June 28th, 2012

McIntyre Saves Old North End’s Nunyuns

by Philip Baruth

Easy to get caught up in the political news (Constitutionally-permissible Affordable Care Act, anyone?) and forget that Vermont is currently in a Golden Age of digital development and design. Case in point: Burlington-based Steve McIntyre, who’s helped to create a pretty brilliant new independent design campaign called 30inThirty. The concept? The digital folk swoop in to help 30 businesses revamp their marketing in 30 days — all for free. Oh, and produce a documentary about the experience. Does it help that their opener is shot at the plucky cafe in the Old North End where VDB spent many hours blogging in the early days? Oh yes, it helps, baby.

June 22nd, 2012

HEROES WANTED: State Senate July 15th Fundraising Drive Very Much Underway

by Philip Baruth

You remember we came to you in May, hat in hand, to begin fundraising for this 2012 re-election campaign, and the idea was to raise $15,000 by July 15th — the first mandatory reporting date. Well, two things have happened in that time: first, with your strong initial support, we’ve raised $8,000 or so, more than halfway and great cause for hope; and second, an unexpectedly large group of able contenders joined the Chittenden Senate race in the last weeks. We now face 8 opponents in the primary, and 13 in the general election. And that, as Mitt Romney might say, ain’t beanbag.

But it is, very much, a horserace.

Still, with that said, this race is very winnable. And it really has to be won — too much got left undone last session, mostly things that a strong majority of Vermonters really want done, things like GMO labeling and allowing childcare workers to unionize and better their standard of living.

But this campaign won’t make it without a strong finish to this fundraising drive, which will fund most of what we intend to do. So if you haven’t already, and if you can help out now, you’ll help make our summer. No joke.

And thanks in advance if you click. You’ll get a longer, more detailed note of thanks later, of course, but just to put it out there in advance — thanks for even thinking about it.

Let alone actually doing it.

June 21st, 2012

GMO CLASS ACTION NOW LAUNCHED: VT Community Law Center & Law For Food Throw Down With Pinnacle Food Group

by Philip Baruth

You remember we about the launching of a two-pronged approach to rein in genetically modified foods, and that prong one was a class-action lawsuit targeting bogus syrup? Here’s some video of that press conference, with Vermont Community Law Center’s Jared Carter getting pretty bad-ass at the end. Oh, and did we mention that the time for handwringing is over on labeling GMO foods?

June 20th, 2012

Romney Rewrites Auto Bailout Rewrite

by Philip Baruth

You thought that there was no way that Mitt Romney, author of the infamous 2008 “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” op-ed, would continue to try to take credit for the success of the Obama automaker bailout. You thought that a) it wouldn’t pass the laugh test, and b) that Romney wouldn’t have the stones to keep saying it with a straight face. Well, c) it doesn’t, but d) he does. And today Mitt added a whole new ludicrous twist: now he says the influx of government money was “a good thing,” light-years from the pure free-market revisionist history he was peddling even a month ago.

Which works just fine in a society where we’ve outsourced memory to our electronic devices, and the devices — when push comes to shove — are only in it for themselves.

June 19th, 2012


by Philip Baruth

Along with several moments of triumph last session, there was a generous assortment of bitter disappointments — and none more unexpected than the House Ag Committee’s failure to pass out a bill requiring the labeling of genetically modified organisms. On the Senate side, we waited all session for that bill, ready to pass it out with strong support. I know, I know: their idea is to study the situation more closely, lay firmer findings, and then come back loaded for bear next year. But let’s face it — a lot of times when folks say they’re coming back loaded for bear at some later point, the bear somehow, some way, never does wind up shot.

So I’ve had my eye on two other approaches to the problem. The first is legislative; at my request, Legislative Counsel is now drafting a Senate bill to require labeling, and also to protect farmers from the current prohibitions against seed saving — which is to say that the bill would allow farmers to save and reuse their seeds, a traditional farming practice that goes back to the dawn of time, but which corporate interests like Monsanto have effectively forbidden.

Why? So that farmers must repurchase a full load of seed the ensuing year, and so on. And so on.

The working title of that bill is “Right To Know/Right To Grow,” meaning that you the consumer have a right to know whether your lunch contains non-naturally occurring elements, and that you the farmer — if you make the choice to grow GMO crops — have the right to the seeds produced by the plants you coax into life.

Simple stuff, one might think.

The second approach is the brainchild of two of Vermont’s brightest young legal minds: Jared Carter, formerly of Rural Vermont and now head of the Vermont Community Law Center, and Ken Miller, founder of Stowe-based Law For Food. Carter and Miller are joining forces to bring a class action lawsuit against Pinnacle Foods Group, the owner of the brands Log Cabin Syrup and Birds Eye frozen vegetables — both of which are currently labeled “All Natural.”

“Simply put,” Carter says, “we believe that putting an ‘All Natural’ label on products that contain genetically engineered or synthetic ingredients defrauds Vermonters and violates the letter and the spirit of the Vermont Consumer Protection Act. Vermonters will not be intimidated by the likes of Monsanto and Pinnacle. The time for waiting and hand-wringing is over. Vermonters deserve to know what they are feeding their children and to be able to make their own personal decisions based on fair and accurate information.”

You gotta love the part about the handwringing.

Carter and Miller will be announcing the class-action suit at a press conference tomorrow, Tuesday the 19th, on the steps of City Hall in Burlington, at 11 am, and they’ll have company: TJ Donovan, Chittenden County State’s Attorney and current candidate for Attorney General will be joining to lend his support, and I’ll be there to talk about the Legislative side of this regulatory pincer movement.

And then, when the speechifying is done, we all walk the legal documents over to the Courthouse, and the civil process commences. Can you attend? Please do.

But not if you’re in a handwringing mood. Because that simply will not be tolerated.

June 13th, 2012

Back Away From The Nurses, Please

by Philip Baruth

Just got back from a rally in support of Fletcher Allen nurses, which culminated in a speak-out at the Board of Trustees meeting. How long a speak-out? Twenty whole minutes, the length of time the Board saw fit to commit to viewpoints other than their own. Least sane contract provision said nurses are fighting? Mandatory Floating: the idea that nurses should be forced to leave the units where they’ve acquired expertise and float to others where they have relatively little in the way of training or comfort level, all to save a buck. In short, it’s past time to get behind these folks — unless you want this sort of floating, or worse, to be the norm the next time you go in for neurosurgery.

June 8th, 2012

Senate President John Campbell Begins Re-Election Bid With Heartwarming Slagging of Wild-Eyed Senate Freshmen

by Philip Baruth

Green Mountain Daily passes on an intriguing interview with Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, who announces to the Valley News that 1) he is absolutely running again for Senate President Pro Tem, and 2) he’s absolutely certain that this past year’s “bumpy session in Montpelier” was entirely the fault of the body’s freshmen, who refused to admit that “there is a thing called seniority and experience, and just as in anything, you have to put in your time and learn the ins and outs of the institution before you want to run the thing.” Which is admittedly a novel, out-of-the-box way to begin putting together your votes.

June 7th, 2012

The Official Date For The 7th Annual Hamburger Summit Now Set: July 21

by Philip Baruth

For those pre-planning their summer calendars, a crucial date: the VDB/GMD Hamburger Summit has now officially been set for Saturday, July the 21st, 1-5 pm, North Beach, Burlington, Vermont, United States of America. Is it the premier summer event for political junkies of all political persuasions? It is. Will it be hopping in this, a Presidential re-election year? It will. More details as the date draws near, but know this for now: together we will take that beach.


June 5th, 2012

VDB Needs Your Help, Brothers & Sisters

by Philip Baruth

When I came to you in 2009 and asked for your support in running for the Senate, the idea was that you’d be supporting a Senator who took a very firm stand on very tough issues: closing Vermont Yankee, single-payer,migrant worker rights, unionization, decriminalization, death with dignity. And over the last two years, on a wide range of issues, that’s exactly what I’ve tried to do, every single day.

But the thing about taking firm stands on tough issues is that it also loses you some support, here and there. So the only way I can hope to be re-elected is if voters who like those stands back me strongly. And now, less than three months from the primary, that’s what this campaign needs.

If you can help, can’t tell you how much it’ll be appreciated. It’s quick, and secure, and easy. And it can’t be said enough: it’s the only way that candidates without corporate money or personal wealth can compete.

If you do decide to contribute, you’ll hear from me quickly and personally, but for now thanks to all of you who’ve been able to help so far. Much, much appreciated.


June 5th, 2012

Senator Joe Benning Ends His Formerly Ceaseless Existential Wanderings

by Philip Baruth

After 18 days on the road and 8,070 miles added to his Harley, Caledonia Senator Joe Benning is back in the state — at rest, finally. Even for those of us only reading about it here at home, it seemed like a fantastic trip. A final installment, regarding the place of the Divine (and although Benning would never ever admit it, a great example of the need for helmet laws). — PB

Dear VDB,

Thirty years ago I last saw my friend Jeff. We played guitar together through elementary and high school. Back then he was the quintessential hellion. As the “cool kid” in school he was the envy of all the boys and likely to date any girl he wanted.

A couple years ago I learned that he’d slightly modified his behavior. Actually he’d gone to divinity school and was now a youth counselor in a Baptist church in Oklahoma. Considering we had both gone through Catholic school, where he was on a fast track to trouble, this was quite the transformation.

On the road and heading east out of southern Colorado, I saw a Facebook posting indicating Jeff was going to be leading a service in a small Oklahoma town. It wasn’t really on a direct line back to Vermont, but I figured it would be worth a couple hundred mile detour to surprise him.

Now I’m not particularly religious.

In fact, as I ride my motorcycle through some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable, I often think to myself that I prefer the house of man built by God to any house of God built by man. But I stopped in to the First Baptist Church in Pawhuska, Oklahoma to surprise my old friend.

Benning, far-left, in leathers at last year’s Summit.

After a great meeting with Jeff, his wife and daughter, I told Jeff I had to get back on the road for home. It was an awkward moment when he asked if he could pray over me. Seeing no harm, I consented. He placed his hand on my shoulder and asked God to watch over me on my journey home.

As I rode out of town I was thinking about the strange turns in life that virtually all of us experience.

Never in my wildest dreams would I, as a teenager, have envisioned Jeff in later life so deeply involved in religion. I was thinking about that at the very moment a pickup truck in the oncoming lane suffered an exploding rear driver’s side tire.

Normally an explosion like that would cause a vehicle to veer into the oncoming lane. For some reason, as the wheel hub gauged into the pavement and shot sparks and smoke all over the road, the driver managed to keep the vehicle in his own lane.

I’m still not a religious man, but I’m sorta glad Jeff is.