FIRST AMENDMENT BLUES
A bar in Horry County, S.C., named the Suck Bang Blow filed a lawsuit in May challenging the county’s new ordinance prohibiting motorcyclists’ “burnouts” (engine-revving with back-tire-spinning, creating smoke–and enormous noise). The bar claims that burnouts are important expressions of its customers’ “manliness and macho” and as such are protected by the First Amendment. And Luigi Bellavite complained to reporters in Mountain View, Colo., in July that the theft of his “Vote Satan” yard sign ought to be prosecuted as a “hate crime” under state law as he is a member of the Church of Satan. Police called it an ordinary theft.
GOVERNMENT IN ACTION!
Miniature golf is remarkably simple to play, requiring neither experience nor much exertion, and even toddlers can negotiate their own brand of fun on the course. But in March, a set of “accessible design” standards went into effect, under the Americans With Disabilities Act, governing such things as the “slope” of courses (maximum 1:4 rise on some holes), the maximum length of the blades if artificial turf is used, and the minimum area of the “tee-off” landing (48 inches by 60 inches, with a slope not steeper than 1:48).
CELEBRITY IMMIGRATION POLICY?
The only unlimited-issue U.S. visa allowing fast-lane entrance for certain foreign workers is the O-1, available to those (e.g., scientists, technology engineers) who, in the opinion of the State Department, demonstrate “extraordinary ability.” Reuters reported in June that an O-1 recently went to British journalist Piers Morgan, whose extraordinariness seems limited to replacing Larry King on his CNN interview program, and another to Shera Bechard, Playboy’s Miss November 2010, whose other accomplishment seems to be the creation of an online photo-sharing experience called “Frisky Friday.”
USA Today, quoting a Pentagon official, reported in July that, during the last decade, the Pentagon had paid “late fees” totaling $610 million for not returning leased shipping containers by the due dates. And a Government Accountability Office report in July revealed that the federal government’s vast properties include about 14,000 offices and buildings that are vacant (or nearly so), but which the government still pays to maintain (at about $190 million a year). A large building in Washington, D.C.,’s Georgetown — among the most valuable real estate in the city–has sat mostly unused for more than 10 years. Also, the Miami-Dade County, Fla., government confirmed in April that it had discovered, in storage, 298 brand-new vehicles that had been purchased in 2006-2007, but which had never been used.
New Mexico is an “open carry” state, with otherwise-law-abiding adults authorized to display loaded handguns in public. However, in the town of Vaughn (pop. 500, located mid-nowhere), perhaps the only ones not authorized to carry are the town’s two police officers. Chief Ernest Armijo had been convicted in 2011 of criminal nonsupport of a wife and two sons, and among the conditions of probation was the prohibition on gun possession. Deputy Brian Bernal has his own domestic issue: a conviction for family violence that bars him, under federal law, from carrying.
Most people who call an FBI field office would be in serious trouble if they left an answering-machine message for a named agent, along with the caller’s name and telephone number, in a message consisting of at least 13 F-word epithets threatening to “break [the agent’s] [expletive deleted] neck.” But when Thomas Troy Bitter left the message at the San Diego field office, according to a July report in OC Weekly, the agency, after initially charging Bitter, quietly dropped the prosecution with no further repercussions. OC Weekly speculated that Bitter is a confidential informant whom the FBI was late in paying.
Paris designer Jean-Emmanuel “Valnoir” Simoulin’s latest project combines his boyhood fascination with jacket patches and the societal fascination with body modification. He said he will sew patches featuring his band’s next album directly onto the skin of his own back. “It’s a nostalgic project about my teenage-hood, when I had an iron faith [in] black-metal [music].”
PEOPLE WITH TOO MUCH MONEY
The dogs could not care less, but the luxury doghouse market is thriving, according to a June New York Times report. “Many of them have carpeting, heating and air-conditioning, indoor and outdoor lighting, elaborate… entertainment systems,” wrote the Times, and some even have solar panels. But, said one owner, “Maggie’s never been in [hers]. She’s a house dog.” Although Walmart.com offers upscale houses for $4,400 to $4,600, the more tony ones can go for more than $25,000. Top-shelf interior designers have created dog beds suspended from the ceiling and houses in which the music kicks on only as the dog enters (meaning that it almost never kicks on).