This week’s winner of the Internet

Who was it who said there’s a sucker born every minute: P.T. Barnum?*  Roger Ailes?  Well, whoever it was would love this one:

I saw the story on the net Monday—actually I only saw the headline—

President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to ‘stop him turning into a werewolf’

—and I thought, c’mon…this is the 21st century, right?  No elected national leader in the modern world is believing this, or even going along with it for the sake of his or her people (unlike national leaders who talk man-to-man to Santa Claus or pardon Thanksgiving turkeys for unspecified crimes).  Of course, it’s not true.

The Guardian took a bit of pleasure in popping this balloon:

Evidently, the chance meeting of a Latin American president with a colourful myth too good to fact-check proved irresistible – confirming as it did any number of stereotypes about erratic behaviour from national leaders in the continent of magical realism.

But according to Argentine historian Daniel Balmaceda, there is no link between the two traditions. “The local myth of the lobizón is not in any way connected to the custom that began over 100 years ago by which every seventh son (or seventh daughter) born in Argentina becomes godchild to the president,” he said.

It seems this tradition was born in 1907 when a couple from Russia asked Argentina’s president to be godfather to their seventh son: “The couple wanted to maintain a custom from Czarist Russia, where the Tsar was said to become godfather to seventh sons, and Argentina’s president accepted.”  The tradition in Argentina became law in 1974 and President Isabel Peron extended the benefit to seventh daughters; it was subsequently granted to non-Catholic children beginning in 2009.  The president’s godchildren receive presidential protection, a gold medal, and a scholarship until their 21st birthday.

It was Mark Twain who said, Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  Many publishers and editors have been making a good living following his advice since long before the Internet came along, but now we can get the full story in fewer news cycles.  So in that sense we all won the Internet this week!

*(Come to fine out it was not P.T. Barnum, it was someone named David Hannum.  Read the interesting backstory here.)

Posted in Funny, History, Intellectual Dishonesty, Woeful Journalism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Truthiness

Today Stephen Colbert retires “Stephen Colbert.” Since October 2005 Colbert the comedian and satirist has launched “Colbert” the character on a mission to entertain us by shining a light on the hypocrisy and evil intentions of people who profit from pandering to a fear and ignorance in American society that refuses to wilt in the face of truth. In fact, he told us as much on the very first episode (click the pic):

ColbertTruthinessEver thought about what it must take for Colbert to stay in character, and to do it for so many years? This morning I ran across a nice little article that links to a Slate podcast in which Colbert explains—very interesting.

Posted in American Values, Effective Communication, Funny, Intellectual Dishonesty, Media Criticism, Patriots, Politics, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some perspective on landing on a comet

The world hasn’t seemed very excited that the European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet last week, me included—even after learning that it bounced, twice (when it wasn’t supposed to have bounced at all), before settling down.  Landing on the moon in 1969 was much cooler: first of all, there were people involved, and second because the moon is something we all know and Comet 67Pwhatchamacallit is not.  There has been little sense of the scale of this achievement, until now: thanks to @TLBKlaus for providing this excellent graphic on Twitter.

B2maXqpIEAAt2og

Now you’re talking my language…

Posted in Effective Communication, Science, Space Exploration, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No news is actually excellent news

It’s not that nothing happened…but today, when the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States decided not to take up any of the pending cases on same-sex marriage, as they were expected to, the decision not to decide—at least not yet—was another sign that homosexual Americans can look forward an end to legalized discrimination sooner rather than later.  Some of them saw no reason to wait—same-sex marriages started in Virginia within hours of the news this morning.

The decision not to hear arguments in any of the cases where federal appeals courts had in essence ruled in favor of same-sex marriage means that those rulings stand, clearing the way for legal same-sex marriages in as many as 11 more states, bringing the number of states on the right side of history to 30 so far (and don’t forget the District of Columbia!).  Vox.com has a good explainer here of what today’s actions mean, with links to an update on where each state’s court case stands and graphics showing how gay marriage is being recognized in law as the right thing to do even in places where many citizens disagree.  But that’s what courts are for, to enforce law and equity in the face of majority ignorance.

Why did the justices decide as they did?  I don’t know, and the justices are not compelled to explain.  But it means that, for whatever reason or reasons, there weren’t at least four justices who were willing to take one or more of these cases right now.  I’ve read some theories that the court decided not to hear any cases because there was no disagreement: all the pending court cases were in favor of allowing same-sex marriage, so they felt there was no conflict that required their special wisdom to resolve.  The argument goes that once there are one or more cases with the opposite finding, the nation’s highest court will step in; I guess we’ll see if that’s so, but this court’s ruling in Windsor v. United States overturning the Defense of Marriage Act as a deprivation of equal protection under the law should give a good hint what they might say.

I’ve said it before (“SCOTUS dumps DOMA: fair, simple, American”), and I’d like to say it again:

This is not about what one religion or another teaches about homosexuality; this is about how the civil law treats American citizens regardless of their religious belief, or their gender or their race or national origin.  A religion is free to believe and teach what it wants about the morality of homosexual behavior or same-sex marriage, and its teachings and laws are important to the members in good standing of that particular faith.  But those teachings are not binding on Americans who are not members of that denomination.  The civil law, which orders how we all deal with one another in the secular society outside the confines of our many private clubs, is blind to such moral questions.  States have the right to decide who can “marry” and who can’t, and the federal government has to treat all “married” couples in the same way, regardless of the gender of the spouses.  Simple, really.  Fair.  American.  Congratulations, U.S.A., on another successful day at the office.

Posted in American Values, Civil Rights, Intellectual Dishonesty, Justice, Politics, Religion, That's Life, Tolerance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#FairyTaleEnding

Derek Jeter played his last game in Yankee Stadium last night, and the final play of the game tried like hell to live up to the unbelievable hype that his year-long retirement tour generated.  Click below and see for yourself (thanks, Josh Levin and Slate for directing me to this).

jeterscreen grab from MLB.com

First pitch, single the other way–game over; legends on deck…a last look around the old office…heading for the door…all too poetic to be true.

And yet it was.  I think I’ll go tell the story to my dad, who grew up a Yankee fan going back to the 30s.  Tomorrow’s his birthday and that’s when I usually visit…he would have loved this.

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