Wednesday, November 30, 2005

National: How Do We Get Them To Re-Enlist?

From Reuters newswire, Tuesday, November 29:

Army aims to coax back former troops

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army, fresh off missing its latest annual recruiting goal, has launched an unprecedented effort to coax former troops to sign up again for active-duty military service, officials said on Tuesday.

Oh come on, don't they know there's a war going on? And they're trying to "coax" guys into re-enlisting for active duty with images like the one above? Look at that drill instructor, he looks like a maniac. Who's going to sign up again for that?

You're never going to sell them on coming back with that kind of approach. These guys were in the service, they remember what it was like. You're going to have to offer them more than an opportunity to skip basic training. Now how about something like this?

Yeah! Now you're talking. Two thumbs, WAY up! Of course, I'm not suggesting you actually deliver this to guys who re-enlist(way too expensive, and you'd have to hire Chippendale's for the female G.I.s) I'm just suggesting that the Pentagon use this kind of imagery in its ads, instead of the maniac drill instructor. After they re-enlist, they learn that there's no naked girls bringing them breakfast in bed; it's just that maniac drill instructor again. They won't be that disappointed, really; they know how the Pentagon works.

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  • International: US Soldiers Pretending to Be Iraqi Journalists?

    The LA Times reports that “the US military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to print stories written by US soldiers in an effort to polish the image of the American mission in Iraq.”

    But what led the Times to suspect that US Army personnel were secretly planting stories in the Iraqi press?

    Well, the first tip-off was a review of “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire” that appeared in the “Movies” section of the Baghdad Times-Picayune last Friday. Careful linguistic analysis led reporters to believe that the purported author (“Abdul the Film Critic”) might in reality be a covert member of the US Armed Forces.

    For example, the author of the review describes the “mission” of Hogwarts Academy as “training student personnel to deliver spells (type: magic) against specific targets when authorized.” The author went on to say that “Magic-capable units disperse, move or secure supernatural capabilities using appropriate logistical procedures in accordance with applicable Hogwarts regulations, theater directives, and technical manuals.” The author of piece also singled out “Goblet of Fire Special Effect (GOBFI-FX)” as “unacceptable and tending to degrade and/or detract from total cinematic mission capability (TCMC).”

    Another indication that US soldiers might be posing as Iraqi journalists was this excerpt from the “Sports” section of the Basra Sun-Sentinel. The Sun-Sentinel’s sports columnist, “Omar, Master of All Sports Knowledge”, printed a piece containing phrases and terms more characteristic of a member of the American armed forces than a native Iraqi:

    “This journalistic operative concedes that this journalistic operative’s prediction re: the New York Rangers (NHL Hockey-Capable Personnel) is no longer operative. But this journalistic operative observes that other authorized journalistic personnel (sports) also reached similar erroneous conclusions re: the New York Rangers/Playoff Contention (PLAYCON). All this journalistic operative’s statements re: the Ottawa Senators/Stanley Cup (OTTSEN/STANCUP) continue to remain operative at this point in time.”

    Finally, there is this excerpt from the “Home and Garden Page” of the Fallujah Bee:
    “Gardening-capable personnel will maintain Azaleas and Rhododendrons (AZRHO) to achieve splashes of color (type: bold). Gardening-capable personnel will avoid subjecting same to unauthorized or inadvertent acts which may degrade their performance. There are no formal requirements, however, for documenting administrative procedures for AZRHO in wartime. Gardening-capable personnel may supplement AZRHO with appropriate Shade Shrubs (SHASHR) in accordance with applicable operator and organizational maintenance manuals. Emergency destruction (ED) may be necessary to prevent capture of Purple Beautyberry (PUBEA) or Dwarf Fothergilla (DWAFOTH) shrubs by the enemy. Gardening-capable personnel also should detect and identify land mines prior to ground engagement in order to ensure mission completion.”

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  • Stillwater: New Local Political Commentators at the Gazette

    In keeping with its new "post-Prendergast" policy of providing a more positive tone on its Viewpoints page, the Gazette welcomes State Senator Brian LeClair back to its pages. Not that Senator LeClair and other St. Croix Valley legislators were ever excluded; their absence from the Gazette's editorial page in recent months was most probably motivated by fear of ridicule or exposure.

    But this dark era is over, and the Gazette is currently selecting new personnel to provide commentary, critique and analysis of the policies and practices of our four local legislators.

    State Senator Brian LeClair, as noted, will be covering the "State Senator Brian Le Clair" beat for the Gazette editorial page. LeClair's guest column seems to be entitled "Legislative View" and his first piece is called "Education Reform Takes Priority In Legislature's Pocketbook." In this piece Le Clair provides a penetrating analysis of LeClair's work in the legislature, and--after weighing the issues--seems to give LeClair an "A", especially when it comes to making tough decisions about whether or not to raise taxes. We expect to hear more from LeClair on LeClair in the future.

    It seems likely that Senator Michele Bachmann will soon be welcomed back to the the Gazette's opinion Page to provide news analysis re: "Senator Michele Bachmann." Representative Mike Charron will be the Gazette's editorial "go-to-guy" for news commentary about "Representative Mike Charron". Representative Matt Dean will cover the less glamorous "Representative Matt Dean" beat.

    Questions about conflict of interest may be raised by some overly punctilious readers: is it fair, or even wise, to allow elected officials regular access to a paper's editorial page without also providing regular counterpoint to their views? Isn't there a conflict of interest involved when a politician is permitted to be the principal newspaper commentator on his or her own career?

    The answer is that there cannot be any conflict of interest here at all, because in this case the person being covered and the person providing the coverage are in fact one in the same. There is only one amendment I would make: it is the policy of the Gazette to place a photo of a columnist at the head of an opinion column so that the reader may easily identify the author. Where the Gazette permits St. Croix Valley politicians to provide coverage and analysis of their own doings, I suggest that the editor run two identical photos of the author at the head of each of his columns. The readers will then understand that paper has engaged these columnists to provide news commentary about themselves. Discerning readers will then be able to give appropriate weight to their opinions.

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  • Tuesday, November 29, 2005

    National/State: MN GOP Has Mixed Feelings About Bush

    From the St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 29, 2005:

    Bush is asset and liability to state GOP

    But for now, fundraising prowess outweighs impact of poor ratings

    Although President Bush's job-approval ratings are in the tank, he's still No. 1 when it comes to raising campaign cash.

    That's why Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kennedy invited Bush to the Twin Cities on Dec. 9 to speak at a fundraising luncheon.

    The president is expected to raise more than $1 million for Kennedy, the 6th District congressman. Then Bush will quickly get out of town before he becomes a drag on Kennedy's campaign.

    SCENE: (An undisclosed location somewhere in the Twin Cities. Backstage at an unnamed banquet hall in an unidentified convention center.)
    TIME: (December 9th, 2005. Lunchtime.)
    (Congressman Mark Kennedy paces frantically back and forth behind the curtain, rubbing his hands nervously. Every so often he checks his watch, smoothes back his hair, checks and rechecks his fly.)
    (Senator Norm Coleman backs into the scene from beyond the curtain, bowing, nodding and waving to the crowd on the other side.)
    Kennedy: (jumping up and down and tugging on Coleman’s sleeve) Is he here yet? Is he here?
    Coleman: (slapping Kennedy away, drawing the curtain shut so the crowd can’t see them) Get off me, jackass! (hisses) No, he isn’t here yet! Shut up!
    Kennedy: But isn’t this exciting, Norm? He’s coming! He’s coming here to Minnesota!
    Coleman: For God’s sake, will you keep your voice down, you moron?
    Kennedy: You shouldn’t call me a moron, Norm. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, you know.
    Coleman: You were the first person in your family to take a bath, you “Deliverance” hillbilly! (Mopping his sweaty brow, pacing.) I don’t believe this. Hundreds of big money Republicans sitting out there at this luncheon and you have to go and invite the President!
    Kennedy: But what’s wrong with that, Norm? The President’s a Republican, too—
    Coleman: (clapping his hand over Kennedy’s mouth) For Christ’s sake, will you—(he looks anxiously behind the curtain) It’s okay, I don’t think they heard. (Unclasps Kennedy’s mouth, adjusts his suit, speaks as if to a child) Now look, Marky. I know you thought you were doing the right thing, inviting the President to campaign for us—
    Kennedy (nodding vigorously) He’s my hero!
    Coleman: (putting his finger to Kennedy’s lips) SSSHH! SSHH! (then whispers, a big phony smile plastered on his face) Mine too! Mine too! (puts his arm around Kennedy’s shoulder, steers him away from the curtains) But, umm, politics is a kind of funny thing, Mark, remember how I told you that before?
    Kennedy: Yeaaahhh…
    Coleman: So this year… this particular year, with the war in Iraq, and the way the government responded to Hurricane Katrina, and rising gas prices, and the CIA-leak scandal and the economy the way it is… it might not be such a good idea to have HIM hanging around here too long, see what I mean?
    Kennedy: (thinks for a moment, then) I don’t get you, Norm.
    Coleman: (grabs Kennedy by the neck and starts to throttle him) Then maybe you’ll get THIS, pinhead…don’t EVER invite him here again while I’m in town, he didn’t WIN Minnesota, and it could COST us Minnesota just to be SEEN with him, do you get THAT?
    (Kennedy, turning blue in the face, tongue protruding, points frantically over Coleman’s shoulder trying to divert his attention to a sinister figure that has skulked on to the scene. The figure wears a black slouch hat and a black cape, carries two big black suitcases, tries to sneak in unnoticed.)
    Coleman: (mortified, releases Kennedy, whirls on figure) Oh, my God!
    Kennedy: (gasping) Norm! (ack, ack) It’s him!
    Coleman: (to Kennedy) Shut up! (to strange figure in black that is sneaking away after dropping the suitcases) We didn’t see anybody!
    Kennedy: Mr. President!
    (Coleman and the strange figure freeze in their tracks. The figure in black makes a “damn! I’ve been caught” gesture with his fist, then slowly removes the slouch hat—revealing that it is indeed President Bush.)
    Bush: (embarrassed) How you boys, doin’...
    Coleman: (even more embarrassed, looking away) Oh, fine, fine…
    Kennedy: (rushing towards Bush) Oh, Mr. President, you’re my hero, I always vote the way you tell me to, sir, it’s so exciting—
    Bush: Yeah, yeah, keep the hands off, no hands—
    (Steve Sviggum ducks in from behind the curtain.)
    Sviggum: Norm, I think these guys are just about ready to—(sees Bush, his jaw drops open) GAAAGHK! (He instantly ducks back behind the curtain again.)
    Bush: Okay, look, fellas, there’s a million in the suitcases there, that ought to see you guys through the next election, this is a farm state, right?
    Kennedy: (opening suitcase, grabbing wads of cash) Oh, boy! A million dollars!
    Bush: (slapping on his slouch hat) Yeah, buy some T.V. time, promise them farmers some magic beans or something, well, I gotta go, nice seein’ ya, fellas, “freedom” and all that stuff, adios—(tries door) Goddammit, where’s the exit? This is a fire door, this ain’t supposed to be locked—
    Kennedy: But don’t you want to go out and say a few words to the—
    (Coleman cold-cocks Kennedy with a fire extinguisher. Kennedy collapses into the pile of cash.)
    Coleman: (quickly, under his breath to Bush, pointing) Service elevator. Leads to the kitchen. If security tries to stop you, tell them you’re an anti-gay marriage activist.
    Bush: (hurrying away) Thanks, Norm. I was never here. (disappears stage left)
    Coleman: (a la Sergeant Schulz) I know nothing, I see nothing… (he stuffs a couple of hundred grand into his tux pockets, steps over Kennedy, and then out beyond the curtains again, again acknowledging the applause and blowing kisses.)

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  • Monday, November 28, 2005

    Poll Results: Many Shocked By New Vatican Gay Policy

    Fifty per cent of Americans responding to a recent survey were shocked to hear that the Vatican has announced that "active gays" are unwelcome in the priesthood.

    Half of those polled demanded to know what the Vatican policy was prior to its announcement. Another twenty-five per cent of those responding asked if the Vatican was still accepting sluggish, "couch potato"-type gays as priests. The remaining twenty-five per cent of respondents wanted to know where all the active gays were supposed to go if the Vatican wasn't taking them anymore.

    None of those surveyed thought that "sexually active" gay priests should compromise with the new Vatican policy and "just lay there."

    More than three people participated in the survey, which was conducted at this web site and has an margin of error of about, oh, two per cent. Please take a moment to participate in this week's survey, which you will find below and to the right.

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  • Friday, November 25, 2005

    International: Al Jazeera Protests Bush Plan To Bomb Their Network

    Boy, look at that “big protest-march, media-event” Al-Jazeera’s putting on in London. “We Demand Bigger Signs”, is more like it. You have to stand less than three feet away from this guy to read what his sign says. I thought those Al-Jazeera guys had oil money. If they worked for Ted Turner they’d have bigger signs, I bet.

    Actually it did kind of bug me when it was revealed that Bush had planned to bomb Al-Jazeera. I’m glad Tony Blair talked him out of it; since I got fired they’re the only company that gave me a second interview.

    But the idea that you can bomb unfriendly news coverage out of existence: I mean, that’s just silly, isn’t it? He bombs Al-Jazeera, kills a bunch of journalists, executives and technicians—the next week they’ll start setting up ten new broadcast centers in ten other Arab countries that are also allies of the United States, and they’ll call it the Al-Jazeera News Martyr Memorial Network. You can’t just bomb bad press out of existence, you morons. If you want to control the way a TV network covers an issue, do what everyone else does--become a major advertiser, buy a lot of air time. Then they’ll bend over backwards for you, they’ll turn cartwheels for you.

    But maybe destroying Al-Jazeera wasn’t the point. Maybe Bush just wanted to intimidate other news broadcasters. Who knows how that guy’s mind works, he’s nuts or something. Did he think that CNN and CBS and ABC would all get scared feces-less and start running pro-administration pieces? “Hey, nice story you guys did on me last night. And say, this sure is a lovely television studio you have here… it’d be a shame if anything HAPPENED TO IT… Yessir, a doggone shame…See, I got this little button here on my cell phone, this little red button that connects straight to Strategic Air Command…Orders an air strike anywhere in the world, all I gotta do is just tweak this little ole button right here… Only trouble is, sometimes my finger gets kind of twitchy…specially when I’m listenin’ to the news. Yeah, it gets a mite twitchy, and once in a blue moon I hit the wrong button… The RED button… Don’t fret now, it only happened once before, little place called… AL-JAZEERA!”

    And now they’re trying to spin it with the old “he was just kiddin’” story. Oh, yeah, sure, Bush was just kidding. That’s why the British government told the media they’re breaking the law if they publish the details of the leaked document that shows that Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera.

    Sure, Bush was just joking; that’s why Blair’s government is threatening the newspapers and television with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. They don’t want the media repeating Bush’s “jokes,” stealing all his “big laughs.” The document in question is probably chock-full of hilarious hi-jinx and howlers just like that! And you don’t want to lose the rest of a sure-fire, thigh-slapper laff-riot routine like that (“Let’s bomb Al-Jazeera, Tony!” “BWAH-HAW-HAW-HAW! Jolly good!”)

    It’s the same with me, I must put in twenty calls a day to the Secret Service and FBI and MI5, threatening media outlets with criminal prosecution—I have to, to protect my funniest material. That’s really the only way to go; otherwise you end up seeing your best stuff on Letterman or the Daily Show.

    “Hooo, show business,” as Rodney Dangerfield used to say.

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  • Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    Poll Results: Don't Count On The French Coming To Our Rescue

    The results of a new poll show many Americans doubting that Europe will come to our aid in Iraq. The Bush administration recently called upon the nations of Europe to do more to help to accomplish the military and political mission in Iraq. Most of those surveyed believed that the Europeans were likely to respond to the White House plea for help with obscene gestures, foul suggestions and sarcastic remarks delivered in cartoonish foreign accents.

    Over sixteen people participated in the online survey, blah, blah, blah. Twenty-four per cent said this; fifty-nine per cent said that, blah, blah, blah.

    Please take a moment and participate in our latest poll, which can be found below and to the right.

    Thank you for your time, blah, blah, blah.

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  • Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    National: Photo Has Nothing To Do With Article; I Just Like Running That Photo

    Cronyism, again. The old Busheroo II, appointing the unqualified to crucial policy positions, not because they are qualified, but because they are loyal to the old Busheroo II. You would think that the White House would have learned from their tragic experience with former FEMA head Michael Brown, and what’s-her-name, the office helper he tried to appoint to the Supreme Court because she never talked back to him and went to church regular and never said anything bad about him behind his back, according to the secret White House surveillance system. And let’s not forget Condoleeza Rice, Bush’s former National Security Adviser, who lost the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon because she just couldn’t appreciate how significant the threat of Al-Qaeda really was. But she was loyal, and she says whatever the President wants to hear—so she wasn’t fired; she was promoted.

    It’s clear now that cronyism is boiler-plate administration policy; a non-negotiable feature of the Bush adminstration. Another example: their appointee for Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness. The problem for the Bush team was to find a point-man, a go-to guy in case of a major outbreak of bird flu or a devastating bio-chemical attack by terrorists. Some tough, experienced administrator with a proven history of dealing effectively with crises and, more importantly, fighting proactively for measures that prevent crises from turning into disasters.

    That was their problem, to find a qualified candidate. But there was an even bigger problem, and that is the fact that Bush and Cheney are truly horrified by the prospect of appointing anyone who will speak the hard truths they need to hear.

    They want a crony, a sycophant, a time-server who tell them what they want to hear. So instead of appointing Major General Armstrong “Old Reliable” McExperienced III, former chief of NATO Anti-Bioterrorism Operations and Evacuation and Emergency Strategies, and instead of appointing Professor Ludwig von Eckshpert Massif-Brrrraine, current head of the Smartological Institute for Epidemiological Counter-Measure Studies and five-time winner of the Nobel Prize for “Preventing A Terrorist Attack Involving A Weapon of Mass Destruction”—instead of them, Bush appointed another unexperienced (sic) nobody, whose duties will also include kissing Bush’s ass and telling the press that the President is “the smartest man I’ve ever known.” (See photo, above.)

    So instead of an expert, they appointed Stewart Simonson. Who? Well, he was hired out of law school to assist the Governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson. And then when Thompson was made President of Amtrak, he got Simonson a job at Amtrak, too.

    And that’s really the guy’s whole resume on dealing with devastating biological warfare and disasters. After the Amtrak job, Thompson took Simonson with him into the federal Health and Human Services Department, which automatically makes you an expert on dealing with public health crises, somehow, I guess.

    You’d think they would have learned after Rice and September 11th, and you’d think they would have relearned after Brown and Katrina. But it’s much more important for them to have political loyalists in key posts than to risk receipt of criticism from an appointee who really knows what she’s doing. For Bush and Cheney, it’s better that Americans die of administrative incompetence than have the shortcomings of White House policy pointed out by a competent but “disloyal” appointee.

    I know (and you know) that the world is growing more dangerous. And the Bush administration regularly announces this every twenty minutes or so, to both rally and terrorize their base. But I don’t think the Bush administration really accepts it as fact. If they did believe that the world was growing more dangerous, why would they appoint a former corporate attorney for Amtrak to protect the U.S. population from bio-terrorism and avian flu deaths? How is a guy like that gonna protect us from bio-terrorism? He couldn’t even protect us from the Amtrak snack bar.

    Yeah, how about that, why doesn’t Simonson appoint the guy who runs the Amtrak snack bar to be in charge of emergency food distribution in case there’s a health care crisis? That guy never said anything bad about the President, and his family could use the money. And what about the emergency water supply? Where’s that chick who brought the President a glass of water this morning, she’s a registered Republican, isn’t she?

    “We take these ‘cronyism’ allegations very seriously,” comments a Bush administration spokesman, “And we are appointing a special commission to look into them, which will be headed by the kid who brings in the donuts.”

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  • Sunday, November 20, 2005

    International: Bush Baffled By Door

    Locked doors thwart Bush's bid to duck question Sun Nov 20, 8:55 AM ET

    BEIJING (Reuters) - Irked by a reporter who told him he seemed to be "off his game" at a Beijing public appearance, President George W. Bush sought to make a hasty exit from a news conference but was thwarted by locked doors.

    Look at that expression on his face. Isn't that priceless? It's not Photoshop, either, folks; this picture's the real deal.

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  • Once again, he's caught without an exit strategy.

    Saturday, November 19, 2005

    International: What Bush Needs To Do In Iraq

    OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea - "We will fight the terrorists in Iraq. We will stay in the fight until we have achieved the victory that our brave troops have fought for," President Bush told thousands of American troops spilling out of a cold hangar at this U.S. military installation 40 miles south of Seoul.

    Bush spoke at the end of a three-day stay in South Korea—

    You see now—there’s the whole problem, right there. He made that statement from South Korea. In a day or two he’ll make a similar statement from China. Location, location, location, is the problem—if he wants to regain his lost credibility, the President’s got to start talking tough from Iraq.

    That’s what will convince people that he’s serious. He’s got to go over there and show everybody that all the progress he and the rest of the Bush administration are citing is real; not just empty spin.

    Dozens of people killed by car bombs? That’s just the biased media again, reporting the bad stuff and leaving out the good. If the President himself goes over there and brings back the pictures, the video, of the President himself showing the kind of spirit he demands from the troops--then, and only then, will the American people and the people of the world get behind him again and support the mission.

    What we need is footage of Bush walking the streets of Baghdad, no secret service protection, no armed guards, whistling a country-western song as he makes his way through the sunny streets (it’s too nice a day to take a cab.) He’s just picked up his laundry, he’s enjoying the smell of fresh-pressed shirts. See? Nothing to fear, out here on the streets of liberated Baghdad, no probs—it’s all anti-American hype. Happy, colorfully dressed locals wave at him as he goes by (“Salaam, Mr. President!” “How you doin’ there, buddy? Ke-babs look good today.” “Thank you, sir!”)

    No more “tough talk” from three thousand miles away; don’t TELL them, George, SHOW them! A crowd of disgruntled types on a street corner, burning the new constitution? “Hey, you punks! Put that out or I’ll kick your ass!” And if they don’t, Bush does—and on camera, too. He drops his laundry and kicks their disrespectful asses, on T.V. That’ll teach ‘em! And the rest of the world, too. As the President says, it’s just a matter of determination.

    A radical cleric is making a rabble-rousing anti-American speech on a street corner; Bush walks up to him and tugs his beard a few times to get his attention (this is sure to get a big laugh from the crowd.) Then he gives the old crank the wedgie of his life, shoves him off his soapbox, turns to the crowd and says “Okay, folks, show’s over. Nothing to see here. Just an old kook tryin’ to stir up trouble.” And the crowd disperses, grinning to themselves—“The U.S. President is right, of course. What fools we are to even give these anti-American types the time of day.”

    And car bombs? What car bombs? We see Bush getting into cars at random on streets, taking keys from timid owners, volunteering his valuable time to valet-park them. “That’s a nice little Mini-Cooper you got there, buddy. No, no tips, it’s in the service of freedom.” Now come on, if that doesn’t convince you that we’re making progress, nothing will.

    And here’s the President again, passing out firearms to an appreciative crowd of students. “The relationship between the USA and Iraq is based on trust,” he says, handing a loaded M-16 to an eager young Iraqi. “And if history teaches us one thing, it’s that gun ownership is essential to preserving a nation’s freedom. Here you go, son.” He smiles at the camera and says, “You folks at home think I’d be standing here handing out guns and ammo if I wasn’t perfectly confident in the faith of this newly liberated people?”

    Then he turns back to the crowd and says, “And speaking of faith, why don’t you kids give up this false religion of yours and become Christians?”

    And, moved by the President’s obvious courage and determination, many do! The President passes out a few leaflets pointing out the flaws in Islam and the truths of Christianity. It doesn’t take more than a cursory glance at the facts to convert a good number of them right there on the spot! “Oh, I’m so relieved that we can finally put this whole Sunni-Shi’ite thing behind us at last. Thank you, Mr. President!”

    “Now if anyone here wants to take a shot at me, go right ahead,” says the President, seriously. “There’s nothin’ stopping you. Look, I’ll even turn my back. I’m wearin’ a big bull’s-eye sweater, too.” The crowd protests and cries: “No! No! Never!”

    Bush smiles. “That’s what I thought. All the so-called “hatred and resentment” is just media hype, isn’t it?” “Yes! Yes! We love you, Mr. President!”

    They raise their new submachine guns and cheer: “Bush! Bush! Bush! Take all our oil, you will know best what to do with it!”

    You see where I’m going with this? We need more news footage like that, and less stuff about things blowing up and people getting killed. Cut the China trip short, Mr. President, and then take a walk through the streets of Baghdad so you can show the world how the people there really feel about you and the mission.

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  • Friday, November 18, 2005

    Special: Preview From My New Play

    As some of you may have heard, I have written a new play and it is currently scheduled to be read by actors at a staged reading produced at the Playwright's Center. The date is December 7th of this year; admission is free and you are all invited to attend.

    What follows is the first scene of the play, which, I hope, will whet your appetites.


    (Office of Dr. Lightner, a specialist in proctology. Lights come up on Dr. West and Dr. Lightner. Dr. Lightner is seated at his desk, signing some forms. Dr. West is sitting across from him, watching him anxiously.)

    I’m only doing this as a favor to you, you know.

    Once you see him, you’ll understand everything.

    Come on, Dave-- a confidentiality statement? This is a kind of an insult to me. I’m a proctologist, we have to have discretion. We live and die by our discretion.

    It’s not meant as any kind of an insult. It’s just that he absolutely refuses to seek medical care without it. He’s my patient, and I have to respect his wishes.

    And that’s another thing--why does a guy go see his psychiatrist first, if the problem is medical? Look, this isn’t some weird psycho-anal thing you’re dragging me into, because you know I don’t go for all that shit--

    No, no, it’s nothing like that. Naturally, there is a psychiatric… dimension to it… But it’s not in his mind, it’s real. It’s physiological. And it’s life-threatening, Steve, you’ll see when I bring him in.

    (hands him the forms)
    Here. What really pisses me off is that you won’t even give me a clue as to what this whole thing is about, without me first signing my whole life away to you with goddamn confidentiality statements--

    (examining the forms)
    Well, I’ve got a duty of confidentiality, too, you know—

    Don’t hand me that! We’re physicians, goddammit! I am, anyway. There should be a relationship of trust between us, we’re not like fucking lawyers. You should tell me what I’m getting into before I find myself getting hold of the shitty end of the insurance stick—

    These look okay. I’ll bring him in. You’ll understand everything just as soon as you’ve had a look at him.

    (West exits.)

    Pain in my...
    (phone rings on his desk, he answers)
    What, what, what now?
    No, I can’t.
    Because I’m going to examine a fucking patient right now, that’s why!
    Well, tell him to rub some Vaseline on it or something, I don’t care.

    (West enters with Coburn, a white man in his thirties. Suit and tie business type. Coburn is embarrassed.)

    (to phone)
    Give him the number of the nurse practitioner, tell her to call me if it’s anything serious.
    (hangs up, rises, smiles)
    Mr. Coburn?

    (extends his hand)

    Pleased to meet you.

    Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.

    Dr. West told me that your condition was very serious.

    (Coburn looks at West.)

    And that’s all I told him, Bob.
    (shows forms)
    See? He’s signed the confidentiality agreements.

    (sits down)
    It’s very unusual for me to be asked to sign a statement prior to examining a patient.

    I really appreciate your doing that.

    You can sit down, if you like.

    I’d prefer to remain standing.

    That’s not unusual, in here. Mr. Coburn, there’s very little that can be wrong with you that I haven’t seen in this office before or read about in medical journals.

    That’s exactly what I’m afraid of--ending up in some medical journal.

    You don’t have to worry about that, Bob.

    Wonderful. So now that we have all our little “legal eagle” documents in place, would you please tell me exactly what the problem is?

    (Coburn looks at Lightner, then at West.)

    Would you like me to tell him, Bob?

    I think it’s better if the patient--if Mr. Coburn tells me in his own words. In fact, Dave, I’d appreciate it if you let me examine him by myself.

    I’d like Dr. West to stay.

    You’d like-- Alright. What the hell. It’s my office, I’m the specialist, but what the hell, what do I know. Stay, Dave, stay. (to Coburn) Now tell me all about it.

    Maybe it would be better if you just showed him, Bob.

    Fine. Anything, let’s just cut to the chase, shall we, gentlemen?
    (He pulls out a rubber glove and begins to squeak it on.)

    I don’t think you’ll be needing that, Steve.

    (glares at West a moment, then to Coburn)
    Please turn around and drop your trousers for me, Mr. Coburn.

    (Coburn does so.)

    Now the underwear, please.

    (Lightner goes to examine Coburn. West stands behind him looking over his shoulder.)

    Okay, then. Now we’ll just have a look—
    (he prods around a moment—then he’s puzzled. Keeps looking. Spreads Coburn’s cheeks. Then, to himself:)
    What the—
    (Looks under Coburn’s balls.)

    (He keeps prodding. Then he rises, goes to his desk and takes out a pencil flashlight, rushes back to Coburn. Examines his ass with pencil flashlight.)

    Where the-- Where is it?

    Can I pull my pants back up now?

    No, you can’t pull your pants back up.
    (to West)
    Where the hell is this man’s anus?

    We were kind of hoping you could tell us, Dave.

    (examines Coburn again)


    He’s all crack, there’s no anus. It’s just a… a blank…


    But how— was he born like this?

    No, I wasn’t born like this!

    Okay, take it easy, Bob, let him examine you thoroughly.
    (to Lightner)
    Ever seen anything like it?

    Sometimes an infant is born without an anus, it’s called an imperforate anus, but he’s, he’s an adult. He couldn’t possibly-- How could he-- There’s no indicia that there was ever any-- Is there any kind of hole in the front, or—

    (Lightner starts to spin Coburn around, but Coburn resists.)

    No, there’s no hole in the front, there’s nothing in the front but my dick, it’s got my, my urethra. I’m pulling up my pants now.
    (He does so.)

    It’s amazing, isn’t it?

    How—how does he eliminate solid waste?

    That’s why I insisted he come down here to see you. That’s why I said it was life-threatening.

    It is! He could die!
    (goes to phone)
    This guy needs a complete examination, he needs scans, we’ve got to find out what—

    Wait a minute, just a minute. Before we go charging off to do the tests, hear him out. Bob, you’re not in any pain right now, are you?


    Steve, Bob called me this morning and told me he had to see me right away. So I had him come down to my office and he explained that his--his anus had disappeared just this morning.



    I thought I might be--I thought I might be hallucinating.

    So did I, at first. I thought it might be some side effect of the anti-depressants Bob’s been taking. But he insisted that I check it out, and I did, and… well…

    You mean you had an anus before this morning?

    I’ve always had an asshole! Always. And it’s never given me a lick of trouble. And then this morning, I woke up—I went to… to move my bowels. And I knew something was wrong. I felt around down there, and it didn’t feel right. So I took a look at it in the shaving mirror, and there was… there was nothing.

    That’s not possible. It couldn’t have completely disappeared and sealed up overnight. You must have had some discomfort, some warning--

    It was there where it always was, last night. I wiped it, I felt it when I wiped myself after I… Jesus.

    Alright, Bob. You’re upset, you’re entitled to be upset.

    Never in my life—

    Please, Dave. What’s our next move?

    Our next move?

    Yeah. I told him not to eat or drink anything until we’d seen you. What do we do now?

    Well, we’ve got to--

    Surgery of some kind?

    Well-- yeah, I guess so. Hell, I don’t know. I’m not going to start calling the shots on this myself, this is too—We’re going to have to do consultations, I’ll get Rubenstein over here from the University Med School—
    (picks up the phone again, then puts it down)
    Let me take a look at that again—

    No, no! Look-- I don’t want anybody else involved--

    Mr. Coburn, this is very serious--

    I know it’s serious. I know it’s life threatening. But I, I’m still dealing with this, for Christ’s sake, I just found out about this, this morning! A piece of me just disappeared, it’s not even like it dropped off and I found it on the bathroom floor or something, it’s just disappeared like it was never there! What happens next? Does my dick disappear tomorrow morning? Or my tongue, or my brain?

    Okay now, Bob—

    I don’t want anyone else to know about this. I’m engaged to be married, I don’t want to be in the freak section on the five o’clock news. I’m in venture capital, I find start up money for new companies, I’m good at it! Jesus, I don’t even want my prospects to know I’m on anti-depressants! I don’t want to become the office joke around town-- “Hey, Bob, you want me to give you fifty thousand dollars for a new telecom and you can’t even keep track of your own asshole?”

    I appreciate that, Mr. Coburn. It’s a terrible, embarrassing predicament you’re in. I can’t offer you any explanations for what happened to you, I’m a doctor, I’m not-- God. I can hardly believe it myself, that I just saw a grown man without an anus, right here in this office. But I can tell you this-- you’ve got to do something, and right away. Every minute you delay is exposing you to serious illness. Now come on, let me take another look down there--

    Oh, my God.

    Let him take another look, Bob. Go on.

    (Coburn turns and drops his trousers. Lightner bends over to examine him.)

    Dave, why don’t you call Rubinstein over at the U. Tell him I said it was an emergency.

    (West goes to the phone.)

    I don’t want anyone else involved!

    It’s okay, it’ll be fine, we’re not going to tell him your name, not unless you okay it, Mr. Coburn. I’ll just describe your situation in the most general terms, and we’ll see what he recommends.

    (West dials. While he and Coburn are occupied, Lightner snatches up the confidentiality form and puts them inside his lab coat.)

    Okay, let’s take another look-- Incredible. Smooth as silk. No scarring, nothing.

    Hello. Yes, Dr. Rubinstein, please.

    Not a trace. Nada. Zip.

    Well, page him and have him call Dr. Lightner as soon as possible. It’s an emergency. Yes.
    (hangs up.)

    Mm-mm-mm. Tch-tch. It’s kind of pretty, in a way.

    Can I pull up my pants now?

    Hmm? Oh, yes. Yes, of course. Mr. Coburn, I’m sending you downstairs for some scans-- don’t worry, I’ll be do the scans myself.

    Just wait outside a moment, Bob, we’ll be right there.

    (Coburn nods and leaves. A moment, and then Lightner turns to West.)


    Give me that confidentiality statement back, Steve.


    (closing in on him)
    Give it to me, Steve, I’m not kidding.

    (running around the desk)
    What are you talking about?

    I’m not ending up on the receiving end of a lawsuit because you want to get published, now come on, Steve—

    Science, goddammit, it’s science, you can’t—

    (They wrestle for the papers for about a minute, it’s quite a match, cursing and grunting. Then the lights go down.)


    (All material copyright Cole Dixon LLC 2005)

    Well, I hope that piqued your interest. The play is called "The Sphincter." In the scenes that follow, the hero's escaped asshole obtains the Republican nomination and is elected President of the United States.

    Stay tuned for more information about this thrilling new PrenderProduction.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    Stillwater: No Answer From Thole

    Well--more than a week has gone by, and still no answer from School Board Chair George Thole to the question I asked him about School Board Member Choc Junker.

    Here is the question I sent to both of his public email addresses:

    Dear Mr. Thole:

    It's Bill Prendergast--I've got a question for you about Choc Junker. I just got off the phone with Micki Adams and she told me she already forwarded a copy of the question to you, but I'm sending you copies of the same question to both your email addresses in the hope that you can give me an answer prior to the election. (I've already sent this question to the Gazette and the Courier as letters to the editor.)
    Here goes:
    Mr. Thole--I ask you the following question so that I and other concerned citizens can decide what credence they should give to retirement rumors that have been circulating about the School Board recently. On a scale of one to ten, with “ten” representing “fully functional” and “one” representing “severely impaired,” how would you rate the current mental capabilities—including the ability to concentrate on and understand issues before the School Board—of current School Board member “Choc” Junker?

    Please be sure to answer the question with a number—1 to 10. If you fail to do so, I must take it that you are evading the question and would rather not answer it.

    I hope you will reply to this email address (here I gave him my email address) at your earliest convenience. I will receive your reply as soon aes you send it, since I can check my email on the web while I am travelling.

    Good luck to you in the upcoming election, and may the best candidates win.
    William Prendergast
    Written in San Francisco, Friday, November 04, 2005 3:14 pm Pacific Time.

    Note the date on the above. It's been more than a week since I sent it to Mr. Thole, and no answer.


    I also sent copies of that question to Thole publicly, in the form of letters to our two local newspapers, the Gazette and the Courier. They wouldn't print the question as letters to the editor.


    I spoke to the editor of the Gazette and she made a good case for not printing the question prior to the election. She explained that Thole, as candidate, wouldn't have time to print a reply before the election date, so if the Gazette ran my letter it would come off as a sort of "ambush." I think that's a pretty good rationale for not printing the question just prior to the election.

    But now the election is over, and Thole knows that the only possible way to make this question go away is to answer it for the record with at least one word: "Ten."

    So far he hasn't. Nothing, not even a "no comment." No answer at all, publicly or privately. It's not as though Thole and I are strangers. We've met and spoken to each other, and he's taken regular notice of me in his column. Why the "news blackout" on this particular subject?


    I think I'd better send another copy of the question around again. Here is what I will send around today, via email:

    November 15, 2005

    Dear Mr. Thole:

    I ask you the following question so that I and other concerned citizens can decide what credence they should give to retirement rumors that have been circulating about the School Board recently. On a scale of one to ten, with “ten” representing “fully functional” and “one” representing “severely impaired,” how would you rate the current mental capabilities—including the ability to concentrate on and understand issues before the School Board—of current School Board member “Choc” Junker?

    Please be sure to answer the question with a number— 1 to 10. If you fail to do so, I must take it that you are evading the question and would rather not answer it.


    Bill Prendergast

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    Poll Results: Rosa Parks Honors Appropriate

    The results of our latest poll indicate that an overwhelming majority of those surveyed supported the decision to allow late civil rights activist Rosa Parks to lie in state at the Rotunda in Washington. The honor is normally reserved for deceased Presidents of the United States and great American military heroes.

    Ms. Parks became an icon of the American civil rights movement after she refused to give up her seat on a racially segregated public bus to a white passenger. Parks was arrested, jailed, and ultimately convicted of violating the Montgomery, Alabama segregation code and “disorderly conduct” for refusing to give up her place on the bus. Her act of civil disobedience is considered a landmark moment in the African-American struggle for equality under the law.

    More than seventeen people participated in the survey, which was conducted “on-line” here at the “blog” on the “Internet.”

    Eighty-nine per cent of those polled agreed that Parks should be allowed to lie in state at the Capitol Building. None of those surveyed would have voted to deny Ms. Parks the honor.

    Seventeen per cent said that Parks should be allowed to lie in state but would have to get up if some white man wanted to lie there.

    Please take a moment to participate in our latest poll, below and to the right.

    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    Stillwater: I Have Returned

    Took the trains back: "The City of New Orleans" from N.O. to Chicago last night, then "The Empire Builder" from Chicago to St.Paul/Minneapolis.

    I am beat. Stay tuned for further adventures; photographs should be interesting.

    Friday, November 11, 2005

    Stillwater: How About That School Board Election?

    Alright, I'm down in New Orleans and I got other thing on mah mind, but I want to know: how do you folks back in Stillwater intepret that School Board election?

    Conservative School Board Chairman Thole staggered across the finish line to get re-elected, just barely nosing out a relatively unknown challenger. I haven't seen the Gazette or the Courier, and I bet he put as happy a face on as he could, but he can't have been too pleased with third place. His arch-rival on the board, Buchmann, did much better than he did, and the Great Unknown, Bucholz, completely swamped him.

    My take, from far far away: Voters were clearly displeased with the way the School Board was being run. Thole made it back in again because he has a hard core of voters who love him, but there seem to be hell of a lot of voter who think less of him and the conservative bloc on the school board these day. Thole had every advantage in the race: visibility, experience, the Chairmanship, a great reputation in the community, his column in the Gazette to bump voter turnout--and he still placed third, and a weak third at that. He and the other conservatives on the board maintain their solid 4-3 voting bloc, but the vote totals show how weak the support for conservatives is. Rheinberger ran harder than anyone, and finished behind candidates with less money and less visibility.

    A conservative bloc on the school board isn't doomed, by any means. We've still got the retirement-and-unelected-board-member scenario to deal with. No answer from Thole yet on my question re: Junker.

    I promise to crush you all with funny stuff once I get back home, but it's looonely out here on the road...write to me.

    New Orleans: Okay, We're Back, I Guess

    Sorry about the disconnect, dunno what happened.

    A friend of mine sent me an article about how Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they shouldn't be surprised if they got a shot of the Wrath of God in the near future because they had their local school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design." I am going to have to look up Robertson's take on the Katrina disaster; God seems to be sending us mixed messages because the only place that came through relatively unscathed around here is the old French Quarter: home of the most famous jazz clubs, gay bars, and live nude clubs. The rest of the city was practically drowned, but the French Quarter remained high and dry and is already opening up for red light business again.

    If I see Robertson in a strip club down here I'm going to ask him about this in light of his recent curse on Pennsylvania voters.

    Anyway--people continue to return and to shovel debris out of the streets in front of their homes. There is a small army of insurance adjustors--perhaps twelve to thirteen thousand, according to my source--that spread out from the epicenter of New Orleans to all cities and communities where evacuees can be found. Some evacuees are saying they'll never come back, some are already returning.

    Signs of the city left over from weeks past: Huge spray-painted messages for help on the street surface ("Food?" "Water?") Emergency tent camps still operating, some set up next to re-opening restaurants. Disgusting refrigerators line the streets; officials are picking them up as fast as they can because they are health hazards. Have you ever seen a refrigerator that's been abandoned for weeks without electricity just after you've done a big "shop"? Well, you don't want to, believe me. We moved just two of them out of peoples' homes in the last three days, and that's two more than I ever want to move again. The drunken pirate who has become my next-door neighbor had already helped move out enough fridges for his neighbors by the time we arrived. The pirate saw me pushing one in my rubber gloves and HEPA filter mask smeared with Vicks-Vapo-Rub and just laughed at me. ("I love you, brother, but not THAT MUCH! HAR HAR HAR!" (drinks more beer)

    Residents sometimes write angry FEMA criticism graffiti on the sides of the fridges ("We don't need lentils, we need electricity!") Officials and contractors are working like hell to get the most dangerous garbage off the streets ASAP but some neighborhoods still have that sickly sweet death smell...

    On the other hands: Clean water and electricity were available every place I've visited (I haven't been everywhere.) French Quarter, as I say, beginning to come back to life; had a good dinner in a little hole in the wall place on Decatur Street, live pick-up band playing "St. James Infimary," much applause from tired but appreciative crowd. Guys fronting bands, singing the blues. It's a unforgettable thing; most other places in the world would still be a ghost town, I bet.
    Outsiders showing up to help clean up, spend a little money and get things going again--off-duty National Guard and Army, missions, just plain old volunteers and friends come in to town because they want to help. A lot of people really love this place even if they never lived here.

    Downtown skyscrapers lit up at night; but windows on some floors blasted out by the storm and then boarded over. City Hall had to be abandoned; they are working out of town in a tent encampment and high school auditorium or something. Downtown was hit particularly hard--abandoned cars everywhere with the waterline visible halfway up the doors. Streets of empty cars and debris in some neighborhoods still give them the flavor of those "Mad Max" movies. At the same time, there's people--the streets are cleared, there's some taxis, lots of cars, lots of folks still getting around on bikes, the tearing down and rebuilding of homes is already going on.

    Eeriest thing of all: no children.

    More anecdotal stuff: Some residents were kind of pissed about the media coverage, especially the "heavy rotation" of looting footage. According to these folks, the reality was about ten per cent looting, ninety per cent local folks trying to help and feed each other. Soon after the storm, the old drunken pirate next door neighbor took the emergency food he was given and turned his house into a kind of all night barbecue for anyone who showed up needing something to eat. "We drank beer alla time cause the water wasn't right! HAR HAR HAR!" (drinks more beer)

    Que viva NOLA! (NOLA="New Orleans, Loozee-ana"

    On the Road: Blog Is Malfunctioning

    It's a shame, too, because my post on New Orleans was some of the finest writing ever done anywhere. Heart-rending stuff, a shame y'all had to miss it.

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Stillwater: Any Thoughts On What Election "Means"?

    On the Road: New Orleans Post Katrina

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    School Board Election Results

    Thanks to Christopher for getting me the word on election results. From the Pioneer Press, Nov 09, 2005:


    Newcomer Kathy Buchholz and incumbents Roland "Bud" Buchman and George Thole came out on top Tuesday night in the race for three spots on the Stillwater school board.Buchholz, a 48-year-old Afton resident who is a former science teacher and an active school volunteer, handily garnered the most votes.Buchman, 77, a Stillwater Township resident and school board member for 29 years, came in second. Thole, a 66-year-old retired teacher and Stillwater Area High School football coach, placed third.All three will serve three-year terms on the board.Challengers Mike Redmond of West Lakeland Township and Stillwater residents Tom Nacey and John Rheinberger lost their bids.

    So Thole squeaked by, taking third place again, eh? And John Rheinberger's "endorsement" of himself in his own "newspaper" did not work. That's good, because success would have bred imitation and we would have been receiving more self-published newspapers by wealthy candidates in future elections--"The Coach Thole Times-Picayune Endorses Thole!", etc.

    Well thank God that's over. Best of luck in the future to all who won, all who ran, and especially to all who voted.

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    Last Word Before the School Board Election

    A key part of Candidate and School Board Chair George Thole's re-election strategy has been to tell voters about how he'd "sell" local voters on supporting the upcoming school levy.

    Thole's strategy, he says, is to convince local voters that the levy is a mere 'replacement' levy, not a demand for more of our money. The implication is that local families will not be asked to give up any additional money when the next levy comes around.

    Thole is wrong of course, because the voters will be asked to pay the school levy in addition to an 8% hike in local taxes they face because of the conservative policy coming down from St. Paul. Plus the GOP's regular fee hikes, plus the tobacco tax hike, plus the ongoing conservative policy of shifting the tax burden to local communities.

    Thole's "strategy" is ultimately based on the notion that local voters can't count.

    If Thole is re-elected, I hope he is successful in his efforts to beg more money from locals already facing Republican tax hikes. School services shouldn't suffer just because Thole has such a low opinion of voter intelligence.

    I wonder if Kate Carlsen will get any write-in votes tomorrow? I hope not, but maybe some voters will resent the way that better known "stealth" conservatives like Thole and Rheinberger shouldered Carlsen out of the primary and prevented a true grassroots conservative from appearing on the ballot.

    Let's vote!

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    Stillwater: Anything To Get Elected, I Guess

    Still out of town; down in Texas now. Someone posted the following comment after I asked about candidate John Rheinberger's latest campaign material. I had been told that he had printed and distributed something that might deceive unwary voters into thinking that some "education newspaper" was actually endorsing him.

    What the commenter told me in reply is worth republishing here on the front page:

    Anonymous said...
    This Rheinberger ad is a deplorable example of an election dirty trick.

    Here's how it's set up. It's a four-page newsletter printed on newspaper stock. At the very top of the front page, a banner headline says "Special Election Edition!" (Note the exclamation mark; Margot's handiwork?)Below that is a boxed red "nameplate" (think "New York Times" or "Stillwater Gazette")that says, "District 834 News".

    Below that is the tagline "Informing 20,000 households about Stillwater Public Schools!" (think, "All the news that's fit to print.")Below that, they even have the audacity to put in "Volume 2, No. 1" along with the date.

    The main "story" on the front page is this: "Rheinberger files for School Board." The rest of the 4-page insert is a mish-mash of "information" that seems to actually be a list of opinions Rheinberger has about the future of public schools.

    At the very bottom of the final page, in probably 7-point type, is the disclaimer that the whole thing is paid for by the Rheinberger election committee.

    It's amazing that such a cheap trick had to cap a remarkably civil, uncontentious school board election. Which brings up the question: Why is Rheinberger so desperate to get on the school board that he would stoop this low?
    8:48 AM

    Well, commenter, thanks for answering my question about Rheinberger's imitation newspaper. If your description is correct, it certainly does sound as if it was designed to deceive voters into thinking that an independent publication endorsing Rheinberger. Very few readers will get all the way to the disclaimer at the bottom of the final page; most will only get the false impression that some school district publication is endorsing Rheinberger before tossing the thing into the recycling. A dirty trick, you say, eh? I wonder if there is some election practices committee that concerns itself with this kind of thing.

    If what you tell us is true, I am inclined to agree it is a dirty trick, and thanks again for answering my plea for information. But we must agree to disagree about the school board election being "civil" and "uncontentious." This election has been mucho contentious--I'll bet the incumbent, George Thole hasn't worked this hard to get elected in years. He's so busy he hasn't found time to answer my emailed question to him about his colleague, Mr. Junker. Or maybe he just doesn't want to commit himself to an answer in print, who knows.

    As for "civility," well, if you've read the Rheinberger emails to and about me, and Coach Thole's comments to his colleagues and his use of his "sports" column to get his fans to turn out to vote--"civility" is not a biggie, in this particular election.

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    On the Road: Phoenix, AZ

    I am not in Stillwater. I am travelling from Oakland, CA to New Orleans to help a friend recover what they can from his home, post-Katrina. I am posting this from a cheap hotel in Phoenix; no atmosphere or local color to report.

    But I did vote in the School Board election before I left (absentee ballot.)

    I see there's no reply from Coach Thole to the question I asked him re: his colleague Choc Junker. Maybe he hasn't checked his email yet. I was hoping to get his opinion prior to the election--I sent copies of the same question to both of Thole's public mailboxes, to the Stillwater Gazette, and to the Stillwater Courier. I hope he will find it in his heart to answer soon, and on the record--the Coach has a reputation for not mincing words; a lot of folks trust him to give them the straight poop. I'm sure he'll live up to that reputation.

    Election hi-jinx while I'm out of town, eh? A source has led me to believe that colorful School Board candidate John Rheinberger mailed out some kind of imitation newspaper under the School District's name. I am led to believe that this Rheinberger campaign mailing has been designed in such a way that it might deceive an unwary voter into thinking that it is a school district publication. Did Mr. Rheinberger really put the School District's name front page as if to lead readers to believe that the School District was the publisher? By using the School District's name in the title of the publication, was he trying to deceive recipients about he nature of the publication? I understand Rheinberger's publication consists mostly of endorsements by Rheinberger of Rheinberger, it that so? I haven't seen it yet. Please write and let me know what you think; I'm so cut off out here in the desert.

    Saturday, November 05, 2005

    The School Board Election, Again

    I, for one, will be glad when it's over and I can return to guiding the affairs of the nation.

    But here's some more local stuff: in her latest to me, Margot Rheinberger parenthetically refers to the possibility that her brother, candidate John Rheinberger, might be appointed to the School Board rather than elected. She seemed to be under the impression that I printed this scenario in the newspaper.

    I didn't. The notion that Rheinberger might be appointed to membership on the board by the conservative bloc (without election) is not mentioned in my column. Ms. Rheinberger either read it here on the blog, heard it from someone else, or came up with the suggestion on her own.

    So she seems to have inadvertently let this slip in her email to me. But I would say that a John Rheinberger appointment is in fact a likely scenario if Rheinberger loses the election and Choc Junker is forced to retire. (Junker still hasn't issued a public denial of the retirement rumor.)

    I am told that John Rheinberger and George Thole are old cronies, used to drive to meetings together, that kind of stuff. One commentator to this blog suggest that Margot Rheinberger is advising Thole as well as her brother on the current school board election. Rheinberger was a prominent member of the city council before he lost his seat in the last election, so it's not like no one ever heard of the guy.

    A least we have avoided the worst case scenario. That, in my view, would be write-in votes for Kate Carlsen. Finally, a victory for local liberals and progressives.

    Friday, November 04, 2005

    ANOTHER Rheinberger Email Is Received!

    This is amazing.

    As you recall, local TV celebrity Ms. Margot Rheinberger sent an email to my editor in early October accusing me of telling lies, hinting at professional discipline and legal action against the paper, and suggesting that it was time for the Gazette to fire me. I was indeed fired by my editor about twenty four hours after she received Ms. Rheinberger's first email.

    Just when we thought things couldn't get any weirder, I receive an email from someone purporting to be Margot Rheinberger. I must assume, until she states otherwise, that Margot Rheinberger, sister of School Board candidate John Rheinberger, is the author. Again--the following is not a work of my own composition; not an original work of political satire. To the best of my knowledge at this time, it is a genuine email to me from Margot Rheinberger, which I received on November 2, 2005. My reply to Ms. R follows. (And check out that catchy title she gave her latest email!)

    Wed, 2 Nov 2005 16:50:34 EST
    Please don't distribute/publicize this e-mail on your blog or elsewhere.

    Hi, Bill! I just wrote Micki Adams at the Stillwater Gazette. I informed her that I was quite surprised that you were no longer a columnist at that newspaper AND that I was not elated at all by that news as you or others may think I would be. Actually, neither was my brother, John. Micki passed on your e-mail address to me so I could convey this to you.

    I saw your blog advertised in one of the newspapers the other day. On your blog I noticed that you credit/blame my e-mail to Micki for being the reason for your being "fired." I certainly would not have wanted that to be the reason and wrote Micki as much. She wrote me that the newspaper's decision was made "independent" of my e-mail.

    I told Micki that all I wanted was for you to make a concerted effort to avoid making statements that insinuated or directly implicated that my brother had engaged in illegal activity, which he hadn't. That's all! You may not have even been aware of doing it. You are a bright man and I don't doubt for a second you would have agreed to be more careful had I been given the opportunity to talk with you. You are entitled to fair opinion and I would never have wanted to take that aspect from you!

    Your mentioning my brother's name in that last column reminded me of the slippery slope that had occurred during my brother's previous run for office. That is why I wrote Micki. The overall topic about two current School Board members resigning and the possibility of my brother being appointed didn't bother me in the least. Actually, I was completely unaware of that "rumor" until you enlightened me! I was intrigued by it because my brother would be a big cheerleader of quality education in our schools. He is very knowledgeable in so many facets of K-12 education, and it is an area of interest he has had for as far back as I can remember. As you well know, my brother is conservative in many ways, however, when it comes to investing in and advocating for quality public school education, this is a definite and wonderful exception!!!

    I hope you will be a guest on one of my cable programs on some K-12 topic in the very near future. Just let me know what area(s) you would enjoy discussing. Thank you, Bill! Margot

    Here is my reply to Ms. Rheinberger, sent today November 4, 2005:

    Fri, 4 Nov 2005 10:12:41 -0800 (PST)
    "W Prendergast"
    Re: Please don't distribute/publicize this e-mail on your blog or elsewhere.

    Thank you for your email of November 2, 2005. And thank you for your concern about the circumstances surrounding my departure.

    Unfortunately I cannot agree to your request not to distribute or publicize this email. If someone asks me to keep opinion or information confidential prior to disclosing it to me, I will sometimes agree to that. But 1) you did not request in advance that any communication by you to me be kept confidential and so 2) I could not and did not agree to a condition of confidentiality prior to receiving it.

    I feel that your email to me is of public interest because you and your brother are both prominent local political figures. I also feel that readers are entitled to make up their own minds about your actions and intentions in light of the contents of both these emails. They can judge for themselves whether your first email constitutes 1) a threat to report the Gazette to the Minnesota News Council, 2) a threat of possible legal action against the paper, and 3) a suggestion to my former editor that I am bad for the paper and that she ought to fire me. (Of course, the fact is that my editor did fire me about twenty-four hours after she received your email.)

    I will present your emails together on my blog so that people can judge the matter for themselves. Next time please let me know in advance of telling if you would prefer that I keep something confidential. I have kept things confidential for people in the past and might agree to do so for you in the future.

    I do not understand your remarks about insinuating that your brother has “engaged in illegal activity.” I also recall that you accused me of writing columns of “lies” but cited no examples that would justify such a horrible accusation. In the more than two years that I was writing for the paper, no one ever asked me to issue a correction or retraction of anything that I wrote—despite the fact that I wrote on public affairs and regularly criticized public officials.

    You were not the only local celebrity who chose to approach my editor privately, out of sight of the public, to object to what I wrote in my last column. None of the people mentioned in that column contacted me personally or wrote to me publicly to dispute the column’s accuracy. (School Board member Nancy Hoffman wrote in, but as it turns out she was objecting to something I didn’t write.)

    So we must assume then that the column was on target and that the politicians mentioned in it preferred pressuring my editor and publisher privately to debating the column publicly. Apparently that is how the most influential people in this small town do business; the public be damned.

    Thanks for your kind invitation to appear on your television program at some time in the future, but I will decline. I prefer print. The print medium makes it easier for fair-minded readers to review exactly what was said and then make up their own minds about the persons and issues involved.

    Best wishes,Bill Prendergast

    Question To Thole About Retirement Rumor

    I am in San Francisco today, November the 4th, 2005; I just sent in the following letter to the editor of the Stillwater Gazette. I sent a similar letter to the Stillwater Courier, too. Let's see what happens! Viva the free press and the First Amendment!

    Dear Editor:
    Here is a question that I put to your regular columnist, School Board Chair and candidate George Thole. Recently Mr. Thole has used his column to write about the upcoming election, so I am sending him this question because it bears on the credibility and relevance of the retirement rumor mentioned in my last column.

    Mr. Thole--on a scale of one to ten, with “ten” representing “fully functional” and “one” representing “severely impaired,” how would you rate the current mental capabilities—including the ability to concentrate on and understand issues before the School Board—of School Board member “Choc” Junker?

    Please send your answer in to this newspaper (the one you work for) at your earliest convenience—prior to election day, of course. Please make sure that you answer the question with a number—1 to 10. If you fail to do so, I must take it that you are evading the question and would rather not answer it.

    William Prendergast

    No More Spam, Please

    I'm pretty new to this whole 'blog' thing, so I didn't realize there was such a thing as "political comment spam" on blogs. I mean, I've received commercial spam of course--but I didn't think anyone would actually bother to cut-and-paste around the web, trying to pass it off as a response to opinion on a blog.

    Rules of thumb: if it contains no original commentary by the sender on material specific to this blog--if it's really just a cut-and-paste job or a press release--if it doesn't even involve much typing on your part--I'm not interested in receiving it as a comment, and I'll remove it if you post it.

    Otherwise, comment away; I'll publish it. You can even quote materials from the spam press release you were going to send me, but if there's more spam that comment, I'll cut it. (Newspapers do the same thing with letters to the editor, by the way.) The rationale: if you're not even going to bother to think up an original comment on what's printed here, there's no duty on my part to permit you to wallpaper the site with cut-and-paste jobs.

    So these will be removed as I detect them. Use quotes--don't AB-use them. (I am going to copyright and trademark that one.)

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Bachmann's TABOR: The God That Fails

    Today is a bad day for Michele Bachmann.

    She’s been pimping this Minnesota Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment thing for years now. “We need a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) here in Minnesota! My surveys show Minnesotans support TABOR! If we pass TABOR it’ll improve Minnesota’s economy! We need TABOR to restrain spending so Minnesota won’t go broke! We must pass TABOR as by referendum as a state constitutional amendment! TABOR is cool! Love the undoubted benefits and justice of mighty TABOR! TABOR is good and wise! Fall down, voters, and worship mighty TABOR! TABOR is already the law in Colorado, and just look how well Colorado is—uh-oh…No! No, don’t look at Colorado, no, don’t look at Colorado, look away, uh, look over here, I’m making bunny shadows on the wall--”

    Yes, that’s right. Colorado voters just voted to stop TABOR. Cause Colorado’s had TABOR since 1992, and now Colorado’s broke.

    Here’s what’s supposed to happen when you pass a TABOR amendment, according to “no new taxes” conservatives like Bachmann: we’re supposed to be able to keep more of our own income, so we’ll be able spend more of own money (instead of sending it off to the government), and that will create prosperity, and prevent a recession, and we’ll all be prosperous and happy and get to buy new stuff and go on family vacations and come back all sun-tanned and hold hands and dance a happy circle dance singing “La-la-la,” and there will be magic elves and leprechauns granting wishes and giving out balloons and lollipops and pots of gold for everyone, oh boy!

    Well, here’s what actually happens. Your state goes broke, idiot. Oh, your state can make it for a while, if you’ve got Clinton in the White House paying down the national debt and there’s national economic prosperity and growth of global economic markets. Competent economic stewardship in the White House will carry you along for a while. But if you’ve got Bush in the White House and moribund national economic growth and truly staggering deficit spending and debt and alienation of global markets—well, your TABOR plan, supposed to increase prosperity, is gonna kill your state like an economic cancer and eventually lead it into bankruptcy.

    You don’t believe me? Okay then, ask Republican Governor of Colorado Bill Owens, who started out as TABOR’s staunchest backer, backed it for years, and then did a complete about-face this year and helped to write the referendum to suspend mighty TABOR. Because the state’s higher education, health care and transportation are already on the critical list, and the formerly pro-TABOR Governor says Colorado simply won’t make it through the next year without suspending the mighty TABOR.

    Oh and by the way--in addition to having to suspend the mighty TABOR, Colorado also has to borrow billions just to make it through next year.

    This is kind of “prosperity” that conservatives can produce, if you only let them. And the only people who will miss TABOR are the lobbyists who embrace economic conservatism as a kind of religious faith—pro-TABOR groups with catchy names like “Vote No, It’s Your Dough” and “TABOR Good, Taxes BAD” and “We Have Nothing But Contempt For Your Economic IQ, Voter, So We Expect That You Will Continue To Support TABOR Despite The Disastrous Results.”

    “Well, cutting taxes worked for Reagan,” you mumble, weakly. No, it didn’t, you moron. Reagan cut the taxes of the richest Americans, but he also deficit spent like hell. Reagan deficit spent as no liberal ever had since the days of FDR and LBJ. Awe-inspiring American debt, authorized by the “conservative” Ronald Reagan—a liberal policy to stimulate the economy. The problem is, deficit spending is a tax—it’s public money that we have to pay back. So in reality Reagan never lowered your taxes at all, dummy, unless you’re a multi-millionaire. Reagan increased your tax burden--the amount of money you owe the government--when he stimulated the economy with liberal deficit spending.

    Amazing. Keynes has been dead for decades, and he’s still kicking conservative asses, every day.

    And Bachmann blows it again, folks, and in public, too. No more talk about the mighty TABOR, not for a loooong time—because she got caught pimping for the Taxpayers’ League lobby, caught pimping TABOR, caught pimping what is surely a proven economic cancer.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    Put On The Full Armoire Of God

    Pilgrims flock to see Jesus on wardrobe

    (This story and the link above are from the Ananova News Service. Thanks to Bratworst for sending the link. But beware--a lot of the stories on this "Ananova News Service" have no dates on them...hmmm...anyway, here's the story:)

    "Pilgrims are flocking to the flat of a Romanian family who claim the images of Jesus and two disciples have appeared on their wardrobe.

    Valeriu Junie, 66, of Drobeta Turnu Severin, says he first noticed the images about a year ago, just before Christmas...

    ...The wardrobe is made from walnut and is nearly 50-years-old. Valeriu's wife, Geta, 72, got it as a dowry on her wedding day from her parents."

    Mrs. Junie first suspected that the Lord had appeared in the Junie apartment after she heard her husband yelling into the wardrobe from the next room: "Jesus Christ, where's my goddamn beige golf sweater?"