May 26th, 2011

Big Dog Empathizes With Poor Paul Ryan

by Philip Baruth

Rachel Maddow brought her viewers some very interesting video yesterday: stolen audio of a conversation between Bill Clinton and Paul Ryan, backstage at an event somewhere, on the subject of Medicare. Ryan was in the process of having his knuckles rapped by voters in NY-26, the special election that saw a longtime Conservative seat handed to a pro-Medicare Democrat, as opposed to the GOPer who supported the Ryan budget. But what’s fascinating here is the way that Clinton does what Clinton does: he triangulates his way though the brief conversation, making it clear that he’s happy to help Ryan behind the scenes, and that in fact he shares his outlook in some vague, overriding way.


Is this Clinton simply trying to connect privately, and saying things he would never want revealed publicly? Or is it a window into DLC-style Democratic dealmaking, that cozy world where corporate Democrats and Republicans keep the money flowing to the Right Sort of People? Or more likely both, depressing as that may sound?

But not to worry. Clinton will be on the stump in 2012, and he’ll be flaying Paul Ryan within an inch of his life as publicly as he’s humanly able. Will that be horribly hypocritical? Yes, it will. But predictable. Because when you strip it all away, the guy, as Jesse Jackson once noted, has not much in the way of principles — “only an appetite.”

May 25th, 2011

Vermont Edition Weighs In On the Controversy Involving Overbearing Dominant Freshman Senators, And Their Sudden Tendency To Utterly Silence Their Formerly Very Voluble Senior Counterparts

by Philip Baruth

Another perspective on the “Runaway Freshman” story we ran down last week: Vermont Edition did a very nice hour on the experiences of three first-time Senators, folks who had never served in the Statehouse before. The episode was titled “Frosh,” and host Bob Kinzel walks Anthony Pollina, Joe Benning and VDB through the best of the session, and the worst of the session. Here’s the audio if you’re interested in giving it a listen.

Now when it comes to Pollina, we have plenty of options in the photo bank here at VDB Headquarters. Not so with Joe Benning, and the internet offers scant options for filching. We did, however, find this choice shot of Joe and his wife in, yes, Motorcycle Mojo magazine. That’s right: we said Motorcycle Mojo magazine.

Good people, Anthony and Joe, both stand-up guys and as honest as the day is long. If you’re going to endure a freshman year in any institution, you couldn’t find better company.

May 24th, 2011

Pix Proof: Pre-K Caps Now History

by Philip Baruth

There’s an ancient saying on the Internets: “Pix or GTFO.” It’s a shorthand way to say that in our hyperreal twenty-first century America, nothing exists that hasn’t been rendered as image. If there are no pictures, it never happened, which incidentally is why Nikki Haley is currently the Governor of South Carolina and de facto kingmaker in the 2012 GOP primaries. So we assume these quick snaps will be a relief to those of you who were pulling for S. 53, the bill lifting caps on Pre-K education statewide.

The Governor did a brilliant job with the kids at the Blooming Minds pre-school in St. Albans, and the kids seemed appropriately impressed. When told that signing the bill on the table would make it law just like magic, the girl on the far right in the photo above asked, “And then do you disappear?” Which is pretty sophisticated political analysis, when you think about it.

Always have to watch the ones with the tiaras. Many thanks to Alyson Richards for the excellent and timely photos.

May 19th, 2011

Uber-Powerful Senior Senators Lament Sudden Powerlessness, In Face Of Pompous and “Dominating” Freshman Class

by Philip Baruth

Thatcher Moats has a very interesting and in many ways a very funny piece up in the Times Argus today, slugged, “New Vermont Senators Dominate The Floor.” The premise is two-fold: 1) that the freshman class ignored the traditional newbie’s injunction to silence and actually debated issues as they arose, and 2) that in so doing, freshman “dominated” or effectively silenced senior figures in the Senate. That’s comic enough, for anyone who pays even slight attention to the way the Senate operates, or at whose direction it operates.

But the funniest line of all comes from the Senator from Essex-Orleans, Vince Illuzzi. Said Vince to Thatcher, “It’s unusual to have freshmen get up and talk on so many issues. It was primarily the first-term senators who took up most of the time on the floor.”

Now look, people generally regard Illuzzi as an ultra-canny dealmaker, and a past master of Senate procedure, someone with something potentially make-or-break to say about most any bill on most any subject. But few people realize how genuinely funny the guy can be.

Most of the time on the floor. That’s just comedy gold.

May 19th, 2011

Governor to Sign S.53, Lift Caps on Pre-K

by Philip Baruth

If you noticed a break in the clouds, there’s a reason: the Governor is scheduled to sign S.53, the Pre-K education bill, later this afternoon in St. Albans. Will VDB make the event? Wouldn’t miss it, under any circumstance. Want to see the magical process in person, pen traveling briefly over paper, and then a change coming over the land: Pre-K for as many kids as there are kids in line, provided their community makes the decision to offer same. Local control and expanded early education, married in one elegant bill. Brilliant. And of course, it makes you consider the path not taken, because would Governor Dubie have signed this bill, even in a substantially weakened form? Never in a hundred billion years. Two hundred billion. Enjoy, friends.

the harvest writers workshop

May 12th, 2011

VARF: Will You Bowl For Your Beliefs?

by Philip Baruth

We know, we know: it’s early summer, the creemee stands are open, and when it comes to the hard-core political fight there’s a big part of you that wants to wait until September. But it’s worth remembering that those fights are ongoing, and in the third year of a recession they’re almost all taking the form of budget decisions, budget decisions made as often as not on the backs of the neediest. Case in point: family planning and reproductive services have been both collaterally and purposefully damaged over the last year, mostly at the Federal level. And it will only get worse.

But there is a group in Vermont that works diligently, year-round, to make sure that lower-income women can also exercise their right to choice. It’s called Vermont Access to Reproductive Freedom, and unlike the Pentagon, VARF needs to hold a bowl-a-thon each year to fund its activities. Selene Colburn, our campaign’s social media guru, organizes said bowl-a-thon, and time is now running short and she needs your help. So if you can, click here to donate or bowl.

Bowling shirts with butch first names will not be provided, although VDB promises that when you help, you’ll feel pretty much like you’ve thrown a perfect game in the weathered, beer-stained alley of your heart.