Monday, January 30, 2006

Letters to the Editor

Actually, this is answers to some of the letters to the editor.

As I say, I am working out of this copy shop down in New Orleans until my computer is repaired. Thus, some of my copy is hurried, a little less "polished" than I would prefer.

I can't always get back to correspondents right away.

Everyone: If you are curious about local school funding, you will find some specifics and background in the dialogue that is going on between readers Eric and "tn" below.

Eric--I will see if I can dig up a copy of the old "Three Amigos" column for you somewhere.

Chris--Thank you for your City Pages suggestion. So far, no word from the Pioneer Press--their reporter has not returned my calls or answered my email, but I will keep working it until she does.

Thanks to those who sent along Karl Bremer's email address.

Show Business notes: Yesterday I was passing a local bar and noticed that they were holding open auditions for a disgusting sex-horror film called "Goregasm." To prove that I have no political aspirations in Stillwater or elsewhere, I went in and auditioned for the role of "Drunken Bar Patron". I did a reading on camera and was told that I would be contacted when a decision was made. I don't know if I got it; but I think I had a good energy going. So keep your fingers crossed for me; I get killed in this picture but if I'm good it could turn into a semi-steady gig.

Movies: Brokeback Mountain

I didn't go see this movie, because I had already seen a movie with gay cowboys in it, many years ago. This was long before this "Brokeback Mountain" thing got all this publicity as a daring, ground-breaking, Oscar-magnet movie about gay cowboys. But it is not the first movie about gay cowboys; not by a long shot.

My wife went to see it the other day and she kind of clued me in as to what it was about; it all sounded pretty tame compared to the gay cowboy movie I saw at the Apollo All-Male Movie Theater back in the 1980s. According to my wife, "Brokeback" is about Heath Ledger and the other one as two cowboys who fall in love. My wife thought it was a good, restrained love story--a little slow-moving at times. I asked her if there was any "hard core" stuff and she told me that there's some scenes where Heath and the other one start prancing around waterfalls and snapping wet towels at each other's behinds.

I don't know why the media is all set to make such a big fuss over that; that's not particularly daring--"Brokeback Mountain" sounds like pretty tame stuff, compared to "Bareback Riders", which I remember seeing on the big screen of the Apollo All-Male more than twenty years ago.

"Bareback Riders", as I recall it, was also intended as an inspiring story of sexual passion featuring gay cowboys. I saw this picture because I was working the midnight shift at a hotel in Manhattan and I had two hours to kill before coming on duty. My usual alternatives were to either get drunk and risk being fired when I showed up for work, or take in another movie.

I'm not gay, but I've always been broad-minded. So I stopped in to the Apollo to take a gander at "Bareback Riders". The film was already in progress when I entered; the theater was dark, barely occupied, and smelled just about how you'd imagine that kind of theater would smell.

I haven't given the movie much thought since that night--but the whole furor over this "Brokeback Mountain" thing put me in mind of it, and scenes and story elements came flooding back to me.

"Bareback Riders" is not so much a story as a series of fleeting cinematic impressions of gay life in the Old West. The focus of the film was not on a basically monogamous gay romance, as in "Brokeback." Quite the opposite, in fact! THESE gay cowboys cared little for monogamy or even 'romance' in the traditional sense; they seemed more interested in gratifying their fleeting and momentary passions with a seeming endless procession of fellow buckaroos, side-kicks and even an old ga-loot or two!

The action was virtually non-stop; fellows in ten gallon hats, wearing chaps and boots (but no pants) would chase other fellows playing Indians--when they caught them they would wrestle them to the ground and then use them in the most barbaric fashion. (The actors playing Indians were no more Native American than I am. They, too, were "buff" young Caucasian gentlemen whose "Indian-ness" was supposedly suggested by costumes consisting of tight loin-cloths and headbands with single feathers in them.)

The only "Western authenticity" in the film came from the fact that it was shot outdoors against a desert backdrop, which lent some visual tone to all the grunting and groaning that was going on in the foreground. It was fairly shabby as far as a committment to historical accuracy goes: no one was shown working on the railroad, but there was a surplus of circle-jerking Apaches. This was clearly the director's vision of the Old West, not that of the history books. The moral center of the film, if it had any, would seem to teach that if you dropped your gun in the Old West--you buy a new one, pardner!

Still in all, there is no doubt that this was a film made by homosexuals, about homosexuals, and for homosexuals. And I went to see it, a long time before all this "Brokeback" media buzz was launched. So that's why I don't feel like to see "Brokeback Mountain" to be "au courant."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Stillwater Tribune: Your Source... For News!

Yeah, well, I spilled a Coke on my laptop, and because I'm down here in New Orleans in the heart of Katrina land, it's gonna take a week to fix it--so, I have to do the blog from some washed-up copy shop on the corner of Nowhere and DeLaRude, so forgive me if it's a little erratic.

No word from Megan Boldt, education reporter for the PiPress, or from Councilman David Junker about the Choc Junker thing. Will pursue.

Below, various notes on stuff. Everybody pay attention to comments of Chris, re Michele Bachmann website, which you will find in the comments section of one of the posts below.

I would like to write to Karl Bremer, who wrote a great piece on Bachmann a few weeks back for the local papers. Need his email!

New Orleans: The Word From Troy, Your Working Boy

Mayor Nagin's in trouble down here because of that crack he made on Martin Luther King day about New Orleans remaining a "chocolate city"--i.e. a city of black people. It isn't, and I don't understand the man's political instincts--nobody likes him, so he decides it's time to play "the race card." Most of the black voters and politicians don't like him; they see Nagin as "the white man's black mayor."

So I don't get this "chocolate city" strategy of his; the day after he said it, folks were out in the streets selling "Mayor Willy Wonka Nagin, Mayor of Chocolate City" t-shirts (No kidding, they were; the t-shirts have a picture of him all dressed up like Willy Wonka with the Wonka Chocolate Works in the background. It was a big seller.)

Nagin apologized for saying this was "Chocolate City" and that that was God's will, but I must admit that it makes me and my wife a little uneasy, being the two newest marshmallows floating around in a big cup of post-Katrina urban cocoa.

Wine of the Week: Chateau du Mac

This lively little white wine comes to us from the streets of New Orleans.

Take a bottle of any white wine you can buy for under ten dollars. Take a Big Mac and put it in a large Pyrex bowl. Unscrew the top off the wine, and pour it over a Big Mac. Strain the wine through the Big Mac back into the bottle. Don't let any little goobers get in the bottle; they could get stuck in the neck.


This enticing little wine exhibits floral and citrus aromas with flavors of orange blossom and secret sauce. Goes good with a Big Mac.

Stillwater: Education Funding, Again

Here's another post from Eric--he rephrases his question on the shortage of school funding here in the St. Croix valley.

I'm still a little lost on this. Have costs gone up, revenue streams gone down or both? I guess I want to know is how we could afford this stuff in the past but can no longer do so. Has the whole equation changed? Were school districts (especially ours) operating in the black or in the red back then?

Maybe this is the wrong place to search for answers, but I'll start here anyways.

11:51 AM

Eric's question is directed to "tn", a commentator who suggested that the fault lies with former Governor Jesse Ventura's re-structuring of school funding during his term of office.

I don't think I agree with "tn's" take on things. I think that he's blaming Ventura--the guy who's "out of the room" and out of favor with both of the current political parties--for the problem. That explanation might fly if Ventura was still in the Governor's mansion, but those days are long gone. "tn's" explanation sounds a little too much like the current "GOP line" on what to tell people when they ask about cuts to education--blame the guy who's out of the room.

Jesse is not one of my heros, by the way: the tax refund checks he took credit for sending out were stupid political grandstanding. Like other "low taxes, anti-Clinton governors", Ventura was enjoying the fruits of the national economic boom of the nineties; these governors were coasting along on the free ride they got out of the Clinton stewardship of the economy. It was irresponsible for him to throw money back at the taxpayers in order to make himself look good--the responsible thing to do would have been to plow it back into the state's infrastructure, pay the money owed to public employees--or fund public schools. Most Minnesotans polled at the time didn't want "Jesse checks" anyway, they wanted the money invested back into the state; a hedge against bad times in the future--which arrived, when Pawlenty took over.

No, Jesse's not the villain in the school funding issue. It's Pawlenty and the GOP. They cut the state funding to municipalities; notoriously, Pawlenty said that local officials who couldn't run their towns without the state funding should be fired as incompetent. The meta-objects of this game is 1) decrease the state taxes on the richest people in the state 2) transfer the burden of taxation to local governments and to people who aren't rich (hikes in local property taxes, hikes in fees paid by the middle class and the poor) 3) break the public schools.

Why would conservatives want to break the public schools? Because they'd love to see a privatized educational system; they hate the public schools. Reasons they'd love to see privatization: 1) The teacher's unions are notoriously Democratic--if conservatives could press a button and abolish the teachers' unions they'd do it in a heartbeat, and replace them all with charter schools and non-union teachers. Same goes for other public employees' unions, of course. Scab labor=conservative's wet dream. 2) Privatization represents a potentially huge income stream for . Imagine the money local, state and federal government spends on education, channeled to private sector education companies--you get a piece of that, you're Richie Rich, like the HMOs. A trend toward privatization, on the national scale, could be a bigger boondoggle than the Savings and Loans, than Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.

Despite what they say about committment to public education, this is the conservative agenda. They have a vested interest in seeing public schools fail, and seeing that the services offered by public schools deteriorate or disappear. The essential goal doesn't change, but the rhetoric takes different turns: this last few months, you are hearing all this talk about making sure that "our tax dollars are spent in the classroom." Sounds good, tested well with the focus groups--sounds like they're voting less tax dollars for administrative bureaucracies and more for the kids, right? Nope. Pawlenty's talking about less tax dollars for administrative bureaucracies--but also less state tax dollars to support public school's physical plant (e.g. heating the buildings, keeping them in repair) and less state tax dollars to support all those "extra-curricular" programs you're talking about. That kind of spending isn't "in the classroom."

Running down the public schools is part of a national conservative agenda, and it's being implemented at the state and local levels. Watch how they talk, compare it to what they fund, and you will have the answer to your question, Eric.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Stillwater: Education Funding Q and A

Two wise guys who read this blog started talking seriously about local school funding issues here and began to discuss them intelligently. This threw me, so I decided to run it here on the "front page" so that interested folks could comment, if they wished. Naturally, tn's answer is his own; tn sounds like he knows what he's talking about, but you never know. "tn" might stand for "totally nuts"; on the other hand it might stand for "terribly nowledgable"; you never know on the web.

Eric said...
This is only slightly on topic here, but it is in regards to school funding. I grew up here and when I was in high school, we didn't have any activity fees to deal with. We had to buy or rent our own instruments for the music programs, but that was about it. Driver's Education, sports, busing...all were free. My question: What happened to the funding that allowed activities to go from free for all to only for those that can pay?

9:02 AM

TN said...
Eric, This is a tough question but I'll try to be brief. Before Ventura was Governor each district controlled much of their own money. The state kicked in a little per student. Ventura wanted to equalize the district so that the poorer districts could offer more opportunities for their kids. They capped the percentage a district could levy on property owners. Because 834 is primarily residential it affects homeowners much more than say, Edina. They have a large business base and the businesses don't have a vote per say.
Also much of the funding has been stagnant for the past 10-12 years.
A recent study that was finished by several education groups showed that the schools in MN are under-funded by a billion dollars, meaning the actual cost to provide a decent education for all the kids in the state.

Healthcare and energy costs also take money out of the classroom, which leads to fees for extra-ciricular activities to go up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


No, infidel, you must have dreamed it--I never got the pow-bro info. Please do send it!

Stillwater: Junker Question Update

Yesterday I sent a copy of my question about "Choc" Junker to Pioneer Press education reporter Megan Boldt, via email.

The email also included a brief synopsis of "the story so far" (i.e. two months of my failed attempts to get a candid answer to my question from people in the know, and my failed attempts to get our local papers to print the question as a letter to the editor.)

Perhaps the Pioneer Press can get the voters some information on this topic. I think that the reason that our two local papers refuse to allow this story into their pages is that they are concerned about possible reprisals from influential locals. Sad, if true; why be a journalist at all if you're worried about something as pathetic as that? The money isn't that good.

Anyway, I don't think the PiPress is going to be as worried about reprisals from Stillwater locals. I just hope that they can see the news angle here and agree that the truth is worth the telling. I believe that if the PiPress asks the right questions and prints the facts, the Gazette and the Courier will feel safe enough to jump on the bandwagon. Then people will be "allowed" to talk about what's really going on these days on the School Board.

And wouldn't THAT be something?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Economy: The World's Best Jobs

Here we go again: another story that rates different kinds of jobs--and another washout performance by the media. This list—presented on the Internet as “The Sixteen Best Jobs”—is even more uninspired than the “List of the Ten Most Dangerous Jobs” discussed here a few days back. Look at these career paths they claim are “the best jobs”:

1. Audiologist. Selling people hearing aids. That’s the number one “best job”, according to this list. Yeah, that’s what every little American boy and girl dreams of growing up and doing—spending the rest of their working life yelling “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?” at customers.
2. Optometrist. Another fascinating career. Listening to people misread eye charts all day and then trying not to laugh while they try on different kinds of ugly frames.
3. Veterinarian. Every morning you’ll wake up and say to yourself: “Oh, boy!
Another day chock full of suffering animals!”
4. Professor. Oh, yeah, who’d want to be a movie star or a billionaire software entrepreneur, when you could be a teacher at a university and pull down all the big bucks they make? In a decade or two you might even be able to move out of your van and into an apartment. If you publish. And just think about all the respect our culture shows the teaching profession! Become a college professor, get yourself a piece of THAT action! Yeah, go in to any four star restaurant in the country and tell ‘em you’re a professor, that’ll getcha a good table—mm-hm! And you know how them supermodels just line up for them perfessor-men! Whew!
5. Librarian—oh, I can’t do this one, it’s just too cruel. In fact, I can’t keep on presenting this list, it’s a terrible list of terrible jobs. These are not the best jobs, they’re not even good jobs. (For the record, the original list was compiled by a guy who writes for U.S. News and World Report. Apparently working for U.S. News and World Report sucks so bad that the writers over there daydream about being audiologists.)

But you want a real list of the best jobs? Here you go:

Movie Star. Absolutely the best job. You don’t even have to be able to act. You don’t have to be able to do anything. You just stand there most of the time, like a security guard, except you’re being filmed and paid tens of millions of dollars. Or you wait in your trailer and get paid tens of millions for that. All you have to do is just show up to work, high, with a personal assistant. You don’t even have to be on time; hey--they can’t start without you, right? When you do show up, yell at everyone you see and threaten or punch anyone who tries to take your picture. Then go and sit in your trailer again and refuse to come out until everyone apologizes to you for their lack of professionalism. Then a reporter comes in to record you bitching and moaning about your life and how there’s no good scripts for you. It’s great.

National Security Adviser to Bush Administration. Good money, and there’s practically no way you can fuck up so long as you remember to keep your lips firmly planted on the President’s behind. You can ignore terrorism so completely that you end up losing the World Trade Center and so much of the Pentagon that it looks like a Quadragon—and still no one will hold you accountable, let alone fire you. In fact, you’ll be promoted to Secretary of State.

Rock Star. Not as cool a job as it used to be, but easier than ever. All you have to do is be under twenty-four years old, get out some of your mom’s old vinyl albums, rip off the “sound” of one of those old bands (doesn’t matter which one), pretend like it was your idea, get some morons to play behind you, get a stupid hair cut and stay skinny—and bingo, you’re a multi-millionaire, congratulations. Remember to look depressed and to say something about the rain forest, or Africa.

Big businessman. Ship American jobs overseas, and get a multi-million dollar bonus for doing that. Fire entire unions by closing down manufacturing in the US, and get another multi-million dollar bonus for doing that. Encourage long-time employees to quit by reneging on their pensions, and get a multi-million-jillion dollar bonus for that. Then tell the government they can’t raise your taxes or you will stop “creating jobs.”

Television/Media Evangelist. You don’t have to make sense, you don’t even have to be coherent, you can threaten foreign heads of state with death or mortal illness, you can threaten anyone who disagrees with you with hell, you can even claim that you know Jesus Christ personally--and your audience will not only believe you, they’ll send you money! Millions and millions! For nothing! Tax-free! (Downside: You will have to wear a powder blue suit and blow-dry your hair.)

Republican U.S. President. You can do hard drugs for years and desert the military, none of that matters: you’ll still get nominated if your family can raise four hundred million dollars. Once you’re in office, there’s only two things you have to do to stay there: 1) keep one half of America thinking that the other half of America is un-American, and 2) say you’re against raising taxes (actually raising taxes is okay, so long as you keep saying you won’t raise them.) Doing anything else is okay, you’ll get away with it, whatever it is, no problem: making big government bigger, spying on Americans without a warrant, smearing war heroes, telling the world America can’t win the war on terrorism, weakening the economy to the point where it depends on loans from Red China, spending future generations’ tax dollars like a lunatic, invading other countries for no reason, lying, killing tens of thousands of people--none of that will count against you in the eyes of Republican voters. Great job.

Friday, January 20, 2006

New Orleans: I've Got The Blues

I got the blues
From my head down to my shoes
I got the blues

You're supposed to lose the blues when get to New Orleans ("Nawlins") I didn't get the blues UNTIL I got to Nawlins. And I was went through the blues COUNTRY--without the bluse--on my way down TO New Orleans. And I didn't have no blues til I got here.

I think it's this whole Junker thing that's givin' me the blues. I will get set up down here, and then I will start sendin' out the news--and da blues--again.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Stillwater: Small Town "Democracy in Action" Quote of the Month

“The Treasurer, Clerk and the Vice Chair (of the District 834 School Board) don’t really do anything.”—Christopher Kunze, Vice Chair of the District 834 School Board, quoted in the Stillwater Courier, January 12, 2006.

Wow! Talk about candor in local politics. I wonder if Hoffman and Junker are okay with Kunze saying that they don’t do “anything.” I mean, it’s okay for Kunze to announce that he does nothing as vice chair of the School Board (though why he would want to announce that is a mystery to me.) But is it really fair to your colleagues to tell everyone that they don’t do anything, either?

I mean, come on. They must do something. They’ve got heartbeats, haven’t they? I mean, they must—digest food, breathe, I don’t know.

As a local already pointed out, holding an office on the school board is at least “resume fluff”—meaning, if you aspire to hold a higher political office some day, it sounds good if you’re able to tell prospective voters that you served a couple of years “Treasurer” or “Clerk” or “Vice-Chairman” of the Board, or something like that.

Of course, this credential on your resume loses some of its luster if one of your colleagues is going around town telling the local newspapers that someone who holds your position on the board doesn’t “really do anything.” That's not going to look good on Kunze's campaign literature, if he has plans to run for office again in the future.

I don’t know, maybe Kunze’s right. Maybe they don’t really do anything. Why don’t they find out if they’re supposed to be doing something? Isn’t there something in the school board’s charter somewhere that would tell these guys what they are supposed to be doing if they hold these posts? I can’t imagine that the charter says “the vice chair and treasurer and clerk of the board shall sit there and do jack shit for their terms of office.”

Some guy wrote in to the blog and informed us that the duties of the Clerk to the School Board included making a final edit of the minutes for each meeting and signing legal documents. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it seems likely that the post would require someone to do something. Why is Kunze going around telling people that the Clerk and the Treasurer don’t do anything? For that matter, why is Kunze going around telling people that Kunze doesn’t do anything? What kind of school district leadership strategy is that; telling the voters that you don’t really do anything?

Those were rhetorical questions, by the way. What bugs me is: if the people who hold these offices (vice chair, treasurer and clerk) “don’t really do anything,” then why the reluctance on the part of the board’s conservative bloc (Thole, Kunze, Hoffman and Junker) to share some of them with their more experienced colleagues on the board? I mean—if, as Kunze indicates, these offices are really only just meaningless “joke” titles, what’s the big deal about refusing to share them with the rest of the board? Doing so could only help the conservatives on the board, by making them look less partisan than they are.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

National: The Text of "The Republican Contract With Jack Abramoff"

I mentioned the existence of the following document in a previous post and thought that you folks might like to look it over. It was apparently based on the more famous Republican “Contract With America”, which received wide publicity when leader Tom DeLay and GOP colleagues were running as “reformers of government.” The “Contract With America” was touted by a new breed of citizen-statesmen like DeLay, who promised to clean up Congress’ act, politically and ethically.

Reviews of the original Contract’s “reform” of Washington were mixed at best. Most of the legislation and reforms in the Contract never became law; but the voters didn’t seem to hold that against proponents of the Contract and they remain the majority party to this very day.

But the following contract, apparently made in secret around the same time by those same GOP reformers, was wildly successful and was apparently still in effect until late last year, when law enforcement officials around the country discovered its existence and began to investigate its provisions.


As Republican Members of the House of Representatives and as citizens seeking to join that body we propose not just to change its policies toward Jack Abramoff, but even more important, to restore the bonds of trust between Jack Abramoff and America’s elected representatives.

That is why, in this era of official evasion and posturing, we offer instead a detailed agenda for our own financial renewal, a written commitment to Jack Abramoff with no fine print.

This year's election offers the chance, after decades of one-party graft, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress gets extra spending money. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, too anti-Jack Abramoff. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the wealth of Jack Abramoff.

Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend:
To act "with firmness in the right,” as Jack defines “right.”
To restore the accountability of Congress to Jack Abramoff.
To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace, except with Jack Abramoff and anybody Jack says is okay.
To make us all proud again of the way Jack Abramoff uses Congress to govern a free people.

On the first day of Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of Jack Abramoff in this government:

FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress but not necessarily to Jack Abramoff;
SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse of all that money that Jack Abramoff gives us on the sly;
THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third, so Jack Abramoff does not have to “take care of” so many people.
FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs in case any of them happens to piss off Jack Abramoff;
FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee unless Jack Abramoff says “HEY! I feel like having a proxy vote in committee! Let’s GO!”;
SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public unless Jack Abramoff wants to meet them in private to give them free Super Bowl tickets or something;
SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase on any person whose initials are “J.A.” and whose last name rhymes with “Schmabramoff”;
EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our debt to Jack Abramoff by implementing zero base-line budgeting for free luxury golfing vacations in Scotland, food and liquor in four star restaurants, and the millions of dollars worth of other stuff that Jack Abramoff will give to us in return for our secret cooperation with Jack Abramoff.

Thereafter, within the first 100 days of Congress, we shall bring to the House Floor the following agreements, and then carry them across the House Floor and into a back room with no windows and a sound-proofed door, where each of these agreements will be given full and open debate in complete privacy, each to be given a clear and fair up-or-down vote by Jack Abramoff, and each to be immediately available this day for Jack Abramoff’s inspection and scrutiny.

1. THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY AGREEMENT: To restore the fiscal responsibility of an out- of-control Congress to Jack Abramoff, members of Congress would be required to live under the same budget constraints as anyone on a Congressman’s salary who also accepts campaign contributions, cash, and valuable prizes from Jack Abramoff.

2. THE TAKING BACK OUR STREETS AGREEMENT: An anti-crime package which would officially sign over all the streets in America to Jack Abramoff and allow Jack Abramoff to repossess (or “take back”) our streets if any Republican Member of Congress ever even tries to go back on his word to Jack Abramoff.

3. THE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY AGREEMENT: Every Republican Member of this Congress shall be personally responsible to Jack Abramoff if that Member takes so much as one nickel of Jack’s money, or so much as one nickel from any of Jack’s “people.”

4. THE FAMILY REINFORCEMENT AGREEMENT: We agree with Jack Abramoff that it would actually reinforce our families if we occasionally used our spouses and kids as bag men to pick up “contributions” sent to us by Jack, because this would expose our spouses and kids to potential criminal liability, too, thus discouraging them from ever talking to the press or the law.

5. THE AMERICAN DREAM RESTORATION AGREEMENT: We of the Republican Congress agree with Jack Abramoff that we shall do business with him until we are all rich and happy and restored more-or-less permanently to office after every election, and that this happens to be our particular American dream.

6. THE NATIONAL SECURITY RESTORATION AGREEMENT: This is a cover name for some influence-peddling deal Jack has going with his Indian casino clients; we don’t really understand it, but if it’s okay with Jack, it’s okay with us.

7. THE SENIOR CITIZENS FAIRNESS AGREEMENT: We agree that in return for all the money and stuff that Jack is giving us now, it is only fair that we remain loyal to Jack
Abramoff until we have all served so many terms in Congress that we are senior citizens.

8. THE JOB CREATION AND WAGE ENHANCEMENT AGREEMENT: Mandates creation of jobs for friends of Jack Abramoff, in return for which Jack Abramoff will enhance our wages again.

9. THE COMMON SENSE LEGAL REFORM AGREEMENT: If Jack Abramoff ever gets in trouble with the law for all the money he is slipping to us in secret, we agree that we shall give Jack Abramoff statutory legal authority to use his own “common sense” to decide whether he is innocent or guilty, and, should he find himself guilty, he will use that same “common sense” to determine how and when he will “reform” himself “legally.”

10. THE CITIZEN’S LEGISLATURE AGREEMENT: We agree that this Republican Congress is a citizen’s legislature, and that citizen is: Jack Abramoff.

Further, we will instruct the House Budget Committee to report to the floor and do a little dance for the entertainment of Jack Abramoff any time he likes, especially when he’s feeling a bit “blue” and needs some cheering up.

Respecting the judgment of our friend Jack as we seek his mandate for collecting our piece of the pie, we hereby pledge our names to this Contract with Jack Abramoff.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Stillwater Tribune “Reader Quote of the Month”

From a reader comment sent to the editor on January 9th, 2006:

“Personally, I prefer to take responsibility for my own words and deeds.”—Anonymous

Isn’t that astonishing? I mean, take a second, and look it over again. Look at the claim the author is making about himself, and then look at how he signs his name.

Amazing, isn't it? Even more amazing when you have the context—the author made that statement while attempting to upbraid me for not taking responsibility for what I wrote on this blog and in my former newspaper column. He’s claiming that in a “who’s better at taking personal responsibility for their words and deeds” contest between him and Bill Prendergast (who signs his real name to what he writes), he, the guy who signs himself “Anonymous,” would win! Now do you people see what I have to put up with?

Don’t get me wrong—I encourage people to write to this blog anonymously if they have information and opinions to share and don’t wish to be identified. There are good reasons to write in anonymously, even if you’re writing in to say something critical of poor old Bill. But to sign yourself “Anonymous” and then go on to claim that you’re a person of superior personal accountability, all without even being aware of how absurd—

Well, I believe I have made my point--and succinctly, too. The Stillwater Tribune continues to encourage anyone who wants to write in anonymously in the future with news, story ideas, information and opinion. I also encourage that particular Anonymous to write in again to tell us more about his finely-tuned ethical sensibilities. It is inspiring.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Economy: The World's Ten Most Dangerous Jobs

Safety on the job is hot topic in these days of conservative full court press for de-regulation of the workplace. A recent news story purported to list the ten most dangerous jobs in America, but the list turned out to be so generalized as to be useless. For example, the article asserts that there are about thirty fatalities per 100,000 workers in "Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting." What good is that information, if you aren't told which jobs--specifically--within those fields are the most dangerous. Take "Forestry" for example. There are many kinds of jobs in the forestry field that are almost never dangerous (e.g. Long-Distance Tree Photographer, for example), while there are other jobs in forestry that are very dangerous indeed (e.g. Official Park Bear Teaser.)

Generalities tell us nothing. Here then is a specific list of the ten most dangerous jobs. (As a bonus, the list also identifies the safest job in the world.)

1. Driving a “Brokeback Mountain” advertising sound truck through Dallas.
2. Motorcycle helmet law enforcement spokesman assigned to dreaded “saloons and taverns” beat.
3. Hotel security guard at breakfast buffet during Jenny Craig National Convention.
4. Instructor for Pentagon’s elite Epileptic Bomb-Defusing Squad.
5. Manager of the “All-American Infidel” brand Fireworks Outlet Store in Baghdad.
6. SAT prep coach for Mike Tyson.
7. Greeter at the National Cocaine Detox Center for Elephants and Tigers.
8. “Full-immersion” Baptist minister whose congregation doesn’t love him enough to buy him a wireless microphone.
9. Human Whack-A-Mole head.
10. Personal live-in upholsterer to Tom Cruise.

World’s Safest Job: Head of Al Qaeda (so long as Bush is in office.)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Poll Results: Bush Breaks Policy of Not Commenting on Pending Investigations

Indicted Congressman Tom DeLay stepped down as Republican House Majority leader today. DeLay was pressured to resign by fellow Republicans because he is currently facing criminal charges in his home state. Republicans fear that having a criminal defendant as House Majority leader might adversely affect their chances in upcoming elections.

DeLay was one of the chief architects of the GOP's famous "Contract With America" and his behavior during his tenure in office probably inspired the GOP's less well-known "Contract With Jack Abramoff."

"I cannot allow our adversaries to divide and distract our attention," said DeLay, explaining his resignation. (He did not make it clear whether the 'adversaries' he referred to were Iraqi insurgents, American Democrats, law enforcement officials, or some combination of the three.)

Some weeks prior to DeLay's decision President George W. Bush broke the long-standing White House policy of not commenting on pending investigations and told Americans that he believed DeLay was innocent.

According to a survey conducted by the Stillwater Tribune, thirty six per cent of Americans believe that President Bush mispronounced the word “indicted” as “in-dick-ted” when asked to comment on the criminal charges against DeLay.

Another nine per cent of those surveyed said that Bush would object to the pronunciation and assert that if “indicted” is pronounced “indited”, then “convicted” should be pronounced “convited.”

Only twenty seven per cent of citizens polled knew that Bush told Americans that DeLay was innocent, prior to his trial. The President’s public pronouncement contradicts the administration claim that the White House will not comment on pending investigations. The Bush administration regularly cites that policy when asked to comment on the ongoing Valerie Plame/CIA leak case. The President apparently believed that using the authority of his office to sway public opinion and help get DeLay off the hook was more important than silly old ethical restraints.

Another twenty seven per cent of poll participants thought that Bush would tell the world that “the jail ain’t been built that can hold Tom DeLay.”

To participate in this week's opinion poll, go to the poll question in the sidebar at the right of the page.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Stillwater: 4-3 Split On The School Board Acknowledged By Gazette

And that represents quite a breakthrough for Stillwater's oldest daily newspaper.

Today's edition (Friday, January 6th, 2006) bears the headline:
"School Board starts 2006 maintaining 4-3 Split"

As regular readers of the Gazette and this blog know, I was fired from the Gazette a few days after I ran a column that acknowledged the existence of a four-to-three split on the school board. Now, months later, the Gazette is willing to acknowledge that reality on its front page: our local school board is split into two opposing factions that regularly vote against each other, and this has been the case for some time.

But the Gazette is not yet ready to tell its readers all about these factions and what they stand for. In "the column that got me fired", I identified four members of the board as "conservatives"--George Thole, Chris Kunze, Nancy Hoffman, and "Choc" Junker. I branded them "conservatives" because I (and many others) believe that these School Board members sympathize with the conservative agenda promoted by this state's GOP and the Minnesota Taxpayer's League. I believe that they secretly sympathize with the cuts to local funding that emanate from Republican St. Paul, and that their sympathy contributes to our local property tax hikes (more than 8% per cent, this year alone, and that's not counting the school levy.)

One example of board members stealth conservatism: School Board member Chris Kunze's web page gives us a peek into his conservative worldview, which never seems to rate a mention in the Gazette or the Courier. A July 2004 entry by Kunze posts a piece by conservative columnist Cal Thomas called "Money Plus Schools Does Not Equal Achievement". Thomas' article is a bitter denunciation of federal funding for public schools. Thomas' arguments are supplied by the Cato Institute, a conservative think-tank. Kunze presents this article with approval--and prefaces it with a thank you to Nancy Hoffman for recommending it to him.

Interested readers will find many other examples of Mr. Kunze's right-wing views on education. Be sure you read the article he posts that discusses charging families extra for public school bus transportation. Note his comments on the plan("Do we need to consider this? How much will it save the District? How much will it cost the District to administer? IT is something to look into.") Also note that Kunze was considering this policy in June of 2004--long before his School Board actually did cut school bus transportation in our district and slapped extra fees on local families who required school bus service. But remember--if you want to read up on Kunze's mindset, you had better hurry to the web page before he takes these articles down. His web link to the Taxpayer's League is already inoperative.

By the way, and for the record--I have no objection to someone running for the local school board as a conservative, provided that person has the guts to tell the voters that he or she is a conservative. What I object to is "stealth" conservatism--politicians who deceive the voters in the pages of the local newspapers by pretending to be non-ideological and non-partisan, when they are anything but. If Thole, Hoffman and Kunze want to be conservatives, fine--but why not admit that to the voters? Why pretend to be something you're not?

Anyway--the charade that has been maintained in the local papers for so long is officially over: it is now acknowledged our local school board elections are not non-partisan, non-ideological, as the candidates often claim. The School Board is divided into factions and is currently dominated by a faction that votes all leading offices on the board to its own members. We saw it again last night where the "gang of four" appointed themselves to all the key posts on the Board, excluding the other three members--despite the fact that some of those other members received far more votes at the last election.

Voters have been talking about the four-three split on the Board for a long time. Finally coming around to admitting its existence is a huge step forward for the Gazette. Let's hope they follow up with more of the same sort of realistic reporting in the months to come.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Stillwater: Question for Councilman David Junker

Today I sent this off by email to Stillwater City Council Member David Junker, son of School Board Member "Choc" Junker.

Dear Councilman Junker:

For some time now, I have been asking members of the local School Board the following question about your father’s health.

“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?”

I am sorry to have to trouble you with this, but none of your father’s colleagues seems willing to give me a straight answer to the question. You, your father and the members of the school board are all elected public officials and it is important for the public to know whether or not you believe your father is able to understand school board business and exercise his independent judgment to make decisions about issues before the board. That is why I am asking you: does your father have problems concentrating on or understanding School Board business? Has your father ever been diagnosed as having some mental infirmity? Is he taking medications or seeing any medical professional to help him to deal with those kind of problems?


William J. Prendergast

International: Hunt For Bin Laden Stalled Again

It's good to be back again, ladies and gentlemen. No sign of bin Laden in northern Mexico, but I got several very nice bass.

I did ask one of the locals whether he had seen bin Laden, and he got very excited and he seemed to be saying that he had seen him, and that he would take me to him. But it all turned out to be a scam to get me to visit his brother-in-law's low-rent souvenir shop full of t-shirts and stuffed armadillos and other crap like that. (They ended up selling me an "I HATE TERRORISM" coffee mug for fifteen dollars American--which, on reflection, is way too much.)

Another wash-out. And once again I cannot deduct the trip on my income tax this year, because if I don't bring bin Laden back with me it doesn't count as legitimate expenses for "national security." Damn these bureaucrats!