January 21st, 2009

The Inauguration: The Blue Side

by Philip Baruth

The Free Press has a couple of pieces up on the Inauguration ceremonies now, and one has a slightly odd quality. It’s slugged, “Vermonters Say Trip ‘100% Worth It,’” followed by the sub-head, “No Regrets For Residents at Obama Inauguration.” Now, you don’t have to think about it too long to realize that running a story about how much folks don’t regret something suggests that there might, in fact, be reasons for niggling regrets. Not major regrets. Niggling.

The mail here at VDB has been decidedly mixed: Vermonters who made it to their seats, or a grassy knoll with a view, and a good number of others who couldn’t budge in the security lines, no matter how early they showed, who couldn’t get their promised tickets, and wound up abandoning the effort at the last minute to watch the event on television, in order to avoid missing it altogether.

Dear VDB,

I was feeling pretty plucky at 6AM when we got seats on the Red Line Metro and also at 7AM when we arrived at The Blue Gate. Needless to say things went WAY south after that. Two plus hours standing in the freezing cold and our line had moved barely 100 feet. The dozen or so security screening stations were moving at a snail’s pace and the truly BLUE crowd, which stretched for probably a quarter mile in two directions and was 4-6 across, was getting hypothermic and worried.

At about 9:45 we decided to abandon the Blue Gate and head for the general admission Mall to ensure we actually got to see the Inauguration we’d traveled so far to participate in.

In the end we barely made it to a patch of trampled brown grass on frozen ground just to the south of the Washington Monument. We were able to see (sort of) and hear (intermittantly) the formal ceremony. By that time (11:45) we were pretty tuckered even for hardy Vermonter’s used to the cold. Needless to say, next time, I will stay in Vermont and gladly give away my VERY blue tickets.


Not to knock the event or the staging; it was a logistical nightmare, and the organizers brought it off without major disruption. But we’ve had eight years of vigorous massaging of the truth. Nothing wrong with admitting that at least here and there, the facts on the ground were less than ideal.

Late Update, 12:17 pm:

The Washington Post goes there. They lay out what they call the “Purple Tunnel of Doom,” which thwarted many Blue and Purple ticket holders.

January 21st, 2009

OBAMA INAUGURATED; Capacity Crowd of 300 at Nectar’s, With 200 Turned Away

by Philip Baruth

Happy New America, friends. Today is one of those days when deeds won’t wait on words, and VDB has been moving from one Inaugural event to another all day, with one more in the hopper before lights out, late this evening. Which is to say that we’ll write up the Nectar’s Viewing Event tomorrow, once things slow down and the images trickle in.

But we thought we’d leave you with the take-away now: Obama was Inaugurated; Dick Cheney was rolled out in a wheel-chair, as though his cumulative guilt had suddenly become too much for his joints to bear, and righteously booed by the crowd at Nectar’s; that gravy-fry eating, SRO crowd at Nectar’s was somewhere north of 300, with 200 or so sent to the overflow location at City Hall; and in addition to the indefatigable folks at Democracy for America, the League of Drag Queen Voters was out in force, represented here by the lovely Amber, living proof that Change has come to America. God Bless Us, Everyone. More tomorrow.

Late Update, 5:49 pm:

And Amber is first in with a photo journal, over at the House of Lemay. See all the digital goodness here.

January 16th, 2009

Poor Vermonters in DC for Inaugural Attempt to Console Themselves By Throwing “Party” Full of So-Called “Fun” (Now With Digital Sour Grapes Update!)

by Philip Baruth

Come Tuesday Inauguration time, Nectar’s in downtown Burlington will be the party to end all parties. DFA has been chasing down individual Vermont voters in blind alleys and tattooing the time and date on the smalls of their backs, and so turnout will be vast. But what about those less fortunate than we? Let’s not forget the misery that is their lives.


As we celebrate here, we should remember that some poor schlubs, through no fault of their own, will be in DC, trying to view the event with their own two pitiful human eyes. These sad folk will need to tell their grandchildren the truth, that they missed the legendary 2009 Inaugural Viewing Party at Nectars because at the time they thought somehow that being on TV would be better than watching it on TV.

Those sad misguided star-crossed urchins. But here’s something to ease the pain. If you find yourself in DC this weekend, you’re invited to The Vermont State Society’s Inaugural Bash, Sunday night, 8-11 pm.

Narric Rome, the Society President, writes the following in a desperate attempt to make DC seem on a par with upper Main Street in Burlington: “The event will take place in a beautiful venue adjacent to the Capitol. While the temperatures in DC may be in the mid-thirties, hearty Vermonters will be sure to enjoy the venue’s roof top while taking in one of the most memorable views Washington has to offer!”

Narric Rome, you sad self-deluded patriot.

Oh, and apparently the event will feature live music, cocktails, the entire Congressional delegation, and free Vermont Teddy Bear Obama Bears, yeah, yeah, yeah. Anything to ease the sting of Washington DC at Inauguration.

But if you absolutely need to be there rather than here, Narric can fix you up with tickets to this so-called swanky ball. Go to the Vermont State Society website, and tell them you’re screwed and have to be in DC, and they’ll make it happen, such as it is.

Oh, and “have fun” experiencing the whole thing in three painful and laborious dimensions. Wouldn’t want to be you for ten million bucks.

Ten million euros, even.

Late Update, Monday, 5:58 pm:

Just as we suspected, the Vermont State Society party was packed with a whole lot of terminally bummed out folks wishing they were in Burlington. For one thing, the so-called “view” was hardly on a par with what you’ll catch out the street-level windows at Nectar’s tomorrow.

Okay, one second. I’m guessing that white glowing thing in the background is maybe the dome of some government building, which is sort of cool, but if you’ll recall, the courthouse is directly across the street from Nectar’s, so it’s a wash as far as the view is concerned.

And okay, maybe the guest list was a tad more buffed out than ours will be tomorrow. Not sure precisely who all these folks are, but if they’re hanging with Andrew Savage, you can assume they’re somebody who knows somebody.

Narric Rome, left, visibly pining for gravy fries, attempts to look pleased with his surroundings

But that’s it, Narric Rome: a nice view and a drop-by from Andrew Savage. You call that a party to rival the Nectar’s Inaugural Viewing Event? It is to wish.

[Thanks to Mark Vogelzang for documenting this plucky attempt at simulated out-of-state inaugural “fun.”]

January 15th, 2009

How Do I Live Without You (George)?

by Philip Baruth

Announcer: George W. Bush is scheduled to leave the White House on the 20th of January, by helicopter, and no one will miss him more than the nation’s political satirists. Commentator Philip Baruth, for instance, is already in mourning. Here’s Philip.

Notes from the New Vermont
Commentary #225: How Do I Live Without You (George)?

Okay, President George W. Bush is now in the last weeks of his Presidency, and if everything goes according to schedule, he will board a helicopter on the afternoon of January the 20th and that chopper will disappear into the sky, and this man who has been the cause of so much early twenty-first-century ruckus will fade from the national scene, never to be President ever again.

I say if because there’s still a remote chance that Dick Cheney’s legal counsel will argue that the President is not, in fact, a part of the Executive Branch, and therefore not subject to the need to stop being President.

But as I say, that’s an outside possibility. There’s at least a 75% chance that Barack Obama will be able to wrest the Oval Office from George Bush, when push comes to shove. And if he does, Bush will be History.

bush, in denialAnd for those of you out there who are, like, cheering and high-fiving your radios, let me say this about that: be careful what you wish for, because it just might come true, and then political satirists like me will lose the best thing we’ve ever had — the Mother of all Meal Tickets, the best thing since sliced bread, if sliced bread were really, really easy to make fun of.

People talk about Bush’s talent for being the butt of the joke as on a par with Dan Quayle, but Quayle was never really in Bush’s league.

Bush’s ability to be the butt of the joke — his “buttability,” to use the technical satirical term — is really unmatched in modern political history.

Why? Well, like Quayle, there has always been something unavoidably second-banana about George W.

Sure, he was the President, but he never seemed to escape the sense that he was at the mercy of those who had actually read the briefing books. But the genius of Bush — in terms of maintaining buttability — is that he joined that second-banana quality with a broad, sweeping, systematic attempt to deny and revise reality.

bush, rose garden

Early on in Bush’s first term, an anonymous senior advisor told the New York Times that Bush and his people didn’t need to inhabit “the reality-based community” because they were out to create their own more pliable reality from scratch.

And those two qualities — Bush as second-banana and Bush as All-Powerful Decider of Reality — combined to produce comedy gold. Shock and Awe, during the Bush years, always turned out to be well shy of awesome.

Except for joke writers, like me.


So I’m not going to lie about it: I’m going to miss you, George W. Bush. [Softly cue up “How Do I Breathe Without You?” by LeAnn Rimes] Your funny little ways, the way you fall off a Segway, the way you crouch down to duck a shoe. The things that happen to you, only to you, like the time with the pretzel or when your Vice President shot that guy. They were good times . . . [Breaks down a bit, as music swells] I told myself I wasn’t going to choke up. Yeah, right. [Mock anger to cover the emotion] Now go on, get out of here you big lug, it’s over. We’re going to find someone new to talk about on Letterman. We don’t need you anymore. You’re not the only comedy gold in the river, you hear me, George? [Breaks down completely; music plays out.]

How do I live without you
I want to know
How do I breathe without you
If you ever go
How do I ever, ever survive
How do I
How do I
Oh, how do I live

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

January 14th, 2009

A Brief History of the Historic Role of Nectar’s In the Historic Campaign of Historic President-Elect Barack Obama

by Philip Baruth

With the exception of the Euro Cafe on Lower Main, no venue in Burlington partied harder or more often than Nectar’s (and its upstairs counterpart, the Metronome) in the attempt to elect Barack Obama. We mean nobody.

the metronome

Back during the primaries, when the Clinton and Obama camps were locked in an ongoing death-struggle, and it suddenly mattered when and whom Democratic officials chose to endorse, Neil Jensen and Mary Sullivan and others put together an event called Club Obama, with the idea of showcasing at least one important endorsement.

But like all early Obama events, it vastly exceeded expectations: not just one prominent official endorsed, but three, and the overflow crowd ate it up.

jeb spaulding
State Treasurer Jeb Spaulding

Peter Clavelle
Mayor Peter Clavelle

Bill Sorrell
Attorney General Bill Sorrell

The media

That was September, 2007. By late February 2008, Obama had taken Hillary Clinton’s best punch, and some wild-eyed Obama advisors were claiming that Math itself would deliver their candidate the nomination. But more than a few pundits thought it likely that the Clintons would blackjack their less-experienced rivals in the race for super-delegates.

How to offset the influence of entrenched party insiders? Enter the youth vote, whipped up locally by folks like Dana Jokela.

Dana produced an event at Nectar’s called Jam For Change, mixing contemporary jazz and rock with inspirational video and hardcore grassroots organizing.

You had the sense, at Jam for Change, that for once your central twin impulses weren’t at war with one another: the need to drink beer and listen to loud music suddenly aligned with the need to end the War and stop the waterboarding down at Gitmo, and all was right with the world.

True, segments of the crowd were a bit sketchy, to say the least. But even the sketchy were Sketchy for Change.

And now, here it is in late January, 2009. Barack Obama will be sworn in this Tuesday noon, which means that there is one last chapter in the Nectar’s/Obama saga yet unwritten: the Democracy for America and VDB will be co-hosting said event beginning at 10 am on the 20th, and the folks at Nectar’s are looking to make this big. We mean big.

Maybe even yuge, to use the technical Bernie Sanders term. Word on the street is that there will be bunting.

That’s right. Bunting.

So come join us, in three dimensions, to watch this guy put his hand on the Lincoln Bible. Democracy for America will be there in force, and they say that from the rooftop of Nectar’s, just as George Bush boards Marine One to be choppered out of DC, you’ll be able to hear the entire state of Vermont cheering, faintly, from Derby Line to Dummerston.

January 14th, 2009

VDB Readers, In Addition To Being Slightly More Attractive Than Those of Other Blogs, Can More Or Less Read The Future Too

by Philip Baruth

Look, we don’t want to make it seem as though VDB’s readers can do no wrong but back on December 23rd, when the Rick Warren push-back was raging, Jill wrote in to suggest that Obama should hook up openly gay bishop Gene Robinson for the Inauguration ceremonies, thereby wedging Warren himself between a rock and a hard-Right base. Well, done deal: Robinson is now on the bill, and apparently Jill is the person to go to for all future Powerball picks. Word.

January 13th, 2009

Meghan Vows To “Do Bike Week Right”

by Philip Baruth

Some days the nostalgia in this business is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Take, well okay, take today for instance: Chris Stewart, one of our favorite ex-Rainvillians, who started a blog in New Hampshire when Martha’s campaign tanked, then left the blog to found his own consulting firm, has now resumed blogging, and one of his first posts is a brief sit-down with Meghan McCain, failed Presidential candidate McCain’s infamously perky blogger daughter.

Best nuggets? On Sarah Palin: “Sarah Palin is the only part of the campaign that I won’t comment on publicly.” We hear you, Meghan, and we too say that stuff only in private.

And of course this snippet, which demonstrates the continuing profound misunderstanding the McCains have of Sturgis, and biker culture generally. You’ll remember that McCain more or less offered up his wife for the event’s wet t-shirt contest, and now Meghan continues in this sweet pandering tradition:

“In between visiting family and friends, I’ve been learning how to ride a motorcycle. I was inspired by Bikers For McCain and want to go back to Sturgis next year and do bike week right.”

Do bike week right. Got it. A wink’s as good as a nod to a blind bat, as the Monty Python boys would say.

January 13th, 2009

Wonder What Senator Rich Tarrant Would Have Said (Now With Intensely Satisfying, Folds Like a Cheap Suit Late Update!)

by Philip Baruth

Full props to Bernie, for keeping an eagle eye out for creeping historical revisionism, which is all around us as Bush heads for the exits. The caption beneath Bush’s portrait in the Smithsonian, newly hung, currently makes mention of “the attacks on September 11, 2001, that led to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Bernie’s take? “The notion . . . that 9/11 and Iraq were linked, or that one ‘led to’ the other, has been widely and authoritatively debunked.” And Bernie calls in a snarky way for the caption to be substantially rewritten, which is pretty much all VDB asks of our Senators, really.

The portrait in question

Intensely Satisfying Late Update, Tuesday, 9:20 am:

Rarely does VDB get this much satisfaction this fast: the Smithsonian has already responded to Bernie’s letter, and it’s fair to say that they’ve folded like a cheap suit. A very polite cheap suit, but still. Sanders’s office received the following letter under the official Smithsonian seal:

Office of the Director
January 12, 2009

The Honorable Bernard Sanders
332 Dirksen Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Sanders:

Thank you for your letter of January 7, 2009, regarding the label which accompanies the National Portrait Gallery’s recently acquired portrait of President George W. Bush.

Our label was not intended to imply that there was a causal connection between the attacks that occurred on 9/11 and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Iraq. Our intention was to remind viewers of the portrait that the listed events were defining episodes in the Bush presidency, within the limited space of an object label. I appreciate your concern, however, about the words “led to.” We will revise the label and delete the words “led to.” I would welcome the opportunity to escort you on a personal tour of the National Portrait Gallery, and will call your office in hopes that we can arrange that.

Thank you for your interest in the Smithsonian Institution.


Martin. E. Sullivan
Smithsonian Institution
National Portrait Gallery

January 12th, 2009

Plumber Works Magic on “Israel People”

by Philip Baruth

Bad news, folks: Joe the Plumber has arrived in Israel in his new capacity as war correspondent, and his first dispatch is so terse and potent and hard-hitting that the Electoral College has recalculated the November results in light of it, making John McCain your new President-elect. Damn! Joe discusses “quick showers” and the uncommon goodness of the “Israel people,” among other flashes of brilliance. VDB feels so deeply ashamed to have mocked this man, so sharp and incisive are his words, some of which are formed into questions. You too will weep with contrition. Seriously.