Up Front

THE QUESTION

Beyond Petroleum is a misnomer. What does BP really stand for?

"Bleeding Petroleum." -- Elizabeth Gettelman, Mother Jones

"Behemoth Polluters." -- Gerald Sindell, Agency for Social Media

"Backup Plan?" -- Lee Camp, Laughing Liberally

"Beyond Patience." -- Brad Balfour, Huffington Post

"Bloody Phucked!" -- Justin Krebs, Living Liberally

"Ahem. Bullshit Propaganda." -- Megan Carpentier, writer

"Barack's Problem." -- Larry Sabato, UVA


PARODY by T.A. Frank

"Senate Republicans test out new Kagan attacks." -- The Washington Post

GOP arguments against Elena Kagan's Supreme Court confirmation

biographical fact: Kagan was born in 1960 on April 28.

republican spin: April 28 is also the birthday of Saddam Hussein. Did Kagan consider Saddam her special "birthday buddy"?

biographical fact: Kagan clerked for Abner J. Mikva in 1986.

republican spin: Abner J. Mikva appeared briefly in the movie Dave, starring Kevin Kline, who in a subsequent film played a homosexual teacher. Need we say more?

biographical fact: Kagan clerked for Thurgood Marshall in 1987.

republican spin: Thurgood Marshall once called the original U.S. Constitution "defective." Defective, eh? Well, let Kagan name one original provision that was remotely flawed, or even just three-fifths flawed.

biographical fact: Kagan joined the University of Chicago in 1991.

republican spin: And Bill Ayres is a professor at the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois -- close enough for the two of them to blow things up together.

biographical fact: Kagan served as White House counsel to Bill Clinton from 1995 to 1996 and as deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council from 1997 to 1999.

republican spin: Come on. Bill Clinton was a man-whore. We all know that.

biographical fact: Kagan became dean of Harvard Law in 2003.

republican spin: You know who else became dean of Harvard Law? Joseph Stalin.


DIALOGUE: Animal Instincts

Should zoos inspire liberal guilt or give us warm fuzzies?

Phoebe Connelly: While there are many fun things to do in D.C. in summer -- drinking, biking, drinking -- let's talk about one thing that's not fun!

Alexandra Gutierrez: Sweating because of this freaking humidity?

Phoebe: Going to the zoo.

Alexandra: Sacrilege. Have you never eaten Dippin' Dots while watching baby pygmy hippos frolic? It is, quite simply, the best. Also, watching the gibbons canoodle? Ultimate fifth date.

Phoebe: Ugh. No. Let's start with the fact that I'm not a "cute animal pictures" person.

Alexandra: Yeah right! On more than one occasion you have sent me photos of clouded leopard cubs. The ones with the big blue eyes that makes you go "AWWW!"

Phoebe: OK, fine. Out me. But what's remotely fun about looking at creatures in cages?

Alexandra: First of all, the animals at the National Zoo aren't in cages. They're more like glass displays. Or yards. Well-manicured yards, definitely. And second, you can wash away all that animals-in-captivity liberal guilt by remembering that zoos help fund conservation work.

Phoebe: The conservation work done by zoos is problematic. Preservation of animals is more effective in large-scale breeding centers, which are typically located near the actual habitats of the animals in question, not conveniently off the Metro.

Alexandra: I'll admit that I don't think that the zoos are doing a service to every animal they keep -- except, arguably, for ones that are in extreme habitat danger -- and absolutely, there would be better ways to handle that problem. But that said, zoos do engender a lot of good will for animals.

Phoebe: Actually, Yale social ecology professor Stephen Kellert has noted that "zoo-goers are much less knowledgeable about animals than backpackers, hunters, fishermen, and others who claim an interest in animals, and only slightly more knowledgeable than those who claim no interest in animals at all."

Alexandra: They may not learn much, but the warm fuzzies we get from looking at cute pandas in the zoo translates to money for conservation. Do you think the World Wildlife Fund would have as much money as it does if we didn't get to ogle Butterstick?

Phoebe: Sure, you may swoon over the zoo's pandas, but they are even cuter when they are in the wild. There are YouTube videos to prove it.

Alexandra: I just can't get rankled about zoos when there are far worse forms of animal cruelty. If you're OK with noshing on hamburgers, it's hard to get your Save the Rainforest canvas tote bag in a twist.

Phoebe: I'm all about eating humanely raised meat!

Alexandra: Summer barbecue. It's on.

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