Garbage Cops

Seattle’s going to fine residents who they believe aren’t composting and recycling to their liking. Yes, the Green Police era has arrived; haulers will be expected to inspect trash as they dump it into the truck, and if they decide that 1/10 of the stuff could have been recycled or was compostable, they’ll enter it as a violation into a computer, and a fine will appear as if by magic on the resident’s next bill.

This has great potential as a weapon against that neighbor you don’t like: save up that spoiled meatloaf and then walk it on over to the neighbor’s garbage can in the middle of the night! You get rid of the garbage, and they get a fine. It’s a brilliant idea!

Next up will almost certainly involve adding weight sensors to the bottom of containers to ensure that you’re not tossing too much.

Alternatively, it seems that if you “March To Save The Planet™” you can just toss your trash in the streets.
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Tomorrow, I’ll Find A Unicorn

Today, I found an honest lawyer:

“I Am Incompetent!” Lawyer Argues Unnecessarily

Some nine years ago, Kansas barrister Dennis Hawver represented one Phillip Cheatham in a case that didn’t go especially well for the defendant. Which is kind of understating things, when you consider that Phil got not only a death sentence but a number of long jail terms just in case. That’s not entirely bad, because hey – court proceedings aren’t generally a toss-up: O.J. won, the prosecution lost. So the fact that Hawver’s client lost wouldn’t ordinarily be a significant blemish on his record. However, there’s the little matter of his performance during the penalty phase:

The main issue was whether Hawver violated Rule 1.1, requiring basic competence. He wanted to focus on the guilt phase (“I don’t remember that much about the penalty phase,” he admitted), but the justices didn’t. “Your client didn’t instruct you,” one asked, “to tell the jury in the penalty phase—the jury that had just convicted Mr. Cheatham beyond a reasonable doubt of two homicides—he didn’t tell you to tell the jury that whoever killed these people should get the death penalty,” did he? “No,” Hawver admitted, “that was my idea.” He believes his client is innocent, you see. Which is fine—it could even be true—but this is just not a great penalty-phase argument.

Well, at least that’s all cleared up. No word on whether or not he’s been disbarred as yet. Oh, and he’s suing the state Supreme Court. Just to be on the safe side.
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The Zero’s intrepid transportation reporter, Joseph Rose, apparently found this post and took umbrage. He left a comment:

Hi, if you’re going to quote my reporting and story, please give credit and provide a link. Thanks. Joseph Rose The Oregonian

And I replied:

If you’d bothered to click on the embedded links, Joeseph, you’d have noticed it. I provide links to source material, including both your story and that on Channel 12. Try to keep up.

While enjoying some of Mr. Rose’s reporting, this is rather irritating. I even go so far as to highlight the embeds in red to make them stand out. Clicking on a link isn’t rocket science, and had Rose bothered to do so, he’d have noticed that it takes you straight to his story, complete with his byline and grinning face.

I’ve been advised that my posts abide by both fair use doctrine and copyright law, and it’s unfortunate that a reporter for The Oregonian apparently fails to comprehend either. But then, there’s a reason why the publication is shedding circulation.

Really – you can’t click the link before whining?

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“Six Californias” Dies

Not enough valid signatures were gathered to make it onto the ballot. Many people liked the idea of splitting the state into six independent states, but most apparently didn’t; some, in fact, say that even one California is one too many.

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Every now and then I like to remind folks that giving money to PeTA is actually worse than throwing it away, because the organization rakes in millions of dollars in donations each year from unsuspecting, good-hearted individuals who have no idea as to just how hypocritical and evil “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals” really is. I was reminded today that it’s about time for another illustration of their antics, this from around nine years ago:

The following story is from This is True dated 17 July 2005. It is Copyright 2005 Randy Cassingham, all rights reserved, and reprinted here with permission:

“Ethical” Defined

After more than 100 dead dogs were dumped in a trash dumpster over four weeks, police in Ahoskie, N.C., kept an eye on the trash receptacle behind a supermarket. Sure enough, a van drove up and officers watched the occupants throw in heavy plastic bags. They detained the two people in the van and found 18 dead dogs in plastic bags in the dumpster, including puppies; 13 more dead dogs were still in the van. Police say the van is registered to the headquarters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the two occupants, Andrew B. Cook, 24, and Adria Joy Hinkle, 27, identified themselves as PETA employees. An autopsy performed on one of the dogs found it was healthy before it was killed. Police say PETA has been picking up the animals — alive — from North Carolina animal shelters, promising to find them good homes. Cook and Hinkle have been charged with 62 felony counts of animal cruelty. In response to the arrests PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said it’s against the group’s policy for employees to dump animals in the trash, but “that for some animals in North Carolina, there is no kinder option than euthanasia.” (Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald) …Oops, my mistake: that’s “Playing God” Defined.

In his author’s notes section, Cassingham had more to say about this story:

The more I learn about PETA, the less I think of them. The story of them killing animals isn’t even unusual. According to PETA’s own filings, in 2004 PETA killed 86.3 percent of the animals entrusted to its care — a number that’s rising, not falling. Meanwhile, the SPCA in PETA’s home town (Norfolk, Va.) was able to find loving homes for 73 percent of the animals put in its care. A shortage of funds? Nope: last year PETA took in $29 million in tax-exempt donations. It simply has other priorities for the funds, like funding terrorism (yes, really). But don’t take my word for it: I got my figures from — and they have copies of PETA’s state and federal filings to back it up. The bottom line: if you donate money to PETA because you think they care for and about animals, you need to think some more. PETA literally yells and screams about how others “kill animals” but this is how they operate? Pathetic.
And you know what I wonder? PETA’s official count of animals they kill is 86.3 percent. But if they’re going around picking up animals, killing them while they drive around and not even giving them a chance to be adopted, and then destroying the evidence by dumping the bodies in the trash, are those deaths being reported? My guess: no. While 86.3 percent is awful, the actual number is probably much, much higher. How dare they lecture anyone about the “ethical” treatment of animals!

(This is True is a weekly column featuring weird-but-true news stories from around the world, and has been published since 1994. Click the link for info about free subscriptions.)

2007 Update

According to the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot (3 February 2007), Adria Hinkle, now 28, and Andrew Cook, now 26, were found not guilty of animal cruelty, but were found guilty of …littering. Yes, throwing “trash” (the bodies of the killed animals) into someone else’s dumpster came down to “littering”. It took the jury 3.5 hours of deliberation to reach their unanimous conclusion.

Hinkle and Cook were each given 10-day jail sentences — which were suspended — fined $1,000, and sentenced to 50 hours of community service. They were also ordered to pay $5,975 in restitution, split between them, and serve 1 year of probation.

Before the jury went into deliberation, Superior Court Judge Cy Grant ruled that the state had failed to prove malice or motive, which were necessary to establish the charges as felonies. He thus reduced the charges to eight counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, and one count of litering. With those few charges to deliberate on, the jury only found them guilty of the littering charge.

There was testimony from an animal control officer and an animal hospital which provided dogs to PETA saying they had no idea that the animals would be killed immediately — that there would be no attempt whatever to find them new homes. Hinkle and Cook apologized for dumping the animals, but said it was “a very hot day and the smell in their van was unbearable” …which begs the question of why this happened again and again and again. EVERY day they rounded up animals to kill them was “very hot”?

There was no dispute that Cook and Hinkle were doing their jobs as PETA intended: they picked up animals from shelters and hospitals, and immediately killed them rather than even attempt to find them new, loving homes. Again, it’s clear: PETA kills animals. That is their mission. If you love animals, you will never support PETA.

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Just An Accident

Um, well, not exactly. I hate seeing stuff like this; it’s almost always some well-intentioned but clueless schmoe, or a semi-clueless newbie. In this case, it was a veterinarian who sold his practice three years ago to establish an elephant sanctuary. He should’ve stuck to dogs and cats.

56 year-old Jim Laurita doubtless meant well, but he was probably a better vet than elephant handler.

Laurita sold his private veterinary practice in 2011 to create the organization and took in two elderly and disabled performing elephants, Rosie and Opal.

He called the organization “Hope”, and he probably figured that since he was so enamored of the two Asian cows, everything would be fine. That’s almost inevitably fatal. It’s rather like jumping off a forty story building and saying “So far, so good” as you pass each floor. The end result is generally the same. And sorry, folks – it’s no accident.

People always call these things an accident, but they aren’t. They’re opportunistic occurrences. 

Over the years, I fielded a number of calls from reporters about such incidents, and as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, they’re going to ask whether it was an accident. In a word, no. The elephants know exactly what they’re doing.

It takes years to establish a solid relationship with elephants, assuming that you ever manage it at all. In most cases, the decedent was either inexperienced and overconfident, or believed that affection conquers all. It doesn’t. Laurita was all of that; three years or less is hardly enough time to establish that relationship. He thought he had it because he really cared, but he was wrong.

Back in 1993, I got a call from a reporter in central Florida. A 25 year-old keeper at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa was escorting an Asian cow from their barn to a demonstration area when, as the reporter put it, “She slipped, or tripped, or somethin’ and the elephant, why she squashed her like an ol’ bug!”

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” I replied.

“Do ya think it was an accident, like she just didn’t know her own strength?”

Like I said, they always ask that. Bet on it.

Once again, it boils down to inexperience and unwarranted confidence. It’s almost always that way. A decade before, during the course of a professional visit to Chester Zoo in the U.K., I filmed another young man interacting with an Asian cow, She had a pair of short (of course) but fairly sharp tushes, and as he turned toward me, she dropped her head, striking him briefly on the top of her head with her right tush.

When I inquired, he commented that she does that accidentally sometimes. This is all on videotape. I told him that in my view, that was no accident; he assured me that it was. Two weeks later, he was dead; the top of his skull neatly center-punched by her tush.

Also, some months following my return stateside, another young man I’d met after giving a presentation at a Port Lympne meeting was taken out.

In 1984, Mark Aitken, 22, a keeper at Port Lympne, was killed when an Indian elephant crushed him against railings.

His supervisor was kind enough to call in order to break the news and to discuss the incident, though of course it was two a.m. our time; they had only just discovered it, and he was understandably distracted. Notice that they all have something in common: they’re generally inexperienced, confident, and in most cases, young.

This latest is an aberration only in the age department.

That people care about elephants and want to help them is an admirable quality, but it often leads to tragedy because they never took the time (or had the time, or lacked the capacity) to fully research their behavioral biology, to develop the ability to “read” an individual animal, and to develop the skills necessary to live safely among them.

Operant conditioning and behavior capture are your friends.

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What Could Go Wrong?

Hey guys! Look what I found! It’s a microbe that eats radioactive waste! Hold onta my beer and watch this….

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Bleeding Edge Astoria, Oregon

Some time ago, the brain-trust in Astoria hit upon the idea of setting up buckets of flags at pedestrian crossings they deemed particularly dangerous. The idea was that a pedestrian would grab a flag and wave it around to ensure that drivers knew that “hey, I’m crossing here!”.

Well, was that ever an attractive concept! Now, Fort Lauderdale, FL. is trying it out. Hey, it’s cheaper than installing actual safety improvements.

Shortly after the program launched in Fort Lauderdale, three of the four flags had been stolen. But the city replaced the stolen flags. And despite the flag theft, residents like Magali Newson embraced the idea and crossed the street proudly waving the flag.

“I think the flag is a great thing,” Newson said. “I think Fort Lauderdale should do this around the city.”

“The cars seem to have a lack of respect for the crosswalk,” Catton said.

Well, that’s because they’re cars, so…it’s not as though cars have a lot of respect for anything; they just kind of go where they’re driven. And when you get a 90 year-old behind the wheel in proximity to a farmers’ market, anything can happen. Same thing with waving a flag in front of them. Have these people never seen a bullfight?

As for Astoria, I think they’ve already kissed off the idea; all the Lefties there were stealing the flags and taking them home to make decorative artwork, last I heard.

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Term Limits – Now

When we think of corruption, most of us think in terms of bribery: fat bundles of money stuffed in envelopes and furtively passed to conniving politicians. And that’s almost never the case. Oh, to be sure there are exceptions, such as “Cold Cash” William Jefferson (D-LA), currently serving 13 years in the slammer, but as a general rule, corruption takes much different forms.

Indeed, this was an issue of great concern among the Founders of the USA; Benjamin Franklin argued with considerable merit that elected officials should not be paid, although unfortunately that view was ultimately rejected. Franklin’s wisdom, however, has been vindicated in the American political system with which we exist today: the rise of a permanent political class. The argument advanced by Franklin essentially noted that paid elected representatives would be less inclined to act for the greater public benefit, but rather toward the advancement of their own self-interests; as citizens, they should be expected to serve briefly and then return to their own productively private lives.

In rejecting that argument, the other Founders nonetheless built disincentives into the structure of government service, such as prohibiting acceptance of gifts, among other limitations. And difficult though it may be to believe, lobbying was illegal in the United States until the 20th Century. Gradually, the limitations were circumvented, weakened, and ultimately removed; old Ben was correct – paid politicians acted in their own self interest to accumulate influence, then power, and of course, financial gain.

They became corrupt.

Thus we find ourselves in the world in which we survive today. I did not say “live”, nor “thrive” quite deliberately; we do neither of the latter, we merely survive as career politicians and their minions burden us with ever-increasing taxes, fees, and hundreds of thousands of regulations. They grow ever fatter while we grow ever poorer. Just for giggles, try to find one long-term congressman who is not today, as a result of his or her years of “service”, a multi-millionaire. There’s a reason why they fight so desperately to win re-election, and despite their words to the contrary every election cycle, it has nothing to do with you.

There are those who claim that we already have “term limits” – and it’s called the ballot. The problem with that facile attempt at mollification is that it has, throughout our history, failed. It has been said that doing the same thing over and over while hoping for a different result each time is the very definition of insanity, and that seems a valid assessment. Clearly, it is time to do something different. We need term limits for all elected representatives at all levels of government.

What we have now has devolved into a racket, not a government.

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It’s not just a bromide; time actually does seem to move faster as we get older. When you were a kid, summer seemed to last forever, and school seasons lasted even longer than that. Now, not so much. There’s an hypothesis about that, and it has to do with attention: as you habituate to things, your brain kind of goes into autopilot mode as an energy-saving feature. Human brains burn a lot more calories when running when compared to those of most other animals, and learning stuff means you’re burning more. Want to lose weight? Learn new stuff every day.

Kids don’t spend nearly as much time on autopilot, as a rule: because they’re young and inexperienced, most of their days are filled with new learning experiences, building new neural pathways. And that makes time appear to move slowly. The advantage of autopilot is that it conserves energy; the downside is that you don’t pay attention to as much, and so with fewer reference points, time seems to move much faster than it did back in the day.

Oh, there are some other physical aspects to your perception of time as well; without getting too far into the weeds on this, dopamine affects your perceptions, and levels of that neurotransmitter drop as you age. You can boost that by smoking rope, which will definitely act to make time seem to slow down. But the major component in terms of the speed of passage of time seems to be down to attention – the more you’re on autopilot, the faster time seems to go.

As for me, I’ve always paid a fair amount of attention to detail, which may partly explain why I’ve never topped 160 pounds. Whether coding or training or fishing or wood-cutting or whatever, it seems that there’s always something new to learn. It stems from the early days of childhood, when it occurred to me that I wasn’t especially wanted after noticing that my bath toys were a toaster and a radio.

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