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© 2002 The Miami Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

October 20th, 2002

Stating your case for the stupidest state


An outfit calling itself ''Morgan Quitno Press'' recently ranked the 50 United States in order of intelligence, and I am TICKED OFF. My state, Florida, came in 47th. Can you believe that? Forty-seventh! How dare they? How dare they suggest that Florida is more intelligent than three other states? No way!

The three states ranked as stupider than Florida were Mississippi, Louisiana and New Mexico. Granted, these are not gifted states. But stupider than Florida? Stupider than the state that STILL does not really know who it voted for in the 2000 presidential election? Stupider than the state that will issue a driver's license to ANYBODY, including people who steer by leaning out the car window and tapping their canes on the roadway? Don't make me laugh.

So I did a little research into this ''Morgan Quitno Press,'' which as you may know can be rearranged to spell ''Squirts on a Porn Gem.'' It seems that this outfit has made a reputation for itself by ranking states according to Livability, Safety, Average Butt Size, etc.

Some of the rankings are shaky, if you ask me. For example, for six years in a row, ''Morgan Quitno Press'' declared that the Most Livable State is Minnesota. My question is: Most livable for what species? Caribou? Has ''Morgan Quitno Press'' ever actually BEEN in Minnesota during the winter months (September-June) when you begin your day by putting in 30 minutes with an ice scraper? And that's just to clear your bathroom mirror?

''Morgan Quitno Press'' declared that the Safest State -- also for six years in a row -- was North Dakota. This makes more sense. You're not going to have a lot of crime in an area with essentially the same population density as Jupiter. Even if you TRY to commit a robbery in North Dakota, the victim will be so happy to have human companionship that he or she will invite you home for traditional North Dakota cuisine (Pork 'n' Marshmallow Jell-O Casserole Surprise).

But ''Morgan Quitno Press'' is way off base with its state intelligence rankings. The problem is that the ranking system is based on each state's public-education system -- class size, test scores, etc. This does NOT determine state intelligence. It only determines STUDENT intelligence, and there are certain states (you know who you are) where the first thing that the intelligent students say when they graduate is: ``I'm getting OUT of this armpit!''

No, to scientifically determine which states truly belong at the top -- and, more important, the bottom -- of the national intelligence scale, we need to consider the Five Key Indicators of State Stupidity:

1. STATE NICKNAME: For nickname stupidity, no state challenges Indiana, which proudly calls itself ''The Hoosier State,'' even though nobody has a clue what ''Hoosier'' means. It could be a Native American word meaning ``Has sex with caribou.''

2. STATE MOTTO: The winner here is Washington, whose motto is -- get ready to be inspired -- ``By and by.''

3. STATE SONG: The state song of Idaho is Here We Have Idaho.

4. OFFICIAL STATE THINGS: Here the competition gets tougher. Alabama, Missouri and Oregon have all declared an Official State Nut. Massachusetts and New Mexico both have an Official State Cookie. Utah has an Official State Cooking Pot. Texas has an Official State Flying Mammal (the Mexican Freetailed Bat). But the winner in this category is a five-way tie among Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin, all of which have taken time out of their busy schedules to declare an Official State Soil.

5. PRESENCE IN THE STATE OF AN ENORMOUS TWINE BALL -- This indicator applies to states where a resident, seeking to set a world's record for largest ball of twine, spent literally years of his life wrapping twine into an enormous ball that wound up weighing more than eight tons; and THEN, when the individual died, the community, instead of quietly transporting the ball to a landfill and leaving it there, not only built a public gazebo to display the ball as a tourist attraction, but also created an annual festival to celebrate it. According to the Internet site, there are -- believe it or not -- TWO such states: Minnesota, where the residents of Darwin celebrate ''Twine Ball Days''; and Kansas, where the residents of Cawker City hold a ''Twine-a-Thon.''

So which state, when we weigh all these factors, is the stupidest? This question has no easy answer. No, wait, it does: Kansas. I say this not so much because of the twine ball, but because Lawrence, Kansas, is the home of ''Morgan Quitno Press.'' Consequently it gets a LOT of votes. At least the way we count them here in Florida.