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Friday, May 30, 2014

Chuck Shepherd's News of The Weird

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Gigadollars and Cents      

In April, Anton Purisima filed a claim in Federal District Court in New York City that the Lowering The Bar blog calculated was for the largest monetary demand ever made in a lawsuit—“$2,000 decillion” (or 2 followed by 36 zeroes, which of course is many times more money than exists on planet Earth). Purisima’s lawsuit names Au Bon Pain, Carepoint Health, Kmart, the New York City Transit Authority and LaGuardia Airport among the parties allegedly causing him so much distress (by fraud, civil rights violations and even “attempted murder”). Lowering The Bar also noted that “$2,000 decillion” could also have been accurately nominated as “$2 undecillion” or even “two octillion gigadollars.”                                     

 

The Continuing Crisis     

Only in Florida: (1) Calvin Rodriguez was arrested in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in May as the man who had been using a shaved key to steal a series of cars from parking lots. His spree came to an abrupt halt as he sped away from police in a stolen Honda Civic only to crash into a huge alligator in the road. (2) On May 1, a wildlife trapper called to Pine View School in Osprey, Fla., south of Sarasota, removed four alligators (one of which was 8 feet long) from the campus while classes were in session (but without disruption). (3) Beachcombers in the Gulf of Mexico town of Redington Beach, Fla., were treated on May 17 to the sight of a full-grown elephant treading water about 20 yards offshore. (The animal had made its way to the water after being unloaded for a commercial birthday party appearance.)           

 

Democracy in Action        

One of the leading theories as to the cause of a radiation leak at a nuclear waste dump near Carlsbad, N.M., in February is the facility's recent, unanticipated switch to “organic” kitty litter. Previously, a non-organic variety had been used to absorb liquid in the waste drums shipped to the facility from bomb-making plants that had been temporarily storing the waste pending creation of a permanent nuclear waste storage site.                                                                      

 

Fine Points in the Law                     

n Despite a 1971 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that governments could not punish people who are merely “annoying,” dozens of towns (according to a March Wall Street Journal report) continue to regard the behavior as criminal. (The justices decided the word is too “vague” to give fair warning of which behaviors are illegal, but an Indiana deputy attorney general told the Journal that anyone with “ordinary intelligence” knows what is annoying.) New York has such a law, as do Lawrence, Mass., and Cumberland, Md.—among the 5,000 mentions of forms of “annoy” in a computer search of municipal ordinances. (Britain’s House of Lords in January blocked a proposed anti-annoyance law.)

n Among the discretionary punishments authorized to Georgia judges is banishing an offender from the county in which he committed the crime. Complained driver Ricardo Riley (who as of February is barred from Walton County), “I didn’t commit no murder, I’m not a sex offender, I’m not a criminal. I just got a speeding ticket.” Judge Brad Brownlow, perhaps irritated at Riley’s request to reduce the original $250 fine, instead piled on punishments—including banishment. Walton County is just outside the Atlanta metro area, and Riley, from adjacent Gwinnett County, has friends and co-workers who live in Walton—but whom he can no longer visit.                                    

 

Perspective          

The U.S. Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, in his latest report on agency employee bonuses in April (covering late 2010 through 2012), disclosed that $2.8 million of the high-performance prizes went to employees with discipline problems—including about $1 million to 1,150 workers who owe back federal taxes. The inspector general acknowledged that the bonuses “appear to create a conflict” regarding the “integrity” of the program. (The Treasury Department pointed out somewhat proudly that the department’s rate of tax delinquencies is only about one-eighth the delinquency rate of the United States as a whole.)                                                                                                                      

 

© 2014 CHUCK SHEPHERD