Everyone's Above Average: Ask Americans how they stand compared to their fellow countrymen, and in survey after survey, the vast majority rank themselves "above average" in such areas as driving skill, sexual prowess, and general honesty. A recent study of English prisoners, published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, revealed that those miscreants think they, too, are in the upper half. They rate themselves above average (whether compared to Britons in prison or in society at large) in compassion, generosity, dependability, trustworthiness and honesty. In fact, the only trait on the University of Southampton survey on which the criminals failed to rank themselves as better than the typical Brit was "law-abidingness." On that trait, the inmates rated themselves merely as "average."
-Robert Bourque, 55, was convicted of DUI in Sarnia, Ontario, in October, but continued to deny the charge. He admitted he had four beers on the day of the traffic stop but said the Breathalyzer result was misleading because he had recently poured alcohol into his ears to test his theory about how Jesus healed the sick. (Bourque was acting as his own lawyer.) Toronto Sun, 10-11-2013]
-The mother and other relatives of William Medina, 24, said they felt hurt by the public's comments suggesting that Medina and his partner in the November Reading, Pa., armed robbery were "thugs." William was a "family man" — "no big hard criminal," his mother said. The two robbers, armed and wearing masks, were gunned down by a Krick's Korner customer who said he feared the worst when he saw the robbers leading a store employee at gunpoint into a back room. A Medina cousin said he deplored people's taking the law into their own hands.
-Celebrity Ironies: (1) In December, a California appeals court endorsed actor Tippi Hedren's victory suing the lawyer who had earlier failed to win compensation for her from a 2006 studio accident. In Hedren's most famous movie role, she was attacked by birds in Alfred Hitchcock's iconic film, and in 2006 had been clobbered by falling scenery caused by birds nesting in an attic over a stage. (2) A man who won a Hollywood raffle to watch the finale of "Breaking Bad" with cast members was arrested in Fort Myers, Fla., in January and faces his own intent-to-sell drug charges. Two weeks earlier, unrelated to the show or the raffle, a man with the same name as the show's protagonist (Walter White) was sentenced in Billings, Mont., to 12 years in prison on drug charges.
-Too Much Information: Arvind Kejriwal, fresh from his electoral victory as chief minister of the state of New Delhi, India, was to report to work on Monday, Dec. 30th, to begin fulfilling his anti-corruption administration -- one that promised unprecedented "transparency" to make government visible to constituents. However, the transparency of his first public announcement was perhaps over-the-top -- that he was taking the day off because of a bout of diarrhea. Said a colleague, "When the chief minister gives you a minute-by-minute update on his bowel movements, hail democracy."
-Officials in Taiji, Japan, announced in October they would build a tourist attraction to publicize a nearby annual dolphin cull in which thousands are killed. Park planners hope to attract visitors to swim and cavort in pools among the lovable, captured dolphins -- and also to dine on dolphin meat (and rare whale meat) scored from the culls. Conservationists are of course disgusted by the project.
Fine Points of the Law
-Michael Robertson, 31, argued via a lawyer before Massachusetts's highest court in November that his arrest for taking "upskirt" photographs of a woman on the subway should be tossed out -- asserting that he has a constitutional right to take pictures of anything that is not covered up in public. Said his lawyer (a woman), noting that the victim's skirt provided only partial covering, "If a clothed person reveals a body part whether it was intentional or unintentional, he or she cannot expect privacy." (Robertson's case had been suspended at the trial court while he seeks a ruling on his legal interpretation.)
-Legislation, Not the Constitution, Is the Supreme Law of the Land: The December federal court decision, by Judge William Pauley, dismissing a challenge to the National Security Agency's phone surveillance program, suggested that even if a citizen might prove that his constitutional right to privacy was being violated, that person could never know it in the first place and thus never challenge, because Congress purposely made the NSA program secret. In fact, wrote Judge Pauley, the alleged constitutional violation that created the current lawsuit only came to light because of the unauthorized leaks by Edward Snowden. Therefore, if Congress never amends its secret laws, citizens will never get to find out whether their rights are being violated.
For nearly 30 years, until 2007, the U.S. national symbol, the bald eagle, was endangered and protected, but officially they (along with golden eagles) are now so insignificant that the government is willing to endure dozens of them being chopped to death annually in the blades of "clean energy" wind turbines. An Associated Press investigation in December revealed that the federal government is purposely ignoring the eagles' attrition out of fear that outraged conservationists' campaigns will hinder development of wind power as an alternative to coal-produced electricity. (Another recent AP investigation revealed a similar painful choice in the continued commitment to ethanol as a cleaner alternative fuel even though that cleanliness is being increasingly questioned, and even though ethanol production requires the massive diversion of corn that could inexpensively feed millions of hungry people worldwide.)
Least Competent Criminals
According to a police report, Tevin Monroe, 31, walked into a McDonald's in Norfolk, Va., in December to inquire about a job, asked a manager for an application, and was told that the form was available online and that he should go download it. The manager's response left Monroe dissatisfied, and he lifted his shirt to show the manager the gun in his waistband. The manager quickly located a paper application for Monroe (but also discreetly summoned police, who arrived and arrested Monroe while he was still filling out the form).
University of Alabama football fan Adrian Briskey, 28, was charged in December with the fatal shooting of a 36-year-old woman (also a Bama fan) at a postgame gathering in Hoover, Ala., to commiserate over the team's last-second loss to arch-rival Auburn. According to the victim's sister, Briskey was angry at the woman because she was insufficiently distraught at the game's outcome.