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News of the Weird 8/16/12

by Chuck Shepherd

Freedom Under Attack 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.

Police Report 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) (F-word) neck.” However, 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.

• Specialist Perps: (1) In May, Chicago police arrested a man they believed had just minutes earlier used a Bobcat front-end loader to crash through the window of a Family Dollar store and steal two cans of deodorant and a handful of gift cards (and nothing else) and walk away. (2) Police in Lorain, Ohio, were looking in June for a black man about 18 years old who had been seen on surveillance video breaking into the same Sunoco convenience store several times recently and taking up to $600 worth of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Perspective 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).

Least Competent Criminals (1) Police in Lewiston, Idaho, discovered in July that someone had passed a counterfeit $1 bill recently. A veteran officer told the Lewiston Tribune that counterfeiting a $1 bill is so stupid that he had seen only one in his life, made by a junior-high student to pay off a bully. (2) 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. {in}