A Shortage of What?

One often hears that, if the government were put in charge of the Sahara, we would soon enough have a shortage of sand. The details vary, and the saying is attributed to different people, but the point is generally consistent.

Now we have a case in point. Venezuela is said to have the largest proven petroleum reserves in the world. But the government has been unable to keep the nationalized refineries running, so it imports gasoline and resells it for less than it pays. As a result, Venezuela has a shortage of gasoline.

As the company’s crumbling refineries fail to meet domestic demand, imports have become a financial burden because the country buys fuel abroad at market prices only to sell it for pennies per gallon at home. PDVSA, as the state-run producer is known, has been reducing the money-losing imports as it prepares for $2 billion in bond payments due next month, said Jose Brito, an opposition lawmaker on the National Assembly’s oil commission.

“They’re not importing enough because they are saving up to pay the debt,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s unbelievable that this is happening in an oil producing country.”

Good grief.




The Oxford Comma, Again

A recent labor-law case (O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy) turned on the absence of the Oxford Comma. The Oxford Comma is the last comma in a series. For example, guests at my wedding included my parents, Winston Churchill, and Vladimir Lenin. Omitting the comma would cast the sentence as “guests at my wedding included my parents, Winston Churchill and Vladimir Lenin.” Depending on how you read that, I could have an interesting family.

The employer did not have to pay minimum wage to certain employees if they came within an exemption in the law. The exemption applies to employees engaged in canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of certain products.

The subject employees worked in distribution but they did no packing. Are they exempt? That depends on whether “packing” modifies only shipment or both shipment and distribution. It’s hard to say from the language above.

The court fell back on the rule that, in cases of ambiguity, such exemptions should be construed in favor of the employee. Too bad for the employer.

Of course, had there been a comma after “shipment,” it would have been clear that the exemption did not apply. No lawsuit would have been necessary and the parties need not have spent tens of thousands of dollars and who knows how many years to get this result. To be sure the employer won such a case, the drafter would have had to rephrase the sentence, not an onerous task.

Again, the best that can be said for omitting the Oxford Comma is that the omission is not always ambiguous. So if your goal is to avoid ambiguity some of the time, by all means omit the Oxford Comma.

Connection Between Detective Novelette and Collin County Community College District Whistleblower Suit

I’ve often blogged about the whistleblower suit pending against the Collin County Community College District. As you will recall if you’ve been following the case, it began with allegations of corruption relating to the college bookstore. My brother, who is one of the plaintiffs in the whistleblower suit, told me about the bookstore allegations about the time I needed a story line for a new Nacho Perez story.

I took the bookstore allegations and used this as the basis for the opening of The Truth Shall Make You Dead. If you’re at all interested, please check it out.

Related Posts:

Connection Between Detective Novelette and Collin County Whistleblower Suit

News Reports

Court of Appeals Opinion and Judgment

Oral Argument

Time for Appellee’s Brief Extended

Appellants’ Brief Filed

Express-News Endorsement of Judge Oldner

Dallas Observer Article

Verification of Filing Trial-Court Record with Appellate Clerk

Initial Appellate Court Docket Sheet

Rough Schedule of the Appeal

Appeal Perfected

Management Attitude

Notice of Late Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law Filed

Notice of Past-Due Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

Delinquent Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

Due Date for Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

Motion for New Trial

Request for Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

Plea to Jurisdiction Granted

Venue Tranferred to Collin County

Plaintiff’s Response to Motion to Transfer Venue

Hearing Date

College District’s Response to Lawsuit

College District President Resigns

Report of Corruption in Collin County Community College District