March 20th, 2006

The Three-Years War: Protests & Denial

by Philip Baruth

Word comes in of a good-sized protest this past weekend down Rutland way, a rally to mark ongoing opposition to the craziness in Iraq, on this the third anniversary of the War.

Susan writes:

“Went to the Peace Rally we had here in Rutland yesterday afternoon. For being bitterly cold, we had a darned good turn-out: 250 or so, from 8 to 88 years old, Rutlanders and far-flung Vermonters alike.

“We stood at the corner of Routes 7 and 4, by the bandstand park, and held our signs from 2 to 3:30. Lots of people honked enthusiastically as they drove by! Of course, there were one or two (males, of course) who gave us the finger and yelled obscenities.

“But then there was the guy who must have circled the block at least 10 times, honking with great gusto, cheering, and giving us the “V” peace sign out his open window . . . . And one of our group walked up and down behind the block-long line of us carrying a huge American flag. I thanked him for bringing it and added, “It belongs to us too!”

“When I said that, the sweet look on his face sort of epitomized the feeling that came up from the crowd as a whole. A wonderful event: free speech at its best, and a great way to discover that we are not alone in our wishes for a better world!”

It’s worth noting that Rutland is not generally considered the liberal bastion of the state — 250 on a cold day in Rutland, Vermont is roughly equivalent to 25,000 in Central Park, with the temperature hovering in the 50’s.

Of course, countering the demonstrations worldwide were the Administration’s heavy hitters: the President, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, all arguing that night is day, and progress indicates a movement in reverse.

The problem, Cheney and Rumsfeld argued specifically, is that television and newspapers and liberal bloggers have distorted reality. rummie“Fortunately, history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack,” Rumsfeld wrote in a frequently alarming op-ed. “History is a bigger picture, and it takes some time and perspective to measure accurately.”

That’s funny — just a few weeks ago, Rumsfeld declared that America was losing the War on Terrorism partially because we weren’t blogging skillfully enough. If memory serves, he went so far as to declare VDB a “weapon of war.”

And we were so patriotically moved that we promised to get with the program and cluster-post until all resistance ceased. As we solemnly vowed then, “VDB must never again forget: We blog them in cyberspace so we won’t have to blog them here.”

And now, apparently, we’re just part of the problem, not the solution.

Look, Mr. Secretary, we bloggers don’t mind being mobilized to win the War on Terror you’ve bungled so badly to date; and we don’t mind being seen as enemies of the administration, bent on purveying the latest bad news about you and your failed efforts internationally. We’re happy to be the cavalry, or the lynch mob, or both.

What we do mind, though, is your failure to make up the wizened lump of Brylcreem-slathered cortical matter you continue after three years of overt failure to call a mind.

March 20th, 2006

A Final Obama Note

by Philip Baruth

A last note to complement the two longer Barack Obama posts below: Obama’s official website has a link up currently to the longer narrative we put together after his University of Vermont visit. If you haven’t seen the man’s website, it’s top-shelf. Check it out.

Are we trying to imply — on the strength of this miniscule electronic connection — that Barack Obama’s destiny and VDB’s are somehow inextricably or even mystically linked?

Yes. Yes, we are. And not for the last time, either.

March 18th, 2006

The VDB Impeachment/Censure Combo Platter

by Philip Baruth

What a world we live in suddenly.

Go back two or three years, and Democrats were being written up in the obituary columns: weak on defense, weak on national security, weak on [insert noun]. All of this weakness culminating in a Presidential nominee unable to defend his own record as a war hero.

Now, suddenly, Democrats have options — and a surreal raft of options they are, too: impeach Bush, censure Bush, or simply ride home the double digit advantage noted in most preference polls for the 2006 midterms.

Three truly exquisite selections, impossible to choose between.

So let VDB suggest the combo platter — all of the above.

There’s no real reason to believe that any one or the other of these entrees are mutually exclusive. In other words, the idea that pushing for, talking about, or researching the concept of impeachment will derail Democrats in the midterm elections is nonsense.

Early polls show that nearly half the country supports impeaching the President; roughly as many want to censure him. And most want Democrats moved into control of at least one branch of Congress come November. Let’s keep these notions in context: most American voters have lived through more than one impeachment process at this point, and the good folks in California recently removed a Governor by recall.

And on the question of censure, the Democratic angst is particularly wrong-headed. Democratic strategists and the New York Times have been pointing grimly to the way that Newt Gingrich overreached during the Monica Lewinsky scandal — and was punished in the midterm elections by voters rallying to the President.

But the real point of the Clinton situation is this: Republicans bypassed censure as insufficient, although polls showed the public thought it a suitable remedy for consensual sex and the lies told to conceal it.

And censure would be ultimately perceived as sensible middle ground in the case of warrantless wiretapping by a majority of the country as well.

So what to do, then?

The three-step combo: 1) Move to impeach, in an experimental fashion; then 2) ultimately fall back on censure as the statesmanlike middle-ground, making it clear that Democrats don’t want to tread the path of extremism Republicans took against Clinton.

And then 3) ride the poll numbers home to a House majority in November. Have your cake, eat it too, and digest it.

But under no circumstances do nothing. Feingold couldn’t be righter about that.

Here’s Danziger’s typically surgical take on the issue. And apologies in advance to Chairman Dean.

dean, feingold

March 17th, 2006

New Nadel! Hot Off the Drawing Board

by Philip Baruth

Marc Nadel — my next-door neighbor and VDB’s artist in residence — found his creative talents profoundly stirred by the recent Cheney face-shooting controversy.

And he has captured the brouhaha in one of his wickedest portraits to date. Expect to see a lot of it in the coming days.

Look on Nadel’s work, ye mighty, and tremble.

(And a low sweep of the hat to Ines Berrizbeitia, who designed this site, and continues to work her particular high-tech magic upon it.)

Cheney's got a gun

March 16th, 2006

A Tale of Two Secretaries of State

by Philip Baruth

When Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz was running for re-election in the wake of the 2000 electoral debacle in Florida, I offered her a campaign strategy.

Run as the anti-Katherine Harris, I suggested. Print up big “No Harris” signs: Harris’s genuinely frightening face enclosed in the red circle-and-slash. And underneath, the slogan: “Secretaries of State matter. Vote Markowitz.”

It would remind voters that a bad secretary of state openly stole a national election, I argued, and that in Vermont we want someone fair, bipartisan, and not horrifying. Someone like Markowitz.

But Markowitz thought the scheme might backfire, or fire up the opposition, or produce any number of unintended consequences.

So I tweaked the language a bit, but kept the concept. The next time I saw Deb, I suggested that she use the slogan, “Deb Markowitz. The Opposite of Katherine Harris in Every Way. Even at the Molecular Level. Where Harris Has Neutrons Markowitz Has Protons. And Vice Versa. Every Single One is Different. Seriously, She’s Not Katherine Harris.”

And when I finished laying out the plan, Secretary of State Markowitz politely thanked me, and then ran on a far less inflammatory platform (”Experience You Can Trust”) and crushed her opponent with about 65% of the vote.

Which is fine, if all you want to do is run a high-road campaign and actually win.

I wanted to punish Katherine Harris. And I still do today.

And fortunately, Katherine Harris is willing to help.

As we reported a few days back, Harris’s campaign for Senate in Florida has been veering crazily toward the rocks in recent weeks. Poll numbers are in the john, fundraising is off, the state GOP is giving her the fish-eye, and primary challengers are beginning to circle.

cheney with gunHer campaign strategy has been odd, to say the least. Case in point: in a bid to raise her profile, Harris’s spokesperson announced that she would soon share a ride to Washington with Vice President Dick Cheney on Air Force Two.


In the middle of all of this speculation, Harris suddenly cancelled a trip to a major Southern GOP convention and announced that she would announce something very important last night on Fox News.

Breaths were bated. Would she announce that she was going to spend more time with her family, which, conceivably, could trigger an investigation by Child Protective Services?

No. It was even better: On “Hannity & Colmes” last night, Harris announced that not only is she still a candidate, she’s going to pour her own $10 million dollar fortune into the race.

“I’m going to put everything on the line,” she told a visibly impressed Sean Hannity.

Which leaves open the distinct possibility of a three-fer: 1) Harris loses the Senate race; 2) she eventually loses her Congressional seat; and 3) she loses her personal fortune and is reduced to hawking Reagan Presidential commemorative medals on the QV Homeshopping Channel.

Yes, the fabled Hat Trick of Humiliation.

VDB can only dream.

March 15th, 2006

An Elaborate VDB Welcome

by Philip Baruth

An elaborate welcome to VPR’s Vermont Edition listeners, who might be clicking into Vermont Daily Briefing for the first time. VDB operates on a few simple principles:

1) Politics and humor are not mutually exclusive;
2) The Bush Administration and humor, in particular, were made for one another.

bushVDB aims to cover breaking news and subterranean politics at the national and state levels; we also do a good bit of independent reporting, and you’ll find the occasional long, in-depth interview as well. (See Campaign ‘06 on the sidebar.)

Currently on the menu (scroll down): exit polls from the Burlington Mayoral race, available nowhere else. And down a bit further, a long narrative on the extraordinary visit last week by Barak Obama.

Including bloopers.

Finally, the caricature work you see above is the brainchild of Marc Nadel, one of Vermont’s premiere political cartoonists and our artist-in-residence. He also happens to be my next-door neighbor — a prime example of the way that the Bush administration has driven many of us out of our suburban isolation, and forced us to bond with other Americans — if only in self-defense.

Welcome, again.

March 15th, 2006

The Hard Numbers: Burlington Instant Run-Off Exit Polls

by Philip Baruth

Regular readers know that we’ve been following Burlington’s trial of the instant run-off voting method very closely. And ultra-dedicated VDB readers have weighed in on the issue via email, both for and against the notion of IRV. We’ve worried it like a dog worries a bone.

The one constant? No one knew what to expect last Tuesday. Everyone had a theory — some people had more than one — but no one had facts.

Not any more.

Political scientist Tony Gierzynski had the foresight to do what seems obvious only in hindsight: send out exit pollers en masse, and gather data. Using his political science students as pollsters, Tony developed an impressive Town Meeting Day sample, from which he’s extracted invaluable data.

And VDB also did what seems obvious only in hindsight: we secured the right to publish the results by threatening Tony’s pets.

Here are the significant findings, breakdowns, and percentages. In a day or two, you’ll also be able to find impressive graphs and charts at the homepage for Tony’s Vermont Legislative Research Shop, here.

To summarize, IRV seems to have been broadly popular, well explained by the City, and habit-forming — a plurality of those who have used it now support taking it statewide. Only Republican voters, as a smaller sub-group, seem inclined still to view IRV negatively.

On behalf of the Vermont political world, Tony, thanks for the digits.


The Vermont Legislative Research Shop

Exit Poll of Burlington’s Mayoral Contest

On March 7th sixty-one UVM students interviewed 1,098 voters as they left the polling places in Burlington regarding the voters’ thoughts on the new method of voting (IRV). Below are the initial results.

Question: Overall, do you like the new voting method used for voting for mayor today better than the usual method of voting for one candidate?

66.4% liked the new voting method
16.3% did not like it
17.3% didn’t know/didn’t care

Question: Did you know before you came to vote today that you would be asked to rank your preferences for mayor as opposed to voting for just one?

89.3% knew about it before

Question: Would you like to see the new system of ranking candidates used for the election of governor in Vermont?

61.7% yes
26% no
12.4% don’t know/don’t care

Question: Would you like to see the new system of ranking candidates used in Vermont for elections for all statewide offices?

56.7% yes
29.1% no
14.1% don’t know/don’t care


Responses by Party

Overall, do you like the new voting method used for voting for mayor today better than the usual method of voting for one candidate?

68% of Democrats, 80.4% of Progressives, 39.5% of Republicans, and 67.8% od Independents said YES.

Would you like to see the new system of ranking candidates used for the election of governor in Vermont?

61.8% of Democrats, 81.4% of Progressives, 27.1% of Republicans, and 66.1% of Independents said YES.

Would you like to see the new system of ranking candidates used in Vermont for elections for all statewide offices?

54.8% of Democrats, 76.5% of Progressives, 24.7% of Republicans, and 61.1% of Independents said YES.

March 14th, 2006

Vermont Edition: VDB on VPR

by Philip Baruth

Left-wing or Right-wing, political bloggers the world over seem to agree on only one thing: the mainstream media disrespects and ignores them, not by happenstance but as an articulated matter of policy.

In Vermont that case is becoming increasingly difficult to make with a straight face.

Terri Hallenbeck wrote an excellent piece on the blogosphere back in late December — and her editors at the Free Press ran it on Page One, right out there for God and everyone to see.

And now Vermont Public Radio’s Steve Zind — coming off a provocative piece last week on blogger access to the Governor’s weekly press conferences — is devoting the main segment of tomorrow’s Vermont Edition to the blogging phenomenon.

[Fade up Aretha Franklin, from Live at Filmore West, cut number one: “Respect”]

Cathy Resmer of 802 Online and I will be Steve’s guests. Morgan Brown of Norsehorse’s Home Turf will be live blogging during the hour, as will Adam Quinn of Vermonters First. If anyone else will be up and running during the segment, drop me a line and we’ll try to point listeners your way as well.

VDB made the argument last week that bloggers and the mainstream media are natural allies in growing a larger, more energetic audience for all involved. This in the course of arguing that the audiences for political blogs should be thought of as “super-citizens,” people whose level of participation in the civic process is unprecedented, and unstoppable.

All of which means that if the phones at Vermont Edition don’t ring at some point during the noon hour tomorrow, VDB will look like something of a prize horse’s ass.

Which we generally prefer to avoid.

So if you have a minute tomorrow from noon to one, call in with a question, or fire off an email. Here’s the link to Vermont Edition’s interactive page.

Thanks in advance for representing.

March 13th, 2006

Bush Dubai Ports Parody

by Philip Baruth does a devastating parody of Bush’s Saturday radio addresses — and they do a new one every week.

Hence the name.

They’re always spot on. But the offering for this week is especially sharp, and silly. It combines the defunct Dubai Ports World deal with the news that water and life may exist on a moon of Saturn. You heard that right.

No better way to spend one minute and 27 seconds.

March 13th, 2006

Obama Out-Takes

by Philip Baruth

As the tone of the long Obama narrative below was more or less sober (”Deep Inside the Obama Effect”), some excellent jokes from the event wound up on the cutting room floor.

And we here at VDB have always believed deeply in the principle that no joke should be left behind.

And so, a few out-takes:

* Peter Welch, commenting on the fact that when Dennis Hastert came to Vermont on a fundraising trip, Republicans did everything they could to downplay the event:

“And when [Hastert] came to Vermont to raise money and recruit a House candidate, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, third in line of succession to the Presidency, arrived unannounced, met in secret with a select few, and departed under the radar.

“It was as though he had joined Vice President Dick Cheney in the Witness Protection Program.”

* Bernie Sanders, commenting on Howard Dean’s presence and on the fact that he showed up in casual attire: “Howard’s back in Vermont [Gives a stern look down into the audience], and so suddenly he thinks he can get away with wearing dungarees.”

Dungarees. How beautiful is that?

When was the last time you heard anyone anywhere use the word dungarees? There’s a sure-fire campaign commercial there. Just roll the video, and then the silent tag in white: “Bernie. He still uses the word dungarees.

Talk about locking up the senior vote. But the clothing put-downs didn’t end there.

* Obama, riffing on all of the reasons to put Bernie in the Senate: “He’s not one of these guys who goes up there to ride around in limousines, or eat fancy steak dinners. Or buy expensive suits. [Takes a long look back at Bernie] You know that’s not a problem in Bernie’s case. [Chuckles] Where’d you get that suit, Bernie? [Chuckles again, nods his head] Right off the rack.”

Commercial #2: Video of Obama ranking on Bernie’s clothes. Then the silent tag, in white: “Bernie. Fighting for you. In suits right off the rack.” A beat, and then the last line: “Never in dungarees.”

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