Posts Tagged ‘West Virginia’

Eat S**t, Bob!

April 5, 2018

I am a huge fan of political humor and I am a big nerd when it comes to research. Research is actually a big part of why I decided to become a paralegal. If I had more time, I would do a lot of research in my free time as I looked up a lot of things that interest me. So it is that I like shows like Jon Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. The show is a weekly show that examines current events and tries to explain and reveal its subject matter so that people can get another perspective from actual journalism and social media. The show is known for singling out a specific topic or event and doing a deep delve into it. Oliver and his crew research the heck out of things and then contact all parties involved in the issue to allow them to comment. But, let us see what we can do with just a little bit of research and examine one of the funniest legal documents I have had the pleasure to read.

 

The issue at hand in this post is Jon Oliver’s episode segment about the coal industry and in particular, he decided to shine a spotlight on Bob Murray. You can see the entire segment above on YouTube but I will try to make this post make sense without watching. Robert “Bob” Murray is CEO of Murray Energy which is the largest coal mining company in the United States of America. In the show, Oliver took Murray to task mostly for not caring about coal workers and various lies he had (allegedly) been caught in. Bob Murray is notoriously litigious so few people have ever really gunned for him like Oliver and his team did. Oliver acknowledged that he was opening himself up to a potential lawsuit but stood by his words and dared Murray to bring it on. He ended his show by having a man in a squirrel costume say “Eat S**t, Bob!”.

johnoliver06

Predictably, Murray filed a complaint for defamation in a West Virginia court. All of this happened in off camera and definitely was not a publicity stunt, at least not on Bob Murray’s part. What I wanted to teach you about today is something called an amicus curiae brief. An amicus curiae brief is literally a commentary on the issue at hand from a “friend of the court”. This “friend” is a party not involved in the suit (as plaintiff or defendant) who wants to offer their interpretation of the law and any recommendations they might have for the judge involved. This commentary attempts to provide arguments or additional information that the courts may not be considering. In this case, the amicus brief came from the West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. I am admittedly a big fan of the ACLU and I follow their journey to defend freedom in the land of the free.


The ACLU correctly points out that the first defense to defamation is always truth.

The first defense the ACLU points out is that since all of John Oliver’s speech is protected as free speech by the First Amendment, Bob cannot sue him for being mean. The First Amendment of the Constitution places limits on what is and what is not defamation. One of the forms of protected speech is satire which Jon Oliver’s show definitely falls under. Oliver and his team use ridiculous overtures and comedic statements to highlight an issue that is of public interest. As the ACLU points out, the segment begins with Oliver saying that coal is “Basically cocaine for Thomas the Tank Engine”. While Oliver and his team make sure to include plenty of facts, the show is heavy on opinion which is also protected speech under the First Amendment. Opinions are not to be combatted in a court of law but are supposed to be solved through competition and debate. If Bob Murray wants to convince people that Jon Oliver is wrong, he needs to debate it in the court of public opinion and not waste the time of the actual courts of West Virginia.

 

The ACLU also takes issue with Bob Murray taking further action by trying to slap a restraining order and an injunction against Oliver and HBO. Restraining orders and injunctions are intended to get somebody to prevent somebody from doing something and to stop somebody from doing something respectively. In this case, Bob Murray filed both of these to make sure that Oliver’s show could not talk about Murray or Murray Energy again in order to stop them from tainting a potential jury. In reality, his feelings were hurt by Oliver’s piece and now he wants to make sure that Oliver never tries to hurt him again. When an action like an injunction goes up against a constitutional right, there needs to be intense scrutiny. Basically, while Murray is trying to gag Jon Oliver, he is holding press conferences about the case himself which is unfair. In addition, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press and, as long as the speech is not defamatory (hurtful lies), no private citizen can tell the press what to report. Oliver is the first to say that he is not really a journalist but his show is news media adjacent and the rule still applies.

 

Basically, the ACLU is saying that there is nothing actually actionable in the complaint (lawsuit) against Jon Oliver and Home Box Office. In layman’s terms, Oliver and company never actually did anything illegal and therefore the lawsuit should be dismissed out of hand. The elements of defamation are as follows:

(1) a false statement about the plaintiff is made, (2) that statement was broadcast, (3) the defendant is responsible for the broadcast, and (4) the broadcast caused damage to the plaintiff. When a celebrity or famous figure is the one filing for defamation, there is an additional element in that (5) there was actual malice in the broadcast.

Oliver and HBO definitely broadcast their information (2 and 3) and the broadcast probably damaged Murray’s reputation (4). Actual malice is not what it sounds like. It means that the defendant knew the false statement (1) was false or did not care enough to fact check it. If you go back to my first paragraph, you will remember how much work Oliver’s crew puts into research and none of his stated facts were proven false. Also, opinions and flat out insults cannot be “false” by definition. The complaint falls apart there which is exactly what the judge in the case ruled in the end.

Media Update 12/7/17

December 7, 2017


Godless

The hard sell I saw for this new Netflix series was that an outlaw comes upon a town populated only with women. Female characters often seem to be sidelined in Westerns which hardly makes sense to me. If it is a biopic then the protagonists are probably going to be male and that makes an unfortunate amount of sense. However, when the story is fully fictional then why not rewrite history and put in some awesome prominent ladies in the wild west? The women in this show live in a town where most of the men died in a mining incident. The women are starting to learn what it is like to live in a society where men are not in control and some of them have started to develop a taste for it. In the middle of that, the male sheriff is working with an outlaw to figure out a web of mystery around local criminals. The main villain is a devil of a man. The show starts with a slow burn but bit by bit starts settling into a tense rhythm. The show is largely character driven and I am still enjoying each character as they are introduced. This show sets out to prove that women can be just as tough as men and I think it definitely succeeds. I definitely recommend it.


Hatfields & McCoys

When I was growing up, the Hatfields and the McCoys were often depicted as cartoonish characters. They showed up in Peabody’s Improbably History and other cartoons as people who just would never get along. Often, their feud was portrayed as ridiculous to the point that nobody could actually remember what had started it. This is the first bit of fiction that I have seen that attempts to portray the two families more or less as real people. The story begins with a difference of opinion springing from the American Civil War and it snowballs from there. The story takes place between West Virginia and Kentucky at a time when anything outside of a city was a largely lawless place. The two families are huge and a lot of local society can be easily divided up into either family. None of the slights by either family are cartoonish and in a world where the law is often taken into one’s own hands, the retribution is not that ridiculous. It only becomes horrifically ridiculous because the chain of violence does not stop. This miniseries gets a huge boost by casting Bill Paxton as Randall McCoy and Kevin Costner as “Devil” Anse Hatfield. Of course, their great acting is matched by pretty much everybody else they cast who brings it to their level as various family members. I have only watched the first of three parts but each part is movie length. I recommend it.


Longmire

I love a good procedural show with a good cast and a crime-of-the-week show format. I could list at leat a dozen procedural shows I have liked off the top of my head right now. I had heard some rumblings about this show and I have wanted to check it out for some time now. This is basically a police procedural that takes place in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming. This is a world that is largely alien to me. When I lived in a rural location I was at least still in Metropolitan New York City. Wyoming has almost nothing for miles around. The show follows aging sheriff Walt Longmire (based on a book series I never heard of) who watches over a surprisingly volatile area of Wyoming. What intrigued me most is that the show deals heavily with the Cheyenne and Lakota tribes situated on a nearby reservation. Longmire and his crew often have to navigate the complicated cultural and political landmines that sit between white culture and native culture. Longmire is largely sensitive to the native point of view even if he sometimes clashes with their police force. He is often joined by Katie Sackhoff as his female deputy who used to be a Philadelphia homicide detective. She is highly competent but also provides us with our fish out of water so Walt can explain things to us through her. The police are often supported by Lou Diamond Phillips as a local Cheyenne bar owner who is good friends with Walt. I would describe the show as a weird mix between Murder She Wrote and Walker Texas Ranger. At first, I did not really like it but I found myself drawn back to it. I definitely recommend it if you are looking for something pleasant to put on in the background.

 

Music of the Week:
Pale Waves – Television Romance

NateWantsToBattle (ft. Arin Hanson) – Infinite

The Green Lady Killers – My .45

A$AP Twelvyy – Strapped

YG & Nipsey Hussle – FDT

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Western Violence”
– I finished watching Punisher Season 1
– I watched more Fate/Apocrypha
– I watched more K
– I watched a lot of WWE Ride Along
– I watched the entirety of Beyond Stranger Things
– I want to see The Disaster Artist, Coco, and Bad Moms Christmas

Shepherdstown

August 29, 2016

Welcome to Shepherdstown

While my heart will always be in Baltimore, I want to talk about another place. I have lived in Baltimore for a long time and during that whole time, my family also lived in Baltimore. We lived in Baltimore County, Roland Park, Tuscany-Canterbury and Woodberry but Baltimore was always a constant. Even when I moved to New Jersey my mom was still back in good old Charm City. They say you can never go home again but I felt that I sort of could. Then my mom moved out of the city and my brothers and I became the new proprietors of the Baltimore apartment. I’m the only one who lives there, though. Meanwhile, my mom moved out to West Virginia. I then ended up working West Virginia for two years while still going home to Baltimore every weekend. This summer I returned to Shepherdstown.

Nature

When I first hung out in Shepherdstown, I worked where I lived so I was pretty isolated. Lately, I have tried to explore the place a little and enjoy it more. The family homestead outside of Shepherdstown is beautiful. It was designed by my mom’s third husband who is incidentally my stepfather. It is situated way back off the main road out in the boonies. This is great for me because I actually like anonymity and being separated from the hustle and bustle. The apartment in Baltimore is actually separate from the hustle and bustle too despite being in the middle of the city. There’s also this stuff called nature everywhere and it’s surprisingly beautiful. I can walk outside for hours without crossing one street if I so choose to.

Country Roads

This past summer I revisited the place to do some paralegal work and then I worked on my studies. When I took a break, I was able to drive out into the area to have a little fun. So where can you have fun in the West Virginia panhandle? Well, if you want to do stuff you would do in Baltimore County, for example, you need to do some driving. Almost nothing worth doing is really close by and there isn’t really a straight road in the area either. I used to say that I hated to drive. When I started driving out in West Virginia, I discovered that I loved driving along the curvy, picturesque roads no matter what the destination was.

Martinsburg

So where is that Baltimore County-esque stuff? Well, the big box stores, chain restaurants and movie theater are all in Martinsburg. When I worked out here, I drove to Lowes in Martinsburg over and over. There is a great Japanese steakhouse called Kobe out there which does the whole show complete with knives, fire and flying shrimp. There is a small movie theater where I saw The Force Awakens for the first time. Every time I have seen a movie there, it has not been crowded at all. This is perfect since I feel claustrophobic when there are too many people in the theater. There are a lot of big box stores which are necessary evils for a person on a budget.

Shepherdstown

How about Shepherdstown itself? Shepherdstown is one part hippie town, one part college town and one part expatriates from nearby cities. It is a premiere stop in the area for tourists so everyone is friendly and welcoming and quirky. The town is full of all sorts of specialty shops and actually has a ton of restaurants. This past week, while I was off of school, I spent a lot of time hanging out in the middle of town and just soaking it all in. The town is busy while not being overly crowded and everyone looks like they’re having a good time. Even the busker on the street gave me a high five before making his pitch. It also did not hurt that Pokemon Go hit the town hard and everybody was totally cool with it.

Rumsey Park

There is a lot of history in the town as well. The area is rich in Civil War history but thankfully Shepherdstown is free of confederate flags. The town is built around Shepherd University which used to be a teaching college. So most of the historical significance has to do with the college buildings and the fact that Shepherdstown is West Virginia’s first incorporated town. It is a really cool little place to walk around (even if you’re not playing Pokemon Go). Just the other day I even discovered a new area to walk to called Rumsey Park where you can find plenty of green grass and an awesome, giant monument.

Maria's

However, I have two favorite places in town. The first is Maria’s Taqueria which is hands down my favorite place to eat in the area. In fact, it might be my favorite place to eat period. The place does not take itself too seriously and makes great Mexican-styled food. It doesn’t stress itself over making sure the food is authentic but instead makes sure it tastes good. While you can sit down, the place does a lot of take-out business with a small but simple and tasty menu. Everybody is friendly there and the place is adorned with sugar skulls as a nod to the real Mexico. The other place that I love is Beyond Comics. While I haven’t been there too often, Beyond Comics is a clean and friendly comic book store which has a great selection. I look forward to visiting there again soon.

Beyond Comics

This place is great but today my semester begins in Baltimore and I have to return to my apartment. I don’t mind because I love Baltimore. However, now I have a new place to call home too.

Adventure on the River

July 11, 2016

It seems that all of my adventures start with me getting up early but this week is no different. It seems that any true adventure starts with drive time and that usually means getting up early. This is often a dilemma for me since I am definitely not a morning person. However, an adventure often has enough allure to accomplish the necromancy it takes to get me out of bed before seven in the morning. So it was that on Thursday I got up and followed the smell of bacon downstairs to grab a little breakfast with my mom and her husband’s family. Breakfast is also part of the ancient magicks needed to get me up in the morning and I could already smell it as it made its way to the table. Of course, the food was there but nobody else was.

There is something important you should probably know about me. I am terrified of being late. I actually have nightmares about it and I feel intensely guilty if I am late. I show up at events so early I am often waiting in my car for the doors to open. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I get to airports long before most rational people on the offhand chance that something will go wrong or there will be traffic. So when I saw that the rest of my adventuring party was not up yet, I decided that we were not going to make it and the trip was doomed. Eventually, everybody made it down and ate and stalled and slowly gathered their belongings and said their goodbyes to loved ones. Meanwhile, I was waiting in the car like a mental patient, mentally willing them to get in a car so we could depart. I guess this is more my issue than theirs.  Thankfully, we made it on time.

Where did we make it to? We arrived at River Riders Headquarters in Harpers Ferry at 9 am. I checked us in and was informed that, even though we were to show up at nine, the safety lecture did not start until 9:40. We all got to relax a bit before gearing up for white water rafting down the Shenandoah River and onto the Potomac River. I really love the water so I was excited but still a little sleepy and anxious that we would not walk the thirty yards to the meeting place within forty minutes. Like I said, I am crazy. Of course, we made and watched a safety video and all safety videos are both cheery and also pretty grim.

We drove to the river and my mom and I climbed on a boat with some of her recently acquired grandchildren. Our guide was immediately laid back and cool and I liked that he was not doing anything to force us to have fun. All of the guides on the river encouraged a huge splash fight and people were being pulled or pushed off their boats everywhere. It was a lot of fun and a great way to get everyone in the spirit of the trip. That was great because I was still feeling a little tired from waking up and worrying about getting there on time. We started down the river in great spirits, talking and laughing. We followed our guide’s orders on when to paddle and worked hard to match paddling rhythms.

The rapids were not overly challenging. Some of them were fun little bumps and others were a rough ride where I nearly felt like I was going to fall out. Only one of us fell out the whole way and it was kind of a fluke that came from his unlucky position in the boat. We laughed and traded stories the whole time about how we had fared on each rapid. We learned a little more about the area as we floated down the line between Virginia and West Virginia. It was a lot of fun just to be in a positive head space.

At some point, our guide let slip that any guide who fell off his boat would have to buy beers for all of the other guides. These were known as “Swim Beers” and were to be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, our guide informed us that the guide who was manning our party’s other boat had tried to take our guide out earlier. We quickly pledged our allegiance and said we would help get that guide off of his boat. We talked the whole trip about when was the best time to do it. Two grandsons on the boat volunteered to actually do the deed but we kept getting thwarted just before an attempt. At the very end of the trip, we made a beeline for them and the two guys dragged the guy into the water. We all cheered and laughed that we had finally accomplished our goal.

We took the bus back to headquarters, tired and wet but also satisfied and happy. We ate a hero’s lunch at the Clarion Hotel up the hill and drove home to dry everything out and take a nap. It was a great time and it was filled with positivity. We could all use a little more of that.


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