barringer’s call and informed her he was “in a meeting.”

The reporter informed Carey he was actually in a phone interview with The New York Times.

Carey then replied that the Free Press does not comment on editorials. End of interview.

Finally, in Pulitzer Prize Land, anyone notice the pathetic “coverage” by the local TV news media Monday evening?

On WPTZ it was the last news story, just before their sports segment. On WCAX, the station that proudly bills itself as “Vermont’s Own,” Vermont’s first-ever Pulitzer Prize was the very last story on its one-hour newscast. And WVNY, the new kid on the block, didn’t mention it at all.

Eric Greene, anchorman at Ch. 22, expressed it best on behalf of the local TV-news mindset. Asked why he didn’t report the Rutland Herald’s Pulitzer to his small band of viewers, Greene replied, “I don’t know. I just never really thought to. We had other things to cover, other than the competition.”

Sounds like a classic case of “big antenna = small mind.”

House Taliban Likes Adolph? — The Taliban are the scripture-quoting religious extremists who run most of Afghanistan these days. Their Vermont counterparts currently hold the majority in the House. They rode the electoral anti-gay backlash all the way to Montpelier. They include folks like Rep. Nancy Sheltra (R-Derby) and her “Sex Pack” of wing-nuts out to Take Back Vermont — all the way to the Stone Age, if possible. They’re the ones praying that the new Republican Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Peg Flory, can somehow, someway, squeeze the homophobic camel of “reciprocal beneficiaries” through the eye of the constitutional needle.

Among the unique characteristics of the Vermont Taliban is an outspoken fascination, not just with “anal sex,” but with Adolph Hitler, too.

Take the case of freshman Rep. John Hall (R-Derby). Sources told Seven Days that Rep. Hall made a nasty and crude public remark to the Education Committee comparing Gov. Howard Dean to Adolph Hitler. Last Friday, we asked Rep. Hall if it was true. If he really said his local school superintendent “is a little Hitler just like Howard Dean.”

“Yes, I did,” answered Rep. Hall. “In my opinion,” he told Seven Days, “[Dean] doesn’t come across with what he says.”

Many people, we noted, consider Adolph Hitler to be the greatest mass-murderer of the 20th century. How is Howard Dean in any way like Hitler? Give us one example.

Hall thought for a moment. “I couldn’t give you any,” he said, adding, “Have a blessed Easter,” before departing.

Adolph Hitler also popped up last week in an unsigned piece of mail sent to Rep. Steve Hingtgen (P-Burlington). The mail, sent to Hingtgen’s home, came without a return address. It included a copy of the Freeps story on his unsuccessful attempt to amend the capital bill to exclude taxpayer handouts to organizations that discriminate. The Republican House Taliban upheld the right to discriminate. Several of its stoutest members condemned Hingtgen for trying to harm the Boy Scouts, who were up for $100,000. The Boy Scouts, as you know, discriminate against gays. Hingtgen, by the way, was once an Eagle Scout.

The mailing also contained a picture of “Adolph Hitler, the Fuhrer.” Written above it in block letters was, “KEEP TALKING IN THIS MANNER AND YOU MIGHT GET INTO TROUBLE.”

Bet it wasn’t from a civil-unions supporter, eh? Or anyone you’d want for a neighbor. Anyway, word from the Senate is, the Boy Scout money’s coming out. Sen. Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex/Orleans), chairman of the Senate Institutions Committee, told Seven Days the Boy Scouts handout will be removed in the Senate version of the capital bill. Illuzzi is a Republican in the George Aiken/Jim Jeffords tradition. He’s not afraid of Nazi sympathizers.

Welcome Home, Mister Ed! — On first blush, quite the master stroke by the mandarins at Camp Catamount to pull the name of a long, lost hometown rabbit out of the presidential hat.

Ed Colodny may be just the guy to whip Universitas Veridis Montis into fighting shape. A guy who comes from that special place referred to in foggy academia as the “real world.”

Mister Ed did wonders in the airline industry, turning Allegheny Air Lines into USAir. And he left behind a good reputation. Colodny hits campus this week just as hundreds of faculty members go to the polls to vote a union up or down. Mister Ed couldn’t be more at home.

UVM union organizers have done a quick background check on President Colodny. They contacted their opposite numbers in the national airline pilots and flight-attendants unions. They were told Mister Ed is, indeed, a “bottom line kind of guy.” They were also told he’s “principled.” One veteran of the airline labor wars told the locals Ed Colodny “wasn’t anything like Frank Lorenzo,” the notorious airline shark of the fast-buck 1980s who ran Eastern and Continental into the tarmac. Colodny, said the union folk, “is principled and was fair-handed in dealing with us.”

Ed Colodny is a hometown Burlington, Vermont, boy who made good. Real good. A principled, bottom-line kind of guy who is fair-handed in his dealings with others. And a 747’s worth of “real world” experience.

Sounds like Camp Catamount’s luck may have finally changed, eh?

Statehouse Secrecy Update — Republicans have fired back on critics of House Speaker Walter Freed’s embarrassing videotaping crackdown. GOP campaign guru George McNeill claims Lt. Gov. Doug Racine, a Democrat, kicked his camera crew out of the State Senate back in 1998. McNeill of Danby, the party’s Rutland County chairman, directed the GOP campaign effort to take back the House. Gorgeous George says he had permission from the Senate secretary to shoot footage for GOP campaign commercials. He says Racine, the presiding officer, kicked them out. Imagine that — Doug Racine, jack-booted thug!

Racine says McNeill’s story is a lot of fooey. “It’s not accurate,” he told Seven Days.

In the first place, the Senate secretary is not the presiding officer. As it is in the House of Freed, so too in the State Senate. Permission from the presiding officer is the protocol.

Second, Racine says McNeill’s crew set up right in front of the room, blocking views. Racine recalls all he told them was that they had to move over to either side of the chamber, where the working press sets up.

“Had I told him he couldn’t be anywhere in the chamber,” said Racine, “I would have heard about it from George McNeill and probably the press. For him to say I threw him out and he couldn’t be in the Senate chamber at all is wrong.”

In fact, said Doug the Thug, when he first ran for Gov-Lite, he had to ask Lt. Gov. Barbara Snelling’s permission to shoot campaign video in the chamber. Permission granted. Since, said Mr. Racine, he’s reciprocated for Mrs. Snelling.

“What Walt did,” Racine told Seven Days, “was say, ‘I don’t like VPIRG so they’re not going to be anywhere in the House chamber.’ I never told George McNeill you can’t be anywhere in here.”

Douglas Out of the Closet — People have suspected it for years. That perennial Republican politician Jim Douglas actually does have views on issues of the day. Douglas, currently the state treasurer, is running for governor. And to date, the cornerstone of his campaign strategy has been his refusal to discuss his positions on the issues of the day. But there he was Easter Sunday on WGOP’s, er, sorry, WCAX’s “You Can Quote Me.”

Given the friendly confines of Ch. 3, Mr. Douglas chose his opening wisely. The questioners, Marselis Parsons and Tim Lewis, didn’t even bring up Jim’s gubernatorial campaign until after the break, in the show’s closing minutes. Boy, did Slim Jim do a bob and weave. How would Douglas have voted on civil unions had he been in the legislature? asked Marsillyiss.

“I would have voted to put it off until the subsequent year,” answered Douglas. “Vermont wasn’t ready,” he said, for “such a dramatic societal change.”

Unfortunately, there was no vote to postpone. It was up or down. Yes or no. A moment for courage.

But what if you’re the governor, prodded Parsons, what would you have done?

In Gov. Jim’s World of Make Believe, the civil-unions bill wouldn’t have reached his desk. Douglas would have exercised “the leadership of the governor’s office” and swayed the legislature to slow down the civil-unions train. With “proper gubernatorial leadership,” he said, the bill would have never come to his desk.

In the real world, however, a Douglas-sponsored delay would likely have led to the Supreme Court keeping its word to order marriage licenses for all couples, should the legislative branch balk.

Kudos to Mr. Douglas for getting through “You Can Quote Me” without revealing his personal position on civil unions and equal rights for gays and lesbians.

In the spirit of Pulitzer Prize Week, we hereby award Jim Douglas the first-ever Seven Days “Slippery Salamander Prize.” Slippery Salamanders will be awarded on an irregular basis to mark exceptional public displays of political tongue-twisting on the Vermont political stage.

Congratulations, Mr. Douglas!

Correction — Charges against Statehouse lobbyist Will Adams were dismissed “without prejudice” by the court. That means the state is free to refile them.

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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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