Dear Mr. Plunkitt—
Normally, senators and congressmen name a bill based on what they hope it will accomplish. For instance, the Patient Protection and Affordability Act purports to make health care more affordable. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act purports to boost the economy.
But I’ve recently discovered that the names of bills sometimes work the other way around. Our conference spent weeks opposing the Violence Against Women Act on the understanding that it would enact violence against women. (Otherwise, shouldn’t it be called the Against Violence Against Women Act?)
Of course, once we realized our error, we scurried to pass the bill as quickly as possible. But I fear the damage to our reputations has been done. Shouldn’t we standardize the way bills are titled to avoid mix-ups in the future?
U.S. House of Representatives
Dear Mr. Speaker Boehner—
I wholeheartedly agree. Bills are often given disingenuous and deceptive names, and their titles rarely stick. To use your examples, PPAA became “Obamacare” and ARRA became “the stimulus” just as soon as they were written into law.
Further, I’ve often wondered how much time congressional offices burn trying to come up with those flashy acronyms. Surely America’s unpaid interns have more important tasks to accomplish!
Republicans should introduce reform legislation right away. Of course, in order to catch on, the proposal will need to have a good name. Might I suggest this one: Strategy to Terminate the Orthographic Possibility That House Individuals Should Misinterpret Appellations, and to Diminish the Negative Effects of Stupid Syntax Act.
Of course, the press will just refer to it as the STOP THIS MADNESS Act.
I am writing to ask that you encourage your readers to take part in the 43rd annual Earth Day. On April 22, open your mind and truly experience what it feels like to be a wise old tree, or a lonely blade of grass, or a proud lichen. Imagine what it would be like if all of Gaia’s creatures began to live harmoniously in perfect balance.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m under no illusion that lions and lambs will lie down together. But I did once see a sloth cuddle a wombat, and it was quite lovely.
International Earth Day Committee
Dear Ms. Parker—
That does indeed sound cozy, and I do have a soft spot in my heart for sloths of all shapes and sizes. My concern is that Earth Day is discriminatory and might make other celestial bodies feel left out.
Sure, of the eight planets (sorry, Pluto) in our section of space, Earth alone can sustain human life. But to assume this means there’s something special about it would be quite arrogant and Earthnocentric. To adapt Oliver Wendell Holmes: I happen to prefer a cool breeze on Earth to a 1,000-degree maelstrom of sulphuric acid on Venus, but there is no reason to suppose that the cosmos does.
True, we could organize co-equal celebrations for each of the planets, but we’d be leaving out other solar systems. We could cheer the Milky Way galaxy as a whole, but who’s to say Andromeda’s not better? Even a Universe Day would not be truly universal. Just think: There might exist an extradimensional plane that contains an even larger number of adorable sloths than our own.
Frankly, the value judgments that underlie this Earth Day celebration are simply unmodern.
Dear Mr. Plunkitt—
There’s been talk about changing how states allocate electoral votes. If everything weren’t winner-take-all, if electoral votes were given out by congressional district instead, Barack Obama probably wouldn’t be president right now.
Well, I can one-up these proposals. Not many people know it, but the resolution annexing Texas in 1845 gives it the option to divide into five separate states. Maybe it’s time to exercise that right.
Here’s how I imagine the split, running from east to west: Houston State; Alamo; Panhandlia; Lonestar; and East New Mexico. If we do it right, we could have 10 Republican senators instead of two.
Dear Mr. DeLay—
An interesting proposal, but I do not think the people of Texas would support it.
For one thing, it would obliterate a heck of a lot of culture. “The Yellow Rose of East New Mexico” just doesn’t have the same ring. Nor does “All My Ex’s Live in Panhandlia.” Though on the other hand, the phrase “Don’t mess with Alamo” is perhaps even more intimidating than the original.
And I suppose the new states could be set up as even stronger bulwarks against government encroachment. For instance, the Texas legislature meets only every other year. What if the Lonestar legislature met only every 10 years? Now that would be progress.
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