June 19th, 2008

Mataliandy Cops Netroots Nation Ticket

by Philip Baruth

You’ll remember Liane Allen, aka “Mataliandy,” and her quest to win a Democracy for America scholarship to Netroots Nation in Austin. Well, the results are in: Mataliandy kicked serious ass, cracking the top 5 of the 30 eventual winners. She’ll be sipping a margarita and talking serious political change down on Sixth Street come the middle of next month, and it’ll be well deserved. Kudos.

June 19th, 2008

Sanderson Eats Into Jensen Monopoly

by Philip Baruth

For years now (two, to be exact) the mighty Neil Jensen of Monkton has had the Hamburger Summit advertising franchise exclusively to himself. A pretty cushy deal. We brought you Neil’s most recent effort for the first time yesterday, a clutch design making use of Don Shall’s now-iconic “Tunnel to Meat” photo. Another look:

But Neil’s days as the sole advertising force behind the Hamburger Summit are over, apparently. Lee Sanderson, biting editorial cartoonist and political gadfly, has now raised the stakes with this bold yet elegant design:

As always, VDB puts its faith in a vigorous free market of ideas. This new competition augers well for the state of the BBQ, and we’d like to open it up to you too, whether you have any talent or not. Send us a killer BBQ ad, and we’ll post it. And the Devil take the hindmost.

June 19th, 2008

Total Swedish Information Awareness

by Philip Baruth

VDB hates it when that happens: Sweden’s right-leaning government pushes through unprecedented eavesdropping legislation, allowing officials to sift all telephone and email traffic for “sensitive keywords.” Which is generally troubling, but more specifically so when your wife is a Swede who spends 10 or 20 hours a week phoning home. Silver lining? The Moderates are tanking in the polls there. This should guarantee their ouster. And good riddance.

June 18th, 2008

Black Helicopters Buzz Site of Democratic Convention; Officials Dismiss Link, But VDB Scents “Powerful Smell of Mendacity”

by Philip Baruth

Let’s take a minute to refamiliarize ourselves with the scene outside the New York Stock Exchange some four years ago, on August the 2nd, 2004. John Kerry’s Democratic National Convention had ended just three days earlier in Boston; the Convention had been well-received, and pollsters were noting a small bounce for the Democratic nominee.

But the Democrats’ carefully crafted domestic agenda and their critique of Bush’s Iraq policy were suddenly swept away by an urgent Homeland Security bulletin to New York officials, warning of potential attacks on “financial institutions” of all sorts.

So three days out from the Democratic National Convention, Americans saw policeman and soldiers wielding sub-machine guns in the streets of New York.

Thus began the Bush Administration’s subtle attempt to refocus the election on global terrorism — a push aided by the fact that the GOP would hold its convention in New York City later that month, and speaker after speaker would thank God for George W. Bush, who “kept us safe.”

And if this seems like a jaundiced bit of revisionist history, the sort to which wild-eyed bloggers are prone, VDB recommends this New York Times piece debunking the alert, which turned out to have been based almost exclusively on information “three or four years old.”

Administration officials admitted as well that they had “not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.”


Of course, those were the bad old days, when Bush was desperate for a second term, if only to keep the dirty secrets of his first term under wraps.

The DHS threat-level was dialed up and down like a thermostat, whenever high-level Administration officials thought the temperature in the country was getting a little chilly. Or at least so says Tom Ridge, who decided to set the record straight when he stepped down as Director of Homeland Security:

“The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.”

But that was then, and this is now. Except maybe not so much.

John McCain remains George W. Bush’s last best hope to keep all of the bodies buried from the last eight years. McCain is his last best chance to continue the long occupation of Iraq, in the hopes that ten years or twenty years will accomplish what five and a half have not.

With all of that said, precisely how paranoid should Democrats be in the run-up to and the aftermath of their own Party’s 2008 Convention in Denver?

Well, put it this way: “Black Hawk assault helicopters and MH-6 ‘Little Bird’ choppers” buzzed the Pepsi Center last night, actually flying between high-rise buildings to reach the location where the Democratic faithful will gather in a few weeks.

Officials denied any connection to the upcoming convention whatsoever.

The coverage from the Denver papers is certainly worth the read. Sketchiest detail of a very sketchy exercise? City officials seem totally in the dark about which government agency was conducting the training mission:

“‘That’s a Department of Justice deal. It’s their baby,’ Denver police spokesman Detective John White said today. ‘They gave us the heads up that they were going to be conducting the exercise.’

“But U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner said: ‘This is not our deal.’ The Special Operations Command’s Ruh confirmed the Justice Department had nothing to do with it.”

Clearly, it was someone’s deal.

Look, this may have been some routine training mission; everyone involved may be pure as the driven snow. Sometimes a black helicopter is just a black helicopter, after all.

But having been so egregiously fooled four years ago, fooled in ways that the media almost immediately dissected and openly mocked, Democrats owe it to themselves not to be fooled again in 2008.

It’s the oldest saying in the world, really: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on VDB.

[Hat tip to the mighty Neil Jensen for the boffo BBQ ad.]

June 17th, 2008

Gore Endorsement Oddly Underwhelming

by Philip Baruth

Just got an email from Al Gore. Like any good state of the art campaign emailing circa 2008, it seems to be a personal note from Al to me, announcing that he’s slated to endorse Barack Obama in a few hours, and then stump in Michigan. Moments later the news surfaced across the web. Fine.

There was a time I’d have given my eye teeth for this Obama endorsement, and another when I’d have sold my soul for Gore to run himself. Now, much as I respect the man, it moves me as much as a nod from some no-name County Commissioner out in the reaches of Southern Florida.

Object lesson in political leverage: use it or lose it.

Nobel Laureate or not.

June 17th, 2008

Symington Eyes Burger, Macaroni Salad

by Philip Baruth

RSVP’s coming in on the BBQ at a decent pace. It looks to be a banner turnout, given that it’s an election year, and an election year to end all election years at that. Among the confirmed: Speaker of the House and gubernatorial hopeful Gaye Symington. Got some strategic advice to offer? Catch her while she’s waiting for a crack at the macaroni salad.

June 13th, 2008

The Third Annual Political Barbeque And Hamburger Summit: Some Selected Frequently Ass-Backward Questions

by Philip Baruth

The Obama campaign has recently launched a designed to fight disinformation about the candidate, a sign that the Swiftboating of John Kerry has left a legacy of vigilance. Similarly, we here at VDB have developed a War Room focused exclusively on turning back the wave of disinformation and scurrilous rumor related to the Third Annual Political BBQ & Hamburger Summit.

The Sign

And it is in that fighting spirit that we offer these Frequently Ass-Backward Questions. But first mark your calendars again: Saturday, June 28, 1-5 pm, North Beach in Burlington. Click here for obligatory

Q: I know I shouldn’t be paranoid, but the Bush years have made me sort of skittish. Will I be watched or even photographed as I park my car, or have my cell-phone communications from the beach monitored and/or recorded? And I have a follow-up: if I am photographed, will the telephoto lens used by the military photographer make my ass appear to be bigger than normal?

A: Yes, and yes, absolutely. In 2003, the Pentagon fielded a clandestine domestic intelligence gathering operation known as TALON, a program now officially shuttered. TALON — which stood for Threat and Local Observation Notices — was operated under the direction of the Counterintelligence Field Activity, itself established in September 2002 by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz.

Ostensibly, TALON was tasked with tracking the terrorist activity of sleeper cells within the US, but quickly the sub-agency became a means of tracking general domestic dissent: anti-war groups, Leftist organizations, and Quaker meetings all came under scrutiny.


The Pentagon publicly disbanded TALON in April of 2007, but a tiny four-man unit continues to operate from a small industrial park in Northern Virginia, tasked solely with monitoring the Hamburger Summit. And the covert military photographers in question are partial to two high-end image-stabilized telephoto lenses, the EF 200mm f/2L IS USM and the EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM. Either will make your ass look huge.

Or simply “uge,” in the case of Bernie Sanders supporters.

Q: I’m not a blogger, and I’ve never read a blog. I don’t know what a blog is, frankly. I’ve never voted. I don’t plan to vote, ever. I don’t watch politics on television, or read about it in the newspapers. I’m only interested in celebrity news, George Clooney, Lindsay Lohan, that sort of thing. How will I connect socially in a group so fixated on politics, and so uninformed about celebrity gossip?

A: We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The Political BBQ isn’t just for bloggers, or politicians, although you’ll see both on the beach. It’s for anyone who likes politics of any sort — and that includes celebrity politics.

To take one example at random, here’s a shot of Bill Clinton and Heidi Klum. Standard picture — except look at that huge hand! WTF?! It’s like a condor looking to perch. Or OMG, what about this picture of Condi Rice getting scoped out by Gene Simmons of KISS in some Motel 8 outside of Baton Rouge? LMFAO!!

In short, not to worry. One thing you shouldn’t sweat with this crowd is conversation. Most of the people there will be happy to supply both sides.

Q: What should I bring?

A: Nothing, or anything. We’ll supply meat, buns, chips, and drinks. If you want to bring a salad or a dessert or some peanut noodles, by all means knock yourself out.

makin' patties

Q: Someone told me that there were some unsavory types who made the scene last year. Some people who, you know, if they hit you it kills your whole family. Will there be any of those sort of hard guys there?

yusef, and don

A: Fuggedaboutit.

Q: In Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act IV, the King’s army is in despair because they are badly outnumbered by the French. But Henry insists before his soldiers that they are lucky to be so few, in that the glory will be divided up among fewer warriors. I quote:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhood cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

My question is this: will political junkies who miss this year’s BBQ eventually hold their “manhoods” cheap? Will attending really “gentle my condition”? And what’s a “manhood,” exactly?

A: Respectively, the answers are yes, yes, and ask Odum.


June 12th, 2008

Obama’s VP: The Case for Pat Leahy

by Philip Baruth

Announcer: With the Democratic nomination finally in hand, Barack Obama last week created an informal committee to help sift the names of potential running mates. Vermont Senator Pat Leahy has apparently agreed to lend a hand. But Commentator Philip Baruth, himself an early supporter and now an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention, believes that Leahy could easily play a more central role.

pat leahy

Notes from the New Vermont
Commentary #216:
The Case for Leahy

Hillary Clinton’s concession speech last week was a rhetorical masterpiece: gracious, eloquent, and justifiably conscious of its own place in history. And of course the designated sound-bite was her adoption of Barack Obama’s motto, “Yes we can.”

Shouting those particular words was a step further than she needed to go, and hence generous, and in that way it was precisely as far as she needed to go.

But it’s worth pointing out that Clinton’s use of the phrase “Yes we can” was a more complex rhetorical moment than it might seem. Sure, she was adopting Obama’s refrain, but Clinton was also making her own implicit statement about her own abilities, and what she could bring to the ticket.

“Yes we can,” she said, meaning in part that together she and Barack Obama can win the general election, perhaps only together. A brilliant moment, genuinely helpful to the Obama campaign and yet true to her own as well.

But with due respect to Senator Clinton, I’d like to take just a moment today to advance another less obvious Vice Presidential choice, one that’s managed thus far to stay off the media’s radar: Vermont’s senior Senator, Patrick Leahy.

When George W. Bush chose his Vice President, he understood very well that he needed an elder statesman, to close the gaps in his own resume.

Dick Cheney understood that very well too, which is why he selected himself as Bush’s running mate.

But forget what Cheney has done with the Vice Presidency — the point is that balancing for age and experience remains a successful electoral strategy. Balancing for geography does not —not in an age where the 24-hour news cycle makes any candidate from any state an intimate companion by campaign’s end.

Obama would do well to pick a more seasoned running-mate, and speculation has tended to focus around those with strong military credentials: Jim Webb, Wesley Clark, General James Jones. And in a post-9/11 environment, military issues are high-profile.

But the post-9/11 years have raised the profile of another set of issues as well: civil liberties and the proper reach of Presidential power. Leahy’s opposition to warrantless wiretapping, and his drive to de-politicize the Justice Department, have quickly become the stuff of Senate legend.

When Bill Clinton selected Al Gore, it was seen as a way for Clinton to double-down on his own strengths, to reinforce his own credentials as a New Southerner. Critics called it the “Double Bubba” strategy.

For Barack Obama, a former professor of constitutional law, to tap Pat Leahy would be to send an unmistakeable signal that the era of governmental overreaching in the name of national security is over.

Call it the “Double Liberties” strategy.

Of course, when it comes to the VP selection, everyone’s a critic. Leahy’s too seasoned, some will say, simply too old for a run at the White House.

Well, let me just say this about that: at the end of his first succesful four-year term in office, in 2012, Vice President Patrick Leahy would be almost exactly as old as John McCain is today.


[This piece aired first on Vermont Public Radio. You can hear audio of the commentary here.]

June 12th, 2008

The Real Straight-Talker? Ken Layne

by Philip Baruth

Busy day on the racist propaganda front: the creator of the Willie Horton ads has begun a web-campaign to advance the Obama-Muslim meme, and t-shirts portraying Obama as Curious George (monkey, banana) are being hawked across the blogosphere. The idea is not to sell t-shirts, of course, but to disseminate the ostensible “ad” image itself.

Hero of the day? Ken Layne, managing editor at Wonkette, who apparently minces no words when it comes to this sort of scam: “Eh, the motherfucker submitted an ad with a standard hopeful Obama t-shirt, then switched it out for this racist bullshit. I approve all ads, myself. A monkey eating a banana captioned ‘Obama’ is not going to get by me, no matter how drunk I am.”

What he said.

June 11th, 2008

Fellowship Now Complete, Denver-bound

by Philip Baruth

We’d be substantially remiss if we didn’t report the results of the secondary delegate election in West Berlin this past Saturday. In addition to those elected a few weeks back, the following delegates now complete the away team:

frodo and sam

Unpledged Delegate:
Secretary of State Deb Markowitz

Pledged Party Leader and Elected Official Delegates:
Senator Sara Kittell
Senator Peter Shumlin

Pledged At-Large Delegates:
Linda Weiss
Kevin Christie
Sherry Merrick

Alternate At-Large Delegate:
Tim Briglan

Precisely the sort of line-up you’d want at your back if, all hand-holding and Kumbaya-singing aside, there should be orcs in Denver. Congratulations to all the newly elected.

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