May 22nd, 2008

Parade of Delegates: Hofer-Shall Edition

by Philip Baruth

Selene Hofer-Shall merits serious consideration for many reasons, but three surface immediately: 1) her fundraising genius has been the salvation of more than one tough Democratic race; 2) she has helped the Obama campaign from the beginning and from more than one direction; and 3) at last year’s Hamburger Summit, she negotiated a stand-off with an officious park ranger who was talking grimly about shutting the whole thing down. All skills necessary in Denver, of course. — PB

The Parade of Delegates: Hofer-Shall Edition
Selene Hofer-Shall

I first had the opportunity to work with Senator Obama in the fall of 2004, organizing a large-scale joint fundraising event for Democracy for America and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The night of the event, Obama stepped to the podium, and within minutes, a wave of murmurs washed through crowd that this man would someday be President of the United States.

I believed it then as I do now, and the murmur has turned to a roar.

Since Obama announced his candidacy, I have registered voters, raised money, corralled voters and volunteers both in Vermont and around the country, and worked tirelessly to get the more apathetic members of my generation involved and energized.

Since 2003, I have been actively involved with Democratic politics at all levels of government. I have worked and volunteered my time for candidates for City Council, State House and Senate, Auditor, Lt. Governor, Governor, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and President.

Through my roles as operations staffer for Dean for America, Operations Director for Democracy for America, Finance Director for two members of Congress (our own Peter Welch and Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, TX-23), and as a Finance Trainer for the DFA Campaign Academy, I have had the opportunity to work with a diverse array of candidates and activists all over the country.

Never have I seen such a wave of excitement, enthusiasm and engagement as I do in Barack Obama’s campaign, and I am proud to be a part of this incredible movement.

Today, I am asking for your vote as a pledged Obama delegate to the DNC Convention. I would be honored to have your vote, and will be a strong representative for Vermont this August in Denver.

May 21st, 2008

Challenges of Our Entergy [Sic] Future

by Philip Baruth

Only a nuclear facility with a team of corporate image makers could survive the tangled string of accidents and safety mishaps that have plagued Vermont Yankee. If Yankee were a bakery, to put it another way, no one would eat their bread. If Yankee were a slaughterhouse, everyone would turn vegan. And if Vermont Yankee Nuclear were a whorehouse, everyone in the surrounding area would attend church on Sunday, and be strictly faithful to their wives.

vermont yankee

But Yankee is a nuclear facility, of course, owned by a fantastically wealthy out-of-state concern, and its image is watched over by some of the PR world’s most expensive talent.

So when a gantry crane fumbles a dry-cask filled with radioactive fuel assemblies, allowing the entire gargantuan load to wind up on the concrete floor, that becomes an opportunity to tout Entergy’s corporate openness: given that the mishap didn’t present a “safety hazard,” the company wasn’t legally required to report it, and the fact that it did so demonstrates “an effort to further transparency.”

Now that’s crack PR work.

Let’s not forget that the concept of dry-cask storage, and shipment, is key to Entergy’s long-term operational plan; doubts about the basic movement of casks within the plant, let alone outside it, could bring down the whole house of irradiated cards.

Still, spokesman Rob Williams and the image boys over at Entergy aren’t infallible. Far from it: their over-the-top spin has more than once kept a safety incident in the news for an extra cycle or two, as journalists wonder over their linguistic up-is-downism.

But here at VDB, we like to keep our eye on the small stuff. Like the corporate website, which you’ll find, predictably enough, at, and which currently contains one of the most revealing and unintentionally frank typos in recent memory.

In the center-right of the screen, just below a glamour shot of the plant on a sunny day in June, is a bold-faced invitation: “We invite you to learn more about our current energy options and the challenges of our entergy [sic] future.”

Now, what Rob Williams meant to say was “the challenges of our energy future,” but sometimes the truth will out, regardless of who’s signing your paycheck.

And here is where the fun begins.

It’s Wednesday, 8 am, and the Freudian typo still sits proudly on the website. But for how long? Rob Williams has two options: leave it there as an embarrassing proof of Entergy’s fallibility, or quickly scrub it from the website, as evidence that the corporate types at Burson-Marsteller read VDB with a jaundiced eye every single day.

The clock is ticking. We’ll keep you posted.

May 21st, 2008

In the Fullness of Spring

by Philip Baruth

Obama, last night in Iowa, near the Capitol, after enduring another pronounced Appalachian snub, after roaring back with a larger than expected victory in Oregon, after a primary season far longer and more bruising and more divisive within the party than it arguably needed to be:

obama II, 2/10/07

“Tonight, Iowa, in the fullness of spring, with the help of those who stood up from Portland to Louisville, we have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.”

In the fullness of spring. Just lovely writing, a nice light touch, and yet the campaign in a nutshell, really.

It’s been a brutally cold eight years.

May 21st, 2008

The Parade of Prospective Denver Delegates Continues: The Dwyer and Sullivan Edition

by Philip Baruth

Running singly, either Carolyn Dwyer or Mary Sullivan would be a major force with which to reckon. Anyone who follows Vermont politics knows that when the dust settles after a major election, chances are excellent that one or both of these women will be standing beside the winner. They win because they are tireless, as Obama himself noted last summer. “No one out-organizes Carolyn Dwyer,” the candidate said, and when you team Carolyn with Mary you have yourself an authentic force of nature. — PB


The Parade of Delegates: Dwyer and Sullivan
Carolyn Dwyer and Mary Sullivan

We’ve been Obama supporters from Day One. We supported the draft Obama campaign. We participated in early organizational meetings. We raised money. We campaigned in New Hampshire. We organized events in Vermont. We registered voters. We persuaded hundreds upon hundreds of people in many states to support Obama for America. Now we are asking for your support as we seek to represent Vermont’s Obama supporters as national delegates.

Carolyn is a member of Obama for America’s National Finance Committee. She’s part of Women for Obama and housed Obama campaigners. She hosted several fundraisers and organized a number of political events for the Obama campaign.

Carolyn managed successful campaigns for Senator Leahy (1998 and 2004) and Congressman Welch (2006).

She worked on Dean for America (2002-2003) and Clinton-Gore (1992 and 1996). She serves on the Vt. Democratic Party Executive Committee and has helped numerous candidates for local and statewide office in Vermont.

Mary was Vermont Co-Chair for Women for Obama. She helped to organize at the grassroots level and did some major outreach efforts as the campaign was getting underway.

She knocked on countless New Hampshire doors, made many phone calls and helped to fundraise.

Mary is on the Vt. State Party Executive Committee. She is past chair of the Burlington and Chittenden County Democratic Committees. She served in the Legislature for ten years. She co-chaired Environmentalists for Dean in 2004, worked on many other campaigns and worked on Senator Leahy’s Washington staff.

We ask that you support the Dwyer-Sullivan ticket.

May 20th, 2008

VDB Advises The Franken Campaign

by Philip Baruth

Amid a sea of positive polling data for Democrats, there is a tiny atoll of badness: Norm Coleman appears to be solidifying his lead against VDB-backed Al Franken out in Minnesota. The most recent statewide poll has Coleman up by 7 points, slightly outside the margin of error. Worse yet, Franken’s negative numbers now top his positive, 39-33.

Analysts point to some back taxes Franken had outstanding, but VDB sees it differently: the mistake, early on, was for Franken to gag his inner class clown.

The campaign went out of its way to recast the former Air America host as a sober, down-home, wonkish but mildly amusing older gentleman, the sort you’d find at any Lutheran Church bake-off in St. Cloud.

And let’s face it, that’s not Al.

Al Franken is wildly funny, partially because his political views have a surgical edge, partially because he expresses his passion by slipping the bad guys the knife. And as a comedian, he’s able to bring an audience along, allow them to see why the bad guys merit laughter.

Maybe a guy like that can’t win a Senate seat, but Jesse Ventura went a long way in Minnesota politics with a series of very strange and hilarious commercials that broke the established frame. If nothing else, Franken could continue to play the soft-spoken Uncle Al, and let his campaign ads reach for comedy gold. al franken, candidate

It couldn’t hurt.

Still, it’s early days yet. Minnesota will vote Obama, and Obama will campaign there for Franken.

And if the crowds are even half as large as the 75,000 who turned out in Franken won’t be able to resist.

Dare to yuk it up, Al. Dare to be a funny man again.

May 20th, 2008

McCain Fires Fifth High-Ranking Staffer; “Perception Problem” Hugely Problematic

by Philip Baruth

John McCain let go his fifth campaign staffer over the weekend. Why? The usual: egregious lobbying, below and beneath the call of duty. Not to worry, though. Spokesman Brian Rogers clarified the issue for the media as follows:

“The campaign over the last week or so obviously had a perception problem with regards with this whole business of lobbyists and their work . . . . This is really all about setting a policy so that we can just get through that perception problem and the issues that come up with regards to lobbyists affiliated with the campaign and move on.”

Brutally honest, really. The problem is not lobbyists, and their influence in and on the McCain campaign; rather, the problem is that the country now perceives the influence lobbyists have in and on the campaign.

Answer? Set a policy to allow you to “get through that perception problem” and “move on.” Translation: All lobbyists back to their burrows until the General Election is over. And then it’s game time.

May 20th, 2008

Let the Parade of Prospective Denver Delegates Begin: The Granquist Edition

by Philip Baruth

Last week we began to profile prospective Obama delegates in advance of the state convention this Saturday in Barre. We’ll continue on and off throughout this week, bringing you the names and faces and passionate pitches of a series of true Obama loyalists, all of them also, not coincidentally, longtime supporters of VDB. — PB

The Parade of Delegates: Granquist Edition
Wayne Granquist

“I’ve been banging around in Democratic politics since the Kennedy Administration, when I went to Washington four months before Barack Obama was born.

I was Chief of Staff to a US Senator from Connecticut named Abe Ribicoff, and I was a senior staffer in the Carter White House.

“After I moved to Vermont in the early ’80’s, I got to know Madeleine Kunin and chaired a commission on efficiency in the state government for her. I headed up the Vermont Economic Progress Commission for Howard Dean, and later became a senior adviser to his Presidential campaign. I’ve worked and raised money for Peter Welch and Pat Leahy.

“I met Barack Obama in January, 2007, and was blown away. My wife Debbie and I became his advocates and contributors. In all my years in government and politics on the state and national scene, I’ve never seen an opportunity for change and greatness as exciting as the one before us. But we have to unite our party behind Barack if we are to win in November. That’s the challenge I want to help meet. That’s one of the most important reasons I’m running for national delegate from Vermont.”

May 17th, 2008

As Forrest Gump Said, Life’s Like A Box of Chocolates: You Never Know When You’re Going to Get One That’s “Spasmodic”

by Philip Baruth

So the other day Johnny Mac offered a vision of the world after a first McCain term, a glimpse 0f 2013 one reporter dubbed “a magic carpet ride” to the future. No specifics on how to achieve the vision, mind you. Just the halcyon itself: Osama captured, the troops returning home, morning again in America. Iraq will be a fully functional democracy, helping us reduce Al Queda’s influence to negligible levels. And the level of violence in our new vacation destination in the heart of the Middle East?

“Spasmodic,” says McCain.

johnny mac

That’s the bright shiny penny for the American voter? Vote McCain, and catastrophic violence will dwindle to the merely spasmodic. Last time we checked, though, the definition of “spasmodic” ran like so: “Relating to, affected by, or having the character of a spasm; convulsive.”

Like Jeffersonian Democracy, but with abdominal seizures, sort of.

Even in the duty-free magic carpet ride speech, that’s as good as it gets, apparently.

McCain 2008: The Convulsive Violence in Iraq You Deserve.

May 16th, 2008

Let the Parade of the Prospective Denver Delegates Begin: The Michaels Edition

by Philip Baruth

The State Convention in Barre will be a madhouse. Who can get to know someone’s convictions in a huge cattle call with hundreds of other activists shouting, begging, hugging, and just generally schmoozing? So VDB means to help. In the week remaining before the Barre event, we’ll be introducing you to as many prospective Obama delegates as we can. What do they have in common? Good hearts, sharp political minds, and long histories as loyal VDB readers. — PB

The Parade of Delegates: Michaels Edition
Jill Michaels (Trademark hat pictured above)

Location: My home and home office are in a small cottage on the “Main Street” in South Strafford, or the “lower village” as it is called by locals. My husband and I have been here for 17 years this summer, having moved to Vermont two years earlier from Philadelphia.

For those who don’t know Strafford, it is a town of 1,000 people about 15 miles from the intersection of I89 and I91 – a part of the “Upper Valley” of Vermont and New Hampshire. We are also home to Ned Coffin, and until recently his wife, the legendary Democratic activist Vi Coffin. Thanks in large part to Ned and Vi, Strafford regularly has the highest per capita voter turnout and the highest per capita vote total for progressive Democrats in the state.

Interests: It must be clear that politics, public policy and supporting community participation are my passions in the public arena. In my working life I harness that passion in economic development projects, including job creation, business recruitment, and community-supported real estate development – especially in downtowns and village centers. I am a voracious reader, an ever-evolving gardener, and a long time supporter of CSAs, coops and the local food movement. I am also committed to my family (including two grandsons).

What Brought You Home to VDB: Just as I remember where I was when Kennedy was shot (in front of Smokey Joe’s — a men’s-only hang out on the University of Pennsylvania Campus that has since been razed), I know the moment I first met VDB. It was when Tom Elliot, a staffer in Matt Dunne’s campaign for Lt. Governor, sent me the article headlined “The Cheetah” — still one of VDB’s best efforts.

Current Political Talking Points: I began my working life as a community organizer in the low-income and minority neighborhoods of Philadelphia and my political activity in what was then known as the “bloody fifth ward” of that city. Even though I am a woman “of a certain age” who might be expected to support Hillary Clinton, my days as an organizer meant that I was attracted immediately to Obama’s brilliant expansion of local community organizing strategies into a national movement.

And when he took that vision and incorporated the web-based fundraising and 50-state strategy of our own Howard Dean, I knew immediately that Barack Obama was very, very special.

I also could almost feel, even at a distance of 300+ miles, the enormous pride that the members of the Philadelphia communities I worked in so long ago were taking in seeing this smart and engaging man take the country by storm.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I had the opportunity to be a very small part of the dawn of a new era.

Last Word on the Presidential Race: 33 years ago, after losing the race for precinct captain in the 25th division of Philadelphia’s 5th Ward (for the second time), I promised my son I would never run for anything again (he has always hated to lose, and it was at least as bad if I lost). This is the first time I’ve gone back on that promise, but he understands Jill Michaels

May 15th, 2008

Rutland Herald Covers The Sacred Vow

by Philip Baruth

The estimable Dan Barlow covers VDB’s desperate bid to become an Obama delegate for the Rutland Herald. Only one correction: Barlow reports that we “jokingly” refer to the bid as a “sacred vow.” But the vow is no joke: we’ve known nuns with less urgency. We spend a good hour a day just visualizing the State Convention itself, and the moment when we are called to go to Denver. That moment looks, not surprisingly, a lot like the image below. See you in Barre.

it's in the hole

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