August 16th, 2009

Obama Clearly Bagging Public Option; VDB Predicts Approval Rating Below 50% By Late September, And It’ll Be Very Well Deserved

by Philip Baruth

Your Healthcare Update In Sixty Seconds Or Less: Clearly the White House would like to signal that the battle on the Public Option has been fought and lost. Obama, Durbin, Sebelius, all of the Administration’s key health care types have moved publicly to the extremely minimal notion that anything that increases competition and coverage is Good. Anything at all. Which, we suppose, is Change, of an impoverished sort. But not Change We Can Believe In.

Our take: VDB opposes any plan going forward that omits a public option. Period. More to the point, we continue to actively support a single-payer pilot program in Vermont, to prove the concept and energize small business. Less politically viable, perhaps, but far more intellectually honest.

And that, as Baretta liked to say, before he shot his wife and beat the rap, is the name of that tune.

August 14th, 2009

Could The Proper Noun “Santorum,” Long Translated as “Latin For Asshole,” Soon Come To Mean “President” in The King’s English? Not If VDB Can Help It, Friends

by Philip Baruth

In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, even a passing brush with the Dark Lord or his minions has lasting consequences. A hobbit who manages to wound a Nazgul pays for that act with near-fatal fever, chills, and a strange sapping of the spirit. Bilbo, of course, demonstrates the long-term effects of such exposure: he lives a long, long life, but becomes thinner and less substantial all the while, until finally the Ring of Power claims him, long after he managed to rid himself of it.

And forever after, one wounded in this way by an Agent of Darkness feels his wound actually throb at the approach of any of Sauron’s forces.

So too is it with VDB, and Rick Santorum.

Whenever Santorum returns to the news, we can’t help but feel the wound from the battle we fought in 2006, lo these three years ago. It was a wound to the gluteus maximus, unfortunately, and to this day when Santorum surfaces in the news, we feel that same annoying pain in the ass we felt then. And it is a sobering pain, brothers and sisters.

For back in the day, VDB swore a blood oath: that we would do what was in our power to defeat Rick Santorum, before he could rise up and cast his long shadow over the nation itself. True, he was possessed of a honeyed tongue, glib in the sanctimonious ways of the Christian Right.

And he was supported by powerful allies, who funded his re-election campaign well.

But in the end, Santorum was defeated by 18 percentage points, and like the hobbits themselves at the end of their great adventure, VDB returned to a peaceful, sylvan existence, feeling that all was well now that the rightful King had returned.

All that ended yesterday, when the war wound began to throb, and that pain in the ass told us that Santorum was back in the news, this time out to fulfill the ancient dream itself: to capture the Presidency.

And in addition to the sudden and ominous chill in the war wound, we also read it in Politico, and received email from 13 separate individuals warning us of same.

Which is a lot of ominous, let VDB tell you.

Of course, Santorum demurs on the idea of a Presidential run. To hear him tell it, his much-touted trips to Iowa this fall will have to do only with a desire to refocus the communications of the GOP. Of course. And as a sample of his rhetorical mastery, Santorum offered this about his own Party:

“If you’re as irrelevant as we are, in many respects, in the House and Senate, there are not many voices that rise to the level of having anybody want to pay attention to you because basically you have no consequences.”

Truly frightening how effective this man is with his honeyed words. Shades of Saruman, really.

This will all Bear Watching, friends. Would we love to see Rick and Sarah hack clumsily at one another for six or seven months in 2011, before bursting sequentially into flames post-New Hampshire? Oh Lord yes. Are we willing to accept the .0004% chance that Santorum might rise from the ashes and become President of the United States?


And for that reason, we hereby reswear our previously sworn blood oath, to mock this man relentlessly, for his hypocrisy, his strategic use of religion, and his inherent and overpowering silliness. If that means that Santorum is forced to exit the race before the full weave of his smarminess can be unfolded and displayed nationally, so be it.

We will not shirk out duty. This VDB swears.

August 11th, 2009

An Early Heads Up: Baruth2010 Goes Live

by Philip Baruth

One of my central principles heading into the 2010 State Senate race was that readers of VDB would always be notified first of any major development. You’ve been following my take on the issues the longest; you’ve been powering VDB with your email and photos since the early days; and most recently you allowed us to break our First Quarter fundraising goals in record time. And it was that early show of financial support that allowed us to bring you today’s news:, the campaign website, is live as of this morning, at least in its first incarnation.

In another month or two, the site will evolve and become more functional, more interactive. But the idea for now was three-fold: to provide a landing page that would allow potential supporters to get an accurate feel for the campaign; to allow folks to begin signing up, if so moved; and finally, to provide semi-amusing video to kill the dull hours between lunch and that fake dentist appointment you “scheduled” to get out of work at 3 pm.

Along with the and VDB, this new State Senate page completes the basic triangular structure of the campaign’s electronic side. You’ll notice in the coming weeks that these sites will share some material but not all. It’s my hope that they’ll all prove useful, in their different ways, to those who wish the campaign well.

Love to hear your take on what we came up with, but please use the new campaign email address rather than the old stand-by: all campaign correspondence should go to .

And please join me in a round of thanks to those who spent part of the summer working on this electronic HQ: Kathy FitzGerald, the campaign photographer; Matt Goudey, videographer; Seth Drury and Mike Hannigan at Methodikal Design; and Jim Brayton and Neil Jensen, who actually built the thing from nothing.

Wonderful to work with such talented people.

August 11th, 2009

Memories Light The Corners of VDB’s Mind

by Philip Baruth

Just drove to work behind an aging beige Honda Accord, with a weathered bumper sticker that read in blue, “John Kerry & John Edwards 2004,” and then in smaller red letters above: “It’s Up To The Women Now . . . So Vote!” That secondary line was, of course, a reference both to the gender gap that was supposed to lift Kerry over the bar, and to John Edwards supposed charismatic influence on female voters. All of which seemed vaguely tragic and deeply ironic and undeniably trivial, at this point in the summer of 2009.

john edwards, thinking about how to spank McCain

August 10th, 2009

When You Think About It, Why Do Barack Obama And His Henchmen So Desperately Want To Kill Sarah Palin’s Baby, Trig?

by Philip Baruth

Sarah Palin, like George W. Bush, is one of those politicians who can grasp three or four political concepts, at a maximum. If you fired an unexpected question at Bush, he would hesitate, mentally consult his four basic notions, and offer a bland pass at the issue. Palin is no different. She learned, running for Vice President, that “freedom” is a wonderful thing in which to wrap your personal politics; “tyranny,” of course, works for the politics of others.

And she learned that her son with Down Syndrome made a wonderful political prop on the campaign trail — especially useful since the Rovian rap on Obama was to be that he was a “babykiller.”

Which is to say that Palin began to experiment with using Trig as something of a rhetorical club, as well as a visual prop.

Well, consider the experimentation phase over. Palin is no longer Governor, she’s looking to consolidate her position as Top Hockey Mom in the GOP, and health care is the issue of the day.

So VDB should have seen it coming: Obama’s health care push is bad for America, “evil” in fact, because it would essentially put Trig to death. No joke. Wrote Palin on her Facebook page:

“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”

Put aside that this concept of “death panels” has no bearing on the legislation. Put aside that it is entirely fabricated, because it is. Just look at the words themselves, the imagery.

This idea — that the fascist Obama is out to set up what amount to death camps, death panels, call them what you will — lies at the heart of everything the GOP has put into place over the last six months. Whether they’re talking about the census, or health care, or global warming, the Rump 28% of the Grand Old Party can’t resist talking about caging the unwilling and melting them down for candles.

It’s staggering, how quickly the standards of acceptable political discourse have changed.

And of course in its broad outlines this imagery meshes well with the general rhetoric of the anti-abortion movement, which has taken over the last ten or twenty years to comparing the practice of abortion to the Holocaust, and abortion providers to death camp wardens.

Equally staggering is how quickly Palin moved to define herself, post-Alaska, as a card-carrying, fire-breathing, stop-the-deathcamps Birther/Deather. Anyone who thought Palin II was going to be less ideological and more thoughtful can think again.

Because she’s only got the four thoughts, give or take, and one of them going forward is this: Say it loud, and say it with Trig.

August 7th, 2009

“On-the-Go” 90-Second Drug Test In Offing

by Philip Baruth

As you know, VDB’s tentacles run far and wide, even into the greater law enforcement community. And occasionally we get wind of things long before the general public, and we like to pass those things on to you for rumination. Case in point: the Philips Corporation has developed an “on-the-go drug test” device, that allows a police officer to test saliva for “cocaine, heroin, cannabis, amphetamines and crystal meth.” Essentially, you’re made to spit in a tiny black cup, and the results are available 90 seconds later. That’s right.

The measurement chamber apparently contains “magnetic nanoparticles coated with ligands that bind to one of five different drug groups, delivering color coded test results.” Which won’t, of course, be a problem for anyone in the VDB community, of course, which goes without saying. Better believe that, Jack.

Just putting it out there as a public service message, you know, for those to whom it might apply who don’t read VDB. If you see what we’re saying.

August 7th, 2009

Green Mountain Daily and House of Lemay Take Top Honors in 2009 Daysie Awards

by Philip Baruth

A long, sustained shout out to the folks at Green Mountain Daily, for picking up the readers’ choice award for Best Political Blog this year. Couldn’t have been any more well deserved, GMD folk. And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the ladies over at House of Lemay, who scored top honors in the Best Blog, Non-Political category. But how non-political can they be, really, when they lit up the Obama Inauguration party at Nectar’s like a thousand suns?

August 7th, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor Bests Sour GOP Minority, With No Small Hand From Pat Leahy

by Philip Baruth

The New York Times is reporting that Sonia Sotomayor has just been confirmed, and handily so: 68 in favor, 31 opposed. So first things first: congratulations Sotomayor and President Obama. Second things second: congratulations Pat Leahy, on a job masterfully done. And third things third: a lot of you 31 trash-talking Republicans, including John McCain, can now enjoy the fruits of your opposition, in the form of dwindling Hispanic support in your dangerously Purple states. Which means that, yes, everybody wins!

August 5th, 2009

National Press Omits Racist, Anti-Obama Aspects of PA Fitness Center Shooter’s Diary

by Philip Baruth

Two related news stories, one you couldn’t miss, and the other you almost couldn’t find: a gunman opened fire on a women’s exercise class last night at a fitness center in the Pittsburgh area, and this same gunman kept a diary filled with racist rants, some directed explicitly at President Obama. Again, coverage of the incident itself, including the fact of a diary, was all but universal; but only today did the folks at Editor & Publisher point out that the AP and others had ignored the clearly anti-Obama aspects of the diary.

Which was tough to ignore, frankly.

The diary itself begins the day after Obama was elected, when Sodini, the killer, wrote, “Good luck to Obama! He will be successful. The liberal media LOVES him. Amerika has chosen The Black Man.” This is followed by a long, thoughtful digression on why young white “hoes” prefer black men, rather than a “clean-shaven” white man with a “touch of cologne,” like Sodini himself.

How does the AP miss all of this?

It’s not a tough narrative to assemble, really, when all is said and done. Since Obama’s election there have been at least three mass shootings, in which killers have linked their actions explicitly to the President, to the President’s race, to a common set of racist and ideological hallucinations, that Obama is a baby-killer, that he plans to take our guns and use the census to herd us into camps.

We’ve seen this film before.

The Republican base, particularly in the South and the Midwest, was stung by Clinton’s election in 1992, and talk radio became the voice of their frustration and discontent. Limbaugh and Liddy and others began to idolize the “patriots” at Ruby Ridge, and speculate about the most effective way to kill federal agents.

And then, in 1995, we lost a Federal Building. And everyone in it. Including a daycare, a daycare Timothy McVeigh, a decorated Gulf War vet, toured before incinerating it.

Now in that case, race played a more limited role. McVeigh had strong ties to white supremacists, but their beef with Clinton was more generalized. With a black Democrat in the White House, the mix is as explosive as it’s likely to get.

So why did the AP and others pull back on one of the most pertinent aspects of the story?

Think about how much of the last two weeks has been devoted to the media’s ritualization of the coming combat between the parties on health care. We’ve been told that this is it, the moment everyone needs to throw down.

And the birther flap has been pushed to a high boil nearly simultaneously, with shouting matches on cable each and every day. Everyone senses that violence is just off-camera, waiting to take center stage, but no one wants to admit it.

Why? To do so would be to risk being perceived as taking sides, something traditional journalists are still loathe to risk.

Any attempt to report out the truth of last night’s murders — that this was a self-loathing loner pumped up by ugly rhetoric about “the liberal media” and the black man in the White House — would almost certainly lead to howls on the Right, as well as accusations that the media was in the tank not only for Obama, but for the policy questions being fought out in town halls nationwide.

The national media, on first blush, didn’t want to risk it. And it’s easy enough to pass over the weird rantings of the Tea Baggers and the Birthers and the Nobama types. They don’t look like much of a threat, for all their bile. But they are.

One last note from 1995. After McVeigh was captured, President Clinton called for the “tagging” of explosives, to make tracing a bomber easier for law enforcement. The GOP eventually shot the proposal down, arguing that it infringed upon the rights of American citizens. The right to bear explosives, as it were.

So don’t let anyone tell you we learned our lesson after Oklahoma City. We didn’t. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

August 5th, 2009

Second-Q Profits, and Sage Zen Wisdom

by Philip Baruth

Riddle VDB this: who would even think about buying the aging Vermont Yankee nuclear plant when the costs of decommissioning and clean-up are rising every day, and Entergy’s profits from its reactors fell 44% in the second quarter? Answer: only Entergy itself, or rather a disastrously undercapitalized spin-off, which will do so because it makes sense not for the spin-off, but for the Mother Ship. Or expressed as a zen koan: what is the sound of one hand doing both the buying and the selling? Answer: Silence.

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