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Wednesday, April 25, 2007 01:39 am

A family matter

At least one Bybee is an idiot

Untitled Document I’ve been asked to explain away a family gaffe. Follow me, please, down to the basement, back to the irregular room where we handle “these matters.” The quickest way is straight on through the great room, but let’s take the scenic route, through the small door, into the cartoon-rat room, past Cyrano de Berge-a-rat, who starts with his face on the sump-pump cover and his long yellow nose follows the water pipe up to the ceiling, where it meets Rat-L-Rat, a smiling cartoon snake winding through ceiling pipes. And why not dance a dance with Elvis-Impersonator-Rat? The only rule in the cartoon room is the “Not-Serious Rule.” It is a room for children to invent new games. “Big Red Power Ball with Stuffed Bear Stopper” was invented here. It’s a game with rules, but they’re not serious rules (by definition), because “Not Serious” is the only rule allowed. Continue on, down the narrow hallway past Watz-It Rat, and Other-End Rat, and Sparky Rat with his hand in the fuse box. You’re almost there. Take a moment; drop a nickname in the Mad Hatter’s hat, if you will — a poker game might break out and you’ll want to be ready — and here we are, in the irregular room. It’s a crooked room, a former coal bin. There’s nothing “regular” here. Family pictures cover the walls: Current generation pictures look down from the north wall; older generations are to the east and west. Look closely, please, past the half-smile, half-smirk and into the eyes, and there it is, deep into the iris — a rubber-chicken outline, the size of a pinhead: the Mark! Look at any of the family pictures; all of us are thus marked. It’s the “Not-Serious Mark.” It means, “Come on in, friend, and rest awhile; it’s easy in here — not as sober as ‘out there.’ ”
On the south wall are pictures of folks we do not know — pictures of lost souls, we think; pictures found in garage sales. We adopt them and tape nicknames on their frames because each has a “Partial Not-Serious Mark.”
The fat lady under the lamppost has been rechristened “Aunt Puddin’ Hips”; her history says, “Broke the ‘International Troops Entertainment Record’ during WWII. Was once engaged to the USS Iowa. Died of a broken heart when the Iowa was mothballed.”
The circa-1920 picture of the boy in high-top shoes reads, “Uncle Johnnie Boots. Died in 1933 while attempting a rainbow lace.”
And now the reason for our meeting: the Bybee Memo! In 2002 Jay S. Bybee, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, wrote the Bybee Memo. The infamous memo says that torture is not only legal, but if it’s done right, can also be fun. The legal opinion (the memo) is 41 pages long. Jay S. gave the memo to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who didn’t understand it because it used “legal” terminology throughout. Nonetheless, Gonzales sent it on up to the Decider. Bush took one look, glazed over like a teenage clerk trying to make change when the cash register breaks down, and said (I quote), “Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning.”
I know I ought to not assume that question-mark-eyeball people with the inability to understand or use words are dimwitted, but I suffer a nightmare and cannot get it out of mind: I’m on trial. I turn to my attorney, and it’s Gonzales, with his question-mark eyeballs. I’m doomed! The judge has his back to me, I beg him for mercy and a first-year law student. The judge turns around — and it’s Bush with his question-mark eyeballs. He says, “I know that human being and fish can coexist peacefully.”
Anyway, Jay S. tried a small word explanation. “Torture is good,” he told the Decider, and the Decider was pleased — so pleased that he appointed Jay S. to head the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in one of those strange square-corner Western states where people rope things.
Now, if you would, try not to think of our national nightmare; instead, join me here, on the Internet, and see the picture of Jay S. Bybee. Look here; look into his eyes — he has the Bybee “Not-Serious Mark.”
All explained here in these back-and-forth  e-mails. Jay S: He took it seriously? No way! For God sakes — I was wearing the family heirloom big floppy clown shoes when I explained it. Me: Didn’t you see his question-mark eyeballs? Damn it, Jay S. — you can’t kid with the dimwitted. You should know that — it’s on the family crest: “Non tu kiddest jolthead.
Jay S: I thought it was a fish hook in his eye, left over from a fishing trip with Cheney.  Me: Your turn to bring deviled eggs to the family reunion. Jay S: You kiddin’ me? Me: Of course! By definition! You idiot! The census records on the Internet say that there have only been 5,000 Bybees so far, and that’s probably enough: We joke. We have cartoon walls. We think we’re witty — others don’t always agree. One of our 5,000 is an idiot!
Thanks for listening. Thanks for understanding.

Contact Doug Bybee Sr. at dougbybee@sbcglobal.net.
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