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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.

Howard Bashford, the Obama administration’s communications czar, was excited.

“I’m getting a new title,” he told us. “In the interest of the openness our president has advocated – literally from Day 1 – I’m going to be known henceforth as the minister of propaganda.”

We allowed that was pretty open, all right, and Howard may have caught a hint of irony, for he said, “Look, it’s really nothing new. Why, the Congressional Research Service estimates federal agencies spent $945 million on advertising contracts in fiscal 2010, and virtually every federal agency has a ‘presence’ on Facebook or Twitter – even YouTube.

“And then there are more than 1,500 government web domains, and uncounted thousands of sites on those domains. It’s all part of our openness agenda. Why, all of our president’s Cabinet agencies have one or more information initiatives.”

We asked Howard what his ministry’s goals might be, and he answered, “Well, as you know, we’re most concerned about the nation’s health, so you’ll be seeing a lot of ads about what to eat and what to avoid.

“For example, we’re working up a big campaign to address the problem of people swallowing those little packets of desiccant that come with cameras and electronic devices.”

“You mean, those packets prominently labeled, ‘DO NOT EAT’?” we asked.

“Don’t be snippy,” Howard frowned. “You have to remember, we and the unions have been running education for more than 50 years now, and a lot of people cannot read words of more than two letters.

“Our motivation is to keep people from getting sick, because when people get sick, they might go to emergency rooms for treatment because they might not have health insurance. Then we all pay. That’s why we also will have campaigns about the dangers of salt, sugar and saturated fat.”

We asked if people might find this meddlesome, but Howard said, “Not at all. The messages will be patriotic. Staying well is patriotic – see?”

The new propaganda minister became morose when we asked about the TV commercials featuring actor Andy Griffith, touting the joys to come under the Affordable Care Act.

“Those spots received undue criticism,” he said. “People called them propaganda, like that was a bad thing. My ministry will make clear that propaganda is just another word for information – a means of promoting governmental transparency.

“We expect this to go over will in our drive to explain the importance of state-provided nursery school for every child aged 2 to 5.”

“Why do we need that?” we asked.

“It’s so obvious,” Bashford said. “People don’t read, but for some reason, they’re still having children. As they know less and less about child rearing, it only makes sense for the state to take over as much of this function as possible.”

“Howard!” we said. “That sounds a lot like … uh … fascism.”

“Bad word!” he snapped. “We’re nothing if not concerned with the constitutionality of everything we do. You won’t find us doing anything that isn’t authorized under Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution. You know, the ‘Commerce Clause.’”

“And what areas are covered under that clause?” we asked.

“Well, under our interpretation …” Howard paused, then said, “That would be everything.


Academic brilliance: Outrage ensued after a campus cop at the University of California, Davis, liberally applied pepper spray to Occupy demonstrators. But consider what happened at the “Big University’s” flagship campus in Berkeley.

There, the campus police chief banned pepper spray and the following scenario followed:

Cops to demonstrators: Disperse!

Demonstrators: Hell no! We won’t go!

Cops: We’re going to remove your tents.

Demonstrators, linking arms and moving to block the police: Oh, no you’re not!

Cops’ batons: WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!

Demonstrators: OW! OW! OW!

(Tents and sleeping bags are removed.)

And so it went, followed by – surprise! – charges of police brutality. So the university called for a study and report issued by an assistant chief of the UCLA Police Department. It said the Berkeley campus cops really had no choice. The clubbing might have been unnecessary, the assistant chief wrote, if police had been allowed to use a more humane tool – pepper spray.

Incidentally, the review said a campus grant of amnesty for misbehaving students “eliminate(d) consequences for those who truly deserve(d) some form of accountability for their actions.”

Consequences for misbehavior? What an archaic concept.

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