Maybe Big Brother does read "Inside Track" after all?
Last week we mentioned the embarrassing high-school graduation speech our not-so-intelligent director of National Intelligence delivered at St. Johnsbury Academy on June 5.
John Negroponte incorrectly told the the gathering of graduates, his son among them, that the small Vermont city and its distinguished public/private secondary school had been named after St. John, author of one of the four gospels of the Christian New Testament.
Good intelligence would have told Director Negroponte that St. Johnsbury was not named for the scripture-writing, canonized saint, but rather for a Frenchman Ethan Allen admired named Hector St. Jean de Crevecoeur. He never wrote any scripture whatsoever. Instead, this St. Jean penned Letters of an American Farmer (1792).
Last Wednesday, two hours after Seven Days hit the street and the Internet, we noticed a change at the director of National Intelligence's website: http://www.dni.gov.
Director Negroponte's Vermont graduation address, titled "DNI Commencement Ceremony Remarks at St. Johnsbury Academy," was still listed with his public speeches. However, a click on the June 5 link led to his June 7 speech to the Intelligence and National Security Alliance instead.
We checked back a few hours later, and any reference to Negroponte's Vermont speech had been removed entirely. It was as if it never happened.
Informed of the disappearing speech, Sen. Patrick Leahy's spokesman David Carle said to us, "As Ron Ziegler [press secretary to President Richard Nixon] would say, 'The speech is now inoperative.'"
So far, major news organizations have ignored Director Negroponte's lousy intelligence.
Military Matters -- A press release sent out by Republican Martha Rainville's congressional campaign on June 14 contained some interesting information the campaign certainly did not wish to release.
Mistakenly, the "Rainville Criticizes Late-Night Congressional Pay Increases" release contained a notation at the top indicating that, in addition to the Vermont press, it was sent to "dan" at "dipietrodesign.com."
Hey, in this new Internet world, everything is just a click away! Check for yourself at http://www.dipietrodesign.com.
The link opened the DiPietro Design website. Listed right on the opening page under the headline "Recent Projects" were just two: "Martha Rainville for Congress" and "VT National Guard Web Site."
Small world, isn't it?
A couple more clicks led one to Dan DiPietro's photo and personal bio.
"From 11/05 to 2/06 I created the Martha Rainville for Congress identity, stationery, print collateral and website. Under strict deadlines I worked closely with the campaign manager and was able to develop a theme and visual identity strategy for the project."
Since last October, writes DiPietro, he has worked at the Vermont Army National Guard as an "IT Specialist (INET) Webmaster."
But as many readers will recall, last fall Gen. Martha Rainville insisted she was not a candidate for Congress. She was the Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard, America was at war, and that's where her attention was focused.
Contacted by "Inside Track" on Monday, DiPietro informed us he is an "E-4 corporal" on "full-time active duty."
He said DiPietro Designs is "a side business." He has not yet registered it with the State of Vermont, describing it as "a little gig" that he does "after work." Corporal DiPietro also told us he "checks on and updates" his former commanding officer's political campaign website daily.
The 23-year-old guardsman and campaign web designer told us he has made sure there is "no crossover" between his web work for the National Guard and his web work for Marvelous Martha.
Asked about Corporal DiPietro's work for the campaign, Rainville told us, "He's excellent."
Gen. Rainville discounted any possible impropriety, noting Corporal DiPietro did not perform campaign work for her "on National Guard time."
Last November, when Gen. Rainville put Corporal DiPietro on her campaign payroll, she was telling everyone she hadn't decided yet on whether she'd be a candidate. There- fore, she declined to discuss issues. As for signing up the corporal, she told us, "I was in the exploratory phase. I had to be prepared."
Democrat Peter Welch's campaign wasn't buying it.
Campaign Manager Carolyn Dwyer told "Inside Track," "Martha Rainville once said, 'Anything that politicizes the Guard, even by perception, is damaging to the Guard.' The Rainville campaign consistently says one thing and does another."
And it's only June, folks.
Gloves Off! -- Vermont's U.S. Senate race heated up significantly this week when Republican hopeful, self-funded multimillionaire Richard Tarrant, posted an attack ad on his campaign website. Richie Rich, the 63-year-old political rookie, also held a Tuesday presser to castigate the frontrunner, Independent and Democrat-endorsed Rep. Bernie Sanders, for accepting contributions from sugar-industry political action committees.
Almost simultaneously, Sanders zeroed in on the "35 years of health-care experience" Tarrant boasts about in his deluge of TV ads. The target was Richie's record serving on the board of trustees at Vermont's largest hospital (2000-2003), when the largest financial scandal in state history went down right under his nose.
Even six months after CEO Bill Boettcher resigned in disgrace, Trustee Tarrant was still publicly defending the hospital and the trustees. In an arrogant -- dare we say "Tarragant?" -- op-ed in The Burlington Free Press, Rich wrote that he had yet to see any charge made in the paper's investigative series by Cadence Mertz that either "resembles the truth" or was "supported by real facts."
"No one can justly accuse Fletcher Allen of hiding the true cost of the project or of it careening out of control with trustees standing idly by," wrote Richie Rich.
Tarrant could not have been more wrong. In fact, almost two years later, before Boettcher was sentenced to serve two years in a federal prison, Tarrant had to sign an official court document declaring just how wrong he'd been in that op-ed. Boettcher and other defendants had hoped to use Tarrant's words to plead for more lenient sentences.
Asked this week about his total failure as a hospital trustee to see the scandal before him, Tarrant told reporters, "You know, I'm not a financial genius, and there's probably nobody better in the state than Bill Boettcher in terms of hospital financial capabilities."
Yikes! Nobody better? He's in prison, fer chrissakes!
"I've never had an accounting course," continued Tarrant, "but, by the same token, I'll stack my business record against anybody."
Sanders campaign guru Jeff Weaver tells us to expect to hear a lot more about Richie's Rich's "business record" as the campaign continues.
"The point is, you have somebody who is predicating their whole campaign on 35 years of 'experience in health care,'" said Weaver. "If Richie Tarrant is going to do for the U.S. health system what he did when he was supposed to be overseeing Fletcher Allen, God save us!"
A "Rove" for the Left? -- Yes, folks, there will be a "next" Karl Rove someday, a political spinmeister/strategist who will light the path to electoral victory and government takeover. But what if the next Karl Rove isn't a Republican?
The first thing we liked about David Sirota was his age. When we first met him, back in the waning days of the 20th century, he was a 24-year-old from the Philly burbs who, unlike 99.9 percent of his contemporaries, had been bitten bad by the political bug. So bad that he landed the post of press secretary for Vermont's Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders.
Very bright kid was he. Street-smart, as they say. David moved up from being Ol' Bernardo's spokesman in 1999 to spokesman for all the Democrats on the Appropriations Committee two years later. Then he went west and, in 2004, helped get Democrat Brian Schweitzer elected governor in the red state of Montana.
Sirota knows something.
Today he's in the midst of a national book tour for his recently published Hostile Takeover: How Big Money & Corruption Conquered Our Government, and How We Take It Back.
It's the best up-to-date snapshot we've seen that demonstrates how the Republicans have, in a cold, calculated and successful way, controlled the message on Capitol Hill for the last six years.
Yes, it is depressing and Sirota acknowledges it, but reality is always a good starting point in politics. And chapter by chapter, issue by issue, the young political whiz points to solutions.
Last week on CNBC's "Kudlow & Cramer," Sirota got into a televised dustup with ABC's conservative celebrity journalist John Stossel. His new book is titled Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity. One Stossel "myth" is that raising the minimum wage helps workers. Stossel argued the minimum wage affects only 3 percent of the workforce. An increase would only put some of them out of work. Bad idea.
But Sirota pointed out that states that have raised the minimum wage above the federal level have created jobs at a far faster rate than the states that have not.
"That is because," said Sirota, "when you raise the minimum wage, you put money into the pockets of people who will spend it, and it spurs the economy. Now, that might not be heard in your book, which purports to debunk lies, but those are the facts."
Stossel told viewers he now recognized Sirota as "the person who had come on my Amazon.com page" and called him a "smarmy-looking liar."
"You are!" said Sirota without hesitation.
There was a good turnout last Saturday for Sirota's talk and book-signing at Borders in downtown Burlington. Vermonters in particular will recognize many echoes of Sirota's former boss in Hostile Takeover. Sanders himself was on hand to introduce the celebrity author.
"My major claim to fame," joked Ol' Bernardo, "is that I knew David before he was famous. When he was just a struggling Hill staffer, needing a job, I hired him!
"What David's talking about," said Sanders, "is for the Democratic Party today to be what it was 30 or 40 years ago, the party of working people."
Speaking of Democrats, we simply had to ask Mr. Sirota, the hot populist/leftist author of the moment, what his current view of Howard Dean is. David first hit Vermont in 1999, before Ho-Ho became a household word.
"I was not originally a big fan of Howard Dean, like, way back when I worked for Bernie," answered Sirota, "so I'll be honest about that. I think that when Howard Dean ran for president, he underwent a genuine conversion. I really believe that, and it took me a long time to believe it."
The author recalled that Ho-Ho visited Montana as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Sirota sat next to him at a dinner. They chatted. The new Dean was different.
"So, I really do believe he's undergone a conversion in terms of embracing a more populist, progressive outlook," insisted Sirota. "Now, I'm not going to speculate on what that's motivated by, and frankly I don't care what it's motivated by. I think the guy has undergone this conversion, and as DNC chairman he's done a lot of good things."
Media Notes -- WCAX-TV News Director and anchorman Marselis Parsons has one of the most familiar faces in Vermont, but few ever get to hear him speak when he isn't reading from a teleprompter. That's why his appearance on VPT's "Vermont This Week" Friday was all the more worth watching. And Marsillyiss did not disappoint.
The subject was the health of Vermont's oldest U.S. Senator, Jim Jeffords, 72, who is not running for reelection. Earlier in the week VPR ran a story out of Washington that raised questions about Jeezum Jim's health, noting he doesn't stop and talk to reporters like he used to.
"The larger question wasn't in the VPR report," said Ch. 3's Parsons, "but it sort of hinted at: Is Sen. Jeffords capable? And I think that's a serious question for Vermont. Do we have two senators who are intellectually and mentally capable of casting intelligent votes?"
"You used to be able to talk to Jim Jeffords about almost anything," said Parsons, "and now, all of a sudden, things have changed." He said Jeffords has declined recent invitations to appear on Ch. 3's "You Can Quote Me."
"He really is inaccessible, and the question is, why? Why is he inaccessible, a man, especially, who used to be so willing to talk to us about almost any issue?" asked Marsillyiss.
In a response to our inquiry, Jeffords' press secretary Diane Derby scoffed at Parsons' remarks. She said she doubted "the 300 Vermonters who Jim Jeffords addressed at Monday's disabilities conference [at the Sheraton-Burlington] found him to be inaccessible or incapable."
In fact, Ch. 3 News covered the disability conference, and viewers saw Sen. Jeffords walk, smile, climb stairs, read his speech, and wave to a cheering crowd. He looked like a lot of guys in their seventies look -- slowing down -- but he looked and sounded "capable."
"Does he do fewer press interviews? Sure. Why? Because he's retiring, and that's his prerogative," said Jeezum Jim's spokesman.
Can we speak to him?
Twenty minutes later, Jeezum Jim was on the line. Said he likes our nickname for him, too. Said he'd just returned from a big weekend family reunion in Montgomery.
As for who will fill his Senate seat in January, Jeffords said, "I have a feeling Bernie will. We've worked together closely for many years."
Jeezum crow. He hasn't lost all his marbles, has he?