1974: The Consumer Product Safety Commission had to destroy eighty thousand buttons it had printed urging people to "think toy safety" after the buttons themselves were deemed unsafe.
The problems with the buttons included sharp edges, lead-based paint, and pins that could be swallowed by children.
Digging deeper into the story, the irony lessens somewhat. It turns out that the problems were identified by the Commission itself because it had followed its own advice and tested the buttons before distributing them.
Clocking in at 310,296 words, the constitution of Alabama is the longest constitution in the world. By comparison, the U.S. constitution is only 4,543 words (including the signatures).
The bloat of the document is a result of the state government deciding that it needed to micromanage the individual counties. So all kinds of local regulations have been included in the constitution. Wikipedia explains:
About 90 percent of the document's length, as of 2018, is made up of its 946 amendments ... About 75 percent of the amendments cover individual counties or cities, and some are so detailed as to deal with salaries of specific officials (e.g. Amendment 480 and the Greene County probate judge). As a result, Alabama has a very high number of constitutional officers and the constitution makes it very difficult for residents of most counties to solve their own problems.
The Constitutional Convention was called with the intention by Democrats of the state "to establish white supremacy in this State," "within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution." Its provisions essentially disenfranchised most African Americans and thousands of poor whites, who were excluded for decades.
It sounds like it should be a joke, but apparently in the past various states have debated whether they should issue hunting licenses for the blind. And today some states appear to issue such licenses. For instance, on the website of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game a "Resident Hunting License for the Blind" is listed as costing $45.00.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette - Dec 2, 1953
I think the clipping below explains these licenses. They allow blind people to go out hunting with their friends. Someone else (who can see) has to do the actual shooting, but the blind person can claim one of the game animals as their own kill.
Tallahassee Democrat - Apr 15, 1959
A separate issue is whether a blind person can purchase a regular hunting license. I don't know what the current laws are, but in 1963 in Washington state there was nothing to prevent them from doing so, as demonstrated by the stunt below in which blind attorney Arnold Sadler purchased a hunting license for himself.
1971: 16-year-old Soni Romans was banned from all extracurricular activities at at Channelview High School in Houston. This included school choir, chess club, drama, and the National Honor Society. The reason for the ban was that she had been married and divorced and had a child (which she gave up for adoption). Therefore, the school felt that she shouldn't be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities because, during them, she "might discuss sex with other students."
However, if she had simply had the child without getting married and divorced, the same regulation wouldn't have applied. Unwed mothers were free to participate in the extracurriculars. Romans sued the school and won, so the ban was eventually lifted.
The logo for Toys R Us typically includes a backwards R. But when a Toys R Us opened in Cerritos, California in 1972, the local city council insisted that the store spell its name with the R the "correct" way around on the front of the building, so that it wouldnt confuse young children who might be struggling to learn the alphabet.
The store had to keep the corrected R until 1981 when the city council finally voted to allow it to switch to the backwards R. Noted a council member: "All the bags, the price tags in the store had the backwards 'R.' It really wasn't accomplishing anything to have it correct on the outside."
Of course, as Steve Harvey noted for the LA Times, if you really want to be grammatically correct, the name should be Toys R We.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a single picture of the store with the corrected R.
The economic theory of risk compensation suggests that laws intended to increase safety, such as mandating safety belts in cars, can sometimes have the opposite effect by making people feel safer and therefore encouraging them to engage in riskier behavior. This is also known as the Peltzmann Effect.
This concept inspired the economist Gordon Tullock to come up with the idea that instead of mandating safety belts, it would save far more lives if the government required that large spikes were installed in the center of steering columns, because this would make drivers more acutely aware of the danger of driving too fast. This steering-wheel spike is referred to as the Tullock Spike, or Tullock Steering Column.
However, economist Sandy Ikeda has noted that a mandatory Tullock Spike might also trigger unintended consequences: "Some might replace the steel dagger with a rubber one. Indeed, a black market in fake steering-column daggers might arise. But that of course could worsen the problem because now some drivers will drive as recklessly as before, while law-abiding drivers will still have daggers aimed at their chests. There maybe fewer accidents but more deaths than before."
Ikeda suggested instead that the best possible safety measure would be to "ban brakes on cars."
A classic example of "officialese," which came to light in 1951. Text from a Royal Navy instruction manual on the proper storage of torpedo warheads:
It is necessary for technical reasons that these warheads should be stored with the top at the bottom, and the bottom at the top. In order that there may be no doubt as to which is the bottom and which is the top for storage purposes, it will be seen that the bottom of each warhead has been labeled with the word TOP.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.