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Today's Featured Article - I'm not a racist, but...

Gingrich

I'm not a racist, but... has long been considered one of the most powerful clichés in the English language. It has the power to define people, cultures, and determine some of the most powerful philosophies that the world has ever seen.

It is generally used in an argumentative situation, to make a point that could potentially be otherwise taken in a negative concept. Similar examples are "I'm not a sexist, but I don't feel women deserve equal pay when they are only truly useful 26 out of 29 days." The statement is often a precursor to "petitio principi" (Latin for "It is because I said so").

In modern society there is an aversion to making a statement that may be considered as politically incorrect. This disarming preface has become a cliche due to it's usefulness in stating what may be unpleasant or not politically correct. This statement is referred to by linguists as a "but-head" statement.

To truly understand the strength of this statement the individual words must be taken into consideration:

  • "I'm" or "I am" is the first part of the phrase. It defines the speaker as an individual. Often used in philosophy to show the existence of things. Descartes said "I think, therefore I am". Here Descartes both defines himself as a thinking individual, and as an individual. In the phrase in question though the speaker defines themselves as a non-thinking individual, and therefore negates his own existence even as he asserts it.
  • "Not" immediately after the definition of self and the subsequent denial of existence, the speaker uses a negative. In Boolean Algebra, and all mathematical logic, the term "not" immediately reverses the meaning of everything going into it. So by defining themselves as a thinking/non-thinking existent/non-existant individual, they immediately negate it in total, and thereby make themselves into a non-individual. This can be viewed similarly to a member of a mob, who becomes no longer an individual within their own right, but simply a part of a greater whole. And in much the same way as a mob's intelligence as a whole is that of its least intelligent member, the speaker again shows the lowest possible calculation of intelligence. (more...)
Recently featured: Cruel and unusual punishment

Yesterday's Featured Article - Cruel and unusual punishment

Kirk

Cruel and unusual punishment is a platitude found in the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Amendment, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, was written to ensure that the new American nation would not suffer from the excesses of the former English overlords, such as drawing-and-quartering, death by torture (no matter how entertaining it was to contemplate it being done to Mel Gibson in Braveheart), or repeats of Mr. Bean.

That the Founding Founders in the execution-happy colonies would have written an amendment to ban executions entirely is so unthinkable that it has taken the finest minds in the United States to explain why it means exactly this.

Most uses of the Eighth Amendment in the U.S. court system therefore concern executions, the exception being the rare lawsuit to demand premium cable channels on prison televisions. In fact, no prisoner has ever been drawn-and-quartered or tortured in the United States at all. And slavery, the Alternative Minimum Tax, and Instant Replay in Major League Baseball are technically not even "punishments."

The Supreme Court, then, has had the task of understanding what the Founders could have meant by writing an Amendment that, on the surface, seems meaningless. In the American renaissance called the Great Society, it first occurred to the Court that the death penalty itself could be "cruel and unusual punishment."

As in most things, the Court advanced this "jurisprudence" gradually, first saving from execution only:

  • The insane, who obviously did not know what they were doing
  • Premeditated murders, because the nation needs their expertise and attention to detail in National Economic Planning
  • Child killers, because we need to give them a chance to grow up
  • Spouse killers, because we need to give them a chance to grow old
  • Elderly killers, because sometimes writing kids out of the will just doesn't work
  • African Americans, because we don't execute a fair share of white folks and we wouldn't want blacks to take this the wrong way
  • Authors of gun massacres, because this is the fault of gun shows, SUVs, and rodeos.

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