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.

“How dare you!”

The woman confronted Howard Bashford in San Francisco’s Civic Center, challenging him for marching with a picket sign which said on the front, “A Most Precious Freedom.”

What had roused her ire was the device employed as a kind of finial atop the picket – a McDonald’s Happy Meal box.

“Is the Happy Meal a most precious freedom?” she demanded. “Don’t you care about children’s health?”

“No to the first and yes to the second,” Howard replied mildly.

“Happy Meals are unhealthy,” the woman declared. “If you cared about children’s health, you wouldn’t be pushing fat-laden, high-calorie food on them with slick marketing using … using … toys!”

She spat the last word as though it were some kind of curse.

“That’s not exactly …” Howard began, but the woman was on a roll.

“Childhood obesity is an epidemic,” she said. “That’s why our Board of Supervisors says you can’t use toys to sell fast food unless the meal has reduced sodium, sugar and fat.”

“I thought parents bought those meals,” Howard said. “San Francisco’s new rule puts the city in charge instead of parents.”

“Parents?” said the woman. “Parents already have shown they’re irresponsible by buying these meals in the first place. The ordinance is the best protection for the kids. As Supervisor Eric Mar said, ‘This is a simple and modest policy that holds fast-food accountable and it allows toys with kids’ meals if basic nutritional standards are met.’

“Yet here you are, advocating unhealthy food as ‘a most precious freedom.'”

“No I don’t,” said Howard, who turned and walked away so the woman could read the back of his picket sign.

It said, “The Freedom to Make Mistakes.”

Go part-time: Let us quote Kahlil Gibran, who declared: “He brings disaster upon his nation who never sows a seed, or lays a brick, or weaves a garment, but makes politics his profession.”

This comes to mind because California’s budget woes, briefly submerged by the adoption of a smoke-and-mirrors financial plan shortly before the election, are back – with calculations that the state’s shortfall already stands at about $25 billion.

We continue to maintain that the solution is to return to a part-time legislature – maybe a unicameral one – so lawmakers would have to live with the costs they impose on ordinary citizens. Right now, the Golden State is run by professional politicians, many of whom never have sowed a seed, laid a brick, wove a garment or held any other real job.

Free Keith Olbermann! Anybody who has watched Keith Olbermann’s program on MSNBC would have to say that his leftist politics were undisguised. Apparently the only people unaware of his political bent were the brass at NBC News. They were shocked and morally offended that he gave money to Democratic candidates in this month’s election. Hence, the powers that be meted out a suspension.

The contributions violated an NBC News policy against actions that might jeopardize a news persons “standing as an impartial journalist.” As Olbermann – like most network news anchors – didn’t have such standing in the first place, his punishment seems out of line.

Perhaps, like the fired National Public Radio commentator Juan Williams, Olbermann can get a fat contract with Fox News, where he would gain a substantially larger audience.

Asia trip prediction: We’re unable to determine exactly how expensive President Obama’s Asia tour was, but we know it was costly. A year from now, when statistics show that United States exports to India have shown no more than minuscule growth, we can expect President Obama to offer the same kind of justification for the trip that he has used for his failed “stimulus” spending: “Our balance of payments would have been much worse without it.”

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