The year in dumb

When it comes to dumb, too often, we’re spoiled for choice. 2009 was no exception. The high — er — low lights of the Year in Dumb, in no particular order, are:

Judge Racist: In October 2009, Louisiana Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell refused to sign a marriage license for Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay. Why? Because they are an interracial couple. But Bardwell isn’t a racist – oh, no! To hear him tell it, he’s simply a social engineer who is thinking of the children: “I don’t do interracial marriages because I don’t want to put children in a situation they didn’t bring on themselves. In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer.”

Apparently, Bardwell didn’t get the memo: Any suffering experienced by children because of their dual racial heritage is the result of racism, and not the fact that they exist, or that a state sanctioned the union of their parents.

Constitution? What constitution? Hard though it is to believe, in 2009, Asheville, N.C. City Councilman Cecil Bothwell found himself battling some heavy Kool-Aid drinkers, who claimed that because he is an atheist, he cannot hold public office.

Apparently, no one noticed that he was of little faith until Bothwell recited an alternative oath of office that didn’t bring up “Almighty God.” Extreme conservatives began making a racket because North Carolina’s constitution (from 1868) disqualifies officials who “shall deny the being of Almighty God.” One critic, H.K. Edgerton, threatened to sue the city, stating that as a Christian, “I have problems with people who don’t believe in God.”

Lessee… Freedom of religion is a civil right. Freedom from religion is a civil right. When the people vote, they exercise another civil right, deciding who shall lead them. A religious test for office is illegal in this country, despite what North Carolina’s outmoded constitution says. Also, I’m pretty sure that North Carolina councilmen’s duties have nothing to do with religion.

So, who is Edgerton? According to the New York Times, he’s “a local civil rights leader.”

Obama appoints tax cheat as Treasury secretary: Tim Geithner. ’Nough said.

Abortion snag in health-insurance reform: Among the many truly boneheaded moves in health-insurance reform efforts (which include calling it “health-care reform”), the refusal by some politicians to support the reform if it includes funding for abortion takes the cake. No, I am not saying people on either side of the abortion issue are themselves “stupid.” What I am saying is the arguments against “federal funding” for abortion do not wash.

Lots of folks wind up paying for things they might not agree with – I help fund the $3 trillion boondoggle known as the Iraq War, for instance, which involves the taking of actual human life, rather than the cancelingout of human potential in utero. I’m also forced to pay for abstinence-only education, which is not effective, nor, in some cases, scientifically accurate.

More to the point, abortion, no matter how odious to some, is a legal procedure of medical significance. If the government is not taking steps to restrict or deny funding for other legal procedures of medical significance, on what basis does it restrict or deny abortion? (The answer, of course, is that doing so will make it impossible for many women to obtain an abortion, while allowing woman-hating propagandists to skirt Roe v. Wade. The strategy, like other anti-choice ploys, also seeks to “punish” women for having sex, even though there’s no comparable medical procedure that busybodies and politicians would like to see men denied).

An additional bit of idiocy: Some Dems who scuttled abortion coverage in health-insurance reform in 2009 forgot that they don’t work for the Catholic Church, whose bishops appealed to them on the matter. Problem is, We the People did not elect bishops, and we vote for representation, not for moral guidance.

Further abortion stupidity: The man who murdered late-term abortion provider George Tiller tried to raise the “necessity defense” to escape punishment for his blood-soaked rampage at the doctor’s church on a quiet Sunday morning in 2009.

According to published reports, Scott Roeder confessed to murdering Tiller in Kansas. He claimed shooting Tiller was “necessary” to save “unborn children.” An odd claim, as well as a stupid one, given that Tiller was not performing abortions that morning, let alone at his church.

A judge last December had the good sense to reject Roeder’s argument, finding that abortion is legal (duh?) and, according to the Associated Press, he further stated it was “difficult to consider the shooting of Tiller in the back of a church on a Sunday morning, with no overt act by Tiller himself, as an act spurred by an imminent threat of death or bodily harm.” (None of this stopped Roeder’s lawyers this year from trying to package the cowardly, hypocritical act as “voluntary manslaughter,” though the judge ultimately disallowed such a defense. In Kansas, voluntary manslaughter would mean Roeder held an unreasonable, but honest, belief that there were circumstances justifying the slaying. This is, of course, baloney. Roeder murdered Tiller because he wanted to — witness his admission to several plans to kill Tiller — and is now trying to act the martyr.)

A reasonable person’s opinion about Roeder goes something like this:

Even if we all agreed abortion is murder, random people are not allowed to simply decide someone is a murderer, skip that little thing called a trial, impose the death penalty, and carry it out whenever the mood strikes them. This nation of laws has something called “due process,” and it applies to those who are actually sucking down air, extra-utero.

Long live the porn king’s “good name”! Something so dumb you couldn’t make it up! Larry Flynt, ever the gentleman, sued his own nephews (after booting their dad from the family company) for using his name on their porn.

Never mind that Jimmy and Dustin are also surnamed Flynt – a jury said using the name infringed on Larry’s “trademark.” To avoid pissing on such sacred ground, they now must also use their first names when slapping “Flynt” on their smut.

As the Associated Press reported, the gist of Larry’s argument was that his nephews’ enterprise tarnished his image. “The junk they publish hurts my reputation,” said the producer of such classy fare as “Barely Legal.”

The 24-hour news cycle: Thank you, cycle, for the endless coverage of truly meaningless occurrences, like just how well Tiger Woods controls his, ahem, “swing,” the drama of an empty balloon floating through the air, or whatever shall become of Jon and Kate Gosselin and their flock of brats. You win a spot on my list because of your detailed analysis of the meaningless. In 2009, this included following up your endless coverage by asking: “Why is everyone so obsessed with this junk, anyway?”

A dumb year for me, too: Despite 10-plus years in the news business, I wound up misquoting my own father, when I said in my November, 2009 column that he didn’t remember every detail of his near-fatal encounter with Ohio killer Buck Wilson. Actually, he does. And he says that contrary to a contemporary news report, Wilson never ordered him and his friend to go get money.

What could be worse than botching your own dad’s information? Doing so in a tribute column. Ouch.

Katharhynn Heidelberg writes from Montrose, Colo.

From Katharhynn Heidelberg.