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.

Environmental analyst Howard Bashford offers a suggestion for President Barack Obama’s health-care summit: “Let all parties agree no bill should be longer than the Constitution.”

“This is a very ‘green’ idea the president should embrace because it will save our forests,” said Bashford. “The Senate version of his health-care ‘reform’ bill was about 2,500 pages long. Providing copies to 100 senators and 435 representatives – plus additional copies for the staff members who actually read it – led to the clear cutting of about 700 acres of prime timber in eastern Washington state.”

“Consuming that much paper not only destroyed spotted owl habitat, it provided cover for some legislators’ nefarious intentions,” said Bashford, waxing partisan. “It was so huge, it concealed more evil buffoonery than, well, the health-care takeover Democrats tried to foist on the country in 1993-94.

“You could say, you couldn’t see the farce for the trees.”

As we groaned, Bashford continued, “If the Republicans are smart – hey, it could happen – and environmentally responsible, they’ll push for a series of concise bills targeting specific problem areas. They should insist all bills be written in plain English. They should insist on a rule that representatives and senators read a bill before voting on it. Perhaps a qualifying quiz on content would be in order.

“These are ‘green’ suggestions all Americans can support.”

“How are they ‘green’?” we asked.

“They not only would save paper and trees,” Bashford replied, “they would let American’s keep more green stuff in their wallets.”

From Webster’s New World Dictionary:

retardedadj. Slowed or delayed in development or progress, esp. because of mental retardation. – SYN. Stupid.

retardn. … 2. a) a retarded person (an offensive term of contempt) b) a stupid or foolish person.

Here we have an interesting pair of words, derived from the same Latin root that gives us tardy.

They are particularly interesting because, depending upon context, they may be either acceptable or offensive.

Thus, when President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, refers to some Democrats as “f—ing retards,” the usage is taboo. (As is the “f—ing,” of course.) On the other hand, it is perfectly all right for a psychologist to refer clinically to a person as “mentally retarded.”

Because of the unfortunate currency of the former usage, mental health professionals, parents of retarded children and folks who care about peoples’ feelings have advanced other terms, principally “developmentally delayed.”

Lately, commentators have taken to calling “retarded” “the ‘r’ word,” as though it were equal in negative impact to the “n” word. And why are commentators commenting on the matter? Because “retarded” and “retard” have become salient in the realm of politics. First came the leak of Emanuel’s characterization of fellow party members. The mainstream media would have let the matter drop after a day or so, but commentators of the right, such as Rush Limbaugh, used the lapse to cudgel Emanuel.

Then voices of the left, who have the sense of humor of a carp, couldn’t let it alone. They countered that if Emanuel had to apologize, Limbaugh also should apologize. The reasoning ran thus: Emanuel used the term “retard” negatively, then apologized. Limbaugh quoted Emanuel, and since the term as quoted was pejorative, Limbaugh also should apologize. Such is the nature of “progressive” logic.

Emanuel not only apologized to “disability advocates,” he also promised to help end the use of “retard” and “retarded.” He went so far as to pledge that he would examine legislation banning those words in federal law.

Now, “retarded” is a perfectly good word, even if one agrees it should not be used as a synonym for “stupid.” After all, many smart people do stupid things. Rahm Emanuel is an excellent example. Further, many individuals who are technically retarded have an abundance of common sense and consideration for others.

Nevertheless, the feel-good lobby is going after the word in all its applications, and Emanuel, to rehabilitate his “progressive” credentials, has joined the effort.

This is entirely consistent with a defining characteristic of the left, the impulse to censor. In the case of the president’s chief of staff, we should grant his wish to some extent. Let’s just call him “developmentally delayed.”

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