September 29th, 2006

Don’t Forget the Harvest Workshop

by Philip Baruth

Creative writers: Don’t forget the First Harvest Fiction Workshop, October 20-22, at the Rock Point Conference Center on Lake Champlain. Craft talk, a roaring fireplace, and enough donuts between and during sessions to carry you easily into April.

Details here.

the harvest writers workshop

September 29th, 2006

Revenge of the Metaphors: Rainville, Termites, and Burning Sacks of Crap

by Philip Baruth

Nothing offends VDB like a mishandled analogy.

In our wilder days, we would actually track down political figures who had botched a metaphor on cable television, and then leave burning paper bags full of dog crap on their porches — or rather, paper bags full of something like dog crap, something fully as nasty as dog crap — before ringing the bell and fleeing.

We’re not proud of it. But we were young, and metaphor seemed worth dying for.

So imagine VDB’s reaction to this exchange from the September 18 AARP Congressional Forum, one of the long series of Welch/Rainville debates.

Moderator Steve Delaney to Rainville: “How do you change the direction of Washington if the same leaders go back because of your organizational vote?”

martha hearts georgeRainville: “I don’t think changing Congress means merely changing the faces of the leadership. If you had a house and termites were eating away at your foundation, you wouldn’t — you would want to rebuild your house, not just redecorate. And we’re talking about redecorating by changing the faces of the leadership.”

Now, don’t get VDB wrong — we love the termite part.

It’s a nicely disturbing analogy for the way that the Bush administration, in concert with a whole insectile host of Congressional allies and business cronies, has managed to undermine the basic infrastructure of the American democratic experiment.

But the rest of the thinking behind the comparison is so muddled, so desperate, it borders on the alarming. Is this really the way that Rainville thinks? If you find out you have termites, you “rebuild your house”?

You immediately declare your home a loss, raze the structure, and throw up a new one? Not to get all GOP-talking-pointy about it, but doesn’t that just give aid and comfort to the termites?

What about standing and fighting? What about the Orkin Man? What about just killing the freaking things?

And how, exactly, is removing the leadership “redecorating?” Rainville clearly wanted to bump onto another analogy — one with a certain deliberately fem quality to it — to heighten the sense of the ridiculous, but you can simply stay with the original comparison to see how badly the logic is being strained.

In other words, wouldn’t removing Hastert and Boehner and the rest actually be analogous to removing the head bugs, the queens, the ones who control organization, the ones who set schedule, and decide when and if to swarm?

And speaking of removing the queen, doesn’t that actually work with bees or termites, things with a hive consciousness? You move the queen, or kill the queen, and the motive force of the group is seriously reduced or eliminated?

In short, Rainville knows that changing the leadership could potentially produce radical changes in the behavior of the US Congress. And if she were running as a Democrat, she’d come right out and say so.

But she’s not, and she plans to vote for Hastert when and if, so she’s forced to obfuscate, forced into bizarre metaphors, into finger-pointing and termites and redecorating.

And those metaphors — after being twisted and distorted enough — take their revenge.

George Bush won in 2004 partially because he was able to speak in simple yes-and-no. Kerry spoke in long tortured paragraphs, paragraphs that were all too vulnerable to later critical examination.

Two years later, the tables have turned all but completely. When asked, Democrats have sharp, short answers to the burning questions of the day.

rummyRather than come out and say that Rumsfeld should go — after saying for months that he shouldn’t — Rainville now needs six paragraphs to explain that maybe he should go, come to think of it, but Congress doesn’t have the power to fire him, and so it’s a waste of time to discuss the prospect.

Rather than come out and say that the troops should come home according to a loose timetable, Rainville needs six paragraphs to recapitulate the Bush stand-up/stand-down fantasy.

And rather than say that she won’t vote for Dennis Hastert or Boehner — she’ll vote for a moderate or abstain if none is available — Rainville needs termites and redecorators to argue that the question itself is useless. When it so undeniably isn’t.


Look, Martha, you can knock us down, and you can step on our face, slander our name all over the place. You can steal our car — drink our liquor from an old fruit jar, etc.

But lay off the bad analogies. Because VDB don’t play that.

September 28th, 2006

After 36-Hour Labor, VDB Gives Birth: Announcing VDB (Weekly Edition)

by Philip Baruth

It’s tough to fight evil-doers alone. Damn tough.

Batman had Robin, Starsky had Hutch, and each of the Wonder Twins had — you know, the other Wonder Twin.

starsky, hutch, and a huge sweaterAnyway, you see VDB’s point.

In the blogging world, a lot of the best efforts are team efforts: Daily Kos and MyDD — not to mention Green Mountain Daily and Candleblog — leverage the power of like-minded individuals into something far more than the sum of their separate parts.

And we’ve taken those good lessons to heart.

As of tomorrow, VDB will partner with the Vermont Guardian to produce a weekly column called — in a triumph of counter-intuitive, out-of-the-box thinking — The Vermont Daily Briefing (Weekly Edition).

Shay Totten’s campaign coverage and investigative journalism have been truly outstanding this cycle, and more than anything we’re just proud to be associated with his operation.

To the details: VDB (Weekly Edition) will lean heavily on new material, drawing only occasionally from posts already available at this site. Subscribers and readers of the print version of The Guardian can get that new material every Friday; inevitably it will then show up in the following week’s posts here.

This week, for instance, VDB takes a long, hard look at the stash pulled from Willie Nelson’s tour bus a few weeks back. [Courtesy of The Smoking Gun]
willie nelson's stash

First of all, that’s one obese bag of weed.

But more importantly, what possible relation do these saks of weed bear to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill? angry Tarrant shill

And how do the psychoactive mushrooms relate to Rich Tarrant’s scorched-earth campaign ads in general, and the pinched and angry mug of George Cuusella in particular?

Enquiring minds want to know.

And starting tomorrow, there will be two places to find out.

September 28th, 2006

Sources: Vermont Business Coalition PAC Now Officially as Popular as Herpes

by Philip Baruth

Regular readers will remember our recent post on the Vermont Business Coalition and Political Action Committee (VBC). It produced a small tsunami of email, not surprising given the facts of the case.

The VBC sprang into existence in the final months of this election cycle, vowing to pour enough money into the election to defeat 57 separate House members deemed “anti-business,” 56 of whom — as coincidence would have it — were Democrats.

But even as the VBC geared up their attack, a backlash was taking shape: three respected business organizations went out of their way to repudiate the VBC tactics.

The Vermont Business Roundtable, the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation, and the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce all emailed lawmakers a few weeks back to say that they wanted no part of the smear campaign.

And now another heavy-hitter joins the ranks — the Vermont Retail Association:

Honorable Democratic Caucus Members:

I have recently been questioned whether Vermont Retail Association (“VRA”) is a member of the Vermont Business Coalition (“VBC”) and I am writing to clear-up any confusion on the subject. VRA is not (and never was) a member of the VBC (VBC’s website lists its member organizations).

Best wishes,

John H. Klesch, Esq.
Executive Director
Vermont Retail Association

As the VRA’s move demonstrates, your average businessman in Vermont knows exactly what’s bad for business: dragging it into the muck of blatantly partisan politics.

You go, John H. Klesch, Esquire.

Late Update, Thursday, September 28, 10:32 am:

Word comes via email that the VBC — who originally claimed 60k in start-up money, and another 40k in low-hanging fundraising fruit — have only put together about 10k thus far. Was the entire thing a desperate bluff? Word also has it that the entrepid Darren Allen is working up a definitive piece. Keep an eye peeled here.

September 27th, 2006

The Silence of the Lawn Signs, Part II: Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Clearcut

by Philip Baruth

Yusef’s award-winning photojournalism has inspired a whole new generation of photographers to listen to the silence of the lawn signs.

And in places like Hardwick, the silence is deafening. Especially after Uncle Jim “ the U.S. House’s approval of the New England Wilderness Act of 2006.” Talk about an October surprise.

VDB-reader Terry stumbled across this stunning tableau last week, and added only arrows and insets before passing the otherwise undoctored photo on to us here at HQ:

clearcutters for Douglas/Tarrant

To take the appropriate questions once again, in turn: Isn’t Jim Douglas just a gosh-golly mushy middle-of-the-road Republican with a taste for handshaking, and a fairly genial, avuncular personality?

Isn’t Jim just a guy sort of like me with a moderately pro-business bent that — even if it won’t help an awful lot over the next two years — won’t hurt anyone all that much either?

In a word, no.

September 26th, 2006

AH! VDB Loves the Smell of Santorum Toasting in the Morning

by Philip Baruth

Go ahead and stick a fork in Rick Santorum.

Now do it again. And again. And again.

Sorry. It’s fair to say that we don’t like Rick Santorum here at VDB: 2006 Readers Choice Awardwe think of him as perhaps the smarmiest and the scariest of all those warming up in the Religious Right’s Presidential bullpen — at least now that Georgia primary voters have handed the genuinely eerie Ralph Reed his “Do Not Pass Go” card.

But barring the last-minute discovery of a full-scale underground nuclear facility buried just outside Baghdad, Santorum is toast.

And today brings two different sorts of marmalade: a judge threw the GOP’s corrupt Green Party stooge off the ballot, and the most recent Quinnipiac poll shows Santorum down twelve points in the head-to-head contest with Casey.

Now, that’s tasty.

September 26th, 2006

Dubie’s Long, Hard Slog of a Photo Op Finally, Mercifully At An End

by Philip Baruth

So surprise — Brian Dubie is already back from the war zone, after a draining two-week mission. That’s fourteen days, and probably as many nights. But it’s over now. No stop-loss hassles for the Lieutenant Governor, it seems.

bush, dubie, who can tell the differenceThe mission, as VDB said, was draining, and on WCAX last night Dubie described it in genuinely harrowing terms: apparently Dubie’s team was tasked with “developing opinions” about what they saw, which were then passed up the chain of command in the form of “recommendations.”

Genuinely harrowing stuff. Truly.

Please. Does anyone out there think that this “mission” was any different than the “fact-finding missions” that members of Congress run when and if it will help them prepare television commercials back home come election time?

Especially when the announcement is purposefully delayed so that it can be made in hushed tones on Primary Night?

In any event, the WCAX video of the exclusive “Coming Home” interview is one of the funnier things you’ll watch all day. Keep a sharp eye peeled for these bits:

1) The entire “interview” consists of precisely one Dubie sound bite, which the Lieutenant Governor so mangles that you feel several times that the sentence just cannot syntactically continue. But continue it does, because Dubie is clearly on a mission with this sentence, and of course 9/11/Iraq changed everything — including the fundamental laws of grammar.

2) The video opens with the tail-end of a segment on a “Winooski Armed Robber,” whose description (except for the blue bandana over his face) matches Dubie to a T.
Suddenly Dubie’s unwillingness to publish his daily schedule — even during campaign season, when publicity would seem to be a good thing — makes a whole new brand of sense.

September 25th, 2006

Announcing The Harvest Workshop

by Philip Baruth

I’ve always thought it would be nice to run my own writers’ workshop, without the University or any another organization acting as middle-man.

I’ve always thought it would be ideal to do it in the fall, when the leaves have turned, and you could group the participants around a fire, somewhere way off campus, maybe on the water somewhere.

And in my mind, I’ve always thought of it as a yearly event, interwoven with the theme of the harvest.

the harvest writers workshop

Now, all of the sudden, the pieces have fallen into place somehow, and I thought I’d let VDB readers know first, before it’s advertised elsewhere.

The Harvest Fiction Writers Workshop will begin operation this year, and I’ll be leading it at the Rock Point Conference Center on Lake Champlain the weekend of October 20-22nd.

Ideally, participants will have a complete draft of a short story — or a finished first chapter of a novel — and I’ll distribute these to the rest of the workshop by mail. For the 2 1/2 days of the retreat, then, we’ll focus on finishing and polishing those pieces, and the workshop will conclude on Sunday with actually putting work in the mail.

In short, the weekend is designed to move fiction writers through the last stages of the writing process, the surprisingly tough work involved with “harvesting” the fruits of their labors to this point. The group will be limited to 14; one place is already reserved.

One dinner, one lunch, snacks and a fireplace will be included. And the view of the lake from the conference room is spectacular.

If interested, email me at for more details.

September 22nd, 2006

Tarrant Op Gets the Hell Out of Dodge

by Philip Baruth

Wouldn’t it be cool if football players were allowed to switch teams right up to the last weeks or days or minutes before the Super Bowl?

McCain as lickspittleAmong other things, it would make it a hell of a lot easier to figure out which group of overpaid athletes would most likely wind up sporting gaudy commemorative rings.

Just a thought.

In unrelated news, the Manchester Union-Leader reports that Brian Bernys, Rich Tarrant’s northwest coordinator, has decided to leave the campaign just six weeks before Election Day in order to accept a position with Johnny Mac, whose own election won’t go down for, like, two years.

[A serious hat-tip to VDB-reader Miguel.]

And speaking of McCain and the whole CIA/torture media-kabuki — okay, you let us look like strong idealists for a week, and we’ll let you waterboard detainees indefinitely — here’s Danziger to point out just exactly who worked who.

McCain, getting worked again

September 21st, 2006

Your Host, Rich Tarrant: You Will Eat This Spaghetti If I Have To Hound You All the Way to the Ends of the Freaking Earth

by Philip Baruth

Bill Peberdy of Corinth continues his desperate attempts to avoid having lunch with serial-spaghetti-stalker Rich Tarrant. Let’s listen in, as we hear Bill say:

Hello VDB,

I wrote you this Spring about being invited by robo-phone to a free lunch at the Hungry Bear in Bradford. I declined politely but firmly. Well, he’s still bothering me about that lunch. This time by mail.

tarrant, baring teethI had called his campaign office a week or two back and asked to be removed from the mailing list. This weekend the mail brought an invitation to a complimentary lunch at the Happy Hour Restaurant in Wells River. (Note: this may be considered by some a step-up from the Hungry Bear in Bradford. This is the subject of some serious debate in my family.)

the bumbleI declined this offer also. My hope is that after the election Mr. Tarrant may want to continue the free lunch program for the homeless or others in need. Also, I would like to very much agree with your early observation that indeed Tarrant’s broad aggressive smile is as frightening as The Bumble’s [from the Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer]. A difficult image to shake.

Bill Peberdy
Corinth, Vermont

Next Page »