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For years now, the newspaper business across the nation has been suffering, with some top flight publications simply going out of business or declaring bankruptcy. As an old newspaper guy who really prefers to hold the newsprint in my hands rather than reading a publication via a computer, I must say the coronavirus scare could prove to be a blessing for the newspaper industry in a peculiar way.

With some colleges shutting down in America and even sporting events being nullified, or fans not being allowed into sporting events, there still are those who say there is nothing to worry about — “It’s only the flu and the media’s attempt to beat Donald Trump.” Never mind the pandemic warnings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To hell with Italy practically shutting down a whole country, etc., etc.

Despite everything, there is a real panic going on in America, as one can barely find a store that has any hand sanitizer left, and now, for goodness sakes, the virus is also inspiring Americans to hoard toilet paper. As of this writing, in most locations across this great land, the toilet paper shelves are empty. While it makes sense to me that hand sanitizer should be in short supply, I’m dumbfounded by the toilet paper hoarding. NEWS FLASH: Toilet paper will not protect you from coronavirus.

Imagine what a predicament we would be in if the United States imported all of its toilet paper from China. Talk about panic. What would people do with themselves? There isn’t even any leaves on the trees yet.

That’s why you need to renew or start a subscription with your local newspaper. Not only can you get the latest local news, but in addition to such things as using it to line a bird cage, as a paint drop cloth, or stuffing it into boxes with fragile objects that you intend to mail to loved ones, a newspaper and vinegar make a great combination in cleaning windows. In some really old houses, especially coal camp structures, in the process of watching some homes razed, I have seen walls that were covered with newspapers that had been painted over. However, perhaps its most important secondary function came with its use in outdoor toilets and even some indoor bathrooms.

Realizing, of course, you’re probably thinking one could find the same use for political mailings, which you likely will soon be bombarded with, allow me to tell you that is a messy idea. Those shiny “vote for me” mailings, as well as McDonalds and other coupon mailers, are just too slick to get the job done. You must only trust a newspaper. Ponder this: If there’s a picture of your old girlfriend’s marriage to your once best friend, well, just think of how you could get even by smearing their names. The uses for newspapers are boundless — shredded newspapers around your garden plants, etc.

Meanwhile, here’s the good news. Despite nearly everything you buy anymore seeming to have been made in China, the toilet paper industry is alive and well in America. Unlike other industries, like shoe manufacturing and clothes making, which have been outsourced to places like China, Vietnam and other nations, the U.S. has approximately 150 toilet paper-making companies. In fact, this nation only imports about 17% of its toilet paper from foreign countries, mostly from Canada and Mexico. (Makes me wonder. Does Mexico smuggle pot to the pot in toilet paper rolls?)

While it looks like my wife and I probably won’t be seeing the Rollins Stones in concert this year, the epidemic makes me realize that human beings are like birds, squirrels and other creatures of nature — we like to hoard. So, for those of you who have hoarded up boxes of toilet paper in your garages, and for those who have stored your newspapers in a closet or elsewhere, I say, “bravo.”

However, for those of you die-hards who do receive the printed newspaper at your homes — and should it ever become necessary to revert back to the days of old toiletry — I trust you will have mercy on me, and my not so handsome newspaper face.

BITS and PIECES

Just for the record, I read where the average person in the U.S. uses about 100 rolls of toilet paper each year. So, would it be a conservative estimate to say that certain members of the West Virginia Legislature average about 120 rolls per year? Just joking, of course.

Personally speaking, despite ignorance surrounding the lack of passing a medical marijuana bill, this year’s group did a fairly good job, although a newspaper poll indicates otherwise. In actuality, lawmakers passed 354 bills, 186 House bills and 168 Senate ones. It was the first time since 2002 that the Legislature passed more than 300 bills.

Sometimes, it isn’t what legislation is passed, but bills that do not get passed. For instance, the House of Delegates killed a Senate bill that would have created an intermediate appeals court at a startup cost of almost $8 million. Every lawyer I’ve spoken to agrees there is absolutely no need to create a new court in West Virginia.

A bill that did pass that I have encouraged for many years is the elimination of administrative hearings with the Department of Motor Vehicles for persons charged with driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. In the past, it really didn’t matter what the outcome in magistrate court was on a person charged with DUI. Individuals always would have to complete the six weeks of very costly DUI classes and have their license suspended, unless they asked for a hearing with the DMV. It was nearly impossible to win DMV hearings, even when there was no real evidence of a DUI. Most attorneys would not even waste their time trying the matter.

The vast majority of DUI arrests are legitimate and nobody wants an impaired driver behind a steering wheel. However, when a person gets pulled over for crossing the center line, for example, and the officer asks if he or she has been drinking or using any drugs, and the driver — typically nervous and scared not to tell the truth — admits to having had “a few beers” earlier that day, or admits to having smoked a joint many hours earlier, then that alone should not justify a DUI charge, if he or she passed the breathalyzer test. At least now, everyone can have their day in court with the results there deciding their fate, not a separate hearing. To me, it was simply double jeopardy, constitutionally incorrect and a money maker for the state, or certain individuals.

Even if a person charged with DUI was later declared not guilty in magistrate court, the person still had to pay a huge sum and take the required classes before getting his or her license back. If in fact the person asked for an administrative hearing on the conditions I mentioned, they could hardly ever win the DMV hearing.

In my opinion, there are times when a person simply deserves a one-time break. For example, I knew a fellow who had never touched drugs or alcohol in his life. He worked every day. One day, when he became ill at work he unexpectedly returned home only to find his wife of 20 years in bed with another man. Devastated, he later purchased a six-pack of beer and began driving around with tears in his eyes.

Unfortunately, he got pulled over for crossing the center line and was charged with DUI. He wound up losing his job because he had no way to get to work, and later stuck a .38 revolver to his head and blew his brains out. I ask: Would it have really hurt anything to reduce his charge to reckless driving, with a stern warning?

There are even times, for various reasons, when the officer himself would like to see the DUI charge go away in court. That should be their prerogative, in my opinion.

Back when I was employed by the Logan Sheriff’s Department, in the 1980s, and long before that, it was not unusual for deputies and/or state policemen to allow a friend or family member to come to a DUI scene where there had been no accident and take the individual home. There were even times when the police officer drove the person to their residence. Those individuals were generally not given a second chance in future instances.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the Tigers are getting hungry.” — Winston Churchill

DID YOU KNOW that by 1918, World War I was already known as “the cruelest war in the annals of the human race” and that of the 43,000 American servicemen mobilized for the war, half of them died of influenza? For four and one-half years, medical scientists devoted themselves to the pandemic that wound up taking 675,000 American lives, 10 times that of World War I.

CLOSING NOTE: Imagine a world where the electrical grids are knocked out across our great land. No internet, no way to withdraw cash or to electronically pay bills, or even purchase food or other necessities. When the food supply was gone, with stores empty and people literally fighting to stay alive, it truly could become a “mad” world. Our younger generation needs to be taught how to garden, raise food, preserve it, and just what wild plants are edible. And, of course, how to kill a rabbit, squirrel or deer wouldn’t hurt either. Of course, knowing how to cook the varmints would also be a necessity. Nothing like home economics that used to be taught in high schools — or deep fried rabbit, squirrel gravy, or venison stew. Run, it’s the end of the world — at least as we know it.

Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.