July 31st, 2008

Ballon Art Imitates Lieberman Life

by Philip Baruth

Originally VDB wanted to go to the Democratic National Convention for two basic reasons: 1) to see personally that nothing came between Barack Obama and the nomination; and 2) to see personally that Joe Lieberman never gets within 500 yards of the Pepsi Center out in Denver. But now we’re torn: a part of us would really love to make the scene at the GOP Convention in Minneapolis, too, when Big Joe is greeted by a slick 30-foot inflatable rat. Should be worth the price of admission. No matter the price.

In a freak dog attack earlier this year, Big Joe lost the last remnants of his Democratic face-paint

This is one of those stories that we love in more ways than we can count. But the best way? We found it again by simply searching Google News for “Lieberman” and “rat,” and rarely is life as fully transparent as that.

July 31st, 2008

Rutland Herald Imagines Yankeelessness

by Philip Baruth

We’ve said it before, and no doubt we’ll say it again: Vermont Yankee is a spectacularly inept operation. 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

So why not close it down? Mostly because conventional wisdom has been so hard to shake, and the conventional wisdom says that Entergy has Vermonters over a barrel. A barrel that leaks, collapses, and is periodically proven to be far more radioactive than anyone suspected.

But apparently the conventional wisdom is neither so wise nor so conventional any more. Check out this editorial from the Herald. Nothing earthshaking in the various propositions it lays out. The revolution is in the attitude, the perspective itself: maybe Yankee isn’t so necessary after all.

The sort of thing that makes Rob Williams reach for the Tums.

July 29th, 2008

And You Thought It Would Be Easy

by Philip Baruth

For anyone who thought Obama was going to ride a 7-point margin into the White House, against a toothless and befuddled McCain campaign, think again. Because here it comes, a bit out of left field but very much a harbinger of things to come: an Ohio-based design company has “mistakenly” produced a run of campaign buttons pairing the likeness of Barack Obama with that of Larry Craig.

Craig in boa

Now, maybe it’s VDB, but we would dispute the likelihood that anyone, in the year 2008, could genuinely and mistakenly pair anyone with the storied Senator from Idaho. The original design called for Obama to be paired with the Democratic challenger for Craig’s seat, one Larry LaRocco.

Let’s remember a few things: 1) the McCain camp is now dominated by Rove-trained strategists; 2) Rove has used anti-gay sentiment to his advantage in nearly every campaign he has ever run; 3) such a campaign is easiest to field against a relatively undefined candidate, one seeking a positive introduction to the bulk of American voters; and 4) one quick “mistakenly” produced image like this can earn enough free media to match a very expensive ad buy.

So is this company, Tiger-Eye Design, the gay-baiting tip of the GOP spear? Who knows. But suffice it to say that this isn’t the last you’ll see of Larry Craig this cycle, or the last of a series of attempts to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Obamas’ marriage.

Up next: rumors that it was Obama, against all odds, who greenlighted Jeff Gannon’s hundreds of visits to the White House.

July 27th, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Leahy Batman Cameo Causes Roomful of Swedes to Make Noise, Although They Have Been Told Not To

by Philip Baruth

Caught The Dark Knight last night, at a theater on Södermalm, southernmost island of the handful of islands that make up the waterborne city of Stockholm. I wound up in the last available seat on the far right edge of a small sea of Swedes. And when Pat Leahy told the Joker, “We’re not intimidated by thugs like you,” a little spontaneous applause actually burst out, which is a large reaction indeed from a movie house full of civic-minded Swedes.

leahy with soldier

July 27th, 2008

Key Question: What Would Shatner Do?

by Philip Baruth

For all of those now awash in the public debate about sex offenders, prevention, and the serial politicization of the issue by our current Governor, let VDB recommend a look back at a really eye-opening interview we did a few years ago with current Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan.

T.J. HookerBack in 2006, Donovan was locked in a death-struggle with two other talented Democrats for the party’s nomination; waiting patiently for him on the other end of that fight was a tough-talking Republican named John St. Francis, who had already made “the drug epidemic” his number one talking point.

T.J. eventually beat all comers, and he did it partially by finding a way out of the “soft on crime” thicket that has waylaid Vermont Democrats for decades.

Rule Number One? Don’t be afraid to say that safety comes first:

“Let me start by saying that everybody involved in this case — the neighbors, the police, probation — they all have legitimate concerns about safety. People have a right to live free from fear. In their house. On their street. In their back yard. And that’s the first priority, so when you talk about balancing, the first priority is public safety. And the scales will always be tipped in favor of that.”

The interview is called “T.J. Donovan Is No William Shatner (And That’s A Very Good Thing).” Much talk about restorative justice, the economic costs of crime, and what Donovan calls the “third way” with political discourse about public safety. Worth a look.

Especially these days. Say no more.

July 27th, 2008

“Close-Minded” Wisconsin Democrats Boot Open McCain Backer, and High Time Too

by Philip Baruth

High time, too: the Wisconsin Democratic Party has replaced a national delegate for declaring her intention to vote for John McCain in November. The woman, Debra Bartoshevich, was a devoted Hillary backer until Clinton threw her formal support to Obama. Then Bartoshevich not only told reporters she would vote McCain, because Obama wasn’t fit to run the country, but allowed her name to be displayed on Johnny Mac’s website. A fairly big set of no-no’s.

The Wisconsin GOP’s view of the situation? It all demonstrates the “close-mindedness” of the Democratic Party.

Of course. And Minneapolis will no doubt be a haven of free choice this fall, with Republican delegates not just allowed to vote Obama or Nader or Barr, but celebrated for their independence and maverick sensibilities.

Look for Bartoshevich to have a small, but prominent speaking role at the Republican Convention. No joke. It’s made to order: she introduces Big Joe Lieberman, he introduces McCain, and everyone is all smiles in the City that Larry Craig Built.

July 27th, 2008

Terry McAuliffe Continues Reign of Terror

by Philip Baruth

Honestly, VDB has never had a great deal of respect for Terry McAuliffe. Back in the day, during the boom-boom years of the Clinton presidency, he was a driving force behind the worst sorts of commercialization of the White House: the renting of the Lincoln Bedroom was only icing on an extremely unappetizing cake.

And then, during the recent primary wars, he became a bizarre caricature of himself, with even more volume and even less conscience than ever before. Given all that, it’s difficult to take the man seriously, here in his post-primary rehabilitation phase. But if you have a minute, here’s an account of a meeting with some Virginia activists that’s worth a look.

Some nuggets: 1) the Obama campaign has opened 33 offices in Virginia, to McCain’s 1; and 2) McAuliffe is now pushing Governor Tim Kaine for VP, rather than the woman he touted endlessly as ready on Day One.

Keep in mind that for McAuliffe, it’s generally about McAuliffe, his (marketable) access to the Office in question. In this case, his support for Kaine suggests not only that Hillary’s name is off the table, but that McAuliffe would like to replace it with someone he sees as similarly approachable, and perhaps even more malleable. Given that McAuliffe lives near Falls Church, Virginia, and that Kaine is his home-state Governor, it all begins to make a certain slippery McAuliffian sort of sense.

Not to say that Obama should strike Kaine from his list. A Virginia pick wouldn’t hurt at all.

But anyone on the Short List at this point should be willing to sign a sworn statement that the only time Terry McAuliffe will ever, ever enter the White House will be for the Inaugural Ball, and then only if he’s managed to find work with a reputable caterer.

July 23rd, 2008

From the Department of Mixed Blessings: al-Maliki Validates Obama’s Iraq Policy

by Philip Baruth

Look, I’m as happy as the next guy to see the national finally move into the reality-based community. Really, I am.


In light of al-Maliki’s surprising statement of support for Obama’s foreign policy objectives in Iraq, more than a few A-list journalists have been forced to concede that McCain’s own position (occupation until whenever) is not simply untenable, but out of line with every government in the world, now including both Iraq and England.

The Post is fairly typical:

Obama’s analysis has been buttressed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders who, to the dismay of the White House and Sen. John McCain, his Republican opponent, have publicly agreed with his call for completing a U.S. combat withdrawal from Iraq in 2010.

The Post goes on to say that this leaves McCain and the GOP in “a difficult position.” My question would be: why?

When have facts on the ground ever disadvantaged the GOP, with the assured support of Fox and a host of other news outlets afraid of appearing overly pacifist in their coverage?

bush, as el diabloDid the debacle in Iraq cost Bush the White House in 2004? No, it cost the Democratic nominee his dignity, and his reputation for heroism.

That’s not to say that the GOP have such a tilted playing field this time out; all of the variables have changed. But the idea that al-Maliki’s embrace of Obama’s central foreign policy concept leaves the GOP without options is the worst sort of fantasy.

Because the pivot is childs-play to predict.

Just imagine that the factual record of the last 7 years is no barrier. Just imagine that al-Maliki, once our Mesopotamian Jefferson, is dropped from the Republican party list.

And you arrive at this solution: The Iraqis, up to and including al-Maliki, agree with Obama because they, like the Senator from Illinois, are in cahoots with radical Shiite terrorists.

Think about it. It’s going to be a problem in the heartland that some dark-skinned and ungrateful foreigner with ties to Iran supports Obama?

Don’t you believe it. If McCain and Bush and the rest of the GOP Keystone Kops have to destroy the reputation of the government they have so painstakingly propped up, in order to continue to occupy the world’s second-largest oil reserves indefinitely, they’ll do it in a heartbeat.

And then, the attack ad, titled “Convenient”:

(Narrator) “While the Surge in Iraq has been a stunning success, experts agree that political progress has lagged. Why? Nouri al-Malikia has deep ties to Iran’s fundamentalist regime, the same regime that’s threatened Isreal with nuclear weapons.” (Picture of Iraqi and Iranian leaders smiling together) “Now, al-Maliki has another friend: Barack Obama. Al-Maliki and Obama agree that after all our soldiers have sacrificed, the US should leave as quickly as possible, before democracy takes hold. Convenient, to say the least.” (Photo of Obama, getting on a plane and looking back with a single, hunted look) “John McCain says no: build on the surge, secure democracy, and deny the Iranians their fondest wish.” (Beauty shots of McCain, first the shot as a young man coming home, then with VP selection, standing firm)

Call me jaded. But they’ve done worse, and will do worse again.

July 21st, 2008

Entergy: Frequently Assbackward Questions

by Philip Baruth

When Entergy labels a set of questions “Frequently Asked,” especially on their Vermont Yankee website, they do mean frequently. For instance, the best question, not to mention the best particular phasing, of any FAQ ever frequently answered by any company anywhere:

Q: Why can’t a Chernobyl-like event occur at Vermont Yankee?

homer, x-ray

But for best question asked and answered, VDB gives the nod finally to this little gem, down near the bottom of the sequence:

Q: How does the federal government plan on storing spent fuel in the future?

A: The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 required the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to begin safely and permanently disposing of spent fuel from all commercial nuclear power plants no later than January 31, 1998.

Not to worry, Windham County. Apparently all of this was cleared up a good ten years ago, safely and permanently.

July 20th, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: In Excess of Civic Virtue, VDB Relocates to Sweden For Three Weeks; Selfless Act Hailed By Experts as “More Than Any One Man Need Do”

by Philip Baruth

When you click into VDB, you have a right to information, and not just cursory facts, but deep, in-depth reportage. So when we reported on the Swedish government’s passage of a disturbing package of anti-terror legislation a few weeks back, we knew that a single post could never do the issue justice. No way in hell.

We knew that, if we were to be true to our Ideal Blogging Vision, we would need to fly to Sweden personally, and speak truth to power.

In pidgin Swedish.

That explains the light blogging end of last week, and what may be spotty blogging for the next several weeks: VDB is now in Sweden, a little village called Tjuvkil, blogging from a tiny coffee shop on the rocky West Coast, Cafe Zanzibar (the only broadband for miles and miles). It’s not an easy gig, believe us. But damn it, that’s how committed we are to you, and your need to know.

Still available by email, as always. Still monitoring disturbing Vermont events 24/7, like the Douglas Administration’s comical lock-out of the newly created Vermont Yankee Safety Panel. Still blogging where possible.

Why? To repurpose Heston, they’ll have to pry the mouse from VDB’s cold dead hands before we stop bringing you the politics you crave.


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