Once again, the Harry Potter protest people are mouthing off — not just in the media, but in school systems, too — about how JK Rowling’s books and the movie will lead children down the dark road to witchcraft. Do they honestly think there are beings in the world who have the ability to fly on broomsticks and cast spells on other people? It’s a lot scarier to me that there are beings in the world who are incapable of telling the difference between fantasy and reality.

After all, if anyone was going to be converted to believing in the positive powers of witchcraft, it would have been all the pubescent boys who watched Elizabeth Montgomery on “Bewitched” and (especially) Barbara Eden on “I Dream Of Jeannie.” Somehow, though, we managed to escape those magical vixens without selling our souls for a lifetime as Satan’s spawn. If Jeannie in a harem outfit didn’t do it — that’s a direct groin attack! — what chance does Daniel Radcliffe have?

The Harry Potter movie has made close to $200,000,000 already. This begs the question, if we’re in a recession, where are people getting the money to buy all those tickets? Somehow, those same families also found the cash to take their kids to see “Monsters Inc.” and make it another $200 million smash (true, those are predominantly children’s tickets, but the soda and popcorn weren’t discounted!). And many of those same families just got a new car, too. They took advantage of the 0% financing to buy more new cars in October than in any other month — ever!

Is this what happens when the economy is slumping? You certainly can’t tell that times are tough by looking at a mall parking lot. Go ahead, try to find a parking space on a weekend. You’d have better luck finding Dick Cheney’s secret hiding place and then beating him at the new US military arcade game, Whack-O-Sama.

Not to get off on a tangent here, but am I the only one who laughs every time a Taliban leader talks about how much they hate America and will fight to the death to destroy us? They’ve been mouthing off like this for weeks. Their statements are always followed by an immediate retreat from whatever city they made their proclamation in. Rather than standing and fighting to the death, these guys run, hide, and give up faster than the Iraqi Army did a decade ago. They’ve obviously been deriving military strategy by watching old videotapes of Roberto Duran. How do you say “no mas” in Arabic?

Back to the business page. Wouldn’t you like to be running a health club this week? Right after Thanksgiving is the time — just like in January, after New Year’s resolutions — that Americans decide that they’ve overeaten and must do something about their weight. So you head to the nearest gym and sign up for some extravagant workout package. Come on…if you really wanted to exercise, why did you drive your car to the gym instead of walking?

You swear that you’ll be there daily to lift weights, play volleyball, swim laps, play basketball, go to spinning class, play racquetball, do the stairmaster, and be in perfect shape in no time. “No time” is a technical term, defined by gym owners as the period you will spend in the gym after that initial visit. Oh, maybe you’ll put in some effort for a week or so, but inevitably, that’s the last time you’ll ever see the place. In the end, the gym owners get to keep the cash, while you return to sloth- ville and give the remote a workout, leaving the sweating and panting to Britney Spears videos.

I happened to catch a few minutes of Britney’s recent Vegas flesh-travaganza on HBO. I don’t want to say she showed a lot of skin, but for a second, I thought I was watching Cinemax.

Britney has taken a lot of cheap shots from people who criticize her singing, but not me. Nope. I’d rather criticize her dancing (and I use that term loosely). Since when did moving like a mime trapped in a box qualify as dancing? That’s all she and her on-stage colleagues seem to do. Britney, if you take requests, I’d like to see that walking-against-the-wind thing next time!

I wonder if any of those Potter-phobic parents mind their kids watching Ms. Spears writhe around the stage, casting her own spell on millions of American youth? As we all know, that’s the sort of activity that can lead to young girls growing up to wear a contraceptive patch.

The patch is the newest technological advance in the sexual revolution — not to mention a helluva conversation starter. But what message does it send to men? Say a woman goes out to a bar while she’s wearing a sleeveless dress and has this patch on her arm. Him: “Is that an Ortho-Evra patch on your shoulder, or are you just happy to see me?” Her: “Beat it, loser. All I’m trying to do is quit smoking.”