Archive - Apr 2006
The public should note with alarm a recent tactic by the Bush administration to distort the conclusion by American intelligence agencies that Saddam Hussein had no unconventional weapons of mass destruction and no substantive ties to Al Qaeda before the March 2003 invasion.
The method chosen by the Bush team, and conservative Republican colleagues in Congress, was to push for putting 48,000 boxes of Arabic-language Iraqi documents on the Web so anyone and everyone can play â€œintelligence analystâ€? and second-guess American intelligence officials.
Weâ€™re certainly supportive of this administration putting pertinent government information on the Web for all to review. Critics of the administrationâ€™s energy policy would love to see the volumes of information that came out of the closed-door meetings with oil executives and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Weâ€™d also like to see the complete file on the Valerie Plume case, not to mention more complete documentation of corporate corruption that has plagued private contractors in Iraq as well as during the Hurricane Katrina clean-up; and hundreds of other instances. Weâ€™re all for such openness.
When the stateâ€™s congressional delegation, joined by Gov. James Douglas, files a protest to a private company for dismissing a long-time employee, the average reader should be interested. We canâ€™t recall another time in Vermontâ€™s history that itâ€™s happened, which makes the outrage and disappointment expressed by Gov. Douglas and Sens. Patrick Leahy, James Jeffords, and Rep. Bernie Sanders, all the more poignant.
The protest is over the sudden dismissal of Chris Graff. A familiar face on Vermont Public Televisionâ€™s â€œVermont This Week,â€? Graff not only worked as the Associated Pressâ€™ bureau chief for the past 27 years, but he has been one of the stateâ€™s most prominent and well-respected journalists â€” as the managing editor of a staff of fine reporters, as a keen observer of state politics and history, and as a moderator of numerous political debates and public forums. He has become, as one editor recently wrote, an institution in Vermont.
The war and town meeting
In 57 towns across the state residents discussed a resolution during town meeting concerning the use of National Guard troops in the Iraqi war, their role within the state, Â and a request for the president and Congress to take steps "to withdraw American troops from Iraq, consistently with the mandate of international humanitarian law."
In 48 towns, the resolution (in one form or another) passed. In three towns it was defeated, and in four it was effectively tabled. In Craftsbury, the resolution ended in a tie. In Addison County the measure was approved in Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven, Salisbury and Weybridge, while it was tabled or passed over in Bristol, Lincoln and Starksboro.
The news that Bennington residents rejected a town-initiated size cap on big-box retail stores reinforces the notion that the proposed state regulation on this issue should incorporate provisions to allow an appropriate measure of local control. Benningtonâ€™s vote does not, however, cast any doubt on the wisdom of a statewide initiative.
For readers not abreast of the news in Bennington, residents there rejected a proposed bylaw to cap any single big-box retail store at 75,000 square feet.Â That measure was defeated 2,189 to 1,724, with a respectable turnoutÂ of 40 percent for a single-issue vote. The measure became a referendum on Wal-Mart, which had stated its intention to expand its existing store there from 50,000 square feet to 112,000 square feet. In a well-financed advertising campaign, Wal-Mart developer Jonathan Levy, of Ohio-based Redstone Investments, outspent proponents for the selectboardâ€™s bylaw by a 3-1 margin.
A petition proposing interim zoning measures to cap big-box stores at 50,000-square-feet in Middlebury has one primary purpose: to maintain the intent of the current town plan and zoning statutes. Doing nothing leaves the town open to costly lawsuits by applicants who could easily fight the nebulous wording in the town's current Â plan.
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In Middlebury, the issue centers on the clear intent within the town plan to limit any large-scale development that would cause "undue adverse economic impact on the downtown." The town fathers' intent, clearly, was to put into place measures that would maintain the vibrancy and vitality of the downtown retail district, and promote the growth of locally-owned, independent businesses throughout the community. Â
In his column Wednesday, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, asked the question: Would Deep Throat be a hero in 2005? He suggested that most people would say yes. Deep Throat, after all, was the anonymous source who led journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to the information that exposed what became known as the Watergate scandal during the early part of President Richard Nixonâ€™s second term. That information, and the dogged pursuit of the story by the Post, also exposed the complicity of John Mitchellâ€™s Justice Department and led to Nixonâ€™s resignation in disgrace in 1974.
Deep Throat was in the news, of course, because the source â€” one of American journalismâ€™s best kept secrets â€” revealed himself on Tuesday. He is W. Mark Felt, former deputy director of the FBI. According to a Washington Post editorial, Felt, who is 91, revealed his role in part â€œbecause of his familyâ€™s belief that he deserves to be honored for his actions while he is alive.â€?
The moment after President Bush made his announcement that Judge John G. Roberts would be his first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, the special interest groups swung into action. Conservative groups hailed the nomination in stellar terms. Special interest groups on the left chastised the nominee in equally dire language. The battle lines were being drawn.
But rather than jump into the melee, letâ€™s all relax, step back a pace, breathe. Perhaps the extra oxygen will help Americans think objectively and read a bit about the nominee on their own.
Part of the problem in todayâ€™s extremely partisan environment is that Americans are saturated with instantaneous and biased views that seek to distort the facts and push an agenda. The aim is clear: Left-wing outfits want to raise anxiety among their supporters in the hopes of raising contributions to battle the conservatives. Right-wingers are praising the candidate in the blind faith that Bush has followed through on his word. Why? Because Bushâ€™s team knows they need to keep conservative voters satisfied, and allowing the perception that Roberts might be a moderate or even a moderate conservative would leave the base softer in a trying time for a president whoâ€™s popularity ratings are low and falling lower.
â€œThe (drug) problem is getting worse, not better. Itâ€™s only a matter of time before we have our first adolescent fatality.â€?
The comment was made by Robert Thorn, executive director of the Counseling Service of Addison County. He should know. As head of a county agency on the front lines of drug abuse and the personal crises that inevitably follow, Thorn has been watching the developing drug scene in Addison County from his front-row seat. So have Jim Hulfish, director of adult out-patient services for CSAC, and Ken Schoen, an adolescent substance abuse clinician with CSAC. All three tell a similar story in the lead article of todayâ€™s second installment in a two-part series on drug abuse published in this newspaper.