It’s time for one of my periodic post-topic cop outs, in which I string together a collection of little things I want to bring up because I can’t think of a topic worthy of an entire post.
I’ll start with a link. Promise you’ll come back afterward.
Man Sentenced to Poker
I generally like the law. But sometimes professionals in that field, lawyers and judges, can spend so much time concentrating on the minutiae that they lose sight of the big picture. They make one tiny logical step after another until they get lost in the forest they couldn’t see for the trees.
Raise your hand when you spot the forest.
Tree 1: It is common practice for convicted embezzlers to have their sentences reduced or even eliminated if they pay restitution, i.e. give the money back.
Tree 2: Sometimes they no longer have the money they took, for example because they stole it to feed an addiction of some kind. They are permitted to get it elsewhere, for example from a relative or from working.
Tree 3: Some embezzlers may have difficulty working in their old job, for obvious reasons, so courts should allow them to work off their debt any way they can.
Tree 4: So it is perfectly reasonable to allow a stockbroker, convicted of stealing $400K from clients and thus barred from the brokerage business, to attempt to raise the money needed to pay back his victims through the only means left to him, as a professional poker player.
Tree 5: He stole the money because of a gambling addiction.
Strange but true. (Hat tip to The Consumerist.) Apparently Samuel McMaster, Jr. will have to cough up a minimum of $7500 a month to stay out of the pokey. What I like best is the triumph of optimism over experience angle. The guy lost $400K at the tables, got caught and convicted, and now we think his luck will change?
How many SSNs do you have?
A notably Orwellian company called ID Analytics, which I have mentioned here previously, and which maintains “one of the nation’s largest networks of cross-industry behavioral data” recently put out a piece about how the one Social Security Number per person rule is routinely ignored.
How many SSNs do you have? – 6.1 percent of Americans have at least two SSNs associated with their name. More than 100,000 Americans have five or more SSNs associated with their name.
Some SSNs are very popular – More than 15 percent of SSNs are associated with two or more people. More than 140,000 SSNs are associated with five or more people. Significantly, more than 27,000 SSNs are associated with 10 or more people.
Of course, the key phrase here is “associated with.” It’s not that 6.1 percent of us knowingly use more than one SSN. 6.1 percent of us are the subject of a bad record somewhere that has the wrong SSN. As the report concedes, “Most of these cases of duplication are likely due to simple data entry errors as opposed to deliberate falsification.”
It has long been my belief that incompetence causes more harm in this country than malice. And this is another example. The problem is not that all these companies are keeping all this data about us. It is that they are doing it badly.
One More Survey
I know I just did a survey post, but I just found another one worth sharing. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press apparently conducts a periodic news quiz to see if we’ve been paying attention.
The latest edition asked 11 questions. 85% of Americans knew what Twitter was. But only 77% knew that children born in the US to illegal aliens are US citizens. I am wondering how the other 23% think you get to be a US citizen.
54% knew that the current unemployment rate is approximately 10%. That doesn’t sound so bad until you find out that the quiz is multiple choice and that the other possibilities were 5%, 15%, and 20%. C’mon people!
Pew also broke down the results by political affiliation. Overall, Republicans and Democrats scored an identical 5.7 out of 11 correct. Those with the good sense to deny belonging to either group averaged 6.2 right.
And there was an interesting skew in which questions the red and blue team tended to get right. Republicans were more likely to know factual information, such as how deep the gulf oil leak was, which country just got bailed out by the EU, and, if you can believe it, what is Twitter.
Democrats, on the other hand, fulfilled clichés by being more likely to know what country just hosted the World Cup. They also were more likely to get the winning answer for naming the “chief justice of the US Supreme Court” and the “Prime Minister of Great Britain.” Pew was looking for John Roberts and David Cameron, respectively.
But I think we Republicans are getting a bad rap here. No doubt many of us answered those last two, correctly, as nobody. John Roberts is the Chief Justice of the United States, not of the Supreme Court. David Cameron is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The Kingdom of Great Britain ceased to exist in 1801.
Hey, if you’re going to write a trivia quiz….