WORTH NOTING: What not to joke about

By: - April 11, 2008 12:00 am

Note to lawyers: Don’t try to liven up a death-penalty case. The legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, challenging the state’s method of lethal injection in court, suggested that three members of Ohio ‘s execution team could conceal their identities during the proceedings by wearing Darth Vader masks, The (Elyria, Ohio) Chronicle-Telegram notes. The “Star Wars” reference drew a hasty rebuke from the presiding judge, who told the ACLU legal team, “There’s nothing funny here. We’ve got two [inmates] who are counting on you to be serious, grown men.”

An April Fool’s Day gag in Arizona didn’t fare much better. The Arizona Department of Transportation agreed to play along with a local radio station’s fabricated story reporting that the state would collect tolls on all area freeways as a way to help trim a huge budget shortfall. Just one problem: The governor’s office didn’t find the joke amusing, the Arizona Daily Star discovers. A contrite transportation department spokesman later acknowledged that “it’s a delicate issue, and I think everyone involved has gained important insights from it.”

There is no disputing that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) – a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter – has an unusual ability to influence the polls ahead of the state’s crucial April 22 presidential primary. Rendell was among the Pennsylvanians randomly called and surveyed by a Quinnipiac University pollster recently to find out how Clinton is faring in the state, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News reports. “When they asked if Ed Rendell’s endorsement had any impact, I said, ‘Absolutely,'” Rendell told the paper.

The nation’s housing crisis is getting worse: It’s even affecting marine life. In the waters off the Delaware coast, an artificial reef made of more than 600 retired New York City subway cars has proven so popular with fish – and with other states – that the water-logged construction boom started by Delaware years ago now is leveling off, The New York Times reveals. The subway cars, which one official described as “luxury condominiums for fish,” are given away free by New York City, leading Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and New York itself to take note of Delaware’s idea and compete for the trains.

A tirade against atheism by an Illinois state legislator brought a tirade of its own on cable TV. Illinois state Rep. Monique Davis (D) tore into an atheist testifying at a legislative hearing last week, telling him, according to the Chicago Tribune , “You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying!” The exchange quickly penetrated the blogosphere and soon wound up on the MSNBC show “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” where Olbermann berated Davis as his nightly “worst person in the world.”

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