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Rules or exceptions?

Jeffrey Hunter
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The fact that we live in a democracy has little to do with our perceptions on the laws set forth by the legislature. Theoretically we all share a hand in constructing the laws however, there is no democracy in the enforcement of such laws. Do we tolerate violation of laws on a regular basis? I argue yes. Is this harmful to society? Does this undermine our Constitution? I argue no. In support of my argument, let's take a look at the primary enforcers of our society's laws -- the police. I'd venture to say they fall around the realm of -3. Violations of law are ignored routinely for numerous reasons, some of which being the violation is relatively benign, others being it would not be prudent to enforce the law in the given context. The point is, violations are accepted to some extent (and no, I do not mean murder, rape, mayhem, and all that, so please don't respond with the extreme cases if you disagree).

Much of our law (in America), revolves around the idea of the reasonable person. How would a reasonable person behave? Is the behavior reasonable? To this end, we accept the fact that the police, who we believe to be reasonable, will exercise discretion when enforcing the law. We do not expect 100% enforcement, what we do expect is responsible enforcement.
Max Habibi
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The fact that we live in a democracy has little to do with our perceptions on the laws set forth by the legislature.


Jeffrey, this is where you miss the point. Living in a democracy defines our perception on the laws set forth by the legislature. We are part of that process: we have buyin. This is why I feel that the laws are mine. This is unique feature to democratic and republican forms of government, and seems to be missed by a too many people.


The point is, violations are accepted to some extent (and no, I do not mean murder, rape, mayhem, and all that, so please don't respond with the extreme cases if you disagree).


I'm not sure where and how you live, but these are unfortunately not extreme cases: these are the nontrivial and common cases, and they clearly undermine your argument. Leaving them out of the discussion renders the discussion trivial and impotent. Please don't respond with trivial cases if you disagree: let's focus on reality as it occurs.


Much of our law (in America), revolves around the idea of the reasonable person.


Actually, the core centre of American Law is precedence. That is, we want our laws to be consistent and free of contradiction: this is why it's so important never to set a bad example. We are a nation of laws, not of men. The kind of law you're talking about, as applied to democracy, is practiced in parts of Europe, but not here. At least, not to the degree that you seem to be implying. Fundamentally speaking it's simply un-American for authority to break the rules entrusted to it by the American people. Certainly, it happens, but it's not American in nature.

M


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Homer Phillips
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Do we tolerate violation of laws on a regular basis? I argue yes. Is this harmful to society? Does this undermine our Constitution? I argue no.


Does this udermine our society or civilization? You say no I say yes. Do we agree, we disagree?
Jeffrey Hunter
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Interpretation of the law is based on precedence. Many statutes are drafted around the concept of the reasonable person. You'll see this if you peruse through some criminal law. Also, I'm sure the idea of beyond a reasonable doubt is familiar. This idea is paramount to our justice system and ingrained in countless state statutes (e.g. ...reasonably believed serious bodily injury or death could have resulted...).

My point is, our criminal justice system does not operate in a vacuum. It tolerates violations of law, openly. At the same time, it does not tolerate the extremes, or serious crimes such as robbery, rape, murder(except in the case of OJ maybe). If it did operate in a vacuum, you could very well argue, that if the system tolerates the violation of a petty misdmeanor, it will on occasion tolerate a felony such as rape. Not the case. We count on our law enforcers to be reasonable.

My entire argument is based on the trivial cases so I cannot leave them out. Those charged with enforcing our laws use discretion to decide when and when not to formally charge someone with a trivial violation. As the violations grow more serious, less discretion is involved. This is how the system works, in reality.

Finally, I argue the discretion used by the enforcers does not undermine the constitutional foundations of our society. These trivial cases have nothing to do with the Constitution, nor our collective values as a society. I'm not talking about ignoring the fact that the black girl was forced to sit at the back of the bus, or ignoring the fact that Keating financially raped his investors back in the junk bond craze. I'm talking about ignoring obscure incidents that are technically violations of law, but enforcement of such law is not practical or prudent at the time.
Max Habibi
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Originally posted by Jeffrey Hunter:
Interpretation of the law is based on precedence.


This is important, but irrelevant. The phrase Reasonable Person is also used in interpretation, as I hope you know. However, the basis of American Jurisprudence is precedence.

But all of this is a non-sequitur.

Your original statement was that The fact that we live in a democracy has little to do with our perceptions on the laws set forth by the legislature . I'm pointing out that is has everything to do with the fact that we live in Democracy.

Government exists to serve the people, because it derives its power from the people. This is why we have concepts like popular sovereignty: the people are the ultimate source of the government�s authority. This is why a citizen of a Democratic Republic can consider him/herself free: because the laws are justly derived from our consent.


My point is, our criminal justice system does not operate in a vacuum.

I'm not aware of anyone suggesting that our criminal justice system operates in a vacuum.



It tolerates violations of law, openly. At the same time, it does not tolerate the extremes, or serious crimes such as robbery, rape, murder(except in the case of OJ maybe). If it did operate in a vacuum, you could very well argue, that if the system tolerates the violation of a petty misdmeanor, it will on occasion tolerate a felony such as rape. Not the case. We count on our law enforcers to be reasonable.


This a bit of a strawman. I'm suggesting that those charged with the authority to enforce rules must, in fact, do their job. Practically speaking, that is their role in society. While some may choose to take more power then society allots to them, most are honest, professional people who do not.


My entire argument is based on the trivial cases so I cannot leave them out.





Those charged with enforcing our laws use discretion to decide when and when not to formally charge someone with a trivial violation. As the violations grow more serious, less discretion is involved. This is how the system works, in reality.



They may, in fact, do so, but they not are authorized to do so by the people: that's why we have judges . For example, just a few months ago, one of my students was beaten by her husband and called the police. The police decided to exercise discretion and not arrest him. Three weeks later, she was in the hospital. This is what happens when people don't their responsibility seriously, in reality.



Finally, I argue the discretion used by the enforcers does not undermine the constitutional foundations of our society. These trivial cases have nothing to do with the Constitution, nor our collective values as a society.

The law isn't built on the trivalness of case,or lack thereof: it's built on precedent: a judge must follow precedent: they are not allowed to dismiss it because it was 'trival'. That's the way America works.

Let's build a common experience pool to draw on. Have you ever taught a class? Have you ever tried to stop smoking? Drinking? ever tried to break a child of a bad habit?

M
[ June 15, 2004: Message edited by: Max Habibi ]
Warren Dew
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Ernest Friedman-Hill:

A law is established by a government.

A
rule is established by a private party.

I think there's a vast divide between the two. A rule can be changed simply by saying "no." This isn't true of laws.


That's an interesting dichotomy. It causes me to come to the opposite conclusions you do, though: since rules are more easily changed, they are less likely to be obsolete or inappropriate to the situation, so I'm more likely to want to follow them.

Laws, because they are so difficult to change, are often obsolete or inappropriate, and so are less likely to have strong ethical force for me. Examples: 55 mph expressway speed limits, which only a tiny minority obey, and the 1930 law in Max's other thread that resulted in preferential bankruptcy treatment of debts for coated frozen fries.

Another difference, though, is that laws are enforced by an entity that maintains a monopoly on force - the government - and rules are not. This provides a purely pragmatic reason for obeying laws that is weaker or absent for other rules.

I do follow copyright laws strictly, but it's because I consider them good law, not just because they happen to have been passed by Congress.
Jeffrey Hunter
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Let's build a common experience pool to draw on. Have you ever taught a class? Have you ever tried to stop smoking? Drinking? ever tried to break a child of a bad habit?


I have taught a class. I have tried to stop smoking. I make it a point not to stop drinking. And I don't have any kids.

American jurisprudence. Yes, precendence certainly has its place, but when we are discussing the origin of laws? To some extent, we have what can be called judge-made law, which occurs when a judge makes a novel decision and thus sets a precedent (which judges in higher courts are not required to follow). In this case, we might as well consider the decision law, as most courts usually support the precedent.

However, precedence is not the driving factor by any means, when we are talking about the legislature, who enact formal laws. Precedence is reserved to the courts and the judicial system.

We are indeed straying from the argument, and I find myself forgetting my original point.

Perhaps we're talking about reality? Certainly, the idea that we are a nation of laws, not men, is fine for the textbooks, but in reality, we will always be a nation of men, from now until the end of days, and until that time we will remain in constant pursuit of creating that society outlined in the american history books. But we will never get there. It's an ebb and flow, how close we get, and then how far we stray over generations. And here we are, thrown into the ebb and flow trying to make sense of our reality, but we're both caught in different tides I suppose.

At this point, I'm so far away from my original point that I've somehow gotten onto the topic of the ocean. I should stop here before I get caught in the riptide of rambling nonsense.

P.S. I was about to mention something about aquatic lifeforms in the Sargasso Sea but I've restrained myself.
Homer Phillips
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We count on our law enforcers to be reasonable.

This only for criminal law. Civil law is another beast. That blinfolded women holding the scales is often only available to those with money or lifetimes to wait.
Thomas Paul
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If the police enforced the laws literally as written the people would be up in arms. For example, in NYC a woman was given a ticket recently for sitting on the steps in a subway station. This was against the law but the woman was pregnant and was feeling tired and dizzy. The officer should have used discretion and left her alone (or even better, offered to get her a drink of water). The result was a front page article in the Daily News about the stupidity of the enforcement of the law. This breeds disregard for the law which is exactly what we don't want. (By the way, the ticket was thrown out by the Police Commissioner who said the officer should have used his discretion and not issued the ticket. Being on the front page of the Daily News probably helped.)


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Mapraputa Is
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Tom: If the police enforced the laws literally as written the people would be up in arms. <...>This breeds disregard for the law which is exactly what we don't want.

My thoughts exactly. Sometimes rules should be broken to save them from themselves.


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Max Habibi
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Originally posted by Jeffrey Hunter:

I have tried to stop smoking.



Ok, let's focus on smoking: I was 2 1/2 pack a day smoker for about four years,but quit nine years ago. Have you had the experience of 'quitting', only to tell yourself some time later that you could control it, and that a single cigarette wouldn't make any difference? It's a common smoking experience.


American jurisprudence. Yes, precendence certainly has its place,


Not only it's place, but a place at the head of the table. Precedence is one of the fundamental foundations of American jurisprudence.

but when we are discussing the origin of laws? To some extent, we have what can be called judge-made law,


To a very, very small extent. The incredible vast majority of laws are legislature made, and interpreted by the courts.



However, precedence is not the driving factor by any means, when we are talking about the legislature, who enact formal laws. Precedence is reserved to the courts and the judicial system.


If we were talking about the legislature, then I would argue this point. But we're not. We're talking about existing laws(rules?) and how they should be enforced. At this point, the legislature is removed from the picture, and everything is up to the courts.


We are indeed straying from the argument, and I find myself forgetting my original point. Perhaps we're talking about reality? Certainly, the idea that we are a nation of laws, not men, is fine for the textbooks, but in reality, we will always be a nation of men,


I disagree.

America is beautiful, shining, and real thing. Better men than you or me have died for her. They didn't sacrifice for a nation of men.

America is a nation of laws, and not of men. The incredibly smart people who framed the constitution understood this and enshrined it. When men try to undermine that, I believe that American citizens will self-correct through the Democratic process and restore her.

P.S. I was about to mention something about aquatic lifeforms in the Sargasso Sea but I've restrained myself.

Your discipline is noted and appreciated.

M
[ June 15, 2004: Message edited by: Max Habibi ]
Homer Phillips
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Interesting to note, nobody took a 2 or a 1 . Bolinger's zero was at best half hearted. Sheriffs expressing an opinion in general believe screw the rules.
Max Habibi
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
If the police enforced the laws literally as written the people would be up in arms...


I agree that the woman shouldn't have gotten a ticket, but I would argue that the correct, Democratic thing to do would be to change the law so it's reasonable.

Consider a coding metaphor:
This sort of solution, while easy, in similar to coding to the exception. We're going to have to live with this system for a long time, as will our children: let's architect a good solution.

M
Max Habibi
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Tom: If the police enforced the laws literally as written the people would be up in arms. <...>This breeds disregard for the law which is exactly what we don't want.

My thoughts exactly. Sometimes rules should be broken to save them from themselves.



Bad rules shouldn't be saved: they should be changed.

M
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Max Habibi:
I agree that the woman shouldn't have gotten a ticket, but I would argue that the correct, Democratic thing to do would be to change the law so it's reasonable.

What's reasonable? No sitting on the stairs except for preganant women? What about old people? What about someone that just hurt their leg? etc. I think a more useful rule is that we don't want people sitting on the stairs but officers should use their discretion. As far as the correct democratic thing, their are only so many hours in a day and legislators can't worry about every possible contingency. The new Sarbanes-Oxley law is a good example of a vague law that will be interpreted based on what is reasonable. Punishment for violations will be based very much on interpreting as to why a company violated the law.
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Max: I agree that the woman shouldn't have gotten a ticket, but I would argue that the correct, Democratic thing to do would be to change the law so it's reasonable.

To amend "don't sit on the steps in a subway station" with "unless you are pregnant"? What about if you aren't pregnant but you are sick? What about if it's hot and you feel giddy? What if your kid got hysterical, sit on the step and cry? Etc. Etc.

[comment after seeing Tom's post: LOL]

Bad rules shouldn't be saved: they should be changed.

No disagreement here, but my point is that no rules can predict all situations including those when the rules should not be applied. Think about G�del's incompleteness theorem. In fact, it's not my argument, I found this in Hofstadter's "Metamagical Themas":

In law, extant rules, statutes, and so on, are never enough to cover all possible cases (reminding us once again of the fact that no fixed and rigid set of 'A'-defining rules can anticipate all 'A's). The legal system depends on the notion that people, who experience covers much more than the specific case and rules at hand, will bring to bear their full range of experience not only with many categories but also with the whole process of categorization and mapping. This allows them to transcend the specific, rigid, limited rules, and to operate according to more fluid, imprecise yet more powerful principles. Or, to revert to other vocabulary, this ability is what allows people to transcend the letter of the law and to apply its spirit.
D.Hofstadter. Metamagical Themas, p.287.

[ June 15, 2004: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Jeroen Wenting
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
It's a whorehouse so presumably I am already breaking the law so why should I care about breaking some stupid rules? +200.


Depends on where the whorehouse is... In this country you can legally operate one as long as you follow all rules for businesses (no illegal aliens, pay your taxes, proper permits and other paperwork, etc).

The rules are most likely meant to make sure the running of the house of pleasure stays within the law (or at least close enough to that noone takes notice) so the police won't shut you down, therefore -4 to -5 (might place a sawed off under the counter to deter muggers, but that's about it).


42
Jeroen Wenting
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

What's reasonable? No sitting on the stairs except for preganant women? What about old people? What about someone that just hurt their leg? etc. I think a more useful rule is that we don't want people sitting on the stairs but officers should use their discretion. As far as the correct democratic thing, their are only so many hours in a day and legislators can't worry about every possible contingency. The new Sarbanes-Oxley law is a good example of a vague law that will be interpreted based on what is reasonable. Punishment for violations will be based very much on interpreting as to why a company violated the law.


That's an example of a law that's badly worded or too restrictive.
That's not a reason to allow everyone to break the law, it's a reason for the law to be ammended in order to remove those restrictions.

We've gone too far in this country, allowing just about anything.
Drugs couriers are now no longer prosecuted if they carry less than 3 kilos of cocaine or heroine, making it effectively impossible to take action against the drugs trade.
A few years ago a pimp here declared his illegal handgun as a business expense (he claimed he needed it to protect his business which he paid taxes over, it included dealing drugs) and the tax office agreed (when parliament found out that was quickly overruled but he was not arrested for having that weapon).

As soon as you start ignoring one law because it doesn't suit you there is no end and soon you have complete anarchy.
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
No disagreement here, but my point is that no rules can predict all situations including those when the rules should not be applied. Think about G�del's incompleteness theorem. In fact, it's not my argument, I found this in Hofstadter's "Metamagical Themas":
Since I have Douglas Hofstadter defending my point of view I win the argument. Mere mortals can not disagree with the author of Godel, Escher, Bach and expect to be taken seriously. *


* Map once described Hofstadter this way: The purpose of all human evolution was to create Douglas Hofstadter.
Homer Phillips
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Originally posted by Max Habibi:
I agree that the woman shouldn't have gotten a ticket, but I would argue that the correct, Democratic thing to do would be to change the law so it's reasonable.


Somebody should have helped the woman to move to a more appropriate place if she needed assitance.

If people are blocking the path and you miss your train, are you PO'ed?

Can you imagine a New Yorker telling a cop to buzz off?

If you were not the officer on site, can you say beyond a reasonable doubt the officer made a mistake?
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Originally posted by Homer Phillips:
Somebody should have helped the woman to move to a more appropriate place if she needed assitance.


Someone like the officer, perhaps?

Originally posted by Homer Phillips:
If you were not the officer on site, can you say beyond a reasonable doubt the officer made a mistake?

The officer admitted that the woman wasn't blocking anyone (it wasn't during rush hour). The officer did not issue a warning or ask the woman to move.

Another example, the law says that you can not take up more then one seat on the subway. Officers started giving tickets to people who were putting their bag on the seat next to them EVEN WHEN THE TRAIN WAS OTHERWISE EMPTY! It took the police commissioner to tell the officers to stop.
[ June 16, 2004: Message edited by: Thomas Paul ]
Mapraputa Is
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Tom: Since I have Douglas Hofstadter defending my point of view I win the argument. Mere mortals can not disagree with the author of Godel, Escher, Bach and expect to be taken seriously. *

Yes, we won!
Stan James
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I usually tend to follow the rules very closely.

But sometimes you run into rules that were written just because somebody didn't trust anyone else to have enough common sense to make a decision. Nowadays I feel that way most often hearing about things my kids run into at school.

I run about speed limit +15 to and from work. Up until this commute I've been a +5 guy, but this drive is wild. I'm passed by a few now & then so I'm maybe in the 95th velocity percentile. Still, enforcement defines the rule to me in this one. I have seen some of that top 5% get busted - I figure I'm pushing the envelope on what's enforced pretty hard.


A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of the idea. John Ciardi
Richard Hawkes
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Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:
As soon as you start ignoring one law because it doesn't suit you there is no end and soon you have complete anarchy.

This isn't inevitable. Regardless of whether or not there's someone physically present to enforce (or ignore) a particular law, a transgressor has made a decision at some level to ignore that particular law at that time. Laws are being flouted by all sorts of people right now but I don't see any anarchy brewing.

Incidently, if anybody witnesses somebody breaking a law (however trivial), aren't they obliged to report it? I don't know, that's why I'm asking. If so, by witnessing a law being broken (however minor) and not reporting it, are we being selective in obeying laws?
Jeroen Wenting
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Originally posted by Richard Hawkes:
Originally posted by Jeroen Wenting:
[qb]As soon as you start ignoring one law because it doesn't suit you there is no end and soon you have complete anarchy.

This isn't inevitable. Regardless of whether or not there's someone physically present to enforce (or ignore) a particular law, a transgressor has made a decision at some level to ignore that particular law at that time. Laws are being flouted by all sorts of people right now but I don't see any anarchy brewing.
[/QB]


IMO that's mainly because there's still the chance of reprisal if you're caught.
Take that away and all concepts of law and order go and are replaced by the rule of the bully with the biggest gun.
This is apparent in for example the gang infested areas of major cities where the police are afraid to go.

Originally posted by Richard Hawkes:

Incidently, if anybody witnesses somebody breaking a law (however trivial), aren't they obliged to report it? I don't know, that's why I'm asking. If so, by witnessing a law being broken (however minor) and not reporting it, are we being selective in obeying laws?


Yes, you are in many countries (not sure about the US).
By not attempting to stop a crime you become an accessory to that crime and therefore liable for prosecution.
In theory this is nice but in practice (at least here) the law so much favours the criminal that you're more likely to be arrested (people have been arrested for illegally detaining someone for example) than the criminal if you try to stop a crime.
Max Habibi
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What's reasonable? No sitting on the stairs except for preganant women? What about old people? What about someone that just hurt their leg? etc. I think a more useful rule is that we don't want people sitting on the stairs but officers should use their discretion.

I think a more useful rule is one that is applied across the board.

As far as the correct democratic thing, their are only so many hours in a day and legislators can't worry about every possible contingency.

I wish they would try. Many seem to spend their time
otherwise..

M
Max Habibi
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
[b]Bad rules shouldn't be saved: they should be changed.

No disagreement here, but
[ June 15, 2004: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]


The problem with selective enforcement is it's not objective, and thus undermines fairness. I'm not talking about kindness (where subjectivity is an asset), but fairness.

If the person in charge discards the rules, they are, in effect, undermining the system. You can argue that is a positive thing, and that some system should be changed. However, if that's your argument, and you're part of a democratic system, then you should try to change the rules to betterment of everyone.


The sort of willy-nilly enforcement being described undermines not just particular rule, and it's underlying system. If that system is democratic, then you're doing harm to the macrostructure, and undermining the abilities of other people who do believe in that system.

M
Mapraputa Is
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Gregg: My manager was an ex cop. So you can imagine that he was on the scale at around -5.

But it doesn't have to be this way. There was a popular movie on the Soviet (!!!) TV a while back, about an aged policemen in a small village. He grew up in that place himself, so he knew each and every person in the village since they were born (or since he was born). He often "messed" with the law, but that was how things were kept smooth and in the final account, fair. Get there your -5 guy and in a couple of days everything would explode. Hey, even the Soviets believed that occasional screwing the rules is desirable! :roll:
Max Habibi
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Gregg: My manager was an ex cop. So you can imagine that he was on the scale at around -5.

There was a popular movie on the Soviet (!!!) TV a while back, about an aged policemen in a small village. He grew up in that place himself, so he knew each and every person in the village since they were born (or since he was born). He often "messed" with the law


The Soviet Griffith show?

So your argument is based on a fictional Soviet ripoff of a fictional American show? Nice

Curious Map: have you ever read les Miserables?

M
[ June 21, 2004: Message edited by: Max Habibi ]
Mapraputa Is
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You are quickly improving your [quote] skills, Max.
Max Habibi
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I'm activity working on all my skills. Sometimes, I meet with more success than others

M
Jeroen Wenting
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Gregg: My manager was an ex cop. So you can imagine that he was on the scale at around -5.

But it doesn't have to be this way. There was a popular movie on the Soviet (!!!) TV a while back, about an aged policemen in a small village. He grew up in that place himself, so he knew each and every person in the village since they were born (or since he was born). He often "messed" with the law, but that was how things were kept smooth and in the final account, fair. Get there your -5 guy and in a couple of days everything would explode. Hey, even the Soviets believed that occasional screwing the rules is desirable! :roll:


So we have a corrupt cop who takes bribes to enhance his income on the threats of arresting people unless they pay up (of course the TV show would show it otherwise to prevent their crew being arrested for showing the truth).
Mike Gershman
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For example, in NYC a woman was given a ticket recently for sitting on the steps in a subway station. This was against the law but the woman was pregnant and was feeling tired and dizzy. The officer should have used discretion and left her alone (or even better, offered to get her a drink of water).

Unless, of course, she was a homeless pregnant woman.

From Anatole France:
The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.


Mike Gershman
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Mike Gershman
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There is, in my view, a difference between bending company rules to further the interests of the company or to be fair to a customer or supplier and bending the rules for personal benefit or out of sheer laziness.

Similarly, if you get the reward but the compay gets the risk (as in using unlicensed software at work or turning over code when only you know the the testing was so-so), breaking the rules is disloyal and a sort of probabilistic stealing.

My decision rule: Who benefits?
Nick George
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Joined: Apr 04, 2004
Posts: 815
You [Homer] put yourself at something -.

If I may quote:

Originally posted by Homer Phillips:
Well there's the speed limit and there is the real speed limit. The posted sign is 70 mph. I have no problem with doing 75 mph.
[ June 15, 2004: Message edited by: Homer Phillips ]


== Well, there's the rules, but I don't mind bending the rules. After all, the rule's silly to begin with, and everyone knows you don't need to follow it to the letter.

That qualifies you for a +.
[ September 17, 2004: Message edited by: Joseph George ]

I've heard it takes forever to grow a woman from the ground
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://aspose.com/file-tools
 
subject: Rules or exceptions?