Sunday, October 18, 2009

Slow news week, I guess ...

You know it’s a slow news week when you find yourself riveted to the television for a couple of hours and watch a “flying saucer” floating over the state of Colorado when there’s supposed to be a 6-year-old boy “inside.”

Not to say that nothing bad happened in our dysfunctional government but I’m sick of self-flagellating over that mess, for this week anyway.

Actually there were two news items that caught my attention: the aforementioned balloon boy and the justice of the peace in Louisiana who refused to marry an interracial couple.

First “Balloon Boy.” A wackjob family in Larimer County, Colorado claimed their son had climbed aboard a weather balloon that was shaped like a flying saucer (more like a container of Jiffy Pop popcorn) and was adrift, with no way of bringing the balloon back to earth, and no oxygen aboard. I admit to watching coverage, but my first thought really was “What kind of dumbasses have something like that in their backyard when there are three boys under 10 years of age living in the home? That’s a disaster waiting to happen,” and “It’s sad that child will pay for his parents’ mistake and bad judgment.” I never made it to physics so I really couldn’t figure out if the balloon was really capable of lifting the child at all, but I’ve read plenty now, enough to know the balloon was too flimsy to pick the kid up at all (probably couldn’t even pick up my nearly 20-pound cat Ryan …).

The father is an amateur scientist (whatever that means, I guess he reads a lot and fancies himself self-trained and superior to all) who also claims to be a meteorologist, and he and his meek-as-a-mouse Japanese wife chase bad weather with the three boys in the vehicle.

Then I learned the family had been on a lame-ass “reality show” called “Wife Swap.” I’ve never watched this show; it’s my understanding that two married women “switch places” and become the mom to a family that is as unlike theirs as possible. In the case of the Heene family (the people pulling off the balloon incident), you could put pretty much anyone into that situation and she’d be out of place. The three boys are rude, crude and run around uncontrolled; the father is a chauvinist of the worst ilk. Apparently they’ve been on the show twice.

But they claim not to watch television … although when the balloon went adrift, the dad first called the FAA and a local television station to report the “flying saucer” was adrift. Only then did he call 911 to report his son was aboard.

Long story short, no kid on balloon, thousands of dollars on emergency resources to track the balloon and figure out how to get the kid down safely, a closure of nearby Denver International Airport, and a farmer’s plowed wheat field were all affected. Once the balloon came down on its own, with no kid aboard, there were fears the boy had fallen out of the balloon, or out of a basket said to be on the balloon, so more helicopters and ground crews became involved in the search/recovery effort.

Perhaps an hour later, the family claimed to have found the boy, hiding and asleep in the garage attic. He was “afraid” he was going to get in trouble for playing with, and being part of accidentally releasing, the balloon.

Police searched the family home, the father “searched” the garage.

The ruse unraveled when the family did the talk show circuit later that night—and I mean full force. The 6-year-old, when answering his dad’s question “Did you hear us? Why didn’t you come?” said “You said it was for the show.” Dear old dad became flustered and confrontational with any media type who asked for a clarification.

Out of the mouths of babes.

Thus far, the only possible charges are filing a false police report. Certainly there have to be some sort of federal charges for causing actions that shut down an airport. Certainly somewhere in the false police report are provisions for restitution for the public agencies that responded. Certainly child protective services need to look into a family who has a “weather balloon,” and all the stuff required to maintain it, lying around in disarray.

Oh and to any network considering giving this family a “reality show” of their own (that they won’t watch since they don't watch network television), just say no. I think it may be time for that type of programming to die a quick death anyway …

As for the justice of the peace thing—I disagree with the concept of interracial couples not being allowed to marry. But I got to thinking—and this thought might be controversial, so bear with me—perhaps it is that man’s right to refuse to do so if he believes it is so wrong? Much like a nurse who is against abortion is not forced to care for a woman undergoing an abortion, maybe it’s this guy’s right to refuse? The couple was referred to another justice of the peace.

I also refuse to believe this is the first time in 34 years that this has come up. Why are we hearing about it now for the first time?

Of course his beliefs are wrong in the eyes of the law, but he holds those beliefs. Much like pharmacists who refuse to sell Plan B, the morning after pill, because they erroneously believe it’s an abortion pill, it’s their right to refuse to sell it as long as there is another pharmacist who can and will sell it. Let the people of his parish in Louisiana decide—don’t use his services for weddings. Certainly the word had to have been out on this guy and interracial couples had avoided utilizing his services before? Now the word is out for everyone …

Seriously we need to do a better job of being color-blind. Even if it’s hard to do, we need to try harder.

balloon boy

justice of the peace


design by