The f/k/a Gang wishes a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday to all of our readers (regular, occasional, or inadvertent). May your travels — across country or across town — be APAP (as pleasant as possible) and your feasting divine. Don’t forget to nurture an attitude of gratitude for all the good things in your life — and even for the trials that help make us better people. And, guys, don’t forget to offer early and often to help with preparations and clean up.
Just in case conversation grinds to a halt around your dining table — and the Baby Boomer Raconteur in your family can’t remember the name of that movie he liked so much — here are a few topics that should liven things up and unloose a few tongues:
- Should obese people who take up two airplane seats have to pay double the fare? This is a great question for Uncle Vito, between mouthfuls, while he’s reaching for that third helping of pumpkin pie. As CBC reported last week, the Canadian “Top court backs free seat ruling for some disabled, obese travellers” (Nov. 20, 2008). By rejecting an appeal by two airlines from a Canadian Transportation Agency ruling,
Walter and Ted have been covering this topic for years at Overlawyered.com, and they can give you lots of tips for baiting the soft-hearted liberals in the family. Meanwhile, you’ll find lots of tart, tasty zingers over at Simple Justice, where Scott Greenfield says “Obesity is Not a Crime, But Is It a Disability?” (Nov. 22, 2008). Scott believes “this is a problem, both for the airline and the rest of us.” And he argues:
“No one suggests that obese people be prosecuted for being so fat, or spilling over into the next person’s airline seat. On the other hand, there is no rational basis to place the burden on society to make accommodations for the obese. Are you prepared to be bumped from your flight because an obese person showed up at the airport with a ticket?”
In a similar vein, Prof. Ann Althouse offers more food for thought:
“If you get a free extra seat now, won’t people be clamoring to be considered one of the truly obese? Does some government agency certify that you are fat to the point of disability and thus entitled to accommodation?”
- What the heck’s a Sex Offender? This one should wake up a few in-laws. In an illuminating piece at his Once Fallen website, Derek Logue presents his stand-up routine called, “You Might Be a Sex-Offender, If. . . “, a compilation of real cases that have branded defendants as sex offenders for crimes that simply do not rise to that level. Such as:
- You might be a sex offender if… you ever paid for a prostitute in New York
- You might be a sex offender if… you use a stolen credit card to hire a stripper in New York
- You might be a sex offender if… You had sex with a teenager while you were a teen yourself
There are many more on Derek’s list. The P.S.A.P. weblog aptly adds: “As a result of [a] deep and legitimate concern, however, our collection of sex offender laws have become draconian and self-defeating. They’ve become Draconian because they have been extended to cover “crimes” that either should not be crimes in the first place or, even if they merit prohibition, the perps are by no means “sex offenders” (in any way outside of the ridiculously broad statutory definition).”
Before we brand them with a scarlet letter that restricts where they can live, hurts their job prospects and embarrasses them, P.S.A.P. rightly notes we need to stop and consider that:
“If we truly want the designation to have any shaming power, we must restrict its use to those offenses that are actually offensive.”
- We’re Clueless on Civics (present company excluded, of course): G.W. U. law professor Jonathan Turley reported earlier this week that “Elected Officials Score Lower on Civics Tests Than Average Citizens (Who Score Lower than Basic Condiments)” (Nov. 23, 2008; and see the full report from AFP) via Simple Justice, which opines that we’re “Getting the Government We Deserve” ). It’s a little dispiriting, but it presents all kinds of opportunities for one-ups-manship at the Thanksgiving table. You can find the Civics Quiz here (from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute), and cherry pick the questions that stumped the most people, college graduates, and elected officials. How will your extended family do compared to:
- the average American, who scored 49%
- college-educated, who averaged 55%
- elected officials, who averaged 44%
Prof. Turley notes that “Some 20 percent of elected officials believe that the electoral college as established to ‘supervise the first televised presidential debates’.” But, offers a little solace: “our English cousins appear equally ill-informed on history.”
update (Dec. 1, 2008): Conversationalist Carl Strock of the Schenectady Gazette made “Flunking civics” his Thanksgiving column, and we’re grateful Carl snuck it into the free part of the Gazette‘s website. Carl muses, “Today being Thanksgiving, let us give thanks that we live in a country as open as ours, where anyone can aspire to be president, whether he knows which branch of government the president belongs to or not.”
- Finally, to make Mama G. happy, I’ll point you to “Keeping Thanksgiving Conversation Pleasant,” from ksl.com in Salt Lake City.
Below you will find a bunch of Thanksgiving senryu and haiku, which (along with the one near the top of this post) I wrote a year ago and would have forgotten about, if not for Mr. Google refreshing my recollection.
afterwords (Nov. 29, 2008): Yes, these are a little late for Thanksgiving, but they should come handy throughout the Holiday Season left.
- Tips for dealing with your Republican relatives from Jen Sorensen in this week’s Slowpoke cartoon.
- Mediator Victoria Pynchon’s “Tips for Negotiating Conversations at the Thanksgiving Table” (Settle It Now weblog, Nov. 21, 2008)
Thanksgiving rush –
not as late
as that flock of geese
wintry mix –
a seatbelt protects each
turkey and stuffing —
fewer, grayer heads
a third helping
of Thanksgiving politics
I bite my tongue
gone too soon to make
that snow Buddha