The Cliffhanger, Feb. 4

Ever since the language of the ???fiscal cliff??? was appropriated to describe the political battle over a tax increase, it???s become increasingly clear that every issue is a ???cliff??? now.  Here are today???s snapshots from the edge???

** A sustainable Super Bowl: New Orleans is a proud partner with the Energy Department in the pursuit of “energy efficiency and renewable energy,” which is “having a profound impact on attracting developers and private industry in the New Orleans’ re-building efforts,” according to a grammatically dubious proclamation from the aforementioned Energy Department.  So committed is the city to its quest to save energy that it shut off half the lights in the middle of the Super Bowl, even as the stadium still quivered from the massive carbon footprint of halftime act Beyonce’s spectacular show, which was nothing compared to the carbon pumped into the atmosphere by the jets and luxury motor vehicles employed to whisk her and other V.I.P.s in and out of the Super Bowl.  But even the most deluded global warming cultists know better than to launch a high-profile attack on America’s favorite sporting event, so they’ll bite their tongues as it continues to burn up almost as many kilowatt-hours and gallons of fossil fuel as the average global warming summit.  Football historians will debate whether the momentum-killing blackout was the reason a seemingly over-matched San Francisco was able to roar back and make the game a nail-biter, with the Baltimore Ravens ultimately winning 34-31.  Fans in both San Francisco and Baltimore celebrated with their customary decorum.

** Gun-control cliff update: We’re still having our “national conversation” about gun control.  President  Obama will burn up a few zillion gallons of fossil fuels, and millions of dollars of taxpayer money, to campaign on the issue in Minnesota today.  Focus appears to be shifting away from the proposed “assault weapons” ban to a push for universal background checks.  The media finally got hold of some major polls that show majority support for more gun control legislation (and, thank heavens, ABC News and the Washington Post finally produced a poll that says the NRA is less popular than Barack Obama!)  but background checks and enhanced measures to keep guns away from the mentally ill are the only measures that command sweeping bipartisan support.  Maybe the gun control crowd will make  big-time push for legislation to address those issues, and quietly slip some Scary-Looking Rifle controls into the package as a little extra bonus, like the adware that infests your computer after you download a “free” game touted by one of those seizure-inducing animated pop-ups.

** The tragic death of an American sniper: Chris Kyle, the storied Navy SEAL who wrote a best-selling account of his exploits called American Sniper, was murdered along with a friend at a Texas shooting range on Saturday, apparently by a disturbed fellow veteran.  Kyle was dedicated to helping vets with post-traumatic stress disorder, and was reportedly engaged in such activity at the moment of his death.  He founded a non-profit organization called FITCO Cares, which provides fitness equipment and support to injured soldiers.  A donation to FITCO Cares would be a good way to honor Chris Kyle’s service, which by no means ended when he left the battlefield, and looks to continue well beyond the terrible day when he was taken from the nation he defended with such skill.

** A salute to part-time America: Remember how the dimmer bulbs adorning our political-media merry-go-round were trying to celebrate the dismal GDP and unemployment numbers released last week as though they were somehow good news – signs of an American economy that was “healing” and “poised” for growth?  Analysts keep digging into that pile of data mulch and coming up with even worse news.  The latest bummer comes courtesy of Investor’s Business Dailywhich confirmed that the shift of the American workforce into lower-paying part-time positions continues.  The biggest jobs gain in January came from the retail sector, which is not exactly encouraging news to begin with… but “total hours in the industry dipped,” according to the IBD analysis.  More workers, but fewer hours.  A similar phenomenon was observed in the leisure and hospitality industries.  What gives?  “All signs suggest that businesses are starting to adjust their employment policies in response to ObamaCare,” explains IBD.  “It’s possible that much of this shift may occur in the next few months.”  Well, at least we really are “poised” for something.  Hopefully our nation of part-time checkout clerks and burger flippers will be able to comfort themselves with memories of that big Second Inaugural party through the grim months ahead.

** Scott Brown won’t run for Massachusetts Senate seat that was his to lose: Former Republican senator Scott Brown has decided to take a pass on the special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by our new Secretary of State, Democrat John Kerry, even though polls show Brown was favored to win.  The state Republican Party is now left with less than 23 days to find a replacement candidate and gather ten thousand signatures to get them on the ballot.  This led Holly Robichaud of the Boston Herald to conclude that Brown is kind of a jerk.  “Declining to run would have been perfectly acceptable for Brown 60 or even 30 days ago, but by waiting until now he puts our candidate at a huge disadvantage,” writes Robichaud.  “What about all the people who stood out in the cold and rain, made thousands of calls and gave up their weekends to knock on thousands of doors?  What about the party that has given millions of dollars?  What about U.S. Sen. John McCain, who helped orchestrate Anchors-Aweigh John Kerry???s appointment as secretary of state?”  Brown could still run for governor in 2014, but it looks like he might have trouble winning back disillusioned supporters like Robichaud, not to mention all the other members of his original winning coalition that he’s managed to alienate since the heady days when he declared Senate seats are not the private property of individual politicians, and looked ready to become the pivotal vote that would save America from ObamaCare.  What’s the deal with these blue-state Republicans, anyway?  Oh, right: blue states.

** King Richard III found buried beneath a parking lot: The remains of King Richard III of England have been missing for a long time, but it seems archaeologists have found the old boy after digging up a parking lot in Leicester.  Richard III has a lousy reputation that some historians think is undeserved, nothing that his legacy was written by his political opponents, one of whom happened to be the greatest writer in human history, William Shakespeare.  Talk about media bias!  Richard’s remains displayed signs of scoliosis, which caused him to be caricatured as a hunchback.  A barbed metal arrowhead was found lodged in his spine, and there were signs of trauma to his skull.  Foul play is suspected.