BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
Our society is a bit strange. We go from almost a laissez-faire attitude, or a benign admonition, to criminalizing or quite punitive measures against the pranks, exuberances, or peccadilloes of our people. Almost anything can set off political zanies with an overkill response. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s boycotting the “holiday” parade in Tulsa is overkill. So seems the $11 million Christmas tree in Abu Dhabi.
Let us take for example the tripping case of the assistant coach for the New York Jets. That assistant coach was fined and suspended for tripping a player opponent who was running down the field out of bounds on the white strip so provocatively close to the Jets’ bench sideline that he was within inches of brushing them. It should be against the rules for a defensive player on the kick-off team to run up the field out of bounds. Evidently it is not. Nevertheless, the player is off the playing field and he is fair game if he passes so close to the opponents on the sideline as to make it possible for an almost undetectable extension of a foot to trip him.
We don’t have a dog or a favored team in that fight, but it seems that the league was grossly overreacting with throwing the book at that poor assistant coach who yielded to temptation under seductive circumstances. A slap on the wrist would have been sufficient for his indiscretion.
It seems to us that police and prosecutors have a way of overreacting to lesser drug offenses of juveniles and younger adults. That young lawyer in Ponca City may be an example. We don’t know all the facts of the case, of course, but for one ounce of cocaine in his pocket he had the book thrown at him. A later search of his car found a gun stowed away, so that added to the list of charges and the seriousness of the other charge. All that seems a bit much.
Lots of people carry guns in their cars. While we do not condone that, we have had acquaintances volunteer that they always carry guns in their car for safety. With some of our crazy state legislators wanting to legalize carrying guns everywhere, it hardly seems that it should be such a serious offense for an adult to have one in a car or pickup. That young lawyer needs a rehab program and time away from his profession, but we don’t see the need for that time to be spent in a jail at our expense.
Even our conservative state Legislature is beginning to realize that our “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” mentality in Oklahoma is out of step with more progressive states and terribly expensive for a state budget to carry. We are depriving other state services in order to keep a bunch of people locked up who either did not need to be there or have been there too long. Since state facilities are full, county jails have had to warehouse their prisoners. This too has led to the expenses of over-crowding, bond issues to build new jails, and related tax costs.
Fox News has over-performed its function for the Republican Party to such an extent that it is no longer recognized as a legitimate news service, but rather accorded a shameful designation of propaganda machine. Recent mainstream news has revealed overkill memos from the head of Fox, admonishing all on-air people to use certain degrading, negative terms when referring to certain people and certain issues. They regularly issue their people talking points and terminology. Persistently they circulate stories contrary to facts already out.
This accounts for the findings of a research study reported this week which showed Fox viewers to be more misinformed, uninformed, and ignorant on a number of significant issues which have permeated the news stream during the past year. We have said repeatedly that if a person watches only Fox News and listens to Rush Limbaugh that explains their biases, misinformation, and weird political ideas. Of course, explaining is not excusing such cultivated ignorance. Nor does it excuse the boorish behavior of those full of confidence in their false information.
At this writing the House just killed a child marriage bill that passed the Senate almost unanimously. Some zany right-to-life Republicans had circulated a memo which alleged the bill opened doors to federally subsidized abortions and other evils. A reading of the short bill of less than 10 pages would have shown this memo to be false, but the bill protecting young girls from sexual exploitation failed. How sad!
Overkill can work both ways, of course. A recent law passed as part of the Democratic agenda loosed some onerous IRS requirements of red tape and paperwork on small businesses. This was a prime example of a fault for which the feds are frequently accused. But overkill can be corrected, and in this case it was a clean-up bill removing the more onerous red tape requirements.
We wish we could clean up other prime examples of overkill as easily, as new ones appear daily in our sight. But foibles of people will no doubt continue to abound, and the art of dirty politics will continue to soil hands, mouths, and minds.
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer