First Amendment Blues: (1) 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. (2) 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!
-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."
-Canadian rap singer Manu Militari was, until earlier this year, sufficiently patriotic to have received more than $100,000 in government grants that originated with the Canadian Heritage department. However, a June video released ahead of his new album "L'Attente" portrayed Afghan Taliban fighters targeting a convoy of Canadian soldiers, planting a roadside bomb and aiming their rifles at the Canadians' heads. Over 150 Canadian soldiers have died fighting the Taliban and their insurgent allies.
-Forgetful: (1) 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. (2) 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.)
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)."
Least Competent Criminals
In June, firefighters were called to a trolley stop in National City, Calif., to free the arm of a 17-year-old boy after he got it stuck when he reached up a vending machine slot to try to steal a soda. The rescuers employed axes, crowbars, an air chisel and a rotary saw.