Monday, May 29, 2006

Poll Results: Don't Give Dynamite to Monkeys

Well, it looks like we aren’t going to attack Iran this week.

About a month back, there was a big hub-bub about whether or not the President was going to try to distract folks from his domestic policy failures and the murderous malaise in Iraq by expanding the war into Iran.

Apparently he decided that this was not the solution to his problems in the polls--but who knows what any conservative will do next month? It’s like predicting what a chimpanzee will do if you give him a hammer and a bunch of dynamite sticks; there’s no way to tell. Only one thing is for sure—it’s a baaaad idea to give a chimpanzee a hammer and a bunch of dynamite sticks.

Still, our readers will express their opinions. A recent poll by the Stillwater Tribune indicated that eleven per cent of our readers thought we should attack Iran anyway because now the Bush administration has ensured that the crucial “element of surprise” is on our side.

Twenty-two per cent of those polled would not answer the question unless they were first told whether they personally would have to participate in the proposed war.

Another twenty-two per cent said it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks because Bush is going to do what Cheney and Rumsfeld tell him to do anyway.

An astonishing forty-four per cent of participants thought we should attack Norway instead of Iran. They believe that an attack on Norway would be just as effective as an attack on Iran in preventing future terrorism, and besides we know we can kick their Norwegian asses.

Remember to celebrate Memorial Day. We now have about 2,460 new reasons to commemorate it.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Stuck In A Cheap Motel By The Side Of The Information Super Highway

Kenneth Lay CONVICTED! Well, I knew it was all over for him when they found that "bloody glove". I'm watching him on Larry King right now; comes across as very trustworthy. Ken says he's "incredibly sorry" about all the people he's hurt and "grieves for them." What a sweetie. No wonder the Prez liked having him around so much (pre-indictment.)

Anyway--I have not written in to the blog for nine straight days because I have been carbound, heading back home to Stillwater. I had planned to file my reports from the road, but the drive took us from New Orleans through the deepest part of the Deep South. They don't have Internet access in the motels down there; when a motel down here advertises "wireless," they mean there aren't any wires in the place AT ALL.

Towns with names like "Chiggerville, Mississippi" "Cretin's Corner, Arkansas", "Toad Suck, Missouri"--"Ticksburg," "Bush Lick", etc, etc--their communications network is a bunch of folks climbing telephone poles and shouting into tin-cans hooked together cross-county with kite strings. It is overseen by some switchboard operator named "Ethel" who connects everybody's calls (and listens in, too, if they shout loud enough.)

But now I am back in civilization (well--Wisconsin) and will be filing more "tales to astonish" as soon as they come in.

God Bless You and Keep You All, And Me Too--
William J. Prendergast

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Local: Communication Breakdown

Hello, out there in TV Land!

Sorry I was incommunicado there for a while. The wireless service in my apartment went out, and we were trapped here in the French Quarter for nearly a week with nothing to eat but four-star cuisine.

I have found a internet cafe in working order. Here is what has happened in our story so far:

Michele Bachmann, opportunistic lying homophobic Christian fundamentalist right-wing careerist power-junkie and panic-monger, steamrollered the regular Republicans at the Sixth District nominating convention by showing up with about a hundred members of her growing political cult. Though not among the people who regularly show up at such GOP meetings, the Bachmannites quickly eviscerated the other Republican contenders (including senior no-new-taxes statesman Phil Krinkie) and made Bachmann the nominee. Then they immediately surfed away from the meeting on a wave of homosexual panic, leaving the stunned "secular" Republicans to wonder at the "changing face of politics" in their district, and whether they ought to work the phones and get out the vote this fall for "end times" fundamentalist party-crashers.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch--nationally famous child advocate Patty Wetterling is trying to organize a Sixth District candidacy of her own, having secured the DFL nod. But is Patty "man" enough to take on Bachmann? She comes off as awfully sensitive to me--and this is no asset if you are facing a Michele Bachmann--a totally ruthless amoral liar backed by the powerful national and local Christian broadcast media and a small army of small-foreheaded pseudo-Christian bigots, hypocrites, and money-grubbing pastors.

Patty ran a slightly vague campaign against Rep. Mark Kennedy last time around, but her losing vote total was respectable given the fact that Kennedy was an incumbent.

Still--Mark Kennedy is respected and feared as one of the stupidest men in Congress, a wide-eyed but blindly obedient fan of George W. Bush. Running a respectable race against Kennedy was no big trick, Patty--you might even have beat him if your campaign had been better organized.

But beware this time around, Patty. Michele Bachmann is no Mark Kennedy. All means--fair or foul or in between--will be employed to destroy your good name and reputation, so long as Bachmann and her paranoid, pre-apocalyptic followers feel you represent any threat to MB. The way the national and local media characterized the late Terry Schiavo's husband and his motives for their listening audiences--that's the way that the Bachmann campaign is going to characterize YOU!

Because these people in the pseudo-Christian media are as slimy as they come, modern-day McCarthys with no scruples and plenty of airtime and an audience full of credulous chimpanzees who think the voices coming over the radio represent Jesus--so watch out, Patty-girl! Remember to duck! INCOMING!

And don't expect any help from the 'secular' media, either. They've already fired one major strike against you--by consistently refusing to identify Bachmann before the public as she is: a Christian fundamentalist politician.

They prefer to tag her with the more voter-friendly label: "social conservative." I don't know why that is. If any reporter listened to Bachmann for more than twenty minutes on any of the local Christian radio stations over the past few years, they'd walk away convinced that it was absolutely fair to describe Bachmann as a "Christian fundamentalist politician." "Socially conservative" doesn't begin to describe Bachmann's identity, politics, and agenda; there are lots of people who are "social conservatives" who aren't members of an organized Christian fundamentalist takeover party.

But journalists and editors have apparently taken it upon themselves to promote Bachmann's election chances over Wetterling's by continuing to identify her as a "social conservative" rather than a "Christian fundamentalist politician." One is left to wonder how they would describe the modern day equivalent of Mussolini or Hitler to their readers--certainly not as "Fascist" or "Nazi", unless Il Duce and Der Fuhrer conceded those labels.

So Patty starts out at a severe disadvantage, in both the conservative and so-called "liberal" media! Michele begins with the high ground. Wouldn't it be ironic if her precious and eagerly sought "cover"--her pose as a mainstream Republican when addressing non-fundamentalist crowds--ended up costing her the election? For this is a year when the best informed political observers fear for the chances of any Republican.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

National: Don't Worry, Mr. President--Tony Snow Is On The Job

Tony Snow taking over for Scott McClellan as White House Press Secretary; seemed like a real winner to rally the President’s conservative base-- right?

Part of the administration’s “cosmetic” shake-up—facing toilet-plummeting approval ratings, they were trying to remove some of the old faces from the White House; the faces regularly associated with failure and corruption. Rove was moved down, McClellan was moved out.

And telegenic Bush loyalist Snow takes over for him. Conservative credibility? Hey, the guy was a regular guest host on the Rush Limbaugh Show—say no more! News experience? Snow hosted his own radio show on Rupert Murdoch’s pro-Bush Fox News Network, hosted Weekend Live on the Fox News Channel, and hosted Fox News Channel’s News Sunday for years.

Snow’s a conservative “newsman.” So who’s more qualified to serve as press secretary to a conservative president facing disastrous approval ratings? He’s got to be a natural, right?


I just finished reading a press account of Snow’s first day on the job. It’s surreal; it sounds like something I might have made up for this blog. “Snow offered a half-dozen apologies for a less-than-smooth debut, pleaded ignorance on seven questions and ruled out all talk of international or currency issues.” All in just 23 minutes with the press!

To be fair, hey—it was his first day. And I wasn’t there; I’m never invited to these things. So I just have to do what I usually do—take the news account and paraphrase a bit, take the ball and run with it, you know… So here’s how I think it went:

Snow: Oh, jeez… I didn’t think there’d be so many of you guys… guess I shouldn’t have held this thing in my office…my goodness, there must be a dozen of you guys in here, I’m sorry we’ve only got the two chairs—
Journalist: There’s another dozen waiting out in the hall, Mr. Snow, and they’re getting kind of pissed—
Snow: Well, I’m sorry about that, I just wanted to keep it kind of cozy. To tell you the honest truth, I didn’t think there’d be this much interest in what I have to say, I’m just the White House Press Secretary, you know—anybody want a donut? We got some donuts in here, somewhere, I know—
Journalist: The guy from ABC ate the last one.
Snow: Shoot. Well, now that I know we’re going to get this kind of turnout, I’ll book a bigger room next time, and there’ll be donuts and coffee for everyone, I promise.
Journalist: Yay.
Snow: Alright, let’s cut the sarcasm and try to keep this collegial, shall we? After all, I was a newsman, just like you guys, I was on the Fox Network—
Journalist: Whoa!
Snow: Okay, come on, cut it out. Let’s get this thing started, the sooner we get it started the sooner it’ll be over. First off, let’s set a couple of ground rules—no questions about foreign policy.
Journalist: WHAT?
Snow: Believe me, I’m doing you guys a favor. I don’t know jack about foreign policy, I’m just not qualified to discuss it. The President hasn’t been any help, that’s for sure. All those foreign names, it makes my head spin. I can't make head nor tail of it. And I don’t want any questions about currency issues, either. I just don't get that stuff, the “yen” and the “pound” and Canadian coins, I don’t know my ass from my elbow about currency, I don't do math, either, so don’t even try it.
Journalist: Okay…
Snow: Other than that, fire away. I’m ready.
Journalist: What can you tell us about the President’s proposal for more tax cuts?
Snow: I don’t know.
Journalist: Will the President continue to stand by Karl Rove if he’s indicted?
Snow: I don’t know.
Journalist: Is it true that some House Republicans campaigning for re-election in the fall are turning down chances for photo-ops with the President?
Snow: Don’t know.
Journalist: Will the White House move to put in controls on gas prices this summer, prior to the fall elections?
Snow: Gas prices, wait a minute, I got something on that, they gave something about that at my briefing, I got some notes on my desk. Excuse me, please…Excuse me, comin’ through, I’m trying to get back to my desk, can you let me through here, please? And don’t bring that boom mike in here anymore, it’s just not practical, okay…(going through papers on desk) Gas prices, gas prices… umm… (smiles brightly, holds up paper) Found it! (reads) On gas prices… (frowns, looks up) Don’t know.
Journalist: Is the President planning to meet with the new Israeli government?
Snow: That’s a foreign policy question. What did I say about asking me foreign policy questions?
Journalist: Well, the Israelis might be sending someone here to the US to meet with the President, if they do that’s a domestic question, right?
Snow: (pause) Are you trying to trick me? Anyway, look—I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Journalist: Rupert Murdoch, the head of Fox News, is throwing a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy. What is the White House reaction?
Snow: You’re shittin’ me.
Journalist: No, I’m not. I just read it on the Internet.
Snow: Rupert Murdoch?
Journalist: Yeah, Rupert Murdoch.
Snow: Jesus, if HE jumps ship…
Journalist: Tony—
Snow: (rubbing his eyes with his hands) Wait a minute guys, I just heard, you gotta gimme a minute with this—
Journalist: Tony, what’s the capitol of Maryland?
Snow: I don’t know. trying to be a wise ass or something?
Journalist: Tony, I gotta currency question—
Snow: I just got through telling you I’m not answering currency questions, for Christ’s sake—
Journalist: Ah, come on, it’s easy. How much cash have you got on you, right now?
Snow: I don’t know, forty, fifty bucks, I have a cash card, too, I—Alright, that’s it. Everybody out! Now!
Journalist: Ah, come on, Tony, he was just kidding—
Snow: I don’t have to put up with this shit, get out! Out!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

National: The Colbert-Rove Connection

Hey, let’s talk about Steve Colbert’s “tribute to President Bush” at the recent AP dinner televised by C-SPAN.

For those of you who missed it, television satirist Colbert dissected and stomped and peed on Bush and his presidency before a live audience of stunned reporters and White House flunkies—as the President himself squirmed not ten feet away, a sickly grin plastered on his rapidly aging face. American history, made live on television: I never saw or heard of any American political comic (not even Mort Sahl) with the guts to do that to a President’s face. Bush simply took it—no objections, no one came to his rescue; he simply walked away at the end of a speech that publically identified him as a dangerous, heartless baboon. Colbert was unsparing; his images were funny, brutal and accurate. So much so that big media kept downplaying the historicity of the incident in their follow-up coverage for days after.

Yet the Colbert speech remains the toast of Internet news junkies—analysis follows analysis, damnation and praise offered by those who use their computers to follow the hour-to-hour criminal bumbling of the present White House.

I would link to take you to the video itself, but the top story at the moment of this writing informs me that C-SPAN is now making folks take this popular footage off their websites. I guess C-SPAN is like the rest of the commercial media; they don’t want the news of the latest White House debacle to spread any further, either. Either that or they think they’re all gonna get real wealthy from holding the copyright to Colbert’s incredible performance, and then they can use the money to buy themselves another camera or an extra mike or something.

Everybody who appreciates the enormity of Colbert’s unrestrained “shock and awe” destruction of the President has one question on their lips: how could this have happened? It doesn’t matter if you’re an old-time Bush hater or a die-hard Bush lover; you’ve got to be wondering: why would the President accept to an invitation to appear live at a pitilessly accurate and blatantly unaffectionate indictment of his own character, career, and policy? Live, in front the Press? In front of his WIFE? On TELEVISION?

“Was he out of his MIND?” said a toothless old man sitting at the table next to me in café here in New Orleans. “What the hell was he THINKING, showing up to hear THAT guy?” Millions of people, liberal, conservative, whatever, are asking the same thing. Is the President really that DUMB—i.e. as stupid as Colbert says he is? Didn’t Bush know who Steve Colbert was, before he decided to attend the event? I mean, I’ve never seen Colbert’s TV show (I understand it’s really funny), but I know who the guy is—he’s already got a wicked reputation--why wasn’t Bush warned? What happened to the army of Bush press flacks and hacks who are supposed to keep the President informed about potential opposition—or at least insulated from it? Boy, Karl Rove must have really been asleep at the wheel that da—

A-HA! A-HAAAAAH! A-HAAA… Eureka! I have found it. Now I realize; now I know, how it happened, why it happened. Imagine the phone call, secure White House line, Oval Office to Karl Rove’s “new” office, taking place the day that Bush is supposed to show up to the AP dinner featuring Colbert:

Rove: Hello?
Bush: Hey, Karl; how ya doin’, y’ole Turd Blossom. Long time no see.
Rove: Mr. President?
Bush: What’s the matter, ole buddy, don’t you recognize my voice any more?
Rove: You’ll have to speak up, Mr. President; since you saw fit to demote me, my new office is down here in the boiler room, it’s kind of loud and hot and—
Bush: Hell, I’m sorry about that Karl, but you know, man, there wasn’t no way out for me, we couldn’t let you keep on being seen with me day after day after that “leaking-the-CIA-secrets” stuff—
Rove: I wish I could understand, Mr. President. Back when I was working with Donald Segretti, loyalty meant something—
Bush: Yeah, I know, but—
Rove: I put decades into your career, sir, I pulled every scuzzy, low-life trick I knew to put you in the Oval Office and protect your reputation, and now you—(yell at someone, off the phone) For Christ’s sake can you stop shoveling that coal for two minutes, I’m on the phone with the President—
Bush: Anyway, Karl—the reason why I called, I’m invited to this AP dinner thing tonight, and I was wondering if you thought I should go—
Rove: That’s really not my department anymore, sir—as you know I’m not supposed to be advising you daily, since your very public abandonment of me—
Bush: Now come on, Karl, be a bud and help me out here. Should I go, or—
Rove: I’m sorry, sir, but if you value my input so much, why am I working down here in—
Bush: --It’s an AP dinner, they got some comedian comin’ or something, Steve Col-bert, or some French name—
Rove: (pause) What? What was that name?
Bush: I dunno, Col-bert—
Rove: Col-“bear?” Steve Colbert?
Bush: Yeah! Yeah, that’s it, Steve Colbert. He’s gonna do a little funny speech about me or something, kinda like Bob Hope, I guess. Should I go?
Rove: (pause) Oh, yeah.
Bush: Really? You think it’d be good for the old image?
Rove: Oh, SURE! You gotta go, Mr. President. You don’t wanna miss that…
Bush: Is he funny? I mean, he’s not gonna go too heavy on the political stuff, the war, the approval ratings, that stuff. Is he?
Rove: Colbert? Are you kidding? He’s a…PUSSYCAT. You will have the time of your life!
Bush: Really?
Rove: Don’t miss it, Mr. President, that’s my advice to you. Take the wife!
Bush: Ya feel that strongly about it, huh, Karl?
Rove: Absolutely! Are you kidding? I’m gonna TAPE it! I’m gonna TIVO it!
Bush: Heh heh. He’s that funny, huh? Okay, then, I’ll go. And Karl—thanks for not being a sore sport about me firing you and all—
Rove: Aw, shucks, fuggeddaboutit!
Bush: I hope you still think about us sometimes, up here in the ole Oval Office.
Rove: Oh I do, Mr. President. And I tell you what—when you’re sittin’ there tonight, listening to Colbert do his speech about you and your presidency—I’d sure appreciate it if you’d think of ME, and your decision to demote me down here to this boiler room office I got now.
Bush: Well I didn’t know you ever got that sentimental, Karl. Okay, I will think of you tonight.
Rove: You bet you will, sir.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Minnesota: Bachmann's The One!

The symbolism of Bachmann’s complete rout of the state GOP’s “old guard” in obtaining the Republican nomination is lost on most local media professionals.

Bachmann simply steamrollered her “secular Republican” rivals, including GOP strongman Phil Krinkie. People who “get” Bachmann and understand the significance of her candidacy weren’t surprised by this, but I’ll bet it gave the state’s political press a bit of a jolt.

Whenever they mentioned Bachmann there was something slightly dismissive in their tone. She would get these sort of “parenthetical asides” when she was mentioned in the mainstream legislative reporting. Minnesota’s professional political journalists seemed to see her as an annoying but relatively minor figure at the edge of the Republican power circles—holding up the state budget hostage to her anti-gay marriage bill, making undocumented claims about her political opponents “stalking” and harassing her. A drama queen and a demagogue, perhaps, but never a key GOP player.

Krinkie, on the other hand, was treated as a major power. One of the key Republicans in the State House, he got the big play in the political press. He got the nickname “Dr. No” because he was big and bad enough to kill any compromise taxes; he played the big bad bear on the state budget last year and went to the wall to oppose taxes and spending. Chair of the House Tax Committee and a major player in the state’s GOP policy, Krinkie’s been a favorite topic of the Minnesota “political insider” press for a long time.

But this year, little Miss Nobody from Nowhere, who’s only been in politics for about five years, shoulders Krinkie aside and takes the GOP Congressional nomination away from him as if he doesn’t even exist.

Now an unusual phenomenon like that would make almost any conscious political observer sit up and take notice. How could that happen? The notorious and powerful Krinkie, done in by a relative newcomer--a legislator who’s made practically no legislative contributions, one who’s perceived as lazy and untrustworthy even by her own GOP colleagues. And Krinkie just goes quietly without so much as a peep?

Like I say, anybody who’s awake would sense that there’s more to the story. But the Minnesota media’s “political experts” are especially dense about the significance of Michele Bachmann and her sponsors.

One example of such density: if our political reporters really had a clue, they would not be describing Bachmann as a “social conservative”—they would describe her instead as “Christian fundamentalist politician Michele Bachmann.” Because that is what she is—she is not just another “social conservative”; she is a politicking fundamentalist who is actively promoted by powerful Christian fundamentalist commercial media. These fundamentalists’ agenda is to transform their religious beliefs into our laws.

There is nothing wrong or objectionable about telling readers about this—it’s demonstrable, and it’s the truth. But for whatever reason—unconsciousness, fear of reprisal, secret sympathy for the cause, or sheer density—the major players in Minnesota’s political media won’t identify Bachmann for what she is. Not to their readers, anyway.

Instead, the Associated Press settles for describing her as just another “social conservative.” Describing Bachmann to newspaper readers as a “social conservative” is like describing Hitler to newspaper readers as “a man of the right”—a grotesque and deceptive understatement; an understatement that is unintentionally funny because it inadvertently reveals how ill-informed and naïve the coverage of Bachmann is.

Of course she’s not a Hitler; she doesn’t have the strength of character, for one thing. In and of herself she’s a nothing; a second-rate demagogue and small town hatemonger who’s probably never had an original political idea in her life. In and of herself, she’s just a careerist who goes around telling lies in Jesus’ name.

But Bachmann as a local political phenomenon is very important. She’s the anointed local candidate of a huge, nationally organized political movement that is using Christian religious rhetoric to take political power. If Bachmann succeeds, a bunch of little “Bachmanns in miniature” will spring up and we will be treated to the spectacle of GOP candidates all trying to “out-Jesus” each other.

It’s easy to see where Bachmann phenomenon came from and what it represents; all you have to do is monitor the political messages that go out over the commercial “Christian” evangelical broadcast media every day. The people who coordinate that message (and back Bachmann) are really a stealth party; they are organized and they “stay on the message”, they activate churches to show up at Bachmann’s rallies at the state capitol, they endorse political candidates, they promote and propagandize for their political agenda over the radio and on television—and they have long-term political strategies that extend over years. They have charted and nurtured the political career of Michele Bachmann, and many others.

“Miraculously," though they have done all this and more, they still remain beneath the radar of our most astute professional political journalists. If you read the Associated Press’ news release on Bachmann’s nomination, there is no mention of her Christian fundamentalist sponsors; no mention of all the free air time she receives on Christian fundamentalist radio to promote her career and lead listeners in prayer.

The people who cover politics for us are regularly missing the biggest political story in Minnesota, year after year after year: the story of how the Minnesota GOP was targeted by, infiltrated by and finally succumbed to a nationally organized theocratic political movement. And the story of how this could take place in relatives secrecy, despite constant political reporting by the state’s own “experts on politics."

Ah, well—their intellectual forebears didn’t see what McCarthy was all about until it was too late. Why should our generation of journalistic dimbulbs do any better?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Media: The Pioneer Press Reader Advocate...REVEALED!

Prendergast: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve called you here…

Lady Ramsbottom: Hmmph! Wondering indeed! The impertinence of this…fellow!

Prendergast: (bowing slightly to Lady Ramsbottom) I trust you’ll forgive the lateness of the hour, milady. But I believe you’ll find what I have to say very interesting…very interesting, indeed.

Inspector Hannigan: We’ll have no more of your shenanigans, me bucko! Ahrr, this had better be good, Prendergast.

Prendergast: It is, Inspector. Very good. Very good...indeed. (begins to walk alongside the chairs of the dining room table where the various invitees are seated.) Longtime readers of this blog know that for months now I’ve been trying to get local media interested in reporting on whether or not Stillwater politician Choc Junker is being treated for mental illness.

Freddy Pipes-Snavely, no-good polo-playing playboy disinherited nephew of the late Lord Wiggley: (sneers) Man’s talking sheer nonsense…

Prendergast: (smiling cryptically) We shall see, we shall see…(continuing) The investigative trail eventually led to the Pioneer Press Reader Advocate, who’s supposed to address questions about news coverage decisions by that august publication.

Dr. Lin Shee Tang, mysterious Chinese diplomat: The people of my land have a saying, Mr. Prendergast: “The wise bird does not foul its own nest…”

Prendergast: “…And the clever worm stays in its own hole.” (smiles) I believe that is how the rest of the proverb goes, is that not so, Dr. Lin?

(Dr. Lin shifts his eyes, confounded for a moment.)

Prendergast: In any case--after receiving no reply from the Reader Advocate on at least two occasions, I had my doubts about whether such a person actually existed. So I turned to the readers of my blog, and asked them to assist me with my inquires--

Cecily Fenwicke, lovely young debutante and heir apparent to the fabulous fortune of the late titan of industry, J. Pierpont Bigbucks: And did they help you?

Prendergast: (slamming his fist down on to the dining room table with such force that the every single piece of the silver cutlery from the butter knives to the oyster forks leap six inches into the air, and then fall back to their original postions) THEY DID! (then, softly and smoothly, adds) They did indeed, Ms. Fenwicke.
(Prendergast lights a cigarette, take a drag, then:) You see, the Pioneer Press Reader Advocate was a cunning sort. She—

Rene Malpain, fashionable society portraitist and Lady Ramsbottom’s latest gigolo: “She?”

Prendergast: Yes, she, Monsieur Malpain. It turns out that the so-called “Reader Advocate” is in fact—a woman. (bowing slightly to Malpain) “Cherchez la femme,” as they say in your native Paris, mon copain. (strolling behind the chairs of the diners again) Yes, a woman; and, it seems, a very cunning sort of a woman. When it came to answering my particular emails, she apparently made it her practice to “lay low.” She didn’t respond to my email asking for info about PiPress coverage of the Junker story. And after I received no answer to that communiqué, I found she wouldn’t even answer a second email asking whether there actually WAS a Pioneer Press Reader Advocate! (spins around, dramatically.) But she made ONE little mistake…

(Every eye in the dining room is fixed on Prendergast.)

Prendergast: (gripping the head of the table, but keeping his voice low and under control.) She answered SOMEONE ELSE’S email about whether there actually was a Pioneer Press Reader Advocate!

Sir Gerald Hawkshawfe, white hunter recently returned from Tanganyika: Another of your clever little ruses, eh, Prendergast?

Prendergast: (gestures airily) A trifling thing, but mine own, Sir Gerald. In any event, it served its purpose. Because in making that ONE little mistake, our “Reader Advocate” made ONE OTHER little mistake…

Rodney Bainbridge, handsome but weak-willed fiancée of Cecily: (taking his head in his hands) Oh, I’ve had about all of this that any sane man could stand!

Cecily: Rodney, darling!

Inspector Hannigan: (to Rodney) Shut yer weak-chinned yap, ye bloody-lookin’ great clot of a shebeen, ya! (to Prendergast) What was her “other little mistake,” Prendergast?

Prendergast: Her other mistake? Nothing much, really… she merely… (as he draws a folded paper from the inside pocket of his tuxedo and produces it for the inspection of the guests, drops his voice to whisper of inimitable menace) …signed her name.

(Sharp intake of breath from all assembled.)

Prendergast: (unfolding the paper and about to read it) And here you have it, ladies and gentleman—the reason I have called you all together into this room tonight is to tell you that the name of the Reader Advocate for the St. Paul Pioneer Press is—

(The room is plunged into darkness. A woman screams and a shot rings out. Then another. Nothing is heard for a moment, and then we hear Prendergast’s voice, as steady as if nothing out the ordinary had occurred.)

Prendergast: --“Cindy Larson, Reader Advocate, St. Paul Pioneer Press”—

(The room gets even darker, two more women scream and more shots ring out, but Prendergast continues:)

Prendergast: –“345 Cedar Street
St. Paul, Minnesota 55101-1057”--

(The room gets pitch black and there is steady gunfire and a regular chorus of female screaming as Prendergast continues:)

Prendergast: --and her email address is—

(There’s a simultaneous solar and lunar eclipse and the whole world goes dark and there’s machinegun fire and every woman in the world is screaming:)

Prendergast: ...“”