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Welcome, Dick!

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Considering the fact that no state in the nation counted fewer Bush-Cheney ballots in the 2000 election, it's quite flattering to have Vice President Dick Cheney planning a fundraising visit to Vermont on Thursday.

Mr. Cheney is expected to spend a couple hours at the Burlington International Airport. Several well-heeled Republicans are ponying up the big bucks to make his time in Vermont worthwhile.

For a measly $5000 contribution one can attend a half-hour airport roundtable where Cheney will likely explain why Iraq should become part of Texas.

If five grand is too steep for you, then how about $2000 to have your picture taken with Dick? Talk about impressing your friends!

Then again, maybe you're experiencing a little cash flow problem right now since your Enron and Haliburton stocks took a tumble. In that case, they'll let you in to hear the Big Dick's GOP pep talk for just $200.

And remember, it's all for a good cause, i.e., keeping Republicans in the White House and getting Republicans back in the driver's seat in Vermont. Do you really think Dick Cheney would be taking precious time away from Middle Eastern regime-changing if taking back Vermont weren't as important to his cause?

And in the current campaign, Vermont's GOP ticket of Jim Douglas and Brian Dubie is perfectly positioned to do just that — even if they don't get the most votes.

A new poll released by Vermont Public Radio this week shows Democrat Doug Racine at 34 percent. Jim Douglas is at 28 percent. Independent Con Hogan got 6 percent, and Progressive Michael Badamo has 2 percent. With less than two months until election day, 29 percent of those polled are undecided.

Since nobody at this point appears certain to lock up more than the constitutionally required 50 percent of the popular vote, the race for governor and the race for lieutenant governor are heading for Limbo. And it's a Limbo that will last through the Christmas holidays until the new legislature convenes in January. That's when 180 legislators will select Vermont's next ruling regime in two highly dramatic and historic secret ballots.

Can't wait.

No question, Dick's Vermont visit is significant. On Tuesday, we contacted a member of Mr. Cheney's "advance team" who's been checking out Burlap for a couple days. Unfortunately, she informed yours truly she did not, as yet, have the green light from the White House to discuss the vice president's visit. There's always the possibility, she said, that something might come up at the last minute. Fingers crossed.

For the past week, yours truly has been imagining the possibility of asking Mr. Cheney a question. What would it be?

Like many of you, yours truly spent hours last week watching the TV networks replay the horror of the September 11, 2001, airborne suicide-bombings of the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. It was just as gut-wrenching to watch as it was a year ago.

And it's not comforting to know that, one year later, President George W. Bush has not delivered on his promise to capture Osama bin Laden.

It's not comforting to know that Osama the Saudi billionaire and his suicidal lieutenants are out there plotting future attacks.

It's not comforting to watch our President try to shift our attention away from the scoundrel he cannot find and instead sell us on a substitute who's much easier to locate — our former ally, Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq.

One year after the heavens rained down terror on the good ol' USA, the greatest loss is not the value of our stock portfolios. The greatest loss is our loss of hope. Hope for a better day. Hope for a peaceful future. Hope that our children will live to have children. Hope that America will not extinguish its light of freedom. Hope that before we kill one another off, we will learn to live as brothers and sisters in one human family. Hey, it's the only family we've got.

But hope will remain elusive until we have a new foundation upon which to build it. The American people need to know exactly what went wrong back in September 2001. They need to hear from the highest echelons of our government how the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Immigra-tion and Naturalization Service and the Department of Defense managed to simultaneously fail to carry out their prime mission — protecting you and me.

If there were an opportunity to put one and only one question to Dick Cheney, it just might go like this:

Reporter: "When, Mr. Vice President, will the White House release to the American people the results of the September 11 investigation?

Cheney: "That's a very stupid question, Mr. Reporter. You know perfectly well the Bush administration has not called for an official investigation of September 11. There is no such investigation underway. In fact, we have strongly discouraged Congress from conducting such an investigation. To put it simply, we believe it's in the best interest of the United States that there be no investigation of what led up to, caused or allowed the September 11 attack to succeed. It would only distract attention from the President's War on Terror and our fight against evil."

Think about it, folks. The greatest murder case in American history and there is no investigation? No commission appointed to find the truth and report to the American people. What's wrong with this picture?

Chappaquidick was investigated, fer chrissakes. Whitewater was investigated to death. President Bill Clinton's sex life was investigated. The American people know more about the causes of the stains on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress than they do about the causes of the 9/11 attacks.

The American people need to know exactly how Osama's gang evaded America's defenses. They need to know names, ranks and serial numbers. They need to have the flaws in defense and intelligence agencies exposed and corrected. They need to have someone in this regime take responsibility. Surely there are heads that need rolling?

Until that happens, until the Bush administration launches an official, bipartisan, red, white and blue investigation of September 11, hope will remain a very scarce commodity throughout the land.

Mary Fanny Follies — Fletcher Allen Health Care (FAHC) CEO Bill Boettcher's six weeks on thin ice ended this week with the announcement by the board of trustees that Boss Bill has resigned. He had been on paid administrative leave.

Nobody was surprised by the announcement. Most considered it inevitable.

What was unusual was the fact that Chairman Philip Drumheller didn't have a bad word to say about Boss Bill. In fact, he praised Boettcher for getting the Mary Fanny out of financial difficulty during his four years at the helm.

The exit deal was negotiated by Allen Martin of the upscale law firm, Downs Rachlin Martin, and Boettcher's distinguished attorney, Jerry O'Neill, chairman of the police commission. It leaves Boss Bill temporarily unemployed. But the $750,000 in retirement funds he takes with him from the Mary Fanny should ease his fall.

The obvious hope is that the trustees' public relations nightmare will end now that Boettcher has gone over the side. (We noticed the hospital has recently tapped the services of Paul Bruhn as a public relations consultant to help get a cogent message together.)

Chairman Drumheller & Co. must surely hope Boettcher will serve as a sacrificial lamb on the altar of public opinion. It looks like the Mary Fanny's version of the "Lone Gunman" theory, with CEO Bill Boettcher starring in the Lee Harvey Oswald role.

"It's a new day," was the message Phil the Lip, hometown boy and owner of Lane Press, uttered again and again during Monday's press conference at the Sheraton.

For registered nurse Maura Malone, however, "It's not a new day." Ms. Malone works in the maternity ward. She's been at the Mary Fanny for 10 years. She told Seven Days her retirement package is currently worth about $21,000. At that rate, Malone would have to keep working at her job for another 350 years to get a retirement plan equal to the one Boss Bill earned in just four years.

Interesting, eh?

Everybody knows Fletcher Allen nurses will be going to the polls October 2 and 3 to vote on forming a union. But not everybody knows the situation inside the hospital is getting pretty tense.

A letter sent to acting CEO Thad Krupka this week asked him to "refrain from spending patient care dollars to fund an anti-union campaign." It also describes the hospital's anti-union campaign as one of "fear and confusion."

The letter is signed by Rep. Bernie Sanders, Mayor Peter Clavelle, Rep. Michael Obuchowski, State Sen. Jim Leddy, Rabbi Joshua Chasan, Father Michael Cronogue and Rev. Gary Kowalski.

According to Ms. Malone, a union supporter, supervisors are putting pressure on the younger nurses, calling them into their offices for private one-on-ones. Management, she said, "is putting out lots of paper and lots of misinformation." Team Krupka is also making the pitch that the worker bees give Mary Botter, the newly appointed head of nursing, a chance to make things better.

"Four years ago," noted Malone, "that's what they said about Bill Boettcher. Give him a chance."

Four years ago, they did.

Dubie Gets Bizarre — Still no call back from Brian Dubie, the GOP candidate for Lite-Gov. We wanted to get his take on Republican cheerleader James Dwinell's Web site, which has been publishing outrageous claims about the sexual behavior of Democrats, including one of Dubie's opponents. So far, Skip Vallee is the only Republican leader to criticize Dwinell's new political gutter.

But Dubie did go on "True North" on WKDR-AM last Friday for what became a rather bizarre appearance. The Doobster claimed yours truly had called his campaign office last week and "hassled his volunteer mothers."

Actually we left a voice mail asking for an interview.

Then Doobie-Doo claimed we had called him on September 11 when he was with his family in Washington receiving an award.

Actually we called on Monday, September 9. Last week's edition hit the streets on September 11.

Then, when talking about how proud he was to receive his meritorious service medal from a three-star general, Dubie suddenly lost it and emotionally broke down. The host quickly went to commercial.

A Vermont First — Ever hear of free political advertising? Sounds like an oxymoron, but it's about to become a reality in Vermont. That's because Vermont Public Television is offering all 10 candidates for governor free airtime to get their message out to the voters.

According to VPT's Joe Merone, the candidates have been invited to drop by the Fort Ethan Allen studio to tape four one-minute "candidate commentaries" on the topics of the economy, education, health care and their number-one priority. The spots will air on VPT throughout October.

Cool.


Media Notes — What a treat it was to catch the Walter Cronkite of Vermont TV news playing panelist with a point of view on "Vermont This Week" over the weekend.


WCAX-TV's Marselis Parsons has been a familiar TV face in the Green Mountains since 1967. This is his fifth decade on television. On week nights Marsillyiss reads the news off his teleprompter, but on VTW, he was able to tell viewers what he really thinks. No dummy is he.


How about his take on Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Douglas' appeal to conservative Republicans?

"I mean, he sure was wishy-washy on civil unions and gay marriage and issues that were important to them," said Parsons. "The only thing I think I've ever heard him say strongly is that he was pro-choice."

Wishy-washy? Ouch!


And how about Marsillyiss' opinion of his favorite socialist — Congressman Bernie Sanders? Looks like more than two decades of journalistic head-butting has our Cronkite singing Ol' Bernardo's praises.

"He's a wall," said Parsons. "He's insurmountable. Bernie's constituent work is good. He's come around so he's no longer viewed as the anti-military-establishment person. Veterans' groups like him for a number of things that he has done. If I were a Republican I might say, let's concentrate on the Douglas-Dubie possibilities and recognize reality. Why throw a whole lot of money for Bill Meub?"

Hey, get this guy a newspaper column!


And speaking of newspapers, Colchester has a brand-new one, the Colchester Sun, launched by publishers Emerson and Angelo Lynn. Read all about the upcoming newspaper war in Paula Routly's "Back Talk" column on page 9.

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