Take Five (Dejection Year edition)

ONE: Deck the halls with boughs of folly…

This is the 43rd edition of Take Five, which celebrates its first anniversary next Monday – or would, were the world not perched perilously on the precipice of a moral abyss unprecedented in the majestic sweep of the last, say, six and a half months.

Back in May, I commented on a decision by Dwight Probasco, principal of Wasilla High School, to drop Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” from the school’s graduation ceremonies repertoire following a parent’s complaint that the song was inappropriate due to its composer’s sexual orientation. An abridged version of the song ended up being performed by the school’s “symphonic jazz” choir, though, and so legendary Wasilla – proud crystal meth capital of Alaska and the place where Sarah Palin reads, oh, pretty much all the newspapers and magazines that have been in front of her over all these years – forfeited its claim to being the Last Bulwark against the Gay AgendaTM.

That daunting mantle had to be picked up 2,756 miles southeast, in Traverse City, Michigan, where Cherry Knoll Elementary School has been gearing up for this year’s Christmas concert. As the program came together, the school’s music teacher boldly decided to alter the lyrics of “Deck the Halls” to avoid having the children sing about “gay apparel,” as the term purportedly caused the kids to giggle.

Following widespread criticism, school principal Chris Parker has since decreed that the young warblers revert back to the original lyrics. America’s desperate search for the Last Bulwark against the Gay AgendaTM continues.

TWO: Panic in Detroit

Elsewhere in Michigan, another city seems poised to fall under the fiscal control of the state government. Michigan’s Emergency Financial Manager Act of 1990 was updated last March, a change which:

… allows the state to review local governments’ fiscal standing sooner and take more actions to prevent bankruptcy…

Under the new law, Michigan’s emergency financial managers have extensive authority. They can reject, modify or terminate any collective bargaining agreement, recommend dissolution of the local government or recommend bankruptcy as a last resort. However, the courts can revoke a manager’s control if the court finds it to be based on insufficient documentation and evidence, or if the decision to assert emergency control is found to be arbitrary and capricious.

That this legislation occurred under Governor Rick Snyder is reason enough to think it’s a bad thing. “Arbitrary and capricious” pretty much sums up Snyder’s entire approach to governing. It’s not much of a stretch to believe that it’s simply another way to erode public sector workers’ rights and subvert municipal self-determination. Of course, there are alternative views:

… Tom Wieczorek, director of the Washington-based International City/County Management Association’s Center for Public Safety Management and a retired city manager from Michigan, says the new Michigan law is designed as a better alternative to bankruptcy…

Although they too smell just a little off:

… Wieczorek says other states could pass similar laws, just as the idea of placing limitations on public employees’ collective bargaining rights spread from Wisconsin to other states. “It just seems lately to be a trend, what starts in one state moves across [to others],” he says.

In April, Benton Harbor became the first municipality in Michigan affected by the revised act, later joined by Flint and Pontiac. This week, Snyder’s government began a review of Detroit’s financial situation. Depending on the outcome, Detroit might be next.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, a Democrat, has already incurred the wrath of public employees by proposing to lay off 1,000 city employees and negotiating 10 percent pay cuts with those who would keep their jobs. AFSCME has declared its willingness to cooperate with the city government, but reaching a compromise is bound to be difficult and painful. Without one, though, it’s a safe bet that Lansing will step in.

So how might state control of Detroit work? If Pontiac and Benton Harbor are any indication, it wouldn’t be pretty:

As Benton Harbor’s emergency manager, Joe Harris has ordered firefighter cross-training for police officers, which reduced public-safety costs by a third.

He also negotiated new collective-bargaining agreements with many unions, forcing Benton Harbor employees to pay 20 percent of their health care premiums and contribute 10 percent of their wages to pensions.

In Pontiac, emergency manager Lou Schimmel dismissed the city clerk, the city attorney and the head of public works. He’s also taken smaller steps, such as removing parking meters that cost too much to maintain. And he hopes to save $3 million by having the neighboring community of Waterford take over fire protection.

Legal challenges against the revised act on grounds of unconstitutionality are pending. I hope they get expedited. Any day now, Snyder might decide that Michigan can no longer afford courts.

THREE: Prosit!

The United Healthcare Foundation released its annual comparative state health rankings this week.

The five healthiest states, in descending order, are Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Hawaii and Massachusetts. All five were won by Barack Obama in 2008.

The five least healthy states, in ascending order, are Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alabama. All five were won by John McCain in 2008.

Correlation is not causation, of course, but this correlation is still pretty striking. Maybe healthier people simply think more clearly in the voting booth.

FOUR: Michele who?

Phyllis Schlafly, a living, breathing argument against the theory of evolution, has found a GOP candidate she can get behind: Michele Bachmann. Last week, Schlafly hired someone with opposable thumbs to prepare a written endorsement on her behalf. Here’s a sample:

“If I were an Iowa voter, I would be making plans right now to cast my vote for Michele Bachmann for president on January 3. I hope you will take advantage of this golden opportunity to support a candidate we can all be proud of.”

If I were an Iowa voter, I’d be hiding under the bed until January 4.

In other Bachmann news, as she loses the last of her traction in the pre-primary polling, her book sales have been awful. Minnesota Public Radio reports that Bachmann’s Core of Conviction has sold only 3,000 copies since its release two weeks ago.

Far from boosting sales, Bachmann’s book tour has opened the candidate up to further ridicule, most recently from a Myrtle Beach boy named Elijah, aged eight, who told the candidate: “My mommy’s gay but she doesn’t need fixing.”

And if that’s not embarrassing enough, as of today a mere 16 customers had bothered to post a review of Core of Conviction on Amazon.com.

Just what does a highly polarizing crypto-fascist have to do these days to get some media attention? Maybe she should have an affair with Herman Cain.

FIVE: Busters‘ Boom a Bust, but Ratings Set to Go through Roof

Or maybe Bachmann could have the Mythbusters guys fire her from a cannon, though the Congresswoman might want to let them get a little more practice first.

The intrepid Discovery Channel TV hosts were firing various projectiles, including an actual cannonball, from a cannon in Dublin, California, the other day. The experiment did not go as planned:

The cannonball was fired from a bomb range in Dublin, about 35 miles east of San Francisco in Alameda County. It was supposed to hit trash cans but instead soared 700 yards into the home of a sleeping couple, leaving a 10-inch hole in the bedroom wall.

The cannonball was traveling as fast as a bullet. It exited the house, bounced across four lanes of traffic, struck the roof of another house and then smashed through the window of a parked minivan.

No one was injured.

Neighbors said MythBusters often tries its experiments in the area, and they have grown used to hearing explosions.

So used to it, in fact, that the couple in question were sleeping at 4:15 in the afternoon. So they claimed, at least.