What do you think? N.J. top court rules police must explain DWI test laws in native language

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No English

You can read the entire article here, but I’m going to post bits that are pertinent, in my opinion, and then the debate afterward.

…Police in New Jersey must explain the state’s implied consent law to motorists in a language that they understand, the state Supreme Court ruled on Monday. In a 4-3 decision, the court overturned a conviction for refusing to take an alcohol breath test because the man, who spoke only Spanish, did not understand the consequences…

…”He was read his rights in a meaningless way,” said Marquez’s attorney, Michael B. Blacker, who believes the ruling by the New Jersey court is among the first to require that police give informed consent in a foreign language…

…”There are over 150 different languages spoken in New Jersey, according to statistics gathered by the courts,” Aseltine (Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office). “This ruling effectively provides an immunity claim in a prosecution for violating the refusal statute for any drunk driver who speaks a language that the officer is unable to identify or translate.”

…Prosecutors argued that all drivers give implied consent to take breath tests when they get their license, and that even though Marquez took his license in Spanish, he was informed of the consent laws at that time. Blackman argued that despite that, English drivers are again informed of the consequences of refusing the test, and therefore, other language speakers are also afforded that right…

We know he broke the law for driving while intoxicated. He didn’t understand that if he refused the test his license would be suspended for seven months, because he doesn’t speak English. The court decided that because it wasn’t made clear in his ‘native’ language, he’s not liable. Technically he ‘should have known’ the law because it’s part of the law when you get your license (please don’t test me on everything I read in the driver’s manual).

On one hand, he didn’t understand what they were saying, and it would be unfortunate if he were to be punished because he doesn’t speak English. As the attorney said, the rights read to him were meaningless.

On the other hand, it sets the precedence that if you claim to not speak a language, you can claim ignorance, and get away with a crime. I think it’s silly for every police officer to have to be able to communicate every guideline in what can be ANY language the person needs. “I only speak Innuit, officer.” This is entirely impractical, especially on-the-fly. Is an officer out in the field, while handing a crime scene, supposed to call for a Tagalog interpreter? I think not.

What do you think?

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New study – Many English Speakers Cannot Understand Basic Grammar

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I’ll paste the entire content of the article, which can be found by clicking here. I will bold the points I find most interesting, followed by my comments below.

ScienceDaily (July 6, 2010) — Research into grammar by academics at Northumbria University suggests that a significant proportion of native English speakers are unable to understand some basic sentences.

The findings — which undermine the assumption that all speakers have a core ability to use grammatical cues — could have significant implications for education, communication and linguistic theory.

The research, conducted by Dr Ewa Dabrowska, showed that basic elements of core English grammar had not been mastered by some native speakers.

The project assumed that every adult native speaker of English would be able to understand the meaning of the sentence:

The soldier was hit by the sailor.”

Dr Dabrowska and research student James Street then tested a range of adults, some of whom were postgraduate students, and others who had left school at the age of 16. All participants were asked to identify the meaning of a number of simple active and passive sentences, as well as sentences which contained the universal qualifier “every.”

As the test progressed, the two groups performed very differently. A high proportion of those who had left school at 16 began to make mistakes. Some speakers were not able to perform any better than chance, scoring no better than if they had been guessing.

Dr Dabrowska comments: “These findings are ground breaking, because for decades the theoretical and educational consensus has been solid. Regardless of educational attainment or dialect we are all supposed to be equally good at grammar, in the sense of being able to use grammatical cues to understand the meaning of sentences.

“Of course some people are more literate, with a larger vocabulary and greater exposure to highly complex literary constructions. Nevertheless, at a fundamental level, everyone in a linguistic community is supposed to share the same core grammar, in the same way that given normal development we can all walk.”

The supposition that everyone in a linguistic community shares the same grammar is a central tenet of Noam Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar. The theory assumes that all children learn language equally well and that there must therefore be an underlying common structure to all languages that is somehow “hard-wired” into the brain.

Dr Dabrowska has examined other explanations for her findings, such as limitations to working memory, and even so-called “test wiseness,” but she concluded that these non-linguistic factors are irrelevant.

She also stressed that the findings have nothing to do with intelligence. Participants with low levels of educational attainment were given instruction following the tests, and they were able to learn the constructions very quickly. She speculates that this could be because their attention was not drawn to sentence construction by parents or teachers when they were children.

She adds: “Our results show that a proportion of people with low educational attainment make errors with understanding the passive, and it appears that this and other important areas of core grammar may not be fully mastered by some speakers, even by adulthood.

“These findings could have a number of implications. “If a significant proportion of the population does not understand passive sentences, then notices and other forms of written information may have to be rewritten and literacy strategies changed.

“What’s more, the existence of substantial individual differences in native language attainment is highly problematic for one of the most widely accepted arguments for an innate universal grammar: the assumed ‘fact’ that all native speakers of a language converge on essentially the same grammar. Our research shows that they don’t.”

Dr. Dabrowska presented her findings in a keynote lecture at the UK Cognitive Linguistics Association Conference on July 7.

When I first skimmed the study, I assumed that it was about people who were not born in English-speaking countries, and their issues with understanding grammar. To see that these comprehension difficulties were with native English speakers was pretty surprising to me. It always seemed logical to me (and apparently to the grammar and linguistic theorists as well), that while people may have different vocabularies and levels of grammar understanding, that if you were born and raised here you would have a basic understand of the general grammar rules.

The example cited in the study was “The soldier was hit by the sailor.” I erroneously assumed that this “basic” sentence would be understood universally by native English speakers. I thought that even the group that left school at 16 would have no problem with this sentence; there are no sneaky punctuation marks and no difficult words to comprehend. Apparently, the issue with comprehension was that it’s a passive sentence. This caught me completely by surprise.

Dr. Dabrowska noted that it was not an intelligence issue, and that once those with comprehension issues were taught the correct usages, they learned it quickly.

What is somewhat unsatisfactory is her speculation that this could be because their attention was not drawn to sentence construction by parents or teachers when they were children. I’m not sure that I have a better explanation, but just by hanging out with friends or coworkers or television one might limn enough about sentences to figure it out.

I guess we were all wrong.

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Two good reasons to stop all this nonsense with vampires and werewolves

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The first story is about a woman from Fruta, Colorado who crashed her car into a canal on Sunday night, claiming to have done so to avoid a vampire in the middle of a dirt road.

The woman reportedly told Colorado State Patrol officers that she saw a vampire in front of her car and put her SUV into reverse to avoid it, landing in a Mesa County canal.

In case you didn’t realize what she said, she swerved BECAUSE SHE SAW A VAMPIRE!


According to the Colorado State Patrol, drugs and alcohol were not involved in the crash and the woman was not charged with any wrongdoing. An investigator has stated there is some evidence the woman was not taking her normal medical prescription.

Something makes me think the medicine is not her daily Flintstone vitamin.

You can watch a video about the accident here.

The second story comes courtesy of Congress, of all places. Elena Kagan has been grilled by all sorts of members of congress in her bid to join the Supreme Court of the United States of America. The highest court our country has. The one with a lifetime appointment. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asks “I keep wanting to ask you about the famous camp of Edward vs. Jacob or the vampire vs. the werewolf”. Really? At confirmation hearings?

You can watch the video of this portrayal of how stupid some people are, here.

In case people aren’t quite sure what the root of this insanity is, look below.

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Ike Davis is a good baseball player and a good boy!

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I Like Ike - Ike Davis Tshirts

I Like Ike - Ike Davis Tshirts

I freakin’ love Ike Davis, first baseman for the New York Mets.

Here are snippets from the article you can find on DNAinfo.

It’s not yet June and the 23-year-old freshman first baseman already has a tribute shirt — an appropriation of the 1950s-era Eisenhower presidential campaign slogan.

But Davis’s play is not the only thing exciting fans.

With many Jewish baseball fans in New York, Davis’s roots have become a subject of fascination. His mother is Jewish, Ike was named for his Jewish grandfather (Isaac), and a number of his Jewish family members perished in the Holocaust.

“It’s cool,” said Davis, of being Jewish and playing in New York. “Jerry Seinfeld turned to his kid and said, ‘Look, you can be Jewish and be a professional ballplayer.’ In that sense it’s a good thing, for sure.”

Davis will donate all of his “I Like Ike” T-shirt proceeds to Ewing’s Sarcoma research, a form of cancer that took the life of his close friend, Mike Leo.

Cannot get enough of this guy! A gutte nishama!

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Jesse James, you don’t get it. You aren’t forgiven for your Nazi outfit. It’s not a joke.


Many people cheat on their wives, despite their beauty or other positive attributes, despite, oh yeah, the fact that they’re married. This biker lunatic zero has this to say about the above US Weekly photo in a NY Post article:

Bad boy biker Jesse James defended himself from accusations that he’s a racist, saying that a photo of him wearing a German S.S. officer’s hat and posing in a Nazi salute was “a joke.”

James said the photo — which ran in Us Weekly during his time in rehab after it was revealed that he’d been cheating on actress Sandra Bullock — doesn’t portray who he really is.

“I don’t even remember taking the photo. I could tell by the look on my face it was a joke that was funny then, probably for a minute, but then looking at it in the context of now and in my life, it’s not funny,” he said in an interview that aired this morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America. “There’s not a racist bone in my body.”

Idiot. Nazi costumes are nicht gut. Get it? I used German!! That’s the language the Nazis spoke!!
Don’t think we forgot about Prince Harry, aka Harry the Nazi. See below. I’m sure he’s made Britain as proud as King George III.

Mets v. Yankees is not a real rivalry now. Can we just accept that?

mets yankees

I would like address this issue. I love the New York Mets. For years, I’ve had Yankees fans approach me and say “The Yankees are better than the Mets.” Any mildly rational person would respond, “Well, yes, fine sir, they are”.

This whole Subway Series inter-league rivalry nonsense is just that – nonsense. Can we stop pretending it’s some epic battle between hated rivals? There hasn’t been any real juice since Piazza-Clemens. The Mets haven’t won a World Series in twenty-four years. Making comments about salary differentials is just sour grapes. Enough.

Even though the Mets took two out of three games this time from the Yankees, can anybody say that a team with Reyes, Wright, Beltran, Santana, and Bay is better than A-Rod, Jeter, Teixeira, Cano, and Posada, Sabathia, and Rivera? Am I pleased that Johan outpitched CC? Sure. Does that have any bearing on the overall alleged rivalry? Zero.

The Mets have spent more time discussing how to be near .500, while the Yankees are often pondering resting players to prepare themselves for the playoffs.

Can we just stop it already?

Quartet Of ‘NCIS’ Co-Stars In CBS Limbo


Actual story courtesy of Deadline. My comments below the article.

EXCLUSIVE: CBS’ top drama series, NCIS, will no doubt be back for an eighth season, but what about the cast? While star Mark Harmon, who is also a producer on the show, is locked in, the four other original cast members, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, David McCallum and Sean Murray (he started off as a recurring in season 1), have no deals beyond the current seventh season. And from what I hear, talks between the actors and CBS TV Studios, which produces the hit procedural, have slowed down with the two sides far apart on the money. My understanding is that the studio went to the cast members with pretty low-ball offers, leading to the impasse.

At least a couple of the quartet are making well under $100,000 per episode, which is low for a hit seven-year-old series. I hear co-star Cote de Pablo, whose deal is up after next season, also has been approached with a similar low offer to extend her contract. In addition to Harmon and de Pablo, also set to return is regular Rocky Carroll, who also has a deal in place for next season. He joined the show in Season 5 as a recurring and was upped to regular the following year.

This is one of television’s most popular shows, and perhaps my favorite. For seven seasons I’ve watched the “team” evolve into one of the most charming shows in recent TV history. While I don’t think this will end up being a REAL problem, and expect it to be rectified before the beginning of filming for the eighth season, the idea of having the show without any of Tony, Tim, Ducky, or Abbey is just tough to imagine. They need to get them resigned.