With Liberty and Justice For (almost) All

May 26th, 2009 by Gid

In 1776 Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” Well, I suppose that’s true. More than two hundred years later, of course, we know that the documents of the founding fathers were deliberately created vague to leave plenty of room for interpretation and amending. The qualifiers to Mr. Jefferson’s declaration, specifically that all men are created equal, providing that the majority thinks they ought to be, were left out as long as possible to keep up appearances. But now the Supreme Court of California has put that qualifier on the books by upholding Proposition 8; it was, after all, passed by those whose Creator warned them that their rights were being threatened.

So while gays in California might be permitted a civil union, the sanctity of marriage is once again sacred to all those whose unions did not immediately crumble to dust when the first 18,000 gay couples were married in 2008. Sadly for the religious majority, the Supreme Court failed to overturn those first gay marriages; they will remain legal, thereby defiling the wedded bliss of Clay and Bobbie-Lee, two teenagers who work at the nighborhood Wal-Mart and just got hitched last week by the JP (and no, Clay’s nerves had nothing to do with Bobbie-Lee’s sudden weight gain or the grim look of determination on her father’s face, and maybe Clay Jr can go to college instead).

The vigilant righteous, meanwhile, can now organize their next crusade, most likely to the latest state to succumb to the evil influence of those who think equality is for everyone. Iowa is, after all, closest to Utah, home of the most Godly of the defenders of piety. And it seems, for the time being, that they can lead their crusade free of worry from the nation’s capitol. DOMA is still firmly in place, Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell is protecting the military from queers disguised as patriots, and the war against civil rights being waged over the last eight years is still going strong. Let Carrie Prejean carry the banner and spread the word: Opposite marriage is the only marriage in her country.

Many years ago, Tom Lehrer wrote a delightful little ditty, National Brotherhood Week, that sums it up beautifully:

Oh, the white folks hate the black folks, and the black folks hate the white folks.
To hate all but the right folks is an old established rule.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
Lena Horne and Sheriff Clarke are dancing cheek to cheek.
It’s fun to eulogize the people you despise, as long as you don’t let ‘em in your school.

Now, we don’t truly hate anyone, mind you, it’s just that the rights of the privileged few have to be assured. The best plan at the moment is to keep the upstarts quiet. Let a few marriages stand for now. Let a Latina hope for a seat on the Supreme Court. Throw them a few bones to chew on, and tell them to be patient. Tell them good things come to those who wait, and “later” can go on longer than a suspected terrorist’s detention. As long as everyone remembers to come out and vote when it counts, good old-fashioned all-American constitutional values can be preserved for those intended in the grand tradition of our forefathers.

All Together, Now: “Duh!”

May 21st, 2009 by Gid

Many years ago, Lewis Terman created the Stanford-Binet IQ test, the results of which classified people as Genius, Very Superior, Superior, Average, Dull Normal, Borderline Deficiency, Moron, Imbecile, or Idiot. While some of these classifications may have changed in favor of less emotionally-charged options or dropped entirely, there is no mention of stupidity.

Two of my favorite quotes are credited to Albert Einstein and Elbert Hubbard, respectively: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” and “Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.” These assert that while stupidity is popularly associated with some of the lower IQ classifications above, the upper classifications are not inherently immune from its pitfalls.

For those who care to look, there are books and documentaries addressing the concept of stupidity and its many intellectual and psychological manifestations. After reviewing a sampling of these resources, I’m fairly satisfied with Wikipedia’s definition of “having or being indicative of low intelligence or poor learning abilities… distinct from irrationality because [it] denotes an incapability or unwillingness to properly consider the relevant information.” While
there are spectacular examples of stupidity to be found everywhere, there seems to be a singular concentration in Washington, DC, especially among the lingering minority of Republicants.

One recent example, courtesy of Michele Bachmann, was her assertion that “FDR applied just the opposite formula, the Hoot-Smawley Act, which was a tremendous burden on tariff restrictions and then of course trade barriers and the regulatory burden and taxpayers. That’s what we saw happen under FDR… the American people suffered for almost ten years under that kind of thinking.” Unfortunately, Ms. Bachmann’s kind of thinking in her attempt to condemn the Democratic party backfired; the Spoonerism of the eponymously named Smoot-Hawley Act aside, she failed to note that both sponsoring senators of that bill were Republicans, as was Hoover, who signed it into law.

Shortly thereafter, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina amazed us all with her defiantly irrational declaration that “The Hate Crimes Bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard Bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened, where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed… in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay… The Hate Crimes Bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing this bill.” Her faulty grasp of reality precluded her from understanding the ramifications of her remark not only to the other members of the house, but those in the gallery (including Judy Shepard), and the general public. Through the ensuing cries of foul, she remained devout in her grasp of an alternate reality, certain that her unpopular assessment would win support; not only did she fail to retract her statement, she defended it.

Meanwhile, Norm Coleman resolutely rejects reality and presses his claim to be declared winner of the Minnesota senatorial election, for which all recounts substantiated his loss. Bellow’Reilly condemns those who violate the privacy of others by pursuing unwanted, unexpected interviews – unless said interviewers work for Fixed News. Rash Limburger still has a radio show.

And then there’s He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, who held a press conference immediately following today’s address on terrorism by President Obama. To HWSNBN’s credit, he did make some statements that were absolutely true. He said, “Right now there is considerable debate in this city about the measures our administration took to defend the American people.” I couldn’t agree more; it’s been one of the top stories for several months. He also said that “The key to any
strategy is accurate intelligence, and skilled professionals to get that information in time to use it.” This is also true.

Other parts of his speech, however, were a bit less credible. He asserted that his “Administration gave intelligence officers the tools and lawful authority they needed to gain vital information.” I suppose that we’re expected to overlook the fact that said administration went through several justices before being given the documents that alleged the legality of that which they wanted to do… after they’d already done it. He insisted that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were required to gain vital information, expecting that we’ll overlook the fact that the necessary information had been acquired before EITs were used. We are expected to overlook privatizing heavily overpaid military contracts to companies in which he had an interest. We’re expected to forget Halliburton. We are expected to forget how to distinguish right from wrong, and agree that in using torture to elicit a non-existent link between al-Qaeda and Iraq, thereby justifying an unnecessary war, the ends justify the means.

To further bolster his delusional credibility, he reverted to the all-too-familiar tactic of fear mongering he lavished upon us while in office. He cried that freeing the terrorists from Guantanamo will compromise national security. We are to assume that they will therefore roam free (cue “O, Fortuna”), rather than being incarcerated in maximum-security prisons awaiting due process. He bemoaned the cost of maintaining prisoners within US borders; we’re to conveniently forget who’s been bankrolling the operations in GTMO thus far.

Toward the end of his speech, he expressed the following sentiment: “In my long experience in Washington,” he intones, “few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists. I might add that people who consistently distort the truth… are in no position to lecture anyone about ‘values’.”

Cue Julie Andrews singing, “That will bring us back to ‘Duh’!”  Failure to realize that Cheney himself is the author of said moralizing and distortion should lead us back to paragraph two: Even those of the upper IQ classifications are not inherently immune from the pitfalls of stupidity.