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Spicy Drug Bust 

Sanders and Texas Republican Rep. Tom Delay are unlikely allies voting against cloning: Bernie because of his distrust in biotech companies; Delay for religious reasons.

The scene — Burlington’s attractive and “user-friendly” City Hall Park.

The hour — just past noon on Saturday.

’Twas a gorgeous sunny day and a big crowd was out for the weekly farmers’ market along College Street. Yours truly was on hand to pick up a week’s supply of the world’s best fresh veggies when our sixth sense raised an alarm.

One hundred feet away, behind the vegetable/bakery/artist stalls, we noticed an unusual amount of blue and yellow under the green shade trees. We spotted a small “tribe” of 15 to 20 future leaders of America lounging on the “grass.” A few softly strummed guitars. Crosby, Stills and hash?

Lt. Walter Decker was chatting amiably with the main group. In their bright yellow jerseys, four tanned and fit members of Burlap’s new bicycle park-patrol squad gathered off to the side. Broccoli in hand, yours truly spotted Sgt. Shawn Toof approaching the suspects from the St. Paul Street side of the park. And Cpl. Bill Ward was escorting a young man to the corner of College and St. Paul Streets. In the corporal’s hand was a plastic bag of what appeared to be a dried leafy substance. Another episode in America’s never-ending War on Drugs?

We strolled over to Cpl. Ward and the suspect. Upon close visual inspection, the baggie appeared to hold about an ounce of crushed, brownish-green plant matter. The officer told Seven Days he had radioed headquarters, requesting a “marijuana detection kit” to ascertain the true identity of the substance.

Great, make that four cops and four yellow jerseys on the clock for something Canada just made legally available with a doctor’s prescription. We volunteered to authenticate the evidence, but Cpl. Ward politely declined. He said he didn’t doubt our testing ability, but preferred to follow established procedure.

This summer, the new yellow jerseys on wheels patrol the bikepath and the Marketplace. They encourage good behavior, discourage bad behavior. The bicycle brigade also acts as efficient eyes and ears for a police department that can’t be everywhere. Lt. Decker told Seven Days that one of the yellow jerseys had smelled something funny and radioed dispatch with a report of “possible criminal activity.”

But this potential drug bust went downhill fast. Science ruled the day. A sample of the fragrant plant material tested by Cpl. Ward proved negative for THC. Whatever it was, it wasn’t marijuana, said the officer.

As it turns out, these mellow young citizens were smoking something much spicier than cannabis. They told yours truly they had politely informed the young gendarmes in yellow and the older gendarmes in blue that their joints were full of sage, not pot. That’s right, sage, the spice so treasured in Mediterranean kitchens. They were smoking sage, and told us the effect was mellowing and spiritual.

No law was broken. No arrests were made. The pack of gendarmes went on their merry way. Happy ending, right?


As soon as the Bush administration hears sage-smoking is popular in Vermont, they’ll have the DEA treat it like heroin. “Thanks, Jim.”

How’s that for a spicy cop story?

Vermont Roots? — President George W. Bush’s chief political strategist, Karl Rove, is widely credited with being the pompous West Wing dingbat who recklessly pushed U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords out of the Republican Party. In doing so, Rove handed control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrat opposition.

Mr. Rove has been a confidant, friend and well-paid consultant to Dubya for 10 years. He’s a household name in Texas politics, but his very first Capitol Hill job was for a Vermonter. Small world, eh?

According to former Rep. Richard Mallary of Brookfield, Rove was a low-level member of his congressional staff when he served in the House in 1973. Today Mr. Rove is a certifiable American political Big Dog. But, Mallary told Seven Days, the young Rove didn’t make much of an impression.

Mallary said that despite Mr. Rove’s “distinguished current status,” he has “no recollections of discussions with him.”

Given the fact that that Dick Mallary is a Vermont Republican from the Gibson-Aiken-Stafford-Jeffords wing of the party, he said he imagines Rove “would disown me now.” Rove “was a pup” back then, he said. Mr. Mallary swore he couldn’t even recall what Rove looked like and thought he left “to start a PR firm.”

And made many millions with it, too.

Before joining the staff of Vermont’s lone congressman, Rove was elected president of the College Republicans. His campaign manager was the late GOP strategist Lee Atwater, the hardball legend later credited with putting W’s Daddy in the Oval Office.

According to a biography of Mr. Atwater by author John Brady, Atwater praised Rove’s talents as a political dirty trickster. He organized conferences that instructed young Republicans on campaign dirty tricks, “such as purloining the opposition party’s garbage to obtain inside memos and lists of contributors.” One time, Rove sneakily posed as a reporter to gain access to a Democratic candidate’s campaign headquarters.

“Rove took some of the candidate’s campaign stationery and used it to fake a thousand invitations to the opening of the Democrat’s headquarters. He added ‘free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing’ to the invitations, distributed them at a hippie commune, a rock concert and soup kitchens in Chicago.”

Rove has dismissed the incident as a youthful “prank.”

Karl Rove has come a long way for a dirty trickster. Now he tells the President of the United States what to do. But along the way, Karl Rove missed one important political lesson — don’t mess with Vermont!

Say-a-Little-Prayer Time? — As they’d say at Saratoga, the Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact will be the Budweiser Longshot in the Ninth Race at Capitol Downs come late September. And we’re talking a 99-1 longshot.

Before the pols left Foggy Bottom for summer vacation last week, Vermont soldiers Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords fought gamely to get a compact renewal beachhead in the farm-aid bill, but simply ran out of horse.

We caught St. Patrick’s passionate floor speech on C-Span. Leahy reminded everyone west of the Ohio River that “We pay taxes, too.” And since we in the Northeast have always been happy to help with the West’s floods, forest fires, crop failures and earthquakes, how about the West helping our farmers for a change?

Checking the racing form, we see the White House is against it. The Republican leader, Trent Lott, is against it. The Democrat leader, Tom Daschle, is against it. Therefore, the best bet at the moment is what is known at the racetrack as a “parlay.”

First put $20 on the nose that the Bush White House successfully gets the dairy compact killed. Then take that winning purse and let it ride! Parlay the winnings on the closest thing to a sure thing you’ll ever see. Bet that, once the compact goes down, Republicans near and far will scream from the mountaintops that Jeezum Jim Jeffords is to blame!

When yours truly ran that scenario past Vermont’s Republican National Committeeman Skip Vallee Tuesday, Mr. Vallee didn’t correct us.

The real problem for the dairy compact’s renewal, said Gasoline, “is the intractable opposition” from the Midwest. Even Democrat senators from the Midwest passionately oppose it, he noted.

“Those are big Bush states,” noted the Skipster with pride.

As for Jeezum Jim ending up the compact’s fall guy, Dubya’s best friend in Vermont reminded us that just three days after Jeffords’ dramatic defection in May, Skip authored an op-ed piece, published in The Burlington Free Press. In Gasoline’s crystal ball, he saw gloom and doom for the Green Mountain State in the Jeffordsonian Age.

“I editorialized,” recalled Vallee, “that in the end, this would hurt Vermont.”

Place your bets, folks!

P.S. In his recent July campaign finance filing, Gasoline added to his all-time spending record set in last November’s Chittenden County state senate race. The old record was $123,000. Post-election bills added another six grand. The new Vallee mark is $129,000.

Congratulations, Skip! You’re number one!

Mr. Vallee, however, confessed he did have to return one campaign contribution. He told Seven Days one contributor wrote requesting his $10 back. Apparently, the donor was not happy with Skip’s take on Jeezum Jim.

Vallee said he went to the bookstore and purchased a copy of Will Randall’s distinguished biography of Benedict Arnold for $14.95. He mailed the book to the contributor.

“I reported it as a returned contribution,” he said.

That’s $14.95 plus sales tax and postage for a $10 donation. Awful generous of him, eh?

King Con for Governor? — Speaking of longshots, Cornelius Hogan graced the “You Can Quote Me” airwaves on WCAX-TV Sunday morning. Mr. Hogan is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. His opponent in the primary is savvy veteran Jim Douglas.

Douglas in a walk, right? I mean, who the hell is Con Hogan?

Outside of Vermont’s governmental beltway, Hogan, 60, is practically a complete unknown. But make no mistake, King Con has all the tools and then some.

Mr. Hogan’s led an interesting and meaningful life and he’s done it his way. In 1963 he was a young New Jersey prison guard. By 1978 he was Vermont’s corrections commissioner and, with his wife, started up a successful horse riding stable in Plainfield.

(According to his creative campaign manager Bethany Knight, there are more horses in Vermont than cows. Really?)

Hogan also ran the state’s Agency of Human Services throughout the 1990s. He’s a consummate manager and an out-of-the-box thinker. And a pretty slick banjo picker in Cold Country, a bluegrass band of local note. People who’ve worked with Cornelius hail his “vision” and his “leadership.”

“It’s been 24 years since state government’s been looked at in a systematic way,” Hogan told Ch. 3. We need to “modernize” government, he said, and as governor, King Con promised he’d appoint a “Modernization Commission” right away.


Media Notes — Congratulations to former Vermont Press Bureau scribe Diane Derby. Diane’s finally going to the big time as Jeezum Jim’s new press secretary.

Speaking of Jeezum, we hear there’s a “60 Minutes” appearance in the works for Sen. Jeffords, timed to coincide with his big September book release. Stay tuned.

Send in the Clones! — At times, politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows. Take last week’s House vote on cloning. In a chamber with no shortage of “clones,” two of the most fiery partisans from opposite ends of the spectrum were totally in sync.

“This week’s House vote on human cloning,” wrote Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., “produced one of the year’s most interesting and unexpected alliances. Bernie Sanders, the proudly self-described socialist from Vermont, and Tom DeLay, the staunchly conservative Republican whip from Texas, both supported a strong cloning ban.”

Sanders voted against cloning because he has “very serious concerns about the long-term goals of an increasingly powerful and profit-motivated biotechnology industry.”

As we’ve observed for the last 20 years, when it comes to the Bernmeister, everything and anything can be reduced to the evil of “the Big-Monied interests.”

DeLay declared on the House floor that cloning “would reduce some human beings to the level of an industrial commodity. Cloning treats human embryos — the basic elements of life itself — as a simple raw material. This exploitative, unholy technique is no better than medical strip mining.”

“What the DeLay-Sanders confluence points up,” wrote Dionne, “is that we are using too narrow a frame in discussing the great issues raised by developments in biotechnology.”

“There has been insufficient public debate about the ethical implications of human cloning technology,” Sanders said.

Mr. Avowed-Socialist from Vermont and Mr. Right-Wing Extremist from Texas, on the same page at last!

As lyricist Stephen Sondheim might put it:

“Where are the clones?/There ought to be clones./Well, maybe next year?”

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

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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