9/11 Memorial Vandal Amanda Lickers Tied to Pipeline Opposition Organization Rising Tide Vermont

Amanda Lickers, leader of the protest that led to the uprooting of nearly 3,000 American flags planted to memorialize the victims of the September 11 attacks on the Middlebury Campus has worked with Vermont environmental organizations in the past familiar with her radical beliefs and tactics.

Amanda Lickers

Amanda Lickers

In an interview with the Addison Independent on Friday, Lickers claimed that she had been invited to the school by Associate Dean of Students for Student Activities & Orientation J.J. Boggs to lead a discussion on settler responsibility. But according to a former college official with knowledge of the protocol for bringing speakers to campus, this was not the case. That official says that “the Student Activities office assist student organizations in bringing speakers to campus, the staff do not initiate or invite speakers. The general procedure is that a student organization submits a request to the Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) Speakers Committee for review, and if approved it moves to Student Activities for a final review and contracting.”

Although Lickers is from Canada, she has worked in the past with environmental groups in Vermont. On August 2, Rising Tide Vermont, a grassroots organizations that claims to confront “the root causes of climate change”  and which has led the charge against the Vermont Gas Addison Natural Gas Project to build a pipeline between Burlington and Rutland posted a call on their Facebook page asking for help raising $1500 to bring Lickers to a rally held on August 17th and 18th. Continue reading

Abenaki Condemn 9/11 Flag Removal Incident; Student Involved has History of Arrest

The flags vanished over a period of half an hour. But it took several hours longer before the Middlebury community learned where they had gone.

Four women and one man – one a Middlebury College student, one a member of the Haudenosaunee nation brought to campus by that student – plucked all 2977 of them from the grass around Mead Chapel in the middle of the afternoon, where they had been planted in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The group worked efficiently, assembling the flags in small piles and then dumped them into opaque black garbage bags.

Credit: Rachel Kogan

Credit: Rachel Kogan

Julia Madden ’14 was passing on the way to the gym when she realized that something was wrong. After first passing by the scene, she turned to accost the five. They informed her that the site was an “Abenaki burial ground” and that they were acting to counter “American colonialism.” Madden was struck by the disrespect of this action. “I should have gotten a little more aggressive,” she says. “I was just dumbfounded.” Continue reading

What’s Next for Jim Douglas?

Recently retired Governor of Vermont Jim Douglas is not a man to sit idle. First elected to the Vermont legislature the same year he graduated from Middlebury with a degree in Russian studies, he rose rapidly through the state’s elected offices despite his unenviable status as a Republican in the nation’s bluest state. In 2002 he succeeded Howard Dean as Governor and served four terms in office as one of the most popular state executives in America. Halfway through his final term, he still enjoyed an approval rating of 65 percent. While he may have stepped down as governor this year, his political career is far from over.

Douglas is a classic New England conservative; a member of an endangered species. He seems most comfortable in a suit and tie, drives an aging Dodge Neon and line-dries his clothes in order to save on his electric bill. He’s master of the ‘retail politics’ that dominate in Vermont and New Hampshire; I have not yet met a Vermonter who hasn’t shaken his hand at some point and he remembers all of them by name. With his embrace of the stimulus and support for environmental conservation, he is also the type of politician that, in any other state, the Tea Party would have run out of the GOP. In Vermont, however, this allowed him to survive the wave that swept Democrats into power in 2006 and 2008.

As a member of the minority party in a tiny state, Douglas has had to work with his opposition throughout his political career. It is clear when he disagrees with something, but he knows when to respond with a rueful smile or one of his many deadpan jokes. He seems to regard his opponents with a friendly respect, speaking admiringly of Dean’s job in office and Senator Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) work in Washington. He refers to the new Democratic governor Peter Shumlin (D-VT) as “Shummy,” and had Congressman Peter Welch as a guest speaker in the class he taught this January. The one notable exception to this esteem for his adversaries is his clear distaste for Senator Bernie Sanders, the Socialist Democrat who has become a hero on the left for his opposition to any compromise on the Bush tax cuts. Douglas clearly sees Bernie as too extreme, too much of a firebrand and more of a show pony than a work horse.

All of this leads to the inevitable conclusion that Jim Douglas will attempt to unseat Sanders in 2012. He will deny this when asked, but it is clear that his mind could change if he sees a path to victory. Douglas ran for the Senate against Leahy in 1992, giving the veteran legislator a run for his money. Since then, his profile in the state has increased substantially. As a first-term Senator, Sanders is considerably more vulnerable than Leahy. His “take-no-prisoners” approach endears him to the liberal wing of his party, but he alienates both moderates and the press. Douglas, the popular governor of the bluest state in the nation, has already demonstrated his ability to win these voters, along with a large share of Democrats. This makes him the only Republican with a shot at winning the seat in 2012. No other candidate could seriously challenge Sanders. With his future career plans not yet laid, the chance to jump back into the arena next year may be too tempting to refuse.

This is bad news for Democrats nationally. They currently hold the Senate with a razor-thin majority and two-thirds of the seats up for reelection in 2012 belong to Democrats. If they lose a seat in Vermont, they will fare far worse in the rest of the nation. Much of their success depends on how President Barack Obama tackles unemployment and the debt; if neither has improved by 2012, Douglas could find himself the member of a large Senate majority. But one thing is certain: Douglas will not be content with an early retirement.  Politics is his only hobby.

Vermont Governor’s Race – A “Dunne” Deal?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and to ask him about the campaign to replace retiring Governor Jim Douglas in 2010. Dean had the surprising thought that Susan Bartlett — the longtime chair of the state senate appropriations committee — might make the best governor, even though she appears to lack the campaign skills of her rivals. Dean conceded that all five Democratic candidates would do a great job as governor and lamented that none would likely win a clear majority in the hotly contested primary race.

The five Democratic contenders, who spoke at a forum this Sunday at Middlebury, had few differences between their stances on the major issues; all agreed on the need for more jobs, affordable healthcare and clean energy. As every candidate alluded to in the debate, the most important quality in the Democratic nominee is the ability to defeat Republican candidate Brian Dubie.

In a field teeming with technically qualified candidates, one stands out for his ability to connect with voters and for the clarity of his proposals: former state Senator Matt Dunne — who currently manages Google’s community affairs program — possesses the energy and the knowledge necessary to be both a great candidate and a great governor for this state.

Several weeks ago, Dunne spoke in depth with a group of the Middlebury College Democrats. We sat down with him for over an hour and received long, practical answers to questions about everything from education to agriculture policy. He spoke with intelligence and excitement about his plan to replace the crumbling Vermont Yankee nuclear plant with two carbon-neutral biomass plants and laid out a path to provide health care access to all Vermonters.

In a race dominated by candidates who have eagerly awaited Douglas’s retirement, Dunne stands out as a rising star — someone with vision, not just the next politician in line.

Vermont cannot afford to elect another Republican. In a state with an overwhelming Democratic majority, with the Senate’s only socialist member and where two-thirds of votes cast went to Barack Obama, it’s silly to even imagine a Republican contending in the gubernatorial race. And yet Governor Douglas’ retirement marks the end of four terms in office where he presented a firm roadblock to Vermont’s ability to move forward on many issues.

In 2006, Douglas vetoed an act preventing gender identity discrimination, only to be overruled the next year. In 2009, the governor vetoed a law allowing same-sex marriage and was courageously overridden by the legislature. He has vetoed campaign finance reform several times, a resolution to replace the un-democratic electoral college with a popular vote and a renewable energy bill because of a tax increase aiming to balance the budget.

Douglas leaves his office with a $150 million budget deficit and no coherent plan to replace the Vermont Yankee plant. A Republican governor in Vermont after Douglas’ retirement would continue to serve only as a foil to the public interest and a burden on the public checkbook.

As students in such a small, politically progressive state, we have the opportunity to make a difference, and we need to take advantage of that chance to produce a government that represents our values. Brian Dubie’s administration would not represent those values, or the values of the state of Vermont.

There are still many months until the Democratic primary, and even longer until the general election in November. Now is your chance to make a difference. Join me, Bill McKibben and the thousands of Vermonters who support Matt Dunne for Governor. In such a small state, your vote — and, more importantly, your voice — truly matters.