May 31st, 2007

Hillary Clinton Slices Drive Into The Rough

by Philip Baruth

In case you missed it, Hillary Clinton has been facing some exploratory scrutiny concerning jet travel provided by a long-time Clinton donor, Vinod Gupta.

hillary, in a nice clean shot

As flaps go, it’s fairly unremarkable: apparently, a very rich guy flew some important politicians on his jet at vastly reduced fares. Which would be shocking, if the rules of the Senate didn’t so clearly allow it.

What was a little shocking, though, was Hillary’s defense. After reviewing the Senate rules for reporters, she wound up with this line: “Those were the rules. You’ll have to ask somebody else whether that’s good policy.”

You’ll have to ask somebody else whether that’s good policy?

Sounded a bit off-key to our ear, to say the least.

Isn’t the campaign trail the place where we ask, every four years, about the goodness of policy? Aren’t incoming Presidents then sent to D.C. as agents of change, based on those public discussions?

And who should we ask, then? John Edwards? He’d have an answer, and a wicked sharp one, you can be certain of that.

May 31st, 2007

Lieberman Manages to Up Dorkiness Quotient; New Personal Best, Say Experts

by Philip Baruth

At this point, it’s a generally accepted fact that the CIA did its best to hobble Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004. Damaging leak after damaging leak hit the New York Times or the Post just when they might be expected to inflict maximum mayhem.

bush, rose garden

And it made good sense: Bush had made it clear that he planned to saddle the Agency with primary responsibility for the jinxed invasion, in spite of CIA warnings the White House ignored.

But Bush faces another insider insurrection that isn’t quite as well understood, this time from the generals prosecuting the war in Iraq.

Their plan? Dress every visiting Congressional hawk to look like a raging loser bozo. Then trot them out for a photo op, and let the media do its thing.

It worked brilliantly with John McCain’s infamous Baghdad stroll. And now, this: Joe Lieberman looking like the alcoholic clown at your little nephew’s birthday party.


Look, we don’t like Lieberman here at VDB. We think he lied to the people of Connecticut about his political leanings; we’ve never liked his harping on religion; and the way he’s taunted Democrats about a potential party switch has been nothing short of juvenile.

But even Big Joe didn’t deserve this. This makes Dukakis in the tank look like Reagan at the Wall.

Oh, the humanity.

And that’s an image that will stay with you all day, unless we replace it with another. A photo of an American who opposes the War, and doesn’t relinquish his patriotism in so doing. An American with a wicked big beard, beside a wicked big flag.

joe, flag

That’s right: it’s the inscrutable Yusef, VDB photojournalist, snapped by die-hard reader Don. On Memorial Day.

[Cue Whitney Houston, from the pre-Bobby Brown days, “The Star Spangled Banner”]

May 30th, 2007

One Brendan McKenna, Former Rainville Spokesman, Experiences Obama Effect

by Philip Baruth

Let’s begin with a very deep political and philosophical question: having once gone over to the Dark Side, is it possible ever to come back?

McKenna, Savage: Just Two Guys

The Karl Rove School has always said no. In the Rovian mind-set, Bushies are defined not merely by the unlikeliness of their changing their minds or parties, but by their inability to do so.

But VDB lives on hope.

Which brings us to one Brendan McKenna.

During the 2006 cycle, McKenna unexpectedly left the Rutland Herald to become Martha Rainville’s campaign spokesman. It was a move that puzzled more than one analyst.

Why? Take another look at the photo above.

That’s McKenna mugging with Andrew Savage, his counterpart at the Welch campaign, at the Brandon parade. When we first ran that shot, more than one reader experienced profound cognitive dissonance.

Puzzled email flowed in: how in God’s name, they wanted to know, could McKenna — the Republican spokesman — look so much gnarlier, hairier and just plain headier than Savage, the Dem?

McKenna looked as though he’d stopped in Brandon on his way to Glover for an eight-day bender at Bread and Puppet.

Most pundits reached the same conclusion: McKenna was a natural Leftie drawn to the Dark Side by the formidable wiles of Martha Rainville. And McKenna wasn’t the only one; Rainville’s camp counted quite a few centrist Democrats among its converts.

In any event, we always thought the day might come that McKenna would re-see the light.


Fast forward to yesterday, when Brendan sent in a small treasure trove of Obama photos from a recent event at H20, a hot club in D.C.


According to media reports, Obama “enthralled” the crowd, and although McKenna was there covering the event for Medill, the School of Journalism he currently attends, there is evidence to suggest that McKenna actually experienced the Obama Effect himself.


How do we know? Because in addition to taking the photos above and below, Brendan worked the whole set into a dynamite slide show VDB is currently unable to bring you.

But it’s killer. And no one takes that kind of time unless they’re some kind of intrigued.


Welcome back, Brendan. It’s a big tent. And if you’re wondering, yes, we saved your seat.

May 30th, 2007

Exponential Chaos: The One Memorial Day Story You’ll Never Hear on Memorial Day

by Philip Baruth

How’s it going in Iraq? Sometimes a single story says it all. A story that’s held for a day, but still.

Yesterday, insurgents brought down an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter with small arms fire, killing both pilots. By “small arms,” the Army means heavy machine guns used very precisely to bring down aircraft.


Nothing small about them, really.

And once the Warrior fell to earth, a rapid-reaction force consisting of two Bradley Fighting Vehicles was almost immediately dispatched.

Both Bradleys were then hit individually by separate roadside bombs. Each lost three soldiers at the scene; tallies may rise. Both Bradleys were destroyed.

The hulk of the Kiowa chopper was later blown up to prevent it falling into the wrong hands.

Think about it: the original chopper was outmatched by small arms fire, and required a rapid-reaction force to throw caution to the wind in coming to its aid.

Each Bradley in that rescue force subsequently required its own rapid rescue force, as well as a team to destroy the Kiowa. Ultimately we had something like five separate teams dispatched to aid survivors, cordon off the wrecks, and attempt to pursue suspects at the various scenes.

Exponential chaos.

And of course yesterday was Memorial Day. And these were not even the only US casualties Monday, just one spectacularly revealing incident in one particularly revealing day.


May 29th, 2007

Ethnic Cleansing is So Passe

by Philip Baruth

Ah, kids and their changing fads.

Back in the day — during the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo, say — we used the phrase “ethnic cleansing” to refer to the systematic terrorizing, routing, murdering, and scattering of distinct ethnic groups.

bush, in denialThe phrase carried a whiff of genocide, and that was purposeful. Because by and large we were against ethnic cleansing.

Of course, times have changed somewhat. The Bush administration has been turning a blind eye to institutionalized Shiite attempts to cleanse Baghdad for quite a while now.

But the phrase “ethnic cleansing” remained a problem. Until yesterday, when the New York Times supplied a more neutral and workable variation:

“Sectarian displacement has become widespread across Iraq, with Shiite and Sunni militias trying to rid neighborhoods in Baghdad and other cities of members of the rival sect.”

Sectarian displacement. Now there’s a policy you can bring home to Mom.

May 25th, 2007

Bush “Bird-Poop” Video Emboldens Enemy

by Philip Baruth

Maybe repetition really does catapult the propaganda. All VDB can say is that when we saw this video of a bird on the President of the United States, at more or less the precise moment that he was renewing his defense of embattled AG Alberto Gonzales, we had a vision of enemies emboldened world-wide.

bush, rose garden

Which means that the enemy may very well see the video, follow us home, and potentially poop on us here.

And it sent shivers up VDB’s spine. Hug your children tonight.

May 25th, 2007

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Audio Dream Theater and The League of Extraordinary Republican Gentleman, Episode III

by Philip Baruth

Reviews of this legislative session have ranged from lukewarm praise to cold disdain. All VDB knows is that it was non-stop action from beginning to end.

the league of 2 xtraordinary gentlemenAnd Audio Dream Theater — our audio satire conglomerate — was there for you, covering the Legislature as it’s never been covered before.

Like some wild cross between CSPAN, Marvel Comics and Firesign Theater.

The League of Extraordinary Republican Gentleman is the story of two lonely GOP superheroes: Governor Jim Douglas and his youthful ward, Brian Dubie.

Blessed with powers arguably not much beyond those of mortal men, Douglas and Dubie fight the Democratic waves that seem to break higher each cycle at the State House.

In Episode One, it was the New England Wilderness Bill.

Episode Two saw Douglas battling not only Shum-Lin, his arch enemy, but Al Gore on the signature issue of our time: global warming.

(If you’ve yet to listen to Episodes I and II, they’re on the sidebar under “Full-Tilt Audio Satire.” You’ll want to bring yourself up to speed, if only for the origin stories of Douglas and Dubie.)

And now, Episode Three is coming.

The long-awaited conclusion of the LXRG Trilogy. A battle to the finish. A satirical wrap-up of the Legislative session like none you’ve heard before: martial arts, impeachment, Nixon, black magic, and the coming of an entirely new hero.

It’s the blockbuster of the summer.

Episode Three: Statehouse of the Living Dead.

Coming this week. But not to worry: we’ll let you know when to throw the Orville Redenbacher packet in the microwave.

May 23rd, 2007

Welch To Vote NO on Toothless Iraq Bill

by Philip Baruth

Major stories in all major dailies this morning, to the effect that the Democratic leadership has agreed to a toothless Iraq funding bill.

bush, as el diabloThe idea, it seems, is to give Bush more or less what he wants now, but to put Republicans and the President on notice that another show-down is likely in a few months.

Which is as abject a failure of imagination and legislative will as VDB has ever witnessed.

Taken together with the embarrassing and stubborn resistance to ethics reform, the end to this war funding debate is enough to put air quotes around everything the Congressional leadership says for the next six months.

The silver lining? Welch will vote no. Absolutely.

“I am deeply disappointed that there is no deadline for troop withdrawal in this bill and will therefore vote against it. Regrettably, the President continues to stubbornly dig in his heels and cling to a failed policy.”

So there’s that. Which is something.

May 23rd, 2007

The Return of the Hamburger Summit: Specter of Political Barbeque Once Again Haunts North Beach; Locals “Real Afraid”

by Philip Baruth

Time to mark your calendars, friends. The date and location for the Second Annual Political Barbeque and Hamburger Summit have been finalized: July 15th, 1-5 pm, North Beach, Burlington. Rain or shine. Hell or high water.

The Sign

Cancel any pre-existing commitments, weddings, funerals, European vacations. This will be a serious pow-wow, powered by meat, beer, chips, “salads” high in mayonnaise-content, and intense political chatter.

This is not a drill. We mean business.

The Good, the Bad, and the Bloggish

May 22nd, 2007

4 BDRM Carriage House 4 Sale; Owner Extremely Motivated, FEMA Job Waiting

by Philip Baruth

Spotted a promising bit of property browsing the Picket Fence Preview this morning, for sale by owner. A Williston address, it seems:
rainville house

“Carriage home on quiet cul-de-sac. 4 bedroom, 2.5 baths, office, laundry, deck, basement walkout to patio and hot tub. Cathedral ceiling and gas fireplace in greatroom. Granite counters in kitchen. Hardwood/tile floors, berber carpet in bedrooms and family room. Many custom features. Home backs to woods and is convenient to schools and golf course. Tennis courts and swimming pool in neighborhood.”

What made it particularly interesting was the name imbedded in the HTML code: MRainville. And a recording at the number listed sounds an awful lot like a certain former Adjutant General just recently turned FEMA-flak.

Hot tub? Berbers in the bedrooms?

Who knew? The Rainville ads all seemed so homey and girl-next-door.

Of course the 2006 cycle is but a memory now, and VDB believes in reconciliation and healing. So we’d like to offer a hand in selling the Rainville homestead, especially in this tepid market.

So the link is here, househunters. To-die-for photos above.

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