22 July 2010

Snookering, Ivory Handles and the Beloved Crown Vic

Mommy, I’ve Been Snookered!

The NAACP is lamenting that that they were “snookered” by Fox News regarding the USDA supervisor from Georgia who was fired by the Agriculture Department. A conservative sewer stirrer edited a tape of a recent speech where the woman described sandbagging a white farmer 25 years ago in some sort of mortgage foreclosure by, among other things, sending him to an incompetent white lawyer, one of “his own kind.” Later in the same speech, she talked about how she had changed her mind and had given that farmer appropriate assistance. The NAACP has been ragging the rag-tag “Tea Party” about its supposed racism, so the honey dipper was crying “hypocrites!,” and the NAACP hit the bait hook, line and sinker.

Hello? What is the message here from the NAACP? When we make a cynical political judgment and take a public position in someone’s favor and against someone else without asking enough questions or getting enough information and it blows up on us, it’s not our fault, we have been misled? This doesn’t get Fox News (or CNN or ABC or the Christian Science Monitor or MSNBC or the Pedophile Online Journal) off the hook for slanting stories. But in the big leagues, sometimes the pitchers throw curveballs or even spitballs. Crying about it just isn’t a big league kind of response.

In any event, for a government agency regional supervisor to give that speech was memorably stupid and evokes a “What the hell were you thinking?” response. People confuse the First Amendment with a blank check. The First Amendment gives you the right to say almost anything. The exceptions are few: The timeworn example of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater; maliciously libeling someone with untrue allegations; and the like. The First Amendment does not mean you get a free pass when your speech conflicts with your job duties. The government will not pull a Peter Zenger on you and prosecute and the situations under which you may be sued successfully are few and far between. But there are still consequences. If a government official screws the pooch and creates havoc, there are consequences. If I cuss a judge, there are consequences. Sometimes, you’ll get fired. Sometimes, it’s simpler - people will just think that you’re an idiot.

So far, the fired USDA supervisor says that she is a victim and she does not acknowledge that she did something just a tad stupid. Oh, and as of today, she says that Pres. Obama needs to call her personally and apologize. Poor baby, maybe he can also give her a foot rub.

Not MY Mountains, But Good Mountains

God bless Juan Valdez. The guy bails me out of absolute torpor every morning without fail.

The Free Press

In the course of a couple of interesting cases before the Circuit Court of Gilmer County, West Virginia (County seat – Glenville), I’ve come in contact with a net-only news publication, the Gilmer Free Press ( www.GilmerFreePress.net ).

The Internet is the new printing press and everyone can be their own pamphleteer. The quality of the Free Press strikes me. (Before somebody gets all pissy on me, I’m talking about the layout, the quality of the writing, the timeliness, and other things that make for a successful news source. By that analysis, Pravda was a pretty damn good newspaper.) The Free Press has lots of the interesting stuff like national political opinion, horoscopes [stupid; silly; people still like them], an astronomy column and other things that some people find fascinating and some people find a great bloody boor. It is heaviest on local news, although it throws news and opinion into a blender rather obviously. When it comes to publishing letters and comments, the unknown editor must pray to the gods of New York Times vs. Sullivan every night, for absent the concept of actual malice in libeling public figures, the Free Press would be sued daily. (There would be a problem finding the defendant, because the Free Press is published anonymously.)

What fascinates me most of all is that someone is spending a lot of time gathering news, taking photographs, writing stories, retyping turgid information which comes to them in some non-electronic printed format, tracking down obits, and so forth. I can’t see how publishing the Free Press consumes less than one “full-time equivalent,” that is, the equivalent of one person working a full-time job. However, the Free Press is free on the Internet and doesn’t have any advertising. I haven’t figured out any identifiable economic interest which would justify this kind of effort. Now, Glenville has more axes to grind than your average lumberyard, so the motivation may be as simple as that, but I do find this thing a unique creature of the new age.


I have “discovered” the writing of H. L. Mencken. I’ve always heard of him, and just read a few lines of his writing which were presented as examples of curmudgeonliness, but I’ve never sat down and read his work at any length. He was an essayist, keen social observer, biting humorous humorist and is one of the most delightful writers I’ve read in a long, long time.

The Crown Vic

Admit it – when you’re driving down the highway, you keep your eyes on the rearview mirror looking for the familiar silhouette of a Ford Crown Victoria sedan. That is the automobile purchased very commonly by police departments to use as cruisers. Ford Motor Company had a special “police package” (power, handling, electrical) for that purpose, and about half of the Crown Vic’s produced went to police departments. Ford has discontinued production of the Crown Vic, and the competition is on among manufacturers to furnish the preferred future cruiser. Ford is touting a Taurus-based model, Chevy a Caprice and Chrysler a rear-wheel-drive Charger.

As you may imagine, police vehicles get pretty hard service. When they get too many miles on the clock, most departments auction them off fairly cheaply. and that’s when we see the Crown Vic Wannabe Syndrome at work. Old cruisers are not hard to spot. Most of them will have a 2 inch rubber stopper in one or both rear fenders closing the hole where a big whip antenna was removed. Some still have a spotlight installed through the A-post beside the windshield. Most are painted either white or black, with rims to match. And, because they are Crown Vic’s, drivers are still wary of them, and the young guys (and invariably, guys) who purchase one for $800 know it. Look around for a former police car and look at the driver. Imagine a little movie screen on his forehead. Watch the movie: it’s Broderick Crawford in Highway Patrol. It’s Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry. It’s Walter Mitty in whatever role, as the toughest, baddest ass in a neighborhood, with the music to Miami Vice playing the background.

It’s our fault, you know. We’re maintaining a society where it’s not OK just to be a person. You have to have your title, your badge, your merit badges, your uniform, your monogramed something, your metaphorical ivory handled revolvers (remember, pearl handles are for pimps) to have value. Titles before your name, letters after your name, the right chrome, the right emblems on your car, that’s what creates and validates you.

And so if a person can gain self-respect with an $800 car, more power to them.

The Matriarch

The family matriarch, LaG, continues to experience health problems, which is the priority of this wretched scribe. Publication schedule, therefore, is unpredictable.

Pippa passes.



Rosa said...

Roger, I think you're a bit off on the USDA story. Not only was the story older than the speech, but it was the speech itself that was 25 years old and made before the speaker worked for the USDA in the first place. IN fact, the speech was edited to show only that part, and not the part of the speech where the woman moved past the racial issues, and became the white farmer's advocate in saving his farm. (I've run across at least two references to the white farmer and his wife claiming Ms Sherrod was the best friend they could have had.

So the "editor" of the clip was only proving the NAACP's point. SO in fact, the clip has blown back up, not at the NAACP, but in fact, back at the editor. This would be why MS Sherrod has been offered a new job with the USDA, and received that apology from the President.

We all screw up in our rush to judgment when we don't bother to find out the whole context of an event--left and right.

Roger D. Curry said...

Dearest Rosa, you are a pearl of the greatest value! Hope Nor is better.

Rosa said...

He seems to be! Thank you :-)

Rosary said...

OOps, I mispoke (mistyped) about when Ms Sherrod's speech took place. The speech was current, the events were what were 25 years old. I at least will acknowledge my mistakes, unlike so many "journalists."

sheila222 said...

Hope your mother feels better. I am running up to Ohio this weekend to see if I can talk my folks into getting "lift" chairs- hell, I want one!

Your Crown Vic story reminds me of a friend of my husband- up in one of the suburbs of Cleveland in the early 70s. He had a Ford Fury (or some such car as was used then by police) painted it black and white, wrote POLISH on the front (which he was) and put a Great Seal of Ohio Sticker on the door (these were about 18 inches across, I still have mine from my YCC vehicle). He was unable to count the times he was pulled over and asked if he was impersonating a police officer. I think he finally grew up. Those were the days (forgive me, I just got off Doreen's blog).