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Bet you were shocked to read in The Burlington Free Press’ Monday edition that Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders supports the union drive by the nurses at Fletcher Allen Health Care (FAHC).

Wow! Our veteran left-wing congressman, a proud democratic socialist, backing workers against management! It was top-of-the-page news in the Freeps under the byline of Stephen Kiernan.

Unbelievable. The story had as much news value as a “Dog Bites Man” report.

But there is a genuine “Man Bites Dog” story involving the FAHC union battle that truly deserves attention. What if one of Vermont’s most powerful conservative leaders were backing the union cause? Now that would be news, eh?

Fact is, our old buddy and frequent target from the days of Vermont’s Civil Unions’ War, Most. Rev. Kenneth Angell, has also come out in support of the union drive by the Mary Fanny nurses. The head of Vermont’s Roman Catholic diocese may find civil unions violate church teaching, but unions are another story in the eyes of the church.

In a letter to Bill Boettcher, the Fletcher Allen CEO currently in the doghouse, the Bingo Bishop made it clear that he supports the nurses’ organizing campaign. Angell also made it clear he wants the hospital administration to allow a “free and fair” union election, “without employer interference.”

Angell informed Boss Bill that “The Catholic Church has always been in the forefront of the labor movement. Two decades ago, Pope John Paul II issued the encyclical Laborem Exercens. This important document reaffirmed and advanced Catholic teaching on the dignity of work and the rights of workers. In Catholic social teaching, work is for the person, not the person for work. Respecting the rights of workers to organize if they wish to do so is essential to create a workplace that is mutually beneficial to the patients that come to your institution for care.”

When the Bingo Bishop gets away from preaching the Catholic War on Sex, he starts making real sense, eh? Kenny the Catholic and Bernie the Socialist are reading from the same Bible on this one.

Interesting.

So were Gov. Howard Dean’s recent remarks on the Catholic Church delivered on the presidential campaign trail. Ho-Ho was addressing a New Hampshire audience on the subject of abortion.

Dean is pro-choice. Abortion, in his view, is a matter between a woman and her physician. Everyone knows the Catholic Church is a leading opponent of abortion rights for women.

But in the midst of explaining his position to a pro-life Democrat, Dean skillfully slipped in praise for the Church. “I admire the Catholic Church,” said Ho-Ho. “I know the Catholic Church has had troubles, and I’m not a Catholic and I don’t criticize them. Their social agenda is, by and large, the social agenda of the Democratic Party. They want to help people who’ve been bypassed by the system.”

Nice play for the Catholic vote. God bless him.

Bush vs. World — Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle is back home after attending the United Nations Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mayor Moonie was one of four U.S. mayors in attendance. Unfortunately, the President of the United States saw fit to blow it off and stayed put at his Texas ranch. In all, 102 heads of state went to the Earth Summit, but not George W. Bush.

Clavelle told Seven Days that he was “embarrassed by the behavior of the Bush administration.” Dubya’s absence, he said, was the “buzz” of the conference. And, he added, “It reaffirmed the notion that the U.S. approach is one of unilateralism and indifference to global issues like worldwide poverty and environmental degradation.”

Great.

Since taking office in the Great Electoral Vote Coup of 2000, our country has been on a steady downhill slide. The federal government’s books are once again deep in red ink. The Bill of Rights has been suspended by executive order. And, like the mad son of a former king, Dubya’s obsession with delivering Saddam Hussein’s head on a platter to Papa Bush, regardless of the cost in American lives, is positively maniacal.

After 21 months of Bush rule, a dark cloud of fear covers our land and hope for a better future has vanished.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: George W. Bush is the greatest threat facing the democracy known as the United States of America. And the mess he’ll leave behind will take a very long time to clean up.

Rumor Mill — The big rumor making the rounds concerning Fletcher Allen is that Independent gubernatorial candidate Con Hogan will be brought in to replace Bill Boettcher as CEO. After all, King Con ran the state Agency of Human Services and is praised by many for his proven management skills.

So we contacted Mr. Hogan and asked him about it.

King Con said he’s heard the rumor, too, and there’s absolutely no truth to it.

“I’ve been in an awkward situation,” replied Hogan, “trying to figure out how to quash a rumor that isn’t in the public domain.”

According to King Con, “No one has ever contacted me in any way about that possibility. If they ever did,” he said, “I would give them the same answer: I am running for Governor, and have no interest in being the CEO at Fletcher Allen.”

By the way, Hogan is not going to join Democrat Doug Racine’s call for the candidates to agree that the top vote-getter should win the governorship.

If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, the outcome is in the hands of the legislature. As we reported last week, Republicans are prepared to use their legislative muscle to install Jim Douglas in the governor’s office, even if he loses the popular vote. Hogan told Seven Days he’s content with letting the legislature make the call.

The other hot rumor making the rounds is that UVM’s new president, Dan Fogel, is considering bringing football back to Groovy UV. UVM dropped the pigskin sport in 1974, much to the dismay of many locals.

We asked the new Prez about it the other day and he made it clear — UVM football is not an item under consideration.

Bummer.

Speaking of UVM — Boy, oh boy, does the Freeps have a grudge against UVM or what?

Dan the Man recently joined Mayor Peter Clavelle to declare a new Pax Universitas. For the first time in recorded history, a UVM president has agreed to Mayor Moonie’s long-voiced request that the university hold students responsible for off-campus bad conduct. Beyond a doubt, it’s a monumental breakthrough in Town-and-Gown relations.

If UVM students living off-campus are cited by city police for violating Burlington’s quality-of-life ordinances, they’ll promptly receive a letter from the university. The letter will inform them that the administration is aware of their misbehaving ways and urge them to be good citizens.

In addition, President Fogel said, parents will henceforth be notified when their little pride-and-joys are cited for drug and alcohol violations.

Somehow, veteran Freeps’ scribe Molly Walsh completely missed the historic significance of the new policy. Instead, she led with the new late-night student bus service, operating on weekends between downtown and campus. And Good Golly Miss Molly saw fit to remind everyone that President Fogel will not be making the Englesby House his permanent residence. His choice of living quarters has become a pet peeve for our out-of-state owned local daily.

Look. If Dan the Man can get UVM students to behave like good neighbors, who really cares where he and his wife sleep at night?

DeanWatch2004 — The hits just keep on coming for our favorite presidential hopeful. On CNN’s “Capitol Gang” over the weekend, Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal asked Andy Stern, the president of America’s largest labor union, which Democratic candidate for president “is making the most waves for union people.”

“Interestingly enough,” replied Mr. Stern of the Service Employees International Union, “one of the people who’s making the most waves is Howard Dean, and basically because he’s talking about universal health care. And in this era, when you see so many people without health care, and so many people losing their health care, and, you know, the candidate who says, I did it in Vermont, I want to do it for the whole country, I think that’s opening people’s eyes. This is going to be a campaign about issues, and I think Howard Dean’s taken a good start on it.”

Cool.

On Tuesday, Ho-Ho got a big splash in USA Today as the presidential candidate with the most visits to the five “key states” of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, New York and California.

Dean, reported USA Today, “is becoming a familiar overnight guest at homes across Iowa and New Hampshire.”

“It’s more fun” than hotels, said Ho-Ho. “To stay up yakking with somebody until a ridiculous hour when you have to get up at 5 in the morning, that’s something I like.”

This week Dr. Dean is once again making the rounds in his newly adopted state of Iowa and sleeping with strangers.

Radio Ratings — The latest Arbitron radio ratings are out. The “Spring Sweeps” covered the period from March 28 through June 19. The envelope please!

No surprises, folks. The country music sound of WOKO continues to rule the local airwaves with almost 20 percent of the overall audience. 95 Triple X is a distant second with a 9.3 average quarter-hour share, followed by WEZF at 7.4. A total of 23 stations are included.

Detailed audience breakdowns by age and gender provide the local radio advertising sales corps with angles to play.

For example, what do most young men in the 18-34 age group tune in when they get up in the morning?

Would you believe Howard Stern?

WIZN’s morning drive time exception to its classic rock format wins first place with the boyos with a 17.5 share. WOKO and The Buzz tie for second with 15.5 shares.

No surprise that women of the same age aren’t quite as enamored with Howard’s tits-and-ass-for-breakfast dialogue. Instead, local females ages 18-34 flock to Triple X 95, which gets a 22.6 share, followed by WOKO’s 14.3 share. WEZF was the third favorite with the girls in the morning.

Macho men, you ask?

For local males between 25 and the time one signs up for an AARP card at 50, WOKO country is once more top choice in the morning. CK and Wild Bill drew a 17.9 share of the mature macho males. WIZN’s Howard Stern came in second with a 13.3 share. And third place went to the distinguished former WIZN morning team of Corm & the Coach, who got a 10.7 share at Clear Channel’s WCPV.

Congratulations!

More TV News — It’s been six years since local TV news expanded to mornings, and WPTZ is about to go a step further. Ch. 5 news director Andy Wormser told Seven Days his station will add a half-hour 5 p.m. newscast starting September 16.

Anchors, he said, will be Stephanie Gorin and Erin Conners. Stephanie will continue co-anchoring the 6 o’clock news with Thom Hallock.

“We think the market is ready for a 5 o’clock news,” said Wormser.

Apparently, he’s the only one who does at the moment.

Peter Martin, general manager at Ch. 3, told Seven Days he has “no plans at the moment” to add a 5 o’clock news broadcast.

Ch. 22 news director Eric Greene said the idea of doing a 5 o’clock has been discussed, “but it just hasn’t happened, for whatever reason.”

Ch. 5’s Wormser is confident the earlier evening news will draw a following. “If we build it,” he said, “they will come.”

Meanwhile, Ch. 22 reporter Keith Baldi is moving up the ladder. After three years at WVNY, Keith’s landed a job in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at Gannett-owned WZZM. Keith’s just 26. By the time he hits 30, Mr. Baldi will be on one of the national networks. A very talented guy is he.

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