February 28th, 2006

Dubie’s Brother Wins Secret Ballot

by Philip Baruth

Politics Vt is reporting that the race for Adjutant General is over. The winner? The Lieutenant Governor’s brother, Brig. General Michael Dubie.

While in general I don’t like the concentration of power in the hands of a single political family, I don’t like it in this case either.

But who is VDB, really? Just the guys who backed the highly qualified Lt. Col. Judith Sheehan, early, before anyone else knew her name.

And you know what, Jude? We always will.

February 28th, 2006

Monday Must-Read Sentence: Hands Off the Guard

by Philip Baruth

Given that tomorrow the Legislature will select a new Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard by secret ballot, it’s only right and fitting that this week’s MMRS address the challenges of the 21st-century Guard.

Especially as we’ve endorsed a candidate in that race — Lt. Col. Judith Sheehan.

So address the Guard’s challenges VDB intends to do. And most of them come directly from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, turns out.

The nation’s governors — Republicans and Democrats alike — released a letter yesterday, deploring the Bush administration’s policies as they affect the Guard’s general readiness. The letter, signed by all fifty governors, allows the New York Times to say with perfect frankness what it has broadly hinted at over the last two years:

Governors of both parties said Sunday that Bush administration policies were stripping the National Guard of equipment and personnel needed to respond to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, forest fires and other emergencies.

For “hurricanes . . . and other emergencies,” of course, read Katrina and Rita. Clearly bad blood lingers, even with Republicans like Governor Haley Barbour. For an organization still dominated by a Republican majority — at least until the 2006 election cycle — this letter is a pretty open-handed slap.

And a pretty neat little MMRS.

It used to be that when Bush said jump, Republicans at all levels said: how high. But that was then. Now when the President says jump, apparently, Republicans at all levels say: you’re high.

And VDB is absolutely loving it.

So, yes, this week’s MMRS ultimately went to the New York Times, but an organization with a tiny fraction of the budget ran all but neck-and-neck.

BurlingtonPol.com, written by Burlingtonian Haik Bedrosian, ran a highly detailed and amusing post this morning on an event with Progressive Mayoral candidate Bob Kiss: “Kid Friendly Breakfast with Bob Kiss.” Haik’s coverage of the campaign has been sharp in general, but this piece is choice.

The highlights? In a pinch, Haik is driven to taking notes with crayons. And this bit near the end:

“Just when it seemed the dealy-o was going to wrap up without any surprises, my wife’s friend Autumn asked Bob how his platform differed from [Democratic candidate] Hinda Miller’s. ‘Oooh,’ I thought. ‘This ought to be interesting.’

“And it was. Because for an answer Kiss repackaged the litany of experiences he would bring to the corner office, while failing to enumerate any differences between his platform and Hinda’s.

You can read the whole enchilada at the link. Interesting stuff, regardless of your political stripe.

February 17th, 2006

Lt. Col. Judith Sheehan for Adjutant General

by Philip Baruth

The Legislature has set Feb. 27 as the date for the election of an adjutant general to replace Major Gen. Martha Rainville. Three or four names have already been floated, with the idea that one of them will lock up the secret ballot.

But not so fast: VDB got a dog in this fight too.

For a couple of months I’ve been corresponding with a regular visitor to the site, an experienced military type, who sees the post-911 world with admirable clarity. Jude, she signs her emails.

Only this morning did she let drop in a note that she’s recently declared herself a late candidate for Rainville’s AG position. She’s flying here from her station in Macedonia to stand in the election.

Turns out her full name is Lt. Col. Judith Sheehan of South Hero. Jude, to her friends.

I asked for her bio, and it’s a fairly jaw-dropping document. Some excerpts:

“1. Current and relevant education: Master of Arts in International Security and Civil-Military Affairs, from the School of International Studies, Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.(2002)

“Thesis was on the Democratic Consolidation Efforts of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 1991-2001. Half way through a second Masters of Strategic Studies, U.S. Army War College, developing a thesis on U.S. Strategy in Africa.

“2. Current and relevant duties now: 3 Years experience working for the United States Embassy. Current duties have me in the Macedonian Ministry of Defense. I am the Bilateral Affairs Officer in the Office of Defense Cooperation.

“3. Current achievements: Worked with the Ministry of Defense to formalize the Non Commissioned Officer Corp in Macedonia (Law passed last month). Worked with the Ministry of Defense to develop an Officer Career Program (schooling, training, promotions, assignments). Concept accepted by the Minister of Defense a few weeks ago. Working with the Training Command to develop a National School System, from Basic Training, to Non-Commissioned Officer Training, to Officer Training.

“4. Currently working with the Military Police Battalion (one of their declared forces) to develop training programs, get their equipment, and personnel, to prepare them for mobilization (probably Iraq or Afghanistan) by 2007. (It’s a $10M project.)

“5. Relevant Past Positions: 8 Years experience working in the field of Military Support to Civil Authorities. I wrote the first plans of Vermont National Guard support to Vermont Civil Authorities in in Counter-Drug Operations. Worked with Montpelier, and their Emergency Managment Team.

“Three years experience developing the a Regional Training Institute. (That great building located at Camp Johnson.) Training Officer In charge of developing the Programs of Instruction for Infantry (Basic Skills, and Non-Commissioned Officer courses).

“Under my direction, Ft. Benning accredited our courses 1 year before the deadline (Received the Mertorious Service Medal). We proceeded to train all the infantry soldiers from the New England states. We also taught the National Guard Officer Candidate School, and common core Non-Commissioned Officer courses.

“Four years experience as a Force Integration Officer. In charge of recommending to the Adjutant General for changes in force structure, mobilizing units, decommissioning units, and commissioning new units in the National Guard Force Structure.

“Ten years experience in Counter Terrorism training. Was a qualified Level II instructor, which basically means, I was responsible to ensure the the entire National Guard received Counter Terrorism instruction.

“Three years experience working with an Active Duty Combatant Command (European Comand). Also working with their subordinate commands, U.S. Army Europe, U.S. Airforce Europe, Marine Forces Europe and Navy Europe. Charged with ensuring the Combatant Commanders Theater Objectives are realized here in Macedonia (peace and stabilty, entrance into NATO).

“We expect an announcement at this year’s NATO summit that Macedonia will enter into NATO in 2008. A BIG achievement these last three years.”

Like I said, jaw-dropping — and highly relevant — experience. Add to that Jude’s ten year’s experience both as a Vermont Farmer (Swallow Quick Farm), and as Vice President of the Burlington Farmers Market — with special training in Vermont Range Chicken — and we’re talking the complete package.

Now look, this is a site that aims to enliven your day with a little bit of wicked humor, as well as the politics that make the world go round. And no apologies for that.

But the humor can make it difficult to be taken seriously some times, when the issue at hand calls for seriousness of purpose. Judith Sheehan has the military, diplomatic, and organizational skills to handle this crucial position, and she deserves more than a quick look. She has thought a great deal about the role of the Guard in today’s world.

VDB endorses her whole-heartedly.

Perhaps the immortal Paul McCartney said it best:

Hey jude, don’t make it bad.
Take a sad song and make it better.
Remember to let her into your heart,
Then you can start to make it better.

December 2nd, 2005

Santa Lucheney

by Philip Baruth

Somehow it’s become tradition for my wife and I to host the yearly Santa Lucia party for our Swedish-American group. The group is made up of Swedes and Americans married to Swedes, and we host all the Swedish holidays by turns. Santa Lucia has fallen to our lot, and I’ve come to feel that winter would be incomplete without it. cheney

So the other day I’m home making saffron buns for the party, and the phone rings and — I know this sounds namedroppy — but it’s Dick Cheney. Now, a long time ago, for reasons I won’t go into here, Dick spent a night under my porch. Okay, real quickly, he needed a secure location while he was in Burlington, and my porch is really secure because I used to have this skunk that was getting in there at night, and I had to padlock it down.

Long story short, Dick still has my number and he calls to ask if he can come to the Lucia party.

Talk about awkward.

First, Dick isn’t Swedish, and neither is his wife, Lynn. Second, Dick despises pickled herring, can’t even take one bite to be polite, which is the least an American can do. And third, well, Dick’s not real popular around my house these days, if you know what I mean.

But it turns out that’s exactly why he’s calling. His voice is grim.

“Phil, my poll numbers have dropped like a rock of late. Frankly, my staff and I were hoping we could use your, uh, ethnic celebration to show me in a softer light.”

My gut tells me, just say no. But Dick starts reminiscing about the night he spent under the porch, and I hear myself telling him to come on ahead, the more the merrier.

Not a good decision. On the big night, everyone’s standing around eating fermented fish, and in sweeps the Secret Service looking for firearms. And then Dick trudges in, and the Swedes see who it is, and a palpable chill goes through the room. You gotta understand, Socialism is middle of the road in Sweden. So I go into hyper-festive-host mode, trying to draw everybody together, but it’s no use.

You ever have one of those doomed parties where friends from two really different parts of your life show up and it just never gels? It’s like that.

Until it’s time for the Santa Lucia procession. This is when all of the kids and the mothers slip away into the cellar, and dress themselves in long white robes with red sashes, and put crowns of leaves in their hair. We turn off the lights and they slowly march back upstairs, singing Swedish songs about winter and the power of light itself.

But just before I hit the lights, Dick tells me he has to be in the procession. His staff desperately wants a picture of him in one of the white robes. I try to tell him that it’s a gender sort of thing, that men don’t march. But Dick’s adamant, and he’s brought his own robe and leaf-crown.

Eventually you’ll see the picture on the front page of the New York Times: all the Swedish woman, all our children — and Dick — holding candles in the darkened living room. But what you won’t see is what I see standing just a few feet off to one side. The Lucia procession always changes you somehow, it calls out your humanity. And as the candlelight flickers over Dick’s face, I see tears forming behind his big thick glasses.

I know what’s happening in his heart.

A seed is growing.

And when the singing is done, and everyone heads back to the buffet table, Dick takes my arm, and he pitches his voice for my ears only, and he whispers, “Give Cindy Sheehan my love, Phil.” He pauses, broods a second. “And — and Michael Moore. Will you do that for me?” Dick pats my arm, and then he heads to the buffet table with a determined look on his face.

But after a few more steps, he stops, then makes his way all the way back across the room to me, and this time he whispers: “And Alec Baldwin, I suppose. Him as well, Phil.”

I tell him I will, and he gives a nod. This time when he heads off to the buffet he lets nothing stop him. And once there, he makes a point of helping himself to a few fat chunks of herring, just to be polite.