Cranston West: The school where Christianity went to die

Jessica Ahlquist
16-year old Cranston West student Jessica Ahlquist

To quote a favorite young lady of mine, “People suck.”

At Rhode Island’s Cranston High School West, student Jessica Ahlquist took issue with the banner hanging in the school labeled “School Prayer.”  She successfully sued her state-funded public school to have a it removed.  This was a classic textbook case of separation of church and state, and U.S. District Court Judge Ronald R. Lagueux even praised her for her courage in his written decision.

This was hardly judicial activism. Any high school civics student should have recognized that this was the inescapable outcome were this issue heard in any court in the land.  Some might argue the law is wrong, but it’s hard to imagine anyone being surprised that it’s the law.

Cranston BannerIt might even be argued that had the school had the good sense to label the banner “School Pledge” and drop the Heavenly Father reference and the Amen that it would have been a completely legal banner.  But they didn’t, and so it isn’t.

Yet it isn’t the loss of this banner that diminishes Christianity. It is the violent threats of retaliation against Ahlquist from other students. In what appears to be a woefully misguided sense of defending their religion, classmates are not only verbally insulting the young activist, but physically threatening her with assault and rape, both in this life and the next. Just a few of the things posted to Facebook and Twitter are listed below.

“May that little, evil athiest teenage girl and that judge BURN IN HELL!”

“I hope there’s lots of banners in hell when your rotting in there you atheist fuck #TeamJesus”

“If this banner comes down, hell i hope the school burns down with it!”

“U little brainless idiot, hope u will be punished, you have not win sh..t! Stupid little brainless skunk!”

“Fuck Jessica alquist I’ll drop anchor on her face”

“definetly laying it down on this athiest tommorow anyone else?”

“Nothing bad better happen tomorrow #justsaying #fridaythe13th”

“Let’s all jump that girl who did the banner #fuckthatho”

“”But for real somebody should jump this girl” lmao let’s do it!”

“Hmm jess is in my bio class, she’s gonna get some shit thrown at her”

“hail Mary full of grace @jessicaahlquist is gonna get punched in the face”

“When I take over the world I’m going to do a holocaust to all the atheists”

“gods going to fuck your ass with that banner you scumbag”

“if I wasn’t 18 and wouldn’t go to jail I’d beat the shit out of her idk how she got away with not getting beat up yet”

“nail her to a cross”

“We can make so many jokes about this dumb bitch, but who cares #thatbitchisgointohell and Satan is gonna rape her.”

I know kids can be stupid and cruel, but I can’t fathom that somehow this level of malevolence is being wielded in the defense of Christianity.  Even assuming that somehow this was well intentioned, in so trying to save their religion they have made it considerably less.  Ironically, atheists are often accused of unfairly conflating religion and violence.  Yet these allegedly Christian students make a compelling case all on their own.

Young Jessica Ahlquist returns to school today for the first time since the ruling on the banner.  Her morning Tweet suggests a high degree of optimism, or maybe hope. “time for school. Woot. #bestdayever,”  I hope she’s right.

WWJD, indeed.


Kodak is your father’s Oldsmobile

Facebook Jail
Free your Images from Facebook?

Kodak has organized a stunt whereby a man will remain trapped in a box until 1 million photos are set free from Facebook by using the new My Kodak Moments app.  With the app, users can pull photos directly from their albums and their friends’ albums to create photobooks and prints, which can then be ordered on Facebook for delivery.

If you’re in New York City, you can visit Mark Malkoff in his transparent box. Or regardless of where you are, you could print something and help end his imprisonment.  Or you could cry, or maybe just cringe.

Yes, I get that this is marketing schtick.  It doesn’t have to make complete sense.  But does it have to be embarrassing? After all, they’re nice prints. The photo books are great. The app is well done. It’s the message behind the stunt that makes me wince. (Full disclosure: I work for Kodak.)

Think about it. Kodak thinks your photos are trapped in Facebook Jail.  A place where they are easily sharable with 800 million Facebook users.  A place where they are archived indefinitely.  A place where they are downloadable, linkable, or cross-postable on demand. Yup, these photos are confined like a lion on the Serengeti.

Further, Kodak is proposing to “free” your photos by printing them such that they exist on a single piece of paper and are only sharable with people who can see over your shoulder.  This is like trying to convince people to free their music from iTunes by pressing it onto vinyl disks.

They should just hang up a sign that says, “Kodak—We don’t get it… and get off our lawn.”

Let’s face it, Kodak is in trouble.  This is no secret.  The news reports daily on Eastman Kodak’s efforts to remain financially solvent as it tries to shed the shame of failing to capitalize on the market’s shift to digital imaging (a technology it pioneered) and reinvent itself as a printing company, all in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Not an easy go.

But it’s one thing to be late to the game.  It’s another to show up at the football field with your first baseman’s mitt and your swim goggles and wonder why no one picks you for their team.


Poking your way to the pokey

Poke ButtonToday’s local newspaper reported that federal prosecutors are alleging that a Hell’s Angels member threatened a witness—through a Facebook page “poke.”  Seriously… you can’t make this stuff up.  How lame of a Hell’s Angel do you have to be that your preferred intimidation tactic is a button on a web page?

Wait… Facebook still has a “Poke” button? And people use it?  I can’t remember the last time I was poked, but maybe I’m just inherently unpokable.

Then again, my immediate family has a lingering bad taste about poking as my youngest used to instigate serial poking episodes from the back seat of the car.  His opening volley would be to stick a pointed finger into a fellow passenger and then issue the drawn out low-key utterance, “po…ke”.  This would then propagate randomly through the vehicle for what seemed like an eternity as everyone poked everyone else while I gripped the wheel and muttered, “Are we there yet?”

So, maybe it’s just that my circle doesn’t poke.  But either way, this notion of Facebook poking as harassment has to be a bit of a legal stretch, no?  Apparently not.  Google “Facebook poke considered harassment” and you get a ridiculous number of hits.  People being arrested and sued for all manner of virtual abuse.  This is just one out of control poke-analia, to the point that it’s rather amazing CNN hasn’t devoted a full news segment to scourge.  After all, they spend most of their time reporting on Facebook and Twitter anyway.

I guess the upshot here is just a word of warning to all your serial pokers out there.  Trespass on your friends’ cyberspace with care.  One poke too many and you’ll be headed to the pokey.

 


I’m calling “bulls*%t” on John Kyl

John KylFirst rule of holes: when you’re in one… stop digging.  This is a lesson Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) has not yet grokked.

Kyl has been lampooned in recent days after his office clarified his wildly inaccurate comments about Planned Parenthood on the Senate Floor last week by telling CNN it was “not intended to be a factual statement.”

Not content with looking like a world class ass, Kyl has now compounded his lie by saying yesterday that he merely “misspoke” on the floor, and that he had not approved his aide to utter the now classic Twitter hash-tag. (#notintendedtobeafactualstatement)

There’s only one little problem Senator:  if we take you at your word that you meant to say 3% of Planned Parenthood activity is abortions, but the 90% number slipped out instead, we have to accept that when you got up on the floor to speak, you intended to offer statistics that didn’t support your point.  Your whole speech was basically an assertion that Planned Parenthood pretty much only existed to kill babies and didn’t serve any other useful purpose.  The truthful 3% number doesn’t really support that position now does it?

Let’s face it, you lied.  You lied with the intent to persuade the ignorant.  And you got busted… big time.

Politically,  it seemed you were better off with the “not intended as a factual statement” excuse. While it was an admission that you were prone to fits of wild hyperbole, at least it didn’t admit that you were a lying sack of s*%t willing to intentionally deceive the public to get your way.


Lady Gaga makes a splash as a Tech Consultant; Humanity is doomed

Last week, Gaga and UbuntuGrammy award-winning singer Lady Gaga confessed that she is an avid fan of Ubuntu, the Linux-based operating system. Reports are that Ubuntu’s desktop market share has shot up from 1 percent to 7 percent in just two days. Furthermore, due to a huge rise in traffic, Ubuntu’s website suffered a downtime of about 8 hours on Tuesday.

While Ubuntu is a really slick OS, made slicker by its price tag (free), it’s hardly a new kid on the block.  The Linux distro has been around for years, struggling to make inroads against Microsoft and Apple.  It’s got a fair following among the geek crowd, but has yet to make big inroads into the mass consumer market… until now.

Many Ubuntu enthusiasts as well as developers and investors are overjoyed, and understandably so.  But what does this say about the sanity of the average person?  Lady Gaga’s advice might be worth following if she opined on music, popular culture, or fashion. But if we’ve intellectually regressed to a point where we will change our computer operating system based on an offhand remark from a celebrity, what else will we buy?

It’s hard enough to figure out which experts to trust in a sea of competing voices on a topic, but there has to be some ability to discern who should warrant consideration as a person to whom we should listen.  Or have we really reached the point where we are unable to discern that Lady Gaga shouldn’t even get a voice as a tech expert?  Alternatively, are we just so awestruck by celebrity that we’ll do anything a celebrity says?

Even sheep are smarter than that.