Bumper to Bumper
Imagine the mess. Williston Road backed up from Airport Parkway in South Burlington to Main and Church in downtown Burlington, three miles away. You better leave four hours early if you want to catch your flight.
And you can forget Kennedy Drive, even if they allow cars on it. That's the quickest route to Burlington's South Cove neighborhood from the airport. The route a certain potential future president's motorcade might take. And we're not the only ones imagining the possibilities.
"We've had some initial conversations with state police and South Burlington Police," said Burlington Chief of Police Tom Tremblay. The subject matter, he said, was how to coordinate security should Ho-Ho win the Democratic nomination. And one thing's for sure, said Tremblay, a President Howard Dean would significantly increase demands on the Burlington Police Department.
"If he's the Democratic nominee, I assume Secret Service coverage kicks in," said the chief. "And the first place the Secret Service calls is the local jurisdiction."
The lone Secret Service special agent currently assigned to Vermont told Seven Days the possibility of having a local guy sleeping in the White House is "under review."
"Of course we've thought about it," said Agent Matt Fasulo, "but we can't do anything until the magic day he's recognized as a viable candidate." That's when, by law, Secret Service protection kicks in.
But local law enforcement isn't the only sector contemplating the impact of a Dean presidency on Burlington. The folks at the airport have been pondering it, too.
"We've been tossing the possibility around amongst ourselves," said Bob Currier, the FAA's tower manager at Burlington International. Interviewed Monday during the snowstorm, Currier remarked that there would have been no place to park Air Force One on that particular day.
"Our airport," he said, "wasn't built to handle planes like that."
Air Force One, he noted, isn't one particular plane, but rather, whichever one the president chooses to fly on. They come in different sizes, from a jumbo 747 on down. Currier speculated that "with some forethought," they might be able to build a gate to handle the smaller-version 747.
Airport Manager J.J. Hamilton told Seven Days that regular visits to the Vermont White House by President Dean would cause "a lot of disruption" at the airport. For one thing, there's the "sterile ring" cast over the area where the president travels. No flights can land or depart within an hour of the president's arrival.
Hamilton joked that the best time for President Dean's Air Force One to land would be between 2 and 3 a.m.
As for parking it, Hamilton said Air Force One would likely use the Air National Guard side of the field.
Yours truly has the perfect, hassle-free solution. The answer is nearby -- Plattsburgh, New York. The old Air Force base there has a giant, 12,000-foot runway and little traffic. Ho-Ho could deplane there, hop on a Marine Corps helicopter and make the short hop across Lake Champlain. Either the parking lot or the volleyball field on the southern tip of Oakledge Park would be a perfect landing zone. Ho-Ho could walk to his house.
Of course, the volleyball players will be pissed, but, hey, that's life.
Saddam Sunday I -- OK, let's go to the scorecard. We've got 452 dead American soldiers and counting, more than 2000 wounded, many armless, legless or blind. On top of that, thousands of dead Iraqi soldiers and civilians. All to catch a Homeless Man in a spider hole?
The fact is, Ol' Saddam Hussein is not the problem. The problem is occupying an unstable, polarized Arab country where religious fanatics have long carved up one another in the name of their Almighty God.
Most striking to yours truly was the fact that the Sunday morning TV commentators uniformly described the captured Saddam as looking like a "homeless man." What's remarkable is that "homeless man" is a term everyone in the richest country on Earth easily understands because there are so many homeless men, women and children in America. It's become a recognizable social class. An American icon. A look.
Forty-eight hours later, the news networks continue to run the video of the Army doc pawing through the ex-dictator's matted hair in search of lice? Weapons of mass destruction? Osama bin Laden?
Apparently the repetitious, hair-picking "homeless man" video clip serves as the modern technological equivalent of cutting off a tyrant's head and sticking it on the end of a spear.
Ah, the good old days!
At his Monday press conference before a Casper Milquetoast White House press corps, President George W. Bush again pulled off the old bait-and-switch. Dubya repeatedly went to the 9/11 well to tweak emotions of sorrow, fear and pain. Then he took those emotions and, with a flip of his tongue, deposited them at the feet of Saddam Hussein.
Brilliant, Mr. President!
Credit where credit is due. Mr. Bush has been very successful with his Wag the Dog-style deception. Months ago we reported how he simply stopped uttering the name of Osama bin Laden, the admitted, proud architect of 9/11. On Monday, Bush behaved as if there never were an Osama bin Laden.
The fundamental fact remains, Saddam was never an imminent threat to the United States of America.
As everybody knows, Gov. Jim Douglas has long been a loyal supporter of President Bush. Jimmy D fully and completely supported the Iraq invasion. (He also firmly supports Howard Dean's right to seal some of his gubernatorial records, but that's another story.) Gov. Douglas took every word uttered by Dubya as the Gospel According to George.
Last week we asked Douglas if he still thought George had told the American people the truth about the threat posed by Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction." For the first time, Douglas carved out a little wiggle room in his response:
"I believe the president told the truth as he understood it," said the Guv. "He had intelligence information that may or may not have been correct. It was not consistent based on the different reports that he had, but the preponderance of that information advised him there were indeed weapons of mass destruction. Whether there are is a matter that I'm sure we'll continue to explore."
Yes, we will. And so will the next 200 Vermont Guard soldiers who'll shortly ship out to the war that did not need to happen.
Saddam Sunday II -- The news of Saddam Hussein's Saturday capture in the spider hole wasn't made public until Sunday morning, and it instantly became the news of the day on every TV network.
Locally, WCAX bumped their prerecorded "You Can Quote Me" interview with Congressman Bernie Sanders. News Director Marselis Parsons tells Seven Days that "in all likelihood" the Bernie "Quote Me" will be broadcast this coming Sunday.
We wish they had aired it as scheduled. How many dozens of times can one watch the Army doctor picking through Saddam's hair?
His capture, we'd argue, also spelled good news for Howard Dean. That's because a ridiculous picture of Gov. Dean in wrestling mode had been slated for the cover of Newsweek. Under the headline "The Wrestler," Ho-Ho clenched his fists and flexed his arms like the Incredible Hulk. The Demo-cratic frontrunner scrunched up his nose in a sneer and flashed his pearly whites like a gerbil in attack mode.
Apparently, Dean's high-school wrestling career has now become a metaphor for national pundits seeking to intellectually define America's newest political hero. Wrestlers are tough, you know. They push back when pushed.
Over at Time magazine, Saddam bumped Jesus Christ from this week's cover.
Now Ho-Ho and Jesus finally have something in common, eh?
Globe Diving for Pearls -- It's way too early to call it the most absurd story of the presidential campaign, but, so far, last week's Boston Globe story linking Howard Dean to Enron is vying for first place.
The Globe's Michael Kranish tried to tie Ho-Ho to Enron by noting Enron once had a captive insurance company registered in Vermont. That's like saying because there are successful organized crime families in Massachusetts, John Kerry is linked to the Mob.
Is he really?
The fact is, Vermont has turned into an attractive domicile for captive insurance companies -- large corporations who self-insure -- since Republican Gov. Dick Snelling signed enabling legislation in 1981. The captive industry has grown steadily with bipartisan support both in the Legislature and on the Fifth Floor.
In the last legislative session, a bill updating Vermont's captive insurance statutes passed with Gov. Jim Douglas' solid support and not a single "no" vote in either the House or Senate. In the view of the Boston Globe article, that surely indicates Vermont's current Republican governor and the entire legislature is crooked. Can't wait to read Kranish's follow-up, eh?
According to Molly Lambert, director of the Vermont Captive Insurance Association (www.vcia.com), there are more than 600 captives registered in the state. Only Bermuda and the Cayman Islands have more. Last year she said, captives pumped $17.2 million in taxes into the Vermont kitty. That's a million more than all those lottery tickets did.
"Howard, as other governors before him," said Lambert, "has maintained an openness to creating a legislative environment that encouraged the growth of this industry. All legislators, Republican, Democrat and Progressive, have supported the captive insurance industry."
What Dean should get credit for, said Lambert, is "bringing hundreds of good-paying offshore jobs onshore."
Those are the little details the Boston Globe wasn't interested in.
Freudian Politics -- What Vermont politician of recent times could be accurately described as "arrogant," "short-tempered" and exhibiting a "my-way-or-the-highway style"?
Don't know about you, but the name of twice-defeated Republican right-wing nasty girl Ruthless Ruth Dwyer pops up first.
However, in New Hampshire's Sunday Union Leader, Ruthie was describing Ho-Ho in those very terms!
"I expected [Dean] to be warm, but I found him to be arrogant," said Dwyer. "To me," said Dwyer, "he is a monarch. His way or no way. He has a lack of leadership. He is a good promoter of himself. But motivation to do good? I haven't seen that. And he's a bully."
Holy Sigmund Freud, Batman! Ruthless Ruth sees all her worst traits in Howard Dean.
As anyone who passed Psychology 101 knows, Mrs. Dwyer is providing readers with a classic example of Freudian Projection. As the textbooks define it, that's a defense mechanism in which the individual attributes to other people impulses and traits that he himself has but cannot accept. It is especially likely to occur when the person lacks insight into his own impulses and traits.
Poor Ruth. It was, after all, Mrs. Dwyer who filled Newsweek's Michael Isikoff with titillating suspicions over the sealed portion of Dean's gubernatorial records. The Pulitzer prize-winner's probe, of course, led nowhere.
Its all serves as a reminder of the fictional tales that Ruth spun as a two-time GOP gubernatorial candidate. Now she's acting out for any and every naïve out-of-state journalist researching Dr. Dean.
Ho-Ho's presidential campaign appears to have put Ruthless over the edge. Dwyer's comments regarding Dean sound more and more like a desperate cry for help.
Doesn't the Vermont Republican Party have a fund to help disabled political veterans?
Reality Check -- The locally produced documentary video is only 21 minutes long, but it packs more punch than many a two-hour documentary. Heroin -- The Road to Addiction is all about Vermont and the reality of growing heroin addiction among our children.
"It's hard to believe a small state like Vermont can have a drug problem," begins co-host Emma McGowan.
"We did a little research," says fellow Burlington High School student Malik Butler, "and what we found was eye-opening."
That's an understatement.
What follows will open your mind and tear out your heart. No sugarcoating here. Instead, watch and listen as young Vermont addicts and the families and friends they've left behind tell their stories to the camera. Yes, folks, it has happened here and we all better wake up fast.
Heroin -- The Road to Addiction is a short documentary that should be viewed by parents and their young teenagers together. The conversation it will ignite will last for hours.
Copies of the video and DVD are available for purchase through www.noodlehead.com. They can also be rented from Waterfront Video on Battery Street.
Two-Shot Foul? -- UVM Basketball Coach Tom Brennan just inked a new four-year contract at Groovy UV, making him the highest paid coach on the Hill ($97,000). But on Saturday, Coach got called for traveling by The New York Times.
Earlier we applauded Brennan on the occasion of a glowing profile in the Times. Unfortunately, the paper took everything Coach said as gospel, including his self-serving boast that his radio show is the "top-rated morning show" in the Burlington market.
As the Times put it in Saturday's "Correction":
"A sports article on Nov. 28 about the University of Vermont basketball coach, Tom Brennan, referred imprecisely to the relative popularity of early morning radio shows in the Burlington area, including "Corm and the Coach," with Brennan as co-host. While that program, on WCPV-FM, is popular in the Burlington area, it rates seventh -- and behind the fourth-rated Howard Stern show on WIZN-FM -- among listeners aged 12 and older in the metropolitan survey area of Burlington and Plattsburgh, N.Y., as defined by Arbitron.
WOKO, by the way, is #1 in the morning and has been for a long time.