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Did that really happen? In America?

My periodic "Did You Know" columns tend to raise the blood pressure of more conservative readers who are embarrassed/angry/frustrated by the increasingly aggressive counter-cultural policies of the hard left and their allies in Hollywood, on campus, and in Washington, D.C.

Yet, some of this stuff is so looney and/or outside what should be mainstream views and opinions that I can't help myself. So, with due apologies to the aforementioned, did you know:

•The Defense Department continues to insist the deadly Fort Hood murders (which killed 13, including a pregnant soldier, and wounded 32 others) constitute "workplace violence" instead of "terrorism" — this despite extensive evidence that the shooter (Major Nidal Hasan) had direct communications with al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki in the days prior to the attack and that Major Hasan was heard to shout, "Allahu Akbar!" (God is great) prior to his murderous rampage.

•The local school system in Cranston, R.I., has decided to ban father-daughter and mother-son activities for violation of the state's gender discrimination law after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint on behalf of a single mother whose daughter (you guessed it) was unable to attend a father-daughter dance. (Guess those "Sadie Hawkins" dances of yesteryear would really heat up the gender police at the ACLU!)

•The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (the state agency in charge of public education) instructs its white VISTA volunteers who work with poor, minority students to thoughtfully examine the privilege their race confers on them; the DPI has devoted an entire web page to the "problem," including links to racial justice workshops where all those guilty white people can get in touch with their (presumably considerable) personal bias. FYI: Recent media coverage about the VISTA program materials has caused the Wisconsin DPI to remove the information from its website. Also FYI: I'm not making this stuff up.

•The Associated Press, the largest and most prestigious news outlet in the world, has decided to eliminate the phrase "illegal immigrant" from its news stories; it seems the phrase is now deemed too dehumanizing a term. This marks a major victory for immigration reform activists, many of whom have made linguistic redefinitions a major cause within the journalistic community.

•Progressive Insurance Company's wildly successful CEO Peter Lewis named his company to reflect his political views. The man who is number 366 on the Forbes list of the richest people in the world is a major contributor to far left wing groups such as "," "The Democracy Alliance," "America Coming Together," "Media Matters for America" and many Democratic political candidates.

•The University of Maryland spent $15,000 of your tax money on an "inclusive language campaign" aimed at creating an "offenseless" dialogue on campus. How generations of Terps got along without this type of instruction I do not know, but one wonders how much longer before we see special "language courts" on college campuses.

•Full-time faculty members at America's four year institutions have moved further left over the past three years while those identifying as either moderate or conservative have continued to decline (according to the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute). Note: This finding, of course, falls under the category of "The sky is blue."

•The list of known Hollywood Republicans may be embarrassingly brief, but it is impressive: Matthew McConaughey, Kelsey Grammer, Drew Carey, 50 Cent, Britney Spears, Stephen Baldwin, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, Adam Sandler, Vince Vaughn, Sylvester Stallone, Angie Harmon, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Heather Locklear.

•The Maryland Canons of Judicial Conduct forbid Maryland judges from inquiring about a criminal defendant's immigration status at a sentencing or bail hearing; seems the Constitutional privilege against self-incrimination applies to a hearing (wherein a criminal sentence can be imposed) even where the defendant is not an American citizen.

•A group of Maryland legislators and the O'Malley administration plan to introduce a carbon dioxide bill which would apply a graduated excise tax to the amount of carbon dioxide Marylanders breathe into the atmosphere, i.e., the heavier the individual — the more CO2 expelled from one's lungs — the higher the tax; this new "breathing tax" would become a line item on Maryland state income tax returns and be computed using the taxpayer's height and weight (as recorded on the return) to ascertain how much excess CO2 would be subject to the levy.

Every item reported above is factual, with the exception of the proposed carbon dioxide bill. But the fact that some (many?) of you believed a "breathing tax" could be introduced and passed in Maryland speaks volumes about how far we have fallen off the fiscal cliff of sensible tax and spending policy in the jurisdiction formerly known as "The Free State."

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and Member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding, the author of "Turn this Car Around" — a book about national politics. His email is

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