Actual Factuals: A Blessed Break From Thick-Pieces

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Jan 29, 2009 12:00 AM

They used to talk about "Bush fatigue." Do you suffer yet from "Obama fatigue"? With Caroline Kennedy now returned to her private cabana after her perilous toe-dipping in the pool of public life, here's a blessed break from think-pieces about Barack Obama and "stimulus" plans that are but excuses for more federal spending.

These are not speculations but actual factuals . . .

-- The principal stimulus plan under congressional consideration includes $200 million for resodding the national mall. The job would require a lot of heavy lifting -- and, supposedly, new jobs.

-- The Illinois legislature is impeaching the state's governor, who has said -- among other comforting things -- he considered naming Oprah Winfrey to Obama's vacated Senate seat.

-- After 77 years, Toyota has surpassed General Motors as the world's largest automaker (8.8 million vehicles sold last year, to GM's 8.4 million). What's more, confusing buy-American urgings, Toyota's Sequoia is 80 percent American-made, compared with, for instance, that paradigmatic American label the Jeep (66 percent domestic, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

-- In a reminder that sociopolitics does indeed spew from the highest pulpits, the archbishop of Canterbury -- head of mainline Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide -- has criticized stimulus plans such as those in Britain and the U.S. Question: Why does anyone presumably in the principal business of saving souls offer any public opinion about stimulus plans at all?

-- The archbishop's regnant functionary in New Hampshire, Bishop V. Gene Robinson, accepted an invitation to give an Inauguration-related prayer at the Lincoln Memorial January 18, saying: "It will be my great honor to be there representing the Episcopal Church, the people of New Hampshire, and all of us in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community."

-- Obama still has trouble not smoking. Last month he told Tom Brokaw: "There are times when I have fallen off the wagon."

-- To aid France's ailing newspaper industry, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced (a) a ninefold increase in government support for newspaper deliveries that will include (b) free yearlong newspaper subscriptions to French teenagers when they turn 18.

-- So short of cash is California that beginning next week it may issue state tax refunds in the form of . . . IOUs.

-- And so desperate is the Australian navy for enlistees that it now gives practically the entire service every December and January off. As a benefit for female sailors, last year it began offering breast implants.

-- Vice President Joe Biden sets new rhetorical standards almost daily. In a December interview with George Stephanopoulos, Biden began just about every response with "well" or "look" -- by one count at least 17 times. Such as: "Look, every stakeholder...," "Well, God willing...," "Well, look, I think...," and "Look, I love Caroline Kennedy."

-- Shortly after the election, failed Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin ripped her anonymous critics as cowards and jerks.

-- Encouragingly, Obama favors manned space flight -- as opposed to limiting extraterrestrial space trips to robots. In a letter last summer to the congressional Democratic leadership he supported "sufficient (financial) resources for success across all of (NASA's) critical missions: human space flight, science, and aeronautics research."

-- Was it really necessary for a British reality TV station to air last month -- for the first time anywhere -- an assisted suicide?

-- Obama's new secretary of the interior, former Colorado Senator Ken Salazar, has announced he will reconsider (and likely overturn) late-term Bush administration authorizations of new offshore drilling and shale-oil drilling in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

-- Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa says he will oppose any Obama administration effort to impose a methane-gas tax on cattle and dairy farmers for supposed bovine flatulent contributions to global warming.

-- With college endowments plunging in the deteriorating economy, Princeton has agreed to settle a case widely watched in the university community. The school will pay $100 million to the descendant family members of a couple who gave a multimillion-dollar 1961 gift, because Princeton failed to use the money as the donors stipulated.

-- Democratic Congressman Barney Frank insists unions -- especially in the automobile industry -- should resist concessions to financially struggling companies. He terms union concessions an "unfair assault on working men and women."

-- Pedophilia in the clergy apparently is not limited to Roman Catholics and certain Protestant denominations. According to Erica Schacter Schwartz in The Wall Street Journal, Orthodox Jewish New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind recently "has collected hundreds of testimonies spanning several decades, naming at least 50 alleged pedophiles across the tri-state Orthodox Jewish community, including well-respected rabbis and teachers."

-- With many of its 2010 models, Ford will offer a computer-chip key giving parents the option to limit their teen driver's car to 80 mph. Which invites the question: Why 80 mph, and not -- ahem -- the speed limit?

-- Oh, and in case you missed it in the flurry of inaugural festivities, there was -- at the Rock & Roll Hotel on the day following the swearing-in -- the Inaugural Brawl, described as "down 'n' dirty" live wrestling by bikinied women sloshing around in 35 gallons of stuff approximating gelatin. Said organizer Jen Dixon: "I figured with all the balls and everything going on right now, it's something that everyone can go to. It's less stuffy."