Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns are satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

Anybody know how big California is?

The media keep telling us Iraq is “about the size of California,” so, for those of you who have not visited the Golden State, allow me to provide a bit more detail: California is one honkin’ big place.

“Honkin’ big” is a notch above “whopping” and, in California’s case, translates to a bit less than 159,000 square miles. This means that if you win a weekend mini-vacation in Palm Springs, as we did once, plan to leave the San Francisco Bay area early and to lunch in Bakersfield. For the whole trip, figure about 10 hours on the road.

It takes that long at freeway speed, with nobody shooting at you (unless you to traverse Los Angeles). America’s armed forces pretty much wrapped up Iraq in 17 days – at an M1A1 tank’s plodding speed with people shooting at them.

Experts we have consulted say that gaining control of Iraq’s 171,000-plus square miles in this amount of time is the equivalent of conquering France, which is a third bigger than California, in six days. (OK, so it’s a cheap shot.)

America’s success has confounded the media pundits who whined, after we had been in the cradle of civilization for just a week, that the war was “not going well.”

Ever quick on their feet, they have switched from hand-wringing over the sluggish pace of the war to hand-wringing over the difficulties of “winning the peace.” There is just no pleasing some people.

Department of Inadvertent Honesty

Harry Belafonte, a great artist but not a great geopolitical thinker, let the truth slip out in an interview prior to his scheduled appearance Saturday at an Oakland, Calif., anti-war rally.

Bemoaning the lack of charismatic leadership in the so-called peace movement, he said, “We have never, ever been without a national voice of the left.”

“Voice of the LEFT”?! And you thought the anti-war movement cut across the political spectrum. If a conservative had said this, it would have been called red baiting.

Belafonte added, “Many of the progressive voices who have been leaders in the past have been co-opted by more conservative forces in this country.”

Progressive voices”?!

May I have a show of hands by all who would not like to be thought of as progressive? Come on: All of you who are against progress, put ’em up.

Whenever you see the word “progressive” in the news, you can figure you’re reading the output of a lazy journalist who lets socialists substitute this propaganda term for what they really represent.

And about this “co-opted” thing. Perhaps Mr. Belafonte should consider the possibility that leaders have not been as much co-opted as persuaded. The fact that for nearly 40 years the “progressive” programs that began with the “War on Poverty” have essentially failed might be taken as a pretty good argument for the “more conservative forces.”

Forging onward: The left, as Mr. Belafonte so honestly describes it, has not desisted from its bleating about the “right-wing media,” which is the latest stalking horse of the progressives. In a recent panel discussion at the university where I teach, a couple of faculty members placed the New York Times under the “right-wing” rubric.

They repeated the rhetoric I first heard (on a college campus, of course) in the late ’70s. Allow me to condense the reasoning for you: The media are owned by old, conservative, white men. Journalists wish to advance in their careers. Therefore, journalists – all venal cowards – produce news that fits the views of old, conservative, white men.

Grabs the old gag reflex, doesn’t it?

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