December 27th, 2007

Green Mountain Roids: In Which VDB Helps Democracy Get Huge (Now With Audio)

by Philip Baruth

Announcer: In light of the Mitchell Report on steroids, the Rutland Herald polled coaches in Vermont — and found that the problem was not widespread. But the poll led commentator Philip Baruth to imagine a scenario worthy of Jose Canseco: what if the Presidential candidates all used steroids, and Vermont was the source of their Juice?

Notes from the New Vermont
Commentary #209: Green Mountain Roids

I don’t know where you were when the Mitchell Report on steroid use hit, but I was in the weightroom, working through my last superset of hack-squats, my quads pumped up like a couple of cantaloupes. I remember feeling a twinge of guilt, but nothing major.

Sure, some A-list reputations were about to implode — Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens — but I figured those boys paid their nickel and they took their chances.

But when the Rutland Herald took a poll and found that the steroid problem wasn’t widespread in Vermont, I couldn’t help but laugh. And a really hollow, bitter laugh at that.

You thought Jose Canseco had stories? I got stories.

Because I don’t just use steroids personally, I sell them, and I mean I sell them to the people who really, really want ‘em and really, really shouldn’t have ‘em.

That’s right: Presidential candidates. White House hopefuls.

I’m the guy who hooks all the candidates up with the roids, the juice, the clear, the pumpers, the stackers, the so-called anabolic mochaccinos.

And all of that gym candy moves right through sleepy old Vermont — where no one’s paying much attention —and across the border to New Hampshire, where the klieg lights are always on, and your serious candidate wants to get pumped and stay pumped.

At a stop in Keene, a hopped-up Mitt Romney attempted to crush and then eat a small child.

Look, I don’t want to name names but — Mitt Romney. Looks awesome, doesn’t he? The guy’s chin dimple could crush a walnut. And remember last spring, when Romney told reporters that he’d been a lifelong hunter, but then it turned out he’d occasionally shot at what he called “varmints” at his vacation home in Utah?

Please — that was the roids talking. No one even uses the word “varmint” unless steroids have warped their self-image to the point where they see themselves as Yosemite Sam.

And it wasn’t all Republicans. I did my share of reaching across the aisle, believe you me.

Take a look at game films of John Edwards circa 2003. Sweet and smooth as pecan pie. Now run some footage of Edwards today. Guy looks like Jimmy Carter’s head set down on Sylvester Stallone’s body. MSNBC reported that during a 25-minute speech a few weeks back, Edwards used the word “fight” 12 times — and told the crowd that his mill-working father was the one who taught him how to “kick butt.”

Can you say hyper-aggession and feelings of invincibility?

But like Mark McGwire, I’m not here to talk about the past — I’m here to be positive about this subject. What’s done is done, and it won’t do anybody any good to prosecute a little guy like me, who was just doing his part to help Democracy get huge.

The people you should really go after are those folks in New Hampshire, the voters who force the candidates through the diners and pancake breakfasts and the town hall meetings seven days a week, 24-hours a day for two full years, with YouTube ready to roll footage any time they mispronounce a single solitary word.

Who wouldn’t need some help with all that craziness?

Those people out there are animals.

[This commentary aired first on Vermont Public Radio. Audio of the piece is available here.]

December 26th, 2007

The Envelope, Please: The Top Ten News Stories of 2007, Via Vermont This Week

by Philip Baruth

Each December, Vermont This Week polls its stable of 18 weekly guests, journalists, and talking heads for the year’s Top Ten news stories. And this year’s results are in. Feast your eyes (that means you too, Rob Williams):

Top Stories of 2007

1. Vermont Yankee cooling tower collapse causes alarm
2. Federal Court upholds Vermont’s emissions law
3. Climate change dominates much of legislative session
4. Democrats fail to override Governor’s vetoes
5. Leahy assumes leading role in battle with White House
6. Catamount Health begins
7. PSB OK’s industrial wind project for Sheffield
8. Verizon seeks to sell landlines to FairPoint
9. Valentine’s Day blizzard sees up to 30” fall
10. Communities back impeachment resolution

More or less in line with expectations. But a few of the results puzzle VDB, we’ll admit.

That any storm during which snow fell from the sky in Vermont during February would make the list at all seems incredible. That Leahy’s climactic cage-match with Alberto Gonzales didn’t crack the top three? Ditto.

Probable fall-out:

1) Expect a press release from Entergy, arguing that the above list is back-asswards, with the cooling tower collapse the least important story of the bunch.

2) Expect a press release from impeachment advocates, arguing that the above list is back-asswards, with the impeachment story the most important story of the bunch.

3) Expect Democrats in the Legislature to pass a resolution denouncing the framing and prominent positioning of Story #4, a resolution which Jim Douglas will then veto.

Happy New Year, junkies, to all of you and yours from all of us and ours, here at the Vermont Daily Briefing.

not so cool

December 26th, 2007

BREAKING: Michael Wood-Lewis’s Front Porch Forum Now Required Oppo-Research

by Philip Baruth

Fascinating little snafu in Burlington last week. A very hard-working local activist, Lea Terhune, called a meeting to organize against a new Senior Housing development slated for the Apple Tree Point section of Burlington’s New North End. Wet-land is at issue, and Terhune says that Infill Development Group’s project would “warehouse [seniors] in a swamp.” Not one to mince words, Lea Terhune.

But the problem involved attendance, really: an Infill exec saw the notice, and decided to attend.

Whammo! Terhune stood her ground and refused the developer admittance; the developer actually hotfooted it over to the City Council meeting then in progress and cried himself a river.

Infill’s argument? That since the meeting appeared on Michael Wood-Lewis’s vast Front Porch Forum, it was duly and publicly warned.

Will Terhune defeat the forces of Darkness? We don’t know. Will the development rise from the swamps of the New North End? We don’t know that either.

What we do know is that the Front Porch Forum has now been elevated beyond a mere local-networking tool: it has become required political reading for those on any side of any issue, any policy debate, any ongoing campaign.

Peter Freyne observes Wood-Lewis carefully during last year’s Blogger’s Bistro event.

So who won the Skirmish of the Swamp? Wood-Lewis, that’s who. The medium is no longer merely the message, in other words.

It’s the Michael.

December 21st, 2007

Concerning the On-Going iBrattleboro Libelpalooza: Candleblogger Runs It Down

by Philip Baruth

If you’re following the story, Candleblogger Bill Simmon has an excellent post up about the now much-discussed iBrattleboro Libelpalooza. Bill is the one wearing the rakish hat in this now-classic photograph from the First Annual Hamburger Summit. No, not the baby.

The Good, the Bad, and the Bloggish

Best nugget of the piece?

“This whole controversy is a tempest in a Vermont-shaped teapot. No, your band that plays regular gigs at Franny O’s isn’t going to get a major record deal and no, the film you shot in your parents’ basement isn’t going to get into Sundance and no, your libel suit against a blog isn’t going to get to the Supreme Court.”

What he said.

December 20th, 2007

McCain N.H. Campaign Now “On Fire,” Follows Lieberman with Nod by Kissinger, Locking Down Elderly War Criminal Vote

by Philip Baruth

Tough to see how you improve on perfection, but John McCain’s strategists have done it. In the wake of the Lieberman endorsement, which all but guarantees the full-throated support of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party, they’ve put together another boffo announcement.


Yes, McCain has won the support of Henry Kissinger, which should allow him to cut heavily into the ranks of registered Zombie/Walking Undead Party voters.

What sort of candidate offers the nation Big Joe, Bloody Henry and The Surge as their visionary trifecta?

The New Bob Dole, indeed.

McCain somehow found the time at the Kissinger announcement to address the future of the nuclear industry, as well. “We have to go back to nuclear power . . . . It’s clean and it does reduce greenhouse gases.”

So it’s not a trifecta. It’s the Pick-Four of Death.

Which is everything VDB has been praying for in a candidate, really: increased troop presence in Iraq, the word of a couple of doddering old warmongers, and the Vermont Yankee nuclear facility replicated a thousand times over across the American heartland.

Sell VDB’s shoes, because the McCain camp is taking us straight to Heaven.

Unless Huckabee gets us there first, of course.


December 18th, 2007

Bill Clinton And George Herbert Walker Bush: Just Two Good Old Golf-Playing Buddies In Search of a Diplomatic Portfolio

by Philip Baruth

It isn’t often that we rerun a post here at VDB. But occasionally current events bear out a past take in such completeness that we really have no other choice. In this case, the post in question was written on October 31st.

the two ex-presidents

In it we argued that Bill Clinton’s much-hyped friendship with George H. W. Bush was more than it seemed: it was also a subtle form of outreach to moderate Republicans, conducted by a husband with an eye to his wife’s eventual White House run.

A few of you wrote in about the piece, accusing us of being jaded and cynical, and less than generous to Bill Clinton. But it’s tough to see how today’s news doesn’t bear VDB out — in spades.

Speaking in South Carolina on his wife’s behalf, Clinton had this to say about Hillary’s first days in office:

“Well, the first thing she intends to do, because you can do this without passing a bill, the first thing she intends to do is to send me and former President Bush and a number of other people around the world to tell them that America is open for business and cooperation again,” Clinton said in response to a question from a supporter about what his wife’s “number one priority” would be as president.

It’s hard to know where to begin here, really. How egocentric do you have to be to promise voters that the first thing your wife will do, once she becomes President of the United States, is to empower you on a global scale?

But even more odd, how confident of Bush Senior’s cooperation must Clinton be to roll this idea out publicly, while Bush Junior is still in the White House?

The whole point of the tour in question would be to reassure the world that America is “open for business and cooperation again” after a disastrous two-term President.

A two-term President named Bush.

And that Bush — hard to believe this needs pointing out — would be the son of the “Former President” Clinton is so quick to include in his new diplomatic brief. A very strange assumption to make, and to publicize on the stump.

But what’s really notable about the quote, and this entire line of thinking, is what it reveals about Clinton’s general overall perceptions of his friendship with Bush Sr.

Clearly he views it as politically advantageous; clearly he sees no problem campaigning on it, capitalizing on it when the chips are down.

All of this suggests, to us at least, that our Halloween post was more than the ravings of one cynical blogger. But it’s reproduced below. So read the article linked above, then read the post below, and you be the judge.

Late Update, Tuesday, 5:11 pm:

And here comes the predictable though gentle backhand from Poppy Bush, via a spokesperson, who notes that the former President “wholeheartedly supports the President of the United States, including his foreign policy. He has never discussed an ‘around-the-world-mission’ with either former President Bill Clinton or Senator Clinton, nor does he think such a mission is warranted since he is proud of the role America continues to play around the world as the beacon of hope for freedom and democracy.”



George Herbert Walker Bush,
and How He Became a BFOB (Best Friend of Bill)

Convention has always had it that when a modern American President leaves office, he remains more or less above the political fray. And in exchange, his poll numbers generally rise slowly but surely into the 60’s or 70’s. The ex-President functions the same way an aging King functions in a constitutional monarchy, then: not very often, not very politically, and not very well.

the two ex-presidents

But those conventions were built for older ex-Presidents, those who left office well into retirement age. What do you do when you’re comparatively young and comparatively politically obsessed, even by the standards of US Presidents?

You get your wife elected President.

As many have noted, Bill Clinton’s hands-on approach to his wife’s campaign is unprecedented, but in no way was it unpredictable. Hillary certainly had the drive, and Bill clearly has the fire in the belly even when it comes to a vicarious campaign. Giving up the ballot box as a measure of personal validation is never easy for a politician, but for Clinton it has been a tragic sort of exile.

But no more. Bill Clinton clearly views Hillary’s election as a de facto referendum on himself and his legacy, and in a very realistic sense it is. And in that narrow sense, Clinton is now back in the saddle, a man with something to prove on Election Day.

And here we come to the point of this speculation.

Bill Clinton has known for at least the last handful of years, conservatively speaking, that his wife would be running for President in 2008, or 2012 if circumstances dictated. He’s known all along that her largest hurdle would be making a case to the 50% of Americans who consistently tell pollsters that they would prefer gall bladder surgery to voting for Hillary Clinton.

Consider his now famously fabulous relationship with George Herbert Walker Bush in this context: outreach to moderate Republicans. Sure, Bill Clinton has always gravitated to father figures; sure, he’s always made outreach to the other side of the aisle the measure of his personal charisma.

But ex-Presidents, to begin where we started, are extraordinarily savvy about where and when they risk their accumulated good will with the American people. Where they have their picture taken, to put it another way.

Now consider the veritable river of images that has been allowed to flow over the last five or six years, images of Bill and Poppy Bush, just two loveable ex-Commanders in Chief, out saving the world, picking up after tsunamis, making the visible case for bipartisan support in the wake of Katrina.

Golfing together, traveling together, working the commencement circuit in tandem.

the two ex-presidents

How many pictures have you seen of Bill and Jimmy Carter since Clinton left the White House?

But wait, you say, with W’s poll numbers so depressed, wouldn’t Clinton risk a lot by being seen with a Bush, any Bush? Not at all. Think about how the relationship is usually portrayed by the media: as a thorn in W’s side, somehow a repudiation of a son who’s strayed from the father’s will.

Does VDB think the entire friendship is staged? Not at all. Clinton has always needed validation from the other side of the aisle even more than from his own, and palling around with a Republican old enough to be his father is psychologically spot on.

But with Hillary’s election looming only a handful of years away, do you really believe the friendship would have been allowed to flower so very, very publicly if it didn’t actually help, in some way, shape or form?

Clinton is no Bob Dole, who commenced a public service campaign about erectile dysfunction just as his wife was launching a White House bid.

No, Bill knows what helps. That’s his magic.

the two ex-presidents

And given that successive Presidencies have overlapping needs — like delimiting access to Presidential papers, to take just one example — that friendship could be more useful going forward.

Lots more useful.

December 17th, 2007

Desperately Seeking Joementum, McCain Accepts Devalued Endorsement From Man Recently Escorted Out of Democratic Tent

by Philip Baruth

So Joe Lieberman has “decided,” despite a 2006 campaign promise to “work to put a Democrat in the White House,” to endorse the man VDB calls “the New Bob Dole,” John McCain. Which is fine. Let the baby have his way, as we used to say during Nerf football games growing up, when it looked like we were doomed to lose the argument anyway.

lieberman as adult baby

Yes, Lieberman lied to his constituents, and they rewarded him with six more long warmongering years in the United States Senate. And there’s not a damn thing anyone in America can do about it.

VDB has shouldered tougher hits.

But there’s one thing we absolutely will not stand for in this instance: the media-enabled impression that this “decision” of Lieberman’s is somehow recent in origin, the product of an agonized, heartfelt quandry.

Lieberman’s flirtation with McCain and the GOP has been so open for so long that only someone entirely new to American electoral politics could buy the spin coming out of Lieberman’s office. But ABC News gives us the breathless tick-tock anyway:

A couple weeks ago, Sen. Joe Lieberman, the self-described “Independent Democrat” from Connecticut, received a phone call from a close friend and frequent traveling companion, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. McCain wanted to know if Lieberman would endorse his presidential bid.Joecarrier

Frequent traveling companion is putting it mildly, of course. But the tick-tock goes on:

“But Lieberman’s left-leaning views on domestic issues aside, after talking with his family and a couple of aides, he decided the journey to McCain-land was one he was willing to make.”

Being a man of family, values, and family values, Big Joe does nothing without securing assent from all family members. And yes, even though the journey to McCain-land will be tough and lonely and dangerous, perhaps even resulting in Big Joe selflessly offering to run on a McCain/Lieberman “unity” ticket, the family swallowed the lumps in their various throats, and agreed.

It’s like Father Knows Best meets High Plains Drifter. Who is this selfless maverick patriot Joe Lieberman? And where can we click to contribute to his attempt to rise above party lines and Defeat Islamofascism?!

The truth is that Joe Lieberman was booted from the Democratic Party in 2006, and it smarted. He has done his best to stick it to the Caucus ever since. And dreams of the White House, no matter how incredible, never die.


But a day of reckoning will come. His support will mean nothing with an increased Democratic Senate majority in 2008; at that point the threat of leaving the Caucus will be entirely, rather than just mostly, hollow.

Which is to say that Joe’s instincts are carrying him Rightward, as the country trends distinctly Leftward. A surge all his own, and one that will inevitably carry the man into the bounds of the Republican party proper within a year or two.

And that’s as it should be. Better we fight him over there, so we don’t have to fight him here, if you know what we mean.

December 15th, 2007

Green Mountain Power Unleashes Extremely Intense and Hard-Hitting New Enviro-Blog, A Blog Sure to Flay Its Corporate Masters Within an Inch of Their Unsuspecting Lives

by Philip Baruth

Few things chap VDB’s ass like would-be corporate co-optation of the blogging phenomenon. Yes, blogging is a new and attractive means by which to deliver a message to the world; no, it generally isn’t suited to the top-down bottom-line sensibilities of corporate America.

greener mountain power, not

Corporate attempts at blogging too often feel like a Punk Rock theme-party in the basement of a Lutheran Church somewhere in East Minneapolis: utterly devoid of edge, and in constant danger of toppling into self-parody.

Which brings us to Green Mountain Power’s new blog, Choose2bGreen! That’s right: it exists to let you know just how environmentally friendly GMP is these days. Got a press release announcing its creation just today, so it doesn’t get any hotter off the presses.

And lest you think these folks haven’t got the balls to kick out the jams, and stick it to the Man, here’s today’s post by Dorothy Schnure, Manager, Corporate Communications, in its entirety:


Big day yesterday. Chris Dutton announced his plans to retire in August. Mary Powell, our COO, will become President and CEO. Not unexpected, and we are lucky enough to move from one incredible leader to another amazing one.

After working with Chris for more than 20 years and Mary for 10 years, my admiration for both only grows. Without Chris at the helm, I’m convinced we would not have survived our financial crisis nearly 10 years ago. His steady hand kept us from plunging into bankruptcy.

Chris and Mary together led the reinvention of this Company, to where we are now recognized for our environmental work, for being a great place to work and for financial success. Most importantly, they changed our corporate culture. This is an amazing place to work.

And one of the best things – they are the most approachable, friendly folks you’d ever want to work with.

Dorothy Schnure
Manager, Corporate Communications

Sadly, Dorothy Schnure will soon find out that such outspoken views don’t sit well with her seemingly hip corporate bosses.

More than one blogger has felt the backlash after “telling it like it is” to Upper Management, and with progressive energy like that moving through your work, it’s only a matter of time before the hammer comes down.

But don’t let the Man get you down, Dorothy. Fight the Power, even if it is, you know, environmentally friendly and totally incredible and amazing and everything.

December 14th, 2007

Somewhere at an Oyster Bar in Georgetown, Karl Rove Suddenly Feels the Hot Breath of Pat Leahy on the Back of His Pasty Neck

by Philip Baruth

You may remember that back in September, we sat down with Pat Leahy for a little light lunch at the Rusty Scuffer. We had serious topics on the table: what Strom Thurmond said to Jerry Garcia in the Senate Dining Room, etc. Another one of those sober back-and-forths involved potential contempt citations against White House advisors.

the venue

Essentially, we wanted to know the end-game: if the Judiciary Committee approved contempt citations, the full Senate backed them, and the White House used its stooges at Justice to block delivery of said citations, what exactly would happen then?

Here’s the exchange:

Leahy: On the subpoenas, even to get a contempt citation, you gotta get 60 votes —

VDB: I was thinking also of the contempt citations, and the White House and Justice indicating that they wouldn’t allow those citations to be served.

Leahy: [Grimly] If I can get a contempt citation, I get those sixty votes, I can guarantee you it’s gonna get served. I guarantee that. If I get sixty votes for the citation, and they ignore it, then I guarantee you I can get sixty votes for a Special Prosecutor.

VDB: Okay, so that’s where you would go at that point.

Why are we walking you down memory lane today?

Because the Judiciary Committee approved contempt citations yesterday against Karl Rove and Josh Bolten, and the White House immediately trotted out Dana Perino to make clear that it would direct the Justice Department to bury the citations.

So assuming that Leahy has the votes in the Senate — an admittedly large if, given the filibustering tendencies of the GOP — the next twelve months look like a slow-walk to a Special Prosecutor.

pat leahy

And while we’d prefer a quick march, we have to hand it to Leahy: he got two Republican votes to move the citations out of committee, the most recent evidence that his bipartisan strategy is holding.

In other words, a dream of a Rovian Frog-march deferred is not by any means a dream of a Rovian Frog-march denied.

Stay tuned. And keep your money on Leahy. In fact, you might even want to double-down at this point.

December 13th, 2007

Guantanamo Soldiers Join Bush Administration Attempts to Rewrite Reality, Use “Enhanced Methods” on Wikipedia

by Philip Baruth

Apparently the Government’s strategy to dampen public resistance to the black prison at Guantanamo runs deeper than just Fox News: the AP is reporting that Gitmo soldiers have been systematically altering Wikipedia accounts of Guantanamo, Cuba and Fidel Castro.


Among other highly factual nuggets inserted: that Fidel is “an admitted transsexual.” You have to love the addition of the word admitted.

The soldier who added that really gave it 110%.

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