January witnessed the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States, and the first of African-American origins, though Miss Toni Morrison claimed President Bill Clinton was America’s “First Black President” and in the 1920s there were rumors about President Warren Harding that were not meant as compliments. President Barack H. Obama’s African-American roots are, and on a frigid day in Washington he intoned a somber speech on the steps of the Capitol, fully cognizant of the economic gloom facing the country but apparently utterly unaware that Global Warming is passé. Mr. Obama offered change and hope, and a new tone in Washington — though the weekend before he spoke, as many as 100 private jets had landed at Dulles International, closing the runway but assuring that Washington’s new tone would be very tony indeed. By the end of the inaugural revels twice as many private jets had flown into the capital as had flown in for President George W. Bush’s 2004 ceremonies — new tone, indeed.
In Illinois Mr. Obama’s former supporter, Governor Rod Blagojevich, was fighting impeachment for attempting to sell Mr. Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder, and in early January Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico had to withdraw his nomination as Mr. Obama’s commerce secretary, owing to corruption investigations back home. Then Mr. Obama’s nominee for secretary of the treasury, Mr. Timothy Geithner, admitted that he owed $34,000 in back taxes, and former Senator Tom Daschle, Mr. Obama’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, admitted to failing to pay more that $128,000 in taxes and to engaging in energetic lobbying. It was all quite embarrassing, but it did shed light on why Democrats do not mind if the government raises their taxes. They simply do not pay them. By the end of January a new bumper sticker was seen around Washington: “Vote Democratic! Raise Taxes. Don’t Pay Them.”
In Canada members of a breakaway Mormon group were charged with polygamy, which is not to be confused with the board game Monopoly. Investigators in New York probed the financial chicanery of Mr. Bernard Madoff, who amassed a fortune by paying off early investors with monies he cadged from more recent investors, which is not to be confused with the federal government’s Social Security System. Mid-month a blast of freezing weather crossed much of the United States from Canada, bringing some of the coldest weather experienced by Americans — environmentalists included — since the arctic weather of 2004. Even Hollywood, California, suffered the shivers as Los Angeles experienced a rare snowfall. January, in fact, marked the tenth winter in a row that frigid weather befooled the environmental wackos’ computer predictions of Global Inferno; and once again it was gloomy Mr. Al Gore’s fate to testify before Congress about the nonexistent inferno on one of Washington’s coldest, most inclement days. The Sage appeared at the door of the Capitol wearing a heavy overcoat and stepping cautiously lest he slip on the ice. Glassy-eyed — and frankly looking adipose — he answered questions posed to him by Senator Jean-François Kerry’s Foreign Relations Committee. Perhaps inspired by hushed tones of his adulatory questioners, he occasionally lapsed into Oriental rumble bumble, as when he chanted: “The road to Copenhagen has three steps to it.” None of the senators laughed or even asked that the former vice president submit to a urine test. Actually, a Republican senator, the Hon. Bob Corker, chirped that he “very much enjoyed your sense of humor too.” Mr. Gore was not joking, you dinkelspiel! That is how the mooncalf talks, even with his manicurist.
American conservatives, alarmed about illegal immigration, could borrow a page from the political playbook of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Sr. Berlusconi is supporting a campaign in Italy’s northern cities to eliminate the sale of ethnic foods such as kebabs, hog brain sandwiches, and egg fung u (Italian pronunciation). Left-wing epicures are branding the campaign “gastronomic racism,” but Italy’s minister of agriculture, Sr. Luca Zaia, remains on the offensive. Asked by a skinny journalist if he had ever dined on a kebab or any other non-Italian foodstuffs, the fiery minister asseverated: “No — and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. I prefer the dishes of my native Veneto. I even refuse to eat pineapple.” That last reference does, in point of fact, intimate at least a hint of racial prejudice, but maybe our Onorovole Ministro is unfamiliar with slurs heard on the streets of Honolulu. Miss Caroline Kennedy pulled out of the race for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate seat after it became evident that the daughter of President John F. Kennedy is not English-speaking.
President Obama initiated steps to close the terrorist prison at Guantánamo Bay, after it was reported by U.S. intelligence sources that only 61 of the inmates who have been released have actually gone back to killing Americans and others were pursuing graduate studies or, one hopes, seeking employment at the United Nations. As for the 250 aggrieved inmates now being held at Guantánamo, they could be brought to the White House to do gardening and light lawn work. Possibly some might help Mr. Geithner and Senator Daschle with their taxes. In bird-watching news, the state of Maryland announced a crackdown against poultry farms that allow bird droppings to wash into the Chesapeake Bay, and on a less sanguine note a US Airways Airbus A320 was brought down after takeoff at LaGuardia Airport by a flock of Canada geese that crossed the airplane’s path, causing it to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River where all 155 passengers and crew members survived. The plane’s engine served as giant Cuisinart to the unfortunate birds, raising the question in many birders as to what the hell an airplane is doing in the vicinity of LaGuardia, a revered bird-watching site. At month’s end the exquisitely entertaining President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran answered President Obama’s offer to talk with Iranian leaders with a witty riposte that the new president apologize for U.S. “crimes” and undertake “deep and fundamental change.” Does he mean change we can believe in? Mr. Ahmadinejad, nicknamed Mr. Mad, was followed up by his country’s spokesman, Mr. Gholam Hossein Elham, who quipped, “This request means Western ideology has become passive.” Obviously Mr. Obama has these Iranians right where he wants them.
At age 93 Lieutenant General Harry W. O. Kinnnard passed away. He is the World War II officer who suggested to his commanding officer, Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe, when the Germans sought their surrender during the Battle of the Bulge, the famous retort, “nuts.” Death also claimed the life of Mr. Ron Asheton, the neurotic guitarist who backed up Mr. Iggy Pop (not his real name) when both performed with the punk group “The Stooges.” The Los Angeles Times reported that Mr. Asheton’s guitar improvisations were also highly influential to a “generation” of “grunge and alternative rockers,” though among aficionados there really is no consensus. Police called to Mr. Asheton’s Ann Arbor, Michigan home found the guitarist’s body when they inspected what appeared to be a pile of old rags. The Bureau of Census may have discovered a more accurate method of measuring the growth of the United States illegal alien population thanks to innovations recently introduced by the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks to gauge the size of its elephant herds. For years researchers have measured the Malaysian elephant population by visual counts, but more recently they began to measure the population by counting dung piles. The Malaysian herd is up to 631 elephants and the dung just keeps piling up.