25
Jun
08

Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 9

We begin this week’s Misanthropy in what used to be Lake Delton, Wisconsin.  I say “used to be” because the recent heavy rains and flooding have carved a channel between the artificial lake and the Wisconsin River, taking the lake’s water and much of the land on its shores down into the Mississippi river system.  The flooding and outflow destroyed five houses.

Well, the flooding and outflow physically destroyed five houses.  As far as the state’s concerned, those houses — and the land which used to support them — still exist in a legal and taxable sense.

The people who lost their homes last week in the Lake Delton flood are hearing more grim news: They will have to pay the entire 2008 tax bill for their homes even though their properties no longer exist.  Lake Delton Village Clerk-Treasurer Kay Mackesey said property taxes are owed for the value of property as it existed on Jan. 1 — six months before the flood wiped out five homes and drained the lake.

But that’s okay — FEMA will come to their rescue.  Right?  Isn’t that what massively-budgeted federal agencies are supposed to do?

The news about property taxes is a new frustration on top of a steady stream of bad news. [Lake Delton former homeowner Don] Kubenik and other homeowners couldn’t get flood insurance because the village opted out of free federal flood insurance in 2001 in the midst of a dispute with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over where the floodplain lies.

[…]

Tina Pekar, a neighbor who also lost her home in the flood, said FEMA has told her that she may qualify for about $27,000 because she is a year-round resident. That is little solace since she has now learned she has to pay full property taxes, as well as the cost of removing what remains of her home.

Cute.

—-

We’ll head a short way northeast and visit Toronto next, whose mayor, David Miller, is a bit confused about security matters:

“In a day when you can’t bring a large tube of toothpaste on a plane how can you allow guns to wander through Union Station, the biggest transit hub in Canada?” [Miller] asked his colleagues on city council.

Schneier points out that

By that logic, I think we can ban anything from anywhere.

Indeed.  Bringing a large tube of toothpaste onto a plane is a rather benign act.  You’d probably endanger more people by buying groceries.  Shall we ban that?

Leaving aside Miller’s jihad against legally-owned guns (which are apparently haunted, if they can “wander through Union Station”), comparing anything to toothpaste-on-airliners regulation is an abject failure of argument by analogy.

—-

Speaking of bizarre security reasoning: pools in Shanghai are banning liquids.

“Pool guests who bring these items must allow them to be opened and inspected. Security personnel will smell them to see whether they are safe or not,” a separate report posted on the city’s sport bureau’s website said (www.shsports.gov.cn).

Something tells me that these security guards are considered trivially expendable by the PRC Leviathan.

But… why pools? Why not schools or libraries or stadia?

—-

And while we’re on the subject of security overreactions:

This is related, but not isomorphic, to the NYPD’s shooting of Amadou Diallo when he produced a wallet.  In the New York fuckup, the cops reacted instinctively and wrongly to something which they thought was a gun.  In the Staffordshire fuckup, the cops carefully surveilled their victim before hauling him in.

Armed police arrested a man listening to his MP3 player and took a sample of his DNA after a fellow commuter mistook the music player for a gun.

Darren Nixon had been waiting at a bus stop in Stoke-on-Trent on his way home from work when a woman saw him reach into his pocket and take out a black Phillips MP3 player. The woman thought it was a pistol and called 999.

Police tracked 28-year-old Nixon using CCTV, sending three cars to follow him. When he got off the bus, armed officers surrounded him. He was driven to a police station, kept in a cell and had his fingerprints, photograph and DNA taken.

He was freed when Staffordshire police realised it was a false alarm – but will now have his DNA stored on a national database for life with a record that he was arrested on suspicion of a firearms offence.

Unusually, Mr. Nixon has received an apology from the Staffordshire plods, though the latter seem awfully pleased with themselves for the efficiency with which they violated Nixon’s person.


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