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It’s a mad, mad world

August 14, 2001

More news from the annals of zero tolerance and the continuing campaign to make the culture ever more deranged:

  • A New Jersey student made a baseball bat in shop class, then was expelled for refusing to hand it over to a teacher as a dangerous weapon.
  • A National Merit scholar in Fort Myers, Fla., missed her graduation ceremony and was sent to jail after a kitchen knife was found on the floor of her car. She said the knife had fallen there when she moved some possessions over the weekend.
  • At a Halifax, Nova Scotia, school, a ban against throwing snowballs also prohibited all arm motions that can be interpreted as possible attempts to throw something at anyone.
  • In New York City, a parks officer gave a 3-year-old a $50 summons for urinating into a bush. Also in New York, a cop busted an investment manager for tossing a pebble at pigeons who had nearly hit him with pigeon poop. “How would you like it if someone threw a rock at you?” the cop said sensitively. “They’re living creatures too.” The pebble-thrower is due in court on a disorderly conduct charge.
  • In Connecticut, a bill to ban handheld cell phones by drivers also makes eating or tuning the radio while driving an offense.
  • Walter Olson’s Web site,, reports brightly on the amazing excesses of the litigious society. In New Orleans, a group of “rave” promoters, attempting to comply with a court order, banned glowsticks, the neonlike tubes of light waved by concertgoers, on grounds that they are drug paraphernalia.A Hooters restaurant in Augusta, Ga., made the mistake of advertising in six different fax mailings sent to 1,321 customers. Since federal law allows a penalty of $500 to $1,500 per unsolicited fax, a court returned a $12 million judgment against the restaurant, and it went bankrupt.A Minneapolis woman took a job in a sex-toy store and then filed a hostile-environment suit complaining about all the smutty talk she had to listen to.
  • The Canadian government thinks overweight airline passengers should be given an extra seat free of charge (why not have very thin passengers double up in a single seat too?).
  • In Florida, a former traffic-light installer sued Palm Beach County for firing him because he is color-blind and can’t distinguish between red and green wires. Installers have to deal with 19 colored wires.
  • First, road rage, then air rage. Now desk rage and other sit-down rages. A “desk rage” poll of 1,305 working adults reported that 10 percent say violence has occurred in their workplace because of job stress. According to one psychologist, computer rage is a problem too, sometimes because computers break down, other times simply because workers are overwhelmed by the amount of e-mail.
  • In a 1999 major class-action settlement, the Clinton administration agreed to pay $50,000 to each black farmer who had suffered discrimination at the hands of the federal government. This followed a finding that federal loans were intentionally withheld from black farmers for years and given to white farmers instead. As of 2001, 40,000 people have applied for their cash. Fox News reports: “The problem is, according to the Census Bureau, there are only 18,000 black farmers in the country.”
  • A pregnant singer is suing the the D’Oyly Carte opera company for refusing to cast her as a teen-age virgin in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance.” She would have been six months pregnant when the show opened with her as a blushing teen daughter of a major-general.
  • Warning: warning labels ahead. Only six weeks left to enter the annual Wacky Warning Label Contest sponsored by the Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch. The organization collects real-life warning labels that make no sense at all. Last year’s winner was “Shin pads cannot protect any part of the body they do not cover.” Among the runners-up was this sensible caution on a carpenter’s router: “This product not intended for use as a dental drill.”Previous grand-prize winners include one attached to a household iron: “Never iron clothes while they are being worn,” and one on a baby stroller advising buyers to “Remove child before folding.” Other notable entries over the years include: “This product not intended for highway use” (a 13-inch wheelbarrow); “Do not use near fire, flame or sparks” (a fireplace lighter); “This product is not to be used in bathrooms” (a bathroom heater); and “May irritate eyes” (a self-defense pepper spray).Possible warning on a pistol: “Rapid bullet emergence may result from overly heavy digital pressure in trigger area.”
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