Unheralded

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — A Car Ride For Life

Bob and I sat, our motorcycles idle, among a quiet group of veterans, waiting for stragglers. But no one came late. Most of us had been there early enough to stretch our legs. A few of us smoked. The veil of fog faded away from the black and green hues of the Black Hills. It looked like rain. Hell, it …


Unheralded

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Glad When It’s Over

I’m writing this before the election, so I don’t know what happened, which, come to think of it, is pretty much the norm for me, anyway. If the Democrats won big nationally, as an avowed enemy of the people, I may be under the sheets, contentedly smoking a post-election cigarette. Any celebration will be short-lived, however. Even if Nancy Pelosi …


TONY BENDER: “Badass Grandmas’ Take Measure 1 Fight On The Road

The “Badass Grandmas” toured south-central North Dakota on Oct. 23, with stops in Napoleon, Wishek, Ashley, Hague, Strasburg and Linton. Dina Butcher, a former Republican candidate for North Dakota ag commissioner, and Ellen Chaffee, a Democrat and former president of Valley City State College and Mayville State College, are the grandmas who represent North Dakotans for Public Integrity, a coalition …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Integrity Matters

Heidi Heitkamp has had better weeks. She’s probably had better train wrecks. “Nobody told me there’d be days like these,” John Lennon sang. “Strange days, indeed.” Last week, her campaign, scrambling for momentum, included in a newspaper ad the names of 127 women purported to be sexual abuse victims. The ad called out Kevin Cramer for his insensitivity to the …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Pre-Election Quiz

I don’t know if you’ve been following along but there’s this thing 58 percent of Americans do the first Tuesday of November. And no, it’s not check the mailbox for a welfare check as some might have you believe. It’s called it an election, although some people refer to them as train wrecks. The last election should have been sponsored …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Boogiemen

Halloween must be coming because there sure are a lot of boogiemen out there trying to scare you into doing the right thing. For them. I’ve been getting flyers in the mail more frightening than Stephen King novels, Shark Week or a Kavanaugh tantrum. According to one mailer, the scariest thing facing North Dakotans is Measure 1 — the ethics …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — The Transcript

SEPT. 27, 2018, WASHINGTON — Senate Judicial Committee Chairman Charles Grassley is seated. Brett Kavanaugh fastidiously adjusts the items on his desk. Cory Booker snaps a selfie. Jeff Flake nervously chews a Lifesaver. Lindsey Graham pages through the latest edition of Good Housekeeping. GRASSLEY: (whispers) “Where’s my gavel? Sen. Feinstein, did you swipe my gavel?” FEINSTEIN: (snores softly) “Huh, wah? …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Move Over, Dorian Gray

I spent more time on my fantasy football picks than the Senate has on Brett Kavanaugh. No matter how it turns out, I’ll have another chance next year. But the Supreme Court is for keeps. If the 53-year-old nominee serves to the age of 90 like Oliver Wendall Holmes Jr. did, he’ll reign until 2055. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Reefer Madness

It isn’t often that you can vote against the Apocalypse. This November voters will be on the front lines to defend the state against the Armageddon that has befallen eight states and the District of Columbia — legalized recreational marijuana. I’ve witnessed the carnage with my own two bloodshot eyes in Colorado. Everyone is running around like Cheech and Chong …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Do You Know Your News?

I’ve been thinking about the poor sap who will have to document recent events in future history textbooks — assuming, of course, that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos doesn’t strike history from the curriculum or make Speaking in Tongues the official language by then. The chapter may start something like this: “In 2016, Vladimir Putin managed to slip acid …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — A Tale Of Two Queens

I don’t want to be an alarmist, but there will be rioting in the streets, the stock market will crash, and we will all be very poor if they decide to impeach Cara Mund. The current Miss America and former Miss North Dakota is embroiled in a catfight with ex-Fox News Queen Gretchen Carlson. Catfight? Isn’t that term sexist or …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Analyzing The Measures

The problem with democracy is when citizens start sticking their noses into the government’s business. No state is more under siege than ours. There are four measures on the November ballot placed there by malcontents. As if we can’t trust the Legislature to do what’s best for oil billionaires. That sort of thinking threatens to undermine our way of life. …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Back-To-School Quiz

Hello class, it’s that time of year. The wheat harvest is on, the leaves will be turning soon, and NFL players are beginning to kneel. It’s time for the Tony Bender Back to School Super Brain Quiz. 1. Why won’t Kevin Cramer agree to more debates? A. Stall Ball always works out so well. B. How many ways can you …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Robins

Mama Robin built a nest a scant 6 feet from the front door this year. Brave girl, that one, or perhaps just trusting. The azure eggs were visible just below eye level, and India and I watched the progression from broken shells to featherless, famished babies with gaping mouths, as their gaunt, overworked mother retrieved worms and bugs from the …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — GOP Needs To Change Mascots

Gov. Doug Burgum joined 30 other governors last week in support of Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court justice, which is — if you’re a Republican — about as shocking as going to a midsummer tent revival and proclaiming your love for Jesus. Even if you’re only there to pick up sweaty Baptist chicks. Burgum, Sen. John Hoeven and Senate …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — The Inadvertent Surrender

It can happen to the best of us — to the worst of us, even. You say one thing, but you meant something completely different. Like that time Churchill meant, “We shall always surrender!” President Trump, fresh off of his triumphant Surrender Summit in Helsinki, says what he meant to say when asked whether Russia had undermined the 2016 election …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — R.I.P. Ed Schultz

If he was gonna do it, Ed Schultz should have expired July 4. It would have fit his sense of theater. After all, he was a football All-America quarterback and in many ways reflected America itself — high achiever, pugilistic, self-centered, generous, mercurial, brilliant, reckless and fearless. It was one of the few times Ed missed his mark. Then again, …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Big John

Jimmy Dean didn’t write that song about Big John Schlosser. But he should have. And they don’t erect many statues to folks in small towns. But they should. It would take a lot of bronze because John was big. That’s the thing about small towns, they grow bigger-than-life characters like John. Maybe it’s the air, the soil, the sky … …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — And The Winner Is …

There was an election last week and Democracy lost. Just 19.66 percent of eligible North Dakotans voted — 114,340. Meanwhile, the winner, Apathy, recorded 467,301 yawns. The only place with lower turnout was North Korea. Isn’t it obvious now that we need more undocumented immigrants to do the voting Americans just won’t do? Even more disconcerting was the revelation that …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Travels With Tony

Our first Uber driver was a former journalist, so the midnight conversation from Pittsburgh International Airport turned to the unprecedented attacks on the press by the president. Wearied by weather delays, airport sprints and the uncertainty of our travels, India and I were content to let him deliver a treatise I knew by rote — the preposterous notion journalists intentionally …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — The Heidi-Kevin Show

OK, people, I’m warning you, I took Ambien, so anything could happen. Then again, I might simply nod off. It would be much worse if you nodded off. Now would be a perfect time for that energy drink, or if you want something less stimulating, crack cocaine. I now keep my energy drinks in a gun safe because of what …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — What Makes America Great

In the interest of differing viewpoints, Bocephus M. Snodgrass is filling in for Tony J Bender this week.     Hey folks, Bocephus M. Snodgrass here. The M stands for ‘Murica, just like me. You know what makes ‘Murica great? ‘Muricans. I’ll tell you one thing, my great-great-great grandpappy didn’t come here from halfway ’round the world just to have …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Potpourri

Laurel or Yanny? Weird week. Everyone was weighing in on the Laurel or Yanny question. Some heard the robotic voice on the Internet say “Yanny”, others heard “Laurel.” Others thought their iPad was possessed by Stephen Hawking, Linda Blair or M. Night Shyamalan. The president heard “covfefe”. As for me, I distinctly heard, “Paul is dead.” and I think, in …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Another Kerfuffle

I’d like to begin this week by saying, “That darn Heidi Heitkamp.” I’m referring, of course, to last week’s column in The Forum in which Mike McFeely ever-so-gently, in his curmudgeonly way, suggested that fellow columnist Rob Port might try writing about someone other than Heidi Heitkamp. Like maybe Joel Heitkamp. I mean, I ain’t exactly Sherlock Holmes, but if …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — From Soup To Nuts

I had a pretty good week. My lawyer, Sly M. Ball didn’t get raided, and his paper shredder is working just fine. It’s powered by a V-8 Cummins, which gets terrible mileage, but thanks to the rollback of fuel efficiency standards, he won’t have to deal with a solar-powered model. The problem there is twofold. First of all, most of …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — What’s The Matter With Kids Today?

I was just wrapping my head around this Tide pod trend when I learned that condom snorting might be a thing. Now, I’ll have to sit down and have a talk with India about this. When we discussed the dangers of Tide pods, she assured me she had no intention of eating our laundry detergent because, and I quote, “You …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Current Events Quiz

AIR FORCE ONE ANNOUNCEMENT — “Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing some … uh … turbulence. As we continue our steep descent into anarchy, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and that your seat belt is securely fastened. Before we crash, we’d like you all to fill out this brief questionnaire, …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — In An Alternate Universe

SOMEWHERE IN AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE — White House Press Secretary Oprah Huckabee-Winfrey said today that President Barack Obama had won an arbitration case against porn star Stormy Daniels, who is suing the president to release her from a gag order. Her attorney said a gag order wasn’t really necessary. “She gagged throughout the entire affair.” Daniels plans to return $130,000 …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Quotes From The Gun Debate

“Good morning, students. It’s time for announcements. The lunch menu today is hot dogs with macaroni and cheese. The vegetable is ketchup. Take that, Michelle Obama! Miss Swiffer from fourth grade will be walking point during recess. Also, I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” — The  Principal. “Even if you took away all the guns, people would …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Another Current Events Quiz

Because America leads the world in news, it is incumbent upon us to periodically review current events so that when an undocumented immigrant stops you on the street and asks, what the hell is going on, you’ll know. This may also come in handy on your ACT, SAT or POS test. 1. According to former North Dakota GOP chairman and …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — State Of The Union

Well, the groundhog saw his shadow, so six more months of Mueller. The president might have basked for a while in the glow of his triumphant State of the Union address, of which a whopping 43 percent of Democrats and 109 percent of Republicans approved. Instead, he released The Memo, which instantly changed the tune from Kumbaya at a campfire …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Sometimes There Is No Spring

T. S. Elliot wrote that April is the cruelest month, but I’d argue that. It comes in the winter. Winter is more than a metaphor for the twilight of a life, the final whirl of child’s windup toy as the coiled spring inside releases the last of its energy and it freezes in suspended animation, a monument to a life …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — The Breast Of Times

It’s been a couple of interesting weeks when it comes to what women can and can’t do in North Dakota. In Wahpeton, there’s a communitywide debate about the Oasis Bar’s request to permit lap dancing. Meanwhile, at Chick-fil-A in Fargo, a woman was kicked out for breastfeeding her baby. Let’s start there. This is a place that makes a living …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — What The Heck Happened (And What Could)

The year 2017 was the newsiest year on record according to statistics I just made up. Strike that. These are not alternative facts. This is based on actual gut feelings. And anonymous sources. Seriously, the news lurched from one thing to another so quickly, reporters had to step up their cross-fit routines to keep up, although Rachel Maddow sounded like …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — A Christmas Story

The clatter was tremendous. Decorative brass fireplace implements clanged off the brick hearth and a fine black cloud of soot billowed, and when it had cleared, there stood a man who looked just like the one in the Christmas cards — right down to the red suit and black boots. The small boy at the table stared, a cookie poised …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — The Politics Of Self-Preservation

It will be interesting to see if the president can hold together The Party of Capitulation after Roy Moore’s defeat. Divide and conquer. That’s how you keep your job with a 32 percent approval rating. That and fear. Republicans saw what happened to Jeff Flake. It’s more than party over people. It’s about self-preservation. There are three subfactors in play …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Can’t Touch This

A legislative committee will examine North Dakota’s sexual harassment policy “to make sure it’s up to date,” said Rep. Al Carlson. “I’m hoping for visual aids,” added a committeeman, panting slightly. Existing codes are located between weights and measures, buggy whips and the zoning of sod houses. Current statutes read: A chaste woman shan’t ride alone in a closed carriage …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — A Net Loss

The FCC appears ready to roll back net neutrality rules in December. I know your eyes are glazing over, but hang with me just a second, and let me tell you how this will be good for you. (Silence.) OK, it won’t actually be good for you. Not at first, anyway. But in the same way that tax breaks for …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Thanksgiving Again

I love Thanksgiving. It’s got all the best aspects of Christmas, without the pressure of having to buy gifts. You plop your sweet potatoes on the table and you’re pretty much done. All you’ve got to do the rest of the day is burp and fall asleep on the couch in front of a Detroit Lions game. Most years, that …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Things That Puzzle Me

Admittedly, I’m easily puzzled. Therefore, I ought to be able to come up with a column on that topic. Even if I’m trying to write next to a guy noshing airport sushi while I’m waiting for a flight back to North Dakota. The first thing that puzzles me is why I’m leaving Los Angeles this soon, knowing full well I’m …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Potpourri

One of Us The other day, I ran into a friend who wondered why I couldn’t get with the program, like the rest of the Republicans in my neck of the woods. I explained I’m not really anti-Republican, I am pro-common sense. Since these days we are entitled to our own facts, along with entire networks to support them, please …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — How Well Do You Know Current Events?

Hey folks, it’s been awhile, and I sense my readers slacking off. Have you been paying attention to current events? The news has been particularly newsy as of late. Actually, I was holding off writing this since there were rumblings about the apocalypse happening Saturday. Bummer. Now, I have to write a column, and I suppose, pay my bills. OK, …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Hurricane Donald

A big wind made landfall last Wednesday in North Dakota, and when I woke up the next morning, North Dakota was great again. A KX News morning show anchor giddily recounted her excitement about President Trump’s visit and how she and her family had gone out to “show our love for the president.” I was a little surprised her objective …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Bully For Billy

If you didn’t like Billy Kretschmar, the fault was not his. Billy was a fixture in the North Dakota House of Representatives from 1974 to 2016, with one lost election in between, and during that time, most politicians would have developed fierce enemies. If Billy had them, I don’t know who they are. When I deconstructed his career in a …