Friday, March 30, 2007

Where's Bachmann?

I used this photo yesterday for a post on the Iraq War. Looking at it again, I think I spy Michele Bachmann...

Is that her behind House Minority Leader John Boehner and President Bush? I can't tell. The person isn't grabbing or trying to thrust herself into the photo...


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Want the Troops Funded? Sign the Bill

By Christopher Truscott

President George W. Bush said Thursday that “when we have a troop in harm’s way, we expect that troop to be fully funded.”

If he continues with this line of thinking, he’ll announce next week that he likes nice spring days, enjoys baseball and that dogs are a commander-in-chief’s best friend. In other words: when you don’t have anything substantive to say, emphatically re-state the blatantly obvious.

No participant in the national debate over the Iraq Civil War wants a troop to go without the funding necessary to keep him safe while he’s deployed. That’s why both houses of Congress acted in a responsible manner and passed a massive funding bill for the bloody quagmire in the Middle East and the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.

At this point, only the president is standing in the way of funding for the troops. By promising to veto legislation that includes a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, the president is actually threatening to cut off the flow of deficit-spending needed to complete the mission he maintains is critical to “the security of the United States of America.”

He would also be denying funds to the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan, the country that was home to the killers who actually attacked America and murdered nearly 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia. The White House does remember Osama bin Laden, right?

To think, this is the same guy who in the 2004 presidential campaign accused Sen. John Kerry of trying to de-fund troops. The flip-flop is on the other foot now.

After more than four years in Iraq, it’s time for the government in Baghdad to start handling its own affairs. American troops and diplomats have toppled a dictator, made Iraq safe for elections and helped create a new constitution and government. All that’s remaining is for Iraqi leaders to take control of their country’s destiny.

It’s true that U.S. troops can’t simply leave Iraq tomorrow, even though many Americans and their political leaders might prefer that option. But a deadline for next year – preferably the House’s binding Aug. 31, 2008, withdrawal date – gives the Iraqi government the time needed to prepare for a life post-U.S. occupation.

Why won’t the president accept a deadline? Why won’t he really acknowledge that eventually the Iraqis must “stand up”? Why won’t he admit that the American military has done everything asked of it? Why does he fear accountability for his actions?

If the president is so adamantly opposed to a deadline, where does he expect us to be next year? Are Sunnis and Shiites to magically stop killing each other? We’ve been waiting since 2003 for Iraqis to move forward, but each year the situation deteriorates further. If the president says our commitment to Iraq is not “open-ended,” then when does it end? Does he want another Vietnam? Does he want worse?

It’s time to declare victory – since we did what we promised to do – and go home. Future victories, which will ultimately be required in Iraq, must be achieved by Iraqis. Predominately Christian and American soldiers and Marines cannot put down a civil war inspired by extreme interpretations of Islam in an Arab country.

For this president to use the White House as the setting for a political pep rally in which he implied that those Americans against a never-ending misadventure in the Middle East are somehow opposed to troops in the field is disgusting. We shouldn’t be surprised. But even after the last six-plus years, it’s still appalling to see the office of the presidency degraded and cheapened in such a manner.

According to a Gallup Poll conducted last weekend, 80 percent of Americans support requiring troops to meet strict readiness standards before deploying to Iraq. Another 60 percent support ending American involvement in the Iraqis’ war no later than next fall. Are these many millions of American citizens, Mr. President, somehow less patriotic than the shrinking minority who support your reckless and dangerous policies?

If Bush is truly committed to funding the troops, he’ll sign the legislation Congress sends to him. If he doesn’t the responsibility for what happens next is squarely on his shoulders.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at He agrees with Nancy Pelosi. The president really needs to “calm down.”

Labels: , ,

Senate DFL: Don’t Do It

By Christopher Truscott

Stuck fighting a small income tax increase on the wealthiest .5 percent of our state’s residents, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his Republican allies are in a tough spot.

They’re trying to pose as champions of everyday Minnesotans while clearly favoring policies slanted disproportionately toward the richest of the rich. That they can do it with a straight face is amusing. That they actually seem to mean it is nothing short of appalling.

A DFL-backed proposal in the House of Representatives that would hike the state income tax on families making more than $400,000 a year and individuals earning more than $200,000 annually would generate more than $400 million over the next two years to help reduce property taxes and boost funding for education statewide.

While Republicans argue that Joe Mauer shouldn’t have to see his state income tax rate jump from 7.85 percent to an even 9 percent, House DFLers are offering a well-balanced package that goes a long way toward reversing some of the damage caused by the Pawlenty administration’s first term in office.

No, it doesn’t pay for everything we’d like to see. It’s not perfect, but after four years of budget cuts, sub-inflationary education spending and massive property tax increases, the House plan is a good start toward rebuilding the promise of the great Minnesota Miracle.

Grumblings out of the Senate, however, threaten to torpedo the House’s work. Among the ideas being batted around is an across-the-board income tax increase.

Nine words of advice: Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.

And three more: Don’t do it. And another: Please.

Maybe in hindsight, as Senate Taxes Committee Chairman Tom Bakk said, the tax cuts signed into law by former Gov. Jesse Ventura were “unsustainable.” But after a miserable journey through a terror attack, recession, war and cuts to programs designed to help the most unfortunate among us, the last thing average Minnesotans need is a tax increase.

If the tax-hike-on-everyone idea – no matter how it’s packaged – gets to the Senate floor, the Republicans instantly go from being the defenders of their top campaign contributors to the voice of reason in the important debate at the Capitol about the future of our state. This cannot be allowed to happen. Not only is it bad politics, it is terrible policy.

After too many hard times, Senate DFLers mustn’t allow the unattainable fantasy to become the enemy of the good and reasonable. Republicans are on the wrong side of this debate. The last thing the DFL needs to do is throw the governor and his allies a lifeline.

Support and fight for the House proposal, do good things for Minnesotans, go home and listen to constituents and then worry about the nice-to-haves in the next session.

In his usual less-than-gracious way, Pawlenty has promised to veto the House proposal. The governor has clearly signaled that his top priority is those wealthy by even the standards of places like Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Edina. If that’s the side he wants to be on, let him explain it to members of the average Minnesota household – which, by the way, makes about $50,000 a year.

Do not make his job easier.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at If the Senate tries to hike taxes on everyone, he wants the state to provide helicopter service from his home to his office.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again.

Maybe that's relevant here...

For a second time this month, someone has broken into DFL Headquarters in St. Paul. Indications are that the intruder broke into the office of Andrew O'Leary, the DFL's executive director, stealing a computer that was not visible from outside of the building and going through materials in his desk.

Two weekends ago, an intruder smashed a window and stole a laptop from the office of Nick Kimball, the DFL's Interim Communications Director. The DFL has no official statement on this latest incident.
Maybe it's a coincidence, even though it's starting to look like a pattern.

Labels: ,

Meanwhile, In the Caribbean...

March 27, 2007.
At sea.

While my young colleague Christopher Truscott continues to gas on about public policy and high tuition fees back home in Minnesota, your correspondent finds himself sailing the Caribbean in search of Osama bin Laden.

I will not name the vessel, because I do not want to be sued. It is a pleasure cruise "dreadnought", about twice the size of the Starship Enterprise, and we are currently headed south-southwest. Destination: Cozumel, with its legendary Hard Rock Cafe and conga lines of fat Canadian tourists.

Upon presenting my credentials to the steward I was assigned to quarters commensurate with my station in life--a converted restroom located deep within the bowels of the ship, wedged between the 24/7 waste pumping station and the ship's furnace. The chamber above mine is apparently devoted to alternating classes in taiko drumming and flamenco dancing for the obese. There is no porthole--indeed no natural light of any kind--but if I turn up the air conditioner real high it sounds like the crashing waves.

This evening I was expelled from the Observation Lounge for smoking a cigar--the first time, to my knowledge that anything like this has ever happened to a white man at sea. My standing among the passengers sank still further after my credit card was declined--publicly, loudly, and repeatedly--by a Rumanian cashier at the ship's duty free shopping station. I drew a bath towel over my face and felt my way through the mocking, pointing crowd, supposing I looked like Lot and his daughters fleeing the cities of the plain. It would have made an admirable subject for a painting.

Right now I am seated just outside the "Razzles Cabaret" where an energetic Filipino cover band named Melanoma or something like that is doing an apocolyptic version of "Shake Your Groove Thing." This entertainment is alternated with karaoke. Why do people from Arkansas think that they can turn in a creditable performance of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive?"

The ship's hypnotist--yes, hypnotist--entertained a standing room only crowd by mesmerizing a bald man from Connecticut into saying "poop." (The kids loved it.)
Then there was an on-board game show called "Dysfunctional Family Feud", where participants signifed their readiness to give an answer to a survey by throwing a glass of water in the face of the ship's Indonesian steward. I must admit I did find this amusing, since earlier in the day he had been standing by wearing an expression of bemused disdain when my card was turned down. The wheel of fortune turns...

I slept through the tour of the Mayan ruins this morning. The Filipino band has just played "Stayin' Alive" for the fourth time in a row, and the crowd is beginning to turn ugly. But I will find bin Laden.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Facing the Health Care Crisis

By Christopher Truscott

Only the war in Iraq is a more pressing issue than America’s health-care crisis.

With 47 million of our countrymen and women going uninsured, including many who are working at least one job, this is a real crisis. No hyperbole needed. Fill a room with 100 randomly selected Americans and you’ll have about 16 who lack access to basic, affordable medical care. That can’t be explained away as a statistical glitch. It’s a sad truth and a major problem.

Running for president in 2008 without a plan to fix health care – that is, to ensure that every American has access to it, universal coverage – would be like seeking appointment as the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation and having no plans for plowing the roads clear of snow in the winter. You’d rightfully be laughed out of the room.

Health care is an inescapable question in the great debate this country deserves. We’ve dodged the issue for too long with half-measures, watered-down compromises, state-by-state solutions and timid thinking. It’s time to tackle this problem with the full force and resources of the American government and those who seek to lead it.

At a health-care forum in Nevada last weekend, Democrats talked about the issue. The two front-runners in the race, however, give us little reason for optimism.

Sen. Barack Obama boldly proclaimed that he’ll do “whatever it takes” to insure everyone, but stopped short of telling us what it will take. If he wants to get beyond the criticism of his depth as a candidate – that he’s a stuffed shirt with a nice smile – he’ll have to come up with a better answer.

Sen. Hillary Clinton said it will take a “movement” to make health care “the number one voting issue in the ’08 election.” Quick question, senator: Aren’t we there? We talk about a divided country, red and blue, but health care transcends party lines. Roughly 16 percent of Americans are uninsured and they live in Republican states like Mississippi and Democratic states like the former first lady’s New York. The forces of bad luck and economic duress have created a constituency that’s desperately waiting for a leader.

Of the major candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination, only John Edwards has articulated a plan to grant health care access to all Americans. Through a combination of government programs, market competition and federal regulation, Edwards’ plan would cover everyone by 2012.

Is it the best option? We can’t be sure because we only have one on the table, but the former North Carolina senator’s proposal is promising, especially since he’s cleared the hurdle of admitting that bold change won’t come without a price. He’ll pay for his plan by rolling back the Bush administration tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans.

That’s the kicker. Health care is expensive and insuring everyone will cost money. Call it “investment” or “dedicated revenue,” it doesn’t matter. It’s going to take cash to close the growing health care gap.

Shortly before the American Revolution, Virginia patriot George Mason wrote of the need for joint sacrifice in the face of a shared problem.

“Every member of society is … duty bound to contribute to the safety & good of the whole; and when the subject is of such importance as the liberty and happiness of a country, every inferior consideration, as well as the inconvenience to a few individuals, must give place to it; nor is this any hardship upon them; as themselves & their posterity are to partake of the benefits resulting from it.”

That Mason was describing the effect on the colonies of an economic boycott of British goods in opposition to royal oppression is irrelevant. The sentiment is just as pertinent now as it was more than two centuries ago.

We all share in the cost of health care. If you have insurance, you’re already paying for the coverage of those who don’t. When someone without health insurance gets sick, they forgo a trip to the doctor. When it gets worse they end up in a costly emergency room. When they can’t pay the bill it gets passed onto to your insurance company, who in turn passes it to you in the form of sky-rocketing premiums. Finally, the rising price of insurance then forces more people into the ranks of the uninsured and the cycle continues.

This is not the way to provide health care and it certainly isn’t any way to run a country. As the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone said, “we all do better when we all do better.”

If rolling back the taxes of the richest to Bill Clinton-era levels – when the economy was booming and the middle class growing exponentially – is what it takes to really provide and pay for universal health care, what are we waiting for?

In 1961, when President John F. Kennedy announced his plan to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, he didn’t sugarcoat things. He called on Congress and the American people to do better; to accept the greatest challenge; to make a “firm commitment to a new course of action.”

As we know, Americans responded.

Nearly a half century later we can do the same thing on health care. But before we do that, our political leaders must find the courage to lead and meet this great challenge.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at His thoughts and prayers are with the families of Elizabeth Edwards and Tony Snow. Fortunately they both have the resources to wage their life-and-death battles with cancer.

Labels: , , ,


I know this has nothing to do with politics, but I grew up in the Washington, D.C., area pulling for the Atlanta Braves and more than anything waiting for baseball to come to the nation's capital.

Alas, it's here. And this wonderful new stadium opens next year. I just love looking at it.

More pictures...


Monday, March 26, 2007

George W. Bush: Home Alone

By Christopher Truscott

Author's note: This is too good!

White House smut peddler Robert Novak reports that President George W. Bush is all alone in the nation's capital.

For those keeping score at home...

Author's notes in blue. Novak's words in italics. Really dumb stuff in red.

Republicans in Congress do not trust their president to protect them. That alone is sufficient reason to withhold statements of support for Gonzales, because such a gesture could be quickly followed by his resignation under pressure. Rep. Adam Putnam (Fla.), the highly regarded young chairman of the House Republican Conference, praised Donald Rumsfeld in November only to see him sacked shortly thereafter.

Adam has since been scrapped from the special-interest-funded Vegas trip.

But not many Republican lawmakers would speak up for Gonzales even if they were sure Bush would stick with him. He is the least popular Cabinet member on Capitol Hill, even more disliked than Rumsfeld was. The word most often used by Republicans to describe the management of the Justice Department under Gonzales is "incompetent."

The saving grace that some Republicans find in the dispute over U.S. attorneys is that, at least temporarily, it draws attention away from debate over an unpopular war.

Wow! They really are grasping at straws, aren't they? "Corruption trumping no-win war? Awesome! We win!"


The I-word (incompetence) is also used by Republicans in describing the Bush administration generally. Several of them I talked to cited a trifecta of incompetence: the Walter Reed hospital scandal, the FBI's misuse of the USA Patriot Act and the U.S. attorneys firing fiasco. "We always have claimed that we were the party of better management," one House leader told me. "How can we claim that anymore?"

Don't stop there. Hurricane Katrina? Mission accomplished? Dead or Alive?

A few Republicans blame incessant attacks from the new Democratic majority in Congress for that image. Many more say today's problems in the administration derive from the continuing impact of yesterday's mistakes. The answer that is not entertained by the president's most severe GOP critics, even when not speaking for quotation, is that this is just the governing style of George W. Bush and will not change while he is in the Oval Office.

It's the "I-word" again.

Regarding Libby and Gonzales, unofficial word from the White House is not reassuring. One credible source says the president will never -- not even on the way out of office in January 2009 -- pardon Libby. Another equally good source says the president will never ask Gonzales to resign. That exactly reverses the prevailing Republican opinion in Congress. Bush is alone.

No Libby pardon? Not even this president can screw everything up.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Memo to Bush: You Burned Your Capital

By Christopher Truscott

Victory Press ConferenceMake no mistake about it, George W. Bush understands American-style democracy. He made that abundantly clear in a press conference two days after winning a second term in office.

“Let me put it to you this way,” the triumphant president told a White House correspondent, “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.”

Whether the president actually earned capital is debatable. It’s more like he wrote a check during the 2004 campaign and by early 2005 it had been returned for insufficient funds. But the damage had been done – he was given a second term and political capital to spend until events warranted otherwise.

It didn’t take long for the illusion put forward during the campaign to fall apart. Iraq was a mess and getting worse, corruption was rampant and the president was clueless. Add to that the White House’s impotent response to Hurricane Katrina and it was clear that a president who once pledged to work to earn America’s trust was at best incompetent and at worst recklessly negligent.

With the Bush administration proving to be an embarrassing failure, voters from all walks of life came to the rescue last fall. Two years after giving him capital, Americans took it away, handing Democrats complete control of Capitol Hill for the first time since 1994. While the president maintained that he wanted to stay the course, it was obvious to everyone outside the White House that it’s time for a new direction.

After using the will of the voters as justification for his efforts to consolidate power after the 2004 election, the president is now presenting himself as the voice for bipartisan cooperation.

“For the good of our (n)ation,” the president said in his Saturday radio address, “I ask the Democratic leaders in Congress to seize the opportunity before us and move beyond political statements to bipartisan action.”

He’s urging Democrats to give him what he wants on Iraq and what he wants on the U.S. attorney firing investigation. Oversight? Don’t bother. In the president’s world, he’s the decider.

But it doesn’t work like that. In the words of Sen. Barbara Boxer, “elections have consequences.” Americans voted for oversight, they voted for ending the Iraq War and they voted for competence. No matter how the president tries to spin things, he can’t dodge the inescapable truth that his administration has been overwhelmingly rejected.

Rutherford B. HayesInstead of continuing his Quixote-esque course of action, it’s time for the president to accept divided government and the will of the people. It’s time for him to acknowledge that Iraq is mired in a bloody civil war that only Iraqis can end. It’s time for him to live up to his pledge to maintain an honest administration. It’s time for him to accept reality, despite personal misgivings about its anti-Republican bias.

In 1877 another controversial president, Rutherford B. Hayes, stared down a divided nation and promised to work with his opponents.

“He serves his party best who serves the country best,” the 1876 popular-vote loser said during his inaugural address.

While Hayes’ presidency is largely forgotten, his place in history must look pretty good to Bush supporters right now. At this point even mediocrity would be better than the president’s current standing, which ranks somewhere near that of noted bungler Warren G. Harding, who once proclaimed:

“I am not fit for this office and never should have been here.”

Mr. Harding, after eight decades you now have company. Enjoy.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at He rates the Bush administration somewhere in between the presidencies of Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bachmann: Should She Really Be Taking Credit For That?

Oh, good; another Michele Bachmann story. This time from Dump Bachmann, one of the "other" blogs I’m writing for.

On Congresswoman Bachmann’s website she tells the story of how she called the East Bethel Fire Department and told them they’d be receiving a federal grant of about $240,000 to support the local “first response” effort.

Well that’s nice. Congresswoman Bachmann supporting the local firefighters, right? Uh—no, not exactly. In fact, uh…she doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with the federal award of $240,000. A guy wrote in to the St. Cloud Times and noted that the money was a fiscal year 2006 grant from Homeland Security--so it was earmarked for that fire department before Bachmann was even elected.

But why would Bachmann take the trouble to announce the award of this taxpayer money to the fire department on her website? It might give the fire department and the public the *false* impression that she had something to do with obtaining the funds--

Oh. That’s the reason. I see. Without delivering a dime to the firefighters, she can create the impression that she did--by calling them and telling them that they’re getting $240,000 dollars.

Bachmann badly needs good public relations right now. It was revealed to the press that her office was trying to organize what is called an “Astroturf” campaign; a phony “grass roots support” campaign on her behalf. Bachmann’s press secretary was caught emailing supporters and begging them to write letters to the editors of local newspapers to support Bachmann.

The “Astroturf” email included a list of specific “nice things” that people should include in letters to the editor about Bachmann: “talk about Michele as a mother (5 biological, 23 foster kids),” “her strong fiscal conservative roots,” etc. etc.

So it not surprising that we find her attempting to get credit for firefighter funding she didn’t work for. This is nothing new; she pulled the same kind of stunts before she became a Congresswoman. Just look at these excerpts from previous Bachmann press releases:

Michele Bachmann recently called the American Medical Association to inform them that they would soon have access to an antibiotic that will cure bacterial infection. Bachmann calls the miracle drug “penicillin.”

“I am pleased to announce this discovery and to share it with the American medical community,” said Michele Bachmann. If you could take just a moment of your time to write 50 -100 words in to your local newspaper about why you support Michele, that would be fantastic. We know how much she would appreciate seeing that in the paper. You might also mention that Michele is a mother (5 biological, 23 foster kids) and wife.

Pretty nervy, eh? Or how about this one:

Michele Bachmann announced today that her recent efforts to end the Cold War have finally paid off, and that the fifty year old geopolitical struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union has ended. “The threat of nuclear confrontation between America and Russia is finally over, and I am pleased to declare America the victor,” Bachmann added, smiling. “You may all return to your homes now.”

Speaking from her home in Stillwater, Minnesota, Bachmann said that she intended to turn her attention to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of Eastern Europe. As you may know Michele has received a lot of attention in the press lately, much of it unfavorable. If you could take just a moment of your time to write 50 -100 words in to your local newspaper about why you support Michele, that would be fantastic. We know how much she would appreciate seeing that in the paper. You might also mention that Michele is a fiscal conservative and is the mother of 5 biological and 23 foster kids.

But for brass balls, this really takes the cake:

Michele Bachmann announced today that “cute little puppies” will now be made available to American families. “Cute little puppies” are sweet, endearing young things barely out of their infancy. They are lovable and warm and all they want is to play and to be hugged and give out kisses. “Our work has paid off,” Bachmann explained, “And I am very pleased indeed to announce we are making these sweet little critters available to good homes where they will love and be loved, instead of letting them be kicked by mean old men at dog pounds who vote for higher taxes and kick cute little puppies and won’t give them blankets and they just sit around shivering and lonely all night in the cold, those poor cute little puppies.”

As you may have seen, Michele has been the focus of lots of media lately and most of it not friendly. If you appreciate Michele and her stand on “cute little puppies,” could you take just a moment of your time to write 50 -100 words about why you support Michele that would be fantastic and I know how much she would appreciate seeing that in the paper. It’s probably best not to mention the “cute little puppies” thing in your letter to the editor, it would be better to mention how she’s not playing politics in the war on terrorism, like the Democrats, and to mention that Michele is a mother (5 biological, 23 foster kids) and wife. Be sure to get that in there.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

State Should Partner With Mall of America

By Christopher Truscott

When it comes to economic development, you have to play the hand you’re dealt.

For the Twin Cities, and Minnesota as a whole, that means Mall of America. It’s a big-ticket destination that draws tens of millions of visitors and their wallets to our area each year and it has the potential to lure even more tourists and tax revenue.

Is it as historically important as Colonial Williamsburg? Of course not.

Is it as awe-inspiring as the Grand Canyon? Nope.

Is it as serene as Lake Superior’s North Shore? Ha!

Is it as majestic as the monuments in Washington, D.C.? Heavens no.

The Mall of America is a big, gaudy shopping mall. It’s also our trump card in the competition for tourism at the regional, national and global levels. Like it or not, it’s a favorable part of the image the outside world has of us.

Tourism shouldn’t be taken lightly. Visitors come, spend money and leave. It’s a win-win scenario. You don’t have to do things like educate their kids or build infrastructure for their neighborhoods in exchange for the significant contribution they make to the state’s coffers.
East Broadway
A nearly $2 billion development plan would make the mall an even bigger attraction that pays greater dividends for Minnesota. The cost to the taxpayer? Another local property tax exemption and a $181 million parking ramp paid for by the state. While that’s a significant public contribution, it’s also a solid investment in our state’s future competitiveness.

Despite personal misgivings we may have about the mall itself, we must support it. This isn’t a subsidy. It’s not a bail-out. It’s a partnership between the state and a valuable institution. Somebody, somewhere is going to get the investment the mall’s owner plans to make. Why shouldn’t that money be spent in Minnesota?

Surely if the Legislature can approve a Twins’ stadium deal in which the taxpayer picks up three-quarters of the $520 million tab, lawmakers can find no fault in a much smaller cash contribution to a far more spectacular plan.

Granting public subsidies to private business is certainly distasteful and it should be, but Minnesota didn’t make the rules. Across America – and around the world, for that matter – governments are partnering with the private sector on significant projects. For us to decide to do otherwise would be akin to a professional sports team owner forsaking the free agent market because he believes players should be loyal to their original team. It’s simply an idea from another era and if we don’t discard that antiquated mindset we’re going to find it more difficult to compete in the coming years.

Calvin Coolidge was right when he said: “Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped.” But that doesn’t mean we should pass up easy shots at growing our economy.

While it might feel good to say no to the mall today, in the long run it would be at best shortsighted and at worst, to use a phrase popularized by our very distinguished governor, “profoundly stupid.”

Christopher Truscott can be reached at He actually loathes the Mall of America.

Labels: ,

Welcome Matt Dean

The Stillwater Tribune is pleased to welcome State Rep. Matt Dean to the conversation.

Dean, a Republican from Dellwood, took issue with our recent post "Minnesotans Ready For Progress, Waiting on Pawlenty."

His two cents (red is for Republican):

The Speaker as well as the Majority Leader said in the Ways and Means committee on 3-14-2007 that not one penny of the tax increase will go to k-12 or health insurance for kids. The revenue note for the tax increase shows that the tax increase will impact small business owners and farmers (more than half of folks hit) the hardest.

It is interesting that the Senate and House are both held by strong DFL majorities. All appropriations will go through the DFL chairs in both chambers, yet you act as if the republicans are still in control. It is interesting that the DFL house and senate are proposing a 6% increase in k-12 after the GOP proposed and delivered much more and were attacked for not delivering dollars to k-12.

Note to Stillwater Tribune: The DFL is in control.

It appears the representative has started his own blog, Minnesota Political Report. It has no posts at this writing, but we hope to see him get it up and running as his schedule permits.

Note: The Stillwater Tribune welcomes opposing viewpoints. Nobody who read it will ever forget Bill Prendergast's groundbreaking 2006 interview with former Taxpayers League of Minnesota leader David Strom.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Isn’t it odd that the photo album on Michele Bachmann’s congressional Web site seems to be updated regularly, but her “issues” page has been under construction for weeks?

Click on a topic, like National Security, and you get press releases and a “Coming Soon!” message. We shouldn't expect much from a Web site, but certainly a well thought-out policy or two would be nice.

I wonder if she’s telling this elementary school student about Shiite Iran’s plans to dominate the Sunni portions of Iraq.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The War Is Over Because Bush Said So

The night the U.S. military launched its campaign to oust Saddam Hussein from power, President George W. Bush clearly spelled out America’s war aims.

“We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people,” he said in a somber televised address from the Oval Office.

Six weeks later a triumphant president gave his famed “mission accomplished” speech from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of California.

“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” he announced. “In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

A little more than a year later, after receiving a note that “Iraq is sovereign” from then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Bush reiterated his mission accomplished theme.

“We pledged to end a dangerous regime to free the oppressed and restore sovereignty – we have kept our word,” he said.

In other words, the job is done.

Yet nearly four years after first declaring victory and three years after Iraq was given its sovereignty, the American death toll continues to rise. More than 3,200 troops and hundreds more civilian contractors have paid the ultimate price for the liberation of Iraq, many of those deaths coming after the president’s pre-war goals were met.

Now we’re bogged down in a raging civil war between al-Qaeda-sponsored Sunni insurgents and Iranian-backed Shiite extremists. Rather than accepting reality, the president has simply recast old Republican “cut-and-run” taunts.

“It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home,” the president said Monday on the fourth anniversary of the invasion. “That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating.”

As usual, he’s wrong.

According to an ABC News poll, a majority of Iraqis say attacks on American troops are “acceptable.” A staggering 78 percent of Iraqis oppose the U.S. presence in their country. While the military component of Operation Iraqi Freedom was a smashing success, we have lost the battle of hearts and minds.

Iraq has ratified a constitution and elected itself a permanent government. Only Iraqis can resolve their country’s conflict. Functioning government and flourishing democracy cannot be inflicted on a people – they have to come from within.

Facing a reckless and out-of-touch president, Congress has finally taken the initiative to dial down American involvement in the war. An Aug. 31, 2008, deadline for troop withdrawal is gaining support in the House and Democrats in the Senate are mulling an end date of their own. Meanwhile, the White House has tried to move the debate to within the framework of yesterday’s bad ideas.

Ending the costly and now pointless American involvement in Iraq, White House press secretary Tony Snow said, would be a “victory for our enemies.”

But what Snow and the Republican echo chamber overlook is each day we stay in Iraq the terrorists win many new recruits. Each time it looks like we’re managing affairs for a so-called sovereign Iraqi government, those who oppose liberty win. Each time American troops patrol neighborhoods that should be policed by Iraqis, the prospect of legitimate self-governance becomes increasingly bleak.

Absent a timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal, progress won’t be made. We spent 20 years trying to standup Vietnam and it failed. If the Iraqi experiment is to work, Iraqis must do it themselves.

What more does Bush want? What conditions will he next attach to the Iraq War? Toppling Saddam, eliminating (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction and establishing democracy weren’t good enough?

The mission is accomplished, Mr. President. It’s time to stare down reality and do the right thing.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at He’s favored a 12- to 18-month timeline for about two years now.

Labels: , ,

Chinese Ant Fraud: The Perils of Globalization

by William Prendergast

Well, there goes another barrel full of my money, down the toilet. I know we have readers in China, that’s what the reader demographics show. I’m begging them to take a look at the following article and then explain to me exactly what happened. Look at this:

Ant Fraud Yields Death Sentence

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 20, 2007

YINGKOU, China -- To hear Chinese authorities tell it, Wang Zhendong is a danger to society, the worst kind of person, one who took advantage of his fellow citizens' naivete and trust. Last month, a court here gave him the death penalty for his crimes.

Wang's misdeed: selling overpriced ant farms to the public.


A death sentence


A Ponzi-type scam involving ant farms, promising a 40 percent yearly return. Investors got some payments before the scheme unraveled.


More than 36,000 people invested, with some spending all their savings.

As China moves fitfully from a planned economy to a free-market system, cracking down on fraud, embezzlement and other financial schemes has become a major priority for the government. Among the cases taken most seriously are ones that harmed common people.

In Wang's case, for instance, investors shelled out 10,000 yuan, the equivalent of about $1,300, for cardboard boxes full of black ants, purportedly rare ones sometimes used in China to make medicines and wine but actually worth about $25.

Over two years, more than 36,700 residents of 12 towns in China's northeastern Liaoning province were tricked out of nearly $400 million, resulting in many of them losing their life savings. At least one investor committed suicide.

Don’t get me wrong. I will never lose my faith in capitalism; I’m an investor to the core and I understand the concept of “risk.” But this one shook me up. I had already lost a bundle in the “fake plastic bull balls that you hang off the trailer hitch on the back of your pickup truck” industry. (The government stepped in and decided to regulate, which killed the money I’d put into “fake bull balls” futures; it stopped market speculation cold and I got left holding the bag.)

And now this headline, which made me do a spit-take over the tea, marmalade and toast this morning. The Chinese ant farm agribusiness sector--wiped out!

I came in to this one with my eyes wide open. When my broker (E. F. Nuttin) tipped me off to the possibilities in the burgeoning Chinese ant farm market, he warned me about the downside. He had to, it’s the law. But the prospectus looked so good—a potential market of billions of Chinese, standing around with their yuans clutched in their hands and telling each other “One day, one day, comrade, a day will come when the Party will reform the property laws and we will be able to buy that little ant farm we always dreamed of.”

We were positioned, man, we were right there, present at the creation! We were on the runway, ready to take off! I didn’t put everything into one company, either—I bought a basket of bonds in Chinese ant farm companies. Even if one company turned out to be a dog, they couldn’t all go down the tube, one of them had to emerge as the dominant player in the market. True, most of my stuff was Chinese ant farm junk bonds (high risk, but with a very high rate of return)—but I cut my financial teeth in the Eighties; I know the Milken wisdom: that a portfolio of high-risk ant bonds would pay out more than triple-A rated bonds on any other insect.

And for awhile, times were good. Champagne wishes, caviar dreams: when I was at a white tie affair, lighting my cigar with a hundred dollar bill, and some Fortune 500 junior executive pup would impertinently ask me, “What’s your line, Prendergast?” I’d waggle my eyebrows at him and answer proudly: “Ants!” He’d stare at me in disbelief, and I’d elaborate: “Chinese ants! They work like motherfuckers, that’s all they do is work, it’s better than Walmart. And if they ask about a health care plan you can step on ‘em, and the law can’t do a thing!” The kid’s eyes would light up, all greedy like, and he’d ask me how he could get in, and all I’d do is just give him my nicest “up yours” grin and flick my cigar ash into his drink.

And now the whole thing washes out; it turns out that my biggest guy was a crook running some kind of an ant Ponzi scheme, selling Chinese widows and orphans “Gummi Ants” instead of the real thing. Christ, how low can you go? Defrauding people out of their life savings by selling them fake ants? What is this, Enron all over again? Death penalty’s too good for the crooked prick.

And now here I am stuck with a billion cardboard boxes of dead ants on container cars in Shanghai, and a warehouse full of fake plastic bull balls that I can’t even sell in Maryland anymore.

Well, that’s capitalism. At least I didn’t put the money into the airlines.

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 19, 2007

Poll: Do You Believe Attorney General Gonzales?

By William Prendergast

After searching the web all night for free web polling services and giving my email address out to total strangers to try out a string of “free web polling services,” I have concluded that none of them are suitable for our purposes here.

As regular readers know, we have been having problems with our usual polling service. For some reason the service provider is unable to present our poll questions as written—this state-of-the-art high tech company regularly substitutes a little box for a quotation mark or an apostrophe.

None of the other services can handle the job either; I tried several last night and they can’t handle a poll question that is much longer than “What is your favorite color.” As our readers know, we handle much more complicated issues than that here on the Stillwater Tribune. (But if you want to tell everyone what your favorite color is, that’s okay, just send it in to the comment thread following this post.)

Nonetheless, we are determined to continue polling here at the Stillwater Tribune. From now on we will not use *any* free online web hosting service; instead we will just print the poll question as if it were a regular item for discussion. We will include, as usual, a list of multiple choice answers. Each answer will have a letter in front of it—A,B, C or D.
You can click on the letter of your choice with your mouse and pretend that your answer is being recorded as polling data.

In fact it will not be. Nothing will happen as a result of you clicking on a letter to record your opinion. But you will know that, and that will give you an advantage over future readers who arrive here and attempt to answer future poll questions. They will not know that their opinion is not being recorded or taken into account in the polling results (which I will make up)--and you and I can enjoy a good laugh at the expense of these new readers. And we all need a good laugh, these days.

This Week’s Poll: Do you believe Gonzales?

Critics claim that Attorney General Gonzales fired eight US attorneys because they refused to cooperate with GOP efforts to use their offices to harass Democratic candidates and limit voter turnout. Gonzales claims that the firings were not politically motivated and that all these attorneys were all dismissed for poor performance.
Do you believe Attorney General Gonzales?

Click on one of the following answers.

A. How can Gonzales claim that the “late 2006/early 2007” firings of these attorneys were “performance related” if White House emails show that Karl Rove and Harriet Miers were trying to get them all fired as far back as January, 2005?

B. I believe Attorney General Gonzales--because he’s sent so many people to the death chamber, and that’s one list I don’t want to be on, believe you me, bucko!

C. I believe Attorney General Gonzales. I also believe I’ve been picked up and anally probed by space aliens.

D. I didn’t believe the last few stories that Attorney General Gonzales told about why the attorneys were fired, but I am trying to keep an open mind about whatever story he comes up with next week.


Minnesotans Ready for Progress, Waiting on Pawlenty

By Christopher Truscott

After quoting the biblical prophet Isaiah toward the end of his first State of the State address, Gov. Tim Pawlenty closed his speech with a call to action.

“In that spirit and hope, and in the great heritage of service and sacrifice that is Minnesota, let us walk together,” he said. “Then let us run. And one day soon, even soar.”

Four years later many Minnesotans are ready to answer the governor’s challenge. They’re ready for our state to once again take flight. All they’re waiting for is the governor himself to come aboard.

Pawlenty’s first term was marked by massive property tax hikes, soaring college tuition, devastating cuts to school districts statewide and reckless neglect of basic services and infrastructure. The “great heritage of service and sacrifice” that the governor talked up after taking office was sacrificed itself on the altar of his “no new taxes” pledge.

The Minnesota the rest of the country looked to as a model for innovation and leadership is quickly becoming a thing of the past. After decades of leading the nation, the governor’s policies are pushing us closer and closer to the ranks of the average and mediocre states.

Pawlenty will tell you his leadership has kept Minnesota strong, but under his watch we’ve actually grown weaker.

Our state domestic product growth rate of 1.9 percent between 2004 and 2005, the last year for which statistics are available, lags well below the national average of 3.6 percent. Rather than competing with the fastest-growing economies, we’re lagging near the bottom of the pack, alongside states like West Virginia, New Jersey, Arkansas and Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Mississippi. That’s hardly what the Republican and DFL architects of the Minnesota Miracle envisioned for us.

The governor is first to admit that our remote location and long winters put us at a competitive disadvantage with the booming economies of the Sun Belt. But we could once compete on the basis of a quality of life that was second to none. Today, however, we’re losing that advantage, too.

Last November Minnesota voters said enough is enough. They turned out many of the governor’s allies and handed firm control of both houses of the Legislature to the DFL, which has put together budget packages in the House and Senate that can help undo some of the damage caused during the first term of this governor’s so-called administration.

Is the DFL plan perfect? Probably not. Does it fix everything? Absolutely not. Is it a good starting-off point? Certainly.

A small tax hike on Minnesota families making more than $400,000 a year and individuals taking in more than $220,000 would generate $433 million over two years that would help provide health insurance for 70,000 uninsured children and get state K-12 education spending slightly above inflationary levels.

Before anyone buys into the inevitable “they’re raising your taxes” argument, consider that only about 28,000 people out of 5.1 million Minnesota residents would be affected by this measure. The median household income in Minnesota is $50,750. Whereas Pawlenty balanced budgets on the backs of the middle class and working poor, the DFL is merely asking the wealthiest Minnesotans to carry a little more of the burden.

If the governor can quote Isaiah, certainly he can understand the value of an axiom handed down in the book of Luke: “Unto whom much is given, of him shall much be required.”

The first gas tax adjustment since “The Cosby Show” and “A Different World” topped the Nielsen ratings would generate much-needed revenue to begin a long-awaited modernization of our transportation system. With U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar chairing the House Transportation Committee, Minnesota is in line to receive some federal assistance, but if we can’t come up with the requisite matching funds Oberstar might as well be from Idaho.

With new revenue streams for education and transportation, the state’s $1 billion budget surplus can be used for property tax relief and buying back some of the school tax levies passed in recent years to help offset sub-inflationary state investment in K-12 education.

The governor has derided the proposals put forward by a coalition of conservative, moderate and liberal DFLers as “Taxapalooza.” His wisecracks mask the fact that he doesn’t have a plan. He doesn’t know how we’ll get back to where we were, let alone how we’ll get where we need to go. After mortgaging our future for his “no new taxes” plan during his first term, he’s blocking progress today to solidify his credentials with national Republican leaders in advance of a possible vice presidential candidacy next year.

The simple fact is it will take new investment to help rebuild Minnesota. When the governor and his allies say tax increases will kill the economy ask them to identify the benefits of their “no new taxes” policies. Ask them to point to the great new jobs they created. Ask them if low taxes equal growth, why isn’t Tennessee an economic juggernaut?

That Pawlenty and his allies don’t have all the answers is OK, nobody does. We didn’t get into this mess over the course of one year and unfortunately we’re not going to get out of it that quickly, either.

But the fact that the governor and his supporters aren’t putting out thoughtful proposals is simply inexcusable. It’s time for serious leadership and they have again decided to punt.

Don’t we deserve better than that?

Isn’t it time Pawlenty answered the call to “citizenship and service” he issued four years ago?

Christopher Truscott can be reached at He thinks Pawlenty should try pulling the goalie.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rove and Snow: We Will Prevail Against This Evil...

by William Prendergast

(Scene: Karl Rove’s office, which is now located down in the boiler room of the White House. Rove is in his shirtsleeves and fanning himself with some press releases. He mops his forehead with his handkerchief, it’s hot down there. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow comes in through the bulkhead door, holding a file.)

Rove: Jesus, I can’t take this. How am I supposed work in this heat, it’s like a menopause support group in this room...

Snow: Sorry to bug you Karl, the janitor said I could come in—

Rove: For Christ’s sake, don’t call him a janitor, call him a custodian. He gets mad if you call him a janitor, he turns up the thermostat and then I start to fry right through my shorts down here. Did Dick say anything about getting me the hell out of this boiler room?

Snow: No. Dick says you gotta lay low til this Gonzalez thing blows over.

Rove: Shit. Alright, what’s the problem with the press conference, I made it as straightforward as possible—

Snow: Well, that’s just it. I mean, come on, Karl, we’re below thirty per cent in the polls, I can’t just come out four years into the war and hand the press the same catchphrases we’ve been peddling to talk radio since 2004.

Rove: What are you talking about?

Snow: These key phrases—“we support our troops,” “we don’t cut and run,” “we expect to regain the initiative in the next two or three months.” I know we have to stay on the message, but I can’t go out there with just this stuff again, they’ll crucify us in the NYT, the WaPost. We need to at least throw ‘em a bone, some fact about Iraq—

Rove: Iraq? (takes briefing paper from Snow) Tony, this isn’t a press conference about Iraq.

Snow: But—

Rove: This is your press conference on that madame who runs that string of whores here in Washington, D.C. The one who runs that escort service and is threatening to release her client list to the media.

Snow: But what’s all this stuff in here about “terrorism?”

Rove: It is terrorism! She’s got the GOP scared shitless. Out party just got its ass kicked in the last election, if she starts telling people that Tom DeLay called her for a handjob, that’s the crack of doom. If that’s not terrorism, what is?

Snow: But here you say “we’ve got to support our troops, we’ve got to stand by our troops” in this battle against evil, what does that have to do with—

Rove: Our troops! OUR troops, Tony, the Republicans who called this woman to get their handjobs. We can’t just abandon our boys, if these names go out it’s the end of their political lives. We’ve got to support ‘em.

Snow: Oh. When I read this part here, about how we “originally estimated that 21,500 would be sufficient, but now we’ve revised that figure up to 30,000,” I thought you were talking about the “troop surge”—

Rove: No, dummy, that’s how much we’re going to offer her not to publish the names. We thought we could buy it back off her for twenty one thousand five hundred bucks, but she told us to fuck off, so we’re bumping our offer up to thirty grand. Don’t you read the papers? But that’s not a bad idea…when you talk about the money, don’t call it a bribe or a cash offer, call it a “surge.” And call the extra nine grand a “spurt.”

Snow: Okay. (makes a note of it.) Do you think she’ll accept the thirty grand?

Rove: Don’t speculate on that. Our official position is that we do not negotiate with terrorists.

Snow: Is it okay for me to mention her by name?

Rove: Christ, no. That’s the whole point. Anybody who tunes in in the middle of the news conference is going to think you’re spouting the same bullshit about Iraq again, and change channels. That’s the whole point.

Snow: Oh, I get it. Can I tell them that we will ultimately prevail against this evil?

Rove: Sure, why not. The Saudis will probably buy it off her for a million or two, anyway. They love to get something on us whenever they can, it improves their bargaining position. This whole thing will probably blow over in a week or two, if they pay her off.

Snow: Right. (scribbles) “The president is confident that we will ultimately prevail—“ (suddenly stops) Hey Karl—is my name on that list?

Rove: How the hell would I know? Should it be?

Snow: I don’t think so…I always gave out the President’s credit card number…(raises his eyebrows) Is your name on the list, Karl?

Rove: Are you kidding me? You think I can get an escort service to deliver me a hand job down here in the White House boiler room? I can’t even get the custodian to bring me a glass of water. Whew, it’s hot. Ask Dick if I can get a fan down here or something, willya?

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Hi, My Name Is Marty and I'm Crazy!

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert draws two paychecks from the state government he's trying to starve. Maybe he should put his money where his mouth is and take a job in the private sector he worships. Of course, after another couple Republican budgets, he could find at least one of his state government jobs eliminated.

I think this is what Mike Hatch was talking about last year when he accused people like the governor of pulling the ladder up behind them.

Luckily, Seifert leads a caucus that can hold its meetings in a State Office Building broom closet. Must be nice to toss out mindless rhetoric and not have to deal with the responsibility of governing.


McCain: "Ze votes on ze war are wizzout meaning..."

McCain says the Senate votes on Iraq are meaningless:

McCain: Iraq votes 'meaningless'

For someone building his presidential campaign around national security credentials, John McCain (R-Ariz.) sure has missed a bunch of votes regarding the Iraq war.

During the past six weeks, the Senate has cast seven votes dealing with how President Bush should proceed in the now four-year-old war. And McCain has missed five of them, bypassing what he calls "meaningless" procedural votes in favor of campaign stops in his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination.

McCain is the only declared presidential candidate to miss any of the Senate's Iraq votes, according to Capitol Briefing's analysis of Senate votes…

On Thursday, when the Senate cast three different votes - on a Democratic plan to reauthorize the war and set a timeline for withdrawal and two non-binding resolutions supporting the troops - McCain was in Ames, Iowa, cracking jokes about his newfound support for the Hawkeye State's home-grown ethanol.

McCain dismissed the relevance of the votes. "In Congress as we speak, in the Senate, we will be debating another meaningless resolution…

(Scene: John McCain’s next press conference. Emerging from the darkness, an expressionless McCain arrives, steps up into the spotlight, to the microphone. He wears a black beret, black sweater. A Gauloise dangles from his lips as he speaks, with heavy French accent:)

McCain: Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from ze home: “Mother deceased. Senate vote tomorrow. Faithfully yours.” Zat doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.

I zay, “the lives of our men in ze war, zey are wasted.” Does zis mean something? No, zis means nothing. Zo I say, we must zend more “soldats.” It is meaningless.

In “le Zenate”, zey say zay are going to have ze resolutions on ze war. Zey want me to take ze position on ze war. Inzide, I feel ze emptiness. I do not want to be een le Zenate, even zo I am ze Zenateur d’Arizone. I want to be in ze I-owa, for ze campaign. Ze photo-op. I do not want le responsibilite. Eet iz meaningless to take ze position on the ze war; ze President, he will veto. Why should one commit oneself in Washington? In ze end, eet is meaningless. C’est l’absurde.

I talk to my press zecretary. She said, “If you vote slowly with zis resolution, you risk getting sunstroke from ze overexpozure on ze right. But if you vote against zis resolution too fast, you work up ze sweat and then catch a chill on ze left.” She was right. Zere was no way out.

Zo I miss cinq votes on ze war. I go to ze Iowa. Ze Iowa, c’est l’absurde. But zere, in Iowa, I do not have to commit. I say, “Zis is a “tar bebe” at ze townhall meeting in Iowa—does zis zignify? No. Zis is nothing. Ze Tony Snow, he sayz ze “tar bebe,” ze Mitt Romney, he too sayz the “tar bebe.” Ze tar bebe means nothing. Less zan nothing; it is only (shrugs) ze tar bebe.

Zen ze reporter she ask me, “Do you support zis resolution?” I told her it didn’t mean anything, but I didn’t zink so. I zed zat people never change their lives, zat in any case one life was as good as another and that I was not dissatisfied with mine here at all.

She look at me in silence, as if she did not understand. Zen ze new polls come out. Zey show me running twenty points behind ze Giuliani! “MERDE!” je cris. “Sacre Bleu!”

As if zat blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in zat night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to ze gentle indifference of the world. Finding it zo much like myself—so like a bruzzer, really—I felt zat I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everyzing to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish zat zere be a large crowd of spectators ze day I concede ze GOP nomination, and zat zey greet me with cries of hate.

(Bongo drums, then applause, which McCain does not acknowledge.)


Friday, March 16, 2007

Who's Running the Star Trib. D.C. Bureau?

By Christopher Truscott

Minnesota Monitor media writer Paul Schmelzer has done a great job covering the ever-changing newspaper environment in the Twin Cities.

His latest piece is worth a look. For the time being, at least, the Star Tribune's D.C. bureau will be staffed by only an intern. Once again, read Paul's story.

My two cents: If there was ever a time for the media to get its job done right, this is it. From Iraq, to Walter Reed, to budget deficits, to corruption, to incompetence, we need good people doing the good work required to keep the public informed.

Minnesota's congressional delegation deserves even more coverage than two full-time Strib writers and an intern can give it, but even getting back to that substandard staffing level is important. An intern -- or even one veteran reporter -- can't possibly cover Norm Coleman's attempts to reinvent himself as a moderate, Jim Ramstad taking heat from the hard-right crazies and the daily train-wreck that is Michele Bachmann.

Fingers crossed for the Star Tribune -- and Minnesota newspaper readers.

Labels: , , , ,

White House: Two Piece Jigsaw Puzzle Stumps Bush

By William Prendergast

This just in:

Bush promises to restore party potency in two years

By Joseph Curl
March 16, 2007

President Bush, standing in front of a banner that read "Rebuilding Our Republican Majority" and flanked by two giant puzzle pieces, last night pledged to House Republicans that the GOP will retake both congressional chambers and "hold the White House in 2008."

…More than 1,200 people attended the annual Washington Hilton dinner, which raised more $6.2 million for congressional candidates. The president was greeted by a lengthy and hearty applause, a far cry from what he got in South America and Mexico.

...The stage featured two giant white puzzle pieces at both ends, which one lawmaker who asked not to be named said signify exactly what the party must struggle with for the next two years. "We put those pieces together and we're golden," said the House member.

(Scene: The White House. The Oval Office. Time: Very late in the evening, following the National Republican Congressional Committee dinner.)

Bush: Got to be a way… There’s just got to be a way…
Aide: (entering) Mr. President.
Bush: Shhh! Shh! I almost had it there, I almost glimpsed it in my mental eyeball, when you interrupted me. You’re the interrupter!
Aide: Mr. President, I strongly suggest that you turn in for the evening now. You’ve got a very busy appointment schedule tomorrow—
Bush: Can’t! Can’t give up now. I’m not the giver-upper. I’m the stayer-inner. There’s only two pieces to this puzzle. It just can’t be that hard, it just can’t. That’s the problem. It’s TOO easy, deceptionally easy.

(He paces back and forth, studying the two huge white jigsaw puzzle pieces that he ordered brought back to the White House from the NRCC dinner.)

Aide: Really, Mr. President, I think this can wait.
Bush: It CAN’T wait, that’s the whole problem, amigo! That Congressman at the Republican dinner said that if we can put these two pieces together, we’re golden! The Republican Party will get control of Congress again, and I’ll be back in charge of Washington! D.C., not the state.
Aide: Mr. President—
Bush: Got to be a way. Got…to…be…a…way. The problem is, yeah, sure there’s only two pieces, but both of the pieces are white! If it’s all white, you can’t match up a piece of sky with a piece of sky, or part of a hot-air balloon with another part of a hot air balloon.
Aide: Sir, if I may say so—
Bush: And they're so...DAMNED--BIG! Sure, it’s only two pieces, but look at the size of them! LOOK AT THE SIZE OF 'EM!
Aide: Okay, take it easy, Mr. President--
Bush: It took six Secret Service men to get these things from the Washington Hilton back here to the Oval Office, and then they had to take a wall out to get them in here, they were sweatin’ like hogs. I’ve got to solve this thing, tonight! Alberto Gonzalez’ job is riding on this.
Aide: Mr. President, have you considered the possibility that the Congressman was speaking metaphorically?
Bush: Met a who?
Aide: Have you considered the possibility that the Congressman who suggested putting these two puzzle pieces together did not mean that doing so would literally restore control of Congress to the GOP? That he was speaking symbolically, that these two huge puzzle pieces are merely symbolic.
Bush: Son…my favorite philosopher is Jesus Christ, not some metaformical, liberal arts, cymbal-playing egghead. So don’t try that philosophy jazz on me, I didn’t buy it at school and I ain’t buyin’ it here. Look at this—(he raps on one of the puzzle pieces) That ain’t no symbol, son, that’s real. I didn’t make the rules, but if solving this two piece puzzle is the only way we can retake Congress, then that’s what I’m going to do, if it takes all night. You wanna help, you take your coat off and help me try to fit this two things together. I don’t care if we gotta try every combination in the Karma Souter to get these things to fit, but I’m gonna do it. Tonight. I’m determined. I’m the determined-ator. And if you’ll help me, son--I’ll get you a position as a U.S. Attorney.

(Aide looks at him, then takes his coat off. They begin to shove the big puzzle pieces toward each other. This goes on all night, until the dawn’s early light, and a lot of nice furniture gets broken, and a hammer and a Sawz-All are involved, but in the end the aide is made US Attorney in New Mexico. Bush looks at the completed puzzle, proud, wiping sweat from his brow.)

Bush: There. Now we can take back Congress. But I’ll tell you--I don’t know who thought this system up, but this is a hell of a way to run the United States government.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

… 3,200 … When Does It End?

By Christopher Truscott

At some point in the near future the Department of Defense will announce the 3,200th U.S. troop has been killed in Iraq. Sadly, however, we can’t give a good reason for his sacrifice.

We went to Iraq to topple a dictator, eliminate a weapons of mass destruction threat and establish democracy. Saddam Hussein is now dead, his weapons of mass destruction didn’t exist and Iraqis have ratified a constitution and elected themselves a permanent government.

We’ve done our part. At what point do we say America’s mission is really accomplished? At what point do we stop justifying continued entanglement in a fight with no foreseeable end?

Since Saddam was overthrown, a new horror has replaced the grisly Baathist regime. The American military is now caught in the middle of a bloody civil war between Sunni extremists and Shiite death squads looking to fill the void once occupied by a murderous dictator.

How many more Americans have to die for a fatally flawed policy? How much longer do U.S. troops have to chase the mirage of establishing western-style democracy in the Middle East? How much longer will President Bush insist that we keep our heads buried in the sand?

The president has said our commitment to Iraq is not open-ended, yet he doesn’t clearly define victory, nor will he say what constitutes a suitable finishing point for our military involvement in Iraq. In place of strong policy, or even a “Plan B,” this administration has instead given us hollow talking points. For instance:

  • In February 2005, the president told a group in Omaha: “Our strategy is clear. We’re going to help the Iraqis defend themselves.”

  • Speaking at Fort Bragg, N.C., four months later, the president declared that as “Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.”

  • Two years later we’re still stuck in the middle of a civil war. The Iraqis the president has ordered the U.S. to defend are killing each other. The Baghdad government we hoped would stand up has merely stood by. Meanwhile, we’re left holding the bag.

    How much longer do we stay?

    Do we stick around for another couple years and hope the situation gets better? Do we stay a decade? A generation? Saying our commitment is not open-ended isn’t good enough. When does it end?

    Do 4,000 troops have to die? 5,000? More? At what point do we say enough? When do we hold Iraqis accountable for their actions? When do we reign in a president who, however well-intentioned, can’t admit a serious change in course is necessary?

    Congress is considering proposals to attach a withdrawal deadline to war spending bills. It shouldn’t have come to this, but in the absence of serious executive leadership, it is absolutely incumbent on senators and representatives to stand up and do what’s right. Somebody has to. If they don’t, who will?

    Many of the president’s supporters say deadlines embolden our enemies. They’ve resorted to fear-mongering because they don’t have any answers. The truth: the terrorists like us right where we are. They’re already emboldened.

    Since we’ve been bogged down in Iraq, the killers have attacked our allies in places like London and Madrid. Osama bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are running free. Western Pakistan and the Baluchistan region remain terrorist safe havens. The Taliban continues its war against the Afghan government we helped create in the wake of the horrific 9/11 attacks.

    If that’s not an emboldened enemy, what is?

    It’s time to change the course. Setting a deadline to leave Iraq sometime next year is the last good option we have. Absent a deadline, the Iraqi government has little incentive to stand up. The Iraqi people have no need to turn to their elected leaders. And the terrorists – and those tempted to support them – have every reason to believe we’re just plain crazy, or worse.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    While we can’t go back in time and fix past mistakes, we still control our destiny. We can still change directions. We can still compel a democratically elected Iraqi government to take action. We can still do right by the American people.

    First, however, we need a new plan. More of the same isn’t a policy; it’s a recipe for disaster. What do those who oppose a deadline – and apparently support an open-ended commitment – want? They can’t like what they’re seeing. They know hoping against the evidence for an improvement hasn’t worked in four years. Why won’t they act?

    History will ultimately judge us by what we do or don’t do in the coming weeks and months. Do we want to be placed in the same group as those who brought us the Vietnam War but no end to it? Do we really want to go down as the generation that was afraid to act? Do we want to have this same debate a year from now?

    Certainly we don’t. Certainly we can do better. Certainly we can turn the corner. But we have to take the first step.

    Christopher Truscott can be reached at He just finished reading Bob Woodward’s latest, “State of Denial.” The title really says it all.

    Labels: , ,

    Inside the Mighty Stillwater Tribune: A Look At Our Reader Demographics

    By William Prendergast

    This week we give you a fascinating peek into “the kind of person” that reads the Stillwater Tribune. That’s right—this column is ALL ABOUT YOU!

    The Stillwater Tribune marketing department has issued its findings, and these give us a remarkable “racio-ethno-sexo-graphic” picture of our regular readers. Amazing new web technology gives us the opportunity to “peer through the Web to the other side of your computer screen” to tell us exactly who our audience is!

    Now, don’t get scared. We don’t “send out cookies and spyware” or anything like that, and we can’t actually “see” you when you’re reading this (though the guy out in Colorado who’s tuning in right now should zip up his fly—“Ensign Johnson reports a breach on the lower deck, sir!” Heh heh heh. Just kidding.)

    But, no, seriously, we can’t see you--and we can’t see your real names or addresses or credit card transactions or see through your underwear or anything weird like that. What we do have access to is all this “data” from the web hosting service—colorful little pie charts that tell us what countries our readers live in, how many readers a day we have, the shape of their heads--that kind of vague, general sort of thing.

    For example, did you know that a significant number of our regular readers live in China? I’ll bet that took you by surprise, it did me. Why the hell would a Chinese want to know what’s going on with Michele Bachmann? But these are the facts, and we’re stuck with them. We will try to beef up the Chinese content from now on; but til then: “Zhing-dao, huang di!”

    The most amazing thing is that if you know how to read the raw data, you can extrapolate and make other reliable conclusions via deduction. For example, if we know that X per cent of our readers are from China, we can deduce that they are short of quality hair care products, and we can adjust our advertising pitches accordingly.

    Based on my deductions from all this raw data, I can confidently state the following about our readership. If you are a male who reads the Stillwater Tribune regularly, you are probably between the ages of 16 and 75, your peers consider you exceptionally handsome and value your judgment on important issues, but you could probably use a little “sprucing up” in the wardrobe department. (Lose that old shirt you like so much, it’s not working.) You are tough but compassionate, a good man to have around in a tight spot, but your singing along to popular songs on the radio sometimes gets on people’s nerves.

    If you are female and a regular reader of the Stillwater Tribune, it doesn’t matter what age you actually are, you’ll always be as pretty as you were at eighteen to us. You’re not “boy-crazy” (but they’re crazy about you!) You like long walks on the beach, the sound of falling rain, and poetry. You are also a delightful conversationalist, well-informed about public affairs, and all your friends wish they could be more like you.

    There. Wasn’t that fascinating? If you’d like to hear more about yourself, send money.

    Labels: ,

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    Michele Bachmann's 'Fiscal Conservative Roots'

    Another Must Read: Does Team Bachmann E-Mail Violate Federal Law?

    By Christopher Truscott

    After dropping the Taxpayers Bill of Rights like a bad habit as a member of the Minnesota Senate, Michele Bachmann, now an embattled first-term congresswoman, has once again linked herself to meaningless feel-good rhetoric.

    After voting against "pay as you go" budget rules and earmark reform in January, it appears Bachmann is trying to return to her "fiscal conservative roots." Of course voting against real legislation -- while backing bumper-sticker slogans that do nothing to address the massive deficit run up by this administration -- is an affront to those who are trying to get serious work done.

    After all the "not friendly" media coverage the congresswoman has earned, she must be jumping at the chance to change the subject. Unfortunately, however, this agenda has the same misdirection-play quality as shouting "Hey, look over there!"

    American Taxpayer Bill of Rights

  • Press Release

  • The American Taxpayer Bill of Rights (PDF)
  • Labels: ,

    Bachmann: Does Her Email Violate Federal Law?

    Yo, check dis out. I wrote it, doesn't it sound like a real reporter? But it's all true:

    Rep. Bachmann’s attempt to stage “grass roots support” may violate law

    by William Prendergast, currently unemployed journalist.

    Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota (MN-06) has been circulating an email to her supporters in an attempt to stage manage a “grass roots” demonstration of support on the Letters to the Editors pages of local newspapers. (text of email follows below.)

    Bachmann’s press secretary launched the campaign in an attempt to counter media coverage critical of her behavior during her first two months in office. In February Bachmann drew national criticism when she announced a non-existent plan to partition Iraq with Iran and create a new “terrorist safe haven” nation. In January Bachmann was the subject of national attention when she put her hand on the President and refused to take it off until he gave her a kiss. This month the Pioneer Press, the major daily newspaper in St. Paul, published an editorial critical of Bachmann’s behavior.

    Bachmann’s recent attempt at damage control may violate federal law. Jeff Fecke of the Minnesota Monitor blog writes:

    “The communication may violate both federal law and House rules regarding the use of congressional resources for campaigning. According to House ethics rules, emails are subject to the same restrictions as other mailings using a representative's franking privileges. House guidelines specifically state that franking is not to be used for "grassroots lobbying or soliciting support for a Member's position on a legislative, public policy, or community issue."
    The federal law dealing with franking privileges also suggests that Frederickson's email may have run afoul of the law. Section 3210(a)(5)(C) of the U.S. Code bars the use of congressional resources for any communication that "specifically solicits political support for the sender or any other person or any political party, or a vote or financial assistance for any candidate for any public office."
    (source: )
    Here is the text of the email sent by Bachmann’s press secretary, Heidi Frederickson:

    Subject: Possible letter to the editor on behalf of Michele Bachmann
    Date: Wed, 7 Mar 2007 17:42:08 -0500

    Hi -

    I got your name as someone who might be willing to send a letter to the editor on behalf of Michele Bachmann. If that is incorrect, please let me know and I won't contact you again.

    As you may have seen, Michele has been the focus of lots of media lately and most of it not friendly. We want to make sure that the media and others reading the paper get a balanced view of Michele Bachmann. Therefore, if you could take just a moment of your time to write 50 -100 words about why your support Michele that would be fantastic and I know how much she would appreciate seeing that in the paper. Below are a couple of suggestions and links to different editors. If you have any questions for me, either on information or looking for a paper's contact info please let me know.


    1) Talk about Michele as a mother (5 biological, 23 foster kids) and wife. Her devotion to her family and making Minnesota a better place.

    2) Her strong fiscal conservative roots. She is a sponsor of the Line-item veto and the balanced budget amendment.

    3) Her first piece of legislation is the Health Care Freedom of Choice Bill that would make all medical expenses and insurance premiums tax deductible for individuals - why haven't the press reported on that.

    4) Her continued commitment to the men and women of our military and not playing politics with the war on terrorism.

    5) Any other topic that will share the real Michele Bachmann with other Minnesotans who don't know her personally.

    Star Tribune:
    Pioneer Press:
    Stillwater Gazette or
    St. Cloud Times or
    Elk River Star

    Again, I'm more than happy to help in any way that I can - just let me know.
    P.S. Remember little local papers are perfect and widely read - if you need contact information for a rural paper in the district just ask!

    Heidi Frederickson
    Press Secretary
    Congresswoman Michele Bachmann

    (source: )


    How crazy is this? (Part 2)

    By Christopher Truscott

    Interesting piece on

    At the Target store on E. Lake Street, a cashier wearing a hijab looked uncomfortable when I showed up at the cash register with a frozen pepperoni pizza. She immediately called for help, and another employee rang up the pizza and placed it in the basket.

    I asked her if it was because she was Muslim, and she nodded her head. "I can't even touch it," she said.

    The E. Lake store has only has a few aisles of food. How do Muslim workers adapt in Super Targets where there are full-fledged grocery sections? And is anyone other than this caller bothered by this? Are there some Muslim workers at Target who feel they have to suppress their beliefs to avoid conflicts?

    OK. I'm all for freedom of religion, but this, if true, is dumb. If you can't handle a common American grocery product at a store that sells groceries, get another job or ask to work in a different part of the store.

    Sensitivity to people's differences is great, but going so far over the top is, well, dumb.


    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Bachmann’s Pal John Kline Has Got To Go

    Copy-and-paste/html error fix

    There’s no shortage of names being tossed about as potential challengers to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann. There’s a good reason for that, too, as the prom-queenesque former state senator is woefully unqualified for service in Congress.

    U.S. Rep. John Kline, however, has somehow managed to escape the label of vulnerable incumbent. There’s simply no good reason for that.

    When the chips are down, Kline, a self-proclaimed champion of “common-sense Minnesota values,” stands with Bachmann each and every time. He’s not on the side of Minnesotans. He’s carrying water for those who seek to block progress because doing the right thing is either inconvenient or too hard.

    On sending more troops into someone else’s civil war: Kline stands with Bachmann.

    On blindly supporting the failed policies of President George W. Bush: Kline stands with Bachmann.

    On raising the federal minimum wage: which has been stuck at $5.15 an hour for a decade, Kline stands with Bachmann.

    On expanding federal funding for potentially life-saving stem cell research: Kline stands with Bachmann.

    On responsible budgeting: Kline stands with Bachmann.

    On implementing more of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations: Kline stands with Bachmann.

    On reducing interest rates on student loans: Kline stands with Bachmann.

    This isn’t the record of a Main Street conservative. On black-and-white, right-and-wrong issues, Kline has decided time and time again that supporting his extremist patrons and an out-of-touch White House is more important than standing up for his constituents.

    Kline has got to go.

    While the congressman doesn’t defend “common-sense Minnesota values,” the people he represents possess them. The 2nd Congressional District isn’t a bastion of hard-right radicalism. It’s a pragmatic, middle-of-the-road suburban-rural region where residents want leaders who do the right thing.

    Voters can’t be blamed for buying the congressman’s self promotion. After all, he’s effectively used his incumbency and financial advantage to snuff out any opposition, even going to extraordinary lengths to decimate Coleen Rowley’s still-born candidacy last summer.

    But this doesn’t mean he deserves another term in the House of Representatives. It means it’s time someone stands up to him because we’re good people and shouldn’t let a bully win.

    It won’t be easy, but the most important victories rarely are. It’ll take a strong candidate to overcome Kline, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Two years ago few would have imagined Tim Walz’s upset victory over Gil Gutknecht. Today we’re proud of Rep. Walz’s service.

    The choices facing our leaders are as important as any this side of World War II. We need a representative who stands with us. Kline has made clear that he’ll support Bachmann and Bush, no matter what. Isn’t it about time we pick sides, too?

  • More on defeating John Kline

  • Christopher Truscott can be reached at He’ll do anything he can to help Kline’s opponent.

    Labels: , ,