Drew’s Collection of Even More Things to Read on the Interwebs

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

A heaping helping of links to make you happy, make you think and make you lose faith in humanity.

  • A few months old, but worth a look: The Sun Sentinel finds that, since 2004, Florida police officers exceeding the speed limit have caused at least 320 crashes and 19 deaths. Only one officer went to jail — for 60 days.
  • A Massachusetts police captain who admitted prosecutors had enough evidence to prove he was guilty of leading Saugus cops on a drunken late-night chase could be back patrolling Bay State highways in days after a judge gave him a break.
  • Prostitutes in New Zealand have destroyed over 40 parking sign poles by using them for their customer-enticing outdoor pole dancing routines.
  • Some 7-Elevens are now featuring a Slurpee-type machine that dispenses mashed potatoes and gravy. Tasty. And gross.
  • In case you missed it: 21 idiots were treated for burns after a firewalk at a Tony Robbins appearance.
  • New Jersey does something right:  Garden State judges now must tell jurors before deliberations that eyewitness identifications aren’t necessarily reliable.
  • A kid shot at a cab driver – after paying the fare. Here’s a tip to criminals: If you’re going to shoot at someone, there’s no need to worry about paying him first.
  • Federal efforts to remove jargon from government documents and make them easier to understand isn’t going so well, according to the Center for Plain Language.
  • Shameless self-promotion: Chattanooga’s electric company got some stimulus cash to build a state of the art power grid. It was supposed to cost $220 million, but actually cost $552 million. Oops.

-Drew Johnson

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18 Responses to “Drew’s Collection of Even More Things to Read on the Interwebs”

  1. #1 |  Bergman | 

    Supposedly, the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution prevents the sort of high court/low court shenanigans we’re seeing more and more of. The theory goes that the law applies equally, that nobody is above or below it.

    You’re supposed to be able to challenge a court’s sentence if it’s harsher than other sentences for the same crime (or a worse one). 60 days in jail for people sworn to uphold the law, ten times that (minimum) for people who have not sworn such oaths. The equal protection clause would seem to require that either that 60 days gets increased, or all other sentences get reduced.

  2. #2 |  Adrian Ratnapala | 

    Federal efforts to remove jargon from government documents and make them easier to understand isn’t going so well, according to the Center for Plain Language.

    I am as worried about the effort as the failure. A lot of what passes for “Plain English” is actually just Vague English. It’s true that good writers don’t use big words unless they need to. But bad writers won’t just go away; what advice should they be getting?

    It’s often to use “ordinary language” , but ordinary language is not – and is not meant to be – unambiguous . It works because well intentioned listeners and readers can get the gist of even a vague sentence. But sometimes you need more than just the gist, and sometimes readers are not well-intentioned — sometimes they are lawyers.

  3. #3 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I wonder what went wrong at the fire-walk? The stunt is safe enough that “motivational speakers” use it a lot, and this is the first I have heard of any trouble.

    Maybe somebody violated the spirit of the warning “If you’re walking on eggs, don’t hop”?

  4. #4 |  Burgers Allday | 

    That cab driver shooting thing reminds me of Zodiac shooting the cab driver. Was his name Paul Stine? That doesn’t seem quite right, but not going to look it up because I don’t have all morning to read Zodiac-related arcanae.

    “Say what, Mr. Allday?” ™

  5. #5 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    I’m betting that some error was made in the way Robbins’ coals were set up.

  6. #6 |  Xenocles | 

    “It was supposed to cost $220 million, but actually cost $552 million. Oops.”

    Looks like the stimulus was successful!

  7. #7 |  marco73 | 

    re: the Massachusetts state cop who got a “break” from a DUI arrest in his cop car.
    The cops who chased and finally stopped the captain failed to put him through field sobriety tests, failed to draw blood, and failed to preserve the open container as evidence.
    So lack of evidence allows the prosecutor to lessen the charges to a slap on the wrist.
    Then the judge lessens the charges down again to roughly a parking ticket.
    There are no police spokesmen available to comment on the double reduction of charges.
    Yeah, I really trust public officials to “police” their own.

  8. #8 |  Other Sean | 

    About that effort to reform government prose…I think Sir Humphrey Appleby best explained why that is all feature and no bug:

    “Unfortunately, minister, although the answer was indeed clear, simple and straightforward, there is some difficulty in justifiably assigning to it the epithet ‘honest’ inasmuch as the precise correlation between the information you communicated and the facts insofar as they can be determined and demonstrated is such as to cause epistemological problems of sufficient magnitude as to lay upon the logical and semantic resources of the English language a heavier burden than they can reasonably be expected to bear.”

  9. #9 |  crazybob | 

    The Chattanooga story is so full of falsehoods and illogic as to be laughable!

    For starters the article doesn’t use a discount rate for future payments, counting money paid out in 23 years as the same value today. Besides, does one add up all the mortgage interest payments when referring to the price of a home?

    And shouldn’t one pay more for electricity on a hot summer’s day when that electricity is actually more expensive to produce? (Or don’t you think that electricity charges should reflect actual costs?) Charging people more for running an air conditioner will allow the utility to charge less for people who use during low demand times. Isn’t that a good thing?

    “cable, Internet and telephone companies in the free market. ”
    LOL – anyone who thinks cable, internet and telephone companies work in the free market needs their head examined. These are MONOPOLIES or extremely limited competition markets that the companies work extremely hard to keep that way.

  10. #10 |  Krishan Bhattacharya | 

    Why are the burn victims ‘idiots’? For going to a Tony Robbins appearance? Surely it can’t be for getting burned, which is some kind of accident. They must’ve used the wrong kind of wood or something.

  11. #11 |  johnl | 

    crazybob is right about the bad accounting. The cost of something is what you pay for it. If you decide to finiance that then you are paying interest over time but the interest isn’t part of the cost of the original item.

    Since the interest rate is determined in an open market, an income stream over time and a lump of cash up front are equivalent.

  12. #12 |  Brian | 

    I don’t know if the people who got burned were idiots (I’d tend to say yes, for engaging in an apparently dangerous cultish ritual for the dubious reasons suggested by the host, but whatever) but these guys are:

    Henry Guasch, 19, of Mountain View, said that after crossing the coals while chanting his mantra of “Cool moss,” he felt powerful.

    “Overcoming something like that, it’s a breakthrough,” he said, adding that he did slow his pace in the middle of the field and got a minor burn.

    Guasch and Andrew Brenner, another fire walker, both said that the keys to not getting singed are faith and concentration.

    “I did it before, didn’t get into the right state and got burned,” Brenner said. “I knew I wasn’t at my peak state. I didn’t take it as serious.”

    It has nothing to do with faith or being in the “right state” and everything to do with the thermodynamics. If they want to demonstrate otherwise, let’s see them walk across a 2000 degree F slab of steel instead.

  13. #13 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    •Federal efforts to remove jargon from government documents and make them easier to understand isn’t going so well, according to the Center for Plain Language.

    There was a memo drafted years ago to create guidelines for
    making government documents more concise in California years ago.
    Unfortunately by the time of release it was 23,000 pages…

  14. #14 |  StrangeOne | 

    My rule has been that if a law is so complicated that it takes more than ten minutes to explain what it criminalizes, including all exceptions, cavaets, and punishments, then it should be broken up into multiple pieces of legislation. I don’t think any federal law in the last 50 years has passed this test. The standard now is to draft 1000+ page legislative documents that no human being, much less congressmen, could be said in good faith to have read and fully understood.

    We are entering an age of lawlessness. Not because of an absence of laws, rather the opposite. The laws we have apply to every conceivable act all through the interpretation of prosecutors or judges. Whether or not you did something illegal is no longer dependent on a publicly available and understood body of law. It is now completely up to the whims of whatever argument a prosecutor is willing to make. It’s a police state, the agents of policing determine if you’re a criminal and little else can really change that.

  15. #15 |  Bill Poser | 

    I figure that the guy who shot at the cab driver after paying the fare didn’t like the service and didn’t know that the appropriate thing to do in this case is to leave a transparently inadequate tip. No doubt better instruction in etiquette in the schools would alleviate this problem.

  16. #16 |  Other Sean | 

    Krishnan,

    “Why are the burn victims ‘idiots’? For going to a Tony Robbins appearance?”

    Yes.

  17. #17 |  Noseeum | 

    Drew, any time you want to stop shamelessly self promoting yourself would be great. Your current editorial you linked to is almost as has as your “congressman is curbing free speech by writing letters” rant, which of course you subsequently deleted and pretended never happened.

    I tend to lean libertarian but that doesn’t mean I lean crazy.

    Radley, how did you let this guy on your blog? He’s a joke.

    Drew, make whatever arguments you want but please back them up with facts. In your current article, if you’re going to stretch the definition of attributable costs for the smart grid that far, you should consider it an obligation to quantify the benefits. Instead you’re asking us to simply side with you that the whole thing is a worthless boondoggle. How did you get an editorial position for a newspaper anyway?

    Please, Radley, get rid of this clown, STAT.

  18. #18 |  Windy | 

    #14 StrangeOne, good points. Here are some more of those:
    Tho he is not, by far, a favorite Founder, especially of liertarians he was correct on this:
    “It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.” — Alexander Hamilton

    “The more corrupt the republic, the more numerous the laws.” — Cornelius Tacitus, 55-117 AD, Roman historian

    “Probably all laws are useless; for good men do not want laws at all, and bad men are made no better by them.” — Demonax – (Roman philosopher, circa 150 A.D.)

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