Archive for April, 2004

Once is happenstance.

Twice is coincidence.

Three times is enemy action.

Last night at approximately 11pm, I noticed a “breaking news” headline on Fox News that read: “Explosions Rock Coalition HQ”. At that time, there was not yet an accompanying news story. Considering how significant an event this would be, I checked back frequently to get more info.

I could not find any mention of this incident on CNN or MSNBC, which may not mean anything since Fox News sometimes scoops these things before anyone else.

About 30 minutes later, the “breaking news” headline was gone, but there was no story. The main story was something like “Attacks Continue” or something lame like that, with a handful of subheadlines on various recent incidents in Iraq. The mention of an attack on the Coalition HQ was among the subheadings, but there was no mention of it in the body of the story. WTF.

Then, at about midnight, all mention of any attack on the Coalition HQ was completely gone. It was as if it never was in the news to start with.

So what am I to make of this? Fog of war? Erroneous reporting? There was no mention of a retraction or anything like that. Perhaps it was up too briefly to be considered worthy of a retraction.

So is there something going on at Coalition HQ or not? A number of news sites picked up the AP feed about it, and what little info there is suggests that it may have been a controlled ordnance disposal.

Every now and then, something happens that makes you question the fundamental order of the universe, and the ability of presumptively normal, sane human beings to engage in stupidity of a most spectacular magnitude.

Today’s example is a Canadian activist group called STOP (Simple Truths Our Priority). Their website also sucks, but that’s another issue altogether. Their current (and only, as far as I can tell) cause is to prevent the teaching of homosexuality in public schools.

That in itself is not so remarkable. But using The Onion as a serious research source for “fact” requires a unique level of gullibility and humorlessness. STOP took a photograph from one of the Onion’s satirical articles and used said photograph on a pamphlet as an example of real classrooms in real public schools.

The Board of Trustees for the Thames Valley School District, which had agreed to meet with STOP regarding their concerns, was singularly unimpressed:

“Satire is apparently lost on rigid individuals,” said London trustee Peter Jaffe. “Taking something from a spoof newspaper and presenting it as reality crosses the line. (The photo) plays on people’s worst fears. I would hope this group will make a full and public apology.”

The reply given by STOP’s spokesperson shows the real level of clueless that is operating here:

“We knew it was a gay paper and we hold that even as a joke, the gay community is proud of their advancements into the safe schools program in the U.S.,” she said.

She thinks the Onion is a gay newspaper.

I’m afraid to start laughing because I might never be able to stop.

I became aware of this tidbit of news through the grace and courtesy of Fark, which is frankly one of the most useful news sources I have found on the web. The comments thread there regarding this story has some real gems:

“This is just retarded on so many levels, I am dumbfounded into silence.”

“I just want to smack the stupid out of these people.”
(with the follow-up comment):

“That is going to be the longest, most exhausting endeavor I think I’ve heard in a while.”

“Great. This is the first thing I read on the internet today. Now my entire day is completely ruined because I have lost the last tiny thread of hope I had for humanity. I think I’m just going to go get drunk somewhere.”

“It is sort of refreshing to see some benchmark stupidity coming from Canadians rather than, say, Alabama, for a change…”

“I really farking hate people who think that typing 1.2 words into google is ‘in depth research’. These kind of ‘tards are the main reason why I no longer work in public libraries.”

Via Fark

UPDATE: Earlier today I sent an email comment to STOP through the link on their homepage. Just now I received a reply, which I think is somewhat interesting and does raise some legitimate points about how public education handles the socialization of children:

My Email to STOP:

Um, guys, The Onion is a satire news site. They’ve been around for over 12 years now. Everything on the site is fictional, and of a satirical nature. They’re not a gay newspaper — I don’t even know where to start with what’s wrong with that conclusion. That photograph you used isn’t real. It’s staged and photoshopped for comedy purposes. The “source” caption is fake. I feel stupid even having to explain this to you.

STOP’s Reply (I have edited the spacing a little for ease of reading, but otherwise this reply is unaltered):

Imagine our surprise, when we found out! Well, let’s hope they don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. I guess given the fact that we had little notice to throw together all of our concerns, along with recommendations, rationale, history of safe school policy, legal concerns, parental rights issues, study the Canadian educational laws, the teaching mandates, the school council mandates, etc, etc, etc,

Along with raising our families and working to provide a living…we were unable to verify that exact article. When we finally did verify it, we realized it was a hoax and removed it from our research…unfortunately too late for the deadline for the manual but not for the CD’s, it is not contained in them. The photo used although it was a fake, still embodied our concerns as parents. If you question the genuineness of our concerns, please go to google and type in FISTGATE. I think any parent would understand and perhaps find some empathy for our concerns.

Not once have we ever had a problem with the Trustees dealing with the issues of student safety. All children should be safe attending school, including gay students. Nor do we agree that they should be name called, harrassed (sic) or threatened. We believe that the safety of all children should be the board’s number one concern. But we also believe that this can be done through a bully and bystander program which empowers the bystanders and trains teaching staff to handle all cases of bullying immediately and consistently.

Unfortunately our concerns and recommendations have been largely ignored and Trustees would rather deflect attention by name calling and bullying those who oppose the implementation plan as it exists. We have a very large population of Muslims, Jews and Christians that are concerned about their parental authority being jeopardized if at school they learn it’s “okay to be gay” and at home their moral teachings differ.

This does not mean that we teach our children to bully or name call. In fact we teach our children to be tolerant to other points of view and all we ask in return is for mutual respect and tolerance. We believe if we had a zero tolerance to all forms of harassment, violence and name calling and the trustees mandated enforcement. The gay children would be protected. So would the obese child, the freckled face child, the short kid, the skinny kid, the nerd, etc.

We are grateful to those in the community who despite this faux pas believe that everyone has the right to be heard. Even if they don’t agree with the point of view. And hopefully the recommendations that STOP made to find a Common Ground approach to this issue will be considered. Because we believe that if all sides were involved from the beginning, we would have come up with a plan we all could live with.

Unfortunately this was not the case. We empathize with the gay parents and students and their concerns….we did not build the fence between us and them. But we believe a bridge can be built. But the Trustees must remain objective and impartial and help both sides to come together. Harrassment, (sic) bullying and name calling of the parents who oppose the plan is counter productive and does little to help public relations.

As to the other 296 pages in the 297 page document provided to the TVDSB…they present parental concerns and research, they ask questions, they re-iterate concern for all students, including gay students. They ask for a common ground approach. A majority of the articles contain footnotes/endnotes and give sources. No facts were ever presented from the Onion Newspaper to the public. The facts that were noted came from other sources, such as the New England Medical Journal, Princeton, Cornell Univerisity, American Journal of Medicine, American Psychiatric Association, etc.

For those who wish to do their own unbiased research we suggest that you go to google and type in FISTGATE or sexual diversity and safe school policy, or homosexuality and safe schools. We are not asking anyone to take our word for it. We encourage everyone to educate themselves on the history of safe schools across North America. There are articles for and against. We believe if we do not learn from History we are doomed to repeat it.

Our concerns that were submitted to the Trustees were in the form of questions. We simply want our questions and concerns addressed. Let us hope that with open hearts and open minds on all sides, we can come up with a solution to keep 100% of the students safe. And find mutual respect for differing opinions.

We put forth an honest effort to voice our concerns, we did not intentionally mislead anyone, we would hope all parties concerned will continue to keep an open mind and work towards a peaceful resolution to the issue at hand.


STOP Committee

Time for a test of your social sensitivity. The following is a public service announcement that was run by the Tennessee Department of Health. It was broadcast statewide to a comprehensive listening audience, and not targeted in any particular way:

“‘What you eat now can affect you years later. You have a choice in what you eat. Choose to help your heart. Cut down on salt, fat and serving sizes to help your heart. Try baking your chicken, eating a fresh tossed salad on the side and scrumptious watermelon for dessert. Eating healthy foods will help lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Someone is counting on you to eat healthy. Heart health is a numbers game. A message brought to you by the Tennessee Department of Health.”

Do you notice anything about this ad that is offensive, vulgar, or politically insensitive? No? Then you’re normal.

But apparently there are people in Tennessee who find this ad “racist”:

The Tennessee Department of Health pulled a radio public-service announcement yesterday after some people complained that it played to racial stereotypes about African-Americans.

Um, ok. I’m guessing that they mean the watermelon and chicken references, which is what Scott Norvell on Fox News speculated.

One radio station in Nashville said they received “a couple of complaints”. So of course they pulled the ad immediately, because God knows we can’t have 2 people in a city of 545,524 be offended.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that people who are offended by this ad are 1) Liberal, and 2) Not originally from Tennessee or any other Southern state. Or perhaps it’s just because it’s Nashville. That city is quite a different place from most of the rest of the state (and then there’s Memphis which I think is officially in another dimension entirely).

But lemme ‘splain something to people who aren’t from the South. Southerners eat chicken. We even eat it fried a lot of the time. We also eat watermelon. I have many childhood memories of eating half of a big watermelon in the summer on the deck during a barbecue, or even just a regular meal. And if you have people over, you have watermelon. It simply isn’t strange, and it certainly isn’t limited to people of a certain skin color.

To suggest that simply mentioning chicken and watermelon is racist is just stupid. It’s like saying that the word “salad” necessarily implies vegetarians and is thus somehow discriminatory against vegetarians. Even the NAACP isn’t bothered by this:

”That’s a wonderful advertisement. Tell them to put it back,” said the Rev. Enoch Fuzz, who heads the health committee of the local NAACP. ”African-Americans are dying at a much higher rate than other populations, and we’ve got to turn that around. That’s a stereotype we’ve got to get past. We can’t get sensitive.”

I never thought I would agree with anyone from the NAACP (especially someone named Fuzz), but I have to say this guy is on target.

The award goes to the gentleman my wife and I saw this afternoon driving an SUV with a Green Party bumper sticker.