My favorite one goes something like this: The newest fad among the wealthy elite of the world (Milan, Lima, LA) are cats artificially grown to remain very small from kittenhood by insertion into glass bottles, where their cramped space suppresses growth, and they are sold as a novelty. These Bonsai Kittens spend their entire life in little glass bottles. There are pictures. There is a website. Poor, abused little kitties!
My sweet, newly teen niece was horrified. Daddy, can I use your computer to send an email? Sure, sweetie. It went to every name in his address book.
Three engineering students thought this story up—not as a way to artificially stunt the growth of housecats, but as a sick online prank. There are no “Bonsai Kittens” only a fake website that MIT took down after three days. I repeat: Bonsai Kittens do not exist. Three young men invented the idea as a joke.
Think that’s sick? So did the Humane Society, the ASPCA and the FBI. Ultimately, so far as I know, three young men were expelled from university, and the story is still circulating the internet. No cats or kittens were harmed in the making of this urban legend.
Now, first, there are problems with the story since mammals do not react the same way a Japanese maple does to cramped space. A seedling is selected with small leaves. The tree is pruned, babied with just enough water and soil to thrive, but snip snip! It’s not allowed to grow. With meticulous care it will develop into a fair replica of an ancient, but very tiny tree.
We don’t work that way. Poor nutrition can certain stunt growth in mammals, but not limited space. Not in the way described. And all who have ever owned a cat should shudder when they consider how those so-called bonsai kittens defecate.
I’ve received many such bogus emails over the years—most often from highly intelligent people who should know better. Afghan women, everything you’ve been told about what to do during earthquakes is wrong, plastic water bottles gave Sheryl Crow cancer, click here and Pepsi or Microsoft or somebody will give something to someone. Right now the one I keep running into is about 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays in July—it happens on once in about 823 years... except it happened in July 2005, not to mention in the last October... Doesn't anyone check facts? Try Snopes.
Once upon a time people believed whatever they found in print—result: yellow journalism. Politicians and the powerful have famously spread lies. “Remember the Main”? How about any number of lies told to trigger the sympathy of any numbers of populations to support measures that are directly counter to their own interests?
Right now, for example, Social Security and Medicare almost pay for themselves—they’re off by about 2%. It’s a self-supporting “entitlement”—most Americans pay into it their entire working lives—to which you and I are entitled to benefit. We already paid for it. I’ve paid for it for over 40 years. I don’t want to hear about how it’s “going broke” because I know that for decades it produced a surplus that the federal government used to pay for other things.
Wars, mostly. War is a costly item in any budget. I’m not talking about body armor or Veteran’s benefits. I’m talking about millions and billions spent on helicopters and armaments. Warships. Smart Bombs. Tomahawks. Money to defense contractors. Landmines that earn some companies a very healthy bottom line and blow the feet off people in third world countries. Look it up—go to the U.S. government and have a look at actual dollars. (I could be mistaken. I could be lying.)
Right now we are spending more than we take in. No one doubts this. Some are insisting that we have to ensure that the wealthy of our country don’t see their income dip because only they can make new jobs. I see business people every day who make products or sell services. They are the truly small business people of America and they are having a hard time because many Americans can’t afford to buy what they have to sell.
In other words: If the poor starve, who is going to buy what the wealthy produce? Oh, wait, you don’t have to produce anything to be rich. I forgot. But give them a tax break anyway, because somehow, the rest of us are supposed to believe they deserve it?
I don’t believe they deserve it.
We’re at war and war means sacrifice. It should not only be the service men and women and their families who sacrifice life, sorrow, grief, and loss. How about the rest of us pony up what we can, a few dollars. Surely money is easier to part with than the life of a loved one? Yes, Americans are hurting, but I have a job and I should be asked to contribute. My income has gone up 3% in the past five years or so. Raise my taxes a little. I can afford it. Remove the tax cuts for everyone. We should all pay and we should pay according to our ability. Paying should not take food out of the mouths of children. Maybe it costs us a vacation or remodeling the bathroom or a second or third home—others are paying with life.
Let me be more clear: Taxes shouldn’t go up for the poor, because we are, despite all the hype, a wealthy country and it is shocking that we have poor people here. We are also good people and sometimes very smart people. We should understand that the desire to be poor isn’t genetic, and it’s not part of our national characters. If we are getting by, we should be paying our debt, and it should not come out of the pockets of the weakest, sickest, youngest, and most vulnerable among us.
Years have gone by since I first started fact-checking online. My little cousin is all grown now, and wiser. She's no longer entitled to mess with her dad's email account. She's paying her own way these days. She's paying into Social Security and Medicare, and she is entitled to expect that the society she's supported her whole life will also support her when she needs it. But if you still believe what circulates as truth about entitlements, you might shed a tear for the Bonsai Kittens.
ABOVE: the square watermelon was said to be inspired by the Bonsai Kitten hoax.