We've often mocked state Sen. Frank Niceley around here because state Sen. Frank Niceley often serves up bad ideas.
The senator from Strawberry Plains has suggested training and arming school teachers and proposed that U.S. Senate candidates be selected by state legislators from the two parties.
These are bad ideas.
But last week, as we emerged from the fog of our July 4 freedom binge, we noticed the following tweet from Niceley that made our head hurt — not because of Niceley's commentary, but because of the absurdity he was pointing out.
Sorry to see TN AG wasting time joining the #CoffeeMug clatch. Will lawyer jokes be next? http://t.co/j2E6w0q95i #BackToWorkExpresso!
— Sen. Frank Niceley (@SenFrankNiceley) July 5, 2013
It seems that Tennessee's attorney general, Robert Cooper, is one of 22 state AGs who signed a letter urging Urban Outfitters to stop sales of its "Prescription Line" of novelty cups, bottles, etc. — for instance, a mug that reads "Prescription: Coffee." Urban Outfitters has apparently acquiesced.
If the state's top lawyer had joined a crusade to punish Urban Outfitters for the way it has contributed to a culture so excessively ironic that the idea is hardly recognizable, we might be on board. But really? From nearly half of the country's top legal minds comes this rationale:
As you may be aware, there is a national health crisis related to the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs. As Attorneys General, we have prosecuted and engaged in outreach to stop this epidemic. We are actively engaged in a campaign of environmental change to educate the public that abuse of prescription drugs is not safe simply because the medication originated from a doctor. By putting these highly recognizable labels on your products you are undermining our efforts. These products demean the thousands of deaths that occur each month in the United States from accidental overdoses.
They add: "These products are not in any way fun or humorous but make light of this rampant problem."
Anyway, putting on the legal hat, I believe the Latin term is: COME ON. Of course prescription drug abuse is a serious problem ... and of course these mugs have nothing to do with it. (In fact, what about the mug, as seen above, even suggests abuse? "Drink one mug by mouth, repeat until awake and alert." Sounds reasonable to us.)
What's more, should we expect Cooper and the rest of the crew to start going after other merchandise that makes light of rampant problems? Perhaps the makers of bumper stickers that read "Keep Honking, I'm Reloading" should be expecting a cease and desist from the AG, citing the serious problem of road rage? (I actually used to have one of these stickers but I was just being, you know, ironic.) Maybe Target should prepare to halt sales of its Coca-Cola T-shirts, given the link between soda and rampant obesity. Come to think of it, butt-chugging is a dangerous problem in our very own state. Let's hope the AG will make sure people don't start selling these T-shirts.
Or maybe the attorneys general shouldn't be wasting their time with any of this. Maybe what's demeaning to the thousands of accidental overdose deaths — and undermining to the effort to stop them — is spending even a second putting an official state signature on a letter to Urban Outfitters.