Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Energy Bill Costs

Unsurprisingly the Democrats weren't very upfront about both the potential costs of this loathsome bill and its potential benefits.

Thankfully, Kenneth W. Chilton in The Detroit News gives a good estimate of both:

The Costs:

Fortunately, a back-of-the-envelope" estimate for the costs and benefits of greenhouse gas reductions provides a pretty clear picture. On the cost side, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that any cap-and-trade bill that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 15 percent could cost the average household roughly $1,600 (in 2006 dollars). Further, "The rise in prices would impose a larger burden, relative to income, on low-income households ...." (Households in the lowest income quintile spend 21 percent of their income on energy-intensive items compared with 4 percent for the highest one-fifth of American households.)

A Heritage Foundation analysis finds that Waxman-Markey would, by 2035, raise electricity rates 90 percent, gasoline prices 74 percent, residential natural gas prices 55 percent and an average family's monthly energy bill by more than $100.

The (dubious) Benefit:
One estimate by Paul Knappenberger, an environmental scientist with 20 years experience as a climate researcher, concludes "by the year 2050, the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill would result in a global temperature 'savings' of about 0.05 degrees Centigrade ... about two years' worth of warming." In short, this legislation creates very high costs for American households and produces NO discernable benefit!

There you have it, every American household can expect to pay lots more for gasoline, electricity, home heating and every single product manufactured or grown that uses energy as an input (Here's a clue - that is pretty much everything you purchase these days).

All to save a measly projected .05 degrees worth of "Climate Change" in 41 years. Any rational person or congresscritter after reading the CBO analysis would have voted no on this abomination. Rationality is always in short supply in politics, but on this bill it it may have skipped town completely or is as scarce as Astatine.

On the other hand the representatives that voted for this bill clearly realized this will increase the cost of both tar and feathers and are trying to avoid people being able to afford both and apply same to their tender hides.

Detroit City Council Corruption Continues

So Monica Conyers, the former President of the Detroit City Council has accepted a plea deal in the Synagro bribery investigation and has resigned from the City Council, effective July 6 (why wait - holiday pay?).

However the Synagro bribery rabbit hole continues, with a paralegal in the Detroit US Attorneys office being suspended for possibly passing information about the investigation to Sam Riddle, a former top aide to Detroit City Council President Pro-Tem Monica Conyers and now a "political consultant".

From the Detroit News:
People familiar with the investigation said the controversy arose about a year ago, close to the time that news of the Synagro Technologies Inc. bribery scandal became public. Riddle had dated Greene and federal officials suspected he got information from her relevant to an ongoing federal investigation, sources said.

One source said officials suspected Greene told Riddle about a search of someone's home conducted in connection with the Detroit City Hall investigation. Search warrant affidavits are normally sealed. An investigation related to Greene is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Grand Rapids because it was seen as a conflict of interest for Greene to be investigated by the office in which she worked, sources said.

It will be interesting to see how far this corruption investigation reaches and how far down the rabbit hole of Detroit city politics it goes.

You will notice that you have to play "name that party" for the political affiliation of Mrs. Conyers. On the other hand, it is probably pretty clear to all by now that Detroit is run by 100% Democrats so naming the party must seem superfluous. The question as to how many of them may still face indictment in this corruption investigation is still open however.

Obama as the Anti-Polemarchus

In the Republic Socrates questions Polemarchus on Polemarchus' comncept of justice and Polemarchus states that justice is helping one's friends and harming one's enemies

Obama in contrast seems to think that justice requires harming one's friends and helping one's enemies(some great observations of Obama's foreign diplomacy at Le-gal In-sur-rec-tion)

Now to see if the Teleprompter Of The United States can handle the Socratic method....

Highland Park Michigan BBQ ban has residents fuming

Passed in time for the Fourth of July weekend.

From The Detroit News: The ban prohibits BBQing and the
placement of any barbecue cooking or equipment ... in the front of a dwelling, on a front porch, or on the side of a dwelling shall not be permitted in the city," the ordinance reads. "For a corner dwelling or building, any barbecue equipment must be 12 feet away from a public right of way."

While backyards are not specifically named in the ban, the ordinance prohibits placing barbecue equipment in any fenced yard which is closer than 20 feet from a public right of way.

This of course could prevent most people from legally BBQing on their property in Highland Park this weekend. Violation is a misdemeanor with up to $90 days in jail or a $500 fine.

The City claims it is due to the bbq fires being a hazzard in the city but even a city fireman cited in the article can only remember on fire caused by an outdoor bbq in three years.

Hopefully this wasn't done out of some misguided attempt to cut down on carbon emissions in the city or worse because some councilperson is annoyed with a neighbor grilling.

Next maybe the City Council will propose ticketing people for parking on their driveways....

Monday, June 29, 2009

SCUBA Book Review - Diving Into Darkness

Diving Into Darkness: A True Story of Death and Survival by Phillip Finch is a great read about some of the most extreme diving ever performed. As can be expected by the title yest there is the loss of a great diver and another diver survives by the thinnest of margins.

The book tells the tale of the two main protagonists, David Shaw and Don Shirley and their quest in 2005 to recover the body of Deon Dreyer a young diver who had died in 1994 at the Bushman's Hole site in South Africa and whose body was never found or recovered until it was encountered by David Shaw during a deep dive expedition into Bushman's Hole.

It was 270 Meters deep to the body (that's 886 feet!). The book gives depth in meters and sometimes it doesn't sound quite so bad, but once you realize that you have to multiple those depths by about 3.3 times to convert to feet you realize it is a whole different ballgame.

Without revealing the entire plot, a team of divers set out to recover the body, with David Shaw going solo from to 270 meters to recover the body then to meet back with Don Shirely at 220 meters. Unfortunately Shaw didn't return alive.

He suffered a cascading failure at great depths - carbon dioxide buildup from working to strenuously to place the body in a transport bag at depth, out-breathing his rebreather and getting his canister light head caught in the guideline to the surface (We're taught in GUE and UTD to clip everything, including lights off when not in use, he on the other hand was trained, or used to wrapping the cord around his neck, and on this dive for reasons explained in the book he let it dangle and it got caught in the line - this incredibly minor mistake at depth when combined with the other problems caused his demise). Could these problems have been avoided if he wasn't diving solo? Probably as someone else could have freed him from the entanglement, bailed him out onto a different breathing gas system or pushed him to call the first attempt in time. The problem is there's incredibly few divers that can handle that kind of depth so dive buddies are few and far between. Both Shaw's and Dreyer's bodies were later recovered as they had risen to a recoverable depth.

Even more incredible is what happened to Don Shirley on the ascent stage of the dive - having descended past 250 meters to try and help Dave Shaw, as he ascended he suffered an inner ear hit that left him suffering vertigo, nausea and a complete lack of balance - with hours of decompression to go and a broken rebreather he had to operate manually. Think of retching with nausea for hours - now picture doing it underwater for hours while hanging on a guideline that if you left go you'll spin off and be unable to find your way out. Incredible skill, concentration and guts doesn't begin to start to describe what Don Shirley had to posses to survive that ordeal.

This is a great, well-written book about some of the most extreme diving ever attempted and the risks and consequences of diving to such depths where even the most minor mistakes can snowball to disaster brutally quickly.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Energy Bill passes - Local Democrats help to turn out the lights in Michigan

No doubt you've heard by now that the Waxman cap-and-trade energy bill, complete with its last minute 300 page amendment passed by a vote of 219-212 in the House.

And our local Michigan Democrat representative, Gary Peters, the freshman Congressman who made a name for himself doing an Inspector Renault "I'm shocked simply shocked to find AIG Salary bonuses here" shtick, bonuses which was inserted by a Democrat, in a bill passed by Democrats and signed by a Democrat president, decided to further along Michigan's decline by voting for this bill that he hadn't even read.

Peters won his seat in just this past election defeating Knollenberg in what used to be a Republican area. Here's hoping people wake up to the damage he and the Democrats are doing to the economy of this state from this bill among others and vote him out promptly.

Other Michigan Democrats further voted to help put a nail in Michigan's industrial coffin (make no mistake the bill, seeking to cut carbon emissions to 1800s levels will be a manufacturing job killer- jobs need energy and most reliable energy sources these days does give off carbon emissions. As the bill didn't mandate the construction of a new nuclear reactor in every state I doubt they're aiming to keep energy production at current levels but to force it to be cut which will cause it to become more expensive (ever heard of supply and demand? - its not just a good idea, its a law!).

These Democrats included-
Democrats Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Detroit, Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township and Mark Schauer of Battle Creek had considered voting against the bill, but ultimately voted yes.

Cheeks Kilpatrick (Mommy of Kwame) by the way is now under investigation for violating House Ethics rules for a little junket trip to St. Maarten that was sponsored by some corporations for her.

Indeed the Democrats had to scrape up every vote they could find:
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., confirmed by the Senate on Thursday to an administration post, put off her resignation from Congress until after the final vote on the climate change bill.

And indeed the Democrat leadership had to scrape some from inside the bottom of some whiskey barrels apparently:
And Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., who has been undergoing treatment at an undisclosed facility, returned to the Capitol to support the legislation. He has said he struggles with depression, alcoholism and addiction, but has not specified the cause for his most recent absence.

Can a congressman vote while under the influence, or just being influenced by Pelosi, lobbyists, and the White House?

Of course, the Eight Republicans who voted for this execrable bill, which would not have passed without them (it passed 219-212 -- had they voted no it would have been different) deserve their own special recognition -
Eight Republicans voted in favor of the legislation. They are: Mary Bono (CA), Mike Castle (DE), Mark Kirk (IL), Leonard Lance (NJ), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Chris Smith (NJ), John McHugh (NY), and David Reichert (WA). Nicely done indeed. (Thanks to Powerline for the line-up - they've got some great stuff on the shenanigans that went into this bill)
. On the upside, one Michigan Republican showed some backbone:
Vern Ehlers of Grand Rapids, a research physicist who has pushed environmental legislation, was one of a handful of Republicans the Democratic leadership had hoped to win over, but he voted no.
Thanks to representative Van Ehlers for standing firm for what's right.

This bill, a lobbyist's dream for cap and trade, for an unproven problem of global warming, will drastically harm our state's and the nations economy, and increase the price of everything while it does so. Hopefully the Senate will find the backbone to kill this abomination because the House just sold America out for a mess of green potage.

Thanks so much for further moving Michigan into economic decline. For Michigan Democrat Representative Schauer to say this bill will create Michigan jobs is beyond ridiculous - unless you count new hires for lobbyists from Michigan's power plants to go plead with congressmen for energy credits so they can keep the lights on here a little longer as new and desirable jobs for this state.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Iran Protests Keep Getting Beaten Down While Obama fiddles

Of course Obama has a domestic agenda to push and doesn't have time to support the protesters in Iran. And so with a lack of support other than some late hand-wringing we get: Police crush protest in Iran
Riot police and pro-government militiamen used clubs and tear gas to forcibly break up an opposition demonstration in front of the Iranian parliament Wednesday after the nation's supreme leader denounced what he described as pressure tactics aimed at overturning the recent disputed presidential election and warned that "lawlessness" would not be tolerated.

I do so love it when a lawless regime starts talking about the rule of law, don't you? But wait, there's more:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's ultimate political and religious authority, told lawmakers that "neither the system nor the people will submit to bullying" over the election. In televised remarks, he called for the "restoration of order," adding that lawbreaking would lead to "dictatorship."

Because what his goons are doing isn't bullying right, and of course that Theocratic Dictatorship you're running in Iran now is just peachy, yes? Can't run the risk of a dictatorship breaking out now can we? Its like the Iranian government, like most despots around the world read from the Western political playbook on language, utter a few platitudes and hope the world buys what they are saying is reality so they can cover their deeds with flowery words.

While its been correctly pointed out by Debbie Schlussel that the current leading opponent of the Regime -- Mousavi -- is no Mr. Nice Guy and certainly no great fried of the West, the hope is that the protesters, with adequate support would not settle for replacing one theocratic dictator with another but actually get to some real democracy and human rights. After all they're Persians with a historic society and culture and the Persians here are generally quite pro-US and pro-democracy.

Of course, you'll notice that a certain US-based Iranian, Imam Mohamed Elahi of Dearborn, current Imam of the Islamic House of Wisdom and late spiritual head of the Iranian Navy, has been strangely silent about these protests in his column in the Detroit News (if it isn't criticizing the USA or Israel its just not newsworthy to him). Can't wait for his intellectual back flips on this one.

Well I still wish the protesters in Iran luck and support, and I wish that we had a President with some backbone to support them. George Bush I made a big mistake in not backing the Kurds and Shia against the Iraqi government after Gulf War One, and Obama is making a worse mistake by showing America will dessert proponents of democracy at the first opportunity. This mistake will have repercussions beyond this current crisis.

For Some, Health Care Is Best When Others Have To Pay For It

Or at least that seems to be the line of thought of the guest editorial in the Detroit News Today.

In Make health coverage a basic benefit, David Loper, a self-described part-time accountant opines that
But I do know that now is our chance to revamp the system and not allow any American to go to work without health insurance coverage, which should be a basic work benefit.

He states it should be a basic work benefit because:
As a part-time accountant, I have had to work without health insurance, and it is scary. It is scary knowing that one injury could cost me thousands of dollars or force me into bankruptcy.

Hasn't he looked into catastrophic care insurance? It's cheap, its even tax deductible and its really not hard to get. Heck I was unemployed for a time while I was changing careers and I darn well went out and got catastrophic care insurance - not gold plated coverage but very affordable and it came in handy when I hurt my ankle in an accident at the time. With affordable catastrophic health insurance, The worry
that one injury could cost me thousands of dollars or force me into bankruptcy
fades away.

You can choose to save a few hundred dollars a year and not buy catastrophic care insurance and hope lightning doesn't strike or you can avoid worry and buy the catastrophic care insurance.

Of course, as a part time worker he's suggesting we require employers to pay for coverage of part time workers as a "basic benefit" thus saving him the money and his having to go out and pay for it himself.

Accountant, run the health care cost numbers thyself and purchase catastrophic care coverage accordingly and worry less.

Obama, North Korea and Missile Defense

As North Korea threatens to destroy the United States, President Obama claims there's nothing to worry about(from the Huffington Post):
President Barack Obama said the United States is "prepared for any contingencies" involving North Korea _ including the regime's reported threat to launch a long-range missile toward Hawaii.

. . .

"This administration _ and our military is fully prepared for any contingencies," Obama said Friday during an interview with CBS News' Harry Smith, to be broadcast Monday on "The Early Show."

"I don't want to speculate on hypotheticals," Obama said. "But I want ... to give assurances to the American people that the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted in terms of what might happen."

Given Obama's historic antipathy to Missile Defense and indeed his budget cuts to the Missile Defense program it is certainly something he cannot take any credit for doing:
Lawmakers are demanding to know why the president's proposed 2010 defense budget cuts missile defense by $1.2 billion and does not provide any funds for the European missile defense shield as Iran and North Korea defy the international community with missile testing.

Iran tested its longest-range missile to date last month, and North Korea in April took another step toward an intercontinental ballistic missile on the same day President Obama gave a speech in the Czech Republic touting U.S willingness to protect Europe and the United States from rogue missiles.

Under President Bush last year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and then-Secretary Condoleezza Rice signed agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic to base interceptors and radar there, but now the Obama administration appears to be backtracking.

"I thought it was certain that the Poles and Czechs believe that it was a commitment we made," Sen. John McCain said Tuesday during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

"We have not made a decision to go forward with that at this point," Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn replied.

At Fort Greeley in Alaska, the missile defense silos can defend the U.S. from both North Korea and Iran, but the Obama budget would cuts the number of interceptor missiles based there from 44 to 30. And that has both Republicans and Democrats asking, why now?
If the US is prepared for missile defense (the answer the Vice Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff gave for the potential to intercept a single missile attack on the US as "90 percent plus" - not very reassuring if you're in range of those missiles) it is certainly not due to Obama who is trying to cut the defenses.

Instead, this is an area where the Republicans have been proven right on yet again --missile defense is one measure among many necessary to protect the United States and the Republican insistence, starting with Reagan on deploying such even in the face of Democrat's nay-saying and childish derisiveness about "Star Wars' has proven prescient.

Given the new threats we're facing in this unstable, multi-bi-polar world (Thank you North Korea and Iran) it only makes sense to speed up the deployment of such defenses, and to cut development and deployment as the Democrats have been proposing throughout is woefully shortsighted at best and a great betrayal of America at worst.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

McCain won't run for President in 2012

via Instapundit

Ok, who is the next oldest, least inspiring, Republican possible who's turn it will be to run and lose in 2012?


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bearly Obvious

From this post on The Volokh Conspiracy on bears, I was pointed to this site on Bear Safety with this pretty obvious bit of advice:
· If the bear cannot be deterred and is intent on attack, fall to the ground as close to contact as possible and play dead.

· When the attack stops, remain still and wait for the bear to leave. If an attack is prolonged or the bear starts eating, you it is no longer being defensive.

Don't know how anyone could have figured that out. Of course for those following the advice above, I think by the time you realize the bear is eating you it is just a little late to shift tactics.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A More Accurate and Appropriate Headline - Muslims Find Donating To Terrorist Groups More Difficult.

Instead, the Detroit Free Press ran this headline:

ACLU: Terrorism crackdown hurting Islamic charities


The American Civil Liberties Union released a report Tuesday that said the U.S. government's crackdown on terrorism financing has hampered the religious freedom of American Muslims by making it difficult for them to donate to Islamic charities.

Called "Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity," the 166-page report is based on 120 interviews with Muslim donors and leaders.

The report said that nine American Muslim charities, including the Dearborn-based Goodwill Charitable Organization, have been shut down since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a result of government action during the Bush administration.
Now if the ACLU and Free Press want to report with a straight face that donating to terrorist groups is a religious requirement of adherents of the "Religion of Peace", they are of course free to do so, but the cognitive dissonance should really be causing some headaches by now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Scientists revive 120,000 Year Old Bacteria - What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Bug resurrected after 120,000 years
Scientists have brought a newly-discovered bug back to life after more than 120,000 years in hibernation. It raises hopes that dormant life might be revived on Mars. The tiny purple microbe, dubbed called Herminiimonas glaciei, lay trapped beneath nearly two miles of ice in Greenland. It took 11 months to revive it by gently warming it in an incubator. Finally the bug sprang back to life and began producing fresh colonies of purple brown bacteria.

Which then proceeded to form into a huge monster and tries to take over the earth -- we've seen this film before.

Seriously though, pretty neat and amazing what science can do. Let's just hope the bacteria as it grows doesn't develop a taste for human flesh.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nunc Est Bibendum - Ancient Beer

Nunc Est Bibendum - (Classical Latin for "It's time to drink")

9,000-year-old brew hitting the shelves this summer
This summer, how would you like to lean back in your lawn chair and toss back a brew made from what may be the world’s oldest recipe for beer? Called Chateau Jiahu, this blend of rice, honey and fruit was intoxicating Chinese villagers 9,000 years ago—long before grape wine had its start in Mesopotamia.

University of Pennsylvania molecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern first described the beverage in 2005 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences based on chemical traces from pottery in the Neolithic village of Jiahu in Northern China. Soon after, McGovern called on Sam Calagione at the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Del., to do the ancient recipe justice. Later this month, you can give it a try when a new batch hits shelves across the country. The Beer Babe blog was impressed, writing that it is “very smooth,” and “not overly sweet.”

But that's not the only ancient beer Dogfish is brewing (I hope they get around to breweing according to ancient Egyptian beer samples that have been discovered at some point.)

But that’s not the only strange brew Dogfish is shipping out this summer. Next week, the brewery will be bottling up the first large batch of Sah’tea for the general public—a modern update on a ninth-century Finnish beverage. In the fall, The New Yorker documented the intricate research and preparation that went into making the beer, which was first offered on tap at the brewery in May. In short, brewmasters carmelize wort on white hot river rocks, ferment it with German Weizen yeast, then toss on Finnish berries and a blend of spices to jazz up this rye-based beverage. Reviewers at the BeerAdvocate universally praised Sah'tea, comparing it to a fruity hefeweizen. One user munched on calamari as he downed a pint and described the combo as “a near euphoric experience."

And Dogfish is also bringing back one of their more unusual forays into alcohol-infused time travel. Called Theobroma, this cocoa-based brew was hatched from a chemical analysis of 3,200-year-old pottery fragments from the Cradle of Chocolate, the Ulua Valley in Honduras. Archaeologist John Henderson at Cornell University first described the beverage in 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pushing the first use of the chocolate plant back by 600 years. Dogfish first sold Theobroma in May 2008, and the next batch—made from a blend of cocoa, honey, chilies, and annatto—will be on shelves and in taps in July. The chocolate beer was apparently too sweet for Evan at The Full Pint, who writes that it contained “a ton and a half of sugary sweetness” with “an insane amount of gooeyness left behind on the roof of your mouth."

They also have an intersting beer named Midas Touch, described as
the actual oldest-known fermented beverage in the world! It is an ancient Turkish recipe using the original ingredients from the 2700 year old drinking vessels discovered in the tomb of King Midas.
Now to hope that Michigan with its annoying beer import and distribution rules allows this stuff in to purchase and sample. If so, ancient beer reviews to follow shortly after purchase and an appropriately hot summer day has occurred.

Another thought on Iran

Given that Iran is backing insurgents in Iraq with weapons, supplies, training, and material support wouldn't it be just too bad if we started covertly giving these Iranian protesters some covert help of our own? We must have some SF guys who can shoot and speak Farsi right? Kinda what they're trained for - supporting pro-democracy insurgencies in foreign lands.

Turnabout for Iranian support of the insurgency in Iraq would be a real bitch now wouldn't it? And of course we could deny all knowledge of such and claim there's no proof of any such assistance at all, just lots of Basiji militia guys and Mullas that suddenly end up dead when they go off to beat unarmed pro-democracy protesters.

Unfortunately, the chance of Obama doing any such thing is slim and none, with slim leaving town in favor of waiting for an Iranian government's investigation of its "free and fair" elections.

Speaking on Iran Obama lost his chance to be a world statesman

Well Obama seems determined to do nothing but utter restrained platittudes, and not even criticize the theocracy of Iran or support the protests but if anything at that as the protests in Iran grow and govenrment forces fire on crowds of protesters.

Obama just lost his chance to appear statesmanlike in suppoort of democracy in favor of realpolitik appeasement and the Democrat desire for world stability over freedom so they can retreat from the world and further push their shcemes here at home. Remember Reagan and his address on behalf and in support of Solidarity in Poland back in the days of Communism?

Obama instead of stirring words of support for freedom and democracy in Iran and condemning the theocrats there he went with such winners as
My understanding is, is that the Iranian government says that they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place. We weren’t on the ground, we did not have observers there, we did not have international observers on hand, so I can't state definitively one way or another what happened with respect to the election.

Obama will lose the best chance for a free Iran yet again as Jimmy Carter did before him. Carter II indeed.

Holy Toledo! - City tickets people parked in their own driveways

Ohio is an odd place full of bad and slow drivers, and indeed apparently many scofflaws who dare park in their own driveways:

Ohioans ticketed for parking in own driveways
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Residents of Toledo, Ohio, are complaining that they received $25 tickets for parking their vehicles in their own driveways.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner says he stands by the citations handed out last week by the Division of Streets, Bridges and Harbor. He says the tickets were issued under a city law against parking on unpaved surfaces, including gravel driveways.

During a news conference Monday, Finkbeiner ignored a reporter's question of whether the crackdown and fines were related to the city's budget crisis.
. . . . .
(Of course not, couldn't be just trolling for more revenue right?)

Good to know political goofines isn't limited just to Michigan, but lets hope our local politicians don't pick up on this idea.....

Monday, June 15, 2009

Detroit Crime Stats Mistakes Even Extends to Undercounting Murders in the City

I mentioned before how the City of Detroit has a new way to reduce crime by failing to take crime reports. Apparently this wasn't just for property crimes but even for murders.

From The Detroit Free Press: Who's dead wrong on homicides?
It’s nothing for the City of Baltimore to get happy about, but a headline in today’s Baltimore Sun hollers : “Error by Detroit makes Baltimore No. 2 in murders.” Detroit police have acknowledged an error in the 2008 homicide total submitted to the FBI, the Sun states. The change again makes Detroit No. 1 in homicide rates among big U.S. cities. But I still don’t know how many of my fellow Detroiters were killed last year. Nor does anyone, it seems.

The FBI reported this week that murders last year dropped 22% in Detroit, from 392 in 2007 to 306 last year. But Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy told me on Wednesday that her investigative files showed 394 homicides in Detroit as of Dec. 6.

And it doesn’t stop there. Questioned about the numbers after Worthy’s remarks, a Detroit police spokesman said Chief James Barren, appointed in October, acknowledged at a January town hall meeting that the homicide numbers reported to the FBI were erroneous, mostly because of misclassifications. Police then put the number of homicides at 339. So now we have three figures out there: 306, 339 and about 400. (Muddling matters more: When police said last week that homicides were up 24% so far this year, it’s not clear whether they were using the 306 or 339 figure from last year.)

Homicide statistics are supposed to be the most reliable of all crime categories reported by police. A theft or home invasion might not get investigated or reported, but a homicide should always get noted, even if the case isn’t cleared. If homicide numbers are shaky, how reliable are other police stats?

How exaclty did Detroit Police manage to undercount murders? After all its supposedly a little more difficult to hide bodies than other property crimes. It could be the new math, it could be they're dropping off bodies in dumpsters to avoid reporting homicides to keep the crime rate down, or perhaps it works in this fashion (with apologies to Monty Python):

Witness: I wish to make a police report.
Detroit PD: well what seems to be the matter then

Witness: I wish to make a report of a crime that happened in this very precinct.
Detroit PD: Sorry, I'm about to head to lunch.

W: Never mind that, I wish to complain about this dead body.
DPD: Oh yes, the, uh, the Homo Sapiens Detroitus...What's,uh...What's wrong with him?

W: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with him!
DPD: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.

W: Look, I know a dead man when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
DPD: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable outfit eh?

W: The outfit don't enter into it. he's stone dead.
DPD: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

W: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up!
(shouting) 'Ello, Mister! (DPD kicks the body's leg)
DPD: There, he moved!

W: No, he didn't, that was you hitting his leg!
DPD: I never!!

W: Yes, you did!
DPD: I never, never did anything..

W: (yelling and hitting the body repeatedly) HELLO BODY!!!!!
Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!
takes body and thumps its head on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.
W: Now that's what I call a dead body.

DPD: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!

DPD: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Homo Sapiens Detroitus stun easily, nothing to see here, move along

Statistics are only as good as the people collecting and quantifying them and here it seems the quality is quite lacking.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ancient Coin Post - A Claudian Copper of Colonia Philipi

Obverse: Victory facing left holding a wreath of victory and palm, on base.

Obverse Inscription: VIC AVG (Victoria Augusti - Victory of Augustus / the Emperor).

Reverse: 3 Praetorian Cohort Standards,

Inscription: COHOR PRAE COL PIIIL (Praetorian Cohort Philippi)

RPC (Roman Provincial Coinage) #1651

This is a copper Roman Provincial Coin, 18mm in diameter struck at Colonia Philipi, the Roman Colony founded at the location of the famous Battle of Philippi - the engagement between the members of the second triumvirate and the assassins of Julius Caesar,, Brutus and Cassius in 42 BC. The armies at the battle were estimated to be approximately 19 legions each.

After the battle, veterans of both sides were settled there, forming a colonia named Antonia Iulia Colonia Victrix Philippi.

After Octavian won the battle of Actium against Mark Anthony, and changed his name to Augustus, he changed the name of the colonia to Colonia Augusta Iulia Philippensis sometime after 27 BC, changing the name to end the association with Mark Anthony and to highlight his victory. Both members of the Praetorian Cohorts and Legion XXVIII were settled there.

The coin itself is pretty interesting. As a colonial issue, dates are often hard to pinpoint. The Roman Colonies and often many other cities of the east struck and continued to strike their own independent coinage or at least lesser value coinage (typically copper and bronze coins) for quite some time independent of the standard Roman issue. One author in a book on the Roman army hilariously identifies it as a sestertius which is pretty much impossible due to its size -- think dime (this coin) compared to a silver dollar (a sestertius) as a relative size comparison and then claim the dime is a silver dollar -- not so much.

Some catalogers placed it as being issued by Augustus. The editors of the RPC believe it was issued by Claudius or Nero, because at the time of Augustus the coins struck in Macedonia were bronze, not copper and under Claudius we do see copper coins being struck in Macedonia and at Philippi. I further believed it was struck in 42 AD by Claudius as a 100 year commemorative of the Battle of Philippi and an attempt by Claudius to honor the Praetorian Guards of his time, the same Praetorian Guards that helped assure his ascension to emperor of Rome after the death of Caligula. The Romans were very big on commemorating past notable events on their coinage and trying to link them to the time at the date of issuance of the coin. (I actually had an article published in a numismatic journal on this coin about this dating issue back when I was an undergrad, which was quite neat).

So an interesting coin, linked to history, commemorating a famous battle and the Praetorian Guard, and with a little mystery as to question of when it was actually minted.

What the Flu was that?

I've been a bit out of it for a couple of days due to what may have been a flu brought home by my favorite little disease vector, my 5 year-old eldest daughter.

Of course the little one got it too and they both proceeded to rub their faces in mine guaranteeing that I'd share their experience.

Basically it was two days of a decent low-mid range fever coupled with a feeling that someone was dropping concrete blocks on my head for fun -- repetitively and continuously.

Pretty much all better now with just a left over occasional cough at night.

I don't think it was swine flu as no one here even oinked once. If it was, it is not at all the deadly pandemic they're making it out to be, at least not this time around.