December 16th, 2008

On This Matter Of Bush And Shoes

by Philip Baruth

Sometimes life comes pre-blogged. Something happens that is already, in and of itself, snark-enhanced. And in those cases, VDB is more or less at a loss, because the Great Scorekeeper seems to have anticipated us, and to presume to add even one additional punchline would be to seem somehow ungrateful. Still, readers will make demands.


Dear VDB,

No flying shoe commentary yet? I’d pay good money to see a flurry of airborne Sorels should Still President Bush show up in Vermont. Maybe that’s why he’s stayed away.


Honestly, other than watching the eighteen or nineteen times at this point, and calling friends and relatives and random strangers in distant states to laugh over it with them, we hadn’t thought about the incident too much. But it’s eerily reminiscent, once you do get to thinking about it, of Bush Senior’s victory lap in Panama, circa 1992.

The idea was to stir up memories of the 1989 invasion, to beam home pictures of a cheering Panamanian crowd, and so put the kibosh on the upstart Bill Clinton. But instead, shots were fired in or at the crowd of some 15,000, and tear gas was fired in response. Bush the Elder and Barbara were forced to flee to the motorcade, dabbing their eyes, surrounded by SS agents packing some extremely large semi-automatic weapons.

In both cases, Bushes found themselves the victims of their own myths, their own self-love. The New World Order turned out not to be so very new, or so very orderly.

But the best thing about the shoe-throwing video in VDB’s opinion? Take a look at Al-Maliki. This guy’s got balls made of spent uranium. Never moves a muscle during the trajectory of the first size 10. And during the second, he does so only to goal-tend for the American President, who is crouched behind his bullet-proof podium.


Two possibilities here.

One, that Nouri Al-Maliki understands the throwing of shoes. Been there, been beaned by that. Not worth flinching. The problem with this theory, though, is that Al-Maliki also lives in a neighborhood where people frequently throw bombs, bombs of all sorts, some disguised as everyday articles, like dogs and cell-phones and shoes. And the anxiety level has to be sky-high with the President actually standing in the room.

So the complete and utter cool begins to look just a tad unlikely.

Which leads us to our second possibility, and here we verge on the openly conspiratorial: maybe, just maybe, the guy had an inkling that someone might be tasting some shoe-leather at this particular presser.

Let’s remember that Nouri’s had more than his share of overbearing phone calls from the Oval Office over the past several years, and would no doubt like to offer his own goodbye kiss.

Either way, time to get out of Dodge.

December 15th, 2008

Let The Hundred-Year Feud Commence

by Philip Baruth

You have to love it when ordinarily crafty political rhetoricians just up and say exactly what they mean. From the Sunday shows, not ordinarily a showplace of candor:

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said, after the election, that Governor Palin has a bright future in your party. Does that mean that, if she does choose to run for president, she can count on your support?

MCCAIN: Oh, no.

December 12th, 2008

Dan DeWalt to Work Town Meeting Day Magic On a New Monolithic Foe: Entergy

by Philip Baruth

People think that Entergy corporate spokesbot Rob Williams has no fear, but people are wrong. Williams fears, for instance, that John Connor will come back in time and find a way to lure him into that same damn smelting plant where all Terminators, corporate and otherwise, eventually meet their horrific ends. And Rob Williams fears this: that the decommissioning movement will move beyond the activist Left and into the mainstream of Vermont life.

vermont yankee

And you know what? Judgment Day is here.

Dan DeWalt, the brains and drive behind the Vermont impeachment movement, has announced that he plans to do to Entergy what he did a few years back to George W. Bush: enlist an army of Town Meeting supporters to fight back.

What DeWalt has in mind is a common petition, one that a multitude of Vermont towns and cities could pass at their March Town Meetings; this, in turn, would drastically increase the pressure on the Governor and the Legislature to deal with Yankee’s immediate safety issues, and Entergy’s open attempts to evade responsibility for clean-up.

Oh, and the Resolution would call for the State to move aggressively in filling the gap presented by Yankee’s closing with renewable energy alternatives. In short, it would codify what recent polls consistently tell us is the will of the people.

Best of all, the Resolution, while straightforward, is measured and careful in its wording. Take a look:




We the undersigned registered voters of the town of ____________________Vermont, petition the selectboard to add the following resolution to the warning for town meeting, March 3, 2009.

“Shall the voters of the town of ___________request the Vermont legislature to:

1. Recognize that the 2% of our New England region’s power grid supply that is provided by Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant can be replaced with a combination of local, renewable electricity and efficiency measures, along with the purchase of hydro generated electricity, and excess power already in the New England electricity market;

2. Given the viable alternatives and the risks posed by continued operation, ensure that Vermont Yankee will cease operation in March 2012, after having completed its 40 year design life by not granting approval for operation of the plant after that date and by not determining that further operation will promote the general welfare;

3. Hold the Entergy Corporation, which purchased Vermont Yankee in 2002, responsible to fully fund the plant’s clean-up and decommissioning when the reactor closes, as the corporation pledged to do when it purchased Vermont Yankee.”


For anyone who’s followed the unsettling safety record of the Vernon plant these past few years, these three articles can only seem both sane and understated, if anything. But part of the flexible plan for this push is to allow individual towns to alter or amend the language, if doing so will increase the chances of passage.

And that’s got Rob Williams waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. Because Entergy’s greatest strength, up to now, has been the Northern half of the state turning a blind eye to one of the most pressing issues in the South.

But no more.

All of which is to say that we’re signing on to this effort, here and now, both to work the issue digitally and to stand up in person, three-dimensionally, on Town Meeting Day and try to push the issue in Burlington. Hope you’ll give it serious thought as well.

And if you’d like to reach Dan directly, here’s the digits:. Or via email:

You go, Mr. DeWalt.

December 10th, 2008

Tarrant Manager Flogging DUI Dodges (Now With Outraged Grammatical Update!)

by Philip Baruth

And speaking of epic political fails, what happens when you manage one of the most expensive and negative campaigns in modern Vermont history, and still lose by a horrific margin to Bernie Sanders? Ask Tim Lennon, now loose in the wilds of Wisconsin, selling imaginative legal defenses for those caught driving while intoxicated, e.g., the “Curve Defense,” which argues that your blood-level was legal while driving, but climbed just over the limit by the time you gave “blood, breath or urine.” Must-see video is here.

Tarrant/Tyrant Sign

Late Update, Thursday, 12:44 pm:

Apparently readers have been sampling the Lennon video, and finding it doesn’t agree with them, in more ways than one. Typical of the responses, this outraged grammatical analysis from Katie:

Dear VDB,

I read VDB almost every day and while I have considered commenting on some of your posts before, I have refrained, until this one. It may be pre-holiday crankiness, not wanting to do work or a general crankiness at the mention of Tarrant’s campaign, but this video feels like one sad step too far.

The grammatical error or at least awkwardness of Tim’s video introduction, “This Defense is strongest on lower level tests and were someone was with you to testify to the amount, type and time of the drinking” (Huh?), also seemed worth mentioning. I think he needs an editor if he is really going to make a go of this. Plus, if someone was with me during my intoxicated state maybe they could have offered to drive or call the cab. Or if they were more drunk than I, then maybe they aren’t the best witness. I am no lawyer, but this seems like some pretty sketchy logic.

So, while I now know that if I binge drink and then hop right into my car the alcohol might not have a chance to reach my blood stream or kidneys if I get stopped and tested by the police, I can’t help feeling like I am a bit sadder and maybe even dumber after having watched that video.

Maybe you need to add a warning to it — you may feel the need to drink, but not drive after viewing.

— Katie

December 10th, 2008

Joe the Plumber Details His Disgust For the “Appalling” Craven Creature That Is John McCain, And Coming From Joe The Plumber, That’s Really Saying Something

by Philip Baruth

Not since Gerald Ford’s attempts to curb inflation by asking Americans to don W.I.N. buttons (Whip Inflation Now!) has there been a more resounding and epic political fail than McCain’s late, desperate use of Sam Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber. Just days out from Election Day, McCain thought he had another game-changer in the burly, skinheaded unlicensed laboring man. What he had, of course, was a puffed-up, know-nothing, back-stabbing dittohead. Man, does VDB love this guy to death. Really.

Only days after the election, Wurzelbacher began the process of throwing McCain under the Straight Talk Express, but in an interview with Glenn Beck yesterday he finishes the job with style: apparently riding with McCain, the man he lauded and endorsed, made Sam/Joe feel “dirty” and “appalled” and he would have actually walked off McCain’s bus but for the horrifying prospect of an Obama Presidency.

And all of this Wurzelbacher calls “straight talk,” just to make it sting a little more.

So sure, Joe the Plumber is a nothing, and a fatuous, scheming nothing at that. He goes well out of his way, for instance, to rope in a comparison to Nazi Germany when talking about the incoming administation (”I don’t want to stir up a hornet’s nest”), because he clearly watches just enough Hannity and Colmes to understand that one Hitler reference is worth 10,000 sales on

Even so, we love this guy, and wish him a long happy shelf-life in GOP politics. His comments make clear that he’s hoping to reprise the “Joe the Plumber Tour” for Palin come 2012. And we’re all over that like white on rice.

December 9th, 2008

Danziger Bags Major Editorial Award

by Philip Baruth

Always nice when the good ones gets the goods: Vermont’s Jeff Danziger has received the Thomas Nast Award, for editorial cartoons in 2008. The prize is given each year to an American cartoonist and a German cartoonist. This year the German cartoonist selected was Rainer Schwalme of the Berliner Zeitung. Couldn’t be any more richly deserved.

December 9th, 2008

Impeachment Chickens Home to Roost

by Philip Baruth

Longtime readers will remember that while I opposed the Bush administration with every fiber of my being, I also argued that impeachment was the wrong course of action, practically speaking. Two major concerns prompted that stance: 1) that impeachment was one of the few things that might succeed in rehabilitating Bush’s poll numbers; and 2) the impeachment movement’s claims to speak for the Constitution itself were bound to be appropriated by the Right, if and when. Well, it’s now officially if and when.

Philip Berg, a Pennsylvania lawyer who sued to have Obama’s victory invalidated on the theory that Obama was not a natural-born citizen, held a press conference yesterday afternoon to protest the rebuff of his suit by the Supreme Court. One of the speakers offered the opinion that “Barack Obama is the most notorious criminal in the history of this planet.” You have to imagine that Pol Pot feels openly disrespected, wherever he is now.

Berg himself threatened to call a Constitutional Convention, if the legal establishment doesn’t give him redress. “The people must act as the final arbiters of the Constitution,” he added.

And this is before the Inauguration, mind you.

Expect much, much more of this sort of talk as Obama actually begins to govern. Then we’ll cover the ground between accusations of infanticide and accusations of genocide in a New York minute.

December 9th, 2008

Now He Tells Us: Episode The First

by Philip Baruth

In his preparations to exit what John Stewart once called “crazy base world,” George W. Bush has now a strict fundamentalist reading of the Bible. “You know, probably not,” the still-President responded when asked if the text should be taken literally. But he was quick to add: “I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty . . . . I do believe there is an almighty that is broad and big enough and loving enough that can encompass a lot of people.” Mysterious, indeed.

Apparently the Almighty is able to encompass even more people, now that His wayward Texas son will never face another GOP primary. And amen to that.

December 9th, 2008

Getting Out of Dodge Is Not An Option

by Philip Baruth

Announcer: With news that America has been officially in recession for the last year, Commentator Philip Baruth feels somehow as though he’s moving back to the very early 90’s, when the last serious down-turn began to ease, and he was lucky enough to land a job at the University of Vermont.

Notes From the New Vermont
Commentary #223:
When Getting Out of Dodge Is No Longer An Option

Back in the early 90’s, when America went through its last severe recession, I was living in a concrete Southern California town called Costa Mesa. Costa Mesa was a buffer zone between the upscale beachfront communities and grittier, largely Hispanic communities further inland.

And, as the buffer, Costa Mesa’s fortunes went up or down pretty quickly, depending on the overall shape of the economy.

One night I was headed to a party at a friend’s house, and I stopped my 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle at a red light. There were strip malls on either side of the street — this was California, after all — and I glanced over at the one on my left. If I remember right, there was a tax preparation service and a tanning salon, but I’m sure that at the end of the mall nearest my car there was a TCBY frozen yogurt store.

It was a little after 11 o’clock, and I noticed that the lights were on in the yogurt shop, which was odd: it closed at nine, and usually everything in that particular mall was dark by now. The front walls of all the stores were glass, and I could see someone moving around inside.

I would later tell the police that that someone looked like a guy, Caucasian, in jeans and a white t-shirt, around 250 pounds.

And then, while I watched, the man inside ran up to the front door and pushed against it hard. Finding no way out, he picked up a tall chrome stool, turned upside down on the counter for the night, and he smashed the glass door into a hundred million pieces.

The shards splashed out of the frame and onto the sidewalk. And then the alarm was shrieking, but the guy was gone, loping off into the darkness.

The street light I’d been waiting on turned green just then, and I considered flooring it and getting out of Dodge as quickly as possible — but I’d witnessed the whole crime, and the thief was gone, so I pulled into the lot to wait for the police.

Almost immediately, though, two young woman poked their heads out of the shattered front door, and looked around warily.

It turned out that one of the women was the manager of the store. She and her girlfriend had been driving by and seen the lights on, and she’d assumed she’d left the lights on earlier that night. And when the burglar heard the two of them opening the rear door, he’d left the quickest way he could.

The register was smashed open, but there was no loss: all the money had been deposited at the local bank hours before the robbery.

In short, the criminal was clearly a desperate first-timer, and he remains my strongest memory of that recession, the one that eventually swept Bill Clinton into the White House, promising to grow the economy.

I was hired the next year by the University of Vermont, and I moved to Burlington just as the economic crunch was easing and the 90’s boom beginning.

But now, fifteen years later, we’re headed back in time: the University has announced “an unprecedented shortfall” of 22 million dollars, and the prospect of freezes and layoffs to close it. No one knows, of course, how bad this current economy will get, or what any of us will need to do in response.

But I worry more, and so do my friends: we all have families now, and a lot more to lose.

To top it all off, I sold the Super Beetle when I moved to Vermont, so it seems that getting out of Dodge quickly is no longer an option.

[This piece aired first on Vermont Public Radio. Audio of the commentary is available here.]

December 5th, 2008

Upscale Texas Neighborhood Braces For The Coming Bush Family Shit-Storm

by Philip Baruth

The Smoking Gun has the get: first image of George W. Bush’s new hidey-hole down in Dallas. And quite a sprawling complex it is, too. If you look carefully, down near the very bottom of the photo, you can just make out the cute little pool-house where Alberto Gonzales will bunk, Kato Kaelin-style, so as to be on hand when The Boss starts hitting the sauce again and goes screeching out into his tony new Texas neighborhood, maddened by whiskey, remorse, and the sudden apparent rightness of Rachel Maddow’s world view.

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