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August 2008

August 29, 2008

Demolition Derby at the Fair!


Here are some shots of the Demolition Derby and Rollover Contest at the Champlain Valley Fair in Essex, Vermont. Smash 'em and crash 'em up!

Dem. Convention: Burlington Dems Rally, Mostly, for Obama

Ed. Note: Here's a report from a local bash at Democratic Party HQ in Burlington.

Last night around 10:15, Democratic Party Headquarters in downtown Burlington was rockin' with bottles of Magic Hat beer, balloons, Democratic Guv-hopeful Gaye Symington, large, neon posters reminding us of her candidacy, twentysomethings sprawled on the floor, camerafolk jamming the doorway. Outside, Ralph Nader supporters patrolled the sidewalks, and an activist handed out a flyer critical of Senator Barack Obama's war-related voting record.

For the next hour or so during Obama's landmark speech, the crowd upstairs clapped loudly for the following things, among others: Obama's odes to his notion of equal rights for same-sex couples, his humorous, and also his not-so-humorous, attacks on John McCain's record, his criticisms of status-quo-politics-as-usual, his assurance that he would indeed be a competent commander-in-chief if elected — and then some, thank you very much — as well as an image of a large, thin, blue sign on the floor of Denver Stadium that read, "VERMONT."

The response from the Burlington crowd was less warm for the following things, among others: Obama's support of nuclear power and "clean" coal, as well as his assurance that "we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights." The response to such statements, in fact, was less a rousing cheer than a polite golf clap.

After the event, the dissenters were no longer standing outside. Instead, Gaye Symington stood in the doorway of Dem party headquarters extolling the virtues of Obama's speech to a small group of supporters who were lingering nearby.

McCain Taps VP Pick. Really?

Our sex columnist, Mistress Maeve, parses the headlines:

If you hadn't heard yet, McCain has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. As the reports poured in all over the Internet, my favorite take was on Yahoo — they reported that McCain "tapped" Palin to be his vice presidential running mate.

Hmm, let's check "tap" in the Urban Dictionary...

Texting: What's Good

Cellphones aren't just for talking anymore. Like it or not, they've become mobile data devices.

If you're still getting used to having a cellphone, this might be tough for you to absorb, but it's actually a pretty cool shift, and it took a major step forward in the past few weeks as the Obama campaign promoted its texting service on the national stage. Nielsen Mobile estimates that nearly 3 million people received Obama's "Joe Biden is my veep" text. And then last night, I heard them plugging it from the podium during the convention.

I was excited to hear the Obama people talking up texting, because Seven Days is about to start experimenting with it, too. What's Good, our new college guide, is debuting its first texts next week. You can sign up to get 'em by texting "wgme" to 21321. Or enter your phone number here.

We'll text you twice a week with discounts, parties and events. You'll be able to get a coupon on your phone, and then you show your phone at the business and get a good deal.

OK, it's not quite as exciting as finding out Obama's veep pick, but it has the potential to be pretty cool.

August 28, 2008

Using Video Games for Good Works

Just this morning, I learned that students from Champlain College's Emergent Media Center are traveling around South Africa thanks to a $600,000 grant from the United Nations Population Fund. The cash enables them to research and create a video game that would educate kids about violence against women. Check out their blog here.

Or, better yet, talk with some of them next weekend at their cool Art Hop installation. Check next week's Seven Days for details . . .

The Champlain project, incidentally, reminds me of another one by Albert "Skip" Rizzo, a therapist and virtual reality designer at the University of Southern California. Rizzo is using the Xbox game "Full Spectrum Warrior" to help soldiers returning from Iraq deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Ripton writer Sue Halpern, who recently wrote about Rizzo's project in the New Yorker and published a book about "memory research," explains her story in this New Yorker video segment.

Dem. Convention: Bernie Bashes Big Media on DemCon Coverage

Bernie Parts of Bernie Sanders' message to the VT delegation to the Democratic Convention would strike many Vermonters as familiar fare from the longtime Independent socialist. Bernie bashed big media, deplored Republican tax breaks for the super-rich and called for a grassroots mobilization to change the direction of the United States.

But Sanders' stance today also differs from the radical perspective with which he's long been associated. Bernie noted that this is the first Democratic convention he has attended. He strongly supports Barack Obama and makes clear there are virtually zero degrees of political separation between himself and the Democrats' presidential candidate.

The pathbreaking politician who once attacked the Democratic Party as indistinguishable in crucial ways from the Republican Party has muted that message. Bernie has come to Denver to back Obama wholeheartedly, not to fault the Dems as insufficiently progressive.

At a breakfast session Thursday, Sanders blasted the corporate media for alternately ignoring and trivializing the presidential campaign.

Noting that the non-cable TV networks are devoting only one prime-time hour to the Democratic Convention, Sanders said NBC, ABC et al apparently decided that's the most they can set aside "in between the game shows, the reality shows and the commercials" in order to inform viewers of what he described as "the most important election in our lifetime."

Bernie also criticized the big media's "horse-race" approach to election coverage, saying the misplaced emphasis on personality keeps becoming more pronounced. Sanders said it is unlikely that reporters for mainstream outlets will ask John McCain about "the collapse of the middle class and the growing gap between the rich and everyone else in this country." Instead, he added, the media "will be talking about what McCain has to do to win over brown-eyed people in Oklahoma."

The choice facing voters in November could not be more stark, Sanders continued, noting that he will "running around the country" campaigning on behalf of Obama.

As an example of the distinctions between the Republican and Democratic candidates, Sanders pointed to Obama's and McCain's respective responses to legislation he is sponsoring in Congress to double funding for the federal heating assistance program for low-income Americans. Obama voted for the bill, while McCain, on the other hand, did nothing to halt a Republican filibuster that prevented the legislation — which had received a 50-35 vote for passage — from winning Senate approval.

Bernie said he does respect McCain's service to the United States. "I'm not here to demagogue John McCain," he told the delegation. "He's a nice guy." But the policies that McCain favors would be "disastrous" for Vermonters and for most Americans, Sanders declared.

Even so, electing Obama "will not be a slam dunk," Sanders warned. Obama's spending advantage will not ensure victory, he predicted. "I know from my own experience that TV and radio ads are not where it's at. There has to be a real grassroots campaign of knocking on millions of doors."

Dem. Convention: VT Coverage Round-Up

Sick of the Democratic convention yet? Kevin Kelley isn't the only Vermont blogger in Denver this week — not by a long shot. Here are a few links to other Vermonters covering the festivities on the web:

  • Green Mountain Daily: This Dem group blog gets the prize for most posts, I think. They've also garnered the most media coverage. Here they are being interviewed by a reporter from Portfolio magazine. This is a pretty fun video, btw. The reporter asks GMD blogger Christian Avard: "Do you think you'll ever eat the mainstream medai?" His response? "I think we are eating the mainstream media." True? You decide. They do have a ton of material from the convention on their site. You go, GMD.
  • Former Governor Madeleine Kunin is blogging at the Huffington Post.
  • The Deal in Denver: Seven Daysie award-winner Philip Baruth is blogging at this Burlington Free Press site. Check it out — Baruth with comments! He doesn't allow 'em on Vermont Daily Briefing.
  • GMD contributor JD Ryan has some videos up at his blog, Five Before Chaos.
  • He's also posting videos to Exit Voices, the VCAM-sponsored elections blog that Seven Days collaborated with last March.
  • Here's another one, the blog of the Orange County Democrats.

August 27, 2008

For All You ABBA Lovers Out There

Mammamia Taking a break from Kevin's excellent convention coverage to alert you to some important pop culture news. All you folks who love Mamma Mia! and wanted to sing along in the theater but didn't dare... well, now you can. Starting Friday, the Majestic 10 in Williston is showing a "special edition" of the Meryl Streep musical with lyrics on the screen, karaoke style.

This is being released nation-wide, no doubt due to popular demand. The title of this piece sums up how I personally feel about the Mamma Mia! phenomenon. However, I do hope local fans will show up, because there's nothing sadder than an ABBA sing-along with only three drunk people in the front row belting out "Dancing Queen."

Next up, a special edition of The Dark Knight for people who want to recite the Joker's lines, Rocky Horror-style? Or one for folks who want to partake of a certain thematically relevant substance while watching Pineapple Express? Er, maybe not.

Click here for showtimes.

Dem. Convention: Welch Responds to Antiwar Candidate's Challenge

Welch_standard_headshot Vermont Congressman Peter Welch said in an interview in Denver on Wednesday that he is being challenged by a Progressive candidate mainly because he has not managed, singlehandedly, to end the war in Iraq.

Welch noted sardonically that he has also not halted global warming, even though — as in the case of Iraq — he has voted repeatedly for actions that would move the US in a positive direction on the issue.

"I've voted against the war on every single opportunity in Congress," Welch said following a breakfast meeting with the Vermont delegation to the Democratic Convention. "I'm one of those members of Congress who believes we have to use the power of the purse to bring the troops home. That's why I've repeatedly voted to cut funding for the war."

Former Army Specialist Thomas James Hermann, a veteran of the Iraq war from Barre, is running against Welch in the November election as a Progressive. Hermann says Welch has not been forceful enough in opposing the war.

Welch said Hermann has been encouraged to run by a faction of the Vermont antiwar movement that includes Burlington attorney James Leas, a leader in the drive for the VT Legislature to pass a resolution favoring impeachment of President George W. Bush.

I asked Welch if he supported Barack Obama's position of transferring some US troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Welch said his aim is to bring American troops home from Iraq and that the United States cannot afford to insert an "army of occupation" into every country where Al Qaeda is believed to pose a threat.

He acknowledged, however, that the threat of terrorism against the US is "real." Welch suggested he would await a review of the Afghanistan situation by an Obama administration before deciding on the right course of action there.

Opposition to the Iraq war is being kept off center-stage at the Pepsi Center where Democrats have gathered to nominate Obama. Most speakers mention the war in their remarks to the convention, but it is receiving much less emphasis than the economy, health care and energy.

When convention speakers do call for a pullout from Iraq, they almost invariably say that Obama would end the war RESPONSIBLY. That adverb has been scripted into every Democrat big-shot's speeches here, including the talk that Michelle Obama gave on Weds morn at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The formulation reminds me a lot of Richard Nixon's 1968 mantra about the Vietnam war. Nixon said on every occasion that he wanted to achieve "peace with honor" in Vietnam. The "honor" part became an excuse for staying in Vietnam five more years and continuing to destroy that country even as the war was being lost. I wonder if the "responsibly" trope could ultimately prove to be a rhetorical cover for the same refusal to end a war that should never have been started.

What do you think?

Dem. Convention: VT Delegates to Cast United Roll Call Vote

Vermont's Clinton and Obama delegates have reached agreement on how they will vote when the state's turn comes toward the end of this evening's roll-call vote at the Democratic Convention. A statement of unity, drafted last night with the help of former Governor Madeleine Kunin, recognizes the historic achievement of Hillary Clinton's campaign as a prelude to a unanimous Vermont delegate vote for Barack Obama.

"My own view is that the angry Hillary woman has been hyped," Kunin told a breakfast meeting of the VT delegation on Weds. "We want to present our own delegation in a totally different vein. I feel very comfortable casting my vote for Obama."

Vermont may once again serve as a model for other states, Kunin added. She said she hopes the entire convention, including all Hillary supporters, acts on a tag line from Sen Clinton's speech last night:

"No way, no how, no McCain!"

The statement to be read out later today on the convention floor begins:

"The great Green Mountain State of Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry's, honors the historic accomplishment of Hillary Rodham Clinton and her support in this election from 18 million voters."

It continues:

"Obama and Clinton delegates are united in saluting her candidacy that paved the way for other women. We salute and honor all those who worked tirelessly on her behalf."

And it concludes:

"We are proud to cast our votes for the next president of the United States, Barack Obama."

Congressman Peter Welch also spoke at the breakfast today. I asked him afterward what he thought of the challenge to his re-election by an Iraq veteran running with Progressive support. More on that in a little while.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

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