When a snowstorm hit Bound Brook, N.J., this week, a couple of enterprising young men bounded from their warm homes into the streets to try to make some money by shoveling snow.
It’s the kind of energy we see all too rarely these days among teenagers who prefer soft bean bags and video games to hard labor, and it should be celebrated. Instead, a police encounter ensued when a grumpy, get-off-my-sidewalk citizen complained.
The police could have ignored this citizen and let the teenage boys serve their neighborhood, even if for a fee. Instead, Police Chief Michael Jannone made excuses for the stop when another citizen publicly chastised the police for intervening.
At first he said officers stopped the snow-shovelers because they were outside during dangerous weather. That lame defense wouldn’t fly once the boys told a different story. Then Jannone trotted out the tired and phony cliche I called out a couple of weeks ago: “We don’t make the laws, but we have to uphold them.”
Hogwash! Police never have and never will enforce every law on the books. And a good time for them to exercise discretion not to enforce a law is when an obnoxious citizen complains about harmless behavior like asking to shovel snow.
Anyone with common sense knows that anti-solicitation laws are aimed at door-knocking salesmen, not the young entrepreneurs in the neighborhood. The better police response would have been to ignore — and perhaps even scold — the whiner who deemed snow-shoveling to be a matter worthy of taxpayer-funded police intervention.
Filed under: Business and Culture and Government and News & Politics
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The for-profit company King Inc., which represents the family of the civil rights leader whose legacy America remembers today, has been enforcing its legal rights to his speeches and images so strictly that his story isn’t being told as widely as it could be otherwise. National Review told the story a couple of weeks ago in the context of the new movie “Selma.”
King’s heirs are so adamant about licensing his powerful words that they demanded $20,000 from the personal lawyer and speechwriter who copyrighted King’s “dream” speech. And the foundation behind the memorial to King in Washington, D.C., had to remove his name from its own in order to avoid fees and further delays in building the memorial.
I support the right of MLK’s heirs to seek reasonable licensing fees for commercial uses of King’s intellectual property, such as in the movie “Selma.” But imposing fees on a nonprofit that built a memorial to honor him is ridiculous. The same goes for suing news organizations and documentary creators who tell King’s story.
King Inc. has the law on its side in most cases, but the money-grubbing behavior of King’s heirs undermines his legacy. Former King ally Bill Rutherford said MLK “must be spinning in his grave” because his family is selling the vision that King gave the world for free.
The actions of his heirs also expose the greatest flaw of copyright protection. Thanks in large part to Disney, which has lobbied hard and often to keep exclusive rights to Mickey Mouse, copyright terms today last more than 100 years in some cases.
Unfortunately, those terms are likely to keep getting longer with millions of dollars at stake.
Filed under: Government and History and Media and News & Politics and People
Squirrels are rats with furry tails. Embrace that perspective and you won’t be like the West Virginia lawmaker who went into a rage when witnessing this scene, as reported by MetroNews:
It’s an awesome photo that captures a moment rarely seen in nature.
Filed under: Photography and West Virginia and Wildlife
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Lawbreakers caught in the act of petty offenses often try to shift blame from themselves to the law enforcers who bust them.
“Don’t the cops have anything better to do than hassle me for going 5 miles an hour over the speed limit?” they might say. Or, “Shouldn’t the police be investigating drug dealers instead of stopping otherwise law-abiding citizens for jaywalking?”
Such refrains are either naïve for assuming that all officers have the same duties or, more likely, they are dishonest attempts at dodging responsibility. In either case, law enforcers don’t take these defenses seriously, nor should they.
Unfortunately, police officers are not immune to such flawed logic themselves. Dare to question the wisdom of when they use force and how much of it, and you’ll likely hear something like this: “We don’t make the laws; we just enforce them.”
That was one argument offered in defense of New York officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose use of a chokehold allegedly caused Eric Garner’s death on July 17.
Pantaleo’s critics said he used excessive force in taking down a man for the minor crime of selling loose cigarettes on the street, and he should have been indicted for it. Fellow law enforcers said Pantaleo had no choice but to enforce the law as he did against a man who was resisting arrest.
Law enforcers who spout such lines are being disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst. The idea that they enforce all laws equally in every situation is laughable.
Think back to the speeding example. Officers do not always enforce the letter of those laws. Police discretion helped me avoid a ticket in my hometown last year after two officers busted me for speeding. I was guilty and never questioned the charge but received a friendly verbal warning.
When I recounted that story to a friend who is a deputy sheriff, noting that I was surprised to get a break because my car was licensed in another state, he confirmed that some policemen do indeed prefer to ticket speeders with out-of-state tags. That practice doesn’t exactly square with the rhetoric that “we just enforce the laws.”
The police make excuses like that when they are on the defensive. Any other time, they readily admit that exercising discretion is part of the job.
Filed under: Culture and Government and News & Politics and People and Video
Ever since our local newspaper closed two years ago, I’ve been obsessed with owning a newspaper vending machine or two. I’d like to turn one into a lamp and end table for our living room and use the second to store copies of historical editions of newspapers.
This week I finally found one newspaper box for a good deal on eBay. I’ll have to travel to Indiana at some point in the next few weeks to get it, but with gas as cheap as it is these days, now is a good time to invest in a 10-hour road trip.
The box I bought, which actually has a newspaper from 1989 in it, was once used to sell copies of the Post-Tribune, a regional publication in northwest Indiana. That was during the heyday of newspapers when single copies fat with advertising sold for a mere 25 cents.
My fascination with these soon-to-be relics of the newspaper era is driven by my own past in the news business. I landed my first job at The Tampa Tribune in 1987 and worked at the Dominion Post in Morgantown, W.Va., my last two years of college and for a few months afterward. I also did an internship at the Charleston Daily Mail in West Virginia and later did freelance work for two now-defunct newspapers in the Washington, D.C., era.
I’d really love to have a box from a publication where I worked or where I’ve lived, but any newspaper vending machine will whet my nostalgic appetite. Here’s hoping I find at least one more for my personal collection and perhaps more that I can turn into lamps and end tables for other news junkies.
Filed under: History and Media and West Virginia
This evening after dinner, our 10-year-old walked into the living room with a piece of paper for her two older siblings to sign. This public request apparently was not part of the signing ceremony they had planned because her brother scolded her for it, grabbed the paper and tried to conceal it.
I demanded that they show me the paper and explain the secrecy. That’s when I learned of the plot against their parents. The document was a makeshift “policy” stating that no sibling would rat out any of the others unless the crime involved a sin.
But a funny thing happened when their conspiracy was exposed — each of them ratted out one of the others as the brains behind the scheme. That alliance never had a chance.
Filed under: Parenting