The terror threat is "High" according to the leaders of the regime. An attack somewhere by somebody, we're warned, is "imminent." No details or evidence are provided.
We'd love to support the terror mindset, but is it really too risky to let the cat out? Go to a hockey game? Attend the Penguin Plunge on the lakefront this weekend? Or is this propaganda at its best?
If history tells us anything, it's that governments lie.
This week the Bush administration upped the fear factor and told the American people to stock up with a three-day supply of food and water. We're asked to prepare to seal off one room with duct tape and plastic sheeting that could save us from a chemical or biological attack by al Qaeda.
The idea appears to be: Get the American public so isolated and afraid that President George W. Bush can play John Wayne and launch his invasion of Iraq. The dude's sure come a long way from running a professional baseball team, eh? He's on the verge of being the conqueror of Mesopotamia!
Here in Vermont, a whole lot of people just aren't buying it. Demonstrations and signs of protest are popping up all over.
On Thursday Burlington city councilors Doug Dunbebin and Richard Kemp will attempt to personally deliver the city council's antiwar resolution to the President. They'll be joined in Washington by elected officials from 77 other cities that have done likewise. For more information, check out http://www.citiesforpeace.org.
In Montpeculiar, 88 mostly Democratic legislators have signed a letter urging Dubya "to allow U.N. inspectors to complete their work" and avoid an invasion "without additional action on the part of the U.N. Security Council."
Among the Republican signatories, surprisingly, was a senator considered by many to be the most conservative of all conservatives under the golden dome.
Sen. Julius Canns of Caledonia County even wears an American flag tie most days. Julius fought in the South Pacific in World War II with the Marine Corps. From opposing civil unions to supporting a constitutional amendment banning flag burning, Canns has staunchly fought for conservative Republican causes. But this ex-Marine has drawn the line on the current mad march to war.
Sen. Canns told Seven Days he sees "little sense in this pursuit of Saddam Hussein and the efforts to have a war in Iraq. I'm mindful of what happened in Vietnam. In fact, in every war since World War II we were not attacked. We're supposed to be chasing down the people who damaged us. Where did we lose our focus on that end?"
He's got a point.
"This can start a holocaust," warned the veteran state senator from the Northeast Kingdom. "And when the body bags start coming home, I want to see these people who are gung-ho remain gung-ho. I voted for Bush and I would again," said Canns, "but I don't agree with this policy.""
The Republican senator's stand on this one has drawn criticism and questions about his loyalty, he said.
Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders has been singing the same tune as Julius on a couple of national "shout" shows in the last week. One was CNN's "Crossfire," where Ol' Bernardo voiced the fears of many that Dubya's about to light a fuse that will ignite a worldwide powder keg of violence and murder.
"The issue is, how do we prevent international terrorism?" argued Sanders. "My strong feeling is that, if the most powerful nation on Earth wages a unilateral invasion against a weak, Muslim nation, it's going to result in anti-Americanism, instability and more terrorism, not less terrorism."
He's got a point.
Meanwhile, Derrick Senior of Shelburne, founder of Patriots for Peace, tells Seven Days he's gotten 150,000 hits on his patriotsforpeace.org Web site in the last week. His appearance on last Thursday's "Oprah Winfrey Show" was a big help.
Locally, the Patriots for Peace posters are popping up on homes and businesses all around town. Mr. Senior is planning another peace rally in City Hall Park at noon on Saturday. It'll coincide with the big march in New York City that may well draw over a million, unless Mr. Bush calls a last-minute top-level terror alert and orders the streets cleared.
Here in Burlap last Saturday, a small, impromptu musical protest was broken up by the gendarmes. Yours truly was on the Church Street Marketplace around 2 p.m. when about a dozen folks, including a banjo player, strolled by singing "Bomb Iraq." Sung to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands." It goes like this:
If we cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the markets hurt your Mama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are Saudi
And the bank takes back your Audi
And the TV shows are bawdy,
If the corporate scandals growin', bomb Iraq.
And your ties to them are showin', bomb Iraq.
If the smoking gun ain't smokin'
We don't care, and we're not jokin'.
That Saddam will soon be croakin',
Pretty cute, eh?
But on the upper block of Church Street, three police officers, led by Sgt. Bruce Bovat, pulled the musicians over. When yours truly arrived on the scene, the alleged lawbreakers informed us the coppers had told them they would be ticketed if they didn't shut up. There was confusion, however, over just what law they were breaking. One officer suggested it might be the lack of an entertainment permit or, perhaps, a violation of the city noise ordinance. God forbid, they weren't singing Christmas carols.
Sgt. Bovat was on his cellphone talking to Lt. Scott Davidson, trying to find out what law or ordinance was being violated by the choir. He said the lieutenant was researching the matter.
The following day we contacted Lt. Davidson. He told us the police were only there to protect everyone's constitutional and free-speech rights. But he noted that under Sec. 27-5 of the City Code, the band of singing protesters required a parade permit.
According to the City Code, "A parade is any march, pageant, demonstration or procession of any kind in or upon any street..."
Brendan O'Neill, one of the busted baritones, told Seven Days it was really just a group of friends getting together to express their feelings on the looming war. They didn't think of it as a parade that would require government licensing.
According to Mr. O'Neill, they had started in the mall, but had been ordered to leave by mall security. The mall is private property. They left peacefully. But mall security had called the cops.
Being stopped by the police officers on Church Street, said O'Neill, "was the strangest feeling." He felt incredulous that one could not legally "walk and sing with friends" on the streets of Burlington.
And you thought it was such a livable city, eh?
Cleaning House — That's what happens when a new regime takes power. Out with the old and in with the new. And that's why Scudder Parker is out of a job as director of the Energy Efficiency Division at the Department of Public Service.
Mr. Parker told Seven Days he was hardly surprised to get his walking papers from the newly appointed David O'Brien. After all, the Scudster is the current chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party. Scudder served as a Democratic state senator from Caledonia County in the 1980s.
"As soon as I took the position [in November 2001]," said Mr. Parker, "I knew I was taking a risk."
Scudder said he had a nice little sit-down with Commissioner O'Brien about his future.
"I told him that I assumed he didn't want me to stay," said Parker.
Good guess, Scudder.
The Democratic chair said he is "leaving on cordial terms."
Mr. O'Brien is facing a rough ride in the Democrat-controlled Vermont Senate, where his appointment by the new governor must be confirmed. Many see little on his resume that would qualify O'Brien to be the point person for Vermont consumers.
Mr. O'Brien faces "a steep learning curve," predicted Parker. "If I were in his shoes," said Parker, "I would feel overwhelmed by the number and complexity of the issues."
Jack's Back! — Of course you remember him. Jack McMullen, a millionaire Massachusetts consultant, became a household word in Vermont back in 1998 for a number of reasons.
For one thing, he made retired dairy farmer Fred Tuttle of Tunbridge universally famous. Fred, you'll recall, defeated Jack in the Republican U.S. Senate primary that year. Who can forget their memorable debate on VPR when Fred asked Jack how many teats there are on a cow?
Jack's a smart guy, but he didn't know the right answer.
After his Republican primary victory, Fred promptly endorsed the Democratic candidate, Patrick Leahy.
McMullen was mocked as a carpetbagger in 1998, but Jack's stuck around. He's been a regular in Vermont GOP circles. Jack's contributed generously to many a Republican candidate and is an investor, along with Rep. Connie Houston and others, in the Addison Eagle, the conservative weekly.
McMillion, er, McMullen's stuck around because he hasn't given up on his dream of knocking off St. Patrick and becoming a U.S. senator. Yep, Jack's running again in the 2004 U.S. Senate race!
McMullen told Seven Days Monday that "Vermont needs a voice at the table in Washington." Our current delegation, he said, "is kind of in the doghouse with the present government."
Fred Tuttle's glorious 1998 run was billed as his last. Any-body out there want to take his place?
Media Notes — Our local ABC affiliate, WVNY-TV, has a new morning news anchor. Meredith Allan hails from Philadelphia. She's a graduate of Marist College.
Also this week, Ruthless Ruth Dwyer, Ch. 22's hard- luck politician-turned-journalist, takes a "Hard Look" at the proposed bike/pedestrian bridge across the broad mouth of the Winooski River. That's the controversial project that Reps. George Schiavone and Frank Mazur, her old pals in the House Republican Caucus, are trying to kill.
Speaking of Frank — Not Sinatra, but Mazur. The distinguished South Burlington lawmaker has moved up a notch this year to be Speaker Walter Freed's hand-picked chairman of the House Transportation Committee. Frank's a "my way or the highway" kind of politician. And his "highway" has no room for bikepaths or commuter trains.
But Rep. Mazur casts a very wide net, as evidenced by his thoughtful bill that would require poor folks on welfare to be drug-tested.
Rep. Steve Hingtgen (P-Burlington) told Seven Days he will introduce a companion bill that would require drug-testing for recipients of corporate welfare.
"I want to point out the absurdity of singling out one beneficiary of state services while ignoring the fact that the state assists people in dozens, if not hundreds, of ways. The purpose of public assistance," noted Hingtgen, "is to throw a lifeline to poor children."
Mazur's drug-testing of the poor is so outside the Vermont box that Republican Gov. Jim Douglas has indicated he thinks it's a bit too extreme.
Nice try, Frankie!
Jeezum's New Friends — It'll probably be a long time before former Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords ever stars at a GOP fundraiser. Not to worry.
Jeezum Jim will be the headliner at the Vermont Democratic Party's March 14 "David W. Curtis Leadership Awards Dinner" at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier. Sen. Patrick Leahy will be handing out the awards to Jeezum Jim, Democratic activist Cindy Metcalf, and the two attorneys who led the legal fight for marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples: Beth Robinson and Susan Murray.
By the way, Sen. Jeffords will be reading from his newly published autobiography, An Independent Man, at the Book Rack in Essex on Thursday, February 20 at 7 p.m.
Luck of the Irish! — Congratulations to Carol Ann Martin for winning her legal battle with the Department of Motor Vehicles. DMV had refused to issue her an "Irish1" vanity plate because it was "offensive."
The legislature, you see, passed a law barring offensive language on vanity plates. It left it to DMV to figure out how to do it. To prevent ethnic slurs, DMV simply banned all references to ethnicity.
Last week, in a 3-2 decision, the Vermont Supreme Court found the regulation too broad. Common sense won the day.
P.S. Ms. Martin's attorney was Republican State Sen. John Bloomer. Kudos to the Rutland Rocket!