Monday, April 30, 2007

Giuliani: Grim Spectre of Dem "Socialism" Threatens Us All

by William Prendergast

You got to expect this bullshit from liberal Republicans as the nomination noose gets tighter:

Giuliani Sees Socialism in Democrats' Plans

Saturday, April 28, 2007; Page A04

Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani pulled out the S-word to criticize universal-health-care plans advocated by Democratic presidential candidates.

The Republican hopeful said in a visit to Raleigh, N.C., that Democrats who urged "mandatory" universal health care at a debate Thursday night were "moving toward socialized medicine so fast, it'll make your head spin," according to the Associated Press.

Don’t blame the boy, he can’t help it. If you’re trying to get the GOP nod, you have to court the conservatives—they’re the mainstay of the party. He’s got to call the Dems socialists, or he can’t get the nomination. It’s that simple.

Does he really believe the Dems are socialists? Like hell he does—that’s his main advantage over the other GOP nominees, the boy is smart. He just tells a Republican crowd that the Dems are socialists because that’s what they want to hear. Rudy believes in free market economics about as much as he believed in ending “rent control” in Manhattan.

Giuliani instead advocated for a private solution. "When we want to cover poor people, as we should, we give them vouchers," he said.

So that’s how you’re gonna pitch this one, eh, Rude? I get it now—the oooold “give ‘em a voucher” trick—third time I’ve fallen for it this week... “You don’t need to do the whole big schmear to get these “poor” people covered; we’ll just give ‘em a voucher.” (But what the hell’s he talking about “poor” people for? Rudy, what we’re trying to get right now is coverage for “working” Americans and their families. But if he thinks the only problem is with “poor” people, let ‘im go, he’s on a roll--)

Vouchers are the solution, he says. And he says this is the Republican/conservative way, which is strange, because despite all these years of GOP rule--none of us know how this voucher system would work in practice. If you were a working American who went to his Republican Congressman over the last twelve years and asked for a voucher to cover your kids’ health care--that official would either throw you the hell out or call the state mental hospital to have you picked up because you were crazy.

It was and is Republican/conservative boilerplate that “there is no right to health care.” They don’t care about this issue; and a lot of conservative Americans put them in power because they didn’t care either. That’s why we still don’t know how Rudy’s voucher system would work in practice--because the GOP never is interested in broadening access to health care unless there is an election in sight. Then they talk, talk, talk about how much they care, care, care, until the election is over, over, over.

But last year the voters told them to fuck off, fuck off, fuck off. So if Rudy’s serious about demonstrating how this voucher system would work, he should do so by example. The next time that he feels like having sex with a woman who is not his wife, he should give her a voucher instead. And he should give his ex-wives vouchers for the years the years they put into those marriages, and he should give vouchers to his kids by his second marriage for blowing off their graduations, commencements, etc. cause he had to do other more important stuff. And he needs to give some vouchers to the families of firefighters whose bodies were never recovered because he called that off.

That way we’ll know that he takes his promises seriously, this time. I see great possibilities for Giuliani’s voucher system, but it’s untried and we must remember: reform starts at home. You go first, Rudy, show us how it’s done.


Memo to DFL: No Capitulation

By Christopher Truscott

As the legislative session nears its decisive moments there’s bipartisan consensus that the big issues are education, property tax relief and transportation.

But beyond the harmony between DFLers and Republicans as to which issues are most important, there is a very critical difference.

DFLers have offered a comprehensive plan to fund the critical items, while Republicans are content to say these issues are important, but remain unwilling to do anything substantive to move our state forward.

Leadership means making tough decisions. For the time being DFLers are doing this with plans for a higher gas tax to pay for pressing transportation needs and a small income tax hike on the wealthiest Minnesotans to fund real property tax relief and pump desperately needed revenue into public schools after four years of sub-inflationary investment.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his allies in the Legislature have made it clear they’re determined to stand with the super-rich at the expense of everyone else. The failed policy of “no new taxes,” rejected overwhelmingly in last year’s elections, is apparently good enough for the surviving Republicans. They’re hoping against hope that the people don’t notice they’re offering no vision for Minnesota’s future.

With so much on the line, it’s imperative the new DFL majority not fold in the face of the governor’s veto threats. Selling out the future, the most important issues, for the sake of short-term political considerations is an act of unforgivable cowardice that transcends party labels.

The message is simple:

DFLers want to deliver for people in all corners of our state and Republicans are determined to defend the status quo and the richest 1 percent of Minnesotans.

DFLers are being honest with the public while Republicans are, once again, promising something for nothing.

DFLers want progress while Republicans say stagnation is just fine.

Pawlenty and his backers in the Legislature absolutely cannot be let off the hook. Politics as usual got us into this mess. Resolve and political courage will lead us to salvation. People are waiting for leadership. They’re sick of the self-congratulatory deal-making that produces sub-standard results year after year after year.

There is more at stake in the next few weeks than merely winning a political debate and positioning for the next election. What happens between today and the end of the session matters not just in the here and now. It will also have dramatic effects in the years to come.

It’s time to decide whether we will continue as a great state or accept something less than exceptional in the future.

Elections certainly have consequences, but even more important is the work of political leaders in the weeks, months and years after voters go to the polls.

It’s time to stare down the dwindling minority determined to stop change at every corner. Their moment has passed. The future belongs to those willing to embrace it and work to fulfill its promises.

This is a time for action, not capitulation.

It’s time for progress, not rhetoric.

It’s time to deliver results, not excuses.

It’s time for courage, not timidity.

It’s time to lead, not follow.

Anything less is unacceptable.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at No jokes today. Sorry.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Offering No Answers, Seifert Plays Class Clown

By Christopher Truscott

Spring means a lot of things in Minnesota. Ice houses come off the lakes, the Twins take the field at the Metrodome, road construction season starts and, sadly, school districts statewide begin their annual exercise in budget cutting.

From wealthier districts in places like Stillwater to poorer districts like those in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the cuts are never easy and always painful. Which teachers get laid off? Which programs do we go without? Which fees do we raise? These are hardly the questions that lured many talented people into careers in public education.

Investment in the future was once an article of faith in this state, but over the last few years it has given way to politically expedient and intellectually and morally bankrupt slogans like “no new taxes.”

The great spirit of community and concern for the common good that produced the Minnesota Miracle is quickly devolving toward a new era of “me first, damn everyone else.” We can change this, but it’s going to take bipartisan leadership – and we’re not off to a good start.

House Republican Leader Marty Seifert was up to his normal stunts Friday at the Capitol, waving a “certificate of death” for the DFL plan that would raise income taxes on individuals making more than $226,000 a year and families taking in more than $400,000 annually. The small tax increase on a relative few would generate hundreds of millions of dollars for property tax relief and public education.

Seifert, an admissions counselor at the public Southwest Minnesota State University and a licensed public school teacher, doesn’t have any answers to the challenges facing our state. Instead he struts before the cameras at the Capitol, blurting out quips and hoping nobody notices that he and his party have opted to stand with the 1 percent of spectacularly wealthy Minnesotans at the expense of everyone else.

Do the math: the median household income in Minnesota is just shy of $51,000 a year. In Seifert’s own district it’s even lower. For years higher property taxes have been employed as a very painful means of supplementing sub-inflationary state education spending. DFLers have offered a positive new direction and Republicans are rushing to defend the status quo and the uber-rich. It’s really as simple as 2+2=4.

Perhaps the minority leader needs to go back to school. There are lessons to be learned in his hometown of Marshall, where local leaders are struggling to trim more than $300,000 from the school district’s budget.

“While budget reductions are never easy, the sad reality is that this has become the rule rather than the exception for school districts across Minnesota,” Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Klint Willert wrote in an op-ed piece published recently in the local paper. “… In our great state and country we have a long history of supporting schools so they might be strong and effective institutions preparing our future workforce and leaders. Without an investment in our youth today, we will pay a much greater price as a nation tomorrow, and that is a cost that none of us can afford.”

Willert gets it and so do Minnesotans. We must do better and action toward that end can’t be delayed any longer.

When will Seifert learn that he can’t be a leader while offering no solutions and instead playing the role of class clown?

Christopher Truscott can be reached at As a student he preferred the role of class clown over that of class leader.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

State Should Invest In Those Who Do Good

The Minnesota Senate should be applauded for its vote to pull the state’s investments out of companies that benefit Sudan’s government.

Of course we shouldn’t put money into businesses that turn a blind eye to genocide in the name of making a buck. It should go without saying.

That it took us four years to make the decision to disinvest from such companies is, of course, another matter. Where were we in 2004? 2005? 2006? It’s better late than never, apparently.

But why stop here?

Sure, the crisis in the Darfur region has big names from Hollywood speaking out, but it shouldn’t take George Clooney to move the Minnesota Legislature to action.

There are opportunities to do the right thing with our state’s money each year. If lack of involvement in genocide is the barometer we’re using to determine whether someone’s worthy of an investment that doesn’t say much for us.

We shouldn’t just run from businesses that play footsies with murderous regimes. We should also turn away from those who pollute the environment, pay sub-standard wages and export American jobs.

Since disinvestment from companies that work with Sudan is viewed as a strong economic punishment, why shouldn’t we also use our money to reward those companies that do good? Why not invest exclusively in companies we would be proud to work for ourselves?

Christopher Truscott can be reached at If he could come up with $500, he’d buy a share of Google.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Law And Order": The Bush Administration episodes

by William Prendergast

I saw this article:

Rove's Newest Investigator Is Under Investigation

So naturally I think: television series. A “police procedural,” like “Law and Order”—they’re incredibly popular and they stay on the air forever. And they’re a snap to write. So here we go:

Pre-credit sequence:
Washington, D.C., the skyline after midnight.
Jump cut to the White House, exterior at night.

Cut to: (Interior of White House. Flashlight beam traces file cabinets. Label on one of the cabinets reads—“US Attorneys”—A hand in a black leather glove traces the label, then jerks open the file drawer.)
(In the darkened office, the unseen intruder sweeps items off the top of a desk with his arm and then spills the contents of the file drawer on to the desk.)
(Close up of two of the files. The gloved hand traces its label: “US ATTORNEYS WHO’LL DO ANYTHING WE SAY.” The gloved hand pats this file approvingly, sets it aside. The label on the next file reads: “US ATTORNEYS WHO WON’T DO ANYTHING WE SAY, ESPECIALLY IF IT’S AGAINST THE LAW.” The gloved hand opens the folder, the hand is now trembling in anger. The gloved hand slams down on the file, furious. Pounds it a couple of times. In the distance a police siren is heard--the gloved hand freezes, then scoops up the file.)

Main titles:
“—The Bush Administration”
KARL ROVE as Karl Rove, Special Advisor the President of the United States
SCOTT BLOCH as Chief, White House Office of Special Counsel

Title Card:
TUESDAY, 9:15 A.M.
(Music: Kettle drum goes “boom”, with moody orchestra sting.)

Cut to:
(Inside of door, it swings open, revealing Rove and Bloch on the porch, flashing White House I.D.s)
Rove: Attorney General Gonzales?
(Cut to Gonzales, standing in the doorway in his bathrobe, folded Washington Post in his hands.)
Gonzales: Yes?
Rove: I’m Karl Rove, this is my colleague, White House Counsel Scott Bloch. We’re conducting an investigation, we’d like to ask you a few questions.
Gonzales: Well...what are you investigating?
Rove: Each other, mostly.
Bloch: All kinds of stuff. We're investigating him, me, you. Can we come in?
Gonzales: (suspicious, but then) Okay.

(Gonzales sits at the kitchen table in the coffee nook of the AG’s office. Rove and Bloch are seated across from him. Occasionally they take sips from coffee cups.)
Bloch: Mr. Gonzales, were you anywhere near the White House in the past couple of days?
Gonzales: Before I answer that, I have a couple of questions for you. Were you anywhere near the White House in the past couple of days?
Bloch: I work for the President. My work often requires me to show up at the White House.
Rove: Mine too.
Gonzales: Mine too. Mind telling me what this is all about, boys?
(Rove looks at Bloch, who shrugs.)
Rove: (to Gonzales) It seems that a person or persons unknown conspired to dismiss a bunch of US attorneys in good standing because they wouldn’t cooperate in a plan to use their power to bring trumped up charges against local Democrats and GOP political opponents.
Gonzales: And you suspect me?
Rove: No, I suspect me. But I suspect you, too. Our names are all over a bunch of secret emails about the firings.
Gonzales: (pointing to Bloch) Is he a suspect, too?
Rove: No, the President appointed him to investigate us. He’s under investigation for something else, though.
Bloch: That’s right. I’m being investigated for a bunch of retaliatory firings against the government officials that work for me. (indicates Rove with his thumb) That’s why I got the job investigating him.
Rove: The president figures that since we were both investigating each other, it would be cheaper if we went around together, share the same car, expenses and stuff, until we get to the bottom of this. So how about it, Mr. Gonzales?
Gonzales: (whistles, then) It’s even deeper than you think, boys. I’m also investigating you guys. And—myself.
(Rove and Bloch stare at him.)
(Gonzales meets their stare, hard-eyed, takes a sip from his coffee.)

Title Card:
TUESDAY, 11:30 A.M.
(Music: Kettle drum goes “boom”, with another moody orchestra sting.)
(Editor’s note: I just saw “Law and Order” for the first time the other night, at a friend’s house. I don’t know why it’s so popular, it seems like a bunch of balls to me. They use these black-background title cards to announce the date and the time of day and where the next scene is going to be, and then a kettle drum goes “boom” and there’s a music sting—and that’s supposed to create suspense? I don’t get it. Well, anyway:)

(FBI crime analyst in white coat adds a drop of something to a test tube, shakes it up, it turns blue, big fucking deal. Gonzales, Rove and Bloch enter.)

Analyst: Hey, Al.
Gonzales: Hey, Sam. This is Karl Rove, this is Scott Bloch. We’re all investigating each other for retaliatory firings and violating laws regulating email communications between government officials.
Analyst: How do you do.
Gonzales: Got anything new for us, Sam?
Analyst: Maybe. These tests show that you were in the vicinity when the firing occurred. And I got a hair on a slide here that shows that Karl Rove knew about the firings, too—that plus his name on all those emails—well, it looks pretty bad.
Rove: That would explain why I’m implicated. But it doesn’t explain how Al got in so deep.
Bloch: Take a look at these plaster casts we made up from the White House lawn, leading into Harriet Miers’ office. They match Al’s shoe size perfectly.
Rodrigues: So that puts me at the scene. Well, it’s something, anyway.
Bloch: Me too, once you factor in all that testimony from all those former employees I fired.

(Editor’s note: I’m sorry if this all seems like just a bunch of exposition. But from what I can tell, that’s all “Law and Order” is. They get some Broadway actors who haven’t got a movie deal, pick them up for peanuts, write twenty pages of exposition and then go through it with some colored highlighters—okay, you say this line of exposition that’s highlighted in blue, then the officer with you answers with the next line of exposition highlighted in yellow, and then the guy you’re interviewing says the next line of exposition marked in pale green. And then they stick in some black background title cards and some kettle drums, and that’s a big hit, for some reason. And that’s supposed to be a script, that’s supposed to drama. Actors saying exposition to each other, and some fucking kettle drums, it makes a “Dragnet” re-run look like “King Lear.” But if that’s what people wanna watch, fine, let’s keep going:)

Rove: (answers his cell phone) What d’ya got? (listens) I’ll see what I can do. (Hangs up. To the others:) That was Harriet Miers. She’s being investigated, too. So she wants to know if she can be an investigator.
Bloch: We’re gonna need a bigger car.
Rove: (nods) Okay. Al, you call Hertz or Rent-A-Wreck. See if we can rent one of those mini-vans or something.
Analyst: How ‘bout me fellas? Can I get in on this, too?
Bloch: Are you being investigated?
Analyst: Nah. I was being investigated, but the guy I was investigating cleared me.
Rove: Then you can’t be an investigator on this. Sorry, you’ve got no stake in the outcome. But keep your ears open, Sam. There’s no telling how big this thing’s gonna get, before it’s over.

Title Card:
TUESDAY, 2:28 P.M.
(Music: Kettle drum goes “boom”, with moody orchestra sting. But you know what? The hell with this.)


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What Next, Mr. President?

By Christopher Truscott

Sometime in the next few days President George W. Bush will officially reject troop-funding legislation that calls for an end to major U.S. involvement in Iraq’s civil war by April 1, 2008.

He’s going to use his second veto as president to kill a bill that would end a quagmire.

Unfortunately that’s his prerogative. Despite George Mason’s best efforts at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, “maladministration” isn’t grounds for impeachment, so the president is free to do as he pleases in this regard. In fact, he can maladminister all he wants until he leaves office 20 months from now.

But before the president wipes the dust off his veto pen he should tell the American people where he believes we’ll be 11 months from now. Democrats have been clear on this: by next spring the bulk of the U.S. fighting force will be redeployed from Iraq. What about the president? Where does he believe we’ll be then?

Does he believe the death toll in Iraq will begin to slow, even though it’s held tragically steady since 2004?

Does he believe the Iraqi government will be able to exercise real authority outside the Green Zone? (And of course the Green Zone isn’t even safe today.)

Does he believe Iraqis will somehow change their opinion on the U.S. occupation? For the first time since the invasion, a majority of Iraqis believe it is “acceptable” to attack American troops. Is that number supposed to go down?

Does he believe we’ll be any closer to “mission accomplished” than we are today?

Does he believe his horrendous failure of a policy will somehow take hold and Sunnis and Shiites will magically stop killing each other and embrace western-style democracy?

Sadly, the president – with his faith-based approach to governing – has become the personification of a timeless Danish proverb: “The sky is not less blue because the blind man does not see it.”

Of course that’s no consolation to the 70 percent of Americans who see the world and our president as they really are.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at Perhaps the next president will make Bush ambassador to Iraq.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

The War: Super New Iraq Team To Take Charge

by William Prendergast

I got kind of excited when I read this AP headline on the wire the other day:

New Iraq Team Brings a Fresh Look to War
Apr 21, 1:27 PM EDT

But I was less excited after I started reading the names of the people on the “Fresh New Team” that will be fighting evil in Iraq. (They’re listed in a follow-up AP story “Key Members of New Iraq Team.” That’s how the media and the administration are selling this to the public.)

The first names on the list are kind of disappointing. I mean, we’ve been reading about some of these people for months and in some cases years. Some of them had even been on the original Iraq team, had been fired for being realistic, and are now being brought back.

But then you read on down the list, and you say “A-HA! Now THAT is a new team member, THAT guy is going to make a difference for sure.”

Look over the list and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Don’t just stop after “General Petraeus” (the C.O. who paid twenty bucks for a two dollar prayer rug in a Baghdad market during John McCain’s disastrous one hour photo-op tour.) Keep reading the names, there’s some exciting new guys there that are sure to fire the public imagination.

Key Members of New Iraq Team

Apr 21, 1:28 PM EDT

A look at important members of President Bush's new team for the Iraq war:


Replaced Gen. George Casey as the top U.S. commander in Iraq in January.
The front-line general with the Princeton doctorate is considered one of the Pentagon's ablest and brainiest young stars.


Took over from Donald H. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon in December. Gates had been a member of the blue ribbon Iraq Study Group panel and contributed to the group's report that recommended fundamental changes in U.S. strategy for conduct of war and diplomatic strategy in Iraq.


Sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Iraq in March, replacing White House insider Zalmay Khalilzad. Calm and intense, Crocker carries instant credibility as one of the State Department's most experienced and respected Middle East experts.


Bitten by a radioactive lion during a freak accident at the San Diego Zoo, this former ninety-eight pound neo-con policy wonk’s genetic structure was fundamentally altered so that he now has the courage, reflexes and proportionate strength of an entire pride of lions. He also has a “super-sonic roar” that terrifies and paralyzes Shi’ites and Sunnis alike.


Astonishing x-ray vision gives him the power to detect and melt IEDs in just seconds. Also a formidable intelligence asset, able to discern friend from foe by sending out powerful “X-waves” to read the minds of Iraqi natives. Has described Doug Feith as “the dumbest motherfucker I ever met.” Also can fly.


Has the ability to restore morale to troops at any time simply by projecting images of the September 11th attacks into their minds. Can’t fly, but can make incredible leaps of logic. Has long blonde hair, a mask, and wears a skin-tight costume. Thus, very telegenic.


Whenever this retired Marine Corps drill instructor becomes even mildly annoyed, his body morphs into a giant purple bulletproof super-human colossus standing eighteen feet tall and weighing nearly two tons, capable of ripping an enemy tank in half with his bare hands. Unfortunately the regular armed forces destroyed all the enemy tanks years ago, but the new team will certainly find the Incredible Gigantus something to rip in half, soon.


Blind from birth, this hero’s other senses developed to such an extraordinary degree that he can perceive far more than most sighted persons. (Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had him terminated back in 2002 for perceiving that a US invasion of Iraq would lead to military and political disaster.) Possessing the strength of ten ordinary Iraqis, he has the power to swing from building to building. Contractors employed by U.S. occupation forces are currently working on constructing some buildings in downtown Baghdad so he will have something to swing from.

So you see, this is actually a pretty exciting new team. The only suggestion I would make would be to call the new Iraq team something more exciting, like the “All New League of Iraq Avenging Justice Heroes” or something. And we’ve got to do something about those costumes they’re using. They need some capes, at least.


Progress Without Pawlenty

Extra! Extra! Extra!
McCain Sings 'Bomb Iran'...

By Christopher Truscott

When Tim Pawlenty started his first term in 2003 with a solid Republican majority in the Legislature behind him, the message from the governor’s office was simple: My way or the highway.

Four years later, with the governor now in the first year of his second term, the political terrain has changed. DFLers now have firm control in both houses of the Legislature, but Pawlenty’s message remains basically the same.

Just as he did when he had a Republican-controlled House of Representatives to protect him, Pawlenty has maintained he’ll veto any responsible attempts by the Legislature to deliver much-needed property tax relief, increased education funding and transportation improvements.

Like a parrot, the governor has repeatedly signaled at every opportunity his intention to stand with the richest 1 percent of Minnesotans at the expense of everyone else. It’s a matter of “principle,” he told the Star Tribune.

There’s a touch of irony in the governor’s bluster this year. Four years ago an exacerbated Pawlenty lashed out at the DFL-controlled Senate for not doing enough.

“(The) bottom line is it’s easy for them to vote ‘no’ or criticize what we’re doing, but they’ve got an obligation to put together something that they can pass,” the governor said then.

The shoe is certainly on the other foot today, isn’t it? Even a casual observer can’t help but see the incredible hypocrisy in the situation.

While it’d be nice if Pawlenty was interested in governing for the entire state, rather than the minority who elected him in 2002 and 2006, that’s not going to happen. But at least we know where he stands – a small victory to be sure.

Fortunately, however, the governor’s office isn’t a necessary component in the fight for Minnesota’s future. The DFL is five votes short of the 90 required to override a veto in the House and just one vote short in the Senate.

In 2003, Marty Seifert, then a lesser-known member of the House, used a “Survivor” metaphor to help advance the Republican agenda.

“(The DFL was) voted off the island (in 2002),” he said. “The tribe has spoken.”

Fair enough. But by the same logic, the GOP was shown the door last year. In the name of consistency and intellectual honesty, shouldn’t the new House minority leader stand aside and allow the will of the voters to be carried out this year? After all, Senate DFLers did give Republicans the votes needed to pass a disastrous budget four years ago.

Just as we did in 2003, Minnesota faces serious challenges today. Fortunately we have quality solutions on the table.

A small income tax increase on the wealthiest Minnesotans – families making more than $400,000 a year and individuals taking in more than $220,000 annually – would generate hundreds of millions of dollars for property tax relief and increased education funding.

A 10-cent gas tax increase would bring in millions for improving our dilapidated transportation system. Nobody wants to pay more for gas, but anyone who has been stuck in Twin Cities-area traffic in recent years knows the bad policies of past legislative sessions haven’t produced the results we need.

Pawlenty opposes progress. He’s proud of it. It’s sad, but it’s not going to change. It’s now up to the Legislature to deliver for Minnesotans. One party can’t do it all, either. DFLers need six Republicans willing to break with their party and move Minnesota forward.

The political posturing of the last four years has produced record-high property taxes, millions and millions of dollars in school budget cuts statewide and increasingly snarled traffic in the Twin Cities and population centers throughout Minnesota.

During the 2003 debate Pawlenty’s finance commissioner said crisis is an “opportunity to innovate.” We gave their way a chance and it has failed.

Isn’t it time we try something new?

Christopher Truscott can be reached at He thinks Seifert’s quips have improved since becoming minority leader.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

McCain: Sings "Bomb Iran" to the Tune of Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann"

I’ll say this for McCain: he’s good copy.

You had that one hour tour of that Baghdad market to prove things were safer now. (He wore a bulletproof vest and was escorted by company of soldiers, armored humvees, attack helicopters and hidden sniper teams, all so he could get his picture taken proving how safe it was now--thanks to his escalation policy.)

And this week he offers this:

McCain sings "bombs" to Iran
Thu Apr 19, 2007 3:46PM EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican 2008 presidential hopeful John McCain crooned the words "Bomb Iran" to a Beach Boys' tune in joking response to a question about any possible U.S. attack over Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons program.

"That old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran ... bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb," the Vietnam War veteran warbled softly to the band's "Barbara Ann" when he was asked when the United States would send an "airmail message" to Iran.

The singing performance during a campaign stop on Wednesday in South Carolina drew chuckles from the audience and has already been viewed almost 11,000 times on the Internet video sharing site YouTube after being posted on Thursday.

The one thing that McCain had going for him, versus the other Republican leaders, was “gravitas”—the appearance of being a serious character, treating serious issues seriously. And now he’s thrown that away. Like I’ve said before: his is the “Bizarro” presidential campaign. This is the kind of “joke” that you hear on Howard Stern. The only ones who are laughing at that are Giuliani, Romney and Gingrich.

At the end of the news story, the reporter observes:

… McCain's run for the White House, his second, has experienced some difficulties.

No kidding! One of the difficulties is McCain! I think he’s really losing it. The headlines about the daily murders in Baghdad seem to have driven him over the edge. Now he seems to be going after some kind of recording contract, instead of the presidency.

And I really don’t want to do this, but the fans expect it of me:

The album will be called “John McCain and the Surge.” The tracks:

“Escalate!”--a cover of Kool and the Gang’s “Celebrate.”
(“Es-ca-late them troops/Come on!)
(There a party goin’ on right here/
we got a troop surge/
to last throughout the years/
so send your taxes/
and your children, too
/we gonna bomb Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan too…)

“Blowin’ Up Teheran”—his version of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”
(“The answer, my friends/is blowin’ up Teheran/The answer is blowin’ up Teheran”)

“Ahmadinejad”—McCain’s clever reworking of John Lennon’s “Imagine”
(Ahmadinejad’s/no problem/
It’s easy if we try/
raise hell above him/
death rains from the sky/
Imagine all his people/
fleeing down the streets…
(Boo-oom!)… You may say that I’m a dreamer/
Oh shut up, you little queer/I hope someday you’ll join us/
And the world will live in fear…)

Another Beach Boys' cover, this time to "Sloop John B"
(You hand out the IEDs/
And that’s botherin’ me/
From Baghdad to Basra, our troops have been blown/
I say alright/
You guys wanna fight/Yeah yeah
This ain’t no joke, folks/
I’m bombin’ your home.”)


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Living: Eco-Friendly Funerals

by William Prendergast

Thinking about death this week, because of that latest useless shooting horror.

But let’s take a five minute break from talking about the senseless deaths of all those innocent people, and talk about something more lighthearted: my death.

When you’re rapidly headed toward age fifty (like this writer) you have to start thinking about things like that. Because if you don’t, your spouse does.

For the past couple of years, my wife (who is ordinarily very sensitive) has been periodically bugging me with questions about what kind of funeral arrangements I would like to have. I’ve given her several answers, all quite serious—but she dismisses these as flippant.

For example, one time I told her that I would like my head cut off and frozen (like Timothy Leary and baseball great Ted Williams.) The idea here is that some of the genetic material in the brain tissue could be used to clone some Bill Prendergast of the future when technology finally makes this possible, and my whining will go on for ever. But my wife balked at this idea, probably because it would necessitate her seeing my iced-over features each time she opened the freezer to get out the Ben and Jerry’s.

I’ve kind of gone off the idea myself for other reasons. The law on cryonic freezing is in its infancy; very new and unclear. So there is no guarantee that my head would be used in the way that I specified prior to my death. For example, one my future heirs might sell it to raise some quick cash to buy a case of beer or something, and then I might find myself exhibited as some kind of minor attraction at the 2107 Minnesota State Fair, with kids throwing softballs at it.

Or my head could end up an objet d’art in some yuppie apartment of the future. I hate the idea of someone coming home to his space apartment at the end of long day, saying “God, I could use a space drink!” and then heaving a sigh of relief as they take off their space jacket and casually toss it over my lifeless staring head.

Or maybe it would end up as the subject of discussion on the 22nd century edition of the Antiques Roadshow. (“Now this is a very nice example of a twenty-first century frozen head. As you can see, it’s the head of a white man with a bad hair-cut. And where did you get this, ma’am?” “I was defrosting my great grandmother’s old refrigerator, we found this in the freezer behind a stack of old Lean Cuisines. Great-grandma hadn’t ever defrosted the fridge, so this was kind of stuck up against the back wall, the cheek was frozen to the ice-cube maker—“ “Yes, yes, yes. Well, what if I told you, that it was actually worth two thousand dollars?” “My goodness. As much as that? Almost enough to buy a pack of space cigarettes.”)

Well, the hell with that. So the next time she asked, I told my wife that I would like to be cremated and then have the ashes flushed down the toilet. But she didn’t want to do that either. I explained to her that I had contempt for the fleshly aspect of my existence, that the mind and consciousness and memory were all that I was or cared about. After death eliminated these, a “funeral ceremony” involving the flushing of ashes would demonstrate the sincerity of my faith and views. (Anyway, I am not sentimental about my body. It has always been a disappointment to me, and to others. I see no need to prolong or forestall the process of disintegration; my body’s already disintegrating and I’m not even done with it yet.)

But then today I saw this article:

Scientist says cremation should meet a timely death
Wed Apr 18, 10:30 AM ET

SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian scientist called Wednesday for an end to the age-old tradition of cremation, saying the practice contributed to global warming.

Professor Roger Short said people could instead choose to help the environment after death by being buried in a cardboard box under a tree.

The decomposing bodies would provide the tree with nutrients, and the tree would convert carbon dioxide into life-giving oxygen for decades, he said.

"The important thing is, what a shame to be cremated when you go up in a big bubble of carbon dioxide," Short told AFP.

"You can actually do, after your death, an enormous amount of good for the planet," he said. "The more forests you plant, the better."

A cardboard box, under a tree. Wow. Man's fate.

But...okay. That makes sense. The problem would be getting a cardboard box big enough to do the trick. I’ve got some old Hewlett-Packard computer printer boxes around here somewhere, in the basement, I think (I keep them around in case I ever have to ship anything back to HP, but so far I’ve never had to. Fine product.) I suppose I could duct-tape a few of these boxes together and improvise some kind of a “cardboard container” for my final journey.

But I think it would be very unwieldy, very tough on the pallbearers. And it would look kind of shabby, too, wouldn’t it? I’d always envisioned a big Catholic funeral for myself, like the one they had for JFK--I think hauling a bunch of duct-taped computer printer boxes in a carriage drawn by four coal-black horses would look kind of “down market.” A bit “white trash."

Probably best to skip the box altogether. Just give the organ donor people first crack at my remains, then drive out to the woods and dig a hole near some nice looking young tree that looks like it could use a little help getting started--and then dump what’s left of me in there stark naked, the way I came into the world. Then fill up the hole, and let nature take its course.

Never mind the global warming angle; the part I really like about this plan is that it completely screws the undertakers out of tens of thousands of dollars.

And screw the duct tape people, and HP, too. Let that be my epitaph.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nuts With Handguns

by William Prendergast

Everyone is reeling from the horrific mass murder that just took place at Virginia Tech. But, as with Columbine, no one is going to do anything to prevent the next such shooting incident. Americans have a fascination with handguns. The kid who went nuts and started gunning people down had no prior history of violent behavior; there seems to have been nothing that should have prevented him from legally obtaining the Glock pistol he used to kill all those innocent people.

I don't know what the NRA types who promote easy access to firearms propose as a solution. More handguns, I suppose. Their logic seems to be that this type of tragedy can be dealt with or at least minimized by having more people carry weapons--so that they can gun down people who are carrying weapons once they begin to use them.

And then we have incidents like this one, which just appeared on the wire two hours ago:

Man sentenced over cat rescue shooting
2 hours, 36 minutes ago

KINGMAN, Ariz. - A man who shot at firefighters after they refused to get his cat out of a tree has been sentenced to five months in jail. Jeffrey Francis Cullen, 59, of Kingman, was also ordered to be on intensive probation for five years as part of his sentence, handed down Friday by Mohave County Superior Court Judge Robert R. Moon...

...Cullen called the Hualapai Valley Fire Department on Aug. 17 and reported a tree fire, but once the three-person crew arrived, Cullen told them he wanted his cat rescued from the tree.

Fire Department spokeswoman Sandy Edwards said a battalion chief told Cullen to call animal control or to wait for the cat to get hungry and come down.

The response apparently incensed Cullen, who went inside his home, got a small handgun and came out shooting.

The firefighters fled, taking with them a 12-year-old boy who had come to see their fire truck. None was struck.

..."Firemen, they shouldn't have to be subject to that," Moon told Cullen before handing down the sentence.

Cullen admitted to deputies after his arrest that he had been drinking.

"My main thing is going to stay off of alcohol," Cullen told the judge.


After Terror in Blacksburg, It’s Time to Discuss Guns

By Christopher Truscott
We’re horrified by the senseless tragedy carried out Monday at Virginia Tech and pray for the many thousands of people it affected.

Thirty-two lives were cut short by a deranged gunman hell-bent on killing as many people as possible before taking his own life. While we may never know the full truth about what happened the other morning in Blacksburg, we can be certain that unless we act gun-related violence will continue to be a part of our daily lives.

While the domestic terror attack at Virginia Tech is noteworthy and historic for its scale, the murders there weren’t the only fatal shootings across America this week.

In 2002, 30,242 people in the U.S. were killed by a firearm. That comes out to an average of 83 lives ended prematurely each day – more than three each hour. In the Commonwealth of Virginia alone nearly 800 people were killed by guns in 2003.

In the wake of the massacre in southwest Virginia it’s time to revisit the gun-control debate in this country. Could the disaster in Blacksburg have been stopped? We don’t really know. But we do know that in the time it takes to watch a TV sitcom someone, somewhere in America will be killed by a gun.

America leads the developed world in gun-related violence. Our firearms death rate is even higher than that of places like Estonia, Brazil and Mexico. This is unacceptable and in a country that prides itself for dedication to the principle of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” it’s appalling.

Fear of electoral repercussions and blind support for special interest groups should not stand in the way of Congress engaging in a substantive debate about violence in this country. The issue is too serious. Human life is too precious. Solutions have been put on hold for too long. The time for action is now.

It’s true that guns are a part of American culture, so it’s important to know that gun control doesn’t mean “no guns.” Hunting wild game for sport or owning a gun for protection is fine, but stockpiling weapons and acquiring guns (and accessories) designed to kill humans with gruesome efficiency is not.

We need comprehensive federal gun laws. Period. A patchwork, state-by-state system for gun control is inadequate. Background checks and waiting periods for firearms and ammunition purchases should be mandatory everywhere and there should be a limit to the number of weapons a person can acquire in the future. There must also be a federal database of gun and ammunition sales. That’s not an Orwellian concept. It’s common sense.

We can’t battle back against the forces of violence without attacking those who arm them. To that end we need to aggressively pursue the gun peddlers and street gangs that deal in illicit weapons. And we need an assault weapons ban that means something. The legislation allowed to expire in 2004 was loophole-laden. New laws must be iron-clad. This is a national security issue and should be treated as such.

We can never fully stamp out violence, but we can make it easier to preserve life than it is to destroy it.

People aren’t judged by tragedy. It’s their response to it that matters. If we use the catastrophe at Virginia Tech as a call to action that means something. If we fail to act and allow politics as usual to carry the day, that also means something.

While the people murdered Monday didn’t have a choice as to their fate, we do.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at As a college student he made countless trips to Blacksburg to visit a childhood who attended Virginia Tech.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Wacky Sunni-Shi'ite Morning Radio Show: The Baghdad Morning Zoo

by William Prendergast

Hey, look at this:

Sunnis, Shiites Join in Radio-TV Station

Using jumper cables and a 12-volt battery, plus financial backing and technical help from the United States, Sunnis and Shiites are broadcasting with one voice in Iraq...

The young staff - two Sunni and two Shiite Muslims - works together to produce a menu of Arabic news, public affairs and entertainment programming, a collaboration that would not have seemed remarkable before Iraq's sectarian divisions hardened into tit-for-tat killings last year.

Now, however, the project puts the staff members at risk, both because of their cooperation with one another and their affiliation with U.S. forces and the State Department.

The U.S. military spent $36,000 to fix the transmitter and generator for the new station, which now broadcasts across Baghdad and into other areas where sectarian killings and kidnappings have become common...

Never mind that, what is the Sunni-Shi'ite Morning Zoo Radio Show LIKE? Is it funny? Let's see:

Bumper music: First few bars of Middle-Eastern version of My Sharona...
Voice and sound effects under music: (machine gun fire) “AAAAGH!” “It’s party time!” (car horn) (sound of explosion) (kazoo playing opening notes of Iraqi national antherm)

Announcer: Get ready, believers! You’ve entered the Twilight Zone! (first few bars of the Twilight Zone theme) ...because you’ve arrived at the Baghdad Morning Zoo, with your hosts everybody’s favorite Shi’ite madman, Taqi (sound effect: buggeda-buggeda-buggeda) and Sunni-boy himself (sound effect: doll saying “Ma-ma”), Akbar!

(Sound effect: cheers and applause as “My Sharona” fades out.”)

Akbar: Good morning, heretical scum!
Taqi: Good morning yourself, murdering dog!
Akbar: And a good morning to our listeners in the greater Baghdad area, wherever you are hiding. The Americans have given us tens of millions in aid to set up this radio program for you. So let’s get the jumper cables connected to the battery and get this show on the road. Are we on the air? Taqi, are we broadcasting?
Taqi: Does your mother entertain American servicemen? Of course we’re on the air, pork eater.
(laugh track)
Akbar: Ha ha! Good one, Taqi. That’s the kind of outrageous banter you’re going to be hearing from us, my friends. But it’s all in good fun, eh, Taqi?
Taqi: Of course. But his mother does entertain American servicemen.
(laugh track)
Akbar: Don’t milk it to death, Taqi. Okay, what have we got for the fans this morning?
Taqi: Well, we got a packed program. First, we’re gonna do some funny phone calls.
Akbar: Oh, I love that.
Taqi: Then we do Baghdad Lesbian Dial-a-Date. Because it’s a real Western-style shock-and-awe radio show, right here in Baghdad.
Akbar: Baghdad Lesbian Dial-a-Date! Birqa-chewing! It’s hot hot hot! (plays clip of Ricky Martin singing “Hot! Hot! Hot!”)
Taqi: Then at the half hour, we got Fatima with the traffic and the weather.
Akbar: I can tell you the traffic and the weather right now. The traffic’s on fire and the weather: mostly smoky, because of the traffic.
(laugh track)
Taqi: Oh, you are a character.
(Sound clip from Pulp Fiction: “Just because you are a character, doesn’t mean you have character.”)
Taqi: Harvey Keitel. I love him. Let’s see if we can get him on the show, some time.
Akbar: No. He’s too normal for this show.
(laugh track)
Taqi: Okay, time for the first prank phone call. (sound of him punching in the number)
Akbar: Who you calling now, you nut?
Taqi: General Petraeus, commanding officer of the US Ground Forces.
Akbar: How did you get his number?
Taqi: It’s in your mother’s Rolodex.
Akbar: You Shi’ite pederast!
Taqi: Quiet, it’s ringing—
Petraeus: Hello?
Taqi: (disguising his voice to sound American) Hello, General Petraeus?
Petraeus: Yes?
Taqi: This is the Baghdad Public Utilities Commission. You haven’t paid your bill this month.
Petraeus: What?
(Akbar giggles.)
Taqi: I said you haven’t paid your utilities bill this month, your electric bill. This is just a courtesy call, General Petraeus, to let you know that even if you had any electricity, we’d be shutting it off right now.
Petraeus: Who is this?
Taqi: I told you! This is Baghdad Public Utilities Commission! Are you a deaf General, or something? Listen—is your refrigerator running?
Petraeus: I—let me check...Yes, yes it’s running...
Taqi: Well then you better go catch it! Before it blows up! You dork!
(He hangs up. Taqi and Akbar chuckle.)
Taqi: I love to do that.
Akbar: And he always falls for that one, the uncircumsized dog.
(The show goes on for another three hours, but never for more than twenty minutes in the same place.)


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bachmann Wins "Craziest Person In Congress" Contest!

by William Prendergast

The place: the Daily Kos, one of America’s most widely read political blogs, crawling with liberals and progressives and leftists and Bush haters from all over the United States.

The challenge: name a member of Congress who is crazier than my crazy congresswoman, Michele Bachmann (R-MN, 6th District).

I set up the challenge because I’d written about Michele on the Kos before. I described her in the headers as “My Crazy Congresswoman,” and I claimed that most people would know, from that phrase alone, that article was going to be about Bachmann.

Well, some of the Kos contributors took exception to that claim. A couple of them had the nerve to claim that *their* congressional representatives were nuttier than Bachmann.

Okay, I said—put up or shut up. Let’s see what you’ve got, folks. If you’ve got a congressional representative who’s said or done more "crazy things" than Bachmann—on the record, in the news—I want to see 'em. I sent in my proof, and I asked them to send their proof, so we could settle this like men.

The response to the challenge was overwhelming, given the fact that I’ve only been writing in to the Kos for a month and nobody knows or cares who the f I am. Here are some of the names that were entered:

Tom Tancredo (R-CO, 6th District) kept coming up regularly. Representative Tancredo has apparently suggested bombing Mecca and adopting a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) against the Muslim world. He has helped to found the "Americans Have Had Enough" Coalition and appeared at one of their functions to sing "Dixie" wearing a Confederate officer’s uniform. (Tancredo’s a pretty good entry, I must admit. Trying to revive the MAD doctrine to ensure the destruction of billions of Muslims if we are once again subjected to a terrorist attack, and singing Dixie while wearing a Confederate officer’s uniform—well, that certainly puts you in the Michele class. But it does not make you the champ.)

Steve King (R-IA) sounds like a contender. According to a commenter on Kos, King has:
...compared Abu Ghraib to a frat party.
...insisted that Baghdad was safer than Washington DC.
...played with a Lego border wall on the House floor.
...equated illegal immigrants with serial rapists and cattle.
...professed his admiration for Joe McCarthy, "American hero."
(Not bad, not bad. But when I looked at the footage on C-Span, it wasn't really a "Lego" wall. It was little wall, with pieces that fit together, and tiny little barbed wire. He might have been a contender if the wall had actually been "Lego" and if it had tiny little Mexican action figures climbing over it.)

Another Kos commenter insisted that he had won because Dan Burton (R-IN) was crazier than Michele. He reported that Burton had attempted to feel up a Planned Parenthood representative and once invited reporters into his backyard to watch him shoot a watermelon with a pistol (to prove that Bill Clinton had Vince Foster murdered.)

He noted the extraordinarily sleazy nature of Burton’s career; extraordinary since Burton had been chair of the House Government Reform Committee. (But "endless sleaze" does not equal "craziness." I gave Burton big points for inviting the national press over to his house to watch him shooting up a watermelon (which, in his mind, proved that Clinton was a murderer.) Very, very good, but simply not enough to get you into the Bachmann League. One swallow does not a summer make; one home run doesn’t make you Ted Williams.)

Among the other suggested contenders were Sue Myrick (NC-9), Virginia Foxx (NC-5), and of course "Mean Jean Schmidt" (R-OH). Schmidt is the one who drew national attention to herself by suggesting that 38 year Marine Corp veteran Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) was a cowardly, cut-and-run type. (Okay, that’s stupid and mean and represents the worst in politics—but "crazy?" As for other contenders, it’s no good just to send in the name, you got to give the evidence to play.)

But at the end of the day, I had to declare Bachmann the winner(so far)--on the basis of the sheer weight of documented evidence that I provided when I entered her name in the lists. I gave ten examples of things she’d said and done, on the record—and it blew the competition away. (examples included her claim that God sent her visions and told her to study tax law, the fact that she made up a new terrorist states during a newspaper interview, telling a radio audience that the Minnesota public schools were going to teach homosexuality—all that stuff put us way over the top at the outset, and we stayed there.)

Tancredo and King were good, but even their supporters couldn’t come close to providing ten-plus documented incidents of craziness by a single legislator. Even fans of other crazy legislators were finally forced to bow down (reluctantly) to Bachmann.

WE WON! (Picture Michele and me on the dais, I'm holding her hand up in the air; we’re smiling—still the champions. Cue the balloons, confetti and tickertape, music: Heart, singing: “Let me go Crrraaaaazy On You! Let me go Craaaaazy On You!”)

And we fought with one hand tied behind our backs. There was a lot of other documented stuff I could have used. But I didn’t use it—the quotes on why evolution is bullshit, the "let’s keep the nuke option available for Iran," etc. We didn’t even have to go there, to clinch the title.

But Michele and I will go there--if we have to--to keep the crown. (It is an actual crown, by the way. It is made out of tin foil and has twinkling Christmas lights and keeps the aliens from taking over her mind.) And remember—Bachmann’s only been in Congress three months. Keep watching the skies...


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Iraq: Proof That The "Surge" Is Working

by Dirk Dodd

In a recent speech, President George W. Bush drew attention to two bloggers—Iraqi brothers Mohammed and Omar Fadhil; both dentists, living in Iraq—who are posting upbeat messages about the ‘improving situation’ on the ground in and around Baghdad. While the two do operate their own blog, the President was in fact actually referencing four lines excerpted from a chat room conversation conducted between the two. Here are the first four lines as quoted by the President:

"Displaced families are returning home, market places are seeing more activity, stores that were long-shuttered are now re-opening.”

“We feel safer about moving in the city now.”

“Our people want to see this effort succeed.”

“We hope governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve."

And here is the rest of the blog, in its entirety:

Omar: Hold a moment, the doorbell is ringing. I wonder who could that be.

Mohammed: Go see. I will finish your thought for you. You were going to say, ‘We hope governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve and cut and run like liberal dogs...'

Omar: I am returned. Mohammed, you will never guess who is at the door.

Mohammed: Who?

Omar: United States Senator John McCain! He was out walking the neighborhood just now, doing some window shopping and exploring the real estate market. He stumbled upon a pick-up game of basketball, and tells me they are looking for ‘two more.’ He knows of a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop along the way—his treat.

Mohammed: Praise Allah! Sounds like fun. For something a bit more filling, though, try the newly re-opened Hummus King.

Omar: No chance. You cannot get a table, what with all the displaced families returning home. HK is booked solid into June of next year. Senator McCain lunches outdoors at Café American most days. He has graciously invited me to join him and General Petraeus there later when the General gets back.

Mohammed: Where is the General now?

Omar: Out riding his bicycle around the city.

Mohammed: Riding his bicycle? Is he crazy?! With gasoline so plentiful and prices so low it’s cheaper, almost, to take his unarmed, unarmored Humvee.

Omar: I agree. He insists, however, on taking his bicycle for the higher profile and greater accessibility it affords him to the Iraqi people. Knowing the General, he is stopped somewhere along Liberation Boulevard right now, chatting up townspeople, swapping American flags for boxes of sweets and expressions of heartfelt and eternal gratitude.

Mohammed: Tell him take great precautions on riding his bicycle! Rose petals can make for a slick riding surface.

Omar: I will tell him. Will you join us later for the outdoor chamber music concert?

Mohammed: Yes. Where is that again?

Omar: George W. Bush Square. Construction on it is complete; tonight will be the dedication ceremony. Richard Perle is cutting the ribbon.

Mohammed: I will pick up Hosni and meet you there.

Omar: Does Hosni not work on Saturdays?

Mohammed: Did work. Have you not heard? He got laid-off from his job down at the morgue. Ever since the American troop surge, business there has fallen off dramatically. Talk about ‘dead.’ Ha ha…

Omar: lol. Later…

The author, Dirk Dodd, is a one-legged mechanical bull rider who lives and works in Staten Island, New York. Well, not really, but his email wasn't working when I wrote to him and asked for a biographical blurb. So this is what he gets.


Monday, April 09, 2007

Pawlenty: Saying One Thing, Doing Another

By Christopher Truscott

Tim Pawlenty likes to tout himself as a pro-business, pro-growth governor who’s making our economy stronger.

That sounds really great. But unfortunately for the governor and for Minnesotans, saying you’re for growth and actually creating a robust 21st-century economy are two entirely different things.

Rather than moving Minnesota forward, the governor is taking us in the wrong direction. His policies are anti-growth to the extreme. Our state is stuck in reverse gear and Pawlenty’s foot is planted firmly on the accelerator.

We shouldn’t be surprised, but after a horrendous first term Pawlenty did promise progress during his re-election bid last year.

“Our continued growth requires bold leadership, common-sense solutions and real reform,” he wrote in a letter posted on his campaign Web site. “That’s my goal everyday as governor, to keep Minnesota strong, prosperous, vibrant and to make sure our schools are improving and our economy is growing.”

Perhaps the view is a little different from Pawlenty’s office in the Capitol. But where the governor sees growth, people in the real world see stagnation.

Where the governor sees growth, people see higher property taxes.

Where the governor sees growth, people see runaway tuition hikes at the state’s colleges and universities.

Where the governor sees growth, people see cuts, cuts and more cuts in our public schools.

Where the governor sees growth, people see a dilapidated transportation system designed for another era.

Where the governor sees growth, others see reality.

Our job-growth is below the national average. Our economic growth, as measured by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, is abysmal. Not only are we not leading, we aren’t even following. Maybe Pawlenty likes seeing our state ranked alongside places like West Virginia and Mississippi, but that’s not good enough for Minnesotans.

It’s time to take off the blinders, governor. Minnesota needs leadership but you’re offering nothing more than feel-good platitudes and blustery right-wing rhetoric. Maybe a slogan like “At least we’re not North Dakota” is good enough for you, but it isn’t for the rest of us.

DFL lawmakers in the House and Senate have put forward property tax relief proposals that will also generate much-needed investment for education and transportation, two areas critical to getting Minnesota back on the right track. But rather than embracing real pro-growth policies, Pawlenty has opted to stand with the richest Minnesotans at the expense of the other 99 percent of us. That’s not good enough.

Growing the economy takes more than dumb luck. It requires strong policies that put people and businesses in a position to succeed. That means real funding for an education system needed to train high-skill workers and attract the jobs of the future and building the transportation infrastructure necessary to move people and goods quickly.

We aren’t going to attract businesses – growth – to Minnesota because of our weather. We’re looking at a chance of some snow in the Twin Cities on Tuesday while forecasts in Raleigh, N.C., call for sunshine with high temperatures in the 60s. It’d be nice to compete with that, but we can’t.

Minnesota’s future is in providing services that are second to none. That’s something we can control. We’re lucky in that regard – we know exactly what we have to do. All we need now is a governor with the courage to sign his name to good legislation.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at If Pawlenty becomes vice president, what will Carol Molnau do as governor?

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Iraq War Debate: A Line in the Sand

By Christopher Truscott

2005 car bombing

Extra! Extra! Extra!
...And the craziest congresswoman is...

American political debate is dominated by shades of gray. Rarely are things black and white, absolutely right and absolutely wrong. Usually the best answer lies somewhere toward the vast middle.

The ongoing civil war in Iraq is not one of these circumstances, however.

For more than four years we’ve been bogged down in a conflict with roots that predate European settlement in the Americas. After going too long with no end in sight, Congress has produced legislation that allows us to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re now waiting on President George W. Bush to stand up and do his part.

There is an absolute right in this debate, troop funding legislation backed by the House of Representatives that calls for an end to U.S. military involvement in Iraq by the end of next summer; and an absolute wrong, the “stay the course” policy offered by the president and his allies on Capitol Hill.

There was no ambiguity last November when the American people went to the polls. Iraq was the biggest issue and developing an exit strategy was the winning argument. Now it’s time to make it happen. Democrats have drawn a line in the sand and can’t back down, no matter what the president says or does in the coming weeks.

Our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have preformed ably under the worst of circumstances in Iraq and have done everything asked of them by their civilian leaders. They’ve toppled a brutal dictator and brought democratic elections to a country that had operated under one-party, dictatorial rule for decades.

After a job well done, it’s time to begin the process of bringing the troops home.

Condi loves GWB
The increasingly bloody civil war in Iraq will continue whether American forces stay or go. Ultimately it’s a fight that will be either won or lost by the ability of the new Iraqi leadership to forge a political solution that meets the needs of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds throughout that country. We cannot impose it on them and the time for hand-holding is over. Iraq is a sovereign state and must act like one.

In his weekly radio address, the president blasted Democrats for using the war funding bill to make a “political statement,” when in reality members of Congress are merely fulfilling their constitutionally mandated role as the authors of American policy.

Bush says funding for the troops is “critical” and has a “direct impact on their daily lives.” He’s preaching to the choir on this one. Congress also supports funding the troops. But what the majority – in Washington and throughout America – opposes is an open-ended commitment to a quagmire.

In a town hall meeting last week, U.S. Rep. John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota, said it’ll take time for Iraqis to be ready to handle their own affairs.

“We have to bring an entire (Iraqi) army up to speed,” the Bush loyalist said, “and it takes more than six weeks or 12 weeks or 12 months.”

Fair enough, but we’ve now been there for nearly 49 months. What’s the target date? 80 months? 120 months – a full decade? Longer?

The president and his supporters don’t have a plan for Iraq beyond trotting out the tired talking points of previous years. They hide behind the rally cry of “support the troops,” while continuing to send more into a lost cause. They reflexively oppose everything offered by the opposition without putting forward anything substantive of their own. They’re chasing mirages in the desert and what’s worse is they don’t even seem to realize it.

It is time for Congress to stand firm. This war must end. Since the president has failed to lead, it’s time for him to follow.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at Remember when “Survivor” was the hot new show, the Yankees last won a World Series and Bush was supposed to be a “uniter, not a divider”?

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Contest Results: Bachmann Wins "Craziest In Congress" Title

The challenge was: name a member of Congress is crazier than my crazy congresswoman, Michele Bachmann (R-MN, 6th District).

Now remember, we were trying to figure out “who’s the craziest”—we’re not going for “worst”, “evil,” “corrupt,” “degenerate,” or “just plain stupid” here (although any of those qualities will not disqualify a crazy candidate.) We’re looking for congressional representatives who’ve said or done more “crazy things” than Bachmann—on the record, in the news.

The response to the challenge was overwhelming, given the fact that I’ve only been writing in to the Kos for a month and nobody knows or cares who the f I am. Here are some of the names that were entered.

Tom Tancredo (R-CO, 6th District) kept coming up regularly. Representative Tancredo has apparently suggested bombing Mecca and adopting a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) against the Muslim world. He has helped to found the “Americans Have Had Enough” Coalition and appeared at one of their functions to sing “Dixie” wearing a Confederate officer’s uniform. (Tancredo’s a pretty good entry, I must admit. Trying to revive the MAD doctrine to ensure the destruction of billions of Muslims if we are once again subjected to a terrorist attack, and singing Dixie while wearing a Confederate officer’s uniform—well, that certainly puts you in the Michele class. But it does not make you the champ.)

Steve King (R-IA) sounds like a contender. He's a reeeeal piece of work. According to a commenter on Kos, King has:
…compared Abu Ghraib to a frat party.
…insisted that Baghdad was safer than Washington DC.
…played with a Lego border wall on the House floor.
…equated illegal immigrants with serial rapists and cattle.
…professed his admiration for Joe McCarthy, "American hero."
(Not bad, not bad. I liked the part where he played with the “Lego border wall” thing on the floor of Congress. Was that on C-Span? Did he have tiny little Mexican action figures climbing over it?)

Another Kos commenter insisted that he had won because Dan Burton (R-IN) was crazier than Michele. He reported that Burton had attempted to feel up a Planned Parenthood representative and once invited reporters into his backyard to watch him shoot up a watermelon with a pistol (to prove that Bill Clinton had Vince Foster murdered.)
He noted the extraordinarily sleazy nature of Burton’s career; extraordinary since Burton had been chair of the House Government Reform Committee. (But “endless sleaze” does not equal “craziness.” I gave Burton big points for inviting the press over his house to watch him shoot up a watermelon, which, in his mind, proved that Clinton was a murderer. Very, very good, but simply not enough to get you into the Bachmann League. One swallow does not a summer make; one home run doesn’t make you Ted Williams.)

Among the other suggested contenders were Sue Myrick (NC-9), Virginia Foxx (NC-5), and of course “Mean Jean Schmidt” (R-OH). Schmidt is the one who drew national attention to herself by suggesting that 38 year Marine Corp veteran Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) was a cowardly, cut-and-run type. (Okay, that’s stupid and mean and represents the worst in politics—but “crazy?” As for other contenders, it’s no good just to send in the name, you got to give the evidence to play.)

Anyway—I declare myself and Bachmann the winners (so far), on the basis of the sheer weight of documented evidence which I provided when I entered her name in the lists. Nobody else even came close to providing ten documented incidents of craziness, like we did. (Picture me holding up her hand in the air; we’re smiling—the champions. Cue the balloons, confetti and tickertape.)

And we fought with one hand tied behind our backs. There was a lot of other documented stuff I could have used—stuff out of her own mouth. But I didn’t use it—the quotes on why evolution is bullshit, the “let’s keep the nuke option available for Iran,” etc. I didn’t even have to go there, to claim the championship.

But Michele and I will go there--if we have to--to keep the crown. (It is an actual crown, by the way. It is made out of tin foil and Christmas lights and keeps the aliens from taking over her mind.) And remember—Bachmann’s only been in Congress three months. Keep watching the skies...

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Contest: My Crazy Congresswoman is Crazier Than Your Crazy Congresswoman

By William Prendergast

Here's a piece I'm going to send in to the Daily Kos and Diatribune blogs today.

When I write in to the Kos about what's going on with Michele Bachmann, I use the words "My Crazy Congresswoman" in the header, and some readers have complained. They think I'm being presumptuous, that their congresswoman is crazier.

OH, YEAH? Wait til they read this:

..Even without knowing who these other congresswomen are and what they’ve said and done, I think my Congresswoman is crazier. I think I can demonstrate that Michele is nuttier than anybody now serving in the House of Representatives, and I can prove it.

So I’m throwing down the gauntlet. If you’ve got a congresswoman who’s crazier than Michele—show me. I don’t pretend to know everything about everyone in the House; you think you’ve got someone representing you who’s crazier than the nut who’s representing me: prove it. Write in here with the name, give me some facts to back it up. Convince me.

But I’m warning you: if you set out to try and prove that your Rep is crazier than Michele--you’ve picked a tough row to hoe, chief. Because, for starters:

1) My congresswoman claims that God told her to run for Congress. She also claimed that God told her to run for the State Senate back in 2000. She also claims that God sent her a vision (while she was praying “in the spirit”) of the man she was going to marry. And that God told her to go to college. And that God told her to go to law school. And that God told her to study tax law. (It’s all on YouTube.)

2) My congresswoman, Michele Bachmann, is the one who put her hands on the President on the United States as he made his way out of this year’s State on the Union Speech, and wouldn’t let go of him until he gave her a big kiss. Yes, that was her.

3) My congresswoman told a major Minnesota newspaper that there was already in existence an agreement to partition Iraq with Iran and found a new terrorist safe haven state in the northern and western part of Iraq. When she was called out on it, she admitted there was and is no such agreement in existence. After the story made national headlines, she claimed she was a conservative victim of media bias.

4) During her campaign for Congress, she said that Terry Schiavo was in good health when her life support system was turned off.

5) During her campaign for Congress, she said that there were several Nobel prize winning scientists who believed in “intelligent design” creationism.

6) During a 2004 radio interview on the program “Prophetic Views In the News” (note the name of the show) Bachmann said: “We’re in a state of crisis where our nation is literally ripping apart at the seams right now, and lawlessness is occurring from one ocean to the other. And we’re seeing the fulfillment of the Book of Judges here in our own time, where every man doing that which is right in his own eyes—in other words, anarchy.”

7) On what will happen if her same-sex marriage ban amendment fails to pass in 2004: Bachmann: “It isn’t that some gay will get some rights. It’s that everyone else in our state will lose rights. For instance, parents will lose the right to protect and direct the upbringing of their children. Because our K-12 public school system, of which ninety per cent of all youth are in the public school system, they will be required to learn that homosexuality is normal, equal and perhaps you should try it. And that will occur immediately, that all schools will begin teaching homosexuality.”

Bachmann: “The sex curriculum will be essentially by taught by the local gay community.”

Bachmann: “And what a bizarre time we’re in, when a judge will say to little children that you can’t say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it.”

8) Explaining why teaching tolerance for American gays is wrong:

Bachmann: “You have a teacher talking about his gayness. (The elementary school student) goes home then and says “Mom! What’s gayness? We had a teacher talking about this today.” The mother says “Well, that’s when a man likes other men, and they don’t like girls.” The boy’s eight. He’s thinking, “Hmm. I don’t like girls. I like boys. Maybe I’m gay.” And you think, “Oh, that’s, that’s way out there. The kid isn’t gonna think that.” Are you kidding? That happens all the time. You don’t think that this is intentional, the message that’s being given to these kids? That’s child abuse.”

9) On education reforms laws (School To Work, Goals 2000, etc.) passed by the GOP-controlled US Congress:

Bachmann: “Federal law forms a new governance structure that opposes both free enterprise and representative government…A new national curriculum is used that embraces a socialist, globalist worldview; loyalty to all government and not America.”

(She was serving as a Minnesota State Senator when she made that accusation.)

“Goals 2000, of which we’ve heard quite a bit, is a partnership between government and your local public schools to radically transform and change our public education system, as you’ve learned today, to train children to accept not freedom, but to accept and anticipate government central planning of our economy and our way of life.” — Senator Michele Bachmann, EdWatch conference, October 10-11, 2003.

10) On whether conservative GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota elected officials are restructuring school curriculum to replace a free market economy with a state-controlled economy:

"I don’t believe for a minute our elected officials want that. But you know what? Everything that I read, all the documents, point otherwise."

Okay, how’s that for starters? And you say you can top THIS? You say you’ve got somebody nuttier than this representing YOU? This I gotta see. Let’s hear about her, name her and put her nuttiest stuff in the comments thread.

(By the way—this is not about sex (gender.) If you have a congressMAN who’s nuttier than Michele--you can play, too. But you still have to convince me. Maybe between us we can figure out who’s the biggest nut in Congress right now. I say it’s Michele.)


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Somewhere in Minnesota

By Christopher Truscott

Somewhere in Minnesota there’s a guy who just finished a long day at work.

Driving home, he’s worried about pulling together his son’s college tuition for next year.

He pays more in property taxes than he ever has before, yet his local school board is considering cuts to the music program in which his daughter has excelled since starting high school two years ago.

The school system isn’t what it used to be, and the only thing saving it from a worse fate is the property tax levy that just passed three years ago and is set to expire in two years. Student-teacher ratios are up, classroom aide positions have been cut, and programs to help those who need it the most have been gutted.

He worries about what will happen when his third child, now in elementary school, reaches high school.

Health care premiums are eating up a bigger chunk of his paycheck and he’s struggling to make ends meet. On top of that, there are rumors that his job may be moved overseas. He wonders what will happen to health care for his family if that dreadful gossip becomes reality.

He makes $30,000 a year and his wife brings in another $20,000. They’re the typical Minnesota family.

As he gets closer to home, Gov. Tim Pawlenty comes on the radio and tells him he’s taxed too much. No kidding, our protagonist comments to himself as he continues driving.

“We just dug ourselves out of a big budget hole,” the governor continues. “Let’s not spend ourselves back into one.”

Our guy isn’t really interested in politics. He’s just trying to get by. But he still deserves the truth.

What Pawlenty isn’t telling Minnesotans, like the one described here, is the other side of the story.

The governor won’t tell our guy that under his watch college tuition has gone through the roof. He won’t tell him that the health care safety net has been decimated. He won’t tell him that funding for public schools isn’t keeping up with inflation and that “no new taxes” in St. Paul means plenty of new taxes on Main Street.

Also ignored in the slick radio ad the governor just rolled out is that nobody wants to raise taxes on the typical Minnesotan.

House and Senate DFLers have competing plans to raise taxes on the very wealthiest of our state’s residents.

Under the House proposal, the state income tax on families making more than $400,000 and individuals earning more than $200,000 would go from 7.85 percent to 9 percent. A higher tax on 28,000 Minnesotans – out of 5.1 million residents statewide – would generate $433 million to help reduce property taxes and boost education funding.

The Senate plan is broader and would raise the income tax rate on the 93,000 wealthiest Minnesotans to 9.7 percent, with the $1 billion in new revenue also going toward education and property tax relief.

The House and Senate plans aren’t extravagant. They’re staring off points focused on a couple of the issues most important to Minnesotans. We still haven’t addressed the health care crisis and college tuition is largely a back-burner issue. These proposals cover important basics and do little more.

In his first state of the state address more than four years ago, Pawlenty used the word sacrifice (or a variation of it) 15 times. But as a result of this governor’s policies the sacrificing has been left to those who have already done more than they can afford.

Nobody likes the idea of raising taxes on anyone, but ultimately we need new revenue to undo the damage done in recent years. DFLers at the State Capitol want Joe Mauer to pay more, while the governor wants the burden to fall on folks like the man described earlier. To people of good conscience, this should be a no-brainer.

It’s time we put progress ahead of politics.

It’s time we as a state start standing up for and honoring those who have already done their fair share.

It’s time the governor live up to his talk of the Minnesota “spirit of giving and sacrifice.”

It’s time we do the right thing because someone, somewhere is counting on us.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at He’s taking bets. What will happen first: Pawlenty raising taxes or the Twins winning an American League championship?

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Good Town Hall Meeting Doesn’t Change Facts

By Christopher Truscott

John KlineU.S. Rep. John Kline should be applauded for the free-flowing town hall meeting he hosted Tuesday night.

Over the course of the two-hour session at Lakeville South High School, the congressman took questions and listened to comments on topics ranging from postal reform to special education funding to the Iraq War.

But while Kline deserves high praise for meeting with several hundred constituents on a blustery Minnesota night, he didn’t say or do anything to earn a fourth term in office. In fact, one’s left wondering how he got a third term.

On the biggest issue facing our country, the bloody civil war in Iraq, Kline proved once again – and once and for all – he’s not one of the people who will lead us out of a quagmire that to date has claimed 3,257 American lives, including 57 Minnesotans.

He acknowledges the need for a political solution to the Sunni-Shiite fighting, but ultimately he’s wedded to a policy of escalation – even citing page 73 of the Iraq Study Group report, which provides tentative support for a “short-term” troop surge. He’s silent, however, on page XIII of the bipartisan document, which calls for expanded diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. (It’s worth noting there are 77 pages between XIII and 73. Did he miss those?)

While the new Democratic majority in Congress is working toward a solution for a war the American people clearly oppose, Kline voted against the House troop funding legislation that calls for an Aug. 31, 2008, end to American military involvement in Iraq.

On Tuesday night he explained he’s opposed to policies that would make “it illegal for our troops to win.” That’s a great attempt at re-framing the debate. It’s also hogwash.

U.S. troops have done everything asked of them. They’ve toppled a dictator, eliminated a weapons of mass destruction threat and helped provide security for democratic elections. “Iraq is sovereign,” according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which means our troops’ work is done.

A deadline will make it clear to Iraqis that our military commitment to their country is not open-ended and it’s time for them to “stand up” and for us to “stand down.” We’re giving them more than a year’s worth of notice. If the government in Baghdad isn’t ready to take control of its affairs by then, it never will be.

Nearly four years after the fall of the Iraqi capital, Kline’s strategy is nothing more than the Stay the Course 2.0 plan the White House unveiled in January. While his past military service is commendable, Kline’s performance as a check on an administration in dangerously over its head is terrible.

It’s about time we had a congressman who’s willing to adjust his thinking as circumstances change. It’s about time we had a congressman who’s willing to think outside the box when it comes to creating solutions to the serious issues facing our country. It’s about time we had a congressman with a reality-based foreign policy.

Folksy charm isn’t a substitute for those important qualities. We deserve better and given the daunting nature of the challenges America faces, we need better. There’s too much on the line for the more-of-the-same thinking that got us where we are today.

Will the next 2nd Congressional District representative please step forward?

Christopher Truscott can be reached at After he’s retired from Congress, Kline should take his town hall meeting show on the road. He might even score a time slot on cable access television.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

‘Prime Minister’ Pelosi vs. President Bush

Extra! Extra!
Don't miss Bill Prendergast's latest --

By Christopher Truscott

The framers of the Constitution were wise to create an executive position independent of the legislative branch.

But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t occasionally be nice to have something equivalent to the British office of prime minister – in which case Nancy Pelosi, as leader of the lower house’s majority party, would be in charge and George W. Bush would reside somewhere other than 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The latest example of the executive void in Washington is the White House’s criticism of Speaker Pelosi’s Middle East travels, which include a trip Wednesday to Syria to meet with President Bashar Assad.

Pelosi, who has apparently read the Iraq Study Group report, which recommends talks with Syria and Iran, wants to “establish facts” and try to build “confidence” between the U.S. and Iraq’s provocative western neighbor. She’ll also be delivering a message from Israel that it could work with the Syrians if they “openly take steps to stop supporting terrorism.”

Sounds pretty reasonable. She’s already in the neighborhood and there’s no way she can make the situation worse. In the spirit of the new baseball season, the speaker might even hit a homerun – or at least a single to keep the inning alive.

The White House, meanwhile, contends it’s a “bad idea.” But given this president’s handling of world affairs, his word doesn’t mean much.

Nevertheless, one has to ask the administration: What would be a good idea? Not talking to the Syrians (or the Iranians) hasn’t helped. Rhetoric and bravado have taken us nowhere. Even the Saudis, our so-called allies, have clearly turned against us. We’re alienated from the key leaders in the Middle East, which is unfortunately an important region of the world, and we haven’t articulated a coherent plan for the future of our involvement there.

Keeping with the baseball theme, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are 0-for-the-last-six-years on Middle East policy. Even the most obtuse manager would realize it’s time for a pinch hitter. If that means Pelosi carrying on like a de facto prime minister, fine.

On the eve of his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, President John F. Kennedy told an audience in Frankfurt, West Germany: “Lofty words cannot construct an alliance or maintain it; only concrete deeds can do that.”

While one visit does not make a solid relationship, Pelosi’s willingness to sit down as a leading representative of the American people – the No. 3 figure in this government – and open a dialogue with our adversary is a positive step. The Syrians can no longer say that we aren’t willing to meet them halfway.

What do we get from Pelosi’s visit? Leadership. Even if it comes from the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s certainly more than we’ve had in quite a while.

Good luck and Godspeed, Madam Speaker.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at As Speaker of the House, he’d be sure to schedule important meetings with the leaders of countries like the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Australia – all of which have nice beaches.

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