Dean's Drug Circus | Inside Track | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
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Dean's Drug Circus 

In his personal habits, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is a pure as the driven snow when it comes to chemical ingestion. No smoking. No coffee. No drinking. No dancing.

Well, maybe a little dancing. In fact, a whole lot of dancing when the subject of marijuana and the War on Drugs comes up. Who will soon forget Ho-Ho’s inaugural warrior-on-drugs bombast last January, promising he would personally “drive heroin out of Vermont!”

Talk about promising the moon.

Flash! Dateline Planet Earth. On July 30, Canada, the chronically ignored independent nation that snuggles up to our northern border, will legalize marijuana for medical purposes. The rules and regulations are ready to be implemented.

But Vermont’s governor dismisses the public policy shift as reefer madness, Canadian-style. Canada, charged Dean last week, “is caving in to an enormous PR campaign to legalize marijuana and to sell the public on the medical benefits of marijuana.”

“I don’t agree with what they’ve done,” said the Gov firmly. “They’ve caved into political pressure and haven’t thought this through in a sensible, scientific, medical way.”

Pressed on whether the elected leaders of the allegedly civilized country next door had suddenly lost their marbles, Dean answered, “I can’t control what they do in the Parliament of Canada, and I’m not going to sit up nights worrying about it.”

Apparently, what Howard Dean knows about Canada wouldn’t fill a goalie’s mask. Oh, Canada! So close, yet, so very far away!

In a nutshell, the radical difference up north is that Canadian political leaders have adopted a rational and calm approach to the issue. They’ve neither fallen for the propaganda of the legalize-pot movement nor the propaganda of the “reefer madness” crowd that Vermont’s current governor chooses to hang with.

Since 1997, Canada has legally provided more than 200 patients with waivers to smoke pot. Health Canada has been conducting research. The medical and scientific communities have been on board. Then, last summer, in a case involving an epileptic, the Ontario Court of Appeal issued an ultimatum.

Like our black robes in Montpeculiar, the Supremes in Ontario aren’t afraid to make the tough calls. The court gave the government of Canada one year to change its marijuana laws, or the pot-prohibition law would get flushed. Smoking grass would become legal for everyone. Making pot a crime for all, ruled the court, violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Funny how, at the mention of America’s most popular illegal drug, Ho-Ho slips an invisible stethoscope around his neck, slides into the mythical white jacket and reminds everyone of his Dr. Welby past. How different from the Howard Dean who readily concedes his decade as governor has rendered him so far behind the times on contemporary medical practices, he’ll never be fit to work as a doctor again.

“As a physician,” declared Dr. Dean, “I think there are very few, if any, benefits of marijuana, and as I’ve said many times before, to use a delivery system that causes cancer is totally incompatible.”

If the governor of Vermont is correct, the nation of Canada is run by ignorant savages. But they sure don’t sound like savages.

Canadian Health Minister Allan Rock put it this way. The policy change on pot “is a landmark in our ongoing effort to give Canadians suffering from grave and debilitating illness access to marijuana for medical purposes. This compassionate measure will improve the quality of life of sick Canadians, particularly those who are terminally ill.”

For much more information, check Health Canada on the Web at www.hc-sc.gc.ca. However, what you’ll find there is information that does not meet the “high” standards of Vermont’s governor.


Yellow Brick Road — Hey, before you criticize the decision of Burlington Free Press Publisher Jim Carey to bring in a guy from Kansas — that’s right, Kansas, the state — to run the editorial page, think again. It’s about time The Burlington Free Press added a little Midwestern feeling to its distinguished coverage of Vermont. Out-of-the-box thinking. It took a Gannett visionary like Boss Carey to see it. The arrival of David Awbrey from Kansas perfectly complements last week’s hiring of Mike Townsend of Iowa’s Des Moines Register as the executive editor of Vermont’s largest daily.

Awbrey, the son of a Hall of Fame Kansas journalist, is 52. At 43, he’d worked his way up to editorial page editor of the Wichita Eagle. It was the pinnacle of his career, reports the Kansas State Collegian in a November 1999 article by Sarah Bahari.

“It had always been my goal to become the opinion editor of a metropolitan newspaper,” said Mr. Awbrey.

But once he reached the top, he didn’t like what he saw.

“I fell into a deep life depression,” Awbrey told the Collegian. “It was a case of having it all. I had to rethink a lot of issues.”

Think he did. He also wrote about his battle with depression. In January 1999 his book, Finding Hope in the Age of Melancholy, was published by Little Brown & Company. Originally $30, Amazon currently offers used copies at $2.95.

“I call myself a Dorothy,” Awbrey told the Collegian. “I went to Oz and came back to Kansas.”

Hey, everyone’s got their own yellow brick road to follow. Welcome to Burlington.


Having It Both Ways? — That seems to fit the style of two prominent Vermont politicians at opposite ends of the political spectrum — Rep. Bernie Sanders and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Douglas.

Everyone’s been talking about Douglas’ emergence from the closet of silence last week. Mr. Douglas told reporter John Flowers of the Addison Independent where he stands on several of the hot issues of the day, like abortion, Act 60 and civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

As a result, the Vermont Democratic Party has removed its “Douglas Dodge Watch” from its Web site. The counter had reached 143 days, marking almost five months during which the man who would be our next governor refused to reveal his position on anything. The envelope, please!

Conservatives taking blood-pressure medication, right-wingers, gold-town millionaires, religious zealots and supporters of discrimination and bigotry are advised to skip ahead to the next column item and not read the next paragraph. It’s for your own good.

Duke Douglas of Middlebury told the Addison Independent, his home town paper, that he supports a woman’s right to choose, opposes the repeal of civil unions and supports the sharing pool mechanism of Act 60 that most Republicans call the “shark pool.”

In fact, noted our current state treasurer, Wall Street was very favorably impressed by how our Legislature and governor dealt quickly and effectively with the former unfair and out-of-whack system for funding public schools that our Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 1997. The decision spawned Act 60. Today, Vermont has the highest bond rating in New England. Go figure.

No wonder Mr. Douglas delayed revealing his positions for so long. He didn’t want the Take Vermont Backwards wing-nuts to find out the next best hope of the Vermont Republican Party is actually a Democrat.

Perfectly understandable.

Not as easily understandable, however, is the dramatic, 180-degree reversal Congressman Bernie Sanders pulled off last week without even blushing.

On Monday, Ol’ Bernardo was proudly announcing to the TV cameras his marvelous attainment of an $850,000 hand-out from Uncle Sam to help King Street’s Good News Garage (GNG) make the move to bigger and better digs on the north side of town.

The GNG is a project of Lutheran Social Services of New England and is prominently featured on the church agency’s Web site — www.lssne.org.

Back in Foggy Bottom on Wednesday, Ol’ Bernardo appeared to completely erase the memory of what he had just done in Burlap. Mr. Sanders railed against President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative. Dubya wants to reach across the church-and-state no man’s land to permit more federal dollars to go to religious organizations that help the have-nots of America.

Sanders bitterly opposed it. The Bern said, “What we should not do is intermix government and religion in a way that blurs the line between the two…”

Jeezum Crow, Bernie, what about d’em Lutherans?


Web Site Upgrade? — Across the pond, Ch. 5 has a completely overhauled Web site. WPTZ-TV is but one pearl in Hearst-Argyle’s 28-station string.

In fact, when Mike Townsend, the newly chosen editor-in-chief of The Burlington Free Press, arrives from Iowa, Ch. 5’s newscast may help to make him feel at home. That’s because Hearst-Argyle owns the CBS-affiliate back in Des Moines. Same corporate culture. Same look on the talent side. Even the Web sites look identical. Check out KCCI-TV at www.theiowachannel.com.

WPTZ, headquartered in Plattsburgh, New York, is now calling itself the “Champlain Channel.” How original. You’ll find it at www.thechamplainchannel.com. The Web page is cluttered with blinking ads and more useless information than you’ll ever want to avoid.

With WCVB-TV in Boston, WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire, and WNNE-TV in White River Junction, Hearst-Argyle has quietly become the 800-pound gorilla in New England television.

The one and only thing local online news junkies are interested in is the transcript of the Ch. 5 newscast. News, even TV news, is a first draft of history. And every now and then, Ch. 5 has a damn good scoop.

Guess what?

With the new upgrade, the Champlain Channel no longer offers news transcripts on its Web site. Nor do the other Hearst-Argyle station Web sites we checked. Surprise, surprise!

As Ch. 5 proudly declares in its Mission Statement: “We will increase our revenues by providing value and satisfaction to our advertisers.”

Really?


Patriotism Waits Patiently — WCAX-TV and the City of South Burlington have yet to reach the end of the tunnel in the dispute over the TV station’s flying of the Stars and Stripes 24 hours a day. According to General Manager Peter Martin, the station his pop, Red Martin, founded has flown the national colors from the same flagpole since the mid-1960s. When darkness fell, lights went on to illuminate Old Glory. Last year, said Martin, the station received a notice from the city planning office pointing out Ch. 3 was in violation of a city ordinance prohibiting illuminated flags.

Juli Beth Hoover, South Burlap’s director of planning and zoning, told Seven Days Monday the purpose of the ban was to prevent giant illuminated American flags “to turn into de facto advertising” for gas stations or other enterprises.

But Ch. 3’s flag certainly was not lit up to attract business to its Joy Drive location. And Mr. Martin, said Hoover, “brought to our attention the U.S. Flag Code.”

According to that code, she said, flying Old Glory at night is discouraged, but, if flown, the Stars and Stripes should be illuminated.

“He [Martin] has a reasonable point,” said Ms. Hoover.

South Burlington, she said, is working on revising its ordinance to allow for the flying of “governmental” flags. Hoover said the city is even utilizing the services of a lighting designer.

According to both Hoover and Martin, however, nobody can predict when the revised flag law will be ready.

Meanwhile, said Mr. Martin, WCAX continues to lower its American flag at sundown every day, as required by law. Civil disobedience, Peter told Seven Days, is not in the cards. South Burlington will remain a city where the American flag is verboten after sundown.

Strange little law, eh?


Larry’s Angels? — Over at our local ABC affiliate, WVNY-TV, two brand-new reporters hit the bricks this week to plug the holes in Station Manager Larry Delia’s newsroom. Mr. Delia’s apparently matched Ch. 3’s star reporter Kristin Kelly with two “Kelly Girls” of his own.

Joining the weakest link in local TV news (according to the Nielsen ratings) are Kelly Reardon and Ana Kelly!

Ms. Reardon, a Niantic, Connecticut, native, holds a history degree from Princeton, a master’s from the London School of Economics and a second master’s from Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Not exactly weakest-link material, eh?

Ms. Kelly’s no slouch, either. Ana’s from Seattle. After high school, she told Seven Days, she bypassed college for six years of “real-world” experience including work on the radio. Then she returned to academia and picked up her degree from Washington State’s Edward R. Murrow School of Communications.

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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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