In October of 2002, Vermont's entire congressional delegation, Sens. Pat Leahy and Jim Jeffords, and Rep. Bernie Sanders, voted against giving President George W. Bush the green light to invade Iraq. Unfortunately, they were in the minority.
But almost three years later, the American public is finally realizing our president lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's alleged WMDs and biological weapons. President Bush & Co. lied, we now all know, because the weapons did not exist!
Where are the antiwar marches? It's as if the graying baby-boomer generation - Howard Dean included - suffers from memory loss when it comes to the Vietnam War of our youth. Did we not learn there is no more sickening feeling than realizing the president has sent our boys (and now girls, too) to fight, kill, die and be maimed for the sake of White House lies?
Speaking of sickening, the leader of the opposition party in the United States made a Burlington appearance Monday evening. Former Gov. Howarrd Dean addressed a lightly attended Wyndham Hotel fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee that Ho-Ho now chairs.
Unfortunately, Ho-Ho was not taking questions, though he did speak earlier by phone with Steve Delaney on Vermont Public Radio. Dean certainly has gotten his act together on the subject of "Bernie Sanders for Senate."
"I think eventually we are going to endorse Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders votes like a Democrat," said Dean. "He's stood up for ordinary working people all over the country, not just in Vermont, and, while he's not a Democrat, he's certainly pretty close to one. He's going to run a great campaign. I think he's going to be the winner."
Dean, however, backed off when VPR's Delaney asked him about gubernatorial hopeful Scudder Parker.
"Well, I don't get into Vermont politics very much. I'll certainly be supporting the Democratic nominee, if it's Scudder or whoever it might be. One thing I have tried to do is stay away from commenting on Vermont politics."
Ho-Ho was kinder at the Wyndham, telling the crowd, "I know Scudder Parker would have signed that health-care bill and we'd be on the way to universal health insurance in the state of Vermont!"
But we wouldn't be doing our job if we didn't note that Chairman Dean, who made the leap from success in Vermont to national fame by opposing the Iraq invasion, looked and sounded a little burned-out. He'd done a Texas swing over the weekend.
His speech was a rambling rehash of his best lines from the last three years all jumbled together. His timing and his focus were off, too. After all, we are at war, but the leader of the opposition party barely acknowledged it.
"We're not going to put up with this nonsense about 'We're fighting the war on terrorism in Iraq,'" Dean told the crowd. "We know how the terrorists got to Iraq. They got there after George Bush sent our folks there, and they weren't there before. We know that's a fact because the 9/11 Commission told us that was a fact. All we'd like is a little truth and honesty in government."
Then he abruptly changed the subject, talking about the need "to position ourselves as the party of change." With Dean as the opposition leader, however, "change" in American policy won't be easy.
The harsh reality is, we are in the midst of an illegal and very dangerous occupation of Iraq. It's become a war with mounting casualties, frightening implications and no end in sight.
When Howard Dean, the leader of the American opposition, can devote no more than 20 seconds to the Iraq War in a 20-minute speech to party faithful, we're in serious trouble, folks. Surely a genuine leader of the opposition would be leading the charge with a single loud cry: "Impeach Bush!"
Unfortunately, Ho-Ho didn't protest the Vietnam War, either. He just found a way to beat the draft.
That thought inspired this imaginary secret memo from White House political-spin champ Karl Rove to Howard Dean:
"Thanks, Howard, for not squeezing us on this Iraq War debacle. Boy, did we fuck this one up! I've even got Republicans blowing their lunch. As long as you and your Dems don't kick us while we're down, President Bush should safely finish his term. Naturally, your non-use of the "I-word" is much appreciated here in the West Wing." Keep up the great work, Chairman Dean!
Keeping Score - Unlike Dr. Dean, Burlington novelist Marc Estrin is paying attention to the Iraq War and its toll. He recently started hoisting a blanket-size banner on the front porch of his Peru Street home in the Old North End, marking the war's death toll to date.
"We find that the traffic is slow enough on Peru Street for people to be able to slow down and even stop to look at the sign," says Estrin. "We've always regretted the high level of cut-through traffic on Peru; now we value it."
Reality - what a concept.
On Monday an unknown writer had scribbled on the banner: "Don't like it? Move to Iraq."
Yes. Now the juices are flowing.
Clavelle's Future - Mayor Peter Clavelle, the Progressive who became a Democrat, told us this week he'll announce his political plans shortly after Labor Day. Should he decide not to seek an eighth term as mayor of one of America's most livable cities, there's no shortage of folks eager to replace him.
In fact, "Inside Track" has learned that one of those folks, who already declared his candidacy in this column last March, has had a little private meeting with da mayor and is now singing in a slightly different key.
Democratic State Rep. John Tracy angered a few Ds with what they say was a "poorly timed" and "overly ambitious" announcement of his mayoral candidacy. Clavelle is, after all, a member of the same party as Tracy. Mayor Moonie was the Democratic candidate for governor last year. He also demonstrated extraordinary loyalty by endorsing Democratic legislative candidates over Progressives. Clavelle fans saw Tracy's expression of mayoral desire as being in very bad taste.
This week Tracy has toned down his rhetoric. He confirmed meeting with Clavelle to air things out. Suddenly, his mayoral bid doesn't sound like the lock it once was.
"My intention in running for mayor remains very strong," said Tracy. "I also respect what Peter has done."
John-John, who's on the front lines of the Democrat Party health-care-reform drive at the Statehouse, said he wants to give Mayor Moonie "all the time and space he needs" to make a decision on his future.
"His decision will be a factor in my decision," added Tracy.
Does that mean John-John will not run if Clavelle does?
We don't know, because Rep. Tracy declined further comment.
Sherwood Forest Tale? - Longtime Champlain College Trustee Terry F. Allen, 65, of Ferrisburgh is the target of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. A complaint filed by the SEC claims the Burlington-area business whiz and philanthropist fraudulently used his "Terry's Tips" options-trading website to lure in suckers who then got cleaned out (that's http://www.terrystips.com if you want to check it out).
Allen allegedly violated securities-fraud statutes by using "false and misleading performance projections" to convince "hundreds of clients" to enroll in his "auto-trading" program. According to the complaint, Allen had "approximately 1200 clients participating," with assets of $14 million. The SEC also says he should register as an investment advisor.
Allen's website defines "auto-trade" as "a mechanism whereby an investor enters into an agreement with his broker authorizing the broker to make trades in the investor's account."
"In and of itself," said SEC Attorney Karen Martinez, "auto-trading is not illegal. What's illegal," she said, are "misleading performance projections" that claim clients "make a 100 percent return."
According to the SEC complaint, clients who subscribed "did not achieve the advertised returns. Instead, the clients lost substantial amounts of money."
In response, Allen's Burlington attorney Steven Kantor filed a memorandum this week seeking dismissal of the complaint.
"This case," he writes, "is an overreaching attempt by the government to impose a regulatory scheme that would undermine freedom of speech and press." The SEC "is seeking to treat the publication of impersonal financial advice, which is speech that is protected by the First Amendment, as a regulated activity to be licensed and controlled by the government."
On the Terry's Tips website, Allen acknowledges the SEC action and states, "We are vigorously defending this suit."
It gets more interesting. That's because Allen, a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, is reputed to be quite generous. Every year since 1998, he's given 50 Champlain College students $3000 scholarships. In fact, on his website he boasts of his charitable giving, listing 110 groups and agencies that have received at least $15,000 worth of his largesse - everything from the Flynn
Center and VPR to the Food Shelf and the Boys & Girls Club.
Most readers have never heard of Terry F. Allen before. But we all remember Robin Hood, right?
And this Robin Hood is having a rough year. Champlain College Board President Bill Post told "Inside Track" that Mr. Allen resigned from the board of trustees in April.
"He didn't specify any particular reason," said Post. "Nobody was aware of this," he said, referring to Allen's problems with the SEC.
"Inside Track" has also learned that "for the past year or so," Allen has been unable to meet his $150,000 annual scholarship commitment.
"My lifetime goal (established to celebrate the Millennium) is to give away $1000 a day for the rest of my life to needy folks in Vermont," wrote Allen in an email. "And I was able to keep up with it for over four years, but a recent lack of venture capital liquidity events has caused what I hope is a temporary suspension of my giving. Life is good, however, and will be even better if the SEC suit reaches a happy conclusion."
Police Beat - The recent showing in Burlington of a film about the 1984 Vermont State Police Raid on the Northeast Kingdom Community Chur
ch in Island Pond brought back other memories.
From 1982-85, yours truly began the workday with a 5:30 a.m. stop by the old police headquarters to pick up a copy of the previous day's "daily log." The officer in charge of the shift would cover up the complainant column and photocopy the page for us. At 7:05 we reported "The Queen City Crimewatch" on the WDOT- AM airwaves. It was a big hit at the time.
Fast-forward to the present. Our shrinking local daily appears to have dropped its crime coverage. Sure, murders get covered, but the rest? Fuhgeddaboudit!
As one prosecutor remarked, "It's Brian Joyce or nothing" when it comes to crime coverage. Joyce does the crime beat for WCAX-TV. But Brian can only do one story a day, and dozens are missed.
To assess the current state of affairs, we contacted BPD and asked for copies of the last three week's worth of "daily logs."
Turns out the daily log isn't what it used to be. We got a computer printout that told us little. "Incidents" were identified" broadly as "Noise," "Assault" or "Suspicious" without any detail. Street names were given, but not house numbers. No distinction was made, for example, between North Street and North Avenue. Between North and South Willard. The modern BPD "logs" we're useless to an inquiring reporter.
However, the taxpayers have a right to know what their cops are doing. After all, they're called the Burlington Police, not the Secret Police.
Chief Tom Tremblay agreed and told "Inside Track" he's going to do something about it. Currently the BPD webpage is a joke. That will change by New Year's, said Chief Tom Terrific. It's currently being redesigned, he said.
The new BPD website, we're told, will have all press releases that go out to the media and a weekly wrap-up of "all persons cited and arrested for criminal offenses."
"I'm also considering posting the names of those cited for noise offenses," said Tremblay.
Improvements cannot be made sooner, he said, because for budgetary reasons the job has to be done in-house.