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Comment: Re:Some appointments are forever! (Score 1) 366

The burns were extremely severe. And they were her fault.

That lawsuit was premised on hot coffee being a "defective product," such that the McDonald's would be strictly liable. But most of us are aware -- and expect -- that coffee is routinely made with boiling water. Moreover she shouldn't have put it in her lap. When she did, and it spilled, her insurance should have been on the hook for the damages, not McD's.

I'm quite sorry for her -- I've stupidly spilled coffee in my lap, and it hurt like hell. But that was my fault, and no one else's.

Comment: Re:history in motion, transiting from hooliganism (Score 1) 225

by cdecoro (#45612443) Attached to: eBay Founder Pleads For Leniency For the PayPal 14

Seriously, your stuffed-full-of-mail strawman is still a strawman, and a rather absurd one at that. Do you think that the NYSE has a little mailslot out in the front door, so that if you send a letter, the postman just tosses it in, and if 9,999,999 others send a letter, they keep piling them in the little slot until they're piling up so much in the hallway that no one can push the front door open with all the mail? Is that really the image that you have in your head?

The basis of the criminal law is intent: they presumably intended to cause damage to Paypal, and had no legitimate reason for their action. Note that I say *presumably* -- their intent must still be proven to a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt. This bears no relation to sending a letter of complaint. And their intent -- and taking actions upon that intent -- is all that matters for the criminal law. For most crimes (homicide generally excepted) the attempt or conspiracy to commit a crime is subject to the same penalties as the completed offense.

Comment: Re:Six months from now (Score 5, Informative) 494

by cdecoro (#45515415) Attached to: and the Gulf Between Planning and Reality

There is a common myth that the high cost of health care is due to uncompensated obligatory emergency room care. Like many myths, it provides comfort to the general public, who are always looking for easy explanations for the complex problems of the world. But like all myths, it has the downside of being false.

In particular, the percentage of a hospital's expenses spent on uncompensated care is about 6% (in 2011, 5.9%)

The mandate to provide emergency care to all those that show up in the ER was part of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986.

Turning back to the first link: what was the percentage of uncompensated care in 1985, before the Act? 5.8% So as a result of the treatment mandate, the percentage of hospital's uncompensated care went up all of 0.1%. (From then to today; there was a spike up to 6.4% the year after the Act was passed).

Undoubtedly, uncompensated care is a problem. It's just a rather small problem. Far bigger is the lack of market forces that removes any incentives to inefficiency.

As a side matter; I'm very sorry to hear that about your wife -- there is definitely a significant need for improvement in the system for helping people with pre-existing conditions.

Comment: Re:Ethanol is simply not good enough (Score 3, Informative) 330

by cdecoro (#45444113) Attached to: Can the US Be Weaned Off Ethanol?

True, but that doesn't mean that (certain) food isn't more expensive than it otherwise would be, but for so much corn going to ethanol production. For example, as to corn itself, while the commodity price has dropped dramatically over the last year, it's still twice as high as it was in the early 2000's.

Moreover, the cost of corn is the primary cattle feed in the U.S. As a result, the price of beef largely tracks that of corn, and has likewise more than doubled since 2000.

Comment: Re:Why we have a 5th Amendment (Score 3, Informative) 871

by cdecoro (#45065739) Attached to: Bennett Haselton's Response To That "Don't Talk to Cops" Video

The difference was that Zimmerman's statements were recorded. Federal Rule of Evidence 106 provides that: "If a party introduces all or part of a writing or recorded statement, an adverse party may require the introduction, at that time, of any other part — or any other writing or recorded statement — that in fairness ought to be considered at the same time." (I don't know the Florida rule, but most states' rules of evidence are similar to the FRE).

Generally, any statements made outside of court are inadmissible as hearsay when introduced for the purpose of proving the truth of the statement, unless a hearsay exception applies. Fed. R. Evid. 801 & 802. The largest exception is "statements of a party opponent," 801(d)(1)(2), by which a party can introduce any statements of the opposing side. Thus, Zimmerman's out-of-court statements, while hearsay, were nonetheless admissible pursuant to this exception. And because they were recorded, Fed. R. Evid. 106 allowed Zimmerman to demand the rest be introduced (presumably, I haven't actually seen what the basis for this was, or even if it was argued).

But on the other hand, whatever Zimmerman said unrecorded to officers at the scene would not be admissible if offered by himself, because no hearsay exception would apply.

Comment: Re:He just sold a hell of a lot of pasta (Score 1) 456

by cdecoro (#44979653) Attached to: Social Networks Force Barilla Chairman To Apologize For His Anti-gay Remarks

Except, of course, that homosexuality involves loving relationships between people of the same gender, and cannibalism involves murder, so they're not really comparable at all.

We're not all murderers, you cannibophobe. All the people that I eat are already dead!

Comment: Re:More accurately: (Score 1) 248

by cdecoro (#44546383) Attached to: As AOL Prepares To Downsize Patch, CEO Fires Employee During Meeting

I respect your point about not letting the big-ego psychopaths running the show. I have this gut revenge reaction against the big-ego jerk (I won't quite call him a psychopath) that fired me on the basis of a B.S. reason. I think I might have fantasized about having a law where I could sue him for being the gigantic jerk that he was. But it was enough satisfaction to see him run that business straight into the ground with his ego-driven approach -- they went bankrupt about a year and a half after I got the boot. And I found another job -- in fact, not only did they not hold the firing against me (which I was certainly concerned about at the time, especially when they asked why I left the previous job), but the interviewer laughed and thought it was a great story.

That's how it should work: easy to hire, easy to fire, and let the job market sort it all out. Good managers know that treating people like crap isn't good for business.

The worst would be a situation like in certain parts of Europe, where it is so difficult to fire people that companies are equally reluctant to hire, and it becomes very difficult to expand a business without fear that contraction will be impossible. Yes, in some European countries it actually works (the beautiful land in which I am currently vacationing, zum Beispiel). But that has a lot to do with cultural factors that cannot simply be dictated by act of law. There is a big difference in Europe between the German/Scandinavian countries on the one hand, and all the others. And I fear that America would be more like the latter. Just think of how inefficient our legal system can be -- the thought of potentially having to fight out a yearslong legal battle every time you let someone go would be a disaster for business, even if the business was vindicated every single time.

If it works in your country, great! I hope you're in one of the more successful ones, rather than one of those with 20% unemployment. And even if not, I respect the sovereign right of your country to choose its own labor laws, regardless of what I might choose for my own. But in the same vein, I think you could give America a little more credit -- at-will employment (the legal term for this) is not exactly "anarchy." If the CEO had beat the man to death with a baseball bat, Untouchables-style, you might have a better case.

Finally, don't get me wrong (as I feel obligated to underline, lest I be discounted as some heartless libertarian -- or worse, Republican!): there are situations in which the power balance is so uneven, or the conduct so egregious, that regulation is justified. But firing a Creative Director of a large corporation for taking pictures is simply not one of them, nor should it be.

Comment: Re:More accurately: (Score 2) 248

by cdecoro (#44540775) Attached to: As AOL Prepares To Downsize Patch, CEO Fires Employee During Meeting

But why *should* we prevent "stunts like this"? I realize that it would hurt to be the guy that got fired, but so what? I've been fired before, and it sucked, but I got over it. What interest does the rest of the society have in making sure that AOL is a nice place to work? I would rather have a society where starting (and by extension, failing) a business is easier, such that there are more options for someone to jump from one company to the next. The fact is that most companies aren't like this; one can find better places to work, and a fluid business environment makes such options more likely to be available.

I suppose that it could matter in a society where someone has a significant amount (of time, money, pension shares, etc.) invested in a company, such that no other job could actually replace the job that was lost. But here? Let's face it, the guy who was fired probably will be better off, in the long term, having been kicked off the sinking ship that is AOL.

(And yes, yes; obviously there are some business practices that are so egregious, or some labor markets that are so unbalanced, that regulation is reasonable. I'm not arguing for *no* regulation -- just that we shouldn't regulate here).

Comment: Re:As a sortware patent holder... (Score 1) 147

by cdecoro (#44362755) Attached to: Nobelist Gary Becker Calls For an End To Software Patents

Don't be silly. Your house, like all tangible property, is a scarce resource: if someone else is allowed to use it, its utility to you decreases. No such situation exists with intellectual property. To the contrary, intellectual property is a restriction on the use of own's own tangible property (or one's own body, in the case of, e.g., singing "Happy Birthday") but one that we as a society tolerate for a limited time as an incentive to produce.

Moreover, the indefinite ("fee simple") ownership of property has, at its core, nothing to do with issues of fairness or seeming "OK" -- it is a very practical way of ensuring that valuable property is maintained indefinitely. When you have a time-limited ownership of property (such as a 99-year lease), the market value of the property is consistently decreasing over time. This means that you have, over time, less incentive to maintain it. When you have indefinite ownership, its value does not decrease simply by the passage of time; thus you have incentive to maintain it so that you can sell it for higher value later in life.

Comment: Re:Better plots? (Score 1) 1029

I'm with you on a lot of those -- Back to the Future and the first Michael Keaton Batman are still among my favorites. But Star Trek? Seriously, you can't really believe that Star Trek IV, where they go back in time to save the whales, was such a stellar movie that puts today's to shame. The Star Trek movies after Wrath of Khan were just as bad as much of the drek that gets passed off today.

Comment: Re:Start here (Score 5, Interesting) 1145

by cdecoro (#43817617) Attached to: White House: Use Metric If You Want, We Don't Care

That would be the last place to start, as it would cost a fortune to replace all of the highway signs. Not only that, but also all of the mile markers, for which most states have every 1/10 of a mile. Moreover, contrary to what some people have implied, the numbers are generally not painted on, they're fabricated from other materials and overlaid. And for what? So we can convert the length of our commute into a multiple of our height, or something else of the sort? Yes, it's absolutely absurd that there are 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard, and I-don't-even-know-how-many yards in a mile (and yes, I've heard of Google/Wikipedia; but I just don't care). The truth is, I never need to convert inches into miles. You measure human-scale things in feet and inches, travelling distances in miles.

On the other hand, you know where we should start: volumetric measurements. I have frequently had a recipe that takes some number of teaspoons of a liquid, while having measuring cups measured in (naturally) cups, and nutritional information in ounces. Oh, and keep in mind that most tea spoons are significantly larger than a teaspoon. And then there's tablespoons, pints, quarts, gallons, barrels, and who knows what else. This is a lot harder to keep straight, and unlike miles to inches, sometimes you actually need to convert between these.

Add into the mix the problem that pints differ from place to place (either 16 or 20 oz), and "ounce" is both a volumetric measure and a weight measure. Obviously, if you have something that's clearly a solid or a liquid, it's clear which is which. But what about, say, frozen yogurt. When the self-serve froyo place sells by the ounce, and posts calories by the ounce, it would only be reasonable to think that these are the same ounces. It would also be wrong.

Moreover, in the case of volumetric measures, not only do you have a real problem, but an easier solution: most of the containers that hold liquids are disposable anyways, and constantly manufactured (i.e. food). All that would need to be done is to make containers that are metric-sized, and printed with metric labels, rather than Imperial. In fact, we're closer to that already. By law, all wine and distilled alcohol must be sold in one of several metric sizes (for distilled, it is 375 mL, 750 mL, 1L, 1.75 L, if I recall correctly). Soda is frequently sold in 2 L bottles.

Do that, let people see that metric actually saves time and hassle, and then go about changing other measurements. Weight would probably be the easiest to transition next, followed by lengths for things other than highway signs. (No one will care that they can't easily convert meters into miles, just as they don't care that they can't convert feet into miles). But please don't try to start with highway signs. Or bother with highway signs at all, for that matter. They are the death of metricfication in the US, and insistence on them is only counterproductive to the rest of your goals.

Comment: Re:Actual damages (Score 4, Informative) 225

by cdecoro (#43732407) Attached to: Federal Judge Dismisses Movie Piracy Complaint

No. See Federal Rule of Evidence 408(a)(1) ("Evidence of the following is not admissible — on behalf of any party — either to prove or disprove the validity or amount of a disputed claim or to impeach by a prior inconsistent statement or a contradiction: furnishing, promising, or offering . . . a valuable consideration [i.e. money] in compromising or attempting to compromise the claim").

A morsel of genuine history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable. -- Thomas Jefferson