February 28th, 2012

Polls Shifting in Rick’s Favor in Michigan: The Triumph of Santorum’s New Johnson

by Philip Baruth

Can Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney in his home state of Michigan, even though Romney loves the trees and the houses and the streets and the cars of Michigan? Even if Mitt’s wife “drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually”? The last wave of polling says Yes Rick Can — and we shouldn’t forget the hand of his new Vermont svengali in the mix. A solemn VDB vow: if Rick bloodies Mitt’s nose in Michigan, we’ll run the Santorum zombie-family photo tomorrow morning, the one you know you love, by way of celebration. Deal? Deal.

February 26th, 2012

In Which VDB Winds The Ancient Blogger Horn Yet Again, This Time To Call All Unto A Gathering For Young John Odum, Founder of GMD, Now Would-Be Clerk

by Philip Baruth

We’ve always said that the power of the blogosphere in Vermont was potentially huge, but latent, which is to say it’s easier to click than to vote. Or to donate. Which brings us to the focused problem of the week: Green Mountain Daily founder John Odum is working hard to get elected Clerk in Montpelier, and he needs help — now, before it’s too late to put final mailings and ads in place. Which brings us to you, the invisible but largest end of the cyber-iceberg.

me and odum

If even a fraction of you out there can help, in return for all that Odum has done to found and fill the Vermont blogosphere, then he’ll have what he needs, and Election Day will be kind. And to make it easier for you, VDB has done the organizing: we’ll be having an after-work get-together in Montpelier this coming Wednesday, the 29th, at 5 pm, downstairs at NECI Main Street Grill. We’ll pass the hat, and if you can toss in a bill or two, we’d be personally grateful.

Partying post-primary: Annika, GMD’s John Odum, VDB, Nate Freeman (photo: Caoimhin Laochdha)

And it’ll be a good chance to talk and connect, for those of us who know one another mostly by email, mostly by glowing dots on a plastic screen. Green Mountain Daily is a community blog, after all, and when one of the savvy GMDers gets off the dime and offers to fight the good fight, we owe it to them to rally round, in three dimensions.

So again: this Wednesday the 29th, 5-6 pm, NECI, Montpelier. Be great to see you then. And bring a friend.

February 20th, 2012

The Disturbing and Pathetic Lives of Those Minor Media Figures Connected To The Failed McCain Campaign of 2008: Chap. 6

by Philip Baruth

Long story short: Paul Babeu, the bullet-headed border cop in John McCain’s “danged fence” commercial, who also happens to be running for Congress currently, was accused last week of a) carrying on a secret affair with an undocumented Mexican male, and b) threatening to have said lover deported if he didn’t agree to hush up about the affair. Which is horrific and hypocritical. But the greatest criminal? Whoever wrote this danged ad in the first place.

Watch again with the current facts in mind (McCain sent limping back to the Senate, Babeu days from dropping out of his own campaign), and all of that still pales before the idiocy of the text itself. Best part? When Babeu, after affirming that McCain’s “plan” to secure the border is “perfect,” then says, “It’ll work this time.” A phrase which always instills confidence in perfection.

Oy. On so many levels, oy.

February 20th, 2012

DOG BITES MAN: Auditor Salmon Rebuffed, Ignored, and then “Curiously Turned Away”

by Philip Baruth

Admittedly we here at VDB have had our lingering doubts, over the years, that Auditor Tom Salmon’s very public sleuthing was actually producing much by way of results. But no longer, because the Auditor is suddenly on to something, something truly broad-based and systemic: he, Auditor Tom Salmon, is apparently being ignored and disregarded. Not to mention, you know, rebuffed. Weird, right?

Take Burlington. Back in early January, Salmon sent city officials an unassuming little series of 109 questions about their finances and financial controls. And here it is today, and Salmon has apparently been “disregarded” and “curiously turned away.”

Which is curious. Who, given the opportunity, wouldn’t brighten up at the thought of answering 109 questions by Tom Salmon, on the subject of personal responsibility?

Beats the absolute hell out of VDB.

February 17th, 2012


by Philip Baruth

So the Mayor’s race is coming to its predictably nail-biting climax in the storied city of Burlington, and — also predictably — you’ve meant to help this guy Miro get elected, but work kids family job etc. Not to worry: VDB has you covered. We’ve helped to put together one final bash to boost Weinberger over the top, and you’re so invited.

We will drink some, eat some, and kibbitz over what needs kibbitzing. So please join us and Miro and an electoral co-host cast of thousands, featuring:

Attorney General Bill Sorrell
State’s Attorney TJ Donovan
Senator Ginny Lyons
Senator Hinda Miller
Senator Philip Baruth
Representative Johannah Donovan
Representative Jason Lorber
Representative Suzi Wizowaty
Representative Kesha Ram
Representative Jean O’Sullivan
City Councilor Bill Keogh
City Councilor Joan Shannon
City Councilor Ed Adrian
City Councilor Norm Blais
City Councilor Bram Kranichfeld
City Councilor Dave Berezniak

We’ll be forming up at the St. John’s Club at 6 pm on Thursday, February 23rd. And what we’re looking for more than anything else is energy, unbridled fire-in-the-belly energy. So bring friends, and let’s take this thing into the endgame.

February 13th, 2012

Step Away From The Charlotte, Please

by Philip Baruth

Case you missed it, reapportionment is underway. What is reapportionment? It’s the moment, every ten years, when folks you probably don’t know decide where you’ll be voting, and therefore, in a very direct equation, what your chances are of getting what you want most at the ballot box. It’s big, in short. Right now there’s a Senate reapportionment map on the table that would move Charlotte out of Chittenden County and into Addison. And clearly, Charlotters want no part of it. But that doesn’t always matter a whole lot, unless you shout loud enough soon enough.

Now, VDB loves us some Charlotte. Campaigned there long and hard this last time out, and made a lot of very good friends. Learned a lot about what that southern reach of the County wants and needs and sees for the future.

Which means, not to put too fine a point on it, that they’ll have to pry Charlotte from our cold, dead hands.

To wit, two action items: 1) A public hearing on reapportionment this coming Wednesday, Room 10 of the Statehouse, 4:30-6:30 — it is open to anyone concerned, and the views expressed there will matter a good bit; and 2) an online petition to speak if your voice can’t.

One of those good Charlotte friends I mentioned above? This lovely horse that almost killed me, while Rep. Mike Yantachka and Mary Lou Kete just stood by in the late afternoon sun and laughed at the danger.

February 10th, 2012

The Ongoing Fate of S. 245: CPR Bill Brought Semi-Dramatically Back To Life

by Philip Baruth

Quick update on S.245, the bill that would require secondary schools to offer a short, limited, inexpensive but life-saving unit on CPR. The idea is to turn out thousands of young seniors each year with the basic psychomotor skills to dramatically raise the survivor rate for sudden heart attack in the state of Vermont. All of which I argued a week or so back, only to see the bill “ordered to lie” by a Senator who wanted more time to think. Being ordered to lie, just so you know, is the procedural equivalent of a sudden heart attack.

But the bill was defibrillated yesterday: we brought it up with unanimous consent and it’ll now be discussed and voted on come Tuesday.

So if you’re a Heart Association fan, or a heart attack survivor, or someone who believes that CPR has a place in the secondary curriculum, make your voice heard.

Hint: Senators have email addresses. And they can count.

February 8th, 2012

A New UVM President Within The Week, Crucial Questions About the Brand New UVM Foundation Within The Year

by Philip Baruth

Those of you following the executive compensation issue at UVM may remember that when the Fogel debacle went down last summer, the Board charged a subcommittee with investigating what had gone wrong and suggesting changes — if, of course, any were needed. And there was the rub: any skeptic worth his salt had to immediately suspect that no changes would be forthcoming.

And when the Education Committee finally received the report last week, it turned out to be what one might diplomatically refer to as substance-free: it noted the outrage from students, faculty, alumni, and taxpayers, but made clear that the Board would continue to use all of the same controversial methods of both “base” (salary) and “non-base” (perks) compensation going forward.

So we drafted a letter in response, asking for clarity, particularly with regard to one intriguing point. In their report, the Trustees made it clear that they were now concerned with “Foundation monies,” and how a President might be compensated with these. When asked directly, the Board suggested that the word “Foundation” referred to corporate foundations — in other words, the new guideline would define the ability of a President to accept compensation for sitting on outside corporate boards.

But it seemed to me that, having just established a Foundation of its own — and one that has taken over the University’s fundraising operation almost in its entirety — the Board might also be laying some general groundwork for using the new UVM Foundation to compensate executives in the future.

Which would lead to transparency issues, arguably, in that the new Foundation has different reporting rules than the University proper (that, of course, being a key reason it was created).

So we drafted a letter to the Board, asking for some direct answers on whether the UVM Foundation could, now or in the future, be used to compensate the President or others. The response that came yesterday was interesting, in a neutral word:

“The policy revisions you asked about require the Board as a whole to approve, in advance, and in open session, any proposed external compensation to the President. Previously the President needed only to inform the Board. This is intended to include Foundation salary support but not be limited to it. There are no plans at this time to provide salary or other support to the President or UVM other employees from the Foundation. Should that change in the future, such income would need to be approved by the Board as specified above.”

A couple of points. It seems clear that the Board has discussed whether the Foundation might pay the President in whole or in part, as they’ve developed a new bit of bureaucratese to refer to it: “Foundation salary support.” And while it’s true that there are purportedly “no plans to provide salary or other support,” the qualifier is there: “at this time.”

To me that declares fairly openly that the Board is reserving the right to do so going forward, and want to say so now, to establish the right without yet invoking it. The last sentence makes clear that if (or maybe better to say when) that happens, there will be a vote — but that vote, as with others, may well be pro forma.

The principle is established, with this very small change in guideline, that the Foundation can shoulder any or all of the President’s (or other executives’) compensation, with the single formality of a vote, and that’s newsworthy in and of itself — especially since one of the points of creating the Foundation was to shield donors, to establish different rules of transparency.

Expect the announcement on the new Presidential hire this coming week. Expect the Foundation’s role in compensating that President to become an issue next year.

February 8th, 2012

Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado: Santorum Cruises That Old Mark Johnson Highway

by Philip Baruth

Pundits are absolutely agape with amazement this morning, because VDB’s ancient nemesis Rick Santorum managed to win not one, not two, but all three Republican primary match-ups last night. Our take? Nothing was easier to predict. Seriously, you think it’s some sort of accident that Santorum brings on Vermont’s own Mark Johnson as inner-circle svengali and almost immediately rockets from stumblebum to superstar? Not hardly, folks, not hardly.

A newly focused stump speech, freshly honed attack points, subtle wardrobe accents — all the hallmarks of Johnson’s handling.

And the final tell: Santorum’s new aggressiveness in attacking Romney looks very much to VDB like the effects of a complete and radical change in coffee — Santorum has clearly been switched from some no-name Pennsylvania grounds to straight black Vermont Coffee Company brew.

Wednesday morning take-away? The road to the Presidency might as well be called the Mark Johnson Memorial Parkway. Word.

February 3rd, 2012

Long Strange Trip Refuses to End

by Philip Baruth

The writing life is surreal, a fact brought dramatically home to me when I wrote my first novel in the early 1990’s. The book was about the Grateful Dead — or about the deadheads in the parking lots, more specifically — and in my tale the Jerry Garcia-figure in the band died unexpectedly, and the rest of the band’s season turned into massive existential memorials. The book came out in 1994. A year later the real Garcia died unexpectedly, and the rest of the real band’s season turned into massive existential memorials.

Long story short: the deadhead community found something eerily prescient in that novel, The Millennium Shows, and it’s become something of a cult book for that reason, with collectible copies trading at about $125. But that market is soon to be dramatically undercut: Kearney Street Books will be bringing out a new edition of the book later this month.

Is it, as with any good first novel, over the top in every imaginable way? Yes. But has a single solitary line been changed from the original 1994 edition? Absolutely not.

Why? Because that way lies madness. Link to the new text forthcoming, if this is your sort of thing.