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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bernie Sanders
Crying in the Wilderness

Posted By on Sat, Sep 30, 2006 at 2:21 PM

A federal wilderness bill that would expand the Green Mountain National Forest’s "wilderness" designation to an additional 42,000 acres hangs by a thread this weekend. The U.S. Senate has passed it, but the House has adjourned before taking action. The bill could still pass in the lame-duck session that will follow the November 7 election, but nothing is certain in Washington.

What’s certain in Vermont is that self-funded Republican U.S. Senate longshot Richard Tarrant strongly opposes the New England Wilderness Act despite the fact it has the support of Vermont’s entire congressional delegation and governor, including Tarrant’s opponent the Senate frontrunner Bernie Sanders. Richie Rich held a rare presser Saturday morning in front of B.J.'s Gun Shop on Industrial Avenue in Williston. Nice folks inside to chat with. Said Tarrant outside:

"Right now as you know we have in front of us an issue about the wilderness controversy. And I want to state very clearly that I stand behind the sportsmen. I think we have enough wilderness. I’m for conservation. I think we have to conserve our forests. We have to manage our forests, but the bottom line is we cannot take our forests away from traditional Vermonters who not only use them to make a living, but use them to recreate.”

Tarrant, who said he doesn’t hunt, told reporters that if elected to the Senate, he would oppose any expansion of the wilderness designation in Vermont which prohibits ATVs, snowmobiles and logging.

Observing Tarrant’s press conference  was Sanders for Senate campaign spokesman Paul Hortenstine. Afterwards, he described Tarrant’s view as “extremist,” and handed out literature stating Tarrant wasn't telling the truth about the bill restricting Vermonters' right to hunt and fish. Not so:

"The wilderness bill will not restrict hunting and fishing and will preseve hunting and fishing opportunities for generations to come."

"We’ve seen again today," said Hortenstine, "that he would rather hide behind his negative discredited attack ads. And when he finally does take a position on an issue, it’s an extreme position that’s not only out of step with the Vermont delegation but it’s also out-of-step with the Republican governor and with Vermonters."

Tarrant had a dozen "sportsmen" stand behind him, including former anti-civil union candidate for governor Brian Pearl. Pearl finished 10th in 2002 with 569 votes statewide.

Today we're getting a few responses regarding the Wilderness Bill not passing the House....yet. First from Vermont's U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders' office:

Despite a full court press by the entire Vermont delegation, the clock ran out on their effort to secure passage of the Vermont Wilderness bill late last night when the U.S. House adjourned without taking it up again.  Congress will return for a lame duck session following the November election and Congressman Bernie Sanders intends to continue his bipartisan effort with the all-Republican New Hampshire House delegation to get the Vermont and New Hampshire initiatives approved by Congress and signed into law.

Sanders said, "I am pleased that we got as far as we did in this process.  It puts us in a good position for the lame duck session in November.  Needless to say, I am very disappointed that essentially the clock ran out on our efforts in the last few days to get this done now.  But we are not going to stop pushing for the Vermont Wilderness bill until we get it passed."

Then from Gov. Jim Douglas, who fellow Republican Tarrant declined to criticize, saying he had not spoken to Douglas as yet about the issue. Said the Guv:

"I’m pleased Senators Jeffords and Leahy succeeded in moving our wilderness compromise through the Senate yesterday and I look forward to seeing this measure pass the House when Congress returns later this Fall.  I’ve reiterated my commitment to assist the delegation with this important work.

"All the issues surrounding additional wilderness designations within our Green Mountain National Forest evoke strong feelings from many Vermonters with multiple points of view. By recognizing the value of compromise, we were able to reach an agreement.

"This measure will expand wilderness areas within the Green Mountain National Forest and I appreciate the work our delegation is doing to move this bill through the Congress before it adjourns for the year."

And next from Peter Welch, the Democrat running for Bernie's seat in the U.S. House:

"It is disappointing for Vermonters that wilderness protection for our state has stalled in the U.S. House, despite an agreement between the Governor and Vermont's congressional delegation.  The leadership in the Senate did its job by unanimously passing the compromise language; unfortunately the Republican leadership in the House was unwilling to do theirs.

"I, like most Vermonters, support a balance of land use for our National Forests- land that is truly wild for hunting, hiking, and skiing; active forest management; and recreation use such a snowmobiling.  This is a clear difference between me and my opponent Martha Rainville, who has stated clearly her opposition to 'any more' wilderness protection.

"The New England Wilderness bill is yet another example of why we must put an end to Republican leadership in the House and begin a new direction."

Nothing from the Rainville Campaign....yet.

And finally, this statement just in from Scudder Parker, Democrat for governor:

Sadly, last night despite the best efforts of Senators Jeffords and Leahy and Representative Sanders, the New England Wilderness Bill failed to pass, leaving the protection of additional wilderness in Vermont in limbo.  Jim Douglas is to blame and must stand up and take responsibility for his actions.

“Douglas's role in derailing the bill is becoming clearer and clearer, and voters are paying attention.  Had he not written the letter to Representative Pombo, we would have a wilderness bill today.

“It is incomprehensible to me that a governor of Vermont, a state that came together over five years to support a workable compromise on wilderness, would have so utterly failed his constituents by playing last-minute political games.  He wrote the letter.  He derailed the process.  He should take responsibility.  He’s had his chance, and in November, the voters will have their say.”

The Guv's race is getting a little interesting, eh?

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Bernie Sanders
Friday Frolics

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2006 at 3:10 PM

A number of items have popped up today for sharing:

1. We're  hearing from sources (around 2 p.m.) that the controversial Wilderness Bill is now moving. The one Gov. Jim Douglas almost put the kebash to. Yep, got it confirmed. It's passed the Senate and is on to the House.

2. That's good because it'll give Rich Tarrant, the GOP's self-funded ($6.1 million) candidate for the U.S. Senate ( vs. Bernie Sanders), a hook to hang one of his rare press conferences on:

U.S. Senate candidate Rich Tarrant will hold a press conference tomorrow, Saturday, September 30. Tarrant will announce his Sportsmen for Tarrant coalition and talk about the wilderness issue.

Candidate Tarrant is holding it at BJ's Gun and Sporting Goods store in Williston. Wonder if Richie's been a regular customer?

3. Oh, Canada! From the office of U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy we got this:

House Leaders Drop 11th Hour Bid To Kill Leahy Amendment
That Mandates Improvements In New Border-Crossing System

Leahy Also Beats Back Bid
To Curb First-Responder Grants
To Vermont And Other Smaller States

WASHINGTON (Friday, Sept. 29) – Vermont Friday was poised to score twosignificant policy wins engineered by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) as theU.S. House and Senate neared final passage of the annual homelandsecurity budget bill, after key House leaders dropped an 11th-hour bidto strip from the bill Leahy’s amendment to mandate improvements in acontroversial new border-crossing ID system.

Leahy’s legislationwill buy more time to improve implementation of the controversial PASSCard system for border crossings – a system that will require newidentity cards and methods for crossing U.S. borders, including theNorthern Border with Canada.  Leahy was joined by Sen. Ted Stevens(R-Alaska) in writing and offering the amendment, which would postponeimplementation of the PASS Card system – part of the Western HemisphereTravel Initiative (WHTI) -- for 17 months, until June 1, 2009....

House and SenateAppropriations Committee conferees on Monday had approved Leahy’samendment and included it in the final bill.  Leahy’s amendment hadbeen in the Senate-passed version of the bill but not the House’sversion.  Since then, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and HouseJudiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) have mounteda rare post-conference bid to strip the Leahy-Stevens Amendment fromthe conference agreement.  .... The House is expected to pass the billFriday, before adjourning this year’s regular session, and the Senateis expected to follow suit either Friday or Saturday.

4. Remember the Global Warming March over Labor Day Weekend? Been quiet on that topic since, but this arrived today:

Will Vermont Temperatures Feel Like Tennessee?
New Global Warming Report: How We Manage Emissions Today Will Dramatically Affect Changes in Northeast Climate and Quality of Life

At a telephone press conference on Wednesday, October 4, fourteen leading university scientists will release a study that uses state-of-the-art science to project the impacts on the Northeast climate under two scenarios:

1) a continued reliance on energy sources such as
coal and oil that produce high levels of heat-trapping emissions, and

2) a shift to clean and renewable energy to power our economy.  These two scenarios lead to starkly different outcomes as children born today reach middle age.  More summer heat waves, greatly reduced winter snow, and shortened seasons are just three examples of how global warming will likely change the lifestyles enjoyed by residents of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Took the photo yesterday afternoon. Three busloads of tourists from the South went for a boat ride. They're here to see our fall foliage. Be nice to hang onto it for awhile, eh?

5. Finally, don't you hate to watch law-enforcement types fight?

Re: Chittenden County State's Attorney's Race

AG Praises Donovan’s ‘Energy, Experience and Vision’

BURLINGTON, VT—Today, Vermont’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General William Sorrell, endorsed the candidacy of TJ Donovan for Chittenden County State’s Attorney.  The Attorney General, a former Chittenden County State’s Attorney himself, praised Donovan for clearly possessing the attributes necessary to effectively serve as Chittenden County’s top prosecutor.

“I served two different stints as Chittenden County State’s Attorney,” said Attorney General Sorrell.  “I know what the job demands.  I also know T.J. Donovan.  T.J. has the energy, experience and vision to be a great State’s Attorney for our most populous county.  He has my vote. ”   

Coincidentally, Mr. Donovan's Republican opponent had this letter-to-the-editor in today's Freeps:

As his opponent in the upcoming general election Nov. 7 for State's Attorney, I'd like to congratulate T.J. Donovan on his primary win.

Now, for the first time in many years, there'll be a general election campaign -- and clear choices -- for the honor of becoming Chittenden County's top prosecutor. As Deputy State's Attorney, and entering my 10th year as a prosecutor, I look forward to upcoming debates and forums with Donovan that will highlight the experience and vision of both candidates.

I urge Chittenden County voters to attend these discussions.

All citizens have a stake in the quality, experience, and philosophy of criminal prosecution which the next State's Attorney will bring to the job.

The writer is the Republican candidate for Chittenden County state's attorney.

In case you can't read between the lines, St. Francis would like to make "experience" the issue i.e. length of experience. He's been prosecuting for 10 years. Donovan only put it a year or so. St. Francis would like you to think Donovan's too young, but TJ's 33, just one year younger than Chittenden County State's Attorney Patrick Leahy was when St. Pat won the 1974 U.S. Senate race.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

That Try Men's Souls

Posted By on Thu, Sep 28, 2006 at 7:37 PM

Posted Thursday Evening:

I knew watching C-Span's Senate coverage Thursday afternoon. Knew that these are the times. Just about everywhere I look this week, these are the times that try all souls, mine included.

"This is a farce," scoffed Vermont's senior U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy during the Senate "debate" this afternoon. "This is a farce!" he shouted. St. Pat ripped off his microphone in disgust and walked away. I want my country back, too,  but they ain't giving it back. We will have to take it back. You and I. I trust everyone realizes that?

The "Farce"  of today is the Senate's impending passage of a law that defines "enemy combatants" in a way that is just as unconstitutional and un-American as the law it is replacing - a law found unconstitutional by our current rather Republican-friendly Supreme Court.

Check out this excellent piece in Salon titled "Tortured Justice."

"This provision would perpetuate the indefinite detention of hundreds of individuals against whom the government has brought no charges and presented no evidence, without any recourse to justice whatsoever," Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy declared at the start of Wednesday's Senate debate. "This is un-American. It is unconstitutional and it is contrary to American interests."


Leahy was clearly frustrated by the white-flag mood among some Senate Democrats. As he said in an interview, "In my own caucus, people say, 'We can't oppose this, look what happened to Max Cleland.'" (A Vietnam veteran confined to a wheelchair because of war wounds, Cleland, a Georgia senator, was defeated by GOP attacks ads in 2002 because he had supported a Democratic filibuster delaying the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security). Leahy recounted that his weak-kneed Democratic colleagues also argue, "'We have to go along with it because we'll never be able to explain it back home.'" That prompted the Vermont senator to add, "Maybe one way to explain it is to say, 'I stood up for you and your rights.'"


Couldn't take any more C-Span. Or CNN or Internet. Went for a spin on the two-wheeler. Rep. David Zuckerman, wife and child were holding their last Farmer's Market at Union Station. They grow for 180 families who buy shares.  Come and get it on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A short season it was with all the rain. Only raised 1500 pounds of Burlington, Vermont  Intervale potatoes this summer instead of the usual 6000 pounds. "Normal" years, they'd go a couple more weeks, said Dave the Prog.

And then there were those four beautiful war protesters in front of the Unitarian Church this evening between 5 and 5:30. God bless them! They show up Mondays through Fridays for years! I don't know about you, but this week has offered darkness everywhere I've looked. The Big Picture's rather scary. Sanity and courage appear in short supply. But I'm not alone in this....and neither are you. Let's not forget that, OK?

The light is there. Just have to look harder sometimes.

Bernie Sanders
Funny Season

Posted By on Thu, Sep 28, 2006 at 11:43 AM

In politics people say a lot of wild things, but, still,  you’ve got to admire their moxie sometimes. Yesterday, five veteran GOP members of the Vermont House held a Statehouse presser (forgot to invite yours truly otherwise we’d have a photo!), to announce their call to END the statewide property tax that pays for public schools. The Fearless Five Republican Reps are:
Rick Hube of Londonderry,
Steve Adams of Hartland
Rich Westman of Cambridge,
Joe Krawczyk of Bennington
Joyce Errecart of Shelburne.

According to their press release: “Wherever we go across the state, we hear one message, loud and clear, Vermonters are feeling pain. They are overtaxed and asking for help,” said Errecart, a former state tax commissioner.

“But the current system and the statewide property tax that drives it are no longer fixable. We can’t keep slapping Band-aids on a sucking chest wound. We have to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.”

To do that, the five plan to introduce a bill in January that would repeal the entire school funding apparatus, including the statewide property tax, effective July 1, 2009. They said they are not at this time proposing alternatives, and stressed their proposal did not advocate abolishing property taxes altogether, only the statewide levy.

“We feel confident that with two full sessions, we will be able to develop a new educational funding model that is both fair and affordable and returns to our towns and cities control over their own destinies that has been stripped away by state government in Montpelier,” Westman said.

You’ve got to check out their brand new Repeal & Revolt website!

In Dave Gram's AP story, Bill Lofy, Vermont Democratic spokesman, called the GOP proposal a "publicity stunt," saying it "does nothing to bring Vermonters together to address rising property taxes, but instead pits Vermonters against one another."
House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, made similar complaints.

So let’s see if we’ve got this straight. Back in 1997, the Vermont Supreme Court in the Brigham decision ended a very uneven playing field.  It was a rich town - poor town landscape.  And while property poor towns struggled and strained under high tax-rates to educate their kids, the property rich towns, so-called gold towns like Stowe etc. skated along with low tax rates and well-funded public schools.

The Supremes wrote in Brigham v. State of Vermont:

"Children who live in property-poor districts and children who live in property-rich districts should be afforded a substantially equal opportunity to have access to similar educational revenues.  Thus, as other state courts have done, we hold only that to fulfill its constitutional obligation the State must ensure substantial equality of educational opportunity throughout Vermont."

The result was Act 60 since “improved” by Act 68. Income sensitivity plays a role in seeking fairness.

But still, we are talking taxes and NOBODY likes to pay taxes, right?

The only problem for the Fearless Five is passing the “straight-face” test.

If you want to launch a political PR effort six weeks before the November Election calling for the repeal of a tax you don’t like, common decency requires that you at least mention a few of the taxes you’d consider replacing the current statewide property tax with.

After all, it’ll leave behind a $1 billion-plus hole. And money does not grow on trees, not even in Vermont.

Maybe they should have set their sights lower - just end the tax on beer?

P.S. No shortage of weirdness this week, folks. How about this statement from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richie Tarrant - who reports pumping over $6 million of his IDX fortune into a race aganst Rep. Bernie Sanders that has so far been a public embarassment...for Richie Rich. He's set the bar on TV commercials. Set it at its lowest level in Vermont history.

Statement from Rich Tarrant on the Signing of California’s Global Warming Initiative

“I want to congratulate the people of California for taking a bold step forward in the fight to reduce global warming.

“Today, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law that imposes the nation’s first cap on greenhouse gas emissions.  It’s now time for the federal government to follow California and take a leading role in the fight to reduce climate change worldwide.  We owe it to our children and grandchildren.”

Word is Richie and Arnold have something in common media-consultant-wise. Maybe Richie can get "The Terminator" to come to Vermont to campaign for him?

Big crowd for sure, eh?


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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bernie Sanders
Wednesday View

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2006 at 8:30 AM

Among the many at Monday’s Barbara Boxer/Bernie Sanders noontime bash at City Hall in Burlap was State Sen. Matt Dunne, the Democrat in the Lite-Gov race. His and Bernie’s were the two alternating ads that ran on this blog page when we started up.

Well, Young Dunne (left), beat Rep. John Tracy, the well-known House Health Care Committee chairman from Burlington, in the primary. He's got a November 7 toughie with Republican incumbent Brian Dubie to his right and Prog physician Marvin Malek to his left.

Meanwhile, the only question in the Sanders-Tarrant U.S. Senate race is whether the Bernie Landslide will cross the 70 percent line.

Matt dropped his Lite-Gov blog ad, but the spot quickly found a replacement.  Not a politician - but  “A safe place to ask the hard questions.”  Yep, a church. Christ Church Presbyterian on UVM’s Redstone campus.


As many of you “Freyne Land” readers now know, I was on the road to the Catholic priesthood as a teenager back in the mid-1960s. Was going to be a Maryknoll Missionary and see the world. Save it, too. It was a nine-year training program after high-school, but I and most of my class of 120 were gone after three years (1966-69).  Only four of my original classmates eventually made it to ordination.

The world has changed and the Catholic Church’s role has diminished greatly in our society. I haven’t been a Mass-goer since 1969. What filled the gap?

Siddhartha and Eastern religions. LSD and marijuana. Gestalt and “Primal Scream” psychotherapy. The normal things of those days. Why even the Vermont House voted to decriminalize marijuana in the 1970s and the young GOP leader from Middlebury - Jim Douglas - supported it!

That’s right. Rep. Jim Douglas voted to decriminalize an ounce of pot on March 17, 1978. The bill passed the Vermont House with 75 votes but died in the state senate.

Twenty-five years passed and Jim Douglas became Vermont’s governor. A medical marijuana bill (lead sponsor Progressive Rep. David Zuckerman) passed the House in 2003 on a 79-48 vote. It passed the Senate 20-7.

But Gov. Jim Douglas didn’t want to go near it with a 10-foot pole. Didn’t want to appear “soft” on drugs. He refused to sign the medical pot bill, allowing it to become law without his signature.

Meanwhile, this posting all began with our noticing the new church ad adjacent. I don’t know about you, but lately, the times have felt heavy. Very heavy. Big picture-wise, a lot of things relating to the current bankrupt, inept leadership at the White House and on Capitol Hill are in flux. But the necessary investigations do not happen unless the Democrats take a majority in one chamber or...just imagine...both!

I want my country back, don’t you?

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Bernie Sanders
Boxer Day in Burlap!

Posted By on Mon, Sep 25, 2006 at 4:30 PM

Good Monday afternoon! And the sun is certainly shining bright on Burlington, Vermont. I wish I was out biking. But I’m here...blogging.

About the U.S. Senate race? Are you serious? It’s been over for quite awhile even if whatshisname's commercials go on ad nauseum.

But I don’t decide the Senate Minority Leader’s schedule and if Barbara Boxer wants to come to Burlington, Vermont, heck, come visit!

Standing-room only at Contois Auditorium at City Hall - upstairs and downstairs. A very pro-choice, antiwar crowd as you might imagine. Barbara was here to stump for Bernie Sanders, the soon to be famous Vermont Independent United States Senator.

As someone who was also kicking around City Hall on that March 1981 night Sanders won the mayor's office - by 10 votes - I've  had quite the political life to cover. There is only one Bernie Sanders and the U.S. Senate is in for a treat.

The nooner at City Hall was a well-run pep rally and a very lively one.

Bernie looked into his crystal ball and imagined the changes in the current one-party rule on Capitol Hill November 7 might bring. Vermont’s Sen. Patrick J. Leahy would become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And Bernie paid particular attention to the chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“Right now there is a gentleman named James Inhofe of Oklahoma who chairs that committee. And Mr. Inhofe has the profound view that global warming is one of the great hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American people. This is a man who chairs the most important environmental committee in the United States Congress. Well, guess who’s going to replace him?” shouted Sanders. “It’s going to be Barbara Boxer!”

Sen. Boxer told the upbeat audience she can’t wait to hear Bernie’s “sweet tones” in the U.S. Senate next year.

“This is a subservient Congress,” said Boxer. “This is a rubber stamp Congress in the House and Senate,” she said, “and it’s dangerous for America.”

I dare say most Vermonters would agree with her, eh?

Meanwhile did y’all catch the piece on NPR’s Morning Edition about the self-funded Republican candidate in the race whose incessant deluge of negative, grouchy, slanted, insulting attack  ads are driving normal Vermonters on all sides of the aisle nuts?

I know because they call me, or email me, or stop me on the street to voice a complaint.

Can't blame 'em.

Richie Rich, you've certainly made an impression.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Is Jim Douglas Trying to Blow This?

Posted By on Sat, Sep 23, 2006 at 12:35 PM

*Please note - 2 updates and links added at 5 p.m. Saturday*

Holy mackerel!

No one could possibly have predicted this: that two-term GOP Gov. Jim “Scissorhands” Douglas - a fellow with more than 30 years in some kind of paying political office, would suddenly risk what had appeared his most assured reelection to a third term on November 7 over that Democratic challenger - the ex-minister and renewable energy whiz...whatshisname?

Oh, yeah, Scudder Parker - the only major party candidate for governor since I got here (1979),  who actually grew up on a Vermont dairy farm.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, imagined Gov. Douglas would suddenly publicly align himself with Rep. Rich Pombo, one of the most right-wing, ethically-challenged and anti-environment Republican committee chairman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Chairman Pombo represents the 11th District of California. It’s near Stockton.

This week, Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas wrote his fellow Republican an absolutely shocking-by-Vermont-standards letter. In it Douglas expresses his “concern” about the pending New England Wilderness Act.  In fact, it’s a very blatant attempt to give Pombo some local cover to kill the Wilderness Act in the House, even though it passed the Republican Senate unanimously after five years of extensive research and public hearings by the U.S. Forest Service.

Our Gov. Jimbo is reaching out to Chairman Pombo to derail a Wilderness Act that will protect Vermont and New Hampshire for our kids and their kids and their kids? Very strange.

So who is Pombo, the new friend of Vermont's governor? The anti-environment committee chairman hasn’t exactly been a household word in Vermont.

"Mr. Pombo's only idea [selling public lands], and it is a terrible one, is to treat this nation the way he treats his Congressional district, as if it were ripe for exploitation." ---The New York Times, 10/30/05

"If there were something called the dangerous species list, Richard Pombo would be on it. He's the misguided California congressman who wants to take a meat ax to the Endangered Species Act." ---Charlotte Observer, 9/29/05

"a virulently anti-environmental congressman" ---St. Petersburg Times, 10/26/05

"Pombo has shown that he's willing to sacrifice our public lands rather than be a steward of them." ---Modesto Bee, 9/28/05

Today, Vermont’s editorial pages had the same view of Chairman Pombo and his new link to the governor of Vermont.

Our Pulitzer Prize winning Rutland Herald published an editorial titled “Wild Politics” :

"In writing the letter to Pombo, Douglas may have been seeking to please the special interests who have opposed new wilderness in Vermont, mainly loggers and sportsmen's groups. But if the bill runs aground among the anti-environmental Republicans of the House, Douglas will have to answer to the vast majority of Vermonters who were pleased to see the Senate advance a plan to set aside wild lands in Vermont forever."

And even the Gannett-chain’s Burlington Free Press editorial was on the same page:

"Ultimately, this is about the future. It is about protecting the land for our children and the children who come after them.

The Green Mountain National Forest, a swath from Addison County to the Vermont-Massachusetts border, represents just 6 percent of the state's total land, but it looms large in the imaginations of Vermonters and many of the 70 million other Americans who live within a day's drive of it.

Let's protect this great natural resource. Let's allow some of it to just be wild, without our all-terrain vehicles and trucks and general human intrusions."

But we’d suggest that the wisest words of the morning came from an old Capitol Hill source who sent us this insightful email:

“Nice to see [Douglas] got hammered in today’s edits, but my guess is that the Pombo letter idea came from the nasties. I would think the last guy Douglas would want a favor from (sure to be known publicly) is Pombo. Parker should put an ad up tomorrow linking Douglas with Pombo and it would be over. 

Frankly, we were more than a little surprised Ol’ Scudder, Douglas' Democrat opponent, didn’t call a presser on Friday to highlight all this.


And it’s reflected , we’d suggest, in the fact the WCAX Poll (Douglas 53 - Parker 38) found 38 percent had "no opinion" of Scudder Parker - probably because they do not know who the hell he is! Hey, Scudder, it's called "free media."

Of those who knew of Scudder, he was viewed favorably by a 2-1 margin (40-22).

Douglas, meanwhile, was 53 percent favorable and 43 percent unfavorable.

Very interesting.



For the most part, the Freyne Brain is only able to wrap itself around Vermont's political world and that of my beloved United States of America.

So I've been reading up on the guy my governor wants a pre-election favor from. This Salon piece by Michael Scherer titled "The Pombo Mombo" is quite informative - you've just got to view their damn ad to read the whole thing (and all of Salon).


**Update 2**

Did a spin around Burlap on the two-wheeler. Farmer's Market downtown, Church Street Marketplace, Old North End, Hill Section, UVM and down Spear Street and around behind Pizzagalli and WCAX-TV to Shaw's for the salad bar! You know, the one without the stools to sit on?

Maybe that's why the most frequent personal question I get these days is: "Hey, Peter, have you lost a lot of weight or what?"

Nice question to be getting, eh?

The rain held off - it's was nice. Two basic comments stood apart and I heard them from people I've known for years and readers who know me from "Inside Track" and wanted to say hello and share something that was really bugging them:

1. "Look, I've voted Republican in the past, but I am sick and tired of those Tarrant ads. They insult my intelligence!" 

2. "What was Jim Douglas thinking when he suddenly comes out against the entire Vermont congressional delegation on the Wilderness Act at the last minute?  Just before the election, too."

Thanks, folks, for sharing. Nice to chat.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Bernie Sanders
Autumnal Equinox

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2006 at 9:33 AM

*Updated 11:30 a.m.*

**Political Birth Announcement Below That**

Actually it’ll officially occur at three minutes past midnight tonight. If spring is your season, you need to think Argentina.

Hey, former Ch. 3 producer/reporter Brian Byrnes is in Buenos Aires - I could hook you up?

Here in Vermont, the equinox is coinciding with an unusual event - Bob Kiss,  the quiet Progressive Mayor of Burlington, Vermont is holding a City Hall presser at 10 a.m.

According to the two-sentence announcement we received in an email yesterday, Mayor Kiss is going “to make an important announcement regarding the city’s finances.”

Treasurer Jonathan Leopold and Chief Accountant John Stewart will be at his side.

I like mysteries, don’t you?

Check back, eh?


*Update 11:30 a.m.*

Mayor Bob Kiss, the second leftist successor to Mayor Bernie Sanders (1981-89), happily announced, "The City learned late yesterday afternoon that Moody's reconfirmed the city's bond status at AA3. The people of Burlington and the City Council should take pride in retaining the high rating."

That smiling face to da' Mayor's left is City Treasurer Jonathan Leopold. Mayoral assistant Joe Reinert is in the corner.

"This rating," said Kiss, "is a direct result of important steps taken in designing and approving the FY07 budget and reflects Burlington's economic strength and vitality."

The "important steps" include a new city sales tax and a 4 cent increase in the property tax approved by the City Council.

Next Monday the City of Burlington is planning to sell $8.5 million in bonds. The biggest chunk, $3.6 million, is going to give Burlington High School the "sewage-free" athletic field it has long deserved. About time, eh?


A New Vermonter Along the Potomac!

According to reliable Capitol Hill sources, Democratic strategist and frequent political TV talk-show guest Jenny Backus is no longer pregnant. That’s because John Wallace Pagano has entered the world! Entry weight: 7 pounds ounces and 4 ounces.

Young John’s papa is Big Ed Pagano, chief of staff for Vermont’s senior United States Senator - Patrick J. Leahy. Papa Ed played center on the UVM basketball team (1981-85).

Parents and infant are doing great.

Young John, by the way, has excellent political genes. He is the grandson of former State Senator Jan Backus of Winooski.  Jan of Arc served five terms in the Vermont Senate in two separate tours - one from Windham County and one from Chitttenden County. Grandma Backus had her eye on Washington, too, running twice for the U.S. Senate seat held by Jeezum Jim Jeffords.

Congratulations to Jenny, Ed and Grandma Jan!


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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bernie Sanders
Personal Day

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2006 at 10:24 AM

*End of the Day Update added below*

I’m still hoping to make the Barre Opera House Debates that certain interesting business associations are putting on this evening, but I just got off the phone with someone I haven’t talked to in a while. In fact, I haven't seen him face-to-face since Ronald Reagan was sleeping in the White House.

That someone is Francis my older brother (by 10 years).

He and his wife of 40 years are in Lake George looking for fall color. We’re meeting in Middlebury for lunch. They’re out East from California visiting oldest son Seamus in the Big Apple. I haven’t seen Seamus since he was an infant and we were playing on my parents bed, bouncing around, and all of a sudden he bounced off. There was silence. I thought I’d killed him. I still remember the frightening feeling rushing though my teenage body. But then he started crying and his mom came in and I was able to breathe again.

Seamus did OK. Got his Ph.D. Another sibling did too, And two more became doctors. Hey, a good old-fashioned Irish-Catholic upbringing, eh?

“Bub” is what I called my brother when I was a wee lad growing up on Maple Street in Hartsdale, New York. He and sister Maureen were products of my dad’s (the old IRA squad leader from 1920-21)  first marriage to his sweetheart from back home in Co. Kilkenny, Ireland. Dad had come to America in 1928. Then he went back in 1935 to collect his bride. They settled in the Bronx. She died around 1944. Son Francis went to a nun-run boarding school. Daughter Maureen went to live on Clinton Place in the Bronx with my future mom and her mom (from Co. Mayo). My mom’s dad, a butcher shop owner from Co. Tipperary, had died of a heart attack in the 1930s.

I didn’t arrive on scene until late in 1949. My mom and dad had married the year before, and bought the house in suburban Hartsdale. The former IRA man, captured, sentenced to death and then set free by the 1921 peace treaty had become a CPA. Also taught night school two nights a week at Iona Collage - Irish Christian Brothers were frequent Sunday dinner guests on Maple Street. You can bet the memories are flooding in this morning.

“Bub” was considered a genius by many and an oddity by some. Quiet and studious was he with a voracious appetite for reading. He graduated Iona Prep in New Rochelle in 1956 - first in his class and captain of the track team. Then four years at Manhattan College studying electrical engineering and more track. Then Berkeley on a fellowship for his M.A. followed by UCLA for a Ph.D in physics and a life working on secret things for Uncle Sam.

Incidentally, I remember in the late 1950s he would run daily. In the cold weather he'd wear waffle long johns. At the time, he was the only one in town jogging along the roadside. Most folks thought he had a screw loose. How times change, eh?

I remember about 1959 when he was in college and I was in grade school, Bub took me to a Sunday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. It was the Age of Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. The second game went 15 innings and when we got home (via Woodlawn subway and the bus up Central Avenue) my mom was hysterical with worry. Bub hadn’t thought to call home - the game was on WPIX after all. And besides he was busy. Not watching the game or keeping a box score, but busy studying his physics and engineering textbooks and playing with his slide-rule as we sat in the upper deck behind home plate.

Hey, I had a blast.

One other thing - his nickname in the caddy yard at Scarsdale Golf Club - “Swish.” You see, he brought his text books to the caddy yard, too. I had no idea what “Swish” meant back then. At 10, I didn’t even know what straight-sex was. And when I hit the caddy yard in the early 1960s after Bub’s caddying career ended,  Caddy Master Jimmy Rocco started calling me “Little Swish.” He’d giggle and others would join him, but I hadn’t a clue as to the sexual innuendo. I was just happy to get the loop and the cash it produced.

While at UCLA working on the physics doctorate in the early Sixties, Bub joined a Single-Catholics club in Los Angeles. Met Pat, a Santa Monica native, and married in 1965. I was 15 and his best man and it was a great trip.  Visited again for Christmas in 1967. I remember I had a drivers license by then and got to explore L.A. before the smog rolled in. We also visited San Fransico where I spent every free hour walking around Haight-Ashbury, absolutely wild-eyed at what I was seeing, but too scared to participate. Hey, I was in a seminary at the time studying for the priesthood, fergawdsakes.

I graduated college in 1971 - Loyola University of Chicago. By then the Vietnam War had divided the country and divided my family. Needless to say Ol’ Bub, working on secret stuff for Uncle Sam, was not fond of long-haired antiwar protesters who did not go to Mass on Sunday, of which I was one. I recall an exchange of rather snotty letters that year and then a very long silence. Life goes on, eh?

Never saw the California Freynes again until 1986 when they surprised me by popping up in Burlington for my wedding reception. Then two years after that, I saw Bub and sister Maureen at my mom’s funeral in Florida. Since then it’s been Christmas cards. And Maureen, in Santa Fe these days painting, tells me Bub hasn’t kept in touch with her.

Ah, family!

Irish Catholic family. The 1950s. Black and white TV. Priests who spend more time praying than molesting. Looking back, it feels like another age - so much has changed.

I guess that over lunch in Middlebury today, I’ll see how much hasn’t.


*Update 9:30 P.M.*

There they are - three of the California Freynes: Brother Francis, his daughter Brigid the doctor and wife Pat. We met at Tully's & Marie's. It was sunny as you see and we sat on the deck for almost two hours. A little catching up to do.

A special moment on a special day. Forgive me if I don't have a lot of words right now. There was just so much going on feeling-wise.

And I did make it to the Barre Opera House tonight. Missed the Peter Welch v. Martha Rainville debate, but caught Rich Tarrant's act. He debated solo since Bernie Sanders stayed in Washington where Congress is in session. Nonetheless, given his glibness and lack of depth, it's tough to call Richie Rich the winner.

And the finale, the Jim Douglas v. Scudder Parker debate, showed quite the contrast between the two. It didn't come up in tonight's 30-minute event, but the breaking story of the night  is about how Jimmy D. contacted Republican House Committee chairs to kill the bipartisan New England Wilderness Act that the Senate approved Tuesday without objection. This could be the opening Ol' Scudder has been dreaming of.

A Vermont governor opposing the state's congressional delegation on wilderness protection?


If only Vermont's Republican governor was also against tapping wind energy to fill a potion of the state's energy portfolio, Scudder might have a real upset chance, eh?


Gov. Scissorhands is already against wind energy?

This is getting interesting.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Does Scudder Have a Chance?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2006 at 10:14 AM

*Correction added at the end regarding Thursday's Opera House Debate Sponsorship (12:45 p.m.)*

It’s a Seven Days Wednesday, but I’ve got to tell you, this is one political columnist who’s glad he’s got a blog.

Catch the Vermont Public Radio debate last night?  Republican Gov. Jim Douglas' first campaign face-to-face with the opposition: Democrat Scudder Parker and that Liberty Union guy.

About 15 minutes in, I realized I was feeling relieved that I had not written Ol’ Scudder’s political obituary in this week’s Seven Days column. Not quite. Left a door open, as they say.

My Scudder moment, described in the column,  was in the barber’s chair on lower Main Street on Monday. Terry and Sue’s place - Main Street Barbers (for years they were Ron Corey’s A-Team over on College Street - we’re talking back to he Mayor Sanders days of the 1980s, folks. Hair was brown).

Sue is married, lives in Essex Junction. Dare we describe her as "middle-of-the-road" (by Vermont standards) mainstream America? And she talks to a lot of heads with hair on a regular basis.

But Sue the Barber told me she has never heard of Scudder Parker! Ever! And she has absolutely no idea what the guy stands for. None!

Folks, if it’s 50 days before the November election and a Main Street, Burlington, Vermont licensed barber has never heard of the Democratic candidate for Vermont governor, wouldn’t you say it’s over?

But I held off, knowing Ol’ Scudder’s first TV spot was about to air and the first face-to-face debate was about to happen (Tuesday evening on VPR after “Inside Track” went to press.)

Glad I held off, because Ol’ Scudder was right in Gov. Scissorhands face and scored some points in that VPR debate. Wait till he really starts nailing him on his antiwind power position, eh?  Parker, you see, is no lightweight in the knowledge and experience department. But it is his first run for statewide office, something Jimmy D's been doing since 1980 (secretary of state).

The Sanders for Senate weekend tracking poll that Republican Richie Rich Tarrant’s fans dispute (Tarrant was at 27 percent approval after almost nine solid months of expensive and delusional TV commercials), tells a very different story in the Guv’s Race.  Republican Douglas widened his lead over Democrat Parker (54-31). However, the Douglas folks did not question the poll’s accuracy like the Tarrant folks did. Those numbers were just fine with them.

Of course, the 54-31 number came after a week of Gov. Scissorhands running a nasty ad attacking Scudder. The Douglas crew  had a camera guy video Parker speaking to a Community College class. Then they slo-moed the tape to make him look stupid. Folks, Scudder Parker is a lot of things, but stupid isn’t one of them.

Tuesday night's VPR debate has postponed any early Scudder Parker political-obituary writing. In fact, after what we heard last night on the radio, this baby could get very interesting. And I swear I detected a little nervousness in a few of the Guv's responses. The next debate is Thursday evening at the Barre Opera House at 7:30. It's just a half hour. A pro-Douglas, anti-Democrat business PAC is sponsoring it and taping it for airing on WVNY-TV on an upcoming Sunday morning in October. They're also taping a congressional debate at 6 P.M. and a Senate one at 6:45. Organizer Joe Sinagra just told me he's not sure Bernie can make it. The Sanders folks, he said, have not confirmed yet.

Hey, I have never been to the Barre Opera House, how about you?

Post Script:  Thank you for yesterday’s “Tuesday Feedback” and suggestions. I agree with those who say let’s keep things wide open and not require ID and registration to post comments. Hey, who reads the comments anyway?

Just kidding.

Like in life, I’m still learning as I go. And after Tuna’s comment (aka UVM’s Dr. Alfred Snider, on sabbatical in Europe) I checked the site-meter in the lower left corner (you can, too) and learned we’ve got a few international “Freyne Land” readers clicking in from Paris, France to Seoul, Korea to Moscow, Russia, Lisbon, Portugal and Vienna, Austria and more.

And this “unknown country” keeps popping up. I’ve always suspected it’s a certain old regular  “Inside Track” reader and former column character by the name of Gasoline Vallee - the Bush administration’s current U.S. ambassador to Slovakia! Do check out the Bratislava embassy website and you can see and hear the man who made a name for himself by putting fresh flowers in the clean bathrooms of his Maplefields convenience store/gas stations.  Cool!

Some will say Ol' Skip bought his ambassadorship and indeed a case can be made and is made at He was after all, a Bush Ranger in 2004. But as far as we know ambassadorships have been bought for a long time under Democratic administrations and under Republican ones, too. It's just that the Bush Team has been a little more up-front about it. They don't hide the "For Sale" signs.

As we wrote in a Track column back in early 2005 before he landed the ambassadorship to Slovenia, oopsie, Slovakia: Gasoline Vallee told Seven Days that his personal generosity sets a good example for fellow Republicans. "When I call and ask people to give their dollars," he explained, "it assists my entry to say I've done it myself."

And he really is a nice guy, too. Ex-hockey player from St. Albans.


*Correction Regarding Barre Opera House Debate Sponsorship:

The official debate sponsor is an outfit I never heard of before called the “Vermont Coalition for Employment & Prosperity.” Unlike the spanking new Vermont Business Coalition Political Action Committee that formed just one month ago, VCEP does not have a website, according to its spokesman Joe Sinagra of the Vermont Homebuilders, who is also the spokesman for VBC and our debate contact, too!

VCEP, said Sinagra, is a business association that's been around, he guessed, "about six years." It’s made up of member business associations:  Realtors, Homebuilders, Grocers, Auto Dealers, Forest Products, VT Chamber, Petroleum, Farm Bureau and Fuel Dealers etc. They are also members of the new VBC PAC of which Mr. Sinagra is also our contact person. That’s where things got confusing. One guy - three hats at once!

Not in the VBC PAC but in VCEP, said Sinagra, are the Burlington-based Lake Champlain Chamber, the Vermont Hospitals Association and the Vermont Retail Association.

Got that?

The VBC PAC has targeted 56 House Democrats and 1 Prog under Montpeculiar's Golden Dome. In the process the new biz pac has pissed off a whole lot of Ds, the vast majority of whom are assured reelection. VBC PAC members will likely have a real fun time lobbying the Democratic majority next winter as a result. Maybe that’s why the Lake Champlain Chamber, the Hospitals Association and the Retail Association stayed out of it?

Also, Big Joe told us the price tag to produce and air the Opera House debate is $14,000.

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