The scene Burlingtons attractive and user-friendly City Hall Park.
The hour just past noon on Saturday.
Twas a gorgeous sunny day and a big crowd was out for the weekly farmers market along College Street. Yours truly was on hand to pick up a weeks supply of the worlds best fresh veggies when our sixth sense raised an alarm.
One hundred feet away, behind the vegetable/bakery/artist stalls, we noticed an unusual amount of blue and yellow under the green shade trees. We spotted a small tribe of 15 to 20 future leaders of America lounging on the grass. A few softly strummed guitars. Crosby, Stills and hash?
Lt. Walter Decker was chatting amiably with the main group. In their bright yellow jerseys, four tanned and fit members of Burlaps new bicycle park-patrol squad gathered off to the side. Broccoli in hand, yours truly spotted Sgt. Shawn Toof approaching the suspects from the St. Paul Street side of the park. And Cpl. Bill Ward was escorting a young man to the corner of College and St. Paul Streets. In the corporals hand was a plastic bag of what appeared to be a dried leafy substance. Another episode in Americas never-ending War on Drugs?
We strolled over to Cpl. Ward and the suspect. Upon close visual inspection, the baggie appeared to hold about an ounce of crushed, brownish-green plant matter. The officer told Seven Days he had radioed headquarters, requesting a marijuana detection kit to ascertain the true identity of the substance.
Great, make that four cops and four yellow jerseys on the clock for something Canada just made legally available with a doctors prescription. We volunteered to authenticate the evidence, but Cpl. Ward politely declined. He said he didnt doubt our testing ability, but preferred to follow established procedure.
This summer, the new yellow jerseys on wheels patrol the bikepath and the Marketplace. They encourage good behavior, discourage bad behavior. The bicycle brigade also acts as efficient eyes and ears for a police department that cant be everywhere. Lt. Decker told Seven Days that one of the yellow jerseys had smelled something funny and radioed dispatch with a report of possible criminal activity.
But this potential drug bust went downhill fast. Science ruled the day. A sample of the fragrant plant material tested by Cpl. Ward proved negative for THC. Whatever it was, it wasnt marijuana, said the officer.
As it turns out, these mellow young citizens were smoking something much spicier than cannabis. They told yours truly they had politely informed the young gendarmes in yellow and the older gendarmes in blue that their joints were full of sage, not pot. Thats right, sage, the spice so treasured in Mediterranean kitchens. They were smoking sage, and told us the effect was mellowing and spiritual.
No law was broken. No arrests were made. The pack of gendarmes went on their merry way. Happy ending, right?
As soon as the Bush administration hears sage-smoking is popular in Vermont, theyll have the DEA treat it like heroin. Thanks, Jim.
Hows that for a spicy cop story?
Vermont Roots? President George W. Bushs chief political strategist, Karl Rove, is widely credited with being the pompous West Wing dingbat who recklessly pushed U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords out of the Republican Party. In doing so, Rove handed control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrat opposition.
Mr. Rove has been a confidant, friend and well-paid consultant to Dubya for 10 years. Hes a household name in Texas politics, but his very first Capitol Hill job was for a Vermonter. Small world, eh?
According to former Rep. Richard Mallary of Brookfield, Rove was a low-level member of his congressional staff when he served in the House in 1973. Today Mr. Rove is a certifiable American political Big Dog. But, Mallary told Seven Days, the young Rove didnt make much of an impression.
Mallary said that despite Mr. Roves distinguished current status, he has no recollections of discussions with him.
Given the fact that that Dick Mallary is a Vermont Republican from the Gibson-Aiken-Stafford-Jeffords wing of the party, he said he imagines Rove would disown me now. Rove was a pup back then, he said. Mr. Mallary swore he couldnt even recall what Rove looked like and thought he left to start a PR firm.
And made many millions with it, too.
Before joining the staff of Vermonts lone congressman, Rove was elected president of the College Republicans. His campaign manager was the late GOP strategist Lee Atwater, the hardball legend later credited with putting Ws Daddy in the Oval Office.
According to a biography of Mr. Atwater by author John Brady, Atwater praised Roves talents as a political dirty trickster. He organized conferences that instructed young Republicans on campaign dirty tricks, such as purloining the opposition partys garbage to obtain inside memos and lists of contributors. One time, Rove sneakily posed as a reporter to gain access to a Democratic candidates campaign headquarters.
Rove took some of the candidates campaign stationery and used it to fake a thousand invitations to the opening of the Democrats headquarters. He added free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing to the invitations, distributed them at a hippie commune, a rock concert and soup kitchens in Chicago.
Rove has dismissed the incident as a youthful prank.
Karl Rove has come a long way for a dirty trickster. Now he tells the President of the United States what to do. But along the way, Karl Rove missed one important political lesson dont mess with Vermont!
Say-a-Little-Prayer Time? As theyd say at Saratoga, the Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact will be the Budweiser Longshot in the Ninth Race at Capitol Downs come late September. And were talking a 99-1 longshot.
Before the pols left Foggy Bottom for summer vacation last week, Vermont soldiers Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords fought gamely to get a compact renewal beachhead in the farm-aid bill, but simply ran out of horse.
We caught St. Patricks passionate floor speech on C-Span. Leahy reminded everyone west of the Ohio River that We pay taxes, too. And since we in the Northeast have always been happy to help with the Wests floods, forest fires, crop failures and earthquakes, how about the West helping our farmers for a change?
Checking the racing form, we see the White House is against it. The Republican leader, Trent Lott, is against it. The Democrat leader, Tom Daschle, is against it. Therefore, the best bet at the moment is what is known at the racetrack as a parlay.
First put $20 on the nose that the Bush White House successfully gets the dairy compact killed. Then take that winning purse and let it ride! Parlay the winnings on the closest thing to a sure thing youll ever see. Bet that, once the compact goes down, Republicans near and far will scream from the mountaintops that Jeezum Jim Jeffords is to blame!
When yours truly ran that scenario past Vermonts Republican National Committeeman Skip Vallee Tuesday, Mr. Vallee didnt correct us.
The real problem for the dairy compacts renewal, said Gasoline, is the intractable opposition from the Midwest. Even Democrat senators from the Midwest passionately oppose it, he noted.
Those are big Bush states, noted the Skipster with pride.
As for Jeezum Jim ending up the compacts fall guy, Dubyas best friend in Vermont reminded us that just three days after Jeffords dramatic defection in May, Skip authored an op-ed piece, published in The Burlington Free Press. In Gasolines crystal ball, he saw gloom and doom for the Green Mountain State in the Jeffordsonian Age.
I editorialized, recalled Vallee, that in the end, this would hurt Vermont.
Place your bets, folks!
P.S. In his recent July campaign finance filing, Gasoline added to his all-time spending record set in last Novembers Chittenden County state senate race. The old record was $123,000. Post-election bills added another six grand. The new Vallee mark is $129,000.
Congratulations, Skip! Youre number one!
Mr. Vallee, however, confessed he did have to return one campaign contribution. He told Seven Days one contributor wrote requesting his $10 back. Apparently, the donor was not happy with Skips take on Jeezum Jim.
Vallee said he went to the bookstore and purchased a copy of Will Randalls distinguished biography of Benedict Arnold for $14.95. He mailed the book to the contributor.
I reported it as a returned contribution, he said.
Thats $14.95 plus sales tax and postage for a $10 donation. Awful generous of him, eh?
King Con for Governor? Speaking of longshots, Cornelius Hogan graced the You Can Quote Me airwaves on WCAX-TV Sunday morning. Mr. Hogan is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. His opponent in the primary is savvy veteran Jim Douglas.
Douglas in a walk, right? I mean, who the hell is Con Hogan?
Outside of Vermonts governmental beltway, Hogan, 60, is practically a complete unknown. But make no mistake, King Con has all the tools and then some.
Mr. Hogans led an interesting and meaningful life and hes done it his way. In 1963 he was a young New Jersey prison guard. By 1978 he was Vermonts corrections commissioner and, with his wife, started up a successful horse riding stable in Plainfield.
(According to his creative campaign manager Bethany Knight, there are more horses in Vermont than cows. Really?)
Hogan also ran the states Agency of Human Services throughout the 1990s. Hes a consummate manager and an out-of-the-box thinker. And a pretty slick banjo picker in Cold Country, a bluegrass band of local note. People whove worked with Cornelius hail his vision and his leadership.
Its been 24 years since state governments been looked at in a systematic way, Hogan told Ch. 3. We need to modernize government, he said, and as governor, King Con promised hed appoint a Modernization Commission right away.
Media Notes Congratulations to former Vermont Press Bureau scribe Diane Derby. Dianes finally going to the big time as Jeezum Jims new press secretary.
Speaking of Jeezum, we hear theres a 60 Minutes appearance in the works for Sen. Jeffords, timed to coincide with his big September book release. Stay tuned.
Send in the Clones! At times, politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows. Take last weeks House vote on cloning. In a chamber with no shortage of clones, two of the most fiery partisans from opposite ends of the spectrum were totally in sync.
This weeks House vote on human cloning, wrote Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., produced one of the years most interesting and unexpected alliances. Bernie Sanders, the proudly self-described socialist from Vermont, and Tom DeLay, the staunchly conservative Republican whip from Texas, both supported a strong cloning ban.
Sanders voted against cloning because he has very serious concerns about the long-term goals of an increasingly powerful and profit-motivated biotechnology industry.
As weve observed for the last 20 years, when it comes to the Bernmeister, everything and anything can be reduced to the evil of the Big-Monied interests.
DeLay declared on the House floor that cloning would reduce some human beings to the level of an industrial commodity. Cloning treats human embryos the basic elements of life itself as a simple raw material. This exploitative, unholy technique is no better than medical strip mining.
What the DeLay-Sanders confluence points up, wrote Dionne, is that we are using too narrow a frame in discussing the great issues raised by developments in biotechnology.
There has been insufficient public debate about the ethical implications of human cloning technology, Sanders said.
Mr. Avowed-Socialist from Vermont and Mr. Right-Wing Extremist from Texas, on the same page at last!
As lyricist Stephen Sondheim might put it:
Where are the clones?/There ought to be clones./Well, maybe next year?