Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include 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.

In the spirit of brotherly love and the Christmas season, we present this year’s Lump of Coal Awards. These are not made in anger, but in the spirit of the season, with hope those who have transgressed various rules (of which we are the sole arbiter) will see the light of reason, repent and amend their ways.

On the linguistic front: lumps of coal go to all writers who think “epicenter” is somehow more central than “center.” It isn’t. Likewise, we send lumps of coal to all broadcasters who think “jewelry” is pronounced “jew-LER-y.”

A minor Lump of Coal goes to Gen. Michael V. Hayden for wearing his military regalia while serving as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He may be justifiably proud of his Air Force blue, but he’s running a civilian outfit now. General, shed those four stars, and go forth in the Washington, D.C., uniform: pin-striped suit, white shirt, solid-color or regimental-stripe tie, dark socks and wing-tip shoes.

A jagged chunk of anthracite goes to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for advancing the proposition that the state has an interest in your body and, therefore, may control it. Newsom wants to tax sugary soda pop because it can make people fat and because fat people – he says – cost the city millions of dollars in health care. Next, he’ll be going after fast-food restaurants.

But wait! Los Angeles is beating him to it. Therefore, Newsom must break off a piece of coal and send it south to the L.A. City Council, which has been considering a moratorium on permits for fast-food eateries in the city’s South Central district – because fast food can make you fat, fat is unhealthy and … you know where this is going.

USA Today quotes Gwendolyn Flynn of L.A.’s Community Health Councils: “We’re in a region we consider “resource poor” where wholesome, nutritious foods are concerned. We have a saturation of fast-food restaurants in South L.A.” (Hey! Saturated fast!).

“I don’t think we can ever legislate what people eat,” the Los Angeles Times quoted a councilwoman’s aide. “We can put policies in place to give people more choices because more choices can mean healthy eating.”

Send this bureaucrat an extra lump for reasoning that limiting choice expands choice.

Philadelphia’s Commission on Human Relations gets a hunk of lower-grade lignite for persecuting cheese-steak entrepreneur Joe Vento.

Vento posted signs in his Geno’s Steaks restaurant, noting “This is America” and asking customers to order in English. Commission staffers found this discriminatory.

Commission witness Camille Charles, who compared Vento’s posters to the “whites only” signs of a racist past, said, “The signs give a feeling of being unwelcome and being excluded.”

Charles gets to share the commission’s coal in part because she is a sociology professor, and in part because she is so in touch with “feelings.”

Coal of the bituminous variety shall smudge the stocking of ABC’s Barbara Walters, for implying it was wrong for President George W. Bush to send Christmas cards with a verse from scriptures. She asked her associates on “The View,” “Don’t you think it’s a little interesting that the president of all the people is sending out a religious Christmas card?” Imagine, a religious Christmas card!

(Having often heard of Walter’s program, we finally tuned in and were treated to a spectacle not unlike feeding time at a poultry farm. We would provide ABC a Lump of Coal for broadcasting this tripe, except it may be helping to keep airheads off the streets.)

Although its own coal reserves are extensive, we are sending a lump of America’s best to the entire nation of Canada for countenancing and codifying the grossest kind of censorship. Of course, the censors just want to keep people from hurting one another’s feelings.

You might argue that this award should go solely to the nation’s Human Rights Commissions, dispensaries of feelings-based suppression, but the denizens of the Great White North not only put up with abridged freedom of expression (including uncomfortable truth) but approve of it (If you don’t think it can happen in the United States, see the Philadelphia item above).

To the rest of you, no coal, but all good wishes for a joyous Christmas – regardless of your religious beliefs.

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