February 27th, 2010

Let The Endorsements Continue: Ward 2, Joint Kranichfeld/Berezniak Edition

by Philip Baruth

No way to know where the energy will gravitate in any given election cycle, which of a handful of Burlington City Council races will heat up or cool down. This time out? Ward 2 is well worth watching, for several reasons. First, Bram Kranichfeld, a criminal prosecutor with the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s office, is stepping into politics for the first time. Kranichfeld’s specialty is the Drug Court, and how to deal with the web of problems around addiction.

Prosecutors tend to do well with voters, because they don’t have to struggle to convey strength on crime and security issues. But like T.J. Donovan, Bram represents a nice mix of tough-on-crime and drug treatment expertise. Killer combination. [Bram pictured left; Erin right; good dog below.]

Add to that his first-hand experience with zoning, taxes, municipal bonds and finances, and you’ve essentially engineered the ideal city councilor.

Why else is Ward 2 currently too hot to handle? Someone is trying to tank Councilor Dave Berezniak’s excellent shot at re-election.

Berezniak sent out a press release today, saying that an “aggressive and rude” male caller has been calling around the Ward, posing as an obnoxious Berezniak supporter, with the obvious aim of turning off otherwise sympathetic voters. And that ain’t cricket, no matter the candidate. But in this case, it couldn’t happen to someone who deserves it less: Berezniak has been one of the quiet forces behind providing free wireless in Burlington’s downtown area. A wonderful idea, and one which should be a no-brainer, but isn’t, unfortunately.

Painfully ironic, that last line, given that VDB is currently typing over the free wireless network that Brattleboro provides throughout their own downtown.

In any event, watch Ward 2. And if you vote there, we heartily endorse both Bram and Dave Berezniak: both what City Councilors should be.

February 26th, 2010

If You’ve Been Following This Campaign From the Southern End Of The State, We Are Now Homing In On Your Coordinates

by Philip Baruth

Where do you go to celebrate the historic vote to shut down Vermont Yankee yesterday? And where do you go to game out a way to counter Entergy’s inevitable comeback narrative (we fixed the pipes, we fired the suits, we come bearing cheap power, we’re sorry and tanned and ready to give you twenty more years of megawatts)? The place where the movement began: the Southern end of the state.

Brattleboro, to be exact.

So just a reminder about tomorrow for the Southerners among you: the State Senate campaign will be headed to Brattleboro tomorrow morning, February 26, for a celebration and fundraiser at the Flat Street Brew Pub (6 Flat Street), from 4-6 pm.

That’s Flat Street Pub, 4-6 pm, 2/26. We’ll also be doing the entire Live and Local show with talk-giant Steve West tomorrow from 9 to noon. Which means we’ll be getting up tomorrow morning . . . just a few minutes before we fall asleep.

See you at Flat Street. Bring friends. Aloha.

February 24th, 2010

Oh, Yeah, VDB In The (State) House: Limited Liveblogging of the Yankee Relicensing Senate Debate and Battle Royal

by Philip Baruth

Sitting outside the Senate Chamber now, listening to the opening procedural movement on the Yankee licensing question. Quick atmospheric details: the State House is aswarm with anti-VY folk, all sporting bumblebee black and yellow badges with “Retire” in big letters. Demoralized Entergy lobbyists gathered, drooping and disconsolate, beneath the huge oil painting of the Civil War. Everywhere a symbol. More soon.

February 23rd, 2010

“No on Yankee” Tour Hits Winooski

by Philip Baruth

What to do on the eve of the State Senate’s historic vote on relicensing Vermont Yankee? If you’re Jim Douglas or Jay Thayer, you’ll be hunkered down in a dark living room, phone disconnected, watching old reruns of “Matlock” and binging on chocolate pretzels and Rocky Road ice cream. If you support retiring the plant on schedule, do something more productive: join us in Winooski tonight at 7 pm, for an informative, high-energy panel on the Yankee question.

Where? The O’Brien Center, 32 Mallets Bay Avenue, Winooski. VDB will be in the house, as will Senate President Shumlin and a cast of political heavies. [This event will also be fully Gundersenized, with both Arnie and Maggie on hand for maximum tag-team expert action.]

February 22nd, 2010

Douglas Firmly Embraces Nothingness

by Philip Baruth

In advance of this week’s vote on re-licensing Vermont Yankee, Jim Douglas sought to set expectations. Last Thursday, in fact, he set expectations at precisely zero: “It’s important to talk about what this vote means. In a word: nothing.” What the Governor apparently meant is that a State Senate in the not-too-distant future could always reverse this week’s decision, whatever it may be. True.


And too, Douglas went on to forecast litigation, directly implying that if the State wants to avoid a crippling lawsuit, it should simply cede Entergy what Entergy wants, and be done with it.

But that word nothing is haunting.

The implication is that no one can match the power of the Governor and Entergy working in concert. No one, and no thing. Not Senators, not voters, not no one.

And in that light, it’s interesting to consider this: in April Yankee is scheduled to install new fuel rods at a cost of millions, fuel rods that last about 4.5 years and which cannot be transferred once installed. Almost as though the 2012 relicensing issue didn’t exist.

Very much business as usual.

Both Yankee and Douglas seem very confident that this particular can will continue to be kicked down the road for a very long time. Both seem confident of a more pliable Senate and a properly biddable Governor going forward.

And let’s face it, friends, only vast amounts of money breed that sort of confidence, especially in the wake of the safety failures of the last several years.

Still, it’s breathtaking when the Governor himself comes out and says it out loud, in front of God and everyone. When he says that the voter’s most powerful representatives in Montpelier have no power whatsoever, given the current state of corporate play.

Absolutely breathtaking.

February 22nd, 2010

Shots From the Trail: Charlotte Edition

by Philip Baruth

There are a lot of beautiful things about campaign house parties. One, because all of the guests have been invited by someone who is both your friend and an avid supporter, everyone acts as though you’re making sense when you do the living room pitch. Two, you get to attend parties but do none of the vacuuming before or after. And three, you find yourself in some of the most gorgeous spots in the County.

My good friends Mary Lou and John used to live in Burlington, and then they decided to teach their daughter how to ride competitively.

And before they knew it, they were living in Charlotte with a stable full of very sweet and very eccentric horses. Their path in life is now my 1o-year-old daughter Gwendolyn’s vision of utopia.

And Mary Lou and John brought together a crowd of wonderfully social and warm friends for the party. They all listened very politely to my spiel. And then, suddenly, without warning, we segued into the Question and Answer Session Without End.

Usually, you talk for ten or fifteen minutes, and then folks ask questions for another twenty or so. And then everyone returns to grazing the food table for cheese and homemade chili. But not at this party. No. These were people who’d thought deeply about the issues, and had developed some thorny questions over the years.

And so we had maybe an hour and twenty minutes of Q/A. It was like setting out for a quick jog to the mailbox, and suddenly finding yourself enmeshed with a pack of elite runners out for a 15k.

We did single-payer, public option, decommissioning, school budgets, childhood obesity, generational poverty, the creative economy, universal broadband, socioeconomic integration, and everything in between.

And it was a ton of fun. The sort of fun that only engaged political conversation, and a great host-hostess team, can provide. Many thanks to Mary Lou and John. May your horses never fail you, and vice versa.

February 19th, 2010

Case Closed On Anthrax Letter Killer

by Philip Baruth

Federal authorities will announce shortly that the case against the mailer of those post-9/11 anthrax letters, including the “Leahy Letter” targeting Pat Leahy’s office, has been closed. The FBI is confident that they found their man last year, a military researcher named Dr. Bruce Ivins.

leahy letter

Of course, Ivins was dead when they reached him, an apparent suicide. Suicide by Tylenol, in fact. Which ties a wonderfully neat bow around a case that threatened to reach into the murkiest layers of the US bio-weapons establishment.

If you want to read our interview with Pat Leahy of a few years back, in which he talks candidly about the case, it’s worth a lunch hour.

February 18th, 2010

State Senate Campaign Headed To Beautiful Downtown Brattleboro For Brew Pub Fundraiser And Yankee Nostalgia Fest

by Philip Baruth

Back before the cooling tower collapse, back before the Democrats took back Congress and Bernie jumped to the Senate, I began doing a weekly spot on WKVT in Brattleboro with talk-giant Steve West. We talked about a lot of things every week, but always we talked about Vermont Yankee: the latest safety outrage, the best ways to move opinion statewide. The callers to the show, among them activist Dan DeWalt, came to seem like family. So with the Yankee decommissioning vote scheduled for next week, it seemed like a good time to throw a party in Brattleboro. Right.

So the State Senate campaign will be headed to Brattleboro on Friday, February 26, for a celebration and fundraiser at the Flat Street Brew Pub (6 Flat Street), from 4-6 pm.

That’s Flat Street Pub, 4-6 pm, 2/26. All help getting the word out is much appreciated.

Steve West and Dan DeWalt will be helping to host the event, along with Frederic Noyes and Chad Simmons. Rumor has it that tritium and tonics will be on special, and we’ll pass the hat once everyone gets a few million pico-curies under their belt.

Hope to see you there.

February 16th, 2010

Susan Beard Stages “Voices From Chernobyl”

by Philip Baruth

Longtime VDB-reader Susan Beard took a long look at the Vermont Yankee radiation situation, and decided to stage her own production of “Voices From Chernobyl” down Rutland way. You can’t get any more affecting than this particular play, and you can’t get any more wonderful than Susan, so we highly recommend attending if you happen to be free that afternoon. — PB

Dear VDB,

In 2005, Svetlana Alexievich wrote an award-winning book called Voices from Chernobyl, which was a compilation of interviews she did with survivors of the 1986 nuclear power plant melt-down in Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Between 2001 and 2003, playwright Spencer Smith of Burlington was in the Ukraine as a volunteer with the Peace Corps and saw the effects of radiation poisoning first hand. After a second visit to the area in 2006, she decided to adapt portions of Svetlana’s newly-translated book into a play.

Since the Vermont Legislature must vote soon about whether or not to extend Vermont Yankee’s operating license, it would seem prudent for all of us to know much more about the longterm effects of radiation in the event of more serious failures at our own nuclear plant.

There will be a free performance of the play “Voices from Chernobyl” for the Rutland area on Saturday afternoon, February 20, 2010, at 2:00 PM. It will be held on the second floor of the Rutland Free Library in the Nella Grimm Fox Room, 10 Court Street, Rutland.

Due to the disturbing nature of the play’s subject matter, it is NOT recommended for anyone younger than high school age. A question and answer period will follow, led by Jake Stewart of New England Coalition.

susan beard, super-reader
Susan and I saying hello at the Hamburger Summit.

Parking is available next door in the main lot of the Grace Congregational Church. There is an elevator in the library for those who cannot climb the stairs. For additional information, click on the link above and then click on Calendar, or e-mail , preferably BEFORE February 20!



February 16th, 2010

Romney Attacked On Plane For No Good Reason

by Philip Baruth

So Mitt Romney was attacked on a plane yesterday, coming back from the Olympics. As in another traveler tried to hit him. News reports say that Mitt simply asked the man in the seat in front of him to return that seat to the proper upright position for take-off, and the man went into a violent rage. Without any provocation of any sort from Romney. Seriously. Romney did nothing annoying or Mittish that would lead a guy to want to take a poke at him, to the best of our knowledge. And if this guy happens to land on MSNBC with some sad tale about how Mitt annoyed him to the breaking point, it’s all a pack of sad, sad lies, people. Really.

Mitt plays Jack Mihoff

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