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
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
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
Back in 1995 during the heyday of the war on Big Tobacco, anti-smoking groups created what they thought was a clever marketing campaign. They contrasted the powerful warning labels for cigarettes in other countries with the weaker labels here in the United States.
To illustrate the point, the clueless crusaders sent sample labels to every member of Congress and to journalists like me. There was just one problem: The labels were on actual packs of cigarettes. Activists who had dedicated their lives to kicking tobacco’s butts had become charity tobacco distributors for a day. Free smokes for everyone!
That irony came to mind today when I saw this “public service announcement” against guns:
“What the ad-makers are encouraging is highly illegal and invites danger,” The Daily Caller noted in describing the ad. “The boy would be guilty of weapons theft, illegal concealed carry and carrying a weapon on school property.”
That last point is the most outrageous when you think about the senseless zero-tolerance atmosphere that anti-gun zealots have inspired in public schools. Children can’t even use their fingers to simulate gun play or shape a pastry to look like a gun without being punished severely.
Who’s the ad wizard who thought it would be a good idea to tell students to sneak actual weapons, and presumably loaded ones, onto school property?!
That’s actually a rhetorical question. Her name is Rejina Sincic, and she is standing by her creation, to the point of calling people “cowards” for not sharing it. Thousands of YouTube viewers have voted the video down, compared with a handful who actually like it, yet she still can’t see the hypocrisy of it all.
That’s what happens when you’re blinded by a superiority complex.
Update, Dec. 27: The backlash against her video, including the Hit & Run blog calling it “the worst anti-gun PSA of all time,” prompted Sincic to make private her original upload, which I had embedded here, and block all comments about the new version, which is now embedded above.
Filed under: Advertising and Culture and Education and Hunting & Guns and Video
I penned these words 15 years ago after a national tragedy. I’m sharing them now because they remain relevant, albeit to another tragedy:
This time around, the myth involves a suspected criminal rather than an innocent victim, but it still won’t die. The myth is that Michael Brown was surrendering with his hands up and said “don’t shoot” when Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson shot him to death. Sensational coverage of the Aug. 9 shooting has fueled that myth ever since, and it is now considered unassailable gospel truth in some quarters.
Those quarters include, most notably, the National Football League stadium in the metropolis where the shooting occurred and Capitol Hill. The hands-up gesture is the rallying cry of Brown’s defenders, be they part of an official group like Hands Up United, talking heads in the media or the outraged masses on Twitter.
Or, in the words of protester Taylor Gruenloh: “Even if you don’t find that it’s true, it’s a valid rallying cry. It’s just a metaphor.”
But eloquent protests to the contrary, the truth does matter. Metaphors that perpetuate lies — whether they involve a young, white girl like Cassie Bernall or a young, black man like Michael Brown — breed cynicism and thus deepen the wounds they aim to heal.
That’s why Charles Barkley, a black man and former professional athlete who can identify with both Brown and five St. Louis Rams who thrust their hands in the air on Sunday, lashed out at irresponsible journalists who help spread deceitful metaphors. “I can’t believe anything I hear on television anymore,” he said. “And, that’s why I don’t like talking about race issues with the media anymore because they love this stuff and lead people to jump to conclusions.”
Sports writer John Walters cut to the chase in a Newsweek column: “The grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, failed to indict one police officer; the proliferation of hands up, don’t shoot indicts all of them. To get justice, you must start with the truth.”
Filed under: Culture and Media and News & Politics and People and Sports
West Virginia University has an excellent leader in E. Gordon Gee. He’s currently only on tap to fill the job for a couple of years, but he’s showing himself to be just the kind of administrator the university needs in a challenging time.
I was skeptical earlier this year of WVU’s decision to bring him back to a job he held early in his career. It seemed like WVU was looking backward instead of forward. Gee also has a history of running his mouth in ways that reflect poorly on him and the schools he has led.
But Gee has won me over. He still has the fun-loving character of a young man, as evidenced by his tweet when ESPN’s College Game Day visited Morgantown, W.Va., in October.
Yet he has exercised the kind of wisdom that only comes with age — and perhaps from having learned from his own mistakes. Gee understands that, in the words of King Solomon, there is “a time to tear apart and a time to sew together, a time to be silent and a time to speak.”
Filed under: Education and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
Hey, West Virginia is movin’ up in the world. The Mountain State bested not only Mississippi but also Alabama and Arkansas on a list of worst places to live based on factors such as health, education, jobs, technology and the environment.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development assigned the ratings. West Virginia scored a 52.2 out of 100 overall, putting it fourth from the bottom. Courtesy of a redneck-hating writer at The Washington Post, here’s the breakdown by category and on a 1-10 scale:
That last one is the only bright spot for we hillbillies, but of course, we could have told you our state is a perfect 10 for places to call home. Now ask any of us whether we care what the elitist snobs at the OECD and the Post think of our state.
All of their brains put together are incapable of comprehending the intangible factors that make the redneck region of America, and especially West Virginia, the best place to live.
Filed under: Business and Culture and Hatin' On Rednecks and News & Politics and Technology and West Virginia
After watching a contentious election season back in 2008, I thought bloggers across the political spectrum might like to blow off some steam, so I tried to organize a friendly but potentially painful round of paintball for bloggers in the Washington, D.C., area. Here’s how I pitched it:
The response to the invitation was telling. Some conservatives bloggers expressed interest in the idea right away, but there were no takers on the left.
The most amusing feedback came from a liberal journalist who said he wasn’t interested because “I hate violence, even the sublimated kind.” That’s the psychobabble way of saying paintballers don’t just wanna have fun. They’re really expressing a desire to engage in bad behavior “by changing it into a form that is socially acceptable.”
It’s that kind of elitist ignorance of redneck culture that leads to embarrassing incidents like this:
That’s right, a Huffington Post reporter whose beat is to cover the police can’t tell the difference between earplugs like my wife wears to drown out my snoring and the rubber bullets that officers regularly use for riot control.
Filed under: Hunting & Guns and Media and News & Politics and Photography and Rednecks and Social Media
I remember the ancient time — back in my high school years — when nerds became the heroes of Hollywood plot lines. Movies and television shows celebrated the geeks who were scorned by the jocks, cheerleaders and other cool kids.
This helps explain why so many people embrace the “nerd” label these days. But as Charles Cooke explains at National Review Online, today’s nerd are pretenders. They have corrupted the word for political purposes, and they are the anti-type of Hollywood’s heroic dweebs, plagued by the very air of superiority the nerds in cinema resisted.
And who are the targets of their bigotry? Rednecks, of course. As Cooke says:
I was fortunate to find a happy medium in my youth. I was a “band baby” for two of my four years at Paden City High School and a “football animal” for one. I was never quite talented enough to get much playing time in any of the official school sports I tried, but I also wasn’t among the last people picked when I joined my peers for backyard football, pickup basketball and the like. I ranked among the top 10 percent of my small class but also opted to study to be an electrician at a vocational school rather than take college prep classes my junior and senior years.
I was part nerd and part jock. I enjoyed intellectual pursuits yet also appreciated the folksy wisdom of those who were educated at the University of Hard Knocks. In other words, I was — and am — an enlightened redneck. And that’s the worst nightmare of the Neil deGrasse Tysons of the world.
Filed under: Culture and Education and Entertainment and Hatin' On Rednecks and Movies and People and Rednecks and Sports and West Virginia
Sure, Sistersville bred an entire generation of talented small-school athletes in its sports heyday. It also has a storied industrial history. Sistersville was an oil boom town in the late 18th century, a development that made the Wells Inn famous to this day.
But other than that …
OK, Sistersville has more going for it historically than I’ll ever be able to admit in light of the rivalry that divided our towns during my youth. It’s even making national news these days for one feature that has been there for nearly two centuries — the Sistersville Ferry that carries people, cars and even semi-tractors across the river to Fly, Ohio.
The ferry has fallen on hard times of late, losing passengers and struggling to meet its annual budget, but it’s still running. The Parkersburg News and Sentinel originally published the story in West Virginia, but the Associated Press distributed it nationally last week:
The takeaway for me: It’s time for us to introduce our children to the Sistersville Ferry before it disappears altogether. We usually cross at the St. Mary’s bridge when we’re at my parents’ house and head south to visit friends in Marietta, Ohio. Next time we’ll pay $5 to ride the Ohio’s waves.
Filed under: History and News & Politics and West Virginia
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