I often start my Saturdays by watching a few episodes of “Law & Order,” and right now I’m watching one from 2002 that I must not have seen before. I would have remembered it if only for the “hillbilly” slam against West Virginia.
The episode, titled “Oxymoron,” is about a murder related to a drug dealer who specializes in the highly addictive narcotic oxycodone. About 15 minutes into the show, the main police characters in the show — Lennie Briscoe, Ed Green and Lt. Anita Van Buren — have a conversation about the drug in question. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:
I get that opioids are a huge problem in West Virginia, even more now than when “Oxymoron” aired 15 years ago. The epidemic of abuse is so well-known that it appears to have motivated drug manufacturers to flood the state with hundreds of millions of pills, amounting to 433 pain pills for every state resident, regardless of age.
“Hillbilly heroin” also is an actual slang term for describing this scourge in rural America, where people looking to get high can’t afford the drugs of choice for the rich and famous like cocaine. So I have no problem with the writers of “Law & Order” incorporating it into the script.
But the wisecrack suggest that West Virginia is the home of rednecks who either drink moonshine or get their fix from oxycodon was a predictable typecast straight out of Hollywood. Odds are good that whoever wrote that line has never been to the great Mountain State.
Filed under: Culture and Entertainment and Health and News & Politics and Rednecks and West Virginia
In Texas, the family surprised by the rattlesnake in the toilet found out it wasn’t alone. The company they hired to remove that unwelcome venomous guest found 23 more of them.
Only one snake out of the 24 died in the making of this news story. “There was a garden hoe, a shovel and branch cutters involved” in the death of the other one, The Washington Post reported. “You can get the picture.”
Filed under: Human Interest and News & Politics and Wildlife
Some Americans are so irrational that they fear fellow humans just because they work in blue-collar jobs or like the National Rifle Association. People who don’t think the way they do, embrace the causes they hold dear or even eat at the fancy restaurants they like are “white trash” worthy of scorn.
USA Today columnist Glenn Reynolds shared a few recent anecdotes and quotes to illustrate this phobia, all of them in response to the election of Donald Trump as president:
As Reynolds notes, this kind of class bigotry isn’t new in America. It’s actually older than the country, as documented in great detail last year by historian Nancy Isenberg in the book “White Trash.” It is a dry read at times, but the stories in it are remarkable, in part because they stretch over hundreds of years.
The current angst among America’s elite shows that nothing has changed. Ironically, this new wave of narrow-mindedness started with the political ascension of a billionaire celebrity named Trump.
Filed under: Books and Culture and Hatin' On Rednecks and History and News & Politics and People and Rednecks
If you ever need an anecdote to illustrate the opposite of the Golden Rule in action, this story from Virginia should do the trick nicely:
The story even comes with a quote that is the antithesis of the Golden Rule: “If they were going to inconvenience me, then I was going to inconvenience them.”
Stafford was legally in the right and the Virginia DMV officials were in the wrong, but talk about biting off your nose to spite your face! Stafford went to great trouble and expense all so he could say, “I think I proved my point here.”
Sure, I chuckled at the thought of bureaucrats being forced to count 300,000 pennies as the consequence for having denied a taxpayer basic information he was entitled to get. Many of us are tempted to seek revenge after such aggravating experiences — and sometimes we do, though probably to a far lesser degree.
But what struck me about this story was the depth of Stafford’s bitterness. He undoubtedly had many nights to examine his own attitude and reconsider his course of vindictiveness, yet Stafford woke up every morning determined to be a bigger jerk than the DMV officials.
Filing a freedom-of-information request to get the one telephone number he needed was a reasonable response to bureaucratic stonewalling. Picking a court over phone numbers he didn’t need was petty. Hiring people to bash open rolls of pennies, buying wheelbarrows to haul those pennies into a government office, and watching gleefully for hours as public servants satisfied his spiteful demand was downright cruel.
The man who thinks he is the hero of this story actually is the villain.
Filed under: Culture and Government and Human Interest and News & Politics and People and Religion
This is true while also being aggravating and amusing at the same time:
The post-election Washington Post column above follows a reported Post feature from the Mountain State, where the newspaper gave West Virginians a chance to explain for themselves why they voted for Trump. Here are some excerpts:
And here’s a piece in Reason magazine, written by a West Virginian, that explores why poverty-stricken people in places like his native McDowell County don’t just leave.
The short answer: It’s complicated. Read the whole story for the long answer. It’s worth it if you’re the least bit interested in understanding the redneck mindset.
Filed under: News & Politics and People and Rednecks and West Virginia
Back in the day, the Paden City High School band engaged in hazing by assigning freshman “slaves” to seniors during the week of “band camp,” which occurred at Bethany College in West Virginia. We boys not only had to dress as women but had to march in costume, including pantyhose and water balloons in our bras.
We also had to wear dog biscuits on strings around our necks and eat them at our masters’ command. And we had to go through a gauntlet of humiliation one evening, where all of the seniors dumped molasses on the freshmen and put us through other trials. We didn’t know what was coming because we were all blindfolded. I remember washing my hair with Coca-Cola every night of my freshman year to try to get all of the gunk out of it.
All of this occurred with adult consent and supervision. No parents objected. It was all considered perfectly normal. The tradition went on for years until someone crossed a line that brought an abrupt and merciful end to it. I heard that Bethany officials intervened because of the way one particular freshman was forced to dress and walk through the shared cafeteria, but maybe that was just the band camp equivalent of an urban legend.
It was always a bit ironic that this behavior happened on the campus of a “Christian liberal arts college.”
I didn’t realize until today that the “adults” in Major League Baseball had been engaging in and tolerating similar hazing:
Now those practices have been halted. “Times have changed,” players’ union general counsel Dave Prouty. “There is certain conduct that we have to be conscious of.”
Welcome to the 21st century, athletes of America!
Filed under: Culture and Education and News & Politics and Sports
This is how journalism is supposed to work — you go places and report what you see and hear, even if you don’t like it: “I don’t like Trump, not in the least bit, but I was watching him resonate.”
The photographer who watched this phenomenon unfold wasn’t a journalist by training. He saw the story the “real” journalists couldn’t because he drove into flyover country with open eyes and an open mind.
The media elites should take the lesson to heart. They won’t.
Filed under: Media and News & Politics and People and Photography
That reality alone would be enough to irritate Clinton’s supporters under normal circumstances. Now add to that the fact that few political analysts expected Trump to win and that many people rejected Trump as a candidate not only because they disagreed with his political philosophy and policy ideas but also because they deemed him unfit to be president.
That is a recipe for the kind of hostility Americans are seeing in the days since the election, be it in street protests that sometimes turn into riots or bitter and angry online exchanges. Some students were so distraught by Trump’s election that colleges canceled classes. It’s ugly out there right now.
The country needs voices of reason in this atmosphere, and one of them emerged a couple of days after the election in an unexpected place — West Virginia, the heart of Trump territory. Every county in the Mountain State voted for him, with Oklahoma being the only other state where that happened, and 69 percent of West Virginians voted for Trump.
Three days after the balloting, as news of post-election angst and turmoil mounted, West Virginia University president E. Gordon Gee issued a statement to encourage free speech, responsibility, tolerance of all views and open debate in the WVU community. Here’s an excerpt:
The statement is full of progressive buzzwords like that aren’t always as open-minded as they sound when uttered within the context of 21st-century academia. “Incivility,” “hatred” and “discrimination” too often are used to describe those with conservative values, for instance, and only conservatives are expected to show “respect” and “empathy” toward those who are different from them.
But the principles are sound if applied fairly across the political spectrum, and America will be a better nation if they are. Let’s hope leaders like Gee mean what they say for a change and model those attitudes for the country.
Filed under: Education and News & Politics and People and Rednecks and West Virginia
Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium.
A few eventful minutes at work on Jan. 15, 2009, left an indelible mark in New York air traffic controller Patrick Harten’s mind. He constantly replayed those terrifying moments in his head in the weeks that followed, and although they ultimately ended with the inspiring tale known as “The Miracle on the Hudson,” Harten kept imagining the tragedy that might have been.
Now he is reliving those remarkable moments all over again — on the big screen via actor Patch Darragh, who plays Harten in the movie “Sully.” “I thought they did a great job capturing what it felt like to be there that day,” Harten said. “I’ve heard from some of the passengers, and they thought so, too. … Parts of it were tough to watch.”
The movie is based on the actual events surrounding the forced emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River. It happened on a cold winter afternoon a few minutes after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport in New York. A flock of Canada geese flew into the Airbus A320, taking out both engines at a low altitude.
Capt. Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger chose to land on the water after concluding that he didn’t have enough time to return to LaGuardia or to land at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Harten is the air traffic controller who talked to Sullenberger that day from the terminal radar approach control facility for several airports in the New York area. The Federal Aviation Administration’s TRACONs manage the airspace near airports, and New York TRACON is one of the busiest.
Harten, who first publicly shared his account of the incident in dramatic testimony to Congress, started his shift in the LaGuardia sector of the TRACON minutes before Flight 1549 took off. But soon after he issued a routine heading for the flight, Sullenberger reported the bird strike and double-engine loss. He headed back toward LaGuardia for an emergency landing.
Harten quickly arranged runway access there and communicated the details to Sullenberger. But 35 seconds after first reporting the emergency, the pilot uttered these ominous words: “We’re unable. We may end up in the Hudson.“
Sullenberger predicted that fate more definitively about a minute later, after Harten suggested a runway at Teterboro instead. “We can’t do it. … We’re gonna be in the Hudson.”
“I’m sorry, say again,” Harten responded. He then lost radar contact with Flight 1549.
“I thought I was part of one of the worst aviation incidents in modern history at the time,” Harten recounted. He imagined the plane clipping a wing on the water, cartwheeling and breaking into pieces. Even if it landed smoothly, he figured most people on board would drown or succumb to hypothermia. “I was expecting there to maybe be a handful of survivors.”
Read the rest of the story at Medium.
Filed under: Aviation and Government and History and Movies and News & Politics and People and Video
To hear many Americans tell it today, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been a cherished anthem of national pride almost since the day Francis Scott Key penned it in 1814. But the government-sanctioned reverence the song enjoys in the 21st century actually didn’t take root until the start of the 20th century — and not everyone thought it was a good idea then.
The song gained plenty of attention, particularly in the military, after Scott wrote it to celebrate the American victory over the British at Fort McHenry in Maryland. But even the military didn’t start incorporating “The Star-Spangled Banner” into its flag-raising ceremonies until 1889. It took another 27 years for Woodrow Wilson to give the tune the stamp of presidential approval in an executive order.
The song’s evolution from battle hymn to national anthem still wasn’t complete, though, and the final hurdle on Capitol Hill wasn’t easy to clear. As the National Park Service noted in its history of the national anthem, 11 lawmakers tried to push 15 different bills and resolutions through Congress between 1910 and 1917, and all of them stalled.
Even after a determined Rep. J. Charles Linthicum, D-Md., adopted “The Star-Spangled Banner” as his personal cause in 1918, he had a years-long fight ahead of him. Congress didn’t clear the bill to President Herbert Hoover until March 3, 1931, a day before adjournment would have killed the idea yet again.
That brings us to a surprising editorial that the Baltimore Evening Sun published the day after Hoover signed the bill. With the amateur poet Key being a favorite son of the city, the newspaper had good reason to celebrate the patriotic development. But it saw cause for concern instead:
Eighty-five years later, the paper’s prophecy has been fulfilled. The new country that repelled the British in the Battle of Baltimore and the War of 1812 is now embroiled in a tense debate about police shootings of black Americans, and the anthem that united us then divides us now.
It’s not enough that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played at memorial holidays, military ceremonies and athletic contests across the country, or that the vast majority of the nation’s 324 million people (including me) solemnly stand for it, sing it and revere the symbolism behind it. Every single American must embrace that norm or be reviled as an un-American outcast who should shut up or leave the country.
This, indeed, is an unfortunate fate for a fine song written in a Free State, for a free country.
Filed under: Government and History and Holidays and Media and Military and News & Politics and People
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