From:         crispen@NETSQUIRREL.COM
Subject:      TOURBUS -- 15 OCTOBER 1998 -- EMAIL PETITIONS

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Howdy, y'all!  :)

The folks at (glance up at the bus for info),, and, bring today's journey of our
little bus of Internet happiness to you.  Please take a moment to
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Also, your fearless bus driver will be speaking at a conference in
Philadelphia this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  If you are a TOURBUS
Plus subscriber, be looking for a post from me on Thursday and again
on Sunday (and for more information about the plus bus, visit

On with the show ...

The leaves are starting to turn, the days are getting shorter, and
there is a slight nip in the air.  You know what that means don't you?

For those of you who may not know what urban legends are, they are
stories that

     - Appear mysteriously and spread spontaneously in varying

     - Contain elements of humor or horror (the horror often
       "punishes" someone who flouts society's conventions);

     - Make good storytelling; and

     - Do NOT have to be false, although most are.  ULs often have a
       basis in fact, but it's their life after-the-fact (particularly
       in reference to the second and third points) that gives them
       particular interest."

       [list adapted from]

Most urban legends also include a desperate plea for you to forward a
particular email letter to as many people as possible.

Email Petitions

Because of the sea of urban legends currently floating around the Net,
most well informed Net users instinctively ignore any message that
says, "redistribute this to as many people as possible."  To bypass
this, many Net hoaxsters now mask their urban legends as email

The bad news is that email petitions are not worth the paper they are
printed on.  Here are a couple of reasons why:

     1. The "signatures" on email petitions are darned near
        impossible to verify;

     2. The signatures on email petitions are absurdly simple to
        forge.  For example, how hard would it be for a spammer who
        has access to millions of email addresses to fake an email
        petition supporting the legalization of spam?

     3. The Net is international, but the focus of email petitions is
        usually regional.  I don't mean to offend anyone here, but do
        you honestly think that the US congressperson from the second
        district in Idaho is going to be impressed with an email
        petition signed by Magnus Magnuson and thousands of his
        buddies in Norway?

     4. Email petitions are a spammer's dream: they give the spammer a
        new list of email addresses he can cut and paste into his mass
        mailing lists (that's right, folks -- sign an email petition,
        and chances are you could soon be swimming in spam).

It gets worse.  Most of the email petitions floating around the Net
right now are downright fraudulent.  Case in point:

AOL Is Taking Away ... (FILL IN THE BLANK)

The email petition tells you that

     Our America Online staff is planning to take away our Instant
     messages [or flat rate pricing, or the "you've got mail" guy, or
     any other AOL feature you can think of] by [insert date here].
     If you want to keep your Instant Messages free of charge, send
     this mail to everyone you know.  It will be used as a petition.
     Each person you send this to, counts as one "signature"  If this
     petition gets 1,000 "signatures," our Instant Messages will still
     be available at no extra charge.  If America Online does not
     receive 1,000 "signatures," Instant Messages will still be
     available, but only to those who pay an extra 15.00 dollars a

Garbage.  AOL is not taking away ANTHING, folks.  In the case of this
particular email petition, I am happy to report that the nice folks at
America Online actually *GIVE AWAY* their Instant Messenger (IM)
program ... that's "give away" as in FREE!  In fact, IM is now bundled
with Netscape Communicator, and you don't even have to be an AOL
subscriber to use it.

David "abracadabra" Emery ( wrote a
wonderful piece shredding the AOL email petition hoax.  Unfortunately,
I cannot find it right now, so I guess you are going to have to trust
me when I say his piece is worth reading.

401K-Time for Bonzo

The next email petition says that it is for

     people who would like to see the Air Force place 143 chimpanzees
     in retirement sanctuaries.

The message goes on to tell you to send a copy of the message to
""  Guess what, folks.  That address does not

By the way, wasn't this "Air Force chimpanzee" thing the subject of an
old Matthew Broderick movie?

>From the Department of Redundancies Department

Email petition number three is from "Jason," who says that his is the

     uncle of Alisha and Ashley two of the five little girls that died
     in a car trunk, They got into the trunk very easily but they
     could not get back out!  This tragedy has changed my families
     lives forever.  I just want to make sure this type of thing will
     never happen again.  We need 30,000 names for congress to
     consider making release latches or some other type of trunk
     mechanism a law.

Five young girls did die in the trunk of a car in Utah on Saturday,
August 8, 1998.  According to, within 24 hours of the
tragedy Utah Congressperson Merrill Cook had publicly suggested that
Congress should consider requiring automobile manufacturers to install
release latches inside car trunks.  Cook, by the way, is a member of
the House Transportation committee.

In other words, the story about the five little girls is (tragically)
true.  The story about the 30,000 signatures, however, is a cruel hoax
that preys upon the memory of these five children.

For more information about this story, visit:

Save PBS/NPR ... Again ... and Again ... and Again ...

Our next email petition announces that

     The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the issue of whether public
     funding to an artist can be linked with the idea of whether art
     is 'decent.'

     ... On NPR Morning Edition, Nina Tottenberg said that if the
     Supreme Court supports Congress, it is in effect the end of the
     [National Endowment for the Arts].  Then, there's the question of
     Congressional funding: funding for [National Public Radio]/NEA &
     [the Public Broadcasting System].

Guess, what!  The story is TRUE!  Well, the court stuff is true; I
doubt that Nina said what she is reported to have said.  The US
Supreme Court did indeed decide to hear the public funding/decency

What the email petition fails to tell you, however, is that the
Supreme Court heard the case (National Endowment for the Arts v.
Finley) back on March 31, 1998!  In fact, on June 25, 1998, the court
announced an 8-1 decision that the National Endowment for the Arts can
indeed consider decency, as well as artistic merit, in deciding who
gets public money.

So, is this the end of the NEA?  Not hardly.  In fact, less than a
month after the court announced its decision, the US House of
Representatives voted 253 to 173 to restore funding to the NEA for
Fiscal Year 1999 at the level of US$98 million.

In other words, the court case is over, the congress has given the NEA
its funding, and the email petition is yet another hoax.

For more information on this story, visit:

The Washington Post's Coverage of NEA v. Finley

The NEA's Reaction to the House Funding Vote: 

Finally ...

For information about the ONLY legitimate email petition that I could
find, visit 

That's it for this week.  :)


CHESTER DRAWS (noun).  A place you keep your socks.
Usage: "Bubba, I need some hep movin' this chester draws 'cross the
       bedroom flaw."

(Special thanks to Pam Johnson Taverner for today's wurd)

You can find *ALL* of the old Southern Words of the day at 

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