Saturday, March 02, 2013

Links and Notes

* James Chastek has a good post on blindness to what is self-evident to us.

* Joel Gehrke discusses Ricardo Blanco's Inaugural poem.

* Rebekah Higgit discusses the problems with the words 'science' and 'scientist'

* Baruch S. Davidson looks at Jewish traditions about why Moses broke the tablets.

* Adam Smith on trust and honour at "guylongworth"

* Studying the history of alchemy by doing alchemical experiments

* Ethics & International Affairs has a just war issue up.

* A man named Anthony Brasfield was recently arrested and charged in Florida with a third-degree felony for polluting to harm. His crime? On a date with his girlfriend he released a dozen heart-shaped balloons.

Looking at the relevant code, it does look like the act technically applies. This is one of those cases where a weighing of the letter and the spirit is in order, though; while the Act's definitions are quite general, almost everything in it is clearly assuming that we are talking about industrial and other potential high-quantity sources of pollution. When it gives the penalty for the particular felony for which Mr. Brasfield is punished, for instance, in 403.011, it seems to assume that it's the kind of thing that is institutional and at least potentially ongoing. The specific statement of legislative intent says that courts should impose such penalties that would "ensure immediate and continued compliance with this section", which could hardly come into view at all if you are talking about a one-time action of no malicious intent.

In case, you're interested, here is the relevant legal definition of pollution:

“Pollution” is the presence in the outdoor atmosphere or waters of the state of any substances, contaminants, noise, or manmade or human-induced impairment of air or waters or alteration of the chemical, physical, biological, or radiological integrity of air or water in quantities or at levels which are or may be potentially harmful or injurious to human health or welfare, animal or plant life, or property or which unreasonably interfere with the enjoyment of life or property, including outdoor recreation unless authorized by applicable law.

The Mylar balloons could indeed be considered as being or possibly being potentially harmful or injurious to animal or plant life. If you're thinking that this definition on its own would include any and all emissions by automobiles, it does indeed: the Act later has to exempt motor vehicles explicitly.

Incidentally, this raises one of my pet peeves of modern journalism. If you are reporting that someone was arrested, charged, or convicted for breaking a law, state precisely which law, so people who are interested as citizens can look it up themselves.

* In other news, a boy in Baltimore was suspended for two days from school in Baltimore because he made an inappropriate gesture with his food. According to the boy he was trying to sculpt a strawberry tart into a mountain, but couldn't get it to come out right; it ended up looking like a gun, which his teacher saw. Fortunately for everyone the strawberry tart shaped like a gun was confiscated before anyone was threatened or hurt by the seven-year-old in any way.


  1. Christopher Adare1:52 PM

    When i was in 9th grade ('01/'02) I did a report on "zero tolerance" policies for school "violence". I remember finding a bunch of cases of kids being suspended for rubber band guns, stick guns, index finger guns, and the best of all chicken nugget guns. Some kid was kept out of school because his nugget was L-shaped and he pointed it at a teacher and said 'pew pew'. It's ridiculous.

  2. branemrys4:04 PM

    I would have been suspended so much. It's remarkable how much difference just a few years make; I grew up in a much more innocent time than these kids.


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