It's the time of year when soaring temperatures and high humidity bring out the perennial catchphrase: lousy sleeping weather. Unfortunately, it's been lousy sleeping weather for quite some time in Vermont and in the good old USA, too. And there's no sign of improvement anytime soon.
That's because the ongoing, escalating slaughter of innocent people, from the streets of Baghdad to the London Underground, has no end in sight. In fact, we all secretly expect it to increase. We dread the inevitable, the unspeakable: the day suicide bombers start up again right here in the land of the almighty gas guzzler.
Let's be honest, folks. This is not a time the history books will recall as one blessed by great American leadership. Despite all the evidence of this president dishing out outrageous untruths about the nonexistent Iraq threat, and Saddam Hussein's nonexistent WMDs and ties to 9/11, millions of Americans still believe George W. Bush is an honest man.
According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released the other day, 41 percent of us say President George W. Bush is "straightforward and honest."
What cave have these folks been hiding in? No doubt many of them believe in a flat Earth, too, eh?
The dark truth is, the president of the land of the free and home of the brave sent our sons, daughters, fathers and mothers to war based on lies. Without truth, there can be no real freedom. And the darkness grows when you realize how silent the opposition -- the Democrat Party -- is on the subject of the Iraq War.
We just visited the website of the Democratic National Committee (http://www.democrats.org). As you know, Vermont's former governor Howard Brush Dean III, once in the spotlight as the antiwar presidential candidate, is now chairman of the DNC.
Is it crazy to expect that the website of America's opposition party would have a section devoted to the illegal and immoral war Mr. Bush so deceitfully led us into?
Apparently, the answer is yes.
Oh, sure, there are subheads on the DNC homepage referring to the current controversy over Karl Rove leaking CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity, the battle over the current Supreme Court vacancy, and Social Security. But if you just arrived on Earth from another planet and signed on to the Democratic Party's website, you would not know the United States of America is in the third year of a needless, costly and unending war.
So much for the two-party system, because it sure looks like one party to us.
In fact, in Chairman Ho-Ho's swing through so-called red states out West last weekend, published reports indicate the current war was not among his talking points.
Sure, sure, you say, but what about the fact that never before in the history of polling has an American president's honesty been rated so low?
Good point. Especially since it can only go down from here. But this war is at the stage now that we reached in Vietnam in 1969, and the question is: Who wants to be the last soldier to die in Iraq for a White House-created pack of lies?
Chairman Dean -- Ho-Ho made a swing through Idaho, Utah and Montana last weekend. Press reports indicate he made little reference to the Iraq War, instead highlighting health care and the scream lines he made famous in Iowa in January 2004. He's such an entertainer, you know.
But wasn't the Iraq War the number-one issue an ambitious and unknown presidential hopeful named Howard Dean raised during his campaign?
And two years later, with the war escalating and the body count climbing, Howard Dean ignores it?
In fact, the editorial page of the Idaho State Journal made note of Chairman Dean's silence on the 800-pound gorilla in the corner: "Significantly, Dean refrained from overt criticism of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq."
When the leader of the opposition party refrains from mentioning the Iraq War, where can decent, patriotic, antiwar Americans turn?
P.S. Dean's Saturday appearance in Montana, where he addressed the state party convention, caused a bit of a stir. Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer's hand-picked candidate for state chairman came out two weeks ago saying he would not get photographed with Howard Dean.
"I just don't stand for the message that Howard Dean is trying to deliver," said Dennis McDonald.
Even though he issued a retraction, McDonald's Dean remark almost cost him. He won the party chairmanship Saturday by just one vote.
And he got his picture taken with Ho-Ho.
Sorrell Stays Put -- Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell, a Democrat, ended speculation about his 2006 political plans Tuesday, telling "Inside Track" he will be running for reelection to his current post. Gen. Billy has been considering taking a shot at the open congressional seat resulting from Congressman Bernie Sanders' run for the U.S. Senate.
"As one prominent Democrat told me," said Sorrell, "if you go down there to Washington, you'll be just one of 435, serving in the minority party, and having Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay's foot on your throat."
"I'm going to stay put," said Sorrell, "and I feel very good about it."
And speaking of Sorrell, last week we incorrectly described how he became attorney general. He was first appointed by Gov. Howard Dean in May 1997 to fill the vacancy left when Attorney General Jeff Amestoy became Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court. Gen. Billy ran successfully in 1998 and has been reelected every two years since . . . by wide margins, too.
Not a Bernie Fan -- Despite going three-for-three on the House floor last month, Bernie Sanders still can't get much respect in certain quarters.
We asked GOP Gov. Jim Douglas the other day if House adoption of three Sanders amendments disproved the claims of the Republican National Senatorial Committee and Vermont GOP Chairman Jim Barnett that Bernie is outrageously ineffective.
Gov. Douglas replied, "Well, um, I'll let the voters ultimately decide when the polls are open a year and a half from now. Obviously, I have lots of differences of opinion with the current member of Congress from Vermont," said GOP Jim. "I think Vermont-ers have come to admire Bernie's rhetorical skills over the last 15 years or so. Whether he's delivered as much as other members of Congress have to their constituents, I don't know."
Asked what he considered Sanders' greatest accomplishment in Congress, Gov. Jimbo said he couldn't think of one right off.
Busy guy, our Guv. Guess he doesn't read the papers or watch TV, eh?
Slovakia Bound -- Newly sworn-in Ambassador Skip Vallee of South Burlington tells Inside Track he will depart for Bratislava on August 10. He's currently undergoing briefings and language training at the Foreign Service Institute in Virginia.
Skip's swearing-in on Friday was attended by Sens. Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords as well as Leahy's former chief of staff Luke Albee. Pretty bipartisan turnout for a former Vermont Republican national committeeman.
In fact, "Inside Track" has played the roll of matchmaker, folks, in bringing Albee and Vallee together as friends. They actually got to know one another after exchanging political barbs in this very column. Why, just three years ago Vallee was accusing Sen. Leahy of "spending more time defending the rights of al Qaeda terrorists than approving the judges to try them!"
Albee shot back, saying he was "sure the RNC is delighted to have found a loud, loyal mouthpiece to spread their venom in Vermont. It's an added benefit he happens to be an oil millionaire."
After that, the boys started exchanging email, and a friendship across the political divide was born.
P.S. Ambassador Vallee says he's in the market for "small, Vermont-made art items" that he can distribute as gifts during his ambassadorship in Slovakia. Artists who think they have what Skip is looking for can email yours truly (address below) and we'll forward the info to the ambassador.
Homegrown Fanatics -- The American press likes to pretend that all the dangerous religious fanatics on Earth live outside the United States. The American view is that a religious fanatic has rags wrapped around his head, a super-long beard and doesn't speak English.
The truth is, the good ol' USA is crawling with them. At least one has even made it into the United States Senate. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) is the third-highest-ranking member of the GOP's Senate Caucus. Some will recall his take on marriage rights for same-sex couples in which he equated gay sex with bestiality.
These days Santorum, a Roman Catholic, is getting warranted attention for his insight into the cause of the Catholic Church's clergy sex-abuse scandal. In particular, Santorum's declaration on why the Boston Archdio-cese was so hard-hit has jaws flapping.
In a 2002 Catholic publication, Santorum wrote, "Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm."
The story broke last week in Boston. This week Santorum's home state press is weighing in. This religious fanatic is, after all, eyeing his party's presidential nomination in 2008.
God help us!
This week the Philadelphia Daily News weighed in on its editorial page referring to their senator as "dorky."
"Instead of backing off such a dumb remark," wrote the News, "Santorum embraced it, telling the Boston Globe that Beantown's 'sexual freedom' led to the scandal.
"Santorum, of course, is ignoring the fact that the pedophile scandal was nationwide, including in Philadelphia. (Wanna take a shot at this city, Senator?) And that Boston was no better or worse than other cities, including many in conservative states and communities. If liberalism is to blame for priests abusing the trust of children, how would you explain Covington, Ky., one of the most conservative areas of the country? The archdiocese there set up a whopping $120 million fund to compensate scores of victims after an investigation found that 30 priests, roughly 10 percent of the diocese's priests, had abused children over the past 50 years.
"We don't know what kind
of crusade Santorum is on, but
is it really in Pennsylvania's best interest?"
Ah, but he'll make a great Republican presidential candidate, won't he?
Good Vibrations -- Yours truly was out for an early Sunday morning bike loop around town. About 7 a.m. we came around a corner on UVM's row of dorms on the East campus, and suddenly the world changed!
There before us were hundreds of teenagers stretching and twisting before the rising sun. And none of them looked local. In fact, we felt like we'd landed on a different continent.
As we soon learned, we had happened upon opening day of a two-week summer camp that brought more than 570 teenagers (ages 14-20) and 350 adults to Burlington, Vermont, on a spiritual mission. It's all happening under the umbrella of the Divine Associates of Yogahera (DAY). The adults, all Hindu, are natives of India who immigrated to the United States years ago. Everyone we met was either an engineer or a doctor.
The teens, however, may have physically resembled their elders, but, unlike them, they spoke with American accents. The camp is in its 10th summer. Its purpose is to teach and foster values and spirituality in a generation of American-born Indian teenagers.
A noble task indeed.
According to the DAY Camp schedule, the kids are up daily at 6:45 a.m., and every minute is planned out until lights-out at 11 p.m. Needless to say, the rules are quite strict. It's a different kind of summer camp. A glance at the student handbook indicated "personal displays of affection" are banned.
The group follows the spiritual leadership, we were told, of Rev. Pandurang Shastriji, also known as Dadaji. Much more can be learned at http://www. dadaji.net.
One of the teachers at the DAY Camp, Darshan Patel, M.D., a doctor from San Jose, told us how Dadaji once said to a gathering in the Big Apple, "There are more than a thousand bridges in New York City, yet there is not one bridge to connect one man to another man."
Learning how to build that kind of bridge is what this summer camp is all about.
One does not have to be of Hindu descent to understand this universal message.
P.S. According to UVM spokesman Enrique Corredera, DAY is paying the university $250,000 for the use of campus facilities during the two-week session. Good deal all around, eh?
Media Notes -- So last week we're at North Star Cyclery getting a flat fixed when in walks Burlington Free Press Capital Bureau Chief Terri Hallen-beck with two bikes needing repair.
Who would have guessed?
Then we learn Capital Bureau Reporter Nancy Remsen broke her wrist in a recent bike accident.
Sure enough, Nancy was seen covering a Statehouse event the other day with a cast on her right arm.
Tough stuff, eh?
Unfortunately, Nancy the Biker did not respond to our requests for details. You know, sometimes reporters, folks who make their living asking questions, can be the shyest people around.