Posts Tagged “urban legend”

Jack O' Lantern - Witches' BrewHalloween seems to bring out the ridiculous in a lot of Americans. And the mass media have more than a little to do with it. A common mantra every year is that children are sickened and sometimes killed by trick-or-treat candy, every year, because they ingested a “treat” that had been poisoned. Unfortunately for this all-too-common myth, it simply is not true (WebCite cached article). This year, the concern voiced by local media here in Connecticut is not toxic treats, but sex offenders. For instance, WTIC-AM 1080 in Hartford offers this proud announcement that the state plans to head off this danger (cached):

Connecticut Department of Correction parole officers will be conducting unannounced home visits and surveillance of the roughly 250 sex offenders under their supervision, for Halloween.

Offenders have been advised to have no contact with minors, keep their outside lights off, and not answer the door for trick or treaters.

And the venerable Hartford Courant dutifully carries a virtually-identical story (cached):

Trick-or-treaters may not be the only ones showing up on Connecticut doorsteps this Halloween.

Parole officers will make unannounced visits to sex offenders’ homes, although the offenders may not know it, the Department of Correction announced Thursday.

They’ll be watching to make sure offenders are not having contact with minors — even those who show up at their homes. The sex offenders have been told to keep their outside lights off and refrain from answering their doors, the agency stated in a press release.

Right at the start, let me state that there is clearly a potential danger here, that some child might unknowingly knock on the door of a sex offender. Clearly that’s possible. I don’t deny it, not in the slightest.

But let’s put this in perspective. It’s exceedingly rare for any child to go trick-or-treating alone, not to mention unsupervised. (We used to go out by ourselves when I was a kid, but that never happens these days. More’s the pity.) The chances that any given sex offender might answer the door and be faced with a lone trick-or-treater he might be able to molest, are extremely remote.

Making this an even more improbable scenario, please note that we’re talking about 250 sex offenders. Yes, that’s 250 … in a state with a population in excess of 3.5 million! The average child in Connecticut will not even go near a sex offender’s home in the first place. A child trick-or-treating at 25 homes (for instance) has a 0.179% chance of encountering a sex offender. That’s right, not even .2 percent of a chance.

(Updated to add: My figures here are wrong. CT has an average household size of 2.52. This means the odds of a trick-or-treater encountering a sex offender while visiting 25 homes, is actually 0.45%. Higher than I cited, but still certainly not significant.)

Talk about a ridiculous non-story. Give me a fucking break!

P.S. In the world of Christian religionism, it turns out that some of them are more than a bit miffed that Halloween is too non-Christian a holiday. So they’ve launched a campaign to celebrate Jesus Ween instead (cached). Yes, you read that right: Jesus Ween (cached). The less said about that, the better, I think … !

Photo credit: De’Nick’nise.

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Notre DameSince his inauguration, President Obama has begun making strides … often very small and fitful ones … away from being the nation’s evangelical-preacher-in-chief — a role his predecessor, George W. Bush, loved more than anything. Religionists are not happy about this, as one may expect. They’re going positively berserk, however, over Obama’s cancellation of a White House religious service on National Prayer Day, as reported by the Top of the Ticket blog at the Los Angeles Times (WebCite cached article):

On the first Thursday of May, dedicated as the National Day of Prayer, President George W. Bush hosted an ecumenical service in the East Room, a big public endorsement of evangelical Christians. (This event is different from the National Prayer Breakfast, held outside the White House gates every year on the first Thursday of February.)

President Obama opted not to have a service in the White House this year.

“Prayer is something that the president does every day,” explained White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, adding that Obama will sign a proclamation to recognize the day. “I think the president understands, in his own life and in his family’s life, the role that prayer plays.”

As I said, folks have gone nuts over this. Outraged claims range from “Obama canceled National Prayer Day!” to “Obama is going to outlaw prayer!” to “Obama won’t let Christians pray that day, but he WILL be praying with his fellow MUSLIMS!” The sheer amount of dishonest sanctimony and outrage has forced the usual debunkers, such as Snopes (cached article), to have to post pages explaining that most of the claims are not true.

To be clear, Obama has not canceled National Prayer Day. He will still proclaim it! In fact, he’s defying a court decision stating it’s unconstitutional (cached article), and one may assume his administration will appeal that ruling. All Obama has done, is simply to cancel the religious service that the Younger Bush led annually.

That’s all.

Maybe next year, Obama will simply not observe or proclaim National Prayer Day at all … but I’m not hopeful. Obama still likes to make overtures to religiosity and religionists.

Photo credit: JMC Photos.

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Picard Facepalm: Because expressing how dumb that was in words just doesnt workBack in August I blogged about the explosive Youtube video claiming to have proven that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s Strange Bedfellows blog has details of a Harris poll showing that this belief is held by a significant number of Americans (WebCite cached article):

… Full results are expected tomorrow, but preliminary findings were released in The Daily Beast by John Avlon, whose book “Wingnuts” details the hyper-partisanship that has swept America since 2008. …

And 24 percent of Republicans, and 14 percent overall, agree that Obama “may be the antiChrist.”

The other ridiculous, juvenile and untruthful beliefs that many Americans have about their president are:

  • 45% of Republicans and 25% of Americans think Obama was born abroad

  • 57% of Republicans and 32% of Americans think he is a Muslim

  • 38% of Republicans and 20% of Americans say Obama is “doing many things Hitler did.”

Look, idiots, see if you can get this: Obama is not a Muslim, but a Christian (see FactCheck and Politifact, cached articles here and here respectively). Obama was born in Hawai’i, not some other country, and has proven it (see FactCheck and Politfact, cached here and here). Also, both Barack Obama and Adolf Hitler were heads of state, so I’m sure you will be able to find similarities in their behavior … but confusing the two is irrational and illogical.

It’s time for the Right in the US — especially the Religious Right — to grow the hell up and stop lying about people they don’t like just because they don’t like them. No one says you have to be happy that Barack Obama is the president … but not wanting him to be president doesn’t grant anyone license to lie about him. Are we clear on that?

Photo credit: Science After Sunclipse.

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