Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Hoaxes’

Informed Citizenship

I received a fascinating email today. The email me pointed to the results of a recent congressional vote on an amendment to invoke cloture on a habeas corpus amendment. This email expressed the forceful opinion that anyone who voted against the amendment was “a U.S. traitor.”

That email was quickly followed by a response from someone else wisely suggesting that the original author read the entire bill and all riders attached to it before judging those who voted. The author essentially reminded us that sponsors of amendments and riders often try to attach their legislation to “sure to pass” bills in an attempt to sneak pork through congress.

I did a bit of research myself and was about to “reply all” to add my two cents, when it occurred to me that the issues I was pondering would make for good blog conversation.

According to my brief internet research, “Cloture is the formal procedure used to end a filibuster. It can take up to three days and requires 60 votes. Cloture can also be used even if there is no filibuster underway, to ban non-germane amendments. If cloture wins, 30 additional hours of debate are allowed prior to voting, but they are rarely used. If cloture fails, debate would continue without limits. Instead, the bill is usually set aside.”

By my read, this means that voting FOR cloture truly means voting to limit debate on the issue, which in my mind is bad thing. Granted, failure often means the bill is set aside, but that’s a different matter and not the REQUIRED outcome of a nay vote on cloture.

Now, further research shows that this specific vote on cloture was held on a habeas corpus amendment which was attached to another amendment to the defense bill – how confusing! And trying to follow sound advice to read the bill and all the riders is practically (and I mean that literally) impossible. There are 96 different amendments to the original bill. The original bill itself is 12 pages of LINKS to text – and there are 4 different versions being considered in congress right now.

How can a relatively educated citizen desiring to be an informed democratic participant dig through this kind of bureaucracy to form an informed opinion?

Thomas Jefferson felt strongly that an informed populace was essential to the preservation of democracy and the avoidance of tyranny. According to data from the US Census Bureau, my attainment of a master’s degree places me among the top 12% of the U.S. population in terms of education. Yet I still often feel stupid when it comes to trying to be an informed citizen.

If we need to be educated and informed to preserve our democracy, yet even someone who should be considered educated often feels thwarted in her efforts to become informed, what does this imply for the future of our democratic republic?

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Learn the “Hoax Ropes” at Snopes

I love SNOPES.COM. It is, in my opinion, the #1 site on the internet for debunking myths, hoaxes, and urban legends. Heard of a supposedly new computer virus making the rounds? It might actually be a hoax circulating since 1990. How about that poor sick kid who’s collecting postcards to set a world record? He might be 45 years old and healthy by now – but odds are that Snopes can give you the scoop. Yes, Snopes has got to be one of my top 3 favorite websites!

It took some time, but with the help of Snopes, I have eliminated 95% of the incoming junk emails that used to be forwarded to me by well-intentioned but misguided and gullible friends and family.

Now, I admit that I myself used to be one of the gullible. I used to fall for some of the more believable hoaxes and urban legends. But in this age of rampant internet mis-information, I soon learned to check Snopes to verify the veracity and accuracy of these nuggets of wisdom appearing in my in-box.

Having been set free by the light of truth, I started feeling sorry – really embarrassed – for the myriad people still falling prey to their friends’ well-meaning warnings. I started to educate my friends and family about the resource that is Snopes. I asked them NOT to forward me messages unless they had first been researched through Snopes. Although it took a while and some borderline rudeness to let them know I was serious (Mom – if you don’t stop sending me that junk, I will stop reading ANY of your messages!), they eventually got the message…and I stopped getting the messages!

Now, every so often, I’ll get the odd message from someone who doesn’t know about my short hoax fuse. Newer acquaintances are given the benefit of the doubt and privately requested via email NOT to forward me messages offering to grant my wish if I will just “forward this email to 100 other people in 5 seconds” or messages asking me to “please send this on to everyone else you know.”

Those “friends” who insist on spreading fictitious urban legends as truth start seeing a “reply all” from me that looks something like this:

“Thank you for your concern for me. Here is some accurate information from SNOPES.COM on [insert your favorite emailed urban legend here]. I am working hard to help my friends and family become informed information consumers. I feel that it is important for people to be able to distinguish between truth and fiction and not to circulate urban legends and myths as truth.”

I usually continue: “In the future, please research these types of email on Snopes.com or another trusted and reliable source before forwarding. A good rule of thumb is that any message that tells you to “forward to everyone” should automatically be suspected as a hoax and researched thoroughly before being forwarded on to anyone. I hope this information is useful to you.”

This usually does the trick to stop the unwanted emails, and if it doesn’t, my “reply all” messages get a little more pointed until they remove me from their lists.

Snopes is also useful for researching totally benign stories that you might not otherwise expect to find there. Today, for example, I received a funny story via email, which I will reproduce for you below because it gave me a good laugh! Tonight, I got curious about whether the story was really true, so I went – where else? – to Snopes. Sure enough, there was a blurb about the story and some history. I’ve included the Snopes link below the story so you can check it out for yourself.

If you are a forwarder of hoax emails, do yourself and your friends a favor and bookmark Snopes.com. Better yet, take a minute to be skeptical of what you receive via email and check it out on Snopes before forwarding. Believe me, your friends and family will thank you.

So is the story below real, or a hoax?  Find out yourself by going to Snopes!

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Hell Figured Out

The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. The answer by one student was so “profound” that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well.

Here is the professor’s “Bonus Question”: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle`s Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let`s look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially.

Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle`s Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added. This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, “it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you”, and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number 2 must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore,extinct…leaving only Heaven . . . thereby proving the existence of a divine being . . . which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting “Oh my God.”

THIS STUDENT RECEIVED THE ONLY “A”

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