On March 13, a US court of appeals determined that certain clauses of Maine’s overtime laws are grammatically ambiguous. Because of that lack of clarity, the five drivers won their appeal and were found eligible for overtime. According to state law, the following types of activities are among those that don’t qualify for overtime pay: The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods. Is packing (for shipment or distribution) a single activity that is exempt from overtime pay? Or are packing and distributing two different activities, and both exempt? If lawmakers had used a serial comma, it would have been clear that distribution was an overtime-exempt activity on its own. But without the comma, wrote US appeals judge David J. Barron, the law is ambiguous......so the judge ruled in favor of the drivers. They were working overtime hours, and the law didn't clearly exempt them from overtime pay, so they deserved overtime pay. Problems like this could be resolved at the start if legislatures hired some programmers to write parallel versions of the code. In Python:
# = = = = = def IsExempt(activity,product): ExemptActivities = [ "processing", "preserving", "freezing", "drying", "marketing", "storing", "packing for shipment", "distribution"] ExemptProducts = [ "Agricultural produce", "Meat products", "Fish products", "Perishable foods"] decision = 0 if (activity in ExemptActivities) and (product in ExemptProducts): decision = "No overtime" else: decision = "overtime" return decision # end definition of function IsExempt # = = = = = # Test for a specified combination..... activity = "distribution" product = "Perishable foods" print "for %s of %s, %s" % (activity, product, IsExempt(activity,product) ) # = = = = =(The above is real code. You can copy it and run it.) The programmers could then test all of the potential activities and products to see if the result was as intended. Later on, courts could use the same code to resolve questions reliably without using arguable and changeable grammar rules. The best part: You don't even need a computer. After testing, the Python version can be read with perfect reliability by humans.
Labels: Patient things
Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.