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 current Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gary Emineth, Barack Obama is a POS, which, as he explained, means:
A. Point of Sales.
B. Power of Satan.
C. Pinnacle of Success.
D. Pisces or Sagittarius.

2. Things you can get for $37,000 in North Dakota:
A. Eventually, an ounce of medical marijuana.
B. Forgiveness.
C. One-third of the Industrial Commission.
D. An ethics commission.

3. What the hell is going on with Wall Street?
A. The president is in bigly charge of your 401k.
B. Thanks, Obama.
C. Hillary’s emails.
D. Don’t worry, the billionaires will land on their feet.

4. Things in the Democrats’ Even More Secreter Memo than the Republicans’ Top Secret Memo that cannot be revealed:
A. Batman’s secret identity.
B. Valerie Plame’s secret identity.
C. The president’s secret tax returns.
D. KFC’s 11 secret herbs and spices.

5. Former President Bush said it is obvious that Russia:
A. Meddled in the election.
B. Is not to be trusted just because it starts with an “R.”
C. Makes good salad dressing.
D. Is laughing her ass off.

6. According to FactCheck.org, Heidi Heitkamp wasn’t high-fiving Chuck Schumer after a Senate vote on reproductive rights, she was:
A. Giving him the secret Illuminati handshake.
B. Trying to bring America down with her out-of-touch liberal policies.
C. Casting out demons.
D. Hailing a cab.

7. Reasons a parade in Washington, D.C., is such a great idea:
A. Convenient access to lots of military hardware, just like at Pearl Harbor.
B. Beats Viagra.
C. Trying to bait Nancy Pelosi into standing in front of a tank.
D. We could march them there illegal immigrants right out of here.

8. Things you can eat in Philadelphia:
A. Cheesesteak.
B. Tide Pods.
C. Horse apples.
D. Tom Brady’s lunch.

9. Reasons not to get a flu shot:
A. Last time I got one, my third cousin twice removed got sick.
B. Advised against it by an accredited Playboy bunny.
C. According to Gloria Copeland, you’ve been inoculated by Jesus for everything. Except HIV.
D. Natural selection.

10. What the groundhog saw:
A. The shadow government.
B. A shadow of a doubt.
C. Russian cinematography.
D. Elvis.

BONUS: Things better organized than the Democrats:
A. Demolition derbies.
B. SNAFU’s.
C. Recess.
D. Sheep.

OK That was a toughie. Shocked? Some of you look like you spent the night celebrating a Super Bowl win, or rioting on Wall Street. Let’s check your answers. 1. C; 2. D; 3. B; 4. A; 5. B; 6. B; 7. C; 8. D; 9. C; 10. C; Bonus: A.

Now for grading. 11-9 correct: How did you get your hands the Democrats’ memo? 6-8 correct: Very stable geniusing. 3-5 correct: I see you did this in crayon. 0-2 correct: Fret not, if you can cover tuition, you’ll still be able to get into Trump University.

© Tony Bender, 2018

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 to something from The Sex Pistols in a mosh pit.

Some had speculated the president would speak in Russian or maybe just plead The Fifth. But if you looked past the Mussolini jaw-jut and his clapping into the microphone, it was a strong “performance” that included numerous complete sentences.

He touted job growth — the most anemic in six years — but growth, nonetheless. He’d followed up on vows to cut regulations, harass immigrants, move the embassy to Jerusalem and restore Americans’ inalienable right to die uninsured.

He’d put someone to the right of Anthonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, with the appointment Mitch McConnell hijacked; the military has ISIS on the run, and the tax break fired up Wall Street. Pretty good stable geniusing.

Conversely, he was too busy golfing to enact sanctions on Russia. Other unfinished business includes firing everyone on the Russian probe.

Let’s go to the score card. So far, the FBI has recorded two guilty pleas, two indictments and a field goal. The president has sacked acting Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and threw incomplete trying to fire Robert Mueller.

The next time you get pulled over, tell the cop he’s fired. See how that works for you.

Meanwhile, the Democrats flunked Body Language 101. They sat and sulked through all the applause lines, thereby proving they hate God, America, cops, soldiers, capitalism, bootstraps, babies, puppies, kittens, sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, country music, assault rifles and Shirley Temple.

The sit-in was the most organized the Democrats have been all year, with the exception of the 15-minute holdout Chuck Schumer staged over the spending bill, which showed more fiscal discipline than we’ve seen in Washington since Andrew Jackson balanced the budget by selling land stolen from the Indians.

Schumer’s insolent slumping was absent only a black leather jacket and a smoldering Marlboro. Nancy Pelosi looked like a Holstein chewing a cud of lemons. Some Democrats even kneeled.

Even Melania threw shade, wearing a liberal white pantsuit and refusing to stand when the thrice-married kitty grabber talked about family values.

Almost as if she believes the fake news about her husband’s tryst with porn star Stormy Daniels, who has been googled more in recent weeks than Butterball at Thanksgiving.

“To put (white pantsuits) on a display like that at a joint session of Congress is undignified to say the least. It violates the common decency of the chamber,” Kevin Cramer said. Back when Democrats wore them.

It couldn’t have gone better for Republicans. Trump looked sane, Democrats like party-poopers. Sean Hannity was feeling so groovy, he loosened his tie at bedtime. Rush Limbaugh attempted a somersault that turned into a bizarre yoga move and a pulled hamstring.

The Democratic response came from either Conan O’Brien or Rep. Joseph Kennedy III. Apparently, Franklin Roosevelt IX was busy. It was a heartfelt speech from a millionaire in support of middle-class Americans, but too much Chapstick made it appear Kennedy was drooling. “Ask not what your country can drool for you, but what you can drool for your country,” someone tweeted.

Then, the president snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and released the Super Top Secret Memo intended to torpedo the FBI. It cited fake news magazine Mother Jones as one source. The theory is the FBI tried to get Hillary elected, a strategy that included announcing her newest email issues a week before the election.

Democrats claimed The Memo omitted contextual material. Republicans argued, “Hey, that’s how Fox News does it.”

Trump and Republicans, “must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows,” John McCain said. “If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

Paul Ryan said this was about transparency. Thus inspired, Trump immediately released his tax returns. Kidding.

The Memo revealed the FBI was tracking Trump campaign associate and Russianista Carter Page for years. That didn’t exactly restore confidence in All The President’s Men.

The Memo was released Thursday. On Friday, the stock market fell 666 points. Rattled conservative investors checked their 401Ks to see how many rubles they’d lost. Liberals checked their 420Ks. Evangelicals studied Revelations.

If you wanted more proof the universe speaks in metaphors, you need only consider the news the same day The Memo was released.

There was a train wreck involving Republican politicians. The Republican train ran over a garbage truck, killing a blue-collar worker.

There’s a headline that writes itself.

© Tony Bender, 2018

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 lived.

No, winter is a dying season. Impersonal statistics will bear that out. From December to March, more of us march to the grave than any other time and, if you had to pick one, January would be the cruelest month. It creates more tears than the rest — enough tears to grow tulips in the spring. Maybe that’s what T. S. Elliot was talking about — the memory of winter.

In small, rural newspaper offices in which I’ve spent too much time out of the sun, we don’t need statistics to know these things. It’s all too real. We must face the survivors.

I remember the first one, the trembling hand of a mother handing me an obituary of a teenage son thrown from his prized white pickup and crushed in a rollover. Interesting I should remember the color. In a kinder dimension, he’d be a father now and his children would be graduating from college. So much died with him that night. I still remember his face.

Little of the history we write in small-town newspapers will be broadly shared, but in these moments, we are reminded of its importance and again each summer, when pilgrims return to sift through old issues, searching for remnants of lives long at rest. History can be a grand analysis of broad cause and effect, changing geographies. But always, in the end, in the minutia of it all, it’s personal.

We try to be perfect when the type is set, but few publications are without error. The rule seems to be typos are never visible to the proofreader until there are thousands of copies memorialized forever in print. Gutenberg’s Curse.

But these memorials? We try especially hard to get it right. Long after our own ink has dried up and faded, searchers will come for the past, and they must trust that our work was true.

This week it was a thank-you, handwritten three times before it said as much as could be said, the dust of a husband’s fresh grave not yet settled.

A few weeks ago, it was another mother, an unexplainable cruel confluence of events and an unexpected funeral. This lost son had been born into challenges, one of those children God decides must forever remain a child, one of those rare creatures we love so much it hurts because they smile through adversity, not recognizing much of the time that it’s even there. Is that the lesson they bring to us — that if we don’t acknowledge hardship, it ceases to exist?

His picture was all teeth.

No one knows why he went for a walk on that bitter winter day, only that he didn’t come back.

“I thought of my brother Mike,” I told her.

“I did, too,” she said.

Lame “I’m sorry’s” leaked from my mouth. When she described how they had found him … alone … frozen … gone … that was it for me.

Sometimes we sweep the survivors up in a hug and our chests rattle and wheeze from the hurt, reminding us how impossible it is for these condolences, like the words in the obituaries, to ever say enough. But we have to try.

I’m not sure if pain is something that can be shared, a yoke harnessed to anything at all. Or if it is like a dark cloud billowing until it chooses to stop of its own malevolent whim. I only know it is in our willingness to share the pain that we are most human.

I was reminded of something I scribbled out a year ago after another such a moment:

He walked in slowly, stoically, with checkbook in hand to place a thank-you in the paper. I looked over the neat handwriting. He’d thanked all the people who had expressed sympathies, the pastor, the church ladies who had served the meal. The funeral home.

“$14.30,” I said.

“Is that all?” Because death comes at such a high cost.

He handed me the checkbook, and I filled in everything but the signature.

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

Silence.

“How long were you married?”

“Sixty-six years.”

I stopped and looked up at him. He had pale, gray eyes.

“That’s a long time. I’ll bet it’s pretty quiet around the house.”

His lip trembled. His eyes glistened.

I passed him the checkbook. He signed, struggled a bit to tear the check out cleanly. Her name was still on the check, too. Just a memory now. He neatly wrote the amount in the register.

Silence. He looked so thin.

“I’m really sorry,” I said.

A nod. He croaked out something. A lament. If tears have a sound then that is what they sound like. And then he walked out.

So thin.

Alone.

© Tony Bender, 2018

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 selling chicken breasts, some of which are not even discretely covered by buns. They sell chicken strips, too, which, frankly, is a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to chicken strippers. The next thing you know, they’ll be doing lap dances.

The point is at Chick-fil-A chickens have more rights than chicks. For the life of me, I can’t figure out if it’s liberalism or conservatism that has gone too far here.

The woman and her child (an accessory to the crime) argued breastfeeding in public is legal in North Dakota. The language of a 2009 statute reads, “If the woman acts in a discreet and modest manner, a woman may breastfeed her child in any location …” Well, that’s clear as mud. The restaurant owner apparently interpreted “discreet and modest” to mean you must use one of those portable ice shacks and maybe wear a burka.

One argument is Chick-fil-A, as a privately owned restaurant, has every right to refuse service for any reason. Kinda like Woolworth’s did back in 1960, when it banned topless black women. If this societal decay continues, eventually you’ll have to sell gay people cake.

In Wahpeton, it’s legal for women to display their breasts at the Oasis, but a lot of people think that’s a slippery slope, too. Exotic dancing is a well-known gateway drug to shagging porn stars. Presumably, lap dances fall somewhere in between.

I’ve never had a lap dance, but I’ve just added it to my bucket list. I’m willing to give it a go, unless it involves tap shoes or a River Dance. If that’s the case, I’d rather be smacked on the bottom with a copy of Forbes magazine.

I’ve long been a student of breastology. When I lived in Hettinger, N.D., we discussed the curious duality of breasts on the local radio station, KNDC. If you were a stripper, it was the Evil Breast. If you were feeding an infant, it was the Good Breast — at least until Chick-fil-A threw a wrench into that argument.

The show was called “BS in the AM,” for the triumvirate of Bender, Tom Secrest and Al McIntyre, the host and provocateur. Although that day, Ginger Arndorfer was the substitute host.

A neighboring town was in an uproar about a bar wanting to bring in strippers. I observed that you’d have to pay a cover charge to be offended. A flustered Ginger tried to change the subject, but Tom and I gleefully clung to the issue like a dog to a pork chop, or a baby to a nipple.

By the time the show was over, Ginger was red-faced and steaming and ratings were up. When we walked out of the studio, her husband was waiting for us in the lobby. He’d raced in chivalrously from the ranch, where he had been bench-pressing heifers, to defend her honor.

As Sir Arndorfer glowered down on me, Secrest stealthily put on his coat and hat and tip-toed out. Tom has never been noted for his feats of valor.

“You’re not going anywhere until you apologize to my wife,” the brave knight spake.

“Well, you’re going to be waiting a long time,” I said.

Because my mouth is tougher than the rest of me.

The next week, I was in “Apology Corner,” a long-running segment of the program, during which we were supposed to make amends for the things we’d said the week before. We had a sponsor and everything.

I said I was sorry women faced so much discrimination. A guy can walk around shirtless and a woman can’t? It doesn’t seem right. I mean, man-boobs are a thing.

For the record, the Chick-fil-A franchisee has apologized, too.

For an advanced country, we’re pretty uptight. And some North Dakotans are even uptighter. Cohabitation outside of marriage has only been legal here for 11 years and, even then, only as long as you keep your breasts in their holsters.

Maybe we should loosen up, like the Europeans. They’re naked all the time. Well, not the doughy, pasty-skinned British, but they should think about it. It would distract attention from their teeth.

© Tony Bender, 2018

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 she was finishing the Boston Marathon when she breathlessly announced in March that she had Donald Trump’s tax returns. From 2005. Yeah, and I have a ticket stub from that Air Supply concert in 1983. (The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can disrespect Air Supply all they want, but if there was more Air Supply music in our lives, opioid abuse would plummet. Just don’t operate heavy machinery after listening.)

Anyway, you know what’s coming — It’s the Official Tony Bender New Year’s Pop Quiz.

1. According to Chinese Astrology, 2018 will be:
A) The Year of the Dog.
😎 The Year of the Weasel.
C) The Year They Drove Old Dixie Down.
D) Better.

2. When exactly did America become great again?
A) Roy Moore loses in Alabama.
😎 Charles Manson dies, so he can’t be elected to anything in Alabama.
C) The clown from “It” loses narrowly in Alabama primary.
D) Auburn beats Alabama.

3. Things Cabinet members called the president last year:
A) Idiot.
😎  Moron.
C) Putz (golf terminology).
D) Comrade.

4. Conspiracy theorists are increasingly concerned about:
A) The Deep State.
😎 The Dip Stick.
C) Deepak Chopra.
D) Deep Dish Pizza.

5. Things that have changed:
A) Orange is the New Black.
😎 Orange is the New President.
C) Losing is the New Winning.
D) Fox is the New Pravda.

6. Things to be drained in 2018:
A) The Swamp.
😎 The Black Lagoon.
C) Your pocketbook.
D) The color from your face.

7. Top Excuses For Trump:
A) He was just kidding.
😎 He’s not a politician.
C) He’s not a sentient being.
D) Hillary’s e-mails.

8. Reasons the FBI probe should end now:
A) Let bygones be bygones.
😎 Trump bumped into Putin a few times, so collisions, yes. Collusion, no.
C) It’s expensive, and rubles don’t grow on trees.
D) We’re not done talking about Benghazi yet.

9. Changes of geography:
A) Jerusalem is the new capitol of Israel.
😎 Geographic center of North America moved from a Robinson bar back to Rugby, N.D.
C) Half of that ditch is now cropland.
D) Transgender Americans have no place to pee.

10. More likable than Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
A) A rabid skunk.
😎 Evil flying monkeys.
C) Vlad the Impaler.
D) Kidney stones.

BONUS: Proof global warming isn’t real:
A) It snowed.
😎 Dog paddling polar bears are imagining things.
C) Acidic oceans are caused by hippie freaks.
D) The poles can’t be melting because there are no poles because the earth is flat.

Answers: 1. C; 2. B; 3. D; 4. C; 5. D; 6. B; 7. C; 8. C; 9. A; 10. C; Bonus D. OK, let’s see how you did. 11-9 correct: Nice but don’t you have ulcers from keeping up on all of this? 6-8 correct: Fine, but an end zone celebration? Really? 3-5 correct: To take this test in Spanish, please press 2. 0-2 correct: Next time I’ll write slower so you can keep up.

© Tony Bender, 2018

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 — cluelessness, cowardice and political cynicism. We know U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer is a candidate to head the Ministry of Suck Ups, while U.S. Sen. John Hoeven remains in a fetal position under his desk. Really, that tax bill is good for North Dakotans? Really?

Gov. Doug Burgum saw which direction the wind was blowing last summer — down toward Hades — but endorsed Trump, anyway. I’d like to believe he was at least holding his nose. Here’s the thing about wetting your finger in the breeze — reinventing leadership requires bucking some headwinds.

The bully pulpit was invented here. You guys might want to look into that. Running with the herd ain’t leadership. You just step in a lot of cow pies. If Roy Moore’s defeat is any indication, the herd is starting to turn.

It’s unlikely Trump has the brainpower to calculate this strategy of division. He may just be a natural destroyer of worlds. An idiot savant with a black heart.

However, the Democratic “strategy” of “We’re Not Trump” isn’t inspirational, either. It may lead to gains in the midterms, but a coherent, less hypocritical message — like not giving $250,000 speeches on Wall Street — would do wonders. It’s the economy (of average Americans), stupid.

So far, Republicans have secured the tax bill and a transfer of more wealth from the middle to the top. You on the bottom? Sorry, your name didn’t come up. Please stop spending your money on booze, women and movies. You’ll need it for ramen. The self-induced deficits will be an excuse for gutting the social safety net.

Republicans, who are also held hostage by evangelicals, will cynically try to stick with President Machiavelli until they get a justice to overturn Roe v. Wade and put women firmly back in their places as second-class citizens — third-class if you’re a woman of color.

A good war could keep everyone distracted for a while. By then, the overheated stock market will have tanked; big banks will get bailed out again, but not mortgage holders. Bootstraps, people!

After that, Democrats will win more elections but will be rewarded with a big pile of dung. Then, as they did after Dubya, Republicans will induce mass amnesia and blame the mess on liberal policies. Demagogues will continue to tell white working-class families that they are paying to support a bunch of slacker minorities, while their pockets are being picked (again) for corporate welfare.

At least Trump will be safe from the estate tax. And we’re just fine with him monetizing the White House, even as he is neutered internationally by Russian blackmail.

State Media (Fox News) is building a case to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. If it happens, will the Republican majority finally do the right thing and defend democracy? Please.

You want to make big moral strides in America? Make this a drinking game. When Republicans do the right thing, you drink a shot. It will be drier than Prohibition. Jagermeister will be belly up by next Thursday.

Oh, and if you mention any of this, it’s fake news. Another proven tactic. Kill the messenger. Who needs objective journalists when we have stooges to tell us things we like to hear and remind us how enlightened our biases are? Please appeal to my uninformed vanity. Critical thinking is for losers.

Wanna fix it, people? Vote. Get out the vote. It works. See Alabama.

© Tony Bender, 2017

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 with a man who is not a relative.
  • She may, however, signal her status with a fan. Fanning slowly means, “I am engaged.” Fanning whilst disrobed suggests, “I am hotith to trotith.”
  • Gentlemen must remove spurs at the parlor door whilst courting.
  • And something about transgender outhouses.

The committee will watch a video, “U Can’t Touch This,” from noted ethicist M.C. Hammer. Later, there’ll be a debate — “Do’s and Don’ts” — between Roy Moore and R. Kelly. Mostly they’ll be discussing the do’s. Kelly got invited because there’s an R in his name. And finally, a slide show on Gadsden Mall hot spots and Moore’s plan to bring integrity back to the U.S. Senate.

Rules to be considered:

  • Don’t handle the hooters.
  • Don’t goose the caboose.
  • Don’t make a colleague walk on your back. Even if she’s a babe from your harem.
  • Don’t involve a houseplant in any of this.

Automatic door locks are verboten. Matt Lauer once trapped Willard Scott in his office and subjected him to hours of double-entendres about Smucker’s. If Lauer and Charlie Rose ever get together, some crap’s gonna go down.

Add Bill O’ Reilly, and, oh my … Seriously, what do you have to do that ends in a $32 million settlement? Does it even involve the same species?

North Dakota Republicans have so far resisted the formation of an ethics commission. First, they have to check with Petroleum Council President Ron Ness to see if it’s OK.

A puzzling Catch-22. If you have the ethics to form an ethics commission, you probably don’t need it. A chicken-and-egg thing. What comes first, the ethics or the commission? It’s right up there with quandaries like how in quantum mechanics, electrons can be in two places at the same time, and how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. The world may never know.

The Capitol is eagerly awaiting sexual harassment training. Some will be disappointed to learn it doesn’t involve an instruction manual.

Pop quiz questions:

  • Is she winking, or does she have something in her eye?
  • What was she wearing?

The state’s already facing a gender discrimination case against Higher Ed Chancellor Mark Hagerott, who is accused by fired vice chancellor Lisa Feldner of treating women like pets.

Hagerott is not accused of making any booty calls, though. Quite the contrary. He’s from the Mike Pence puritanical wing of politics. In these times, Pence may be on to something.

According to Feldner, Hagerott wouldn’t ride alone with single moms on his staff. She also claims Hagerott thought a drone flying outside the Capitol was operated by Russians and that the Chinese were hacking his emails. (Did recreational marijuana get approved in Bismarck while I wasn’t looking?)

Ed Schafer, who was interim president at the University of North Dakota, did try to influence the 2016 gubernatorial election. But, so far, no connections to Moscow. Fortunately, if Hagerott gets canned, Alex Jones is available and would be a welcome voice of reason. In Bismarck, he’ll be branded as a moderate.

Meanwhile, with Russiagate, we could see a Mike Pence presidency. He’d be the anti-Justin Timberlake. He’d bring chastity back. No skirts above the ankles.

Pence wouldn’t meet alone with Angela Merkel, or Theresa May, but a meeting with Kim Jong Un isn’t out of the question.

I’m glad tax “reform” passed before Russiagate explodes. Even if they had to pass it to see what’s in it. Which is how one might approach a bowel movement.

Call me when the swamp is drained.

© Tony Bender, 2017

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 ain’t hard to do.

Thanksgiving is so innocuous, not even Fox News gets upset if someone says “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Happy Thanksgiving,” even though they’re taking the “thanks” out of Thanksgiving.

Frankly folks, we’re not all that thankful these days and, anyway, who are we going to offend? Turkeys? Who cares? They won’t be around long to protest — except for the ones that get pardoned at the White House.

President Trump will pardon two turkeys this year — Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn, perhaps? It’s a tradition that’s been going on for 70 years (pardoning, not collusion, I mean.) If they try to get away, Trump will grab them by the giblets (the turkeys, I mean.)

Obama pardoned a whole herd of turkeys. He intends to keep right on giving pardons because, “I can’t go cold turkey.” Groan. Really, he said that.

This year’s turkeys come from western Minnesota. Minnesota leads the nation in turkeys and, no, it has nothing to do with Super Bowl performances. Minnesota has produced more turkeys than M. Night Shayamalan.

If you’re wondering, yes, the turkeys really are spared and spend the remainder of their lives being cared for at Virginia Tech by students and veterinarians, getting free health care. The turkeys in Congress get a 72 percent subsidy. Socialists.

I’m not sure what crime the Minnesota turkeys committed. But I can tell you for sure, this country is too soft on criminals. Unless it involves sexual harassment, which recently passed baseball and football as the national pastime.

It’s going to be uncomfortable around some tables this Thanksgiving. Is Al Franken really going to ask for the breast? Judge Roy Moore will want actual turkey eggs, because the younger, the better. And there’s no way I’m letting Harvey Weinstein stuff the turkey.

Everyone has their own special turkey recipe. Some brine the bird. Others love a deep-fried turkey. That method in particular is endorsed by the Garage Builders of America. I’ll bet you a dollar Menard’s sells turkey fryers with a coupon for 10-percent off on lumber. A fire sale.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, turkey fryers will cause more than $15 million in property damage this Thanksgiving. It’s pretty hard on the turkeys, too.

I’m full of turkey trivia. (Among other things.) Thanksgiving was invented by the Pilgrims when they came to America aboard the S.S. Minnow.

Ben Franklin, a Quaker — which is kind of like being a pilgrim, only without the hat — thought the turkey should be the national bird. You know, to represent the federal government. I guess it kind of worked out that way.

I’ve cooked a lot of turkeys over the years. Up until last year, though, I was thawing my turkeys in the sink. Much to the horror of my mother, who approached last Thanksgiving as one might climbing the steps to the gallows. If there was an epipen for e-coli, she would have had one.

I don’t think anyone ever died from my cooking. But if so, the statute of limitations has probably expired. For the record, though, I think it would be disrespectful to exhume the bodies.

My favorite part is the giblets. I think there’s an untapped market there. That’s how this whole buffalo wings trend started, right? The wings were the least- desirable part. Now, there’s a shortage, so they’re the most expensive part of the chicken. Chevys at Cadillac prices.

I’m thinking of setting up a kiosk next to Hickory Farms in the Gadsden Mall to sell giblets. I haven’t settled on a company name, yet. Giblets R Us? Blizzards of Gizzards? Rivers of Livers? The Gizzard of Oz? Or simply, Innards?

We could do bumper stickers: In Guts We Trust. And hats: Make America Queasy Again.

If a guy played his cards right, pretty soon you’d be sweating the estate tax. I can see it now … Gates: Microsoft. Bezos: Amazon. Buffett: Berkshire Hathaway. Bender: Gizzards.

Stranger things have happened.

Well, maybe not.

© Tony Bender, 2017

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 flying back into the teeth of a northern Plains autumn —  which in the perspective of Californians is Antartica in the dead of winter. They think we raise penguins. We should consider it. The pheasant count is down.

Had the Dodgers actually won Game 7 of the World Serious, I might have been tempted to stick around, so I could help tip over cop cars on Rodeo Drive.

After my visit, I’m also thinking about investing in Dow Chemical. Facts I made up show that a full 20 percent of your average Californian’s body mass is silicone. The balance is a combination of botox, Perrier and arugula. The only other place that has bigger boobs and more fake smiles is Washington, D.C.

I kid. As eclectic as California is, it’s a sane asylum compared to the rest of the world. I did check the news while I was gone and that led to a good deal of confusion.

Like why Donald Trump Jr. had to drag his daughter, Chloe, into a discussion about economics. All the kid really wanted to do was to go trick-or-treating on Halloween in her Marie Antoinette costume.

When you’re a Trump kid, it’s complicated enough. You end up with things like Krugerrands, Faberge eggs, caviar, covfefe and truffles in your Gucci bag — a serious bummer when you’re 3.

On the bright side, at least she isn’t saddled with having some weird name ending in “-vana” or “-vanka.” Unless her full name is Chlovanka, which sounds like a trendy social disease. Or the perfect place for a nuclear accident. Or a country bordering Nambia.

Inexplicably, her father used Halloween as an opportunity to disparage liberal kids who aren’t working hard enough. “I’m going to take half of Chloe’s candy tonight and give it to some kid who sat at home,” he tweeted. “It’s never to [sic] early to teach her about socialism.”

Uhh, I’m not an economist, but isn’t socialism like when you knock on doors and ask for a handout? Some people call it Halloween, others call it tax reform.

Speaking of which, I’m puzzled by the almost patriotic fervor among paycheck-to-paycheck Republicans in the Heartland who support the desperate need to eliminate the estate tax.

It affects just 5,000 millionaires and billionaires a year. I guess this is a minority outreach program. Well, you gotta start somewhere.

I’m puzzled, too, by the contradiction that some economic philosophers in Washington want a new tax “reform” plan that would offer an increased child tax credit, while simultaneously cutting safety net funding that feeds and insures children. How did they decide which one is welfare and which one is not?

The sales pitch on this tax plan is that it’s about job creation. But isn’t unemployment already at a 17-year low, at 4.1 percent? The only people not working are liberal children who are too lazy to even ask for a mini-Snickers bar at the neighbor’s house.

If we create any more jobs, everyone will have to start working two jobs. Hold it. I think that’s already a thing. Anyway, as a liberal slacker, I don’t want another job. My plan if things get tough? Go Fund Me.

Ultimately, I just don’t think I’m ready for America to be too great too soon. Maybe we ought to just ease into it — you know, do a little economic foreplay. I’ll leave it to you to continue the analogy.

Every tax cut from Kennedy to Reagan to Bush II has added to the deficit, but this time they say it’s going to work. Absolutely. No doubt. Pinky promise.

Even though Wall Street is roaring, I guess we need even more stimulus.

Personally, I’m worried. What’s this much stimulus going to do to Mike Pence? He may start calling his wife “Baby” instead of “Mother.” The good news is he probably won’t have to arrange conjugal visits through Bob Mueller.

Equally puzzling to me about this rush to tax “reform” are the Tea Party congressmen who were against deficits under Obama. Most have apparently signed on for $1.5 trillion added to the national debt. We could rename it the T.P. Party because that’s what you need when you’re so full of … of … tax reform, I guess.

My guess is the tax cut for the rich will just add to the debt. In a few years, Republicans will start wringing their hands and blaming the working poor on food stamps, who just aren’t Halloweening hard enough.

Maybe I’m too skeptical. Perhaps a few days in California has addled my once sound judgment.

I bet someone put something in my wine spritzer.

© Tony Bender, 2017

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, pencils sharpened, eyes straight ahead, here we go.

1. Under recent health care legislation, this is considered a pre-existing condition:

(a) Warts.

(b) Heebie jeebies.

(c) Boogers.

(d) Existing.

2. The most unpatriotic thing ever:

(a) Kneeling during the national anthem.

(b) Kneeling when Lee Greenwood sings.

(c) Five deferments.

(d) Buying “Make America Great Again” caps from Russia.

3. A contributing cause to more intense hurricanes:

(a) Gay pride.

(b) Insincere prayers.

(c) Al Gore.

(d) Cow farts.

4. Top Kim Jong-Un nickname:

(a) Rocket Man.

(b) Off His Rocker Man.

(c) Major Tom.

(d) Captain Fantastic.

5. Reasons the world didn’t end Saturday as predicted:

(a) The Almighty is still on the Julian Calendar.

(b) Not prudent without a health care bill in place.

(c) President Trump and Kim Jong-Un both golfing.

(d) Saving it for a Vikings Super Bowl win.

6. Reason President Trump disinvited the Golden State Warriors:

(a) Discovered they weren’t the Golden Showers Warriors.

(b) Hardly any white guys on the team.

(c) Too busy drinking covfefe in Nambia.

(d) He’s already hosted Frederick Douglass.

7. According to Hillary’s new book, she lost because:

(a) Deplorables vote.

(b) Unseemly references to her impeding coronation.

(c) Savvy book marketing strategy.

(d) Accidentally got Thomas A. Dewey’s playbook.

8. How did Miss North Dakota become Miss America?

(a) It’s just a matter of spelling, actually.

(b) Stole the other girls’ signs with an Apple watch.

(c) Never once mentioned lutefisk.

(d) She’s really swell.

9. The only thing scarier than the movie “It”:

(a) The Weather Channel.

(b) Al Carlson.

(c) Twitter at 3 a.m.

(d) Mike Zimmer.

10. Something whiny liberal snowflakes should do:

(a) Get a job.

(b) Get over it.

(c) Grow a pair.

(d) Don’t Bogart that joint.

BONUS QUESTION: A really cool name for a hurricane would be:

(a) Biff.

(b) Dweezil.

(c) Stormy.

(d) Hutch.

Answers: 1. d; 2. c; 3. a; 4. b; 5. a; 6. a; 7. c; 8. d; 9. c; 10. b; BONUS d. Grading 9-11 correct: You’ve clearly been keeping up. You must be a nervous wreck. 6-8 correct: In Nambia, this would be an A+. 3-5 correct: The important thing is you vote. 0-2 correct: Don’t worry, your preconceived notions will serve you well.

© Tony Bender, 2017