Commentary: 2011 offered very few great, historic moments

The Miami HeraldDecember 26, 2011 

I knew 2011 was going to be one of those years when I wrote a column saying that $80 billion of proposed federal bailout money to the U.S. Postal Service was a useless subsidy to “a dying ink-on-paper technology in an electronic world.”

I got more than 100 bitter complaints from postal workers . . . every single one of them delivered by e-mail. At least the postal workers were mostly civil.

The hundreds of complaints I got from lawyers after I wrote about frivolous lawsuits in pursuit of jackpot justice were so scatological that I’m now pretty certain law schools must offer elective courses in biology, because I have never heard so many richly descriptive references to such obscure corners of the digestive tract, nor such detailed instructions for how to insert my head into them.

And even as the lawyers were proclaiming that in the majesty of the law, there is no such thing as a frivolous lawsuit, news broke out of a Chicago suburb of two children in their 20s suing their mother for serving them bad birthday cake and setting curfews for them in high school. The kids’ attorney is their divorced dad.

So it went in 2011, a year that was definitely in need of colonic irrigation.

Consider:

• Your tax money at work: The National Institutes of Health — that’s our NIH, the one in Washington D.C. — put up $1.44 million in federal funds for a study of the “social milieu” of male prostitutes in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Meanwhile, the Department of Housing and Urban Development gave a grant for job training for HIV/AIDS victims to a Washington D.C. company called Miracle Hands, which used it to open a strip club.

Not to be outdone in getting a bang for the taxpayer buck, NIH’s cousins at the National Science Foundation funded a study on Jell-o wrestling at the South Pole, an experimental “robot hoedown and rodeo” and a test of the performance of sick shrimp on treadmills. Pushing the frontiers of human knowledge, the researchers found that sick shrimp “did not perform as well and did not recover as well from exercise as healthy shrimp.”

• The dawn of Obamacare: In Marin County, Calif., a woman called for an ambulance after her husband fell in their home. But he said he was OK and declined a ride to the hospital. Sheriff’s deputies ordered him to go anyway, and when he refused, they Tasered him.

• Great moments in national security I: The CIA set up a task force to measure the damage caused by the dump of 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. It’s called the WikiLeaks Task Force, or WTF.

• Great moments in national security II: The U.S. Senate, after learning that the Navy SEALS used “Geronimo” as a code name for their operation to kill Osama bin Laden, announced hearings on “inappropriate uses of Native American icons.”

• Great moments in national security III: As part of President Obama’s policy of openness and transparency, the National Security Agency declassified a book on cryptology written by a German law professor in 1809. That was no doubt a relief to Google Books, which several years earlier had gotten a copy out of a public library, digitized it and published it on the Internet.

• Occupy Michael Moore: When documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, during an appearance on CNN, praised the Occupy movement and its denunciations of the plutocratic swine who make up the richest 1 percent of Americans, host Piers Morgan noted that Moore himself is part of that 1 percent. “Of course I’m not,” Moore said.. “How can I be in the 1 percent?” Replied the puzzled Morgan: “Because you’re worth millions!”

• CSI, Canada: When a Minnesota woman drove her minivan across the border to Manitoba, alert Canadian border agents spotted a jar of sinister black liquid and arrested her immediately as a heroin trafficker. Twelve days later she was released after lab tests revealed the liquid to be an exotic substance often mistaken for heroin, motor oil.

• Joe Biden take note: A Zimbabwe man went to jail for 10 days for using a toilet reserved for President Robert Mugabe.

• The continuing perfidy of George Bush: Noting sternly that Iraq’s central bank has been painted in bright red candy-cane stripes, The New York Times reported that that Baghdad “faces a new scourge: tastelessness.” But, The Times added, the Iraqis are not to blame: “Government officials say they do not have strong enough laws to police the look of Baghdad, as Mr. Hussein once did.”

• Sounds like a case for the NSF: Headline in the London Daily Mail: Why Zombie Ants Infected by Mind-Controlling Fungus Always Kill Themselves at High Noon

• Write your own punchline: New York Post headline: Bill Clinton says wife Hillary ‘just wants a good night’s sleep.'

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