On April 6, 2009, a 6.3 earthquake struck the Italian city of
L’Aquila. The quake damaged thousands of medieval-era buildings and
killed 309 people.
Those deaths prompted Italian prosecutors to charge six seismologists and a government
official with manslaughter on the grounds that they gave "inexact,
incomplete and contradictory information" about the mortal risks a quake
in the area would pose. The idea that scientists could be held
responsible for failing to predict the deadly earthquake was considered
laughable – until a court found them guilty.
The basis for conviction, if represented correctly in this article, suggests an appalling level of stupidity and malevolent populism on the part of the prosecutors and the court.
The Washington Post recently provided a top chef with a variety of wild and farmed salmon, ranging in price from $6/lb. to $20/lb., and had him prepare dishes for a table of food-snob judges. In the end, farmed salmon handily defeat the wild stuff and the Post concluded that you don’t always get what you pay for.
The Post panel were fed a wide variety of salmon — six from farmed sources and four wild salmon — from waters in Norway, Scotland, Chile, Alaska, Washington, and elsewhere.
There were two Costco products on the list, a wild coho from Alaska at $10.99/lb. and a frozen farmed fish from Norway. This second fish, the only frozen product on the list and sold for only $6/lb., was put into the test at the last-minute with the thought that the testers would most certainly notice the difference.
And apparently they did, but not in the way that the test-runners had expected.
Tomorrow night, a group of at least ten will gather for a finale viewing: four shrinks, an actor, a director, two lawyers, an investment banker and a rabbi. We're still looking for a chemist and a DEA agent.
Here's a friend's fanciful speculation on another backstory revealed and the reason Walt heads back to Arizona:
I’ve often wondered if you could end up with a more perverse system
if you hired a bunch of economists and politicial scientists and gave
them the following design criteria:
1) Maximize incentives to overspend and overbill.
2) Minimize price discovery and feedback.
3) Trap people in jobs / minimize labor mobility.
4) Leave the maximum number of uninsured.
5) Make it politically impossible to get rid of.
I have no idea how we achieved this by accident, but it seems like even experts couldn’t do worse by design.
That led me to recommend this paper reviewing the history of health insurance in America. It was written by an American Enterprise Institute scholar, which may be off-putting to some of my liberal friends, but if you're interested in the how we got to the system we have, I suggest you set your reservations aside. It's well worth the read.
Former Chicago Alderman William Beavers was sentenced to six months in prison for failing to pay taxes on tens of thousands of dollars in campaign money that he used for gambling and other personal expenses. Beavers says that he was indicted only because he refused to cooperate with prosecutors who wanted him to wear a wire during investigations of his colleagues. The Tribune quotes Beavers:
“They never came to me and said you owe some taxes,” he said. “They sent the FBI to try to make me a stool pigeon. And I’m not a stool pigeon. I’m not gonna be a stool pigeon.”
I can understand why someone asked to wear a wire might demur, but his language--stool pigeon--sounds like honor among thieves, something he wouldn't do with any criminal, regardless of personal relationship, because criminals don't rat out criminals. Never mind wearing a wire, he wouldn't even report a crime if he knew of a crime. This is different from a person who is frightened of participation or uncomfortable engaging in an active deception of a friend or confidante.