Up Front

THE QUESTION

What is the leading indicator for you that the recession is over?

"When the astroturfers can afford to say 'no' when someone offers to pay them to scream at a health-care town hall." -- Lee Camp, Laughing Liberally

"Ben Bernanke shaves his recession beard." -- Amanda Terkel, ThinkProgress

"We can finally buy new clothes to replace our 'Hope' T-shirts." -- Justin Krebs, Living Liberally

***

PARODY by T.A. Frank

"[Republicans] protested that the [climate change] bill's cost to the economy ... had not been fully examined. ... [Sen. George Voinovich] said an analysis by the EPA ... falls far short of what is needed." -- AP

Dear EPA analysts,

We are disappointed in your latest analysis of the proposed climate-change legislation. It seemed rushed, sloppy, and, frankly, passive-aggressive.

We have some major issues we'd like to see you address properly before we rush headlong into a rash project to taper off carbon emissions.

1. It has come to our attention that in every carbon-dioxide molecule, there are two oxygen atoms and just one carbon atom. That's not something we've seen anywhere in this analysis. Someone has some explaining to do.

2. Rep. Michele Bachmann has pointed out that this legislation could quite easily lead to a communist dictatorship. Please revise your report to address the question of whether sufficient safeguards are in place to prevent Stalinism.

3. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has observed that the effort to control global warming is a new Tower of Babel, with man attempting to manage his own affairs without God. In no part of your analysis do you engage with this idea. That's disrespectful.

4. Global warming has been a concern for less than three decades, and now it's rush, rush, rush. We suggest a proper and thorough focus on the facts and propose devoting 1 million American dollars to fund a 10-year study into every aspect of global warming, especially its effects on penguins, baby harp seals, and all those other great animals beloved by Democrat and Republican alike.

5. One of our ranking committee members recalls reading a comic book as a kid in which a giant "space pump" sucked water from the earth to the moon. If we can do that kind of thing, surely we can suck some intergalactic cold air into the core of the earth and have a kind of central A/C. Just a thought.

6. Sen. James Inhofe has asserted that global warming is a giant hoax. If that's true, what's all this cap-'n-trade business about? Riddle us that, EPA.

7. You left off an "e" on the word McGeehee. Please run spell check and proofread several dozen times if you want us to even consider reading this thing again in a few years.

Dialogue Packing Heat

Should weapons be allowed on Amtrak?

Adam Serwer: The Senate just voted to allow guns on trains. I don't see the problem.

Alexandra Gutierrez: Well, there are a few. As the legislation is written, Amtrak has to make sure that handguns can be checked on trains by next April. Otherwise, it doesn't get its funding. But that's going to be difficult. Right now, you can't check anything on most Amtrak trains -- 30 percent of trains don't even have checked-baggage compartments.

Adam: Well, the pace of the legislation is a problem, but in principle I have no problem with people being able to check their locked and secured weapons on a train. Even the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said they weren't opposed.

Alexandra: Given the way stations and trains are set up, it's an undue burden.

Adam: No one wants to be responsible for creating long lines at train stations.

Alexandra: Right -- checked baggage is not in the nature of train travel.

Adam: The ban on guns was instituted for "security reasons" after 9-11. The last eight years have been a terrible inconvenience for people trying to travel with their firearms.

Alexandra: Like hunters, supposedly. Sorry, but do a lot of Beretta-toting deer hunters regularly take the Acela?

Adam: Who cares what your gun is for? If you want to travel with it, you should be able to, as long as you do so safely.

Alexandra: It's just gun-rights activists throwing their weight around.

Adam: The gun lobby isn't always wrong just because they're the gun lobby. The gun ban is totally dumb. If you're a terrorist, you're just not going to obey the law.

Alexandra: I agree that checked guns aren't going to prevent a Great Train Robbery situation. But it's going to cost a lot of money to change this entire system on a timetable that doesn't make any amount of sense, just to placate the gun lobby.

Adam: The timetable is too steep, but we're talking about constitutional rights here. Conservatives cherry-pick rights to care about -- we shouldn't do that.

Alexandra: So are you opposed to all gun bans?

Adam: The ban in public schools makes sense. The ban on people traveling on trains with secure guns doesn't. Especially since the Amtrak gun ban was instituted to prevent terrorism -- something it won't prevent.

Alexandra: Yeah, it's a terrible law in the first place but the legislation that's going to replace it will screw over commuters.

Adam: Right, so the timetable should be lengthened or gun owners should just be allowed to carry their gun in secure locked compartments in carry-on luggage.

Alexandra: Both of those solutions would be copasetic.

Adam: I guess you're not a total freedom-hating liberal then.

Alexandra: No, I love me some freedom.

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