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Washington Sketch

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The Washington Sketch finds a grave new economic indicator: Even the funeral business is getting buried. Perhaps heaven should decrease it's admission fee?Video by Gaby Bruna/washingtonpost.com

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Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, April 3, 2009; 12:00 PM

Post columnist Dana Milbank serves as the capital's foremost critic of political theater in his Washington Sketch columns, videos and blog posts. He was online Friday, April 3 at 12 noon ET to take your questions and comments about the things politicians say -- and the absurd ways they find to say them.

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Dana Milbank:

Good afternoon, dear Sketchreader.

Your Sketchwriter is feeling uncharacteristically rosy about the state of the world. The queen has hugged the first lady. The president has had one of the best moments of his presidency in Strasbourg (my favorite line: "I think that it is important for Europe to understand that even though I'm now president and George Bush is no longer president, al Qaeda is still a threat, and that we cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected as president, suddenly everything's going to be okay."). And, best of all, Ted Stevens, an American hero and great friend of the Washington Sketch, is a free man.

Please tell me what is troubling you so I can shed this unseemly cheerfulness.

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Pt. Reyes Station, Calif.: In the face of the hubris of people like Greenberg, what are the options for recovering even a pittance of the money they have stolen? The only solace I can think of is that these people will survive the coming catastrophes and be left on a degraded planet, without food, and have only the greediest, fattest and ugliest humans left for comfort.

washingtonpost.com: AIG Founder Perfects the Fault Swap (The Washington Post, April 3, 2009)

Dana Milbank:

In the spirit of good cheer that I find myself in today, I should point out that much of Hank Greenberg's fortune has been lost, because a lot of it was in AIG stock. That said, AIG is going after him for the modest sum of about $4 billion. I think there are better chances of your apocalyptic solution coming to be than the public prying any wealth out of the likes of Greenberg.

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Kensington: Wow, Ben Cardin turns up in your paper two days in a row! (Yesterday in your sketch, and today in his Op-Ed.) What's going on? I know he was conserving his energy the last two years, but this sudden explosion of ideas is overwhelming.

Dana Milbank:

He has just proposed a bailout for the newspaper industry, so we are feeling very friendly toward him.

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Chicago: Could you please comment on John Harwood's toupee, or lack thereof. If you have seen him without it, could you comment on that as well?

Dana Milbank: I have never touched those luscious locks, but I think they might be real because Harwood is a big dancer and the toupee would probably get knocked out of place at his dance parties.

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Boston, Mass.: So, Dana, do you want to be cremated and save your family a few bucks or do you want to subsidize the funeral owners and go all out with an expensive casket and food/drink spread?

washingtonpost.com: Funeral Business Feeling Six Feet Under (The Washington Post, April 1, 2009)

Dana Milbank:

I have left my funeral arrangements up to Tom Edsall, formerly of the Washington Post and now of the Huffington Post. I'm hoping he'll throw the party at the University Club, where he is a member.

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Columbus, Ohio: From whom are we borrowing the money to pay for the promised "trillion dollar international stimulus" and the just passed new Obama budget?

No one EVER answers this question.

washingtonpost.com: Bricka Bracka Firecracker, Sis Boom Bah! (The Washington Post, April 2, 2009)

Dana Milbank:

The Chinese people have generously agreed to lend money for the stimulus. My own share of it is being financed by a Mr. Chen and a Mr. Li, proprietors of a dry goods business in Shanghai.

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Washington, D.C. : John Harwood's toupee has nothing on Peter Orzag's.

Dana Milbank: I have noticed that Orszag is no longer shaving the sides of his head. I suspect he is doing this as a way to hide some debt in there behind his ears.

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DC: Dana, I thought your Sketch about the death industry was an April Fool's Day gift to us. Was it real? Say it ain't so....

Dana Milbank:

Yes! It just slays me that the death business wanted a bailout in the stimulus bill. And, be assured, dear readers, everything in my sketches is, sadly, 100 percent true (and if I screw something up, like the number of Claire McCaskill's Twitter followers, we run a correction).

The percentage of truth in my online chats is slightly lower.

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Northern Virginia: Well, Dana, I think it's obvious what's troubling all of us! The leader of the free world has a cold! I may not be president, but at least I get to stay home when I'm under the weather.

With all the handshakes, I can't help but wonder if the entire G-20 leadership will be sniffling in about four or five days, taking this thing planet-wide. I assume the Queen uses a hand-cleaner gel, though, so I'm hoping she's okay.

Dana Milbank: Thank heavens it's not one of those stomach bugs that wipes out an entire cruise ship. If he went to the summit with that it could be considered bio-terrorism.

_______________________

Atlanta.: Silly person. We're just printing more. Which is what is making the Chinese ANGRY. They know this will devalue our currency, and they have A LOT of it. Should we make the Chinese angry? They do have a large army.

Dana Milbank:

This is probably why Mr. Chen and Mr. Li of Shanghai have required me to denominate my share of the federal debt in Renminbi.

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Des Peres, Mo.: My lasting image of this trip abroad was that of Michelle and Barack towering not only over the queen, but even Prince Philip. Who knew they were such pipsqueaks? Maybe that's why visitors are supposed to keep their distance (and walk backwards??)?

Dana Milbank: I had that same impression of Philip. Possibly he shrunk. Or possibly the other photos of him that I've seen have him with only the queen, or on a horse.

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Evanston, Ill.: Hey Dana, just because Stevens got off on a technicality you still think he is guilty right? How does this incident fit into the Republican politicized justice department narrative? I mean, shouldn't this have happened to Chris Dodd?

Dana Milbank: Well, certainly he is guilty of taking the shiatsu massage lounger. Whether that was worthy of a prosecution is another matter. I'm quite certain that, even with the prosecutorial misconduct, he wouldn't have been convicted if he hadn't gone on the stand and started berating everybody but the court clerk.

As for Mr. Dodd-- I wouldn't be surprised if the people exact some rough justice on him in 19 months.

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Westwood, Mass.: Do you consider yourself a "newspaperman" or a "multimediaman"? Multimediaman sounds more superhero-like. What do you think?

Dana Milbank:

Mostly these days, my most treasured title is "employed."

That said, stay tuned for a regular new video Chris "Fix-it" Cillizza and I will be putting together for Washingtonpost.com.

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Pittsburgh: Just because charges against Ted Stevens have been dismissed, that doesn't mean he's innocent of any or all of those things there was evidence of. Any chance charges could be properly re-filed against him?

Dana Milbank: Didn't sound like Holder was about to let that happen.

I promise you, however, that if there is ever again a Ted Stevens trial, your Sketchwriter will be providing 24-hour Twitter coverage of it.

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Serious funeral biz question: Was there any talk about green funerals a la Six Feet Under? I guess the standard funeral business would be against them since there is no large expense for caskets and embalming fluids.

Dana Milbank:

In fact there was! They are increasing in frequency. Chemical-free preparation, biodegradable shroud, etc. They also mentioned people being cremated and buried in the woods, but I'd think your carbon would be released into the atmosphere in that case unless the crematory had some sort of carbon capture process. Maybe like clean coal technology?

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Chicago, Ill.: Dana - I was a little upset that there was nothing Blago related from you this morning. I do hope you will be in town for the trial. (Yes, I emailed Curran.) I could probably put you up on my couch if you needed somewhere to crash.

Dana Milbank: Yes, readers, it is that time in the chat for a commercial for Post political editor Tim Curran, eligible bachelor.

_______________________

Florida chick: Tell this poster writing in about her sister, a Richmond vet, to back off your editor, Curran. I call dibs. He'd make a juicy boy toy. I have it on good authority that the vet has lolibacillosis and campylobater. Plus a lot of weird stuff on the soles of her shoes. I'm a better bet. I can show Curran what's what.

Dana Milbank:

In fact, Florida, I think the nameplate on his desk should say "juicy boy toy."

Tim has expressed some displeasure with these chats, even suggesting that the Bravo channel has contacted him about his love life (but I think this had something to do with April Fools). Still, I think an email from "Florida chick" and others would help the situation.

currant@washpost.com

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Green funeral: Allow me to coin a new term --

Clean soul technology: cremation with carbon capture.

Dana Milbank:

Inspired.

I should mention that it has often been remarked that it is a very clever band of readers who participate in these chats. Truth be told, more clever than the chatter himself. I wonder if there is some way to harness this potential and, say, assign readers to be guest Sketchwriters for a day while I go and catch up on other things, such as getting drunk. Any suggestions of how we could arrange this would be most welcome.

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Funerals and newspapers: Juxtaposing the two, isn't the obits section of a newspaper one of the more profitable? Better hope obits don't completely migrate online as well...

Dana Milbank: Well, there's a small bit of good news there: The readers of obits tend to be our oldest readers, who are the least likely to go online. See? I am cheerful beyond all reason today.

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Curran, T: I need a real pic of him before considering setting him up with my smoking hot sister.

Dana Milbank:

Here you go:

http://www.boardom.com/surf/Who%27s%20Hot/Tim%20Curran.htm

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Atlanta: Dana Milbank: "In fact there was! They are increasing in frequency. Chemical-free preparation, biodegradable shroud, etc. They also mentioned people being cremated and buried in the woods, but I'd think your carbon would be released into the atmosphere in that case unless the crematory had some sort of carbon capture process. Maybe like clean coal technology?"

Actually, Mr. Milbank, that's how Jews are buried. Pine coffin, no extravagance, even the 'nails' are wood -- so it all biodegrades (although I don't think that it actually says that in the Bible). But it's to say we're all the same when we die, and we all decompose, and we're all honorable, etc., when we're dead.

Dana Milbank: Yes, and I believe cremation is frowned upon.

As a member of the tribe, I submit this as a potential selling point. "Jews: We're compostable."

_______________________

Green funerals (seriously): Before an inlaw who was a Baha'i convert died, she left us instructions for her body to be wrapped in a shroud she left with us for safe-keeping until the time came, for her body to be placed in the plainest coffin (as bio-degradable as the law allows), and to be buried within 24 hours of her death. Our local funeral home had never done a Baha'i procedure before, but respectfully followed her instructions, and it all worked out for the best.

Dana Milbank:

I had no idea when I started this chat that it would turn into a discussion of comparative funeral rituals. I will say that I had to read your comment twice and was relieved to realize you were not saying that the shroud your in-law left you for safekeeping did not include the body.

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Pic of Tim: Sorry, I am not believing this.

Dana Milbank:

Try this one, in the 145-pound division:

http://sports.sdpb.org/archive/0102/boys/wrestling/b/champ.htm

_______________________

I wonder if there is some way to harness this potential: We only have to be clever for a few sentences. You are clever for a few hundred words at a time. No comparison. At your feet we tremble and quake.

Dana Milbank: Thank you, though I am not convinced. I think, say, 20 people being clever in 40 word bursts would be much better than me blathering on for 800 words. We've got to figure out a way to do this, sort of a Wiki-sketch.

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Open source Sketching: Give us the marching orders and we will work up the snark. You seem to have a rather robust Chicago contingent if you need us to show up at a Blago press conference. Can you get us credentials?

Dana Milbank:

I think we're onto something here.

I'll think up a Sketch to write for next week, then solicit lines from you, the reader. We'll call it Etch-a-Sketch and I will try to get Tim Curran to publish it in the next day's paper. I think he will be more favorably disposed toward this idea if he has a couple of dates before then. currant@washpost.com

Thanks for chatting.

_______________________

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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