September 24, 2014

At First, I thought Jon Stewart was Kidding. He wasn’t. {Video}

jon stewart climate march

On the September 22 edition of The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart begins with a 10 minute report about the People’s Climate March on September 21, attended by more than 400,000 people demanding action in the face of global climate change.

At the 2:45 minute mark of the segment, Jon asks,

Now, you may be thinking, do we really need a march to raise awareness about global climate change? I mean it’s an accepted scientific phenomenon pretty much everywhere. Here’s why you need the march. It’s accepted pretty much everywhere except this one place, called the United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. This is true. Last week they held a hearing that they apparently recorded in 1971—I guess that’s the technology part of the committee name—on President Obama’s plan to shrink carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030.

The hearing’s Sisyphus, presidential science advisor, John Holdren, charged with the impossible task of pushing a million pounds of idiot off a mountain. Of course, like any avalanche, it began rather innocuously.

Stewart then goes on to show us a series of video clips purporting to show three committee members sharing their expert opinions on various aspects of climate change: Rep. Steve Stockman, (R) Texas; Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, (R) California; and Rep. Larry Bucshon, (R) Indiana.

At first, I thought these clips were some kind of Daily Show studio gimmick—something made up with a green screen (a production technique often used in television news broadcasts, like when a reporter stands in front of a weather map) and bad actors.

Any person with only a modicum of intelligence, a group to which I belong, would have thought the same thing.

The comments by these “committee members” of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology could not be for real. They were too absurd, too utterly unbelievable. No one could mistake these comments for anything resembling an informed, intelligent point of view.

Surely, this was a joke.

But Mr. Stewart’s obvious incredulity at these comments gave me pause. Why would he be so visibly upset at a joke? His indignation seemed out of proportion to a prank. So, I went online to research these “members” of the committee.

It wasn’t a joke. It was real.

These are actual members of the U. S. House of Representatives, and they are actual members of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. This hearing occurred in September 2014, by elected members of the United States House of Representatives, who sit on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Oh my, what to do? First, take some aspirin, and then go for a walk in a garden or forest. Breathe. Try to relax.

Then what? I wondered how these people could become actual members of Congress. Surely there has to be some requirement of office that would weed out people living in clown cars? No. Read for yourself:

The House of Representatives is the lower chamber of Congress, and it currently counts 435 men and women among its members. According to Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, House members must be:

    • at least 25 years of age;
    • a citizen of the United States for at least seven years prior to election;
    • a resident of the state he or she is chosen to represent.

The Senate is the United States’ higher legislative chamber (the House of Representatives being the lower chamber), containing 100 members. The guiding document for our government, specified in Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution, specifically spells out the only requirements to be a senator:

    • individuals must be at least 30 years old;
    • a U.S. citizen for at least nine years at the time of election to the Senate;
    • a resident of the state one is elected to represent in the Senate.

That’s it. Although, to both lists of requirements, we can reasonably add: tons of cash. This requirement was not necessary during the time of the framers of the Constitution. I doubt they could even have imagined this would ever be a requirement. But today, it is as factual as anything can be factual.

With the bar on requirements for Congress being so low, maybe an inch off the ground, the question becomes: how can we, the citizens who are charged with making wise and considered choices about who becomes a member of Congress, evaluate whether a candidate is sufficiently intelligent to hold such a position?

The members of Congress set our national priorities, influence public policy, decide who to bomb, raise or lower taxes, establish budgets, maintain or violate treaties, elect Supreme Court justices and so much more.

We cannot depend on their campaign rhetoric to evaluate their mental fitness and basic level of intelligence. Candidates on the campaign trail offer only manufactured, media-based performances that are scripted and rehearsed to produce an effect. (Yes, with a few exceptions.)

We need to get behind the curtain of smoke and mirrors, behind the misdirection antics of press secretaries and publicists, to see who is really pulling the levers. We need a way to ascertain the basic intelligence of Congressional candidates before they are granted world-shaking powers.

So, as part of the solution to the problem of electing unfunny clowns to Congress (and the White House), I propose a Constitutional amendment calling for all candidates for any of the three branches of the federal government—executive, legislative, and judicial, and whether by election or appointment—to submit to a battery of psychological tests to be administered and interpreted by eminent psychologists—and the results made public.

I’m surprised this hasn’t already occurred. After all, psychological tests, along with drug and polygraph tests and background investigations, are routinely required in the public safety sector, including police officers, correctional officers, dispatchers, security guards, park rangers, SWAT teams, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians.

Military psychologists conduct psychological testing and applicant assessment for general fitness-for-duty and for highly sensitive jobs requiring security clearances. (It’s interesting to note that the Department of Defense employs more psychologists than any other organization or company in the world.) Courts may sometimes order a battery of psych tests to determine parental fitness. Work-related aptitude, ability, and personality trait testing, a billion dollar industry, is common practice in Fortune 500 companies. In a document entitled “Nuclear Security—Before and After September 11,” the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission “requires background checks for nuclear facility employees to ensure that they are trustworthy. Every employee who has access to safety equipment is required to pass background checks, including an examination of past employment, references, credit history, education history, military service history, an FBI criminal record check, as well as to undergo psychological testing. While on the job, each employee is also subject to random drug and alcohol testing.”

I’d like to have an equivalent screening process for all candidates for positions in any of the three branches of federal government. I’d like to know that they have a human heart that can feel the pain and suffering of others. I’d like to know they have a conscience to hold their base instincts in check. I’d like to know if they can tell the truth or whether they are compulsive liars. I’d like to know they can work cooperatively with others. I’d like to know that they are not seeking to conquer the world to show daddy they are worthy of love. I’d like to know that they respect living things, that they have a sense of the sacred. I’d like to know that their soul moves toward peace, not war; toward forgiveness, not vengeance; toward freedom, not oppression; toward tolerance, not hatred. I’d like to know these things. I’d like to know if they hate modern science, or women. I’d like insights into their addictions and mental blind spots. I’d like to know if they have any emotional maturity and intelligence at all. I’d like to know that they can tell the difference between video war games and actual war. I’d like to know they have basic intelligence that is suitable for 2014.

A Constitutional Amendment requiring candidates to be evaluated for mental health and basic intelligence is one way we can level the playing field in our search for the truth about candidates.

I know there are many types of intelligence: verbal, mathematical, musical, mechanical, physical, social, analytical, creative. More basic types of intelligence were suggested by Aristotle 2,500 years ago: theoretical, practical and productive. What level of these three types do our elected officials possess?

There are a number of valid and reliable tests used to evaluate and assess a person’s personality traits, psychological health, and levels of intelligence. The Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI) and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2) can provide a comprehensive assessment of adult psychopathology and can help assess major symptoms of social and personal maladjustment. The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale evaluates basic intelligence of adults, including verbal IQ, performance IQ and full scale IQ, along with four secondary indices (verbal comprehension, working memory, perceptual organization, and processing speed). Others far more knowledgeable than I could carry the ball from here. I just want to propose the idea of testing for candidates.

With good reason, we already require firefighters and police officers and nuclear facility workers to be rigorously evaluated. With equal good sense and foresight, we should now apply the same standard to candidates for all three branches of the federal government?

The best minute of Jon Stewart I’ve seen in a long time.

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