April 28th, 2007

This Month in Danziger: The April Trilogy

by Philip Baruth

david and goliath

don corleone

statue of alberto

April 26th, 2007

Vermont Vets Sit Down With Cathy Resmer

by Philip Baruth

We love interviews here at VDB, the longer and deeper in the weeds the better.

resmerliciousAnd it is our policy to present those interviews in transcript form, so that you hear the ebb and flow of the subject’s ideas, the cadences that mark their speech. And along these lines, Cathy Resmer has a brilliant cover piece in the current Seven Days: a long, chilling interview with three Vermont veterans of the Iraq war.

One of the vets, a woman who served as an Arab linguist for military intelligence, was tasked with following the communications coming out of Baghdad in the wake of the invasion’s first bombing raids.

“As we started bombing Baghdad and Iraq, I was basically listening to the people we were bombing . . . [to] conversations, when they were calling their family members, to try to reassure them that they’re OK, and they’re safe. Or they’re not OK, or they’re not safe.

“Their voices are kind of stuck in my head sometimes. And sometimes I start to wonder how many of them are dead.”

Well worth your time today, especially as the House and Senate move their supplemental spending bill to the President’s desk, for a much trumpeted veto.

April 26th, 2007

Pentagon to Discontinue Domestic Spying Program; In Related News, Pat Leahy’s Foot “A Bit Sore” After Repeated Ass-Kicking

by Philip Baruth

Due in no small part to the aggressive efforts of Vermont’s senior Senator Patrick Leahy, the Pentagon announced yesterday that it will discontinue a domestic spying operation known by the acronym TALON (Threat and Local Observation Notices).

the LeahyAfter repeated requests by Leahy, Donald Rumsfeld grudgingly revealed in 2006 that the TALON program had been collecting information on Quaker and other peace groups — two here in Vermont.

Said Leahy yesterday, “If the Bush Administration wants video of a Vermonter speaking out against the war in Iraq, all they need to do is tape one of my floor speeches on CSPAN.”

In fairness to the Bush Administration, VDB should make clear that the Pentagon’s TALON program had little or nothing to do with Talon News, a GOP faux-news outlet shut down in 2005 after Jeff Gannon — its star reporter and White House Press Conference stand-out — was revealed to be a working male prostitute.

Any resemblance is completely accidental. Well, except in the general Republican/Department of Defense preference for aggressive metaphor that borders on the revealingly creepy and/or kinky.

But other than that.

April 26th, 2007

Trickle-Down Fear-Mongering 101

by Philip Baruth

Vice President Dick Cheney, September 8, 2004, on the real dangers of electing a Democratic President:

9/11“It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.”

Former New York Mayor and current Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, April 26, 2007, on the real dangers of electing a Democratic President:

“The question is going to be: How long does [the fight against terrorism] take, and how many losses will we have along the way? . . . And I truly believe that if we go back on defense for a period of time, we’re going to ultimately have more losses and it’s going to go on much longer.”

And of course, Hillary and Bill Clinton, as reported in the current edition of Time, on the real dangers of electing a Democratic President other than Hillary:

“Both Clintons have made the case to potential fund raisers that the U.S. will probably suffer a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 after the next President is sworn in — and that Hillary is the only Democratic candidate capable of handling such a crisis because of her Senate Armed Services Committee tenure and her years in the White House.”

Everyone clear on that? Probably we’ll lose another major landmark, a chunk of the Pentagon, and another 3,000 American lives.

Now that’s what VDB calls working across the aisle.
Centrism at its very finest.

April 25th, 2007

Nouri al-Maliki: Dead Shiite Walking

by Philip Baruth

Heads up: it looks as though Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki just got put on the lunch menu.

bush, in denialAs you know, Bush has tried his best to project a unified front with al-Maliki. He has looked more than once into the Iraqi leader’s soul, in that uncanny way the President has of rooting out incompetence and unworthiness, and soul tarnish.

And Bush has declared again and again that al-Maliki is up to the task. Especially once the Surge was announced. Then more than ever.

Until, of course, now.

USA Today has long been the venue of choice for White House propagandists, and today’s front page article makes it clear that the knives are out for our friend Nouri:

A broad range of prominent Iraqi lawmakers say they have lost confidence in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s ability to reconcile the country’s warring factions. A leading Kurdish lawmaker said al-Maliki should resign.

Legislators from several parties told USA TODAY that al-Maliki lacks the support in parliament to push through laws, such as a plan to distribute oil revenues, that could reduce tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. Iraq’s parliament has failed to pass major legislation since a U.S.-led security plan began on Feb. 14.

To translate: al-Maliki has outlived his usefulness, and US authorities have asked their Kurdish friends to commence the drumbeat.

Alas, poor Nouri. VDB knew him well.

April 24th, 2007

One Small Volvo CAN Lead The Nation

by Philip Baruth

True story.

So this past Thursday, April 19th, Peter Welch and his Chief of Staff Bob Rogan head up to the White House, just after breakfast. The occasion? Welch has been invited to brief the President about his recent fact-finding trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.


Welch and Rogan arrive at the White House in Rogan’s Volvo. Security at the gate indicates that they should pretty much park wherever they like.

And so they do: turns out there’s a big fat space going begging right in front of the White House.

Welch and Rogan head inside. They haven’t been cooling their heels in the waiting room for more than ten minutes when a large man in a dark suit tracks them down.

cheney's got a gun“Is that your Volvo with the Vermont plates?” the Secret Service agent asks.

Welch and Rogan nod.

“You’re parked in the Vice President’s spot,” the SS agent continues, in a tone of voice that makes it clear just exactly how mortally ripshit would be the Vice President of the United States to find his stretch limo blocked by a Volvo with bright impeachment-green Vermont plates.

What’s the etiquette in a situation like that? Apparently, you hand the Secret Service your keys, and they move it discreetly to a less explosive location. Which Rogan does.

And once Welch has briefed the President — and Bush has pointedly ignored that briefing — Welch and Rogan buckle up and head back to the Hill.

In a vehicle that now tops the U.N. Secretary General’s Office as America’s likeliest location to be bugged nine ways from Sunday.

Memo to Bob Rogan: Better art-stay using the Ig-pay Atin-lay. It’s foolproof with these guys.

April 21st, 2007

All Novelists Love Them Some Metaphor

by Philip Baruth

Without doubt, the best metaphor to come out of the Gonzales story. Following the AG’s annoyingly plaintive testimony yesterday, a “senior White House aide” described the hearing to CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux as “clubbing a baby seal.”

If only.

April 19th, 2007

Shumlin Piece Now Up at The Guardian

by Philip Baruth

Anyone paying any attention to the Vermont political landscape over the last week knows that one story dwarfs all others: the strange, shape-shifting tactics of Senate President Peter Shumlin. And nowhere has this behavior been more puzzling than on the issue of impeachment.

shumlin takes the oath

Hence this week’s column in the Vermont Guardian: “Impeachment: Shumlin Shoots Self in Foot, Then Reloads.”

The piece is up now at the Guardian’s site. If you’re not currently a subscriber, no time like the present. Because this is, after all, America. Why wait?

Late Update, Friday, April 20, 10:51 pm:

The shape-shifting goes on: Shumlin apparently moved the impeachment resolution this morning, and it passed 16-9 in the Senate. Shumlin introduced the measure personally, with Jeanette White.

Credit where credit is due: the man knew this was the only way to make it right, and he did so. Res ipsa loquitor.

April 19th, 2007

BREAKING: Bill Simmon & Cathy Resmer Wind The Ancient Blogger Meet-Up Horn

by Philip Baruth

So, word on the street has it that Candleblogger Bill Simmon and working-mom Cathy Resmer are holding a full-scale blogger meet-up this weekend at the Radio Bean Cafe in Burlington. Saturday the 21st, 1-6, to be precise.

resmerliciousActually, Cathy sent us an email. More info here.

But it’s a perfect opportunity to turn your wasteful and socially-despised blogging obsession into something productive and fine: an afternoon drinking really strong coffee with others who also have a big problem.

Bring the kids, too! A finer collective example of why they should all work hard, stay in school and study medicine they will never see.

April 18th, 2007

Best Ad of 2006: The “Two Voices” 60-Second Spot (Goodbye to Liz Jeffords)

by Philip Baruth

There are many things to dislike about political advertising, many things to despise, in fact. We are usually at our very worst as a society in our campaign ads: we deliberately distort, we call names, we insinutate the unthinkable.

liz jeffordsAll of this we accomplish by selling access to our elected officials in order to pay for it. [Photo Courtesy of the Burlington Free Press]

The coming Presidential election will eventually cost more than a billion dollars, maybe two, the lion’s share consumed by sixty-second advertisements.

And that torrent of advertising will turn off far more voters than it turns on, very effectively depressing voter turn-out.

But if this is usually the case, it isn’t always so. There are relatively clean campaigns, and there are good-hearted, even beautiful campaign ads.

The 2006 Congressional campaign is a perfect case in point. To her credit, Martha Rainville pledged to run a clean campaign against Peter Welch, and she kept her word even as the race moved down to the wire.

The national GOP playbook, as written by operatives like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, would certainly have called for Rainville to rough Welch up: a trial attorney, and one without military experience, Welch was at least potentially vulnerable to attack. Especially by a female Adjutant General.

But Rainville didn’t go for the jugular. And that decision allowed Peter Welch’s campaign the breathing room to produce one of my favorite campaign ads of all time.

It was an unassuming little sixty-second radio spot, nothing glamorous, called “Two Voices.” And that’s pretty much it in a nutshell: the spot is just two voices, one the wife of Vermont’s longtime Democratic Senator, and one the wife of the state’s famous Independent.

Just Marcelle Leahy and Liz Jeffords, talking about how long they’d been friends, and the candidate they’d both decided to support for Congress:

LEAHY: When you’ve been friends for over 30 years . . .

JEFFORDS: . . . you can almost finish one another’s sentences.

LEAHY: I’m Marcelle Leahy . . .

JEFFORDS: . . . and this is Liz Jeffords. Our husbands Jim and Patrick never shared the same party. But they’ve always shared a commitment to protecting the environment, improving education and putting Vermont first.

2006 readers choice awardIt was a genuinely brilliant bit of political speech, that ad, and when I first heard it, I thought for the very first time: this election is over.

Liz Jeffords, of course, died just a few days ago at the Jeffords’ home in Shrewsbury, following a recurrence of ovarian cancer.

The “Two Voices” was one of her last bits of political activism in a life filled with good works.

But the more I think of it in the days since her passing, I can’t help but be struck by the grand irony of it all: for most Vermonters, the “Two Voices” ad will be the last words they ever hear Liz Jeffords speak.

And in a very strange, bittersweet way, then, the normal grind of campaign getting and spending and attacking and wasting managed — in this one case — to produce an unexpected miracle: it brought the voice of Liz Jeffords, and her dear friend Marcelle, to the four corners of the state, for all of us to hear and linger over.

All sixty precious seconds of it.

[This piece aired originally on Vermont Public Radio. An MP3 is Many thanks to Chris Klose for technical assistance, and for writing the advertisement in the first place. ]

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