Friday, October 15, 2010

Ann Arbor Finds Out That Subsidizing The Homeless Has Consequences.

The City of Ann Arbor is finding out that when you subsidize certain behavior you (surprise!) get more of it.

The Detroit News: Ann Arbor struggles with homeless influx
City tries to balance services with surge in panhandling, tent camps

Ann Arbor, often know as the Berkley of the Midwest, is having a little problem with a great influx of aggressive homeless panhandlers swamping their social safety net.

Why? Because they subsidize and provide for the homeless for more than any other City and homeless people from as far away as Detroit and beyond are flocking to get some of these services, bringing all sorts of social issues along with them.

Ann Arbor — This progressive city, long known for embracing the poor and destitute, is learning that its support has a price.

For several years, homeless from around the state have descended upon the city because of a largesse that ranges from social services to the generosity of U-M students toward panhandlers, said city police, social service agencies and transients.

The number of homeless in Washtenaw County jumped from 4,212 in 2008 to 4,618 last year, according to the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County. A quarter of them are from outside the county, said the association.

The influx contributed to a panhandling problem that grew so severe this summer that the police chief labeled it the "No. 1 crime," and the City Council assembled a task force to study it.

"We have people from all over," said Police Chief Barnett Jones. "We're on the cusp of being a victim of our generosity."

And in return for this generosity:
Some of the homeless became emboldened after the city eliminated downtown police patrols for budgetary reasons, area merchants said.

In the spring, the homeless began aggressively asking people for handouts, blocking their path, following them, sometimes grabbing them, the merchants said. They violated a panhandling ordinance by approaching people in outdoor restaurants, movie lines and near ATMs.

Merchants and customers began complaining. Police don't keep track of the number of complaints, but said it was the biggest source of downtown calls they received during the summer.

"It's a pain," said Caroline Peters, 36, a Saline resident who frequently shops in Ann Arbor. "It makes you not want to come here anymore."
Of course, in request to the demand for increased social services brought on by homeless from beyond the City flooding their city and taking uo resources, what did the City do?
Because of the horrid economy that has roiled government budgets across the state, Ann Arbor city staff has recommended for the past three years that the social service money be cut from the city budget.

And for three years the City Council has said no.

Instead, its members have chopped into such things as police and fire services.
Anyone see the connection between the continued increase in social services, reduction in police and concomitant upswing in the panhandling problem?

Apparently not the Ann Arbor City Council:
Councilwoman Sabra Briere said it was important to help the poor now more than ever.

"I would not like to think of us as Mr. Plentiful and Lady Bountiful," she said. "A lot of people here actually care about keeping the ladder down to help people than pulling it up from behind them."
Well, as long as she cares, after all that's the important thing.

Scum of the day: Jennifer Petkov and Scott Petkov of Trenton, Michigan for harrasing a 7-year old dying girl.

Jennifer Petkov age 33, and Scott Petkov age 30, win the scum of the day (if not the year) award for their acts in taunting and harrasing a 7-year old girl dying of from Huntington's disease.

Yes, really these two "adults" got their jollies off of taunting a dying 7-year girl. Let that sink in for a moment.

They were taunting a dying seven year old girl.

The taunting included:

the Petkovs had posted an image on Facebook of Kathleen's face above crossbones, allegedly hurled verbal jabs at the girl, and drove their truck — which had a coffin attached and bore the inscription "Death Machine" — up and down the block.
And scum like this thought this was a good idea? What the heck were these supposed adults thinking while they were doing this to a little girl?

Apparently for the Petkovs it was all about me, me, me:

Jennifer Petkov
Petkov said posting images on her Facebook page was the result of her jealousy over the outpouring of sympathy and aid to Kathleen's mother, and continued with discovery that the girl was also dying from the disorder.
Sorry, but that is absolutely no excuse or any rationale possible for this kind of evil abominable, less than child-like behavior.  Hell, the 7 year old has shown more dignity and class than both of these pond scum put together.

Forget about the old adage of picking on someone your own size. It is never, never, appropriate or acceptable to harass, taunt and embarras a dying 7-year old girl - period frickin' dot.

The community has reacted quite appropriately to those pond scum that give pond scum a bad name (pond scum after all serves at least some purpose) and who have tarnished the reputation of Trenton, Michigan:
The Petkovs' lawyer, Scott Weinberg, said his clients this week have received mail and e-mailed threats of violence; their house has been egged, and they fear for their lives.

"They have been told to not come out of their house, to not walk down the street. If those people sending these threats had signed their names, they could be charged a crime," Weinberg said.
. . .
"My clients have apologized for making a juvenile mistake. He's lost his job," Weinberg said. "It's hard to imagine that what's happened over the past week can be undone."
Aww, so sad that he's lost his job and they're facing some backlash over this - I would doubt anyone would want to hire or be associated with such scum.

This was not one little juvenile act or mistake on their part, it was a series of extremely outrageous, evil and wrongful acts that put the Petkovs far outside the bounds of civilized society:
I don’t understand how people could spew such hatred,” Yerigan said. “They would pull up in the truck (with the coffin attached), rev up the engine, and say to Kathleen, ‘I can’t wait until you die.’ When I saw what she posted on Facebook, I almost threw up. I’m totally dumbfounded.”
You do something like this then you better accept the consequences that come your way.

Too bad that there isn't an ostracism statute for when you go this far over the line - while you have the right to be a complete jerk and scum, you don't have a right to such stalking-like behaviour and when you stoop to acts like this you should forfeit your right to protection by society.

Contrast their behavior with the grace and goodness shown by their victims:
Edward [the girl's father], 26, said the ordeal has been tough.

“You have to understand how angry we are,” he said. “The police told us they were shocked that we haven’t gone over there and beat the hell out of her. But there’s more important things to deal with, like our daughter. She’s hanging in there. We have hospice at our home every week, and that’s a lot to deal with on its own.”

Edward said after his ex-wife died last year, the Petkovs drove their truck, which bears the message “Death Machine” and has a coffin attached to it, down the street and honked the horn.
The Petkovs are quite simply and by any definition the lowest of the lowest scum that are defiling the soil of this fine state by their mere residence here.

To counter this evil, the community and people around the world have been quite amazing:
Kathleen's family has reported an outpouring of sympathy and generosity from around the globe since stories about the incident went viral on the Internet.

More than $20,000 has been raised by people worldwide who saw media reports about the dispute — $17,000 by the toy store and $5,000 by the Huntington's Disease Society of America Michigan chapter.

Kathleen bought about $2,000 worth of toys during the shopping spree; the family is donating the remainder of the funds to C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.

"Within a week, a nation has come together for a little girl," said Jessica Shinkonis, whose 11-year-old daughter, Cailey — who also suffers from Huntington's disease — was invited by Kathleen's parents to join in the shopping spree.

In the face of such stupidity and evil, much goodness can be shown by normal and decent people, not to mention that a 7 year old knows better how to behave as a human being than the Petkovs ever will.

According to the Detroit Free Press, here's some locations where donations can be made:
If you'd like to donate money to help 7-year-old Kathleen Edward of Lincoln Park and others with Huntington's disease, you can make contributions online through the "Kathleen's Crusaders" fund-raising page with the Huntington's Disease Society of America Michigan Chapter at

If you'd like to help Kathleen purchase toys for other ill children at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan, donations can be made through the Tree Town Toys in Ann Arbor Web site at

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dive 165 - Hide And Seek in the Dark

Just back from Diving Union Lake tonight in a non-typical night time dive.

Because Keith and Mills had the last dive of their Overhead class set for today Chad and I were to tag along, but turn our lights off once they entered the simulated overhead so they could do a lost diver search. James cunningly placed a glow stick and our lights would have interfered with their search for it so into the darkness we went.

It started out pretty cool - following their lights and it was pretty clear they didn't know where we were. Of course we soon got our of range of their lights and entered what was pretty much total darkness at 30 feet.

One issue with total darkness in the water is your start to lose your reference points and since you're starting off weightless you can lose where your position is in the water pretty easily. Which of course, I did.

Moving along to keep up with the field of light cast by their lights, I would occasionally lose them completely, enter total darkness and swim along. Then on just a couple occasions I would feel a soft sensation enveloping me as I hit the silty bottom - that was rather embarrassing, but it told me where I was. Getting off the bottom, I would continue on, heading toward their lights if I saw them.

On the way back, we saw some nice sized Bass lying on the bottom, and since our lights were off they didn't even bother moving as we passed them.

So it was a good dive, if a bit muddy at times. Very instructive in terms of no light night diving and plenty to work on as usual.

An Editorial by a Minister that can't count but doesn't let his lack of facts stop him

Certain ministers of the cloth, like Obamas' Reverend Wright come straight out with the "God Damn America" song and dance in their liberation theology inspired, blame America first shtick.

Other, similarly believing, Ministers get there more obliquely, but no less wrongly, and in the case below quite inumerately, and wholly ignorant of history.

In the example of Robert Smith Jr, a Detroit minister and self described liberal editorialist (liberal is an understatement - he states his most admired political figure is Lenora Fulani, the facts never get in the way of his blame America first worldview.

In his Detroit news Politics Blog he writes an article entitled God is no stranger. In the article, while pontificating that America should educate its kids on how wonderful the people of Haiti are, and multiple non-sequiturs throughout, he drops this gem of a conclusion:

From World War I through this present mess America is in now in Iraq and Afghanistan, no nation has killed as many people as America. If God were going to curse a nation for killing folk, the United States would be at the top because it dropped the atomic bomb twice, but God is right now blessing Haiti, where He is no stranger.

Huh? What the heck does this ending have to do with the rest of his somewhat tortously constructed and rambling column? Apparently Mr. Smith is a product of Detroit's public schools. Only someone so historically iiiliterate could make such ignorant statements. From World War 1 through the present you'd have to discount the far greater killers Germany, the Soviet Union, China, Japan, Cambodia, Turkey, Rwanda and many, many others before you'd get close to naming America as number one. Heck if you remove combatants killed from the mix the US is most likely near the bottom of nations you could think of when you think of the greatest killers from World War 1 onwards. In fact most of the greatest killers during the period in question were left wing socialists of various stripes.

Further while I have no idea of God's feelings on the matter, dropping two atomic bombs as compared to firebombing raids that did far more damage, and considering the bombs ended the war quicker, leaving far more Americans and Japanses alive than would have been lost had the war against Japan been ended by an amphibious invasion, its pretty unlikely to be a major black mark against America to those who understand context and history. People when killed don't really care if they were killed by a regular or an atomic bomb, they're rather dead all the same, so no special damnation points over the use of atomics to shorten the war please.

The reverend should stick to the Bible, anything past that in time is surely beyond his knowledge.

SCUBA Reserve Light Goes Boom!

After diving Sunday I had realized that my Halcyon Scout 3C had been getting noticeably dimmer, and today after getting my tanks filed, I went to check the light. This is the primary reserve light used when the main canister light doesn't work. The light would not turn on so I figured it had been inadvertently turned on in transit and it was time to change the batteries (fresh ones were installed in April).

So I unclip the light and take it inside to change it. I notice the rubber cover is kinda loose and the top doesn't want to unscrew and I have to really hold it on and turn the light head pretty hard to get it to open. I'm turning it to open it and .....BOOM!

Not quite an Earth-shattering kaboom, but a boom all the same.

The light head cover shoots forward whacking my palm with quite a smack and the light bulb/mirror unit holder go flying from the light and a battery shoots out.

The boom was loud enough everyone in the house heard it and comes to see what happened. After assuring everyone that everything is ok and we didn't just have a major explosion, I look at the flashlight, now in four separate sections.

On examining the unit, the light bulb and holder show some grey and white build up on the side and the threads of the flashlight body all appear damp, and there is a corroded bit under the label on the top of the top battery.

I'm thinking that some water leaked into the flashlight body, the battery then leaked and some gas built up at depth resulting in a pressurized tube and quite the boom on opening, but I'm not sure.

The light bulb unit itself is now quite dead and while not visibly broken will not work with new batteries. On the upside, this moves my plan to convert the light from the standard halogen bulb to a nice bright LED conversion forward.

So be careful when opening your dive lights to change the batteries, there may be quite a bit of pressure waiting for you when you go to unscrew it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dive #164 - Watching the Ovehead Protocol Class in Union Lake

Today I went to watch a few of the dives in the UTD Overhead Protocol class. Unfortunately Mills and Keith forgot to tell me they were doing an overhead class with James and began without me. Had I but known, I would have been in it with them. Now I have to wait until we can get another group of divers together to do it. Sigh.

The Overhead Protocol class gives you the skill set you need to advance to take a cave or shipwreck penetration class - it involves a lot of no-mask or dark mask (taped over masks that you cannot see through) and line work.

On the upside, the weather was sunny and warm, the water 59 degrees and I got to come along on some of their final dives and watch James kick their butts all over the place. I was following Maki who was handling the video of the class dives and it was quite interesting. I had it pretty easy - just working on keeping perfect trim and buoyancy and keeping out of the camera's way -- not easy when the action kept shifting as things kept happening.

When Keith and John both had their dark masks on and were doing a line drill they both hammered into the silt releasing a massive and spreading dark cloud (I figure I'll do the same when my time comes) that soon separated myself from Maki and everyone else. Viz dropped so much you couldn't see anything, so I just stayed by a line so I wouldn't get lost and eventually they made it through the silt.

After that it was easy - watching and following ascent drills and keeping out of the way on lost line drills - they look like fun and I can't wait to take the class. Keith and Mills did great on the dives so I'll really have to work at it to get to their level in the class when it happens.

Dive time: 2 hours.
Average Depth: 28 feet.
Viz: very good with occasional bursts of silt.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Livonia's great new revenue idea - Let's have a tax to pay for collecting a tax!

Really, Livonia's city government proposes to levy a tax to pay for the costs of collecting a tax.
The Detroit Free Press: Livonia mulling 1% fee on taxes

Livonia might charge its residents a 1% administrative fee to collect their property taxes, beginning with the December tax bill.

The city is considering the fee as part of efforts to deal with a substantial drop in revenue expected in its proposed $48.4-million budget for the next fiscal year. The council is holding a public hearing tonight, and is expected to vote on the proposed budget, which includes the fee, Oct. 20.

If the council chooses to charge its residents to collect, process and distribute their taxes -- an option permitted by state law -- Livonia would not be alone. Terry Stanton, spokesman for the Michigan Treasury Department, said more than three-quarters of the 1,800 tax-collecting units in the state charge the administrative fee.

Of course there are many new-speak proponents of the idea:
Anthony Minghine, associate executive director and chief operating officer of the Michigan Municipal League, said charging residents for tax collection makes sense because the fee pays for a service.

"I wouldn't characterize them as taxes, and I wouldn't characterize them as inappropriate," he said.
So the fee is for a service according to Minghine.

It is quite an interesting definition of service considering it doesn't benefit the residents who are being dubiously charged for and receiving this "service". The residents are having more money taken away from them in return for the service of having money being taken away from them. To a proponent of ever-expanding government, this does make perfect sense and is considered a service in bureaucrat-speak. Heck, he probably honestly believes that the 1% surtax is a wonderful service that is being offered to the grateful peasants.

But the residents of Livonia will likely consider themselves ill-served by this new "service".

Friday, October 01, 2010

Granholm Might Bring Michigan Alcohol Sales Into the 21st Century by Finally Allowing Sunday Morning Sales.

Now that the Michigan Legislature is well on the way to making Michigan safe (or at least gaining enhanced revenue) from Bootlegging, the Governor is about to sign a law regarding alcohol sales that make sense:

The Detroit News: Bill to expand Sunday liquor sales heads to Granholm's desk

This bill will allow sales on Sundays and also on Christmas Day afternoon(but still not the morning of Christmas Day - apparently there's a concern about a drunken St. Nick driving his reindeer into the Capitol Dome in Lansing if the sale is allowed before noon or something).

Of course, making sense is never reason enough in Michigan these days, it also has to raise revenue:

Bars, restaurants, retail outlets and golf courses can sell beer, liquor and wine Sunday mornings for an annual fee of $160, under the bill. Establishments now pay $90 to sell liquor starting at noon Sundays.

So the state will get an extra $160 a year from the establishments that wish to sell on Sunday mornings, and that adds up pretty quick. Still its a bill whose time has come.

Getting rid of the ban on Sunday morning alcohol sales, an anachronistic ban well past its time, is certainly a good idea. It also had one of the lamest outcome-determinative don't-pass-the-laugh-test rationales behind a Court decision -- ever -- associated with upholding the ban. The Michigan Court in its decision held it wasn't establishing religion by banning sales on Sunday morning and Christmas when Christians were supposed to be in church - not at all, it was quite disingenuous and held it was a common day of rest as alcohol sales were especially tiring to workers that just happened to be on Sunday and other commercial activity could occur in the same store by those same workers which was less tiring - yeah right.

This will get rid of the roped-off aisle in stores like Costco and Kroger on Sunday mornings and make it easier to pick up a bottle of wine or champagne at the last minute when you're heading over to a friend's place for brunch.

So let's hope Michigan gets rid of this outdated Blue Law.

Perhaps the legislature will get sufficiently enthusiastic in its modernization drive to repeal the blue law against Sunday car sales in Michigan?