October 2006


I could say a whole bunch of things about why Matt Dunne should be Vermont’s next Lt. Governor, but I think I’ll just let Matt speak for himself.

Just take some time to read Philip Baruth’s excellent long interview with Mr. Dunne. And see why he not only has the intelligence to be a solid performer in the office, but a clear vision of what he wants to do — and an admirable philosophy of how public service can be far more than just a career goal.

Here’s a brief passage…

VDB: So people out there no doubt have heard of the physical part of the service politics projects — where you and volunteers go clean up a park, say. Can you talk a little bit about the thinking behind those events? How is that going to work once you’re in the office, assuming you cross the line before Dubie a week from now? What’s the philosophy?

Dunne: When AmeriCorps was founded, it was founded out of a concern that young people were becoming more and more detached from society. It was a good concern. Cynicism was rising, lack of participation in the political process was rising. The hope was that through creating the expectation of service, for one or two years, we would emerge with a new generation that would be committed to giving back, through both social mechanisms and political.

What was interesting — and when I got there it was the hottest topic in the AmeriCorps world — was that in fact more and more young people were doing community service, but it appeared that the more they did community service, the less interested they were in politics.

And there was this sort of crisis of confidence in the AmeriCorps community. How could this be happening? And my assessment of it was that the more people saw that they could make a real, tangible difference in a community, the more distant the political world felt. The smaller their one vote felt. The smaller their ability to overcome the huge amounts of money that were streaming into politics.

And I think that efficacy piece is what’s so critical.

VDB: Now how does that connect to the service politics exactly?

Dunne: As I was thinking about how to bridge those worlds, what I realized is that there’s a huge opportunity to do community service, and to invite people that already connect with that kind of activity, and then bridge it to the political world.

And so when we do our service projects around the state, we don’t go and just scrape and paint windows at a museum, or go and paint the inside of a Boys and Girls Club, or go and do work in a nursing home. We also go and have conversations about cuts in arts funding, about the importance of after-school time in Bellows Falls…


Matt Dunne, Shay Totten, Prop (kidding!),
Scudder & Peter Welch

Back on June 1st of this year, Steve Benen was looking for nominations for a contest that would seek to proclaim George W. Bush’s most egregious act of, well… lying.

He settled on the name Mendacity Madness. So I emailed him about something that really struck me as absurdly blatant.

I wrote…

Here’s the mendacity nomination (the details of which you are probably aware):

In June 2003, the CPA issued Memorandum 17 [PDF] which helped ensure that contractors in Iraq would not be subject to Iraqi law.

Here’s a link to another PDF on the issue.

Here’s the Frontline page on this issue.

And then in the last few months, I believe when he was speaking at Georgetown Law?, he was asked specifically about the legal standing of contractors in a war zone. I heard the audio on Air America.

He said something to the effect that ~Boy, you stumped me… That’s a really good question… I have no idea, but I’m going to find out the answer.~

So, mendacity or a lack of situational awareness? I suppose it’s anybody’s guess, as always, with George W. Bush.

I know there are links to info and even audio for the Georgetown question, but I couldn’t quickly find them… I’ll keep looking…

Anyway, that’s the one I’d like to nominate.

Well, I couldn’t find the audio, but this evening, Steve posted a link to YouTube which has the moment in question with all the stunning context of video.

Though, I was wrong. It wasn’t at Georgetown, but at the Johns Hopkins International Studies School.

And on second viewing, I’d have to say my vote is less for mendacity and far more for lack of situational awareness.

We, in the Vermont blogosphere, have all been plugging away at focusing on Martha Rainville’s forced ambiguous position on the Iraq War — and her similar penchant for trying to have it both ways on a variety of issues.

But, there is one angle that I think has been largely overlooked.

Martha Rainville abandoned her troops in a time of war.

And this is not just me talking here.

It’s recently come to my attention that there’s apparently a wide-spread feeling among many in the Vermont Guard that Martha Rainville put her personal political ambitions over her sworn duty to look after the many brave Vermont men and women who pledged their loyalty and placed their trust in her.

So, when she proudly proclaims that she stood up to the administration to advocate for needed equipment for the Guard serving in Iraq, just remember…

She went and quit the one position where she could’ve had the most influence in doing just that.

Which has created a deep feeling among even Republican-voting Guard members that Ms. Rainville cut and ran when the going got tough. And that she left her troops when they most needed her leadership and advocacy for the most selfish of reasons.

Those are tough words I know. But, that’s a part of the dynamic that will help elect Peter Welch to Congress on November 7th.

I don’t really cover the environmental beat. Not that I don’t care (I care, really, I do…), but because there are plenty of other people who know far about these issues than I do.

But, prompted by the announcement today of the new British Report on climate change and their hiring of Al Gore as a consultant, I thought I’d highlight an interesting story on the front page of the Sunday Rutland Herald this weekend.

Here it is

Leahy: President censored warming research

October 29, 2006

By KEVIN O’CONNOR Staff Writer

BURLINGTON — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., joined the world’s leading researcher on global warming Saturday to charge that the Bush administration’s use of censorship to foil terrorism is hurting the fight against climate change and other environmental threats.

“If you have information that points out a problem, the only way you’re going to make a correction is if you find out about it,” Leahy said. “I have never seen an administration, either Republican or Democratic, as secretive as this one. It has become absolutely farcical, except that the country has been damaged by it.”

Leahy, speaking in Burlington, punctuated his point by sitting beside top NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who alleged in January that the government was trying to stop him from speaking out after he called for prompt reductions in pollution emissions linked to global warming.

“There’s a huge gap between what is understood by scientists and what is known by the public and policymakers,” Hansen said Saturday. “I think people are unaware how close we are to the tipping point. That’s not speculation. The science is clear.”

Leahy and Hansen made their comments at the Society of Environmental Journalists international conference at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel, which drew 800 participants from around the world. Hansen is known as the man who testified before Congress in 1988 about a strong “cause and effect relationship” between temperature and pollution emissions into the atmosphere, sparking the first news reports about global warming.

UPDATE: And, of course, this is all in the context of a repeated pattern of meddling with scientific data for political gain…

Like that Carpetbagger fellow writes in his “Bush administration snubs scientists — Part MMCXVIII” post of today…

It is, unfortunately, a familiar tale. Career officials and scientists urged the Interior Department to base decisions on evidence and empirical research; a Bush political appointee ignored the staff reports and followed the advice of industry interests.

What struck me as slightly different about this instance was that MacDonald was, well, mean. According to the WaPo, she not only overruled scientists’ conclusions, she “mocked rank-and-file employees’ recommendations.”

First, where does the Bush gang find these people for influential government posts?

Second, I’ve completely lost count of how many times Bush appointees have taken credible scientific research and disregarded it for political purposes. Plan B emergency contraception, stem-cell research, global warming … I sometimes get the impression that the Bush gang reflexively believes, “If a scientist can prove it, we don’t like it.”

Two recent offerings provide some real insight into the mess in Iraq.

First, Vanity Fair’s long article on the Haditha incident.

William Langewiesche writes…

The Euphrates is a peaceful river. It meanders silently through the desert province of Anbar like a ribbon of life, flanked by the greenery that grows along its banks, sustaining palm groves and farms, and a string of well-watered cities and towns. Fallujah, Ramadi, Hit, Haditha. These are among the places made famous by battle—conservative, once quiet communities where American power has been checked, and where despite all the narrow measures of military success the Sunni insurgency continues to grow. On that short list, Haditha is the smallest and farthest upstream. It extends along the Euphrates’ western bank with a population of about 50,000, in a disarray of dusty streets and individual houses, many with walled gardens in which private jungles grow. It has a market, mosques, schools, and a hospital with a morgue. Snipers permitting, you can walk it top to bottom in less than an hour, allowing time enough to stone the dogs. Before the American invasion, it was known as an idyllic spot, where families came from as far away as Baghdad to while away their summers splashing in the river and sipping tea in the shade of trees. No longer, of course. Now, all through Anbar, and indeed the Middle East, Haditha is known as a city of death, or more simply as a name, a war cry against the United States.

Read the whole thing, though it runs through 12 pages online.

Better yet, consider a subscription to the print version. Where else can you find such well-written pieces that cover everything from serious in-depth coverage of current events, to James Wolcott, to fascinating portraits of old oddballs, crooks and old Hollywood, with a dose of Us Weekly mixed in for good measure.

Each issue is jam-packed with material. That is if you can get through the huge amount of ads and variable paper stock boundaries.

And, though it has already aired, My Country, My Country, a documentary about the preceding months before the January 2005 Iraqi election shown on PBS’s POV, is incredible, revealing, and depressing.

The web site has quite a bit of interesting content, too, including video clips and an interview with the director, Laura Poitras.

One response from Poitras…

I think in order to understand this war, we need to understand Iraq and we need to understand it from the perspective of Iraqis. Everything about their culture is different from our culture: their religion, their family structure, etc. I think we learn about those differences and what Iraqi values are in the course of the film. That perspective needed to be told, and I was very fortunate that Dr. Riyadh would let me into his house to do that.

Dr. Riyadh’s story is a really great way to gain insight into understanding the contradictions of the war. What does it mean to invade a country to bring democracy? It’s a huge contradiction. He’s a person who’s caught in that web and trying to do the right thing, and ultimately I think that the contradictions of this endeavor led to a very tragic outcome for him personally and for many of the people — both from the U.S. military and from the United Nations — who are trying to implement this effort. It is also a film that I think will challenge political perspectives from both sides, because it really is, in a sense, a celebration of democracy, and at the same time it’s a critique of the occupation.

The U.S. is now very isolated in its occupation of Iraq. All the people who run the embassy live inside a compound that they never leave; they never have interaction with Iraqis, they never go to restaurants, they never eat local food, they never go into private homes. The fact is that the U.S. is trying to occupy or bring democracy to this country with very little knowledge of the country and the people, and I felt that I couldn’t tell the story without telling that perspective.

At the same time, I didn’t want to lose the larger perspective. I wanted to have a juxtaposition of the personal story of this man and this family with the story of the U.S. military, which is really calling the shots. I want that tension between the people who are making decisions and the people whose lives are impacted by those decisions.

I’ve got nothing to add here, but this latest WCAX/Research 2000 poll of the Vermont Governor’s race is definitely good news for Scudder Parker’s campaign and should provide some good positive energy in the closing days of the contest.

Research 2000 found that Governor Douglas still enjoys favorability above 50 percent… but he also has high negatives.. 44 percent. While Democrat Scudder Parker has favorability of 44 % , he has negatives of 28% but no opinion of 28%.

This translates into a race that has tightened.. Douglas leads by ten points 51% to 41%, with only 7 percent undecided. Douglas is more popular with men than women.. more popular in the northern counties than the south.

The more people know about Scudder, the more they like him.

Throw him some cash if you can.

And, c’mon ladies and northern Vermont progressives, get to the polls!

Me...

By the way, this mother-in-law thing has broken my stats record, I think — with at least Ntodd and the BlogAimo so far doing posts about it that have generated quite a bit of traffic.

I’m sure the picture above will keep you coming back.

I was listening to Randi Rhodes yesterday on the way home from work and she was talking about how a Vermont soldier was making use of a military whistle-blower deal to protest the Iraq War.

I didn’t hear much of the detail, but luckily Vermont’s Own™ Christian Avard had written about it for both the Vermont Guardian and Raw Story and was able to fill in the details.

He writes (at the Guardian)…

Marine Corps Sgt. Liam Madden of Rockingham spoke to the media today after filing the redress, expressing his support for the effort because he opposes the war the Iraq.

“None of the Marines know that there is a policy available to them and that it’s everybody’s duty to support democracy and do it much more effectively than we are in exercising these rights in Iraq,” said Madden.

Madden, like others in the group, does not consider himself a pacifist, a conscientious objector, and is not urging any action that may be deemed illegal.

But he and others are saying to family, friends, and other active duty members that military whistleblower protection gives members of the military the right to send an appeal to a member of Congress without any fear of reprisal.

“The real grievances are if democracy is our goal than I believe we are going about it all wrong. The occupation is perpetuating more violence and I think it is the biggest de-stabilizing thing we can do to the Middle East. It’s costing way too many human lives — Iraqi civilians and American service member lives — and brings us no benefits,” Madden said. “The only people who benefit in my eyes are corporations like Halliburton. I don’t think that the war is being paid for in the right manner, and I think that if people want to support the troops then they should support us coming home.”

Madden serves in the U.S. Marine Corps and is stationed in Quantico, VA. He is a 2002 graduate of Bellows Falls High School and is the son of Oona Madden, former owner of Oona’s restaurant in Bellows Falls,and the brother of Darry Madden, a reporter for the Brattleboro Reformer.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy praised Madden’s courage.

Well done, Christian!

And, just like in VDB’s inaugural post, Vermont continues to sink its tiny little teeth into the current cheese-filled administration.

Seriously…

I was just listening to Al Franken interview Howard — and the Chairman told the following paraphrased story…

~~A woman came up to me at the airport the other day and said ~Oh Governor Dean, I think you’re doing such a great job!~ [Dean imitating the woman's animated tone] and I said ~well make sure you vote on November 7th.~

She said that she couldn’t vote in Vermont anymore because she’d moved down to Maryland. So I said ~have you registered to vote there?~

And she ~no.~~~ [Howard conveyed the sheepishness of this response.]

~So, don’t complain then!~ Dean then said, as if to indicate what he had really wanted to say to the woman.

Since my mother-in-law just moved back to the D.C. area from Vermont, and just ran into Howard Dean this past week and told him she thought he was doing a great job, well…

I’d be willing to bet a round of beers at the O.P. that it was her. And, a phone call will certainly be made this evening to confrim.

But, according to the Maryland voter information page, “registration will be closed from August 23, 2006, to September 24, 2006, and October 18, 2006, to November 19, 2006.”

So, I don’t think any Dr. Governor guilt is going to work here.

I was going to write a pithy little post today about Bob Somerby’s great recent series about Mark Halperin and John Harris’ The Way to Win, tying together his work with a post that’s up now on Think Progress.

But, that was until I noticed that at the bottom of the Think Progress post, there was a link to basically the same diary by Big Tent Democrat on the Mothership. So you can read it there…

Instead, I’ll rip off Atrios and post a great ad from the DNC.

Yes please, Chairman Dean, may I have another?

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