Saturday, April 30, 2011

Forget State Flowers, State Firearms, State Rocks, & State Birds! Here's An Idea Whose Time Has Come: The Official State Idiot!

The floor is now open for nominations for the Official State Idiot wherever you reside in the Land O'The Dumb and the Home O'The Dumber. Here in the Lone Star State, we have multitude of candidates for the title of Official Texas State Idiot. Hint: if you see an announcement of a gathering of Dumbos/Teabaggers in your locale, get thee hither and find a suitable candidate for Official State Idiot. The Krait (Gail Collins) is so designated because The Dumbster annointed The Krait's NY Fishwrap stablemate (Maureen Dowd) as The Cobra during the 2000 campaign. The Krait is favored in this blog because she is unencumbered with the plagiarism baggage of The Cobra. Today, The Krait tackles the insanity that afflicts the 50 states when their legislatures are in session with the primal urge to designate this or that as the "official state this or that." In Texas, we have an official flower, an official tree, an official bird, an official... yada, yada, yada. What we don't have in Texas (or in any of her sister states) is an "Official State Idiot." New York (or New Jersey) can claim Donald Trump as "Official State Idiot." Like most villages in the land, there is not a single state lacking a candidate for "OFficial State Idiot." Again, the floor is open for nominations. If this is the (fair & balanced) democratic process, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]
Introducing The Things Of Spring
By The Krait (Gail Collins)

Tag Cloud of the following article

created at

Springtime Progress Report: Early this year, we learned that Utah was considering a bill to name a Browning pistol its official state firearm. Meanwhile in Washington, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey was pushing for a bill that would make it more difficult to sell guns to people on the terror watch list. I am excited to report that one of these pieces of legislation finally has been passed into law.

Yes! Utah now has an official state gun. It beat out Arizona, which this week bestowed its honor on the Colt Single-Action Army pistol.

Lautenberg’s bill, meanwhile, has gone nowhere whatsoever. It would require that gun purchases by people on the terror watch list be vetted by the attorney general’s office to make sure that arming the individual in question would not pose a danger to homeland security. Opponents point out that the terror watch list is not always reliable, and the bill might therefore force innocent Americans to go through an entire additional step while purchasing armaments and explosives.

“It’s taking a little bit of a back seat,” the senator conceded. “But we’re on it.” Like all advocates of sensible gun regulation, he has, by necessity, developed an incredibly optimistic outlook.

Speaking of the sunny side, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is happy to report that so far this year, no state has passed a law prohibiting colleges from banning guns on campus. This is pretty notable, since failure to require that institutions of higher learning be gun-friendly is the only thing that stands between some states and a perfect 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association. “It’s failed 51 straight times in 21 states,” said Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign.

Actually, it did pass in Arizona recently, although it was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer. We have had cause to make fun of Governor Brewer in the past, sometimes for matters as trivial as making up stories about illegal immigrants leaving piles of severed heads in the desert. However, this woman has had a heck of a lot of crazy legislation to plow through. Besides the “campus carry” bill, she nixed a “birther” bill aimed at knocking President Obama off the next state presidential ballot. So, really, even though Brewer did sign the bill making the Colt pistol Arizona’s state gun, you cannot say she had a bad April.

The Colt bill, which had originally failed during the Arizona Legislature’s rush to adjournment, was resuscitated and passed in the wee small hours of the morning just before everybody left town. You’d have thought this would be a hard sell, what with the memory of the Tucson massacre so fresh, not to mention the fact that, as a lawmaker of Navajo descent pointed out, the Colt’s role in winning the West has somewhat less pleasant connotations to Arizona’s American Indian population.

However, in the end, the majority conceded to the logic of people like Senator Steve Smith, one of the sponsors. “One would argue the white men themselves were instrumental weapons of mass destruction against the Native Americans. Should we not honor any white people?” he demanded.

What with all this excitement, the lawmakers did not have enough time to make a miniscule change in state law that would have allowed 20,000 residents to get extended unemployment benefits, which would have been paid for entirely by federal funds. The state has a 9.5 percent unemployment rate.

But, you know, they had the official state gun thing to work out. “It wasn’t their priority,” said the House minority whip, Anna Tovar.

Besides deliberately ignoring the long-term unemployed and caving in to lobbying by the gunmakers, I’m sorry to say that Arizona also gave the whole state thing-naming tradition a bad name.

I have always been a big fan of official state rocks and birds and flowers, in part because selecting them really does tend to distract legislatures from other more alarming activity. Also, the nominations usually come from groups of schoolchildren, who then get to watch democracy in action as the contenders for state fern or state song go head to head in a battle down to the wire. Many years ago, I was privileged to watch a fight over the official state mammal of Connecticut, in which the whale beat out the deer, to the edification of all homeowners who have never once woken up to discover that overnight, a whale had eaten their tulips.

But it’s pretty creepy to imagine a bunch of third graders debating the merits of potential state guns. There are plenty of other routes to go here. I believe New York is working on a state dog. Neither Arizona or Utah has a state dog, although I was impressed to note that Utah has both an official state vegetable (Spanish sweet onion) and an official state historic vegetable (sugar beet).

Opportunities abound. If you want to name something, states, go for a beagle. Ω

[Gail Collins joined the New York Times in 1995 as a member of the editorial board and later as an op-ed columnist. In 2001 she became the first woman ever appointed editor of the Times editorial page. At the beginning of 2007, she took a leave in order to complete America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines. Collins returned to the Times as a columnist in July 2007. Collins has a BA (journalism) from Marquette University and an MA (government) from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.]

Copyright © 2011 The New York Times Company

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