By Bill Buchanan
Back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s there was a very average television show called “That’s Incredible.” It featured stunts and outlandish stories, and after each segment ended, one of the hosts would lead the studio audience in a lame cheer of “That’s incredible!”
OK, it might not have been a great show, but it was a guilty pleasure and I used to watch it. And, OK, part of why I watched it was I thought Cathie Lee Crosby was hot.
Well, there were several items in the news lately that made me want to say some form of “That’s Incredible!” —- or in some cases maybe “That’s incredibly stupid!” or even “That’s incredibly sickening!”
One item of note is the upcoming Proposition 19, the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010,” which would decriminalize the personal use of marijuana. Proponents of the bill claim it would save money by allowing the police and courts to focus on more serious crime issues than running around arresting people for small amounts of marijuana. They also claim the new law would be a revenue producer by taxing the legal sale of cannabis, which they say might bring over $1 billion in new taxes and fees. This is very tempting for a cash-strapped state.
But no matter how you feel about marijuana, the act leaves much to be desired. According to an information sheet provided by the California Chamber of Commerce, “Prop. 19 creates a new protected class of workers and prohibits discrimination against marijuana users, just like age, gender and ethnicity.” It goes on to say that “even though pre-employment drug testing is not per se prohibited, an employer cannot use the results of a positive marijuana test as a reason not to hire an applicant.”
Are they serious? I mean, why can’t you discriminate against dope smokers? I don’t remember reading in the Declaration of Independence that our “unalienable rights” are life, liberty and the pursuit of a really good buzz.
Proposition 19 is opposed by the California Police Chiefs Association, in part, because it does not include a definition of “driving under the influence.” This could potentially allow people to drive or operate heavy machinery without any test to determine their degree of impairment. The way the bill is written seems to prevent companies from taking action against someone who might be impaired until after there is an accident. Does anyone actually want school bus drivers or over-the-road truckers not to be screened for drugs before they operate vehicles? Is there anyone who really thinks that is a good idea?
Another item that caught my eye (and turned my stomach) was the story about the South Fulton, Tenn. firefighters who stood by and watched as the home of Gene and Paulette Cranik burned to the ground. It seems the Cranik family had the bad luck for their home to be located in a rural area of the county, which does not offer fire service. Rural residents must pay an annual fee to get firefighting service from the nearby town of South Fulton. The family had paid the fee in the past, but had forgotten to pay this year.
Since the family had not paid the fee, the firefighters were not contractually obligated to put out the blaze that consumed the house. And not only did the family lose all their possessions, they also lost four family pets —- three dogs and a cat. So four defenseless and terrified animals burned to death because the Craniks neglected to pay a $75 fee.
Lest you think this story might not have a happy ending, the firefighters did manage to keep the flames from spreading to the property of the owners nearby who had paid the annual fee. I know I feel much better now.
Note to South Fulton: Do you think maybe your policy needs to be retooled a little bit here? Could you just raise taxes a little bit and give everyone protection so property and animals don’t have to perish unnecessarily?
This story only proves to me that Lily Tomlin was right when she said, “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”
Finally, there was an article recently about a production group who is seeking to create a southern version of MTV’s “Jersey Shore.” For those who are unfamiliar with this cultural phenomenon, “Jersey Shore” is a reality show about young people from New Jersey whose main purpose in life seems to be to dress flashy and trashy, get drunk a lot, seduce someone, and rake in enough money from the show to buy gold chains, hair gel and make multiple trips to the tanning salon. Lofty goals, indeed.
The proposed title of the southern equivalent is “Redneck Riviera,” which is a popular moniker for the beaches of the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. The article I saw says the production company’s website is seeking auditions for the show, and apparently wants lots of Confederate flags, pickup trucks, etc.
This is really good news for Alabama, and the South in general. What the South’s image desperately needs is a show that features drunken white trash idiots driving pickup trucks and sporting Confederate flags. Maybe we could have them hanging out the windows hollering and waving firearms, too. That would be great — especially for tourism.
Unfortunately, television executives have discovered the benefits of reality shows. They are relatively inexpensive to produce. For instance, you are not required to pay actors for the show. In our present culture that seems to value celebrity over all else, there is an endless supply of people who will do absolutely anything to be on television. They will happily subject themselves to all manner of humiliation and danger for any amount of air time, and will say or do anything the director asks of them — so you don’t have to waste a lot of money on those pesky writers who might insert something witty or clever into the show.
So, these shows are televised simply because they are cheap and easy to produce. Not exactly the Golden Age of television. The sad part of this is that these shows garner viewers at all. The even sadder part is that in some cases they acquire a very large audience. All this makes me think that we may be in the middle of an evolutionary U-turn. We may be on our way to return to the slime that emerged from the ocean all those years ago. I guess having shows located at the Jersey shore and Gulf Coast are pretty handy — the slime doesn’t have far to travel to return to the sea.