January 30th, 2009

Liz Schlegel’s New Pitch to Save the Social Safety Net Is Just Like WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, Minus The Fake Orgasm, Of Course

by Philip Baruth

Usually don’t like Billy Crystal all that much, but we love the guy in When Harry Met Sally. Why? Mostly because of one exchange with Meg Ryan, in which Harry (Crystal) hits on Sally (Ryan), and then promises to let it lie when she rebuffs him. But of course he doesn’t. He hits on her again, almost immediately, and makes a virtue of it. “You see what I did? I didn’t let it lie. I said I would and I didn’t. I went the other way.” Maybe it’s VDB, but we’re always a sucker for folks who go the other way.

Like Liz Schlegel. Liz has had enough of the talk of drastic budget cuts at the state and local level, and the skittishness about raising taxes to protect the least among us. And so she’s gone the other way.

She’s put up a site advocating for higher taxes.

More precisely, “a targeted temporary tax increase to save the social safety net.” And she’s starting out with a petition, to try to make it clear to lawmakers that she’s not alone in her desire to pay a little more, to keep the budget knife off the necks of her neighbors.

It’s called Count Me In, and it’s here for the clicking.

Late Update, Monday, 7:10 am:

Liz’s signature count is up about 40% since we posted on Friday. Which is just not good enough, damn it. Hoping to double her Friday total by end of the work day on Monday. Or our name isn’t VDB. Little help?

Later Update, Tuesday, 4:41 pm:

Still not quite there, but damn close. Just 17 signatures away from the magic doubling of Friday’s totals. Got . . . to . . . blog . . . harder.

January 28th, 2009

Michael Goldfarb Explains The Sarah Palin Pick Using Jane Goodall, Mating Gorillas, And His Own EXTREMELY Large Brain

by Philip Baruth

Sometimes VDB can only wonder how a crack organization like McCain 2008 could possibly lose a national election. So much awesome strategic brainpower, brought to bear so very strategically and awesomely. Case in point: Michael Goldfarb, Deputy Communications Director, who blogged officially for the McCain campaign. In a powerful and hard-hitting interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, Goldfarb uses a Jane Goodall/Ape Sex metaphor to explain what he considers botched reporting on Palin.

Says Goldfarb, “When you have The New Yorker write a story about how Sarah Palin was selected . . . well, that was like Jane Goodall going in and writing about fucking apes mating in the jungle — they don’t know what’s going on.”

As we said, difficult to see how you could fail with a Communications Director so fluent in the metaphors of animal copulation.

Still, and here we get into VDB’s own particular areas of expertise, the metaphor of the anthropologist watching “fucking apes mating” does slide into a bit of ambiguity in the final clause, “they don’t know what’s going on.”

Suddenly the reader is confused: does Goldfarb mean that Jane Goodall/The New Yorker doesn’t know “what’s going on,” or does he mean that the “fucking apes” themselves don’t know what “the fuck” they’re doing? In other words, are the apes/McCain campaign actually mating or are they “fucking it up” beyond all repair somehow?

But of course, given Michael Goldfarb’s unimpeachable national cred and his rising star as a political strategist, we should probably assume that he means all of the above, that his seemingly off-the-cuff profanity-laced ape-sex metaphor is deliberately ambiguous and only seemingly crude and nonsensical.

Goldfarb, in a calculated display of rakish postmodern irony, suggests that no one, in politics, knows what the fuck is going on, or who is fucking whom.

Brilliant, Michael Goldfarb.

We look forward to your insightful press releases on behalf of Palin 2012, and whatever animal sex metaphors with which you choose to instruct us at that time.

January 28th, 2009

On the Funeral For Peter Freyne

by Philip Baruth

Wanted to make sure everyone got the word: Peter Freyne’s memorial service will be held this Thursday, the 29th, at Union Station. The event gets underway at 6pm. If there was anything that Freyne liked better than a party, it was a party packed with political types, from A-list to D-list, as we expect this wake to be. A good way to say Godspeed, one and all.

Peter Freyne
Freyne on the job, at Club Obama, September 2007

January 27th, 2009

Last Week on Vermont This Week

by Philip Baruth

If you missed Vermont This Week yesterday, technology delivers fast relief: Vermont Public Television has added a very slick media player that will deliver your thirty minutes of punditry in the blink of an eye. Just click this link, and voila! Instant panel of talking Vermont heads.

Stewart Ledbetter hosted Matt Gerien of News Channel 5, the Freep’s Terri Hallenbeck, and VDB, and we kicked around what needed kicking: the Governor’s budget address, the Inauguration, to tax or not to tax, etc. An excellent backdrop to your Lean Cuisine dinner this evening, if you can stomach talk of layoffs and Purple Tunnels of Doom. Good wholesome fun for the whole family, yes sir.

January 26th, 2009

The Inauguration, Part IV: The Blow-Up Bush Doll, And The Final Casting of Shoes

by Philip Baruth

The mail on the Inauguration keeps streaming in apace, but look people, we have to cut it off at some point. Bush is gone. Obama is in the House. Even Dick Cheney has taken to hawking commemorative shotguns and waterboards in late-night infomercials. And so we must move on as well.

So we leave the Inaugural coverage with this choice shot from Erik Filkorn, who braved DC and stumbled eventually upon this giant blow-up Bush doll, being pummelled with shoes. Shoes of all sorts, which were apparently left to rot there as a lingering monument to arrogance and incompetence.

One of the many things we’ll miss about the Bush Years: the shoe jokes. We’ll never see their like again, so we might as well take this opportunity to quote Danziger on the subject, one last time. Love the woof.

Late Update, 7:19 am:

We would extremely remiss, however, if we didn’t embed this killer video from the lens of Seven Days filmmaker Eva Sollberger. Impossible to capture the mood and the spirit of the Nectar’s Inaugural event any better than this. Just brilliant, Eva.

An Even Later “We Wish We Could Quit You, Inauguration” Update, 7:28 am:

Just have to pass on this really choice passage, in a long email from Bob Williamson, as rock-solid an early Obama supporter as you could hope to find, on his one regret:

“My one real regret came in the late afternoon of January 20th, when I saw Chicago Alderman Ed Burke walk by with his entourage of five guys. Burke was a real obstructionist when Chicago’s first African American Mayor Harold Washington ran the Windy City. This was the very time Barack was a community organizer on the South Side. I wish I had gone over to Burke and said: ‘Mr. Burke, I’m Bob Williamson. I used to live in Chicago. What a day, eh? I’d like to think Harold Washington’s smiling somewhere in heaven.’

“And even though I didn’t give him the needle, Burke will need to work with a President Obama. I smiled as I thought about that and Burke’s entourage of five and President Obama’s two million massed on the Mall. (I later heard that Colin Powell and Steven Speilberg sat next to each other at the Inauguration, with a view of the millions stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. Spielberg said to Powell: ‘That’s not computer generated. It’s real.’)”

January 25th, 2009

And Lion Shall Lie Down With Lamb, Even If Said Lamb Hath Worked For The Once-Menacing General Martha Rainville

by Philip Baruth

Narric Rome’s Vermont State Society event continues to haunt our inbox. Apparently the inauguration of President Obama has swept away the longtime suspicions that have divided the parties, and now Democratic lions are having cocktails with Republican lambs. A nice nostalgic shot: Andrew Savage, once the scrappy 2006 Communications Director for a would-be Congressman named Peter Welch, with Brendan McKenna, Communications Director for Welch’s then-arch-nemesis, Martha Rainville.

Tears are filling our eyes, and we can’t see the keyboard too good right now. Give us a second.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that McKenna got Savaged. No, back in the day, at the Brandon parade, both of these young men, encouraged by their profession to fight to the death with butter knives if necessary, laid down their weapons and came together in the spirit of, well, of the Brandon parade and gave a big clinch for the camera.

McKenna, Savage: Just Two Guys

But that was then, when both were still hoping to pull out a win, so of course each was stabbing the other with a shrimp fork behind their backs, out of the camera’s eye.

Not at the Vermont State Society party, though. Now they mean it, these two former combatants. For Bush hath hit the road, and all shall work in a spirit of harmony, regardless of ideology or personal interest.

At least for, like, the first three weeks or so.

January 23rd, 2009

That’s Why They Call It An Executive Order

by Philip Baruth

As George W. Bush liked to say, elections have their consequences. VDB’s favorite consequence thus far? Say goodbye to Gitmo, folks. Oh, and those “enhanced interrogation” methods too. History. Finis. At VDB, we feel like we’re eight years old today, and we just got that pony for Christmas that we’ve always wanted, for ages and ages.

January 22nd, 2009

The Inauguration, Part III: A First-Hand Account Lodged Pretty Comfortably Between Best And Worst-Case Scenarios

by Philip Baruth

Yet another account from the Inaugural, this time from longtime VDB-reader Bill Kehoe. Bill’s Washington story falls somewhere between the Purple Tunnel of Doom narratives and Jane Stetson’s major seating coup: by day’s end Bill is exhausted but exhilarated. — PB

Photos by Michael Smith-Welch

Dear VDB,

It was truly an amazing day.

On Monday I began to feel really guilty that I hadn’t somehow managed to arrange for my 11 year old son to be here with me to witness this moment. That guilt was quickly shed when I saw the length of the line we needed to stand in to gain entrance despite the fact that we had arrived at 7:30.

Just finding the back of the line was a challenge since our “yellow” line blocked the route of others trying to find the back of their “purple” line. There were a few points where we thought the line was never going to start moving.

Fortunately people were amazingly civil. We struck up conversations with those we stood next to. We traded jokes and stories of past events.


Amazingly, after an hour or so, the line did begin to move and we actually made it through the gates and the security scanners. But we were stopped once more, this time at Constitution Ave, since the Presidential motorcade was making its way to the Capitol.


At last, at 11:10, we found seats near the back of the seating area about 200 yards from the Capitol steps. We were close enough that I could see the speakers easily using a pair of average binoculars.

What struck me most about the event was this: normally in a speech of this magnitude, you’d have more applause and shouts of agreement, etc. But while Obama delivered his address, except for after a few particular strong points, the crowd was silent. We had waited so long for this moment, none of us dared to utter a word or move a muscle for the fear that we might miss a syllable. We had been starved of Presidential leadership and we knew that this was the moment it would be restored.


Nearly everyone around us stood up and started leaving immediately following Reverend Lowery’s benediction. But I wasn’t quite ready to leave, despite the fact that I needed to pee like never before. Eventually my sister and I began to stroll slowly towards the nearest exit area but we stopped to join a group who had congregated in front of a jumbotron to watch Laura Bush and the former president being escorted by Michelle and President Obama down the east steps of the Capitol to Bush’s waiting helicopter.


It was the definitive symbol of change in so many ways.

As Bush’s helicopter revved up its blades and eventually floated up and over the north wing of the Capitol and then directly over where we stood, people began to jump up and down and wave their mittens, hats and scarves in circles in the air. One gentleman next to me wept openly.


— Bill Kehoe

[Many thanks to Bill, and to his brother Michael for the killer photos in this post.]

January 22nd, 2009

The Inauguration: The Not So Blue Side

by Philip Baruth

As we said earlier, our mail from the National Mall has been mixed, with some ranting and some raving. Now to what can only be called the best-case scenario: Norwich’s own Jane Stetson, whose long-time work with the Obama campaign was recognized just a few days before the main event with an offer of some fairly decent seating.

That would be Jane, in the red coat, just below and to the right of Chelsea Clinton. More from Bill Stetson tomorrow, on their more or less incredible journey.

January 21st, 2009

Apparently The Partying Never Stops; Burlington Wine Bar Braces for Shap Attack

by Philip Baruth

You’d think that with Obama now the 44th President, we’d all stop drinking and raising money and carrying on. But no: apparently some Democrats feel that there are still fights to be fought, progress to be made, and wine to be uncorked. For anyone looking to sound out Speaker Shap Smith on his agenda for the coming session, you’ll get your chance tomorrow night. Why should you party on a Thursday? Because Selene Hofer-Shall says so. The details:

selene triumphant

Please join us for a reception
Honoring our new
Democratic Speaker of the House
Shap Smith

Thursday, January 22, 2009
5:30-7:00 pm
In the Wine Cellar of

135 St. Paul Street, Burlington
(Corner of Main Street and St. Paul Street)

Suggested Contribution:
Friends $25 Hosts $200
Contributions of any amount welcome
Proceeds benefit the Burlington Democratic Committee

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