August 18th, 2012

Time to Net Out The Vote, Friends

by Philip Baruth

Just about one week left until the contested Chittenden Democrat primary, and so it’s crunch time. Votes must be gotten out, and not just in the three-dimensional world: if the netroots are to be respected in the political world, then the netroots also have to prove their muscle in getting out the vote. Which brings us to the week’s project: Pulsing The System. AKA Netting Out The Vote.

By pulsing the system, we mean every supporter of this State Senate campaign (and every supporter of every issue we support, from GMO labeling to single-payer to shuttering Vermont Yankee) reaching out to their own individual electronic network with a simple message: I plan to vote for Baruth, and hope you will too.

That’s it: a message just that brief if you like, but posted to your Facebook and Twitter pages, and then sent as a broadcast email to your address book. If you can throw in an extra 3 minutes, posting it to your Front Porch Forum list helps a lot.

But altogether that might take — might, if you really type slowly and deliberately — about 10 minutes. That 10 minutes, though, reaches maybe 1000 people. And if everyone who supports this campaign reaches their universe, we’re golden.

Think of it this way. Technology is woven into your life; you spend hours interfacing with it, and that’s a scary thing if some of that time isn’t spent accomplishing something real, tangible and of benefit to others. Politics is one way to do that, and here in Vermont we’re engaged in some truly exciting political developments.

A first-in-the-nation ban on fracking. The country’s first true single-payer healthcare system.

Reaching out to your network with a quick endorsement is, very literally speaking, the least any of us can do. And you know we here at VDB will appreciate it until our dying day.

Thanks in advance.

August 17th, 2012

What’s Up With Orange, Dude?

by Philip Baruth

For those of you who haven’t been following it all that closely, there’s an unexpectedly hot primary contest for the Senate seat in Orange County, a seat currently held by Mark MacDonald, who, in full disclosure, I strongly support and value very highly as a colleague in the Senate. Mark is a guy with no patience for folks who want to take us back “to the Middle Ages,” as he told me the first time I met him. He comes at almost every issue from the perspective of helping the little guy, and when push comes to shove, that’s about 90% of what I want from any elected official. Maybe 95%.

But he’s now in a real race, with a web-savvy Thetford Selectman named Tig Tillinghast. How to find out the ins and outs of the race out here in Chittenden County?

Well, it just so happens that one of my best students, a guy by the name of Ben Conarck, graduated from UVM and went to work for the Valley News. And he’s produced an excellent piece on the Orange race, full of detail and personality. Very much worth the read.

August 14th, 2012

8/15: Campaign Meets Social Media Types

by Philip Baruth

It’s full-on social media time, folks. The State Senate campaign will be rolling into Burlington’s Office Squared tomorrow, 5-6 pm, for a social media meet/tweet-up, after work, just around the time you start jonesing for a pastry and your last cup of coffee. Or your first beer. Hosted by Rich Nadworny — sometimes known as the King of BTV Social Media — we’re thinking about this as a time to drop by and say hello, talk about the issues of the day — or the Robert Pattinson/Kristen Stewart break-up, whatever you like. Totally your call. Hope to see you at 77 College Street, beautiful downtown Burlington. Should be good fun.

August 13th, 2012

DEFCON 5: Final Primary Donation Report

by Philip Baruth

Just 48 hours left until our last finance reporting deadline before the Democratic primary. What does that mean? Well, there are only two windows where we’ll be at what VDB considers DEFCON 5: the two weeks before the primary, and the two weeks before the general election. And we’re in that first window now, which means spending on advertising, signs, literature, and a hundred other small things that drive a county-wide campaign. Mad craziness.

So we’ve set a goal for these 48 hours: 20 new donors. That will take us to an even 100 for the campaign so far. That’s small money politics; that’s the netroots and the grassroots working together to maintain sanity in a post-Citizens United world.

If you haven’t donated to the campaign yet, but have been sort of thinking about pitching in, we could sure use your help now. If you can help, and it will take you to the fastest, most efficient and most progressive donation site out there. And we’ll be in touch to say thank you more personally very soon.

August 12th, 2012


by Philip Baruth

That’s right — Paul Ryan. Given the full spectrum of GOP candidates, Mitt selected the doom-saying number cruncher from Wisconsin, the one with the hangdog look and the hound dog eyes. The one who put together the budget that takes the biggest whack at entitlements since W. decided to spend his much-vaunted political capital on privatizing Social Security. And we should be doubly thankful.

But here’s the crazy thing: clearly Mitt did this to lend energy to his campaign, and to refocus it around an austerity framwork (austerity supposedly in service of “strengthening” entitlements), and yet look at the video below. Not sure if you remember Sarah Palin’s roll-out with McCain, but whatever else you want to say about it, it dripped energy.

Here — in spite of the ponderous production values and the destroyer in the background — what strikes VDB is the meh quality of the audience. A little flagwaving, because to fail to wave at all would be unseemly for a GOP audience.

But, you know, just meh.

And that, we predict, will be the upshot here: surprisingly enough, a green-eyeshade type from Wisconsin, who cut his teeth on Ayn Rand and Jack Kemp’s supply-side economics, is only going to strike a very small, very rich, very entitled part of the GOP base as reason to cheer.

Still, look for wildly inflated fundraising numbers over the next 48 hours, designed to show a spontaneous outpouring of support for the choice.

But VDB will believe it when we see Mitt’s numbers climb steadily. Absent that, the race will be back to status quo, and the tax issue, in about 9 days. Happy VP pick, folks.

Late Update, Monday 2:37 pm:

Funny how that works: our take on the Ryan announcement — that the audience seemed fairly lukewarm — now has polling data to support it. Gallup reports that Ryan’s numbers as VP pick are rivaled in unpopularity only by . . . Dan Quayle.

Ouch, brother.

August 5th, 2012

AG Debate, Shelburne Town Hall, Be There

by Philip Baruth

The AG race is the hottest on the ticket this cycle, yet thus far you haven’t had a lot of opportunity to hear the two men mix it up. That is soon to change: the Shelburne Democrats are hosting a debate between T.J. Donovan and Bill Sorrell at the Shelburne Town Hall this Tuesday, August 7, at 7 pm. Will it be intriguing? Oh yeah, not least because whoever wins will get to debate Jack McMullen, and ask him one more time how many teats there are on a cow. [See Tuttle, Fred; 1996 Vermont GOP primary; and defeats, crushing.]

August 4th, 2012

HOT NEW SENATE LAWN SIGNS DROP; Your Chittenden Lawn Sorely Needed (Now With Epic John Wayne Fail Update!)

by Philip Baruth

It’s zero-hour folks: we’re now deploying the lawn signs, with the contested Democratic primary just a hair over three weeks away, on August the 28th. Even in the digital times, these are still the best way to spread the word in your town, in your neighborhood, and on your street. Which is to say, we need your help.

Photo by Olivia Farnsworth

If you can host one of these bad boys, drop a very quick line to , and we’ll swing by your address ASAP. Or send a message at . And then, come August 29, if you stick it in the garage and then pull it out again come mid-October, you’ll a) save us precious steps, and b) put us firmly and forever in your debt.

And if by any chance you’re willing to take 3 or more, and distribute them in your area, you’ll be awarded VDB’s Medal of Honor with clusters. Because as John Wayne liked to say in True Grit, before the villains went and gunned him down, we’re burning daylight.

Duke Fail Update, 9:57 pm:

VDB reader MF points out that a) apparently we were thinking of the 1972 Wayne film The Cowboys, not True Grit; b) Wayne, playing rancher Wil Andersen, was never gunned down; and c) apparently VDB sucks badly at movie trivia.

For all that, MF still took a lawn sign. That’s dedication, people.

August 3rd, 2012

Back In The Day: The Hoffer Edition

by Philip Baruth

Maybe it’s VDB, but we never pegged State Auditor as the counter-cultural type. You don’t get that good at accounting unless you’ve spent serious time avoiding parties, and working out with a slide rule. And yet, here it is, photographic evidence that cannot be denied: Hoffer in the 70’s, where he actually worked at the fabled Alice’s Restaurant, of Arlo Guthrie massacree fame. Our mind is now officially blown.

July 28th, 2012

“Long Race”: The Lost 2010 Campaign Film

by Philip Baruth

Back in 2010, friend and filmmaker Bill Simmon made for me the most wonderful campaign film ever made, drawing on about a year of footage shot both by Simmon and videographer Matt Goudy. Like most films in its genre, “Long Race” can’t help but feel dated in spots — it was produced to speak sharply to a certain highly specific political moment. With that said, it’s still a gorgeous piece of work, lovingly crafted, and it still has a whole lot to say about the current State Senate re-election campaign. Just watched it now, and then called my Mom to tell her again that she’s brilliant. Enjoy.

July 24th, 2012

SEVENTH ANNUAL SUMMIT SHINES: Annual Hamburg Event Breaks New Ground, Becoming Real-Time Epicenter of The Weekend’s Political Earthquake

by Philip Baruth

It began as most Summits do: weather preternaturally sunny and mild, a small regatta of milk-white boats bobbing at the surfline. GMDers Odum and Sue Prent joined VDB for the first phase (Taking The Beach) at 9 am; table and prime spot beneath the Tree of Wisdom secured, we moved to phase two (Hunting And Gathering), and arrived back from the store at just 11:30. We unloaded the vast stores of food and drink, and prepared the grounds according to the ancient rituals. And very soon the political campaigns and the fixers began to pour in, all flying their election-year colors.

We lit the grill, and began to cook the meat as our ancestors did: slowly, over an open flame, can of Labatt’s close to hand. Well, you know, not that our ancestors drank Labatt’s. They were probably into their own super-local micro-brews.

But still, the traditions are potent, and they were observed.

And given that it’s a Presidential year, and we have one or two hotly contested primaries, there was a good deal of fat to chew: why, exactly, does Mitt Romney take a $77,000 tax deduction for his wife’s dressage horse, and when, precisely, will we be able to have a serious discussion about reviving the ban on assault weapons, if only here in the great and peaceful state of Vermont?

At first glance, it seemed like the same demographic as all the other Summits: bloggers, journalists, politicos, readers, junkies, and slightly unsettling guys who wander in from the far corners of the beach when word gets out there’s free beer. Case in point below:

But then about 30 minutes into the day, a strange thing happened. Folks began to drift in from the State Democratic Committee meeting, which had just wrapped up in Montpelier, and they were bringing with them very late-breaking, very interesting political news: Attorney General Bill Sorrell had failed to secure enough votes for an endorsement, leaving his primary opponent TJ Donovan as the only candidate endorsed by the Party.

And given that at least three or four of those Committee folks had come straight to the BBQ — where they were joined by Donovan himself — it was only logical that the reporters chasing the bigger story would wander down to the beach, and pull up a burger themselves.

Before anyone knew it, the scene suddenly looked more like the entryway of the Statehouse than the shadiest corner of North Beach: TJ was answering Terri Hallenbeck’s questions, and doing his best not to make too much of the windfall that had just fallen into his lap; GMD blogger Caoimhin Laochdha was roughing out a chin-puller for the front page and uploading it from the picnic table; fellow GMDer Euen Bear was doing a stand-up with Channel 5 at the edge of the sand; and the rest of us were trying to wrap our minds around the various local and statewide ramifications of the event.

It was an intriguing moment, with the feel of a micro-watershed: something in the physics of the Vermont political landscape had just given way, but no could be certain precisely what. But we subjected it to the standard ruthless process by which men and women in dorky t-shirts chew up political news, drain it of its nutrients and juices, and spit out the husks.

TJ was clearly the favorite at the event, partially because he has a history of attendance. In fact the first Hamburger Summit coincided with Donovan’s first hotly contested primary, in 2006, for Chittenden County State’s Attorney. So his political career and the Summit have come to maturity simultaneously.

But Sorrell was not without supporters, and the discussion rose and fell, as it should in a democracy.

It was a first, in its way, the first time the Summit had itself become the locus of breaking news, and for a while the hub-bub dominated the day’s festivities. Will the Sorrell non-endorsement eventually be remembered as the biggest story of the primary season? Probably not. But it had a certain heft, and we were glad to have had it visited upon us by the Gods of July.

God forbid political junkies should have nothing to discuss.

But finally the hot tide of news rolled back, and the breeze continued to pour through the Tree of Wisdom, and everyone forgot the tetchiness of primary season, and just gave thanks for the length and shape and quality of the summer afternoon.

As always, thanks to those who created the day, and to those who archived it for future generations: VDB photographer Yusef (photo #7 above, far right), and longtime reader Don (photo #1, smudging VDB’s smoking hot minivan with his beach shorts). The Hamburger Summit is an event that depends upon the kindness of strangers, but even more than that, on the endless and illogical generosity of friends.

Deep thanks to all in both categories.

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