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Friday, December 29, 2006

Santa Fe Update

Posted on Fri, Dec 29, 2006 at 7:00 PM

Yours truly spent Christmas in Santa Fe, New Mexico - the Land of Enchantment. Visited with our older sister Maureen Freyne, the stuggling artist. Haven't seen her since 1988. Time flies.

It's been a tough struggle for Maureen. Unfortunately, her talent with a brush is not matched by her commercial/marketing skills. On Wednesday, Annie the Artist's Rep, who we recently met at the Langdon Street Cafe in Montpeculiar, arrived in Santa Fe from Arizona where she had been spending the holidays with friends. Curious Annie wanted to see Maureen's paintings for herself. And what she saw blew her away!

Took her out to the storage lockers on Thursday where Maureen keeps a rather voluminous body of work. Her specialty is painting the old churches of New Mexico in a way no one else paints them. In fact, you'll be seeing a few of them back in Vermont in the not too distant future. Cool.

Then on Thursday afternoon a little of the white stuff started falling. This is not known as snow country, but it hasn't stopped since. We're positively, absolutely snowed in. Buried in the stuff, and New Mexico is not a state with a whole lot of snow plows. Meanwhile, Vermont remains on the warm and brown side.

Interesting.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Back in Time

Posted By on Mon, Dec 25, 2006 at 11:07 PM

Yes, and a merry Christmas to you as well. Made the two flights. The first to Chicago (that's a picture of the ol' Chicago skyline early Christmas morning - a skyline this old Chicago cabbie hasn't even laid eyes on in 20 years), and the second to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Both flights were early and full.

On the Chicago flight, I sat next to a woman from the Czech Republic en route to Frisco. Didn't quite get the whole story - a little language barrier. That's the Lake Michigan shoreline down there and the giant skyscrapers of the world's most overlooked major city.

The Albuquerque flight had me parked next to Rory, an accountant from Denver working in China for a sporting equipment company. Very high on China was he. Rory was still trying to get home to snow-pounded Denver for Xmas (and he smelled like it, too). To see New Mexico, the state that calls itself the "Land of Enchantment" after a 30 year-absence was special. Sure doesn't look like Vermont, eh?

Albuquerque was quiet. Very quiet. I was the only person on the rental car bus at the airport. Hey, did you know they've got a 75 m.p.h. speed limit on the interstate here?

Good decision to come here to Santa Fe this Christmas. Sister Maureen's paintings are knockouts. All this takented struggling artist needs is a good agent.

And yours truly needs to get his traveling shoes out more often.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas in Vermont

Posted By on Sun, Dec 24, 2006 at 7:55 PM

Hey, I thought Vermont got snow?

Took this Christmas Eve shot earlier this afternoon along Burlington’s sun-splashed, springlike Lake Champlain waterfront. I remember non-white Christmases like this back when I first lived here in 1979 and on through the 1980s. Not good for the ski industry, eh?

But winter appeared to roar back and last year I had to get studded tires for the bicycle for the first time ever...before Christmas!

And this year, for the first time in decades, this blogger is going to spend Christmas outside Vermont. Heading out on Christmas Day for Santa Fe, New Mexico. That's where sister Maureen the painter lives.

Haven’t been there in thirty years.

Heck, haven’t even flown in 15!

Just been kind of hiding out in Vermont.

Nothing wrong with that, eh?

Interesting.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Bernie Sanders
Bob Stafford R.I.P.

Posted By on Sat, Dec 23, 2006 at 12:59 PM

Former Vermont Senator Robert Stafford dies at 93

By ROSS SNEYD

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- Former U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford, a staunch environmentalist and champion of education whose name is familiar to countless college students through a loan program named for him, died Saturday. He was 93.

Stafford was surrounded by family at a Rutland nursing home when he died at 9:30 a.m., said Neal Houston, his former chief of staff.

A Republican, Stafford served two years as governor, 11 years in the House and 17 in the Senate before retiring in 1988.

Gov. Jim Douglas ordered flags lowered to half staff Saturday as he saluted Stafford. "Gov. Stafford was a tremendous public servant, a man of the deepest personal integrity and someone whom I admired greatly," Douglas said in a statement. "From the higher education finance program that now bears his name or his advocacy for clean air and water, Americans will continue to benefit greatly from his legacy of success."

More....

Also, from U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy:

Bob Stafford was a gentle giant.

He was a patriot, in the finest tradition of the Greatest Generation.  Hetouched the lives of millions of ordinary Americans through his leadership oneducation and environmental policy, in the finest tradition of public service. And he gave the nation a lifelong lesson in civility and decency, in the finesttradition of his beloved Vermont.

Bob Stafford’s vision and skill earned our respect and admiration,but his personality and character won our love.  Bob was a mentor, a colleagueand a dear friend.  He took me under his wing during those early years and wasenormously helpful to me, his younger, far less experienced junior colleague.  Boband Helen’s kindness extended far beyond the confines of the Senateoffice buildings.  Helen offered to baby sit our children when Marcelleand I were so new in town that we had nowhere to turn for child care.  Our friendshipcontinued throughout the years and we have many fond memories of visiting theirhome on Sugar Hill Road.

Marcelle and I join all Vermonters, the Senate, and the nation inoffering our condolences and our abiding respect to his wife Helen, theirdaughters, and their daughters’ families.

 AND...

Last March, Senator Bob was recognized with "White Rocks":

MONTPELIER — A 22,758-acre tract of recreation land in Rutland and Bennington
counties will be named to honor former U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford, R-Vt.

The recreation area will be known as "The Robert T. Stafford White Rocks National
Recreation Area." The land was designated a national recreation area in the 1984
Wilderness Act, which Stafford helped to write.

"Bob Stafford's legacy is enduring, and this is an enduring and meaningful way to
commemorate his work and his love of Vermont," said Sen. Patrick Leahy. "White Rocks is
among his most beloved natural areas in our state, and we know that he and Helen could
actually see the towering white cliff face of White Rocks Mountain from their home. This
will remind generations of future Vermonters of Bob Stafford's towering achievements, and
of the humanity of his spirit."

U.S. Sen. James Jeffords, who holds Stafford's seat, said "no monument or park renaming
can do justice to the unparalleled contributions that Senator Stafford made to both Vermont
and this nation.

"That said, naming the White Rocks area after Senator Stafford is as fitting a tribute as I can
imagine for a man who did so much to protect Vermont's natural resources and beauty,"
said Jeffords, who is retiring at the end of this year.

U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders called Stafford "a national leader on so many issues, including
education, the environment, and human rights."

Leahy, in a statement on the Senate floor, called Stafford "an absolute giant in Vermont
politics."
.

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St. Patrick's Canadian Connections

Posted By on Sat, Dec 23, 2006 at 9:59 AM

White Christmas?

Oh, well. Last week Gov. Jim Douglas' said the important thing would be having snow this week for the Christmas holiday. Wonder what his comeback would be today:

"As long as we have a white Washington's Birthday?"

Nice piece on Vermont's senior senator Patrick J. Leahy in the Toronto Star. Here's a little taste:

He was the target of an anthrax attack through the mail and got under Dick Cheney's skin to the point that the vice-president loudly and publicly suggested on the floor of the Senate that Leahy perform an unnatural sexual act on himself.

The next time the two men met, Cheney was administering him the oath of office for his sixth term.

"I told Cheney, it is far greater to be sworn in than sworn at,'' he said.

His wife, Marcelle, is a Quebecer, one generation removed, who speaks French. Her father grew up in Quebec's Beauce region, her mother was born in Quebec City. Her great-uncle was a Quebec judge and relatives of hers were active in Quebec politics. The Pomerleaus, Marcelle's parents, moved to Newport, Vt., where she was born, Leahy says, "literally a few hundred yards from the Canadian border.''

The Vermont senator, himself, traces his heritage back through Montreal to Ireland.

Read the whole story here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Broadband "Music"

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2006 at 6:12 PM

The Douglas administration's top telecommunications official - Public Service Commissioner David O’Brien  of Stowe Village - met with House Speaker Gaye Symington Thursday and the topic was broadband, or rather the lack of broadband internet service and cell phone service in many parts of Vermont.

Afterward, Dave the Commissioner told yours truly the meeting went well. He said Speaker Gaye understands the issue. Access to broadband and reliable cell phone coverage, O'Brien acknowledged, remains a problem in many parts of Vermont - even in parts of populous Chittenden County. Said the Commissioner:

"In Orange County, 40 percent of the people have access to broadband. That's just unacceptable. What's tricky is if you go to a place where they have 80 or 90 percent, that doesn't tell the whole story and the Speaker well understands that.

"There's a population center like Burlington, and then you get outside of Burlington, as long as Burlington's covered, the numbers come up high. But as soon as you go outside that core, people aren't being served."

Speaker Symington, a Jericho resident who does get broadband at her home, told "Freyne Land" if we want to build a vibrant state for the next generation, having access to broadband and cell phone coverage is critical:

"Most of my constituents do not have access to broadband. Just last week, I had a call from a constituent saying he had two tenants who turned down the apartment because there is no access to broadband. It's a constant issue.  It was the issue I heard the most about going around my district....

"It’s clear now, that waiting for the private sector to focus on Vermont and hook us all up to broadband is simply not a viable option."

The Speaker said the state should look at what the City of Burlington is currently doing  - steadily proceeding to lay fiber to every door in the city (Burlington Telecom) providing broadband, telephone and cable TV service:

"We're dealing with something that's on the scale of rural electrification. There's going to have to be some creative thinking here that goes beyond just tax incentives and waiting around for the private sector."

Symington said she is "curious" to see what the Douglas administration puts forward in terms of a plan when the legislature gets down to business in January.

The December Ritual

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2006 at 8:41 AM

It's the age of the automobile, and I, like most of you, have to go through the ritual once every year - car inspection!

That's a shot of a smiling Pat McCaffrey and Sam the mechanic at McCaffrey's Sunoco at North & North in beautiful Burlington yesterday.

I remember my first automobile - a 1959 Chevy I bought in 1969 for $40. Put 10,000 miles on it before it died in Chicago.

I picked up Car #2 in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1971 - a 1964 Chevy. Price: $270.

Ah, the good old days!

Just getting the Ol' 2001 Saturn in shape to pass inspection this week cost $571. Two new tires, alignment, muffler strap, tie rods, and making the damn red electrical warning light on the dash stay off.

If only they'd been designed to run on water!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bernie Sanders
A Wednesday Surprise?

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2006 at 9:19 AM

*Updated* with a Douglas Surprise!

Took the Ol’ Saturn to McCaffrey’s Sunoco at North & North. Inspection Day. Couple tires, a tie rod and the damn battery light. Tossed the bike in the trunk, so we had a nice pedal back to the Southend through the sunshine. A lone jogger in Battery Park. That lake. Those mountains. Forgot the damn camera!

Just got home and got word that Gov. Jim Douglas has called a last-minute presser for 11 a.m. the morning at which he will announce his new Secretary of Natural Resources.

Well, it won’t be Anson Tebbetts. We know that.

Will it be Marvelous Martha Rainville?

Or a complete surprise?

*********************************************************************************************

*Update 4:30 p.m.

Gov. Jim Douglas is going to let actions speak louder than words. It what appears an excellent move to checkmate the Democrats' pre-legislative drumbeat about "global warming," Gov. Scissorhands announced today he has picked a former Sanderista to be Vermont's new top environmental cop. Douglas is tapping George Crombie, Burlington Mayor Bernie Sanders'  head of the Burlington Department of Public Works (and Mayor Peter Clavelle's after Bernie went to Washington).

George was widely respected during his eight years at the helm of water and sewer, streets and sanitation in the People's Republic of Burlington, Vermont. Kinda brought the Queen City's infrastructure up to date.  He subsequently went on to work in the Massachusetts state environmental agency.

Vermont environmental activists were taken off-guard. One CLFer called it  "a complete surprise."

Paul Burns over at VPIRG, who knows Crombie from his Massachusetts days, put out a statement that read in part:

"George Crombie comes to this position with a depth of experience on a wide range of environmental matters.  That background should serve him well in this position.  But as ANR Secretary, we'll be looking for leadership from him so that the administration can move beyond the mere implementation of the governor's modest environmental agenda."

Interesting.

Hey, here's the sunset out across the backyard. Can you find the Burlington Electric power-generating windmill in the shot?

By the way, downtown was jumping this afternoon. Yours truly was on the two-wheeler  and had lunch at Sweetwaters with Jeezum Jim Jeffords' now out-of-work press secretary Diane Derby. Diane's got the radar up for something new.

"Sweets" was a very busy joint today, but great service.

***********************************************************************************************************************

AND, one more....

There was a surprise at Shaw's on Shelburne Road this afternoon. Yours truly was hitting the old salad bar - our favorite spot the last couple years during our post-Irish Whiskey phase. 

Who drives up, but WDEV talk-show host Mark Johnson and his darling daughter Stella Rose?

Ol' Mark and I used to hang out together in the "good old days" when Bernie was the mayor of Burlap, George Crombie ran public works and Ronald Reagan was the president. In fact, Mark was the city hall scribe for the Freeps at the time.

Twenty years ago, yours truly got promoted to the editor's job at the old Burlington-based alternative weekly the Vermont Vanguard Press.  With the added duties, we offered Mark something completely different - our WDEV "Friendly Pioneer" Burlington news beat. He went for it and the rest, as they say, is history. 

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Congratulations, Anson!

Posted By on Tue, Dec 19, 2006 at 3:34 PM

The release came out from the Fifth Floor early on Tuesday afternoon and few were surprised. Ch. 3's Statehouse Reporter Anson Tebbetts will be the Douglas administration's new Deputy Secretary for Development at the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

Anson, 41, born and raised on a hillside dairy farm in Cabot, was a radio newsman at WDEV before going TV in 1994. He's a graduate of Emerson College (1987) down Boston-way. He had been on the list of six names that were being bandied about for the top spot, but that went to the older and more experienced Roger Allbee last week.

His wife Vicky Tebbetts is a vice-president over at the Vermont State Chamber of Commerce and a registered Statehouse lobbyist. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Amestoy married them on August 18, 2000 on the family farm in Cabot.

In a Tuesday afternoon phone interview, we asked Ol' Anson what he'd say to those who'd make the case he has been rather soft in his treatment of his new boss Gov. Jim Douglas. We noted Anson wasn't known for asking many questions and rarely if ever a pointed one.

"People know I've been fair to Govs. Kunin, Snelling, Dean and Douglas," replied Anson. I'm a quiet person," he said to us from the WCAX Montpeculiar bureau. "That's my personality."

Yes, it is.

When the new Douglas Ag Team starts up in January, said Deputy Secretary-to-be Tebbetts, they will be defining their roles. "We’ll be listening, meeting people, identifying problems. We’ll meet and greet as many agriculture people as we possibly can,” said Anson, “and put together a game plan.”

He also said we can expect to see him at the Statehouse this session. He said he “suspects he’ll have a role over there on policy as well. That’s where the policy is,” he told us.

Good news: the new deputy ag secretary will be continuing his “For the Birds” Show on WDEV radio with Bryan Pfeiffer. Been doing it for the last 13 years every Saturday morning.  But "The Bird of the Week" on Ch. 3 on Monday's is going to fly away.

Over in WCAX News Land, mighty big shoes to fill,  eh?


Bernie Sanders
Winter Wonderland?

Posted By on Tue, Dec 19, 2006 at 6:52 AM

On this day 229 years ago George Washington and the Continental Army were shacked up in snowy winter quarters at Valley Forge. But times change, don't they?

Here's a picture of yours truly on Church Street in Burlington yesterday - great biking weather, eh? And not a flake of snow in sight on December 18.  Also yesterday, this was posted on Congressman - now Senator-elect - Bernie Sanders' website:

"Recent reports show that 2006 will end up being one of the hottest years on record since we began tracking global temperature. It is long past time for the federal government to address the problem of global warming by moving us away from polluting energy resources, like coal and oil, and toward clean and renewable energy, like wind, solar, bio-mass and hydrogen. To learn more, read the following New York Times article."

Here's an excerpt:

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said that the Earth’s five warmest years since the late 1880s were, in decreasing order, 2005, 1998, 2002, 2003 and — if no unexpected fluctuations occur the rest of this month — 2006.

James E. Hansen, the director of the Goddard center, said that 2007 was likely to be warmer than this year because one of the periodic hot spells in the tropical Pacific Ocean, called El Niño, has begun and should persist into next spring.

In February, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release the main findings of its first update since 2001 on causes of global warming. The previous report concluded that most of the warming since 1950 was probably caused by human activities.

Research and fresh computer simulations considered under the new review have greatly strengthened that link, while also closing in on a possible warming of 5 degrees above the 1990 average, more or less, should the concentration of carbon dioxide double from the longstanding peak measured before the industrial era.

For at least 600,000 years before the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide rarely nudged beyond 280 parts per million. It is now 382 parts per million and rising steadily.

Without a worldwide shift to nonpolluting energy technologies, such a doubling is considered almost unavoidable given the growth in such emissions in both wealthy and developing countries, but particularly in China and India.

Well, at least Gov. Jim Douglas isn't worried. As he said the other day, a unidentified ski-area operator he was talking to told him it's always slow until Christmas.

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