Chuck Shepherd

While "democracy" in most of America means electing representatives to run government, on Nov. 8 in San Francisco it also expected voters to decide 43 often vague, densely worded "issues" that, according to critics, could better be handled by the professionals who are, after all, elected by those very same voters. Except for hot-button issues like tax increases or hardened legislative gridlock, solutions on these "propositions" (e.g., how certain contractors' fees should be structured, which obscure official has primary responsibility for which obscure job, or the notorious proposition asking whether actors in the tax-paying porno industry must use condoms) would be, in other states, left to elected officials, lessening voter need for a deep dive into civics.

Too much to drink

Ashley Basich, 49, was arrested in Cheyenne, Wyo., in October and charged with DWI after police found her, late at night, using an industrial forklift to pick up and move a van that she explained was blocking her driveway. Problems: She works for the state forestry department and had commandeered a state-owned vehicle, she had a cooler of beer in the forklift and was operating it while wearing flip-flops (OSHA violation!), and the van "blocking" her driveway was her own.

Just wanted to save a few souls

Two men in rural Coffee County, Ga., told sheriff's deputies in November that they had planned to soon attack a science-research center in Alaska because people's "souls" were trapped there and needed to be released. That is what God told Michael Mancil, 30, and James Dryden Jr., 22, causing them to amass a small, but "something out of a movie" arsenal, according to the sheriff. The High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program facility, run by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has long been a target of conspiracists, in that "the study of the Earth's atmosphere" obviously, they say, facilitates "mind control," snatching souls.

Least competent criminal

Jacob Roemer, 20, was arrested in Negaunee Township, Mich., after a brief chase on Oct. 29 following an attempted home invasion. The resident confronted Roemer, chasing him into the woods where a State Police dog eventually found him lying on the ground unconscious and bloody, after, in the darkness, running into a tree and knocking himself out.

Going to pot

The most recent case in which an unlucky cannabis grower came to police attention occurred in Adelaide, Australia, in August when a motorist accidentally veered off the road and crashed into a grow house, collapsing part of a wall. Arriving police peered inside and quickly began a search for the residents, who were not at home.

When passing gas goes awry

For not the first time in history, a fire broke out in a hospital operating room caused by the patient's passing gas during a laser procedure. The patient at Tokyo Medical University Hospital, in her 30s, suffered burns across her legs in the April incident, which was finally reported in the Japanese press in October when the hospital completed its investigation.

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